“James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.”
“One of the popular TV shows when I grew up was Dragnet, starring Jack Webb as Joe Friday, a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. Joe Friday was a no-nonsense cop. His famous line was, ‘Just the facts, Ma’am.’ He didn’t want to hear anything irrelevant to solving the case. If somebody went off on a tangent, he cut to the quick with, “’Just the facts, Ma’am.’
James is the Joe Friday of the New Testament. He cuts to the bottom line without messing around. He’s not really interested in hearing your profession of faith. He wants to see your practice of the faith. Several writers refer to James as the least theological epistle in the New Testament, except for Philemon. It’s not that James discounts the importance of sound doctrine, but rather that he wants to see that doctrine affecting how we live. Talk is cheap; James wants to see results. Of the 108 verses in the book, 54 (half) contain imperative verbs. James is like a crusty sergeant barking orders at the troops. He wants to see some action!” –Steven Cole, Flagstaff Christian Fellowship, Flagstaff, Arizona.
The name James, Iakobos in Greek is the basis for the title of this book, “Epistle of James.” Iakobos is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Jacob, a common name in the first century.
There are four men in the New Testament named James:
1. James, the father of Judas one of the twelve disciples (not Iscariot, Christ’s betrayer) (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13).
2. James, the son of Alphaeus, Matthew 10:3; Mark 1:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13, also known as, James the Less (Mark 15:40).
3. James, the son of Zebedee and brother of John, one of Jesus’ intimate disciples (Matthew 4:21; 10:2; 17:1; Mark 3:17; 10:35; 13:3; Luke 9:54; Acts 1:13). He was martyred in A.D.44 (Acts 12:2).
4. James, Jesus’ brother (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Galatians 1:19). He was not a follower of Jesus during Jesus’ ministry, he seems to have been converted shortly afterwards, perhaps when the risen Jesus appeared to him (John 7:3-5; (Acts 1:14; 1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19). He became the head of the Jerusalem church where he served for 30 years, and is mentioned as a “pillar” of the church (Acts 12:17; 15:13-21; 21:18; Galatians 2:9,12). He became known for his piety and was named “James the Just.” Tradition has it that he was a Nazarite. We are told of his strict adherence to the law (Acts 21:17-26; Galatians 2:12). He, being the natural son of Joseph and Mary after their marriage, was actually our Lord’s half-brother.
He was a man who believed in the power of prayer, as evidenced by the space he devotes to it in his epistle. Because of his habit of always kneeling in intercession for the saints, his knees became calloused like a camel’s; thus he became known as “The Man with Camel’s Knees.”
He was cruelly martyred in A.D. 62 by the Scribes and Pharisees, who cast him from the pinnacle of the Temple. As the fall did not kill him, his enemies stoned him, finally dispatching him with a fuller’s club (Matthew 4:5; Luke 4:9). Across from the Valley of Jehoshaphat, there is a sepulcher called “The Tomb of St. James.”
This James, the Lord’s brother, is believed by almost all expositors to be the author of this book.
The Book of James is probably the oldest book of the New Testament, written perhaps as early as A.D. 45, before the first council of Jerusalem in A.D. 50. But its message is as fresh as tomorrow morning. The themes are intensely human, a challenge to an active faith that every believer needs today.
Verse 1a: “James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…”
Note that he does not introduce himself as Jesus’ brother, but only a “bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus was not only James’ brother; more importantly, Jesus was his Lord.
“Bondservant” is an utterly self-effacing word, totally foreign to our thinking and totally repugnant to the Roman thinking of James’ day. The Greek word for “bondservant” is doulos, meaning “a slave, one who is subservient to, and entirely at the disposal of his master; someone who belongs to another; without any ownership rights of his own.” A “bondservant” is one who chooses to serve his Master till death. He will forever wear the mark of this Master. James is the property of God, and utterly without any condition, at God’s disposal. God has all rights to him and may use him in any way He pleases!
