Have you ever met a celebrity?
- I’ve played basketball next to Muggsy Bogues and George Mueresan.
- I almost received a cash from Ted DiBiase – the WWF “Million Dollar Man”
- I went to school with persons who have gone on to play professional sports… briefly!
- I’ve met and shook hands with President Bill Clinton.
- I’ve met and had book signed by Pastor David Jeremiah.
I don’t know how you define celebrity, but I have not truly met or know someone world renown. And the older I get, the less I am impressed with others who gain the world but forfeit their soul. I’ve come to admire ordinary men and women who sincerely love the Lord and who humbly love their neighbors and friends.
I also have come to see how the Bible portrays followers of Jesus – not as heroic figures or prominent celebrities, but as regular people. When the Bible gives us biographical information about key characters, it describes their doubts, misadventures and mistakes than we learn about their amazing features. In fact, what is extraordinary about early Christianity is how ordinary its founding followers were. What stands out about the founding followers of Christianity is that they had spent time with and resemble Jesus (Acts 4:13).
Why the Book of James matters:
- We live in a time where people confuse genuine Christianity with merely going to church (or watching church). The Book of James gives a clear challenge to understand faith in Jesus Christ results in good works. If there is no fruit, then check the root. To James, faith is not abstract but applied always!
- We live in trying times with all sorts of pressure, problems, pains, pandemics. If only the world had a handbook for navigating the storms of life!?! The Book of James was written to individuals dispersed due to famine and faith persecution. This book helps us understand how to survive trials, temptations, and transitions of life.
- James is filled with everyday metaphors: waves of the sea, tossed by wind, withered flowers & grass, scorching sun, reflective mirrors, wealthy and poverty; horse bits, ship rudders, brush fires, animals, fig trees, salt ponds and fresh spring water, conflicting neighbors, arrogant entrepreneurs, moth-eaten garments, hard-working farmers, suffering & sick patients praying, wandering sinners needing saved.
- James wrote circa 46AD but relevant in 2020.
- James is filled the teachings of Jesus.
- Book may be a homily or commentary on Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. Reading James cannot help but hear the voice and wisdom of Jesus.
- There are 50+ Commands of exhortation and rebuke are communicated more than any NT book.
- James is concise. Many scholars call the Book of James – “The Proverbs of the New Testament.” When James addresses a subject, it’s to the point and then he moves on. Most of his subjects can be just a few verses, and even when he spends more time developing a point, he does so with illustrative clarity and impactful content.
- So… in honor of James’s conciseness, I’m introducing this series with just 1 verse… but it’s not likely to be any shorter than other sermons 😊.
James 1:1 “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.”
What’s his name?
- Yaʻaqov (Hebrew) > Iacobus (Greek) > Iacomus (Latin) > Jammes (Old French) > James (English) > Santiago (Spanish… but in 1:1 says “Jacobo”)
- John Wycliffe 1382 has “James” so does Tyndale 1525 and KJV 1600’s has “James,” so not KJV fault.
- Technically the name Jacob would retain OT lineage and the literal name… but we’ve grown up with James.
- James son of Zebedee, brother of John; often called “James The Great” as close disciple to Jesus (Peter, James, John). He was killed for his faith by King Herod (Ac 12:2).
- James son of Alphaeus (Mt 10:3); often called “James The Less” bc maybe he was either shorter or younger?
- James father of Judas/not Iscariot (Acts 1:13)
- James the younger (Mk 15:40)
- The author of James is simply identified as a servant of God, therefore, the lack of elaboration indicates a well-known James.
- James son of Joseph; half-brother to Jesus (cf. Mk 3:31-35; 6:3); often called “James The Just.”
Despite the RCC, Mary did have natural relations with her husband Joseph, and beyond supernatural conception of their first son, they had multiple children through natural means. We know they had at least 4 boys and 2 sisters… Can you imagine what it was like to parent the Son of God, or to grow up as a sister or brother to the Lord Jesus? We have a handful of apocryphal stories about the childhood of Jesus, but only a single biblical account, with Jesus wandering away from parents by spending time interacting with the Temple teachers. For 30 years, Jesus lived in proximity and privacy with His family.
- As a side note, this should encourage you as a father, a mother, or growing child that private family life is just as important to God as public life. God sees faithfulness of cooking meals, cleaning dishes, sweeping floors, organizing rooms, mowing lawns, caring for children, and everyday work are all mundane but invaluable work.
- Gospel accounts tell us that James was not an early disciple of Jesus; they took offense at Jesus’s words and deeds (Mark 6:3).
- Jesus never disobeyed parents or had a bad attitude.
- Jesus never cheated in school, lied about a friend, or unjustly fought with enemies.
- Jesus was likely the preferred child from the parents, which likely created jealousy and rivalry among the siblings.
- James’s faith in the Lordship of Jesus was a process (Mk 3:21; Jn 7:2-5 brothers didn’t believe) and was principled based on genuine faith after the resurrection (Acts 1:14; 1Cor 15:7). Later, James becomes influential in early church with Paul (Gal 1:19), in Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:13, 19) and described as a pillar in early church (Gal 2:9). Therefore, James identifying simply as a servant of God and the Lord Jesus is significant to leave out that he was also a half-brother to Jesus. The idea is that kinship with Jesus is empty without the Lordship of Jesus.
