Faithlife Sermons

The Master's Slave

James  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  44:41
0 ratings
Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →
Those of us here this morning with sisters and brothers can appreciate sibling rivalry. And, those of us that were not the oldest sibling, knew, as young kids, the necessity to prove yourself just as good and able as the oldest. some of you know that I grew up with two older sisters: Christi was the oldest, Danielle was the middle child, and I was the youngest. in my family as kids, if you were to ever win at an argument or get out of trouble it was important to have Christi on your side. as Christi was the oldest, it seemed as she was always smarter than me. And sometimes I disagreed with her! Anytime I fought with Christ, she somehow convinced Mom to be on her side— and I know from deep down in my heart I was never in the wrong! Also, when Danielle and I had an argument, the winner was always whoever Christi sided with—always! As the first born, Christi always had the upper hand: smarter, wiser, bigger. Many times Christi was cunning and conniving, you could even go as far as to say that we were slaves of her when Danielle and I wanted to use her to our advantage—Christi was master manipulator too—only seldom of course (she may listen to the recording of this message, remind me later to edit this out!). as it turns out Danielle was only a little over a year older than me and Christi was only a little older than a year from Danielle.
But as we grew and matured into our teenage years, Christi was the wise sister that Danielle and I would go to when we didn’t know what to do with our lives— we trusted she would always give us good advice and she did! because from a young age, she loved our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. so fast forwarding to today, Christi is still wise and we are not that different in age, but I’ve accepted that she is usually wiser and I’ve realized that she wasn’t always in the right.
Now imagine if you were the younger sibling to Jesus. Growing up with Him in your home, it would always seem that Jesus was right because he always is right. It would be hard to disagree with Jesus because you would make the rebuttal: “you don’t know everything, Jesus! Oh wait, you do..” well such is the case with the author of the book that we are looking at this morning and that we will be looking at for the coming weeks. This morning starts my exegetical preaching through the book of James.
James 1:1 ESV
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.
Most letters from antiquity, and most of the letters in the New Testament, can generally be seen as of a common type of introduction. They usually follow an established formal pattern: first, the name of the sender; then the name of the recipient; a word of greeting, usually a blessing or the expression of a desire for good health--and such is the case with the book of James.
But who is James?

Ἰάκωβος (James)

The name, James, comes from the OT name Jacob and appears about 42 times in the New Testament and scholars claim that the name occurrences could refer to at most 6 men, but at least 3 different men. Jude 1 confirms that the author, to which this epistle Jame is attributed, is the half-brother of Jesus, James the Just, as the early church documents title him.
Jude 1 ESV
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
Matt 13:54-55
Matthew 13:54–55 ESV
and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?
James, Jesus’ own brother, second born, did not believe Jesus was the Messiah. For most of Jesus’ life (maybe all), James thought of his older brother as a liar.
John 7:5
John 7:5 ESV
For not even his brothers believed in him.

δοῦλος (slave)

