Who Is This James?

William C. Brownson

READ : James 1:1

James, a servant . . . of the Lord Jesus Christ . . . (v. 1)

James calls himself “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,” but who is he? Not James the son of Zebedee, Jesus’ disciple. He was martyred in AD 44, before this letter was written. Not James the son of Alphaeus (another disciple). We never hear anything of him after Pentecost. This James is the towering figure we meet in Acts chapter 15, leader of the church in Jerusalem, presiding at a crucial conference.

But here’s the most striking thing: the James writing here is a brother of Jesus! He grew up in the same family. He uses the same homely illustrations from the world of nature. Like Jesus, he calls passionately for an active response to God’s Word. And think about this: he names Jesus “our glorious Lord.”

Imagine it. James observed the character and conduct of his older brother during every day of his growing-up life. Then, when he joined the band of disciples after Jesus’ resurrection, he confessed Jesus with them as “tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Apparently he never heard or saw anything in his brother’s life to belie that testimony. Isn’t this James a remarkably reliable witness to Jesus?


Thank you, God, for the way James calls himself not “a leader of the church” but “a servant of Jesus.”