It has been a long while since I’ve written a series of devotions. I set it aside in favor of other articles. Yet, noticing both the trend on this blog and after some discussion, I recognize that people are starved for the Word. While current events articles are often helpful, needed, and will drive readers to a specific blog, it comes at the expense of deep, profound study of the Word itself, allowing others to make specific application to their own lives based on their own circumstances. Therefore, once a week I will return to this basic premise, beginning with an ongoing study in the book of James.
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ; ~ James 1:1a
Explanation of the Text: Few people can write with the ability to cause hearts to be convicted. Indeed, no person can because such a work is one of the Lord through the Holy Spirit. Yet, readers can be certain that the Lord used James in this way. The opening clause phrase of the James’ writing presents readers with a pertinent study question and a profound, simplistic declaration.
First, the study of James always begins with, which James? While much dialogue can be expended discussing such a question, of the four legitimate contenders, only two receive serious consideration. First, is James, the “Son of Zebedee” (Matthew 4:8-12; Luke 6:12-19). His early death in Acts 12:1-2 (roughly AD 44) makes his authorship unlikely though. Little consideration is given to James the Less (Matthew 10:3) or James the father of Judas – not Iscariot (Luke 6:16). The only other reasonable candidate is James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus Christ.
How absurd a thought! Early on James made his stance clear: he rejected the Lord Jesus Christ (John 7:5) and was most likely part of the group of family that called him crazy (my paraphrase) (Mark 3:21 cf. verse 3:31). With such antagonism, one could hardly expect that he would one day be a Christ follower, let alone have sense enough to write an epistle that found its way into the Canon. Yet, James’ life was eventually reoriented towards the Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 15;7; Galatians 1:19) he would eventually find himself heading up the Jerusalem church (Acts 15).
James’ life transformation is made even more startling by his claim to be a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Most commentators recognize that the word James employs here is doulos, or slave. Personally, I enjoy this word in a biblical text. I recognize that the world has a great hatred for it because it conjures up understandings of maltreatment of fellow image bearers and in no way do I condone the practice of slavery. Yet, in a biblical context, the meaning is profound. With this title, James declares his allegiance and places himself in subjection to God. He does not boast about his position as the half-brother, but instead burrows himself into the depths of humility and wraps his entire life into that one designation. In essence, this is a declaration that says, “My life is not my own, but lived for another.”
Examination & Application of the Text: Few can misinterpret the first words of this epistle. For the recipients, they were simply a typical opening to identify who was messaging them. Yet, considering who James is, much can be interpreted in these verses.
At one point in our lives, all of us found ourselves in the same position as James. Rejection of Christ. Perhaps it was not so outright and certainly, history has not recorded our rejection as it has James’. Yet, we too once rejected Christ’s authority for our life and there are many more around us who do the same. But God’s capacity to draw people to him remains powerful. It is not a stagnant force incapable of moving people, but one that reigns in the heart. Despite all that he witnessed, James was stubborn and did not surrender easy. Instead, his conversion was a process that took time. The process of conversion is not one that convicts the head of an atrocious attitude or immoral behavior but is one that convicts the heart of its misalignment and the soul of its depravity. The intensity of such a work should convince us first of our inability to be the agent of change and the necessity of patience and time for such a change to take place. That realization though comes with an emanation of hope because eventually James submitted his life to Christ, and he did so in full service of our Lord! The same possibility exists for others as well. While difficult and wearying, the gospel message has the propensity to transform lives. If the gospel is truly powerful enough to transform lives, it warrants being heralded to those in deep need of it also.
Questions to Consider:
How does James’ testimony give us hope?
What does James’ testimony imply about our obedience to the Great Commission?
What does your own attitude imply about your obedience to the Great Commission?