Wednesday, January 22, 2014

James 1:1

The James mentioned here is the brother of the Lord Jesus Christ. And thus is to be distinguished from James the brother of John whom the Lord commissioned as one of the original twelve Apostles (Matt 4:21-22; Matt 10:2-4). This James then was one of the four sons Mary had naturally with Joseph, after the Lord Jesus Christ had been born, being the eldest of these (Matt 13:55; Mark 6:3). Thus with Jesus being brought into the world by the Holy Spirit overshadowing Marry, God did not keep Marry and Joseph from later having their own children by natural means (Matt 1:25; 12:47; 13:55-56; Mark 6:3; Luke 2:7). Now when the Lord Jesus began His earthly ministry, though Jesus was held in a certain reverence by Mary and her children (John 2:5) they were initially slow to warm up to the notion of Jesus as being the Christ of God (Matt 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21; John 7:5) even though this had been foretold Marry. But with Jesus' Crucifixion death, then resurrection from the dead, and finally His ascension, their faith in Jesus as Lord became firmly established (Acts 1:12-14; 1 Cor. 15:7). Now the Apostle James, whom the Lord commissioned as one of the original twelve is preeminent in early church until his own martyrdom at the hands of Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great, who initially tried to kill Jesus when he was still an infant (see Matt. 2:1-18; Acts 12:1-4). And so with his passing, James, the half brother of Jesus, becomes a more prominent Apostle in the early church in Jerusalem (Gal 1:19). With James' ministry almost exclusively focused on the oversight of the brethren there, with an especially deep concern for the poor brethren amongst them (Gal 2:9). Now James greatest theological contribution while leading there clearly comes through his endorsement of the Jerusalem decree, which endorsed Gentile salvation and faith practice by God's grace (see Acts 15, vs. 12-21). Though it must be said he himself made room for the Jews to practice their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ according to Law and custom (Acts 21:17-25). And so with the debate about Gentiles not being under the Law settled. James has no quarrel with the Apostle Paul as too how justification for us all comes (Acts 13:38-39). Just as the Apostle Peter then stated: "But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they." Acts 15:11 Rather his unique contribution to N.T. theology unfolds with his declaring that true faith (like the Apostle Paul also held, see Titus 2:3, 14) must always be accompanied with good works that testify to it (James 2:26). Something that is clearly seen in the N.T. in Hebrews chapter eleven for example, where Old Testament figures are commended to us for their faith which caused them to do the will of God, and or suffer for the promise of Jesus' Names sake, through whom salvation comes to all who believe in Him (Heb. 11:13).
Finally, before we begin, apparently the Epistle of James after the first generations of believers had passed away, fell into somewhat obscurity and was not "rediscovered" or largely recognized until the 3rd century A.D. when the collection and canonization of the Modern Bible was begun and completed. It's apparent neglect may be attributed to its Jewish "underpinnings", i.e. it's address to the "twelve tribes" may have unintentionally alienated it from later generations of Gentile believers, who by then made up most of the professing church. (though such an address never excluded Gentile believers, as TDNTA states in their article on Diaspora). Or it may have been that since James' ministry was primarily focused on Jews at Jerusalem, it never received the wide circulation amongst Gentile believers that the Apostle Paul and Peter's epistles did. Whatever the cause for its brief neglect, its inclusion in the Scriptural cannon is a blessing to us all now. Being a clearly a Spirit Inspired work. James' Epistle is both a preachers sermon on sound faith living, as well as an inspiration for everyone who is likewise seeking to live out their faith in this world. Being packed with practical knowledge and insights by Holy Spirit Inspiration on just how to do that. No one who wants to grow in their faith should ever neglect it's sound wisdom and instruction given for us all.


Vs. 1 James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.

Though James was an apostle, and a leader in the church at Jerusalem, here in his only epistle, he addresses himself only as a bondservant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. James' example of humility is one that clearly began with the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (consider Mark 10:42-45; Philippians 2:7-11). And thus this attitude of humility permeated the early churches leadership, being embraced by the Apostles' Paul, Peter, and Jude, James' younger brother as well (consider Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:10; Titus 1;1 2 Peter 1:1; Jude 1). It is no surprise then that we as followers of Jesus Christ are commanded too also pursue this sort of humility in our own lives as well (Col 3:12; Titus 3:2; 1 Peter 5:5). That James' addresses his epistle to the "twelve tribes" which are scattered abroad, if taken literally this would be a reference to the twelve tribes of Israel named after Jacob's sons which make up the Nation of Israel. That James says they were scattered aboard (Gr. diaspora, Str 1290) is indicating that these were believers who were currently dispersed from their homeland (consider John 7:35; and possibly 1 Peter 1). Yet as alluded too earlier the TDNTA gives a different perspective on this stating in their article on the use of Diaspora in the N.T. that:  "In Jms. 1:1 and 1 Pet. 1:1 a question arises whether the authors have in mind Christian Jews, in which case the sense is literal, or Gentile Christians, or Christians in general, in which case it is probably figurative. In Jms. 1:1 the “twelve tribes” are most likely Christians, who are now the people of God with the heavenly Jerusalem as their true home, so that at present they, too, are dispersed among the nations. If this is the reference, the recipients are simply Christians, both Jews and Gentiles." [1]

Whatever view one takes, what encompasses us all is that we as believers In the Lord Jesus Christ are all pilgrims and strangers on this earth, regardless of our ethnicity, or backgrounds, or where we dwell, or the generation in which we came to believe in Him (consider 1 Peter 2:11-12). Thus James' opening address to "the twelve tribes of the dispersion" can very readily be applied to each and every one us as Christians, for we all like the generations who had faith in God before us, are also aliens and strangers in this world (consider John 15:18; 17:14; 1 John 3:13; Heb 11:13). Finally, like the word diaspora which is translated "scattered aboard" here, the word (chaĆ­rein from chairo, Str. 5463) rendered greetings here, also appears only three times in the N.T. (Acts 15:23; 23:26; James 1:1), with each of its occurrences being used in an official capacity or as a formalized greeting, with chairo as a greeting "implying a wish for joy or happiness on the part of the person greeted (see LN 33.22). Though there are other nuisances associated with it. It's root is often that of "joy" or "rejoice", and here is clearly being used to extend "well wishes" to all the brethren of which we can include ourselves in.

Scripture Citations
The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982

Additional Resources Consulted
[1] Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1985). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.
Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996.

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