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A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr., Pastor Emeritus
and given by Jack Ngann, Pastor
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Afternoon, April 7, 2024

“After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles”
(I Corinthians 15:7; p. 1226 Scofield).

There are many theories about the resurrection of Jesus. One of them was put forth by Dr. Hugh Schonfield in a book called The Passover Plot. I remember reading it when it first came out in 1965. Schonfield said that Jesus told Joseph of Arimathea to remove His body from the tomb so He would appear to be the Messiah. He said that Christ’s resurrection appearances were cases of mistaken identity – and that the Disciples’ boldness afterwards was due to the fact that the hoax fooled them, and they didn’t know any better. Dr. Norman Geisler points out the flaws in that theory in his book, When Skeptics Ask:

The problem boils down to “Why, when, and where?” Why would he take the body? Joseph really had no reason…When could he have taken it?...there was a Roman guard posted in front of the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66). The following morning the women came at dawn (Luke 24:1). There was simply no opportunity. And if he had taken it, where did he put it? The body was never found even though almost two months elapsed before the disciples began preaching. This was plenty of time to expose a fraud if there was one…There is no motive, opportunity, or method to support this theory, and it gives no explanation of the appearances of Christ in His resurrection body (Norman L. Geisler, Ph.D. and Ronald M. Brooks, Th.M., When Skeptics Ask, Baker Books, 2001 edition, pp. 123-124).

Dr. Geisler also said,

The most outstanding proof that Jesus rose from the dead is that He was seen by more than 500 people on twelve different occasions. The creed-like statements recorded in I Corinthians 15:3-5 are from very early in the life of the church, being formulated within a few years of the death of Jesus. Hence, it has great historical reliability (ibid., p. 125; cf. Gary R. Habermas, Ph.D., Ancient Evidence for the Life of Jesus, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984, pp. 125-126).

One of the most outstanding evidences of Christ’s resurrection from the dead is the fact that,

“…he was seen of James” (I Corinthians 15:7).

Dr. Gaebelein’s commentary says, “The James mentioned in v. 7 certainly is not one of the two apostles of that name…since the whole group of apostles is mentioned next and would include these two. Instead, it must be the Lord’s half-brother (Matt. 13:33), who had, with his brothers, joined the apostolic band (Acts 1:14) and had become prominent in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:13)…All this evidence (v. 5-8) was received by Paul from eyewitnesses” (Frank E. Gaebelein, D.D., General Editor, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Zondervan Publishing House, 1981 edition, volume 10, p. 282; note on I Corinthians 15:7).

So we conclude, with virtually all the commentaries, that the James who saw Jesus after His resurrection was his half-brother.

“…he was seen of James” (I Corinthians 15:7).

What better evidence could we have that Christ rose from the dead? A person who didn’t know Jesus might possibly be fooled. But Jesus’ own brother would not be fooled. A man knows his own brother! After all, they were raised together, and knew each other intimately since childhood! More than that, James had been an unbeliever, a skeptic who hadn’t believed that Jesus was the Messiah. This makes it even more intriguing when we read,

“…he was seen of James” (I Corinthians 15:7).

Let’s go through the account of James’ testimony.

I. First, James was an unbeliever.

The Scriptures make it clear that James began as an unbeliever. He did not accept his brother Jesus, even as a prophet – much less the Messiah and Son of God! The Gospel of Mark says that the people of Nazareth, Jesus’ home town, rejected Him. They said,

“Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching” (Mark 6:3-6; p. 1052).

His own relatives, including His brother James, did not believe in Him,

“And he marvelled because of their unbelief” (Mark 6:6).

It is clear that Christ’s half-brother James did not believe in Him. We are told specifically in John’s Gospel,

“…neither did his brethren believe in him” (John 7:5; p. 1124).

Dr. John R. Rice said of that verse,

The brothers of Jesus – James, Joses, Simon and Judas…were not saved before the crucifixion (John R. Rice, D.D., The Son of God, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1976, p. 158; note on John 7:5).

Then, again, the twelfth chapter of Matthew shows that His mother and four brothers did not yet believe in Him.

“While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother”
     (Matthew 12:46-50; p. 1013).

In those verses Jesus’ mother and brothers tried to interrupt Him while He was preaching. Dr. Rice said, “These brethren were evidently not converted at this time and did not believe in Jesus” (John R. Rice., D.D., The King of the Jews, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1980, p. 189). James would have been among them – in an unconverted state. Dr. Rice said there was “a sneer in their rejection of His claim to be the Messiah” (The Son of God, ibid.). Thus, we leave James sneering and rejecting Jesus his brother.

II. Second, James was converted.

When James tried to interrupt Jesus’ preaching he “stood without” (Matthew 12:46). But after Christ rose from the dead he was inside! “And when they were come in [they were with] Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:13-14). James was inside, in the prayer meeting in the upper room after Jesus rose from the dead! James was there, one of “his brethren.” He was finally converted! The Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible says,

After Jesus’ crucifixion, however, James became a believer. Paul indicates that James was a witness to the crucifixion of Jesus (The Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible, Herbert Lockyer, D.D., editor, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986, page 533).

