Jesus was born of a virgin by the name of Mary, being conceived in her, not by any man, but by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18-23; Luke 1:26-35). After the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph came together as husband and wife and several children were born to them. Scripture names four fleshly brothers of Jesus and mentions sisters, though the names and number of the sisters are not given (Matthew 13:55-56; Mark 6:3).
On one occasion, when Jesus was with a multitude of people (likely engaged in teaching them), His mother and brothers stood outside, calling for Him. When the crowd told Him that His mother and brothers were asking to see Him, Jesus’ laconic, and in some ways odd, response was, “Who is My mother or My brothers?” Then looking at the circle of those around Him, Jesus said, “Here are My mother and My brothers. For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven is My brother and My sister and mother” (Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35). Today, all who have obeyed the gospel and are faithfully following Christ are His brothers and sisters.
Among the fleshly brothers of Christ was one by the name of James. He became a pillar in the church at Jerusalem (Acts 15; Galatians 1:18-19; 2:9), and is believed by most scholars to be the author of the book of James. James’ letter is one of the most practical in all of the New Testament. I sometimes refer to it as “The Gospel of Do,” because it places so much emphasis on the practical aspects of the Christian life. In this little letter, over and over, James uses the expression “my brethren.” Sometimes he intensifies the expression by saying “my beloved brethren”; at other times he simply uses the more direct term, “brethren.” A study of the things James talks about when he uses these expressions will be beneficial to all who want to be loyal brothers and sisters of Christ today.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (1:2-3). All of us grow spiritually when our faith is tested by various trials (cf. Romans 5:3-4).
“Do not be deceived my beloved brethren” (1:16). When we are warned about being deceived we need to pay close attention to the specific matter mentioned. Generally, it involves something about which it is easy to be deceived. (cf. I Corinthians 15:33; Galatians 6:7).
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, let every man we swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (1:19). How many times do we get these out of order and are slow to hear, swift to speak, and swift to wrath?
“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality” (2:1). Partiality and prejudice of all kinds is sinful (verse 9).
“Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He has promised to those who love Him” (2:5)? Paul makes a similar point in I Corinthians 1:26-31.
“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? That faith cannot save him, can it” (2:14)? James stresses that one is not justified by faith only (verse 24). It is amazing that the denominational world teaches the doctrine of salvation by faith only. If “faith only” will not save a child of God, neither will it not save an alien sinner!
“My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive stricter judgement” (3:1). We need mature Christians who are able to teacher others (Hebrews 5:12; II Timothy 2:2), but teaching the word of God is a weighty responsibility.
With reference to the inconsistent use of the tongue in blessing God and cursing men, James writes, “My brethren, these things ought not to be” (3:9-10). He illustrates the matter in verses 11 and 12 and again uses his stock expression, “my brethren.”
“Do not speak evil of one another, brethren” (4:11). The Golden Rule of our Elder Brother (Matthew 7:12) will prevent us from doing this!
“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord” (5:7). Perseverance in living the Christian life is essential.
“Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold the Judge is standing at the door” (5:9)! Paul wrote, “Do all things without murmuring (grumbling, NASB) and disputing” (Philippians 2:14).
“My brethren, take the prophets who have spoken in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience” (5:10). We can learn to patiently endure whatever we may have to suffer by looking at the noble lives of God’s inspired spokesmen!
“But above all, my brethren, do not swear, neither by heaven nor by earth nor with any other oath. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No,’ lest you fall into judgment” (5:12). Christians need to be known for being people of their word.
“Brethren, if anyone among you should wander (err, KJV, ASV) from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (5:19-20). Christians can err from the truth and become sinners in danger of losing their souls to the second death in the lake of fire and brimstone (hell) (Revelation 21:8). The doctrine of “once saved, always saved” is of man, not of God. To rescue a wandering Christian brother or sister is a great and noble work.
Fifteen times James uses the expression “my brethren,” or some variation of it. Fifteen times he sets forth a truth to which we need to give careful attention. Let us listen carefully to our first century brother, one who was a brother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
April 24, 2018
- April 25: Green Hill Church of Christ, Mount Juliet, TN
- April 29: Mission Church of Christ, Smyrna, TN