δοῦλος was the common Greek term for “slave,” although it could also be used for “servant.” Our understanding of this term is heavily colored by the American experience, an experience of slavery that differs greatly to slavery in the Roman empire. This is true for at least two reasons:
Roman slavery had little if anything to do with race.
Roman slavery was far more complex than its modern manifestations, having four major types.
The worst form was slavery in the mines, normally reserved for criminals or other enemies of the Roman state. Life expectancy was low, although in spite of this we do know of cases of Christian communities providing care for Christians condemned to the mines.
Next was rural slavery. Ancient agricultural manuals describe deplorable conditions: Work could be performed in chain gangs, family life existed at the whim of the owner, and rations could be cut to the bare minimum for slaves when they fell ill.
The type of slavery that the New Testament had most often in view is urban household slavery. Here conditions also varied, but we do know of cases where people sold themselves into slavery, counting it a reward and personal benefit. The new master provided food, shelter, and even training in a skill. Many scholars believe that urban household slaves could expect to be freed after only a few years of service, and some argue that it was automatic at the age of thirty. Freedom from this type of slavery could be gained under many conditions, including a sum of money given to the slave or even the adoption by the master. This helps understand New Testament commands to slaves to “please” their masters, and perhaps even to masters to “provide your slaves with what is right and fair.”
The final type of slavery was imperial slavery—slaves in the household of the emperor. Some of these held positions of power and wealth second only to the emperor himself.
Now just notice here for a moment in verse 1 of James. He doesn’t say, “James, the half brother of Jesus.” He doesn’t say, “James, the one who has risen to great prominence among the Church and the brethren in Jerusalem.” He could have, but instead he says, “James a slave of Christ Jesus.” He says, “You want to know who I am? I am a bond servant, I am a slave.” Now let’s just stop here for a moment. If someone were to ask you to choose one word to identify yourself would this be the first word, the prominent word that popped in to your mind? A slave. Would it?
The thing that first pops into your mind is probably the thing you think most about yourself—your identity and that it just might control you. “Well, I am this or I am that. I have this title or that title.” And none of those things ultimately bring joy. None of those things ultimately bring pleasure. They may bring prestige, the respect of men and so many other things, but they will bring nothing from God. Remember those things that are highly esteemed by men are often despised by God. My question to you: If someone were to say, “Who are you?” the first word that popped into your mind and out your mouth, would it be, “I am a slave”? The definition for this type of a slave is this: one who completely belongs to this owner and whose entire life is shaped by the will of his mater.
Would you describe yourself as someone who completely, totally belonged to someone else and whose life was completely and totally shaped by the will of a master? “Who are you, Josh Umbriaco?” “Oh, I am a deacon/ interim preacher. I am a community supports aide at Northpointe. I am this. I am that.” The first thing that ought to pop into my mind is, “I am a slave. Wholly and completely I belong to another, not myself. I have been bought with a price. And my entire life is shaped by the will of the one who bought me.”
Bob Dylan. In his Christian years, so called Christian years he wrote a song and the song said this. “You have got to serve somebody.” You see it is not a question of: Are you going to be a slave? It is only a question of: Whose slave are you? You are a slave to something. As a matter of fact, our culture needs to understand that those today in our culture who claim to be most free, most autonomous are actually those who are in the greatest amount of slavery. You are a slave. You are. The only question is: To what? First of all, in the Bible... You don’t have to turn here. I have written these verses out. In Romans 6:16, just before what Leon read with the congregation a moment ago, it says,
Romans 6:16 ESV
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
if you are here this morning and your life is marked by a constant slavery to sin, then maybe you should talk to someone here because the Christian life is not marked by bondage to sin. And there are many people who are enslaved to sin even though they sit in church every Sunday. If that is you, realize that we want to speak with you. We want to talk to you compassionately and with mercy and with truth. Don’t remain as you are in bondage to sin. And you say... Immediately when I say something like that people are thinking, “Yes, bondage to pornography, bondage to immorality.” Yes, those things. But there are other things that can be indications that you do not know him: bondage to anger, bondage to hatred, bondage to bitterness and unforgiveness. Are you in bondage to those things? You see, you are a slave. The only question is: To whom or to what? Go on. You can also be a slave to the glory of men. The Bible says in Matthew 6:5, One of the most terrifying passages in all the Scriptures that God will give you the desires of your heart. You say, “What’s terrifying about that?” Think about it for a moment. These Pharisees, the only thing they desired was the glory, the respect of other men. They desired to have a reputation among other men.
Matthew 6:5 ESV
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
That was the desire of their heart and God gave them their desire, not just meagerly, but he gave them their desire in full. And then they went to hell.
So, you see, we have to be very careful. We read these things and we think, “Well, that has nothing to do with me.” No, it has everything to do with you and with me. We are shaped by our desire for the glory of men. It is one of the reasons that we are so afraid at times to witness to people. It is not because they are going to bash us in the head with a stick, it is because we don’t want them to think that we are some kind of strange person. You see, we are shaped by our desire to have the glory of men. And you can be a slave to that. How many people are a slave to a banker simply because they desire to keep up with the Jones? Do you see? Simply because they desire to live in a certain circle. We can be salves to so many things. And that slavery always tears our life apart. Now you can also be a slave to the things of this world. 1 John 2:15-17: Are you enslaved to the things of this world? What consumes your thoughts?
1 John 2:15–17 ESV
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
The thing that most consumes your thoughts is your god. Now some thoughts i.e. family time, volunteering, hobbies in themselves can be very good things and necessary to think about. Most things... almost all things in this world when used properly according to the will of God, they are tremendous blessings, but you and I must realize, we can be enslaved to things of this world that so control us that we cannot serve Christ. Are you enslaved? Well, I just have to ask you one question? What do you think about most? What do you think about most? You have pretty much put your finger on your god by what you think about most. And I want you to realize that especially for the young men who are going into the ministry, your ministry can become your god. Everything has the possibility in our flesh to be elevated to the status of idol, the things of this world.
More than college, more than athletics, more than scholarships and all these other things that are passing away we should be thinking, “Oh, that my child be godly, that my child give it all for the sake of Christ, that my child live for him, that my child not be enslaved to the very things that still enslave me.” Do you realize? Now listen to this. There is balance in everything. There is. But do you realize? Just take an agenda, write down a list of how much time is invested, that you invest with your children in extra curricular activities and how much time you invest in your children with regard to godliness. We buy things. We fill them full of media. We put them into the world. We carry them every place on the face of the earth all throughout the week. Our lives are so busy and scattered. We can’t even sit down and have a meal. And what are we doing? We are making our children enslaved to the very master that enslaves us and ruins our lives instead of teaching our children only one thing is needed, devotion to Christ, slavery to Christ, servanthood to Christ.
You can be a slave to fleshly pleasures. It says in Romans 16:18, “For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites.” 2 Timothy 3:4. Men are lovers of pleasure rather than loves of God. Does that not define our age? It is all about pleasure. But the pleasure is never lasting. It is never enduring. No sooner is it in our mouth and we are swallowing it down that it turns to rot. The only true pleasures are the pleasures of God. You see, my dear friend, I am not trying... Scripture is not trying to take things away from you, it is trying to give you life, to realize all the things that the world so runs for has nothing to do with you now because you are a new creature and you are in Christ and the kingdom has been given to you little children. It says in James 4:1-2: What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. He is saying, “What is the thing that such causes conflict among you?” It is your desire for self gratification. You see, the one thing about a servant is a servant lives to gratify, yes, but not to gratify self, to gratify his master, his master. That is why Jesus is constantly telling us, the one who seeks to preserve his life will lose it. The one who gives his life away for my sake will find it. The happiest, most content, most fulfilled person on the face of the earth is the person who is an absolute slave to an absolutely perfect master.
When James says that he is a slave of Christ Jesus he is describing what kind of slave he is. Obviously, by the writing of this epistle, James believes his oldest brother now.
What kind of slave are you? Now, don’t answer that immediately. Ask yourself. If someone was observing my life over a period of time, observing the way I speak, the way I talk, the way I walk, everything about me and they had to fill in the blank of describing your life after looking at you sufficiently. Would they write down: Slave of Christ Jesus? Would they describe you that way? Now I want you to know something. I haven’t attained to this, but this is what we ought to be shooting for. This should be our glory, not titles, not the accolades of men, not the things that men glory in. Our one great goal is that first of all in my own personal life, my one great goal is that my wife could look at me and literally fill in the blank and put, “Slave of Christ Jesus.”
Slavery (as America sees it) is despicable to me, but to be a slave of God is the highest title that could ever be given to any man. That’s what you should shoot for. And that is what my son and two daughters should see when they look at at me. They should think: Servant of the most high God. “What is your daddy?” “He is a servant of the most high God.”

