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STUDIES IN ACTS      Studies in Acts

15. JAMES - a leading elder

"Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present" (Acts 21:18).

James was one of the Lord's earthly brothers. He did not believe the claims of the Lord Jesus until after his death and resurrection.

Consider the person
Five men are called James in the New Testament. There is James the brother of John, the apostle who was killed by Herod Agrippa I (Acts 3:1; 12:1-2), James the son of Alphaeus, another apostle (Acts 1:13), James the Younger (Mk.15:40), James the father of Judas (Acts 1:13), and James the brother of Jesus (Mk.6:3). It is the brother of Jesus who became an elder in the Jerusalem church.

Study the Scriptures
James appears to be the eldest of Jesus' brothers (Mt.13:55,56). Although he was so close to Jesus he was skeptical about his claims, and was not an early disciple (Jn.7:5). However, after his encounter with Jesus, the risen Lord, he became a convinced disciple (1 Cor.15:7). In Acts he is the leading elder of the Jerusalem church (Acts 1:17; 21:18). Paul recognised him as an apostle – a man of the calling and calibre of Peter and John. He had a good reputation (Gal.1:19; 2:9). The status of James is seen in the way he featured in the first Christian Council held in Jerusalem (49 A.D.). He gave the authoritative decision on the Gentile believers' relationship to the law and circumcision (Acts 15:13-21). With Peter and John he supported the ministry of Paul and Barnabas to the Gentiles (Gal.2:1-10).

Ask questions

1. James did not recognise who Jesus really was until the end of his life. Why was this? Does this remind us that without the help of the Holy Spirit we are spiritually blind? Jesus promised the Spirit would reveal who he is.  See Jn.14:26; 15:26; 16:13.

2. Traditionally, James is held to be the writer of the Epistle of James. It is very practical - a letter we might expect from someone who lived close to Jesus. Are there parallels between the letter and the teaching of Jesus, e.g., in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt.5 – 7)?

3. The terms 'binding' and 'loosing' (Mt.18:18) were used by the Jews in regard to the application of the Law. How did James apply the principle for Gentiles (Acts 15:19-21)?

Apply some thoughts

1. The story of James should prepare us for unbelief in our families.

2. But how should it encourage us to believe for their conversion?

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Copyright 2008 Vernon Ralphs

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