Monday, June 16, 2014

James - an Introduction

We begin a new series of systematically engaging the Letter from James.  In this message, I introduce you to James, give some background to the Letter, and note some of the themes to be discussed in our expositional study of "James".

Listen to this message and respond to what the Lord says to you. May God bless his Word in your life.

James 1:1

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:  Greetings.  

Who is THIS James?

·      In the New Testament, multiple “Jameses” from which we can choose.  For example:

1.     James the son of Zebedee.

2.     James the son of Alphaeus.

3.     James the father of Judas (not Iscariot).

4.     James, the half-brother of Jesus

** Most agree…James is brother of Jesus.

c.f.:  This is affirmed throughout Scripture…

·      Mark 6:3, Matthew 13:55 – Jesus had brothers.
·      Acts 1:14 – After resurrection, Mary and Jesus’ brothers were with disciples

·      Paul affirms that James is Jesus brother (Galatians 1:19)…as did Peter
·      And in Acts 21, James has clearly become the leader of the believers (not “church”…but Jew and Gentiles alike) in Jerusalem

Note:  Interestingly…later, the early Catholic theologians interpreted the Biblical teaching of “Brother” as Cousin… to perpetuate the virgin image of Mary.

** ALSO KNOW…that James and the rest of the family thought Jesus, in the earthly ministry years, was a bit off his rocker

Mark 3:20-21 – “Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.  When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

Recap:  So James…

…as the brother of Jesus… we know he is a Jew who lived a devout life in humble beginnings of a carpenter’s home (blue collar)…

…we know that James did not understand that Jesus was Messiah…

…but we also know that, later, James had some kind of conversion…

…after all, v. 1 – “James…a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

** James… a self-professed “Servant/Slave”:

…the idea of being a servant/slave is loaded…

…connotes an -

1.     Absolute Obedience

2.     Absolute Humility

3.     Absolute Loyalty

4.     Absolute Security

Question: Why would anyone go from Skeptic to Slave

Answer:  The Resurrection

** Because Jesus appeared to James (1 Corinthians 15:7, 8 -  “Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.)  … James was transformed from Skeptic to Slave/Servant.

…Servant totally committed to the will and ways of the Master.

APP: This is good news for us…

…we’ve all had moments of unfaithfulness… not following Jesus… thinking God is crazy/unfair…

…yet in those moments – HOW do we come back?  Resurrected Jesus!!  (Same Jesus – “Look at hands…”)
Note: BTW… ONLY HERE does one of the Biblical leaders call himself a servant to the “Lord Jesus Christ.”

** James: Shepherd to the “12 Tribes Scattered”

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations

** Here we see the Shepherd’s heart of James… writing to the 12 Tribes

·      The 12 Tribes were either:

o   Ethnic Jews who had been scattered for hundreds of years: Northern Tribes (10 – called Israel) in 721BC. They became known as the “Lost Tribes of Israel”… and the Southern Tribes (2 – called Judah) in 587BC.

o   …or…the Messianic Jews and other believers (Gentiles) who were scattered as they had to flee Jerusalem due to persecution.  (MY OPINION)

** There is a sense here, when reading rest of letter, James is writing to believers…not just ethnic Jews.

Why this opinion/conclusion?

1.     No attempt to convert…no mention of the Gospel, per se.

2.     As if James is talking to those already committed to The Way.

Note:  BTW…this was  big hang up for some – like Luther…who didn’t want James in the Canon.

** Luther downgraded importance of James’ letter because:

1.     no teaching on the “passion” (suffering) and resurrection of Christ… which is key to relevance of any book. Christ needs to be the focus or book is not apostolic

2.     Justification by works, not faith alone (contrary to rest of Bible)

Luther’s conclusion:  “He (James) does violence to Scripture and so contradicts Paul and all Scripture.”

Point: But if James is writing to believers, not to ethnic Jews or other non-believing people/Gentiles, make sense that the “12 Tribes” are, at least, Messianic believers…or even Gentiles.

Point: As the “Bishop” of Jerusalem, James’ letter is an encouragement to the Jews who confessed Jesus as Messiah and Lord.

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:  Greetings.  

** “Greetings”

… rooted in “Grace” and “Joy”…

…sense of celebrating regardless of circumstances

Note: Here, James uses a secular (Greek) opening.  Why?

·      Possibly –

o   …the Jews had been scattered so long, were losing native tongue

o   …a way of introducing the Jews to the truth that God was opening the salvation door to the Gentiles

Point: James is writing his letter to Messianic Jews on the life-changing joy of living with Jesus as Messiah and Lord.

APP:  So all of the doctrinal/practical teachings to follow are given to help us celebrate the Joy of the Lord Jesus in our lives.

Main Teachings:

·      How to handle trials
·      What is the relation of faith and works?
·      How to gain and live in Wisdom
·      The proper balance of managing wealth, especially when there is poverty all around us.

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