• August 10, 2020

Apostle James led first church - Odessa American: Religion

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Apostle James led first church

Jesus’ brother was initially skeptical and came to the faith late

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Posted: Saturday, August 1, 2020 3:30 am

Known as “James the Just” for his righteousness and devotion to God, the Apostle James didn’t accept Jesus, his brother, as the Messiah until seeing Jesus brought back to life after the crucifixion.

But when he finally believed, he did so wholeheartedly and was extremely faithful until his martyrdom in 62 A.D., when historians say he was thrown from the top of the Temple Mount and beaten to death because he refused to tell a large crowd that Jesus was not the Messiah.

The Revs. Aaron Shipman, Robert Thayer and Del Traffanstedt say James was a no-nonsense man who said what he had to say in a direct manner in the book that bears his name. “He was a stickler for obedience,” said the Rev. Shipman, pastor of Bible Baptist Church.

“He felt like if you were part of Christ, then your works would show that. His book is easy to understand because he was a straight-shooter. He was a guy who had transitioned from the law to grace and that was tough for James because a lot of the Pharisees were living in the past. The law was the authority and he battled with that.”

Shipman said James might have been slow to accept Jesus as the Messiah because of the sudden transition Jesus went through. “I have three brothers and I can see how that would have been difficult to swallow,” he said.

“Can you imagine the number of the people coming to Jesus when he fed the four and five thousand? But when Christ arose on the third day, James realized that his brother was the Son of God.”

The Rev. Thayer said James “was the first pastor of what I like to call the Jerusalem Bible Church.

“He has a very practical approach to Christianity in his book,” said Thayer, pastor of the Odessa Bible Church. “Writing as someone who is intimately familiar with Christ in a human relationship, he comes to faith after the resurrection, writing to an audience that has come perhaps on the same journey he has, knowing Christ as Jesus.

“New to the faith, the first generation of believers was scattered throughout the Mediterranean world.”

Thayer said the Epistle of James “has parallels to the Book of Proverbs with a lot of commands and short, pithy sayings.

“It’s a practical book,” he said. “It doesn’t have a big introduction or a concluding benediction. It doesn’t reference specific individuals. It’s very concentrated, almost as if he didn’t have a lot of paper. He is a good communicator who is cutting to the chase of what he has to say.”

Thayer noted that the 15th chapter of the Book of Acts identifies James as the leader of the Apostolic Council. “When the apostles get together in Jerusalem, he seems to be viewed as the go-to man who confirms the leaders of the First Century church,” he said.

“It certainly helps that he is the brother of Christ with that unique dynamic. As we get older, there is a longing for our sibling. We connect at a different level. We don’t take our brother for granted anymore. There’s a softening of the heart.

“Like Jude, whose book is even shorter than James’s, he was confronted with the resurrected Lord. They just happened to be able to call him ‘brother’ when nobody else could in that way.”

The Rev. Traffanstedt said James is described in the first chapter of Acts as waiting in Jerusalem with the disciples and his other brothers, but by the middle of the book he “is a leader of the first New Covenant community of faith.

“James interacts with Paul, who refers to him as an apostle in Galatians 1:19, recognizing his authority and position,” said Traffanstedt, pastor of Mission Dorado Baptist Church. “James is writing to a church in exile and under pressure. They’re struggling to understand what’s happening to them. Most Christians in the timeframe in which James is writing expect the imminent return of Jesus Christ.

“However, as time goes on the difficulties faced by the young church do not stop and Jesus’ return looks more and more distant.”

Traffanstedt said the church “was suffering for a purpose.

“It was enduring trials to develop into a more effective tool for the Kingdom,” he said. “God’s aim is not the failure of the church. His goal is victory and glory. The church is to grow in confidence in God, not man. So as James goes through Chapter One, his main point is that compassion dies as fear rises, so have confidence in the work God is doing in you.

“The letter is universal in application and content for Christians today. James’s goal is not to teach theology. He assumes that his readers know the basics of the faith and the content of the Gospels. He purposefully moves into application and exhortation because he wants them to act on what they know.”

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