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says,

…the seeds of conversion were being sown within him, for, after the crucifixion, he remained in Jerusalem with his mother and brethren, and formed one of that earliest band of believers who “with one accord continued stedfastly in prayer” (Acts 1:14)… James was one of the earliest witnesses to the resurrection, for, after the risen Lord had manifested Himself to the five hundred, “he was seen of James” (I Corinthians 15:7 AV). By this his growing belief and prayerful expectancy received confirmation (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Eerdmans, 1976, volume III, p. 1561).

We do not know when James saw Jesus after his resurrection. But it was after Christ was seen by “five hundred brethren at once” (I Corinthians 15:6).

“After that, he was seen of James” (I Corinthians 15:7).

We do not know when that happened, but it was after 500 people saw the risen Christ. We know that James was in the upper room (Acts 1:14) – and was counted with the 120 disciples (Acts 1:15). James had been converted! He saw his brother after He rose from the dead! If you can’t trust a man’s own brother, who can you trust?

“After that, he was seen of James” (I Corinthians 15:7).

III. Third, James became a Christian leader and a martyr.

So great was the impact of seeing his brother, risen from the dead, that James became an Apostle, a Christian leader, the author of one of the books in the New Testament, and a martyr. James is mentioned as a leader of the church at Jerusalem, in Acts 15:13 and Acts 21:18,

“And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present” (Acts 21:18; p. 1179).

James, who had been an unbeliever, had now become the leader of the church at Jerusalem! He was now the pastor of the first Christian church in the world!

But James was a very humble man. In the epistle he wrote in the New Testament, he did not call himself an Apostle, although he was one. He did not even call himself a pastor, or elder. Turn to the book of James, chapter one, verse one. Here is what James wrote. Let us read that verse.

“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting”
     (James 1:1; p. 1306).

There is that great Christian’s description of himself: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Notice that he called Jesus, “the Lord Jesus Christ.” No one would know about that better than James. After all Jesus was his own brother! And James simply called himself Jesus’ “servant.” How did this great transformation come about in his life?

“After that, he was seen of James…” (I Corinthians 15:7).

James saw his brother after He rose from the dead. To the end of his life James proclaimed that he had seen the resurrected Christ, whom he called, “The Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1).

Can we believe James? Is he a trustworthy witness to Christ’s resurrection? Yes he is – because James gave up his very life proclaiming that Jesus had risen from the dead. He was an eyewitness to his brother’s resurrection!

Eusebius was an historian who lived in the fourth century. Eusebius called James, “James the Just.” In his history of the early church, Eusebius tells us how James died. Eusebius is quoting from Clement, who lived even earlier, in the first century. Eusebius quotes Clement concerning James,

For they say that Peter and James and John after the ascension of our Saviour, as if also preferred by our Lord, strove not after honor, but chose James the Just bishop of Jerusalem… The Lord after his resurrection imparted knowledge to James the Just and to John and Peter, and they imparted to the rest of the apostles, and the rest of the apostles to the seventy, of whom Barnabas was one… [James] was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple and was beaten to death with a club (Eusebius, c. 260-340 A.D., “The Church History of Eusebius” in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Eerdmans, 1982 reprint, volume I, p. 104).

Here is a description of the death of James from The New Encyclopedia of Christian Martyrs:

They hauled James up to the front of a great crowd and demanded that he deny Christ. To their surprise James remained calm and showed unexpected tranquility before this hostile crowd. James openly declared that our Saviour and Lord, Jesus, was indeed the Son of God…
Clement tells us that they seized James, threw him off a parapet [of the temple] and then clubbed him to death…
The Scribes and Pharisees forced James to stand on the Sanctuary parapet and shouted out to him, “Righteous one, whose testimony we have to accept, you are leading the people astray and encouraging them to follow Jesus, who was crucified…” James called back, “Why do you ask me about the Son of Man? He sits in heaven at the right hand of the Great Power, and he will return on heavenly clouds.”
Many in the crowd [below] were persuaded by James’ words, and cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David.”
The Scribes and Pharisees realized that they had made a…mistake in allowing James to testify about Jesus…So they threw [him] over the parapet, and then stoned him, as the fall did not kill him. James…prayed, “Lord God and Father, I pray thee, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” So the Righteous one was martyred. He was buried where he fell and his headstone remains there (The New Encyclopedia of Christian Martyrs, Baker, 2001, p. 23).

He gave up his life for Jesus because,

“After that, he was seen of James…” (I Corinthians 15:7).

To the end of his life he was,

“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…”
     (James 1:1).

Do you think this man really saw Christ after He rose from the dead? Can you trust the witness of this man who gave his life for Jesus? Can you believe that he saw his brother, Jesus, after He rose from the dead? And if you can trust James’ testimony, will you trust Jesus Himself? Will you trust Jesus as James did? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). How we pray that you, too, will encounter the risen Christ – and be saved!