James: The Exceptional Apostle?

James, the Lord's brother, was a key leader in the early church. When we think of James our minds probably go straight to the short New Testament letter he wrote, but that's not the only place James makes it into Scripture. Today, we probably associate Peter and Paul with the leadership of the early church, and in many respects that's true. But although we know a lot less dramatic detail about James, the Bible shows us that, at least for a time, he was the leader among the apostles. So, when the apostles gather for the Jerusalem Council, Peter and Paul speak, but it's James who leads (Acts 15:13-21).

A lot of ideas and theories float around about what an apostle is supposed to be, and yet many of them don't seem to take James, one of the leading apostles of the early church, into account. Is James simply to be treated as an exceptional apostle, or should his exceptionality not show us something about some of these ideas about apostles?

Exception 1: All Apostle's should be released from leading an assembly / Apostles should be itinerant - But James led the Jerusalem Church.

Exception 2: All Apostle's should be church planters - But James led an established church.

Exception 3: Apostolic revelation is (supposedly) new and subjective - But James' revelation came from the Old Testament Scriptures. (On the subject of apostolic revelation, see here.)

Is James just an exception to all the rules? Well, why would he be? In fact, James is one of the very few apostles in the New Testament whose ministry we know any details about at all. So, rather than forgetting his example or treating him as an exception, perhaps we should take him more into account in our descriptions of biblical apostleship.