James identifies himself as a servant of God AND Lord Jesus. James could mean to indicate both titles “God” and “Lord” apply to Jesus; or he could mean to indicate his service to Yahweh and to Jesus as the Lord. Either way, the indication is Jesus has equality with the Lord God, which is remarkable theology, but also a remarkable transformation for this half-brother of Jesus. You might recall the teaching of Jesus saying not everyone who calls Him “Lord” will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only the person who does the will of the Father. (Mt 7:21-23). Well, James is certainly following the footsteps of Jesus as one of His servants.
A servant δοῦλος, indicates subjection but not necessarily bondage.
There are numerous descriptions of Christians – joint heirs with Christ, God’s adopted child, a follower or disciple/apprentice, a member of the body, a sheep… but to be characterized as a servant or slave is 1) not modernly politically correct, 2) not contemporary appealing. Yet, this term appears all over the NT.
Such Old Testament greats as Abraham (Gen 26:24), Isaac (Gen 24:14), Jacob (Ez 28:25), Job (Job 1:8), Moses (Ex 14:31), Joshua (Jos 24:29), Caleb (Nu 14:24), David (2 Sam 3:18), Isaiah (Isa 20:3), and Daniel (Dan. 6:20) are described as God’s servants. In the New Testament, Epaphras (Col 4:12), Timothy (Phm 1:1), Paul (Rom 1:1), Peter (2 Pet 1:1), Jude (Jude 1), John (Rev 1:1), and our Lord Himself (Ac 3:13) all bore the title of doulos. By assuming the title of servant, James was not only identifying with OT saints but more with the One whom was his Master – the God and Lord Jesus Christ.
To whom is James writing?
This letter is not to one group or church that is addressing a single context. Rather, the letter is very early in Christianity – likely the first letter written. So, the emphasis is not necessarily on establishing a theological treatise (like several of Paul’s letters: Romans, Ephesians), but rather on how an assumed faith in Jesus is daily applied.
More specifically, James is writing to 12 tribes of Dispersion. Diaspora was all nations outside Palestine, and by this time Jews had been scattered throughout the Roman Empire. So, this new Israel (Church) were scattered due to famine and persecution (Acts 8:1; 11:19), with James writing to all Christians needing encouragement how to live.
- Whenever you read the Bible, God is talking to you. He has a message for you every single day; even this moment.
Our English translation “greetings” is superficial and insufficient. The Greek word χαίρω is a combination word of both grace and joy. The letter of James is not a chain saw to chop rashly and recklessly, but is more like a chisel with precision and care. God’s word is like a double-edged sword or scalpel that cuts in order to heal.
Proverbs 27:6 “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”
Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so does one person another.”
James may not be the friend we seek, but he’s the friend we need. James has the backbone to say brutally honest things we need to hear, but he also has the benevolent heart of his brother and Savior, the Lord Jesus. His aim is grace and joy.
3 summary applications:
Servants of Jesus have grounded and growing faith in Jesus.
James was not afraid to be identified as God’s servant. How do you describe and identify yourself? What’s in your social media bio and what could a stranger learn about you by reading your social media timeline? You see, the circumstances of this season – and the circumstances of every single moment are not just creating your character but revealing it. Where is your faith?
Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and _____” (Mt 6:24).
- Money / Sports / Politics / Hot Guys or Cute Girls / Career & Accomplishments… etc.
- Jesus is Savior AND Lord.
Today, beginning this series, is a wonderful moment granted by God to renew your faith with Jesus.
- Commit to being in a Bible Group.
- Commit to reading the book of James each week.
Servants of Jesus have generosity toward others.
The audience of James is for those dispersed and despairing. As we look around the world today, it’s not difficult to see who is hurting. You may not agree with everything about the lifestyle and actions of the hurting, but that doesn’t excuse you from Jesus’s command to love them. The aim of extending grace and generosity toward others is that we wish people not to hurt, and we desire them to find healing and hope, that can only come through the love of Jesus Christ.
- Who is one person in your life that is difficult to get along? Pray for them each day and find a way to do something surprisingly gracious toward them in this next week.
James is also writing to fellow believers who were persecuted – the dispersed. Again, if we do the research we can identify dispersed Christians around the world. One of the ways you can express solidarity with suffering Christians is by generously supporting international missions.
- Start budgeting and preparing now for LMCO.
- Identify an international missionary to assist supporting (see me if need).
- Sponsor a Compassion child.
- Pray for unreached peoples – Joshua Project
Servants of Jesus have graciousness toward the church.
James’s warm and hospitable care toward Christians was evident from the start. Throughout the book (14x), James calls his audience “my brothers.” James affirms his relationship with them before he seeks to assess or amend their behavior. The implication is that he loves them, so he’s taking the effort constructively discipline them. Just as a loving parent disciplines their children, so is this Christian brother speaking truth in love. He is not using complaints to clobber them but to correct them.
- Before you offer criticism, do you want the best for that person and intend to be part of the solution? If not, it’s best to withhold your critique.
- The best way to express “greetings” or grace/joy to your church family is by being present.
- Can you imagine a spouse saying, “Honey, ILY, but I don’t feel like spending time with you.” Would that relationship thrive or last long? Not likely. We say we love Jesus but then neglect spending time with Him and those He loves and intends to use in our life to bring about His blessings.
- Consider one simple act you can do to show up in another church member’s life this week… letter, visit, meal, prayer together, send a gift… Ask the Spirit to guide your graciousness.
 Carson, Moo, Morris, Intro To the NT, p.410.
 James 1:2, 9, 19; 2:1, 5, 14, 15; 3:1, 12; 4:11; 5:7, 10, 12, 19