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Sabbath School Lessons on James
About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 1: James, the Lord's Brother *
Introduction: Which do you prefer: to study a topic or a book of the
Bible? My preference is to teach books, rather than topics. Why?
Because God arranges the order of the material. This quarter we are
studying a book! But, of all the books to teach, James would be a
contender for my least favorite. On the surface, James stresses
works, not grace. He seems to have some sort of dislike for those
with money, even though he says showing favoritism is a sin. Some of
his statements seem to contradict other statements in the Bible. If
you like a challenge, then we have one! We are going to be challenged
to dig deeply into James and try to understand what he, through the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is really teaching us! This week
let's start by learning about James' background.
- The Family
- Read Matthew 1:20-21. What do you think Jesus' father
understood about Jesus' mission?
- Read Luke 1:30-34. What part of the angel's message did
Mary think was most important? (The part about her having
a baby even though she was a virgin.)
- Should Jesus' parents have understood His mission?
(The angels gave Jesus' parents an amazing message.
It seems the message was so big, and they were so
focused on real life, that they did not properly
- Read Luke 2:41-43. Why would a twelve year-old boy stay
behind in Jerusalem? (Read Luke 2:45-47. He was having a
great time with the Jewish teachers. He loved to learn.)
- Read Luke 2:48. How did Jesus' parents view this? (They
thought that Jesus was mistreating His parents. They were
focused on themselves, rather than His work.)
- Read Luke 2:49-50. What is the problem here? (Jesus'
parents did not understand His mission.)
- Read Mark 3:13-15. Why did Jesus select disciples to be
with Him? (They would aid Him in His ministry.)
- Read Mark 3:20-21. Recall that Jesus was born to a working
class family. What does it appear they thought about Jesus
selecting disciples and attracting crowds? (That Jesus was
out of His mind. He needed to have someone "take charge"
- Should Jesus' parents have understood what was going
on? (They should have understood, but apparently they
- Read Mark 3:22. What did the religious leaders think about
Jesus' work? (They said He was demon-possessed.)
- If you were Jesus, how would you feel about yourself?
(Your family thinks you are crazy and need to be
restrained, and the religious leaders think you are
- Read John 7:1-5. This is much later in Jesus' ministry.
What advice is Jesus being given by His brothers? (To
prove Himself to the world. Perform miracles that many can
see and believe.)
- Why did they give Jesus this advice? (Because not
even His brothers were convinced that He was a proper
- Read Mark 6:1-3. Is Jesus the hero of His hometown? (No!
They were offended that Jesus was claiming to be someone
- Notice the names of Jesus' half-brothers. It appears
that Jesus' oldest half-brother is named James. Later
in this study, I hope you will conclude that the
author of the book of James is Jesus' oldest half-brother. Given what we have learned about the
attitude of Jesus' parents, Jesus' family, and those
in Jesus' hometown, what kind of attitude would you
expect that James would have about Jesus?
- The Change
- Read Acts 1:10-11. When is this in Jesus' ministry? (Jesus
has been killed, resurrected, appeared to His followers,
and now is returning to heaven.)
- Read Acts 1:12-14. What has happened with regard to Jesus'
family? (They have become convinced. They now believe that
Jesus is the Messiah, He is not crazy.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. Who is this James? ( Mark 3:16-18 tells us that two of Jesus' disciples are named James.
Mark 6:3 tells us that Jesus' oldest half-brother is named
James. However, because 1 Corinthians 15:7 sets this James
apart from the "the Twelve", this appears to be a
reference to Jesus' oldest half-brother.)
- Read Galatians 1:15-19. Paul argues that he received his
message from Jesus, not from any human. What does this
text suggest about James, Jesus' half-brother? (That he
was an important figure in the early church.)
- Read Galatians 2:9. How important is James? (He is a
"pillar" of the early church!)
- Read Acts 15:12-14 and Acts 15:19-21. What do we learn
about James here? (He is the head of the early church. He
declares his judgment (apparently on behalf of the early
church) on what should be required of the Gentile
- As we see this transformation in James' views, and his
importance in the early church rise, does this make sense
to you? (Yes. James has first-hand knowledge of Jesus'
life on earth from the very beginning. He becomes
convinced that Jesus is the Messiah. No doubt James'
parents shared with him what the angel told them. Second,
it seems natural that the early church would be attracted
to a brother of Jesus. They had the same mother. They
might have looked alike. Perhaps their voices were
similar. Jesus returned to heaven, but His brother was
- From a lawyer's evidentiary point of view, I realize that
I have not perfectly "proven" that James, the half-brother
of Jesus, is the one who wrote the book we are studying.
But, that is the majority view and it seems right to me.)
- The Book
- Read James 1:1. Given what we have learned, does this
introduction seem right to you? (What James says is no
doubt correct, it is what he does not say that bothers
- Why does James omit "and half-brother of our beloved
Savior Jesus?" (He is more modest than most of us!)
- Is his modesty misplaced? (The early church thought
James was special, no doubt at least in part because
of his relationship with Jesus. I think the
relationship gives him a special position that he
should have stated. Perhaps James thought "People
already know, I don't need to say it.")
- What significance do you attach to the fact that
James aimed his letter at Jewish converts rather than
Gentile converts? (This might help to explain his
later emphasis on works.)
- Look again at James 1:1. What do we know about the Jews
being "scattered among the nations?" (Read Acts 11:19-21.
The death of Stephen started a "great persecution" among
the early believers with the result that they were
"scattered throughout Judea and Samaria." Acts 8:1.)
- Read James 1:2. How many of you want joy in your life? How
many want trials? (No doubt we all want joy and we all
would like to avoid trials. Remember, James' audience is
those who have left their homes to avoid persecution.)
- What does James say is the relationship between joy
and trials? (He says we should look for joy in
- Read James 1:3. Looking for joy in trials seems counter-intuitive. Why is it reasonable to look for joy? (Trials
test our faith and that develops perseverance.)
- I've got to say that I do not put joy and
perseverance in the same box! Perseverance brings to
mind a continuing problem. How do you look at this?
- Read James 1:4. How does this explain joy? (James tells us
that trials teach us perseverance, and perseverance gives
us all the tools we need. Knowing that is a source of
- Friend, do you identify with this lesson? Are you one who
thought Jesus' teachings were crazy, but later, like
James, have come to be a true believer? Perhaps you were
the one whose family thought you were crazy because of
your faith. One lesson I've learned in life is that if I'm
"converted" from one view to another, I hold my new view
much more strongly. No doubt James was a strong believer.
Will you join me in seriously considering what James has
for us in the following studies?
- Next week: The Perfecting of Our Faith.
* Copr. 2014, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.