James, the writer of this epistle, was evidently the half-brother of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:19) and the brother of Jude, the writer of the epistle that bears his name (Matthew 13:55). This James was not the brother of the Apostle John, the son of Zebedee, who suffered martyrdom early in the history of the church (Mark 1:19; Acts 12:2). This James was the leading man in the Jerusalem church
The recipients of this letter were the Jewish Christians of the Diaspora, Jews who had been scattered and were living outside Palestine and had come to faith in Christ (1:1).
The epistle of James was probably the first New Testament book written and this has a strongly Jewish flavor. It is the most authoritarian book of the New Testament. In the short space of 108 verses, there are 54 commands/imperatives.
Martin Luther once remarked that he would give his doctor’s beret to anyone who could reconcile James and Paul. Luther strongly objected to the inclusion of James in the canon of Scripture because he considered that it taught justification by works as opposed to Paul’s emphasis on justification by faith. Together they elaborate on the full dimension of faith. Paul wrote about inner saving faith from God’s perspective. James wrote about outward serving faith from man’s perspective. The true seed of saving faith is verified by the tangible fruit of serving faith. James point is that biblical faith works.
The design of the Epistle is on the one hand to encourage those to whom it is addressed to bear their trials patiently and on the other hand to warn them against certain errors of doctrine and practice. The Book of James teaches us that faith in God should result in behavior that is in harmony with God’s will. The theme of the book is “living by faith” or “spiritual maturity.” James exhorts the early believers to Christian maturity and holiness of life.
James hardly mentioned most of the fundamental Christian doctrines or precepts in this book. His preeminent concern was the practice of Christianity, the manifestation of salvation in shoe leather. The teaching of this epistle has its roots in Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. That was, of course, His great ethical discourse. James made no fewer than 18 references or allusions to Matthew 5—7 in his epistle.
James’ great theme is that we need to keep trusting and obeying God. As we began the Christian life by faith, so we need to continue to live by faith, day by day, rather than reverting to our former habit of trusting in ourselves and behaving like unbelievers.