θεοῦ καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (of God & of Jesus Christ)

This phrase here actually functions somewhat like an early Christian Creed. Jehovah’s Witnesses mistakenly try to use this kind of phrase as proof text that Jesus is somehow less than God. And, at a first glance it almost seems like the biblical passages that use this phrase are saying Jesus is separate from God. however when you look into the context of cultural history you come out with an accurate interpretation. The Roman Empire believe Christians were atheists because they rejected all the Greek and Roman gods, they would not submit to Caesar as a god, and only believed in one God, YHWH. the Jews that rejected the Messiah believed that Christians were polytheists because they believe in the trinity. James here (also Paul with Titus) makes the point that loyalty to Jesus Christ is not a threat to monotheism, that in fact loyalty to Jesus Christ and loyalty to God amount to the same thing—one God who is not Caesar!

ταῖς δώδεκα φυλαῖς ταῖς ἐν τῇ διασπορᾷ (To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion)

The target audience of James is saved Jews-- Believers with a steep learning in the Old Testament. The Dispersion was (and is still) literally a technical term for Jews who lived outside of Palestine (cf. John 7:35)—those scattered during the Hellenistic period. Here it refers to believers in Christ (cf. 1 Pet. 1:1 addresses this exact same audience). Most of the early Christian congregations were made up primarily of Jewish believers. SO, unlike the Gentile believers, these Jewish believers didnt need instruction on God’s character, His past, or His law; rather, they needed practical advice as a community of believers in Christ how to live with one another—and this is exactly what we see here in this epistle.

χαίρειν (Greetings!)

Verb form is: χαίρω (chairō). rejoice, be glad.
The Lexham Theological Wordbook says:
The kind of rejoicing this denotes is not only a feeling and expression of joy but also an action one chooses. For instance, Paul exhorts his believers to “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Rom 12:15). Jesus’ disciples are instructed to rejoice when they are persecuted (Matt 5:12; Luke 5:23) and believers are to rejoice as they share in the sufferings that Christ experienced (1 Pet 4:13). While the world may rejoice now, when Jesus returns to the disciples they will rejoice (John 16:20–22). Paul exhorts believers to rejoice in the Lord (Phil 3:1). This again emphasizes that joy or rejoicing is the appropriate response to what God has done. Finally, Philippians 4:4 suggests that the believers who are at Philippi need extra encouragement to choose to rejoice, as Paul says it twice: “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, ‘Rejoice.’ ” The repetition that this rejoicing is in the Lord implies gratitude for what God has done for them as well as a choice.
Philippians 4:4 ESV
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
James went from not believing his brother to calling himself a slave of the most high God in the flesh. Can you, yourself claim to this kind of transformation? A transformation wrought only by the gospel?
This is the will of God for you—Be a slave who can rejoice. Are you a husband? Then lay down your life for your wife. Are you a wife? Respect and honor your husband through loving and joyful submission and through serving him as a suitable helper. That’s God’s will for you, slave. Do this. Give yourself to understanding what this means. You are not going to get it here this morning. It is only being brought to your attention this morning. It takes a lifetime to learn. What does this mean? Are you a parent? Then bring up your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. More than ball games, more than soccer moms, more than this and that, more than Beta club and honor club and athletics and everything else, all of it should take second place, must take second place. I am not saying it can’t be in their life. Some of that can be very good and wholesome and a good activity, but it must not even come close to first place. Your main responsibility as a parent is to raise your child that way.
Related Media
Related Sermons