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THE EPISTLE OF JAMES
| 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
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;
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
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.
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
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.