James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. ~ James 1:1
Today, we begin a new study in the New Testament epistle or letter or book of James. Like Jude, the author of this book was one of the half brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Interestingly, the name James is the same as Jacob. I find this very instructive since "Jacob" means deceiver. Like you and me, before James came to faith in the Lord Jesus, he lived a life of deception. I say this because before James was defined by the Lord Jesus, he was defined by the lesser things of this world. And, like Jacob, when James came to faith in the Lord Jesus as God, he discovered his new found life with God as his friend.
In John 7:2-5 we read, "2 But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him."
The word "brothers" in John 7:3 means biological brothers. James, the writer of this epistle of James, was one of the brothers who were there that day in Jerusalem at the Festival of Tabernacles. And, at that point, James did not believe in the Lord Jesus as Savior and God. It wasn't until after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus that James believed in his half brother as his Lord and his Savior. It makes perfect sense that James would become a servant of the Lord Jesus after He had resurrected, because if He resurrected from the dead, the Lord Jesus is God, for only God can overcome death.
In 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 we read, "3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles."
After His resurrection, the Lord Jesus gave his half brother, James, a special viewing of Himself, after He was raised from the dead. And, this resulted in James becoming an ardent follower of the Lord Jesus as his Savior and Lord. His awe of his half brother is evidence that the resurrection happened.
In v.1 of today's text we read, "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings."
James mentions not once in this book that he was the half brother of the Lord Jesus. It is quite instructive that James didn't haughtily pull rank as the half-brother of the Lord Jesus. Better yet, James identifies himself as a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the result of seeing the Lord Jesus for who He is; James saw that the Lord Jesus was/is God and he therefore bowed his will to Him as God. When we come to see the Lord Jesus as God, we will naturally see ourselves as His servants. The Greek word "doulos" is used for the word servant here. In that day, everyone knew that this lowest form of a servant had no rights of his own. The "doulos" sees himself as having been bought with a price and he no longer has any rights and freedoms of his own. He has abdicated to the Lord Jesus his rights to run his life through his belief in the Lord Jesus as God.
In Luke 17:7-10 we read, "7 Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’"
Within these verses we are given the best definition of the "doulos." A doulos obeys not expecting anything in return. The greatest characteristic of a "minister" is he is a slave to the Lord Jesus Christ. Most of the epistles of the New Testament begin with this adjective, "doulos." The early believers were so convinced the Lord Jesus was and is God, they therefore sold out their lives to and for Him. And, the flip side of this is also true. The fact that the Lord Jesus is the "Master" of all and He is in control of all things means we can rest in His will for our lives.
This leads us to a very valuable lesson. When we rest in the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus Christ, meaning He either allows things to happen in our lives or He causes them to happen in our lives, when we rest in His sovereign will, we will not be all bound up with worry and fret. I say this because, if it happens, and He is sovereign, then it is a part of His will for us at that time. So, we do not worry, we do not fret because if it happens, it is a part of His will for our lives. We rest and find ourselves amazed as we view the unfolding of His plan in and for our lives for each given day.
The audience of James is identified in v.1 as the twelve tribes scattered among the nations. This letter written by James was written shortly after the persecution of the Jewish believers in Jerusalem, following their dispersal throughout foreign lands following Stephen’s death in 35 AD. This makes the book of James the earliest of all the New Testament writings, including the gospels.
Down through their history, the Jews have experienced many scatterings most of which were due to their unwillingness to be defined by God. When we refuse to see God as our God and we deny Him the power to render His will in our lives, we find ourselves "scattered" or in bondage to the cares of this life. We worry and fret, when if we would just trust Him, we would see a different story unfold in our lives.
James does not deal with the doctrine of justification in this book. You will remember that our justification or our rightness before God is solely based on the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross. Also, we must remember, our sanctification is mostly based on our willingness to let God have His way in our lives, and then, through the Holy Spirit and God's word, we are changed for His glory. Justification gets us into heaven in the future, while sanctification gets heaven into us now.
There’s nothing in this epistle about the crucifixion of Christ or His resurrection. There is nothing in this book about the deity of Christ, and nothing about regeneration. These subjects are assumed. James assumes his hearers know about the afore mentioned subjects. It’s very clear that he is writing to people who say they believe in the Lord Jesus. He does this because he knew that he was writing to people who believed already. By the way, when studying an epistle, we must keep in mind that the subject of any epistle is always going to be about sanctification not justification.
So, the main goal of James in this book is to teach us about our sanctification. Saving faith always yields good works in and through our lives. Some people have said James is in conflict with Paul. Not at all, because in the book of Romans Paul was asking and answering the question, “How is salvation received?” And Paul’s answer was always by faith alone. But to James the question is, “How is salvation verified?” And his answer is always, “By works alone.” Salvation is received by faith; it is verified by works, and with that, there is no conflict.