The word “slave” is so onerous in our society, that the word sticks in our throat, as well it should when we are speaking of one who is classified as property, one person being owned by another against his will. A bondslave was the lowest level of society. The term doulos was the most servile term available in Greek for the idea of being a slave or a servant. The slave was completely subordinate, had no rights, and no position whatsoever.
“Bondservant” in the Old Testament:
Exodus 21:1-6 ESV. “When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing…But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.”
Deuteronomy 15:12-17 ESV, “If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you…But if he says to you, ‘I will not go out from you,’ because he loves you and your household, since he is well-off with you, then you shall take an awl, and put it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your slave forever. And to your female slave you shall do the same.”
There are stories of bond-slaves who loved their masters so much that they stayed on and served willingly, even after they were set free.
“Christianity found that the term doulos is appropriate in setting forth the essence of the believer's true relationship to God. It aptly sets forth the Christian consciousness that believers are totally dependent upon God, belong wholly to Him, and are convinced that His will is the only true rule for all of His people. Because believers voluntarily and joyously accept this relationship, the term was commonly used in the New Testament of the believer's relationship to God without any implication of involuntary servitude. For them the term did not suggest any degradation, but only their total surrender to their spiritual Master.” –Hiebert (edited)
James calls himself a “bondservant of Jesus Christ,” so did Peter, 2 Peter 1:1; and Paul, Romans 1:1; Titus, Titus 1:1; Jude in Jude 1; and John in Revelation 1:1. All these mighty men of God began their letters with this declaration of servanthood, so it is most certainly an important truth! Each one had voluntarily given up his freedom to serve his Master, Jesus Christ. They said, "I love you, Lord, and I don't want to leave You, I will serve you willingly forever."
God gave Abraham and his descendants the mark of circumcision as a physical reminder that they were cut out from the world, that is, set apart to serve the one, true God. And God has marked His believers as His bondservants for life, not with circumcision or an ear piercing, but with a piercing of the heart, “…circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God” (Romans 2:29 NASB). “And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:6 ESV).
Bondservants of Christ:
"1. Bondservant of Christ is emptied of self, and walks in deep humility before the Lord, faithfully obeying Him to the point of suffering hardship, humiliation, and even death if required. (Philippians 2:5-8; Luke 1:38)
2. A Bondservant of Christ has a deep and genuine concern for the welfare of others. (Philippians 2:20-21; Colossians 4:14-13)
3. A Bondservant of Christ seeks to encourage, comfort and strengthen others. (Colossians 4:7- 8)
4. A Bondservant of Christ strives to do the will of his Master, and please Him only, and has abandoned seeking after the praise of men. (Galatians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 5:9)
5. A Bondservant of Christ does not promote or exalt self but promotes and exalts Christ as Lord of all, and views self as a bondslave of others to fulfill the call of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:5)
6. A Bondservant of Christ is not quarrelsome, but kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, gently correcting those who are in opposition. (2 timothy 2:24-25)
7. A Bondservant of Christ sees his/her life of service as a grateful, dutiful, and loving response to God and not something for which he/she expects to be thanked by his/her Master, but rather rewarded for his/her faithfulness. (Luke 17:7-10; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 6:5-8)” –Curt Shacklett, christsbondservants.org
Oswald Chambers writes: “These words mean the breaking of my independence with my own hand and surrendering to the supremacy of the Lord Jesus. No one can do this for me, I must do it myself. God may bring me up to the point three hundred and sixty-five times a year, but He cannot put me through it. It means breaking the husk of my individual independence of God, and the emancipation of my personality into oneness with Himself, not for my own ideas, but for absolute loyalty to Jesus. There is no possibility of dispute when once I am there. Very few of us know anything about loyalty to Christ – For My sake. It is that which makes the iron saint.
