James The Just


SCRIPTURE: James 1:1

This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the “twelve tribes”—Jewish believers scattered abroad. Greetings!


Tonight we launch a new study in the book of James. The Epistle of James is what we call a general letter because it is not addressed to a particular person or congregation. It is the first of seven such letters: James, I and II Peter, I, II, III John and Jude. When our church fathers were debating the canon and its order: the book of James was debated extensively. Martin Luther referred to James as the Epistle of Straw. I’m not certain he wanted it in the bible but I know he did not want it to be the first of the 7 general letters. Luther had two major problems with James:

1. James sounds like a Church of Christ; like he is refuting Paul’s doctrine of grace. Paul taught justification by faith and faith alone and Luther was a staunch believer in Justification by faith.

2. The Epistle has very little, almost no gospel. Jesus name is used only three times. I don’t think James was trying to be politically correct but he uses the words LORD and God a lot but seldom refers to Jesus. There is no mention in James of the virgin birth, sinless life, atoning death [crucifixion], resurrection or ascension in Jesus.

I cannot refute Luther’s second point but there is a way to interpret James without it being a doctrine of works. Spurious faith is no good, only a faith that works is a viable faith. I teach that we are saved by a working faith. If your faith is real, it will produce evidence of being alive and productive. A dead, passive faith is not one that I would want to trust,

It is probably true that James was trying to appease his Jewish audience and there is no doubt that James struggled with letting go of Judaism. Judaism is our history but it is not our future. It is the root of the tree but it is not the fruit. Judaism is the shadow but Christianity is the substance. All the apostles struggled with letting go of Judaism. Paul got arrested because he went into the temple to fulfill a vow that relates to the old covenant. He had no business going back to a Jewish ritual for purification when he knew that the LORD Jesus was the last sacrifice he would ever need, but to my shock, he did it.

One last thing before we get into verse 1: James is a rich book that contains some great principles that we do not find else where in the bible. His teachings on trials, temptations, tongues and patience are very good. So let get started in the book of James.

1. Frist, let’s look at the author–James.

This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the “twelve tribes”—Jewish believers scattered abroad. Greetings!

James was a popular name. It is the Greek word for the O.T. name Jacob….means supplanter. There were two men names James is Jesus twelve disciples. You can find a list of Jesus disciples in Matthew 10, Mark 3 and Luke 6. There were two Simons [Simon Peter and Simon the zealot], there were two Judas and there were two James’. The James who wrote this epistle was not one of the twelve. There are two other men by the name of James, one is James the Less [Mark 15:40 and the other was James father of Judas the disciple.

There is one other James…Matthew 13:54-57… He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” 55 Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. 56 All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?” 57 And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.

The James who wrote this epistle was Jesus brother. Jesus had four brothers…James, Joseph, Simon and Judas. None of these were His disciples and none of them were supportive.

  1. James was not believers until after the resurrection. I Corinthians 15:7 says that Jesus appeared to James after the resurrection.
  2. James became the Leader of the Jerusalem Church
  3. He was called James the Just.
  4. He spent a lot of time at the Temple. Nick named the Man with Camel knees. Callous knees from praying.
  5. He was an orthodox Jew who remained and orthodox Jew. He acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah but continued to practice the Laws of Moses.
  6. He eventually offended the Jews and the pushed him off of the pinnacle of the temple.
  7. The fall did not kill him but the Jews finished him off with stones and a club. He prayed as he died, “Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.”

2. The second thing I want you to notice tonight is Jesus description of himself…A Slave [Doulos]

This letter is from James, a slave [Doulos] of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the “twelve tribes”—Jewish believers scattered abroad. Greetings!

Slave or doulos is used 130 times in the N.T. and five times in the greeting of a letter. Paul used it in writing to the Romans, Philippians and to Titus. James and Jude are the only others that used this word in the greeting. It is broadly interpreted: it can mean slave, bond slave, servant or attendant. It comes from the word to tie or bind. It speaks of one who gives himself up to another’s will those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men. It also means devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests. William says that being a doulos means three things:

  1. Absolute Obedience– A slave knows no law other than his master’s command.
  2. Absolute Humility– A slave has duties but no rights. A slave has no self life, he is devoted to the happiness of another.
  3. Absolute Loyalty–A slave belongs to his master and his duty is to serve his master. He is not free to serve whom he chooses.

You are in good company when you consider yourself a ‘doulos’ of Christ. Moses, Daniel, Joshua, Caleb, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jeremiah and Zechariah were all said to be slaves to the LORD. We are to be so in love with, so devoted to Christ that we disregard of our own interests. Wow!

3. Third: Lets think about the Diaspora to whom James was writing.

This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the “twelve tribes”—Jewish believers scattered abroad. Greetings! I have given this a lot of thought lately, that is the dispersion of the Jews. I am not an expert in prophecy nor am I the son of an expert but I think it is absolutely fascinating to think about what God may be doing and what He has already done.

Lets do a brief history. Israelites are descendants of Jacob and his twelve son. Abraham had 8 sons but only one was the heir to the promise. Isaac had two but only one was heir to the promise and that was Jacob. Jacob had 12 sons and 11 of the twelve were as sorry as dog squat but all became heirs to the promise by grace. They become know at the Hebrews in Egypt but later the Israelites since that came from Jacob who’s name was changed to Israel. These 12 tribes actually become 13 but Levites did not get an inheritance so it was back to 12 tribes. After Solomon, there was a civil war and they split; The ten northern tribes were retained the name of Israelites and the two Southern, Judah and Benjamin became known as Judeans and later that was shortened to Jews.

The Northern Tribes were taken into captivity by the Assyrians in 720 BC and then Judah was captured and deported by the Babylonians is 605, and again in 580 BC. Pompey the Roman carried thousand back to Rome in 63 B.C. So even before Christ, the Israelites had been scattered all over the known world including the Islands in the Mediteranian Sea. They were in North Africa, Asia and Europe and across the Middle East. The Romans discovered that the Jews made horrible slaves so eventually, they released most of them but they stayed in and around Rome. There was a colony of 8,000 according to Roman historians. There were one million Jews living in Alexandria at the time of Christ. At one time there were more than 10,000 in Damascus. Strabo, the Greek geographer wrote: “It is hard to fin a spot in the whole world which is not occupied by Jews.

[this sermon is incomplete but I had to post it so I could work on it at other locations]