James 1:1 – The Lord’s Servant
We’re beginning a verse by verse study of the book of James, beginning with an in-depth look at James 1:1. James, the Lord’s servant, is writing to those who were rejected and scatted abroad, living outside their homeland. Special attention is given to the words “doulos” and “diaspora.”
Watch the Message
There are four basic concepts covered in James’ letter to the Jews who had been scattered abroad.
- Conversion – James 1:18, John 3:3, Matthew 18:3, 1 Peter 1:3 and 23, 2 Corinthians 5:17.
- Service – Luke 14:26-33, Matthew 20:26-28; Philippians 2:3-11. Absolute loyalty, obedience, surrender and abandonment is required.
- Fellowship – James 2:1-9, 1 John 1:3; Hebrews 10:24-25. God has called us into fellowship and not isolation. All barriers to fellowship must be removed (Acts 15:29).
- Sent – John 17:17-18; Acts 8:1 and 4. God has sent us into the world to make an impact for Christ and the kingdom of God.
“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting” (James 1:1). In Paul’s letter to the Romans Paul uses the word salute instead of greeting.
“Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you” (Romans 16:16). This may be a tad warmer than need be in our churches today. A warm and appropriate hug or hand shake is sufficient. Greetings in our churches must be warm, caring and welcoming. That’s why having trained greeters in our churches is imperative, though all our people should be well equipped in greeting people, especially visitors.
This is not the Apostle James. He was martyred in Acts 12:1-2. This was James the brother of the Lord (Galatians 1:19, Acts 15:29).
A Servant of God
- Humility – He could have boasted that he was the half brother of the Lord, pastor of the Jerusalem church, used in the word of wisdom (Acts 15:29), but instead he refers to himself as the Lord’s doulos.
- The Greats – This was a term used of all the greats who had been used mightily of the lord. It was used of Moses, Elijah and Elisha, Ezekiel, the Apostle Paul and many more. When we become His doulos, we also are numbered among the greats in the Kingdom of God.
- Doulos – Servant here is doulos. A slave, originally the lowest term in the scale of servitude. It came to mean, “one who gives himself over to the will of another.” James is saying he has given himself over to the will of the Lord. A doulos is one by choice, not constraint. Have we so chosen to give ourselves over to the will of the Lord (Exodus 21:1-6; Matthew 26:38-45; Acts 21:8-14)?
This, however, doesn’t adequately convey the full weight and meaning of a doulos. To understand it fully we must go to the opposite of a doulos which is kurios translated lord or master. A kurios was “one who has the undisputed possession of a person or a thing.” Therefore, a doulos is “one who is the undisputed possession of a person or a thing.” We are the undisputed possession of Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price.”
Alexander the Great was on his final conquest. His scouts told him about one city he had to conquer if his conquest was to be successful. It was a small city and very fortified. It was built with high walls and surrounded by three cliffs approximately one hundred feet high. He left for the city with one hundred of his personal guards. Approaching the city, he demanded its immediate surrender. From the top of the wall, the king responded saying they were well fortified and had enough provision to withstand an attack for months if necessary.
Alexander said nothing but simply motioned to his guards. They immediately lined up single file toward one of the cliffs. He gave them a second signal and they started marching toward the cliff. One marched off the cliff to his death, then two, three, four, five, six and finally with one swoop of his hand, they stopped prior to the final one going off the cliff. Without saying a word, Alexander looked up at the king. The king came off the wall, opened the gate and surrendered. When asked why he surrendered, he said he knew there was no way he could withstand an attack with such dedicated and committed soldiers.
Of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ
- Jesus Christ. Jesus was our Lord’s earthly name and Christ is who He was or is. Christ means messiah or anointed one, savior, “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). He is the savior of the world.
- Lord Jesus Christ. It’s important to note that, though he had been Jesus’ half brother according to the flesh, he addresses Him as “the Lord Jesus Christ.” We must take care not to get caught up in using His name flippantly. There must be a reverence and respect when referring to Jesus our Lord. Jesus desires to be our Lord and not simply our savior. Peter said, “God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). He desires to be “both Lord and Christ,” of our lives, not just savior but Lord as well.
- Combination denotes equality. James declares himself to be “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” The combination of the two denotes equality. Jesus was or is coequal with the Father, the second person of the Godhead. He is no less God than God the father is.
Scripture: Matthew 1:23; John 1:1 and 14; 5:18; 8:56-59; 10:30-33; 14:8-9; 20:24-28; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrew 1:8; Revelation 1:8.
The word for scattered in this verse is diaspora and means “to sow through.” This was a technical term for those residing outside of Jerusalem. After accepting Jesus, many Jews were ostracized by their families, the religious community, and society in general. This has a number of pertinent applications for us as believers. You’re not in the place and situation you are in by accident. You have been sown where you are for a purpose!
Four-fold application of scattered or diaspora – The purpose for which you have been sown:
- Strangers and Aliens. The Jews living outside of Jerusalem were residing as aliens in a foreign land, away from their homeland. We as Christians are away from our homeland as well.
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims” (1 Peter 2:11).