Has that break come? All the rest is pious fraud. The one point to decide is – Will I give up, will I surrender to Jesus Christ, and make no conditions whatever as to how the break comes? I must be broken from my self-realization, and immediately that point is reached, the reality of the supernatural identification takes place at once, and the witness of the Spirit of God is unmistakable –‘I have been crucified with Christ.’ The passion of Christianity comes from deliberately signing away my own rights and becoming a bondservant of Jesus Christ. Until I do that, I will not begin to be a saint.” –Oswald Chambers, My utmost for His highest
William Barclay writes:
“Paul describes himself as the slave of Jesus Christ and His apostle (Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1). But James will go no further than to call himself the slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are at least four implications in this title.
1) It implies absolute obedience. The slave knows no law but his master's word; he has no rights of his own; he is the absolute possession of his master; and he is bound to give his master unquestioning obedience.
2) It implies absolute humility. It is the word of a man who thinks not of his privileges but of his duties, not of his rights but of his obligations. It is the word of the man who has lost his self in the service of God.
3) It implies absolute loyalty. It is the word of the man who has no interests of his own, because what he does, he does for his master. His own profit and his own preference do not enter into his calculations; his loyalty is to him.
4) Yet, at the back of it, this word implies a certain pride. So far from being a title of dishonor it was the title by which the greatest ones of the Old Testament were known. Moses was the doulos of God (1 Kings 8:53; Daniel 9:11; Malachi 4:4); so were Joshua and Caleb (Joshua 24:29; Numbers 14:24); so were the great patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Deuteronomy 9:27); so was Job (Job 1:8); so was Isaiah (Isaiah 20:3); and doulos is distinctively the title by which the prophets were known (Amos 3:7; Zechariah 1:6; Jeremiah 7:25). By taking the title doulos James sets himself in the great succession of those who found their freedom and their peace and their glory in perfect submission to the will of God. The only greatness to which the Christian can ever aspire is that of being the slave of God.” –William Barclay
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 619,:20).
Verse 1b: “To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.”
The word Diaspora is a transliteration of a Greek word that means “to sow throughout” or “to distribute in foreign lands” or “scatter abroad.” Some form of the Greek word Diaspora is seen in six different New Testament passages, and at its simplest meaning, the Diaspora refers to Jews who were living outside of Israel having been dispersed or scattered to other Gentile countries. There were large Jewish populations in both Egypt and Syria, with an estimated Jewish population in Alexandria, Egypt, alone, of more than one million Jews. During Roman rule many Jews were also taken to Rome as slaves, and there were large Jewish populations in several different parts of the Roman Empire. The Roman historian Mommsen wrote, “The inhabitants of Palestine were only a portion, and not the most important portion, of the Jews; the Jewish communities of Babylonia, Syria, Asia Minor and Egypt were far superior to those of Palestine.” Jews were scattered across so much of the known world that the Jewish historian Josephus wrote that “there is no city, no tribe, whether Greek or barbarian, in which Jewish law and Jewish customs have not taken root. Adapted from gotquestions.org
Part of this scattering of the Jews was to Europe. We know that there were approximately ten-million Jews in Europe in 1933, just prior to Hitler’s reign of terror on them. This number represented more than 60 percent of the world's Jewish population at that time, estimated at 15.3 million. The genocide known as HaShoah in Hebrew, aimed at the elimination of the Jewish people on the European continent, was a broadly organized operation led by Hitler’s Nazi Germany, in which approximately six-million Jews were murdered methodically and with horrifying cruelty. During the Holocaust in occupied Poland, more than one million Jews were murdered in gas chambers of the Auschwitz concentration camp alone. In little more than a decade, most of Europe would be conquered, occupied, or annexed by Nazi Germany and its Axis partners, and the majority of European Jews—two out of every three—would be dead, including 1.5 million children.
