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.”
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 1:1 – “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.”
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). That may be a tad warmer than we need to get in our churches today. A warm and appropriate hug or hand shake I’m sure 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?
Scripture: 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 Kyrios or kurios translated lord or master. A kurios was “one who has the undisputed possession of a person or a thing.” So doulos is “one who is the undisputed possession of a person or a thing.”
Illustrations: – 15 year old slave girl, Alexander the Great, our possessions; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
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’ 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.
Supportive 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:
- 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.
Scripture: 1 John 3:13; Isaiah 16:4; Galatians 6:1; 1 Samuel 22:1-2; 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. 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?
Scripture: Luke 15:1-32; Matthew 9:36-38; Isaiah 53:6; 1 Peter 2:25.
- Witnesses. We have been sown where we are to be witnesses. 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.
Illustration: Zeek and the Game Warden
Scripture: Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; 8:1 and 4; 6:4; Romans 1:14-16; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Peter 3:15; Ephesians 6:15; Luke 14:23.