We are strangers here in this world. This world is merely our pilgrimage until we return home where we belong – heaven!
- Rejection. Those James is referring to had been rejected by their families, religious community to which they had belonged and society in general.We will be rejected and often hated by the world.
“Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you” (1 John 3:13).
Sadly, far to often, it’s our brothers and sisters in Christ who seem to come against us the hardest and reject us. Let me encourage you, God has a special place in His heart for outcasts. His heart goes out to you.
Isaiah 16:4 – “Let my outcast dwell with you, be a shelter from them from the face of the spoiler.”
This is what the church should be for people. Those who have been beat down by the world, the enemy and the circumstances of life need a place of refuge and sanctuary. This is God’s design and mandate to the church. It is to be a spiritual hospital for the wounded and fallen among us.
Church, let’s be that hospital, sanctuary, place of protection and refuge for those who come to us bruised, beaten and battered. Let’s stop beating up the wounded and fallen among us but rather restore and heal them. We never know when it might be us.
“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2).
We also never know what they may become. When David was fleeing from Saul, “David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam; and when his brothers and all his father’s household heard of it, they went down there to him. Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain over them” (1 Samuel 22:1-2). These became David’s mighty men when he entered his reign as King.
God likes taking the most unlikely candidates from among us and raising them up for His glory. Let’s be the agents of restoration and healing to the wounded and fallen, those whose lives may be all messed up. They just might become the mighty among us.
“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 ).
- The Wayward. Scattered can also refer to those who could potentially be lost from our churches and even fallen away from the Lord and even fallen away from the Lord. How many have slipped through the cracks, stopped going to church, slipped away from their relationship with Jesus and no one has gone after them? I would much rather have people complain because we loved them to much, by constantly reaching out to them, then to have them complain that when they stopped going to church no one called or reached out to them.
Jesus in referring to “sinners” or those who have gone astray gives us three parables: A lost sheep, lost coin and lost son (Luke 15). In each case, the premise was of looking for and going after what was lost until they were found and brought home where they belonged. They weren’t condemned or given a good talking to but simply loved and brought back into the fold where they belonged.
Pastors, it’s incumbent upon us to keep a close eye out for those that may be missing from among our flock. We will one day give an account of our shepherding. This is an integral part of our job as pastors, just as much as preaching is and even more so. Remember, the first parable Jesus told was of the shepherd going after the one sheep that was missing and bringing it back home where it belonged (Luke 15:1-7).
I know we can’t always do everything ourselves, especially as our church and ministry grows. This is why we need to train our people to help us in this much needed task and ministry. Leaders, help your pastor in following up on those who are missing from your midst. If someone misses two, three weeks or more we should be following up on them. E-Mail or text them, call them on the phone or perhaps even pay them a home visit or at least meet them out somewhere. You never know what they may be going through.
“When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:36-38).
YOU are the one HE has sent!
“For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).
- Witnesses. We have been sown where we are to be witnesses for Christ. Jesus said, “follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). This is emphatic, if we are followers of Jesus He will make us fishers of men, soul winners. If we are not fishing then we inevitably are not truly following Him.
There is a story I heard long ago used to illustrate this point. This man moved into a new area. He wanted to find the best fishing spot. After asking around he was told by all that he needed to talk to a man named Zeek. Well, he contacted him and they arranged to go fishing together. As they headed toward the boat he began wondering where Zeek’s fishing pole was. They got into the boat and went out into the deep water.
Zeek gets into his bag and quietly pulls out a stick of dynamite, lights it, throws it into the water and begins reaching out and picking up the fish and putting them into his net. The man totally shocked looks at Zeek and says, I guess you didn’t know that I was the new game warden for this area.
Zeek doesn’t say a word, calmly gets into his bag, drags out another stick of dynamite, lights it and hands it to the man. He then says, “are you going to fish with me or not?” This is the question Jesus is posing to us, are we going to fish with Him or not? We have been sown where we are to be His witnesses – Fishers of men. Let’s start fishing with Him.
“Go therefore, and teach (make disciples of) all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19).
“And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
“But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me” (Acts 1:8).
“I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise” (Romans 1:14).
“So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also” (Romans 1:15).
“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes” (Romans 1:16).
“The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
“Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in” (1 Peter 3:15).
“Having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15).
“And that day a great persecution began against the church, and they were all scattered throughout the regions, except the apostles” (Acts 8:1).
“And the Lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges – byways, and compel them to come in, that My House may be filled” (Luke 14:23).
What will it take to get us out into the highways and byways preaching the gospel? The early church was actively preaching the gospel, but only in Jerusalem. They were stuck in a certain local, in a comfortable place, and it took persecution to get them out of their comfort zone and sow them where the Holy Spirit had actually called them to be witnesses for Christ.
It is interesting to note, “they were all scattered, except the apostles” (Acts 8:1). The apostles stayed in Jerusalem, praying, studying and teaching the Word while everyone else was scattered. The pastor is called to remain at the church devoting himself “to prayer and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4), while the rest are scattered throughout region preaching the gospel (Mark 16:15-20).