“The letter is addressed to the twelve tribes who are scattered abroad. Literally the greeting is to the twelve tribes in the Diaspora, (the dispersion) the technical word for the millions of Jews who were, for one reason or another, outside the Promised Land. This dispersal of the Jews throughout the world was of the very greatest importance for the spread of Christianity, because it meant that all over the world there were synagogues, from which the Christian preachers could make their start; and it meant that all over the world there were groups of men and women who themselves already knew the Old Testament, and who had persuaded others among the Gentiles, at least to be interested in their faith. Let us see how this dispersal took place. Sometimes--and the process began in this way--the Jews were forcibly taken out of their own land and compelled to live as exiles in foreign lands.” –Edited and adapted from William Barclay
“The scattering of the Jews was not only known to God but predicted by God from the beginning. God had told His people: “I will scatter you among the nations” (Leviticus 26:33). This scattering commenced when the ten tribes were carried away into Assyrian captivity about 740 B.C. and it has continued down through the centuries. It is generally conceded that the infiltration of Jews in every country has added to the advancement of civilization throughout the known world. God has used the scattering for the good of humanity. This principle of scattering helped spread the Gospel in the early Church. Luke reminds us that ‘at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria’ (Acts 8:1). ‘Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the Word’ (Acts 8:4). When God permitted the scattering of His children at that time it was for the purpose of reaching the unreached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Certainly we cannot think for a moment that God had forsaken them nor that He had lost track of them. No, never! He knew each one by name as well as the whereabouts of each, just as He possesses full knowledge of each child of His today. At the Rapture of the Church He will gather the redeemed of the Church Age unto Himself even as He will gather the twelve tribes when Christ returns to earth. The heart passion of James for the Jewish Christians all over the world should be ours for the whole Body of Jesus Christ, His Church, on earth whether visible or invisible.” –Lehman Strauss
Deuteronomy 7:6, “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.”
“Why does Satan so passionately despise the Jews? For one thing, it is a reflection of his hatred for God. The Jews are “God’s chosen people!” By hurting them he seeks to hurt the Lord and take revenge for his own sentence of death. His effort to annihilate the Jews is also an attempt to discredit the Lord, since He has sworn in His Word that they will never be destroyed. If Israel ceases to exist as a distinct people, then God did not, or could not, keep His promise. That would mean that He was either powerless or that He lied!
But there is another reason the devil despises the Jews: The salvation of Israel means the return of Jesus, the resurrection of the righteous, the revival of the Church and the restoration of the earth. The fulfillment of the Jews’ destiny will seal the devil’s doom. Yes, “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20) . . . and he is beginning to squirm! The time to favor Israel is upon us and Satan is quaking with fear. The countdown has begun.” –Michael L. Brown, voiceofrevolution.com
Never forget, Jesus was a Jew! Jesus' physical torture was God pouring out our sins on Him. He suffered excruciating pain! The word, “excruciating,” means “out of the cross.” Then we must consider Satan's absolute hatred of God and Jesus as surely a part of the motivation behind the relentless torture and abuse. The suffering heaped on Jesus is the ultimate example of the hatred and rage sinful man feels toward a holy God.
Listen to King David as he considers those who hate God: “Oh, that You would slay the wicked, O God! Depart from me, therefore, you bloodthirsty men. For they speak against You wickedly; Your enemies take Your name in vain. Do I not hate them, O Lord, who hate You? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies” (Psalm 139:19-22).
As believer’s we love God, we love Jesus Christ, and we love Israel.
Most evangelical and fundamentalist Christians favor Israel as “God’s chosen people.” It is nurtured by the conviction that Israel's restoration is a part of God's plan for history.
“A significant majority of American Evangelicals believe that the Abrahamic Covenant is still in force. The Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3) says, among other things, that God promised the land of Canaan to the Jews forever. A significant majority of American Evangelicals believe that God is a keeper of His promises and that the ‘Promised Land’ belongs to the Jews in belief and unbelief, in obedience and in disobedience, forever. (It is an unconditional promise, with no time limits or conditions). The Abrahamic Covenant also promises that ‘I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed’ (Genesis 12:3).” –Dr. Richard D, Land, christianpost.com
Listen to the Apostle Paul:
Romans 1)1-4 NLT, “Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.”
Romans 9:3 NLT, “My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them.”
“Pray for peace in Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper. O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces. For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, ‘May you have peace.’ For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek what is best for you, O Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6-9 NLT).
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).