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We are currently featuring outlines from the book of James.


THE EPISTLE OF JAMES


Introduction

AUTHOR: James, who identifies himself as "a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" (1:1). There are four men who bear this name in the New Testament:

James, son of Zebedee and brother of John - A fisherman called by Christ (Mt 4:17-22) who later became an apostle (Mt 10:2). Together with John, they were nicknamed "Sons of Thunder" because of their impulsiveness (cf. Mk 3:17 with Lk 9:51-56). He was killed by Herod in 44 A.D. (Ac 12:1-2).

James, son of Alphaeus
- Another one of the apostles (Mt 10:3; Ac 1:12), about whom very little is known. He may be "James the younger," whose mother, Mary, was among the women at Jesus' crucifixion and tomb (Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40; 16:1; Lk 24:10). In Jn 19: 25, this Mary is called the wife of Cleophas, perhaps to be identified with Alphaeus.

James, father of Judas the apostle - Even more obscure, one of the few references to him is Lk 6:16.

James, the brother of our Lord - A half-brother of our Lord (Mt 13:55), who did not believe in his brother at first (Jn 7:5). He became a disciple following the resurrection (1 Co 15:7; Ac 1:14) and gained prominence in the church at Jerusalem (Ga 2:9). As evidence of his prominence, Peter sent him a special message following his own release from prison (Ac 12:17). James also played
an important role in the conference at Jerusalem (Ac 15:13-33), and Paul brought him greetings upon arriving at Jerusalem (Ac 21:18-19). "James, the Lord's brother" (Ga 1:19) is most likely the author of this epistle. Tradition describes James as a man of prayer, which may explain the emphasis on prayer in his letter. It was said that he prayed so much, his knees were as hard as those on a camel. He was martyred in 62 A.D., either by being cast down from the temple, or beaten to death with clubs. It is reported that as he died, he prayed as did Jesus, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

1. (1:1) James; The “Slave”

He simply calls himself James, “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
He is a leader among God’s people, a world renown leader. Yet his glory is not in the title of his position, but in the fact that he is a servant of God and Christ. Despite his position, and world-wide reputation, what matters to him most is the intimacy of his relationship to God and his Lord. This is clearly seen when the word servant is understood, for the meaning of the word shows that James deliberately chose the word to describe his relationship to the Lord.

The word “servant” (doulos ) in the Greek means far more than just a servant. It means a slave totally possessed by the master. It means a bond-servant bound by law to a master. A look at the slave market of James’s day shows more clearly what James meant when he said he was a “slave of Jesus Christ.”

a.The slave was owned by his master; he was totally possessed by his master. This is what James meant. James was purchased and possessed by Christ, the > Son of the living God. Christ had looked upon him and had seen his rebellious and needful condition. And when Christ looked, the most wonderful thing happened: Christ loved him and bought him; therefore, he was now the possession of Christ.

b.The slave existed for his master and he had no other reason for existence. He had no personal rights whatsoever. The same was true with James: he existed only for Christ. His rights were the rights of Christ only.

c.The slave served his master and he existed only for the purpose of service. He was at the master’s disposal any hour of the day. So it was with James: he lived only to serve Christ—hour by hour and day by day.

d.The slave’s will belonged to his master. He was allowed no will and no ambition other than the will and ambition of the master. He was completely subservient to the master and owed total obedience to the will of the master. James belonged to Christ. In fact, he fought and struggled to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5, esp. 2 Cor. 10:5).

e.There is a fifth and most precious thing that James meant by “a slave of Jesus Christ.” He meant that he had the highest and most honored and kingly
profession in all the world. Men of God, the greatest men of history, have always been called “the servants of God.” It was the highest title of honor.

2. RECIPIENTS: The epistle is addressed to "the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad" (1:1). This naturally leads one to think of Jews (Ac 26:6-7) living outside the land of Palestine. Since the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, many Jews were scattered throughout different nations (Ac 2:5-11). While Jews, the epistle makes it clear that they were also brethren in the Lord, i.e., they were Jewish Christians. Nineteen times James calls them "brethren" and at least one time he definitely means those who were brethren "in the Lord" (2:1).

3. PURPOSE: James had two purposes for writing.

1. To correct a corrupted faith that was rapidly seeping into the church. Many were professing faith in Christ, but living immoral and unrighteous lives. Their faith was profession only—a faith of license with little or no restraint upon behavior.

2. To present the true faith of Christ: a faith of the heart—a faith that produces outward fruit. James’ point is very simple: a person is known to be a Christian only by his behavior. What he does proves one of two things: it proves he is a Christian or it proves he is not a Christian.