James 1.1.Know your place2
“Knowing Your Place”
Today is communion Sunday, when we come to the Lord’s table to remember what our Master, Jesus Christ, has done for us and consider how we are living for Him, in light of all He has done.
Until Thursday, I had planned to preach through all of John 11. However, I realized that I could not get it done in the time we have and still honor Christ through the celebration of the Lord’s table.
Therefore, I thought it good to give many of you who are unable to come on Sunday Night to have a taste of what we are learning there.
Thus, today, I will review what we discussed in our kick-off message of the Series we have under way regarding taking your walk with Christ to the next level. Growing in Christ, growing in grace, is an incremental process that has many steps and is gradual.
Today’s message is entitled “Knowing your place.”
Our passage is James 1:1.
James 1:1 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.
We used our opening passage, or verse, to provide us background and instruction for the whole series.
This passage is also vital to our rightly partaking of the Lord’s table. So, let’s start with the basics of the passage.
Let’s look at the first word: James.
Who is James? There are some who try to attribute this letter to someone other than James, the half brother of Jesus Christ.
Some would have us believe that this James is the brother of the Apostle John. That does not make sense: John’s brother, the other James was executed by Herod, early on.
So we know this James wasn’t one of the original 12 apostles. The other James’ were not of a stature that would have enabled them to write with any kind of authority or recognition to Jews outside of Jerusalem because, and I don’t mean this in any disparaging way, they were relatively unknown.
As you eliminate the other candidates for authorship, the book of Acts points to James the brother of Jesus. This becomes particularly obvious when you read the letter from the Jerusalem Council in the book of Acts, welcoming and affirming Gentile believers to the fellowship of Christ, you see a similarity in writing style and vocabulary.
|1:21; 5:20||“your souls”||15:24,26|
That leaves us James, the half brother of Jesus Christ, the son of Joseph and Mary. This James became the dominant figure, even among the apostles in the church at Jerusalem. When the Apostle Paul had been saved and had engaged in ministry, he went to visit James and Peter, whom he both described as Apostles in his letter to the churches of Galatia.
Galatians 1:18-19 18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord's brother.
His preeminence at the church of Jerusalem is described by Luke in Acts 21:17-18 “7 After we arrived in Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 18 And the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.” James’ name is first and his preeminence is demonstrated by that and the fact that no other elders’ names are listed, or mentioned.
We know little of James’ conversion, except that he did in fact qualify as an apostle having heard his brother’s teachings, seen him crucified and met Jesus after His resurrection.
Paul documents this fact in his first letter to the church at Corinth.
1 Corinthians 15:5-7 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.
We know that James was not always a believer because the gospel of John documents his unbelief, along with the unbelief of all of Christ’s brothers in John 7:1-5. As Jesus’ brothers taunt Him and seek to provoke Him, we read this comment in John 7:5 “For not even His brothers were believing in Him.”
We know that this James became the leader in the church of Jerusalem and we know that he wrote this letter because of the testimony of the so-called church fathers, which theologians call the external testimony of history and because of the internal testimony of the Scriptures bearing witness to this.
We can only speculate on the humbling events in his life after having denied Jesus to be confronted by Him (however lovingly) after His resurrection. We see this humility demonstrated for us in the opening salutation which teaches us volume about our own station, purpose, and practice in life:
James 1:1 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.
Absent is any mention of his familial connection with Christ. He describes himself as “a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
This is a telling insight into his character forged no doubt in the trials of life of which he will speak more of later.
James character was well known among Jewish Christians and even those hostile to the faith because of his humility, personal piety and faithfulness to the Law of God.
He became known to all, friend and foe alike, as “James the just.” He continued to worship in the Temple. In fact, his life was ended at the Temple in Jerusalem.
Angry Jews through him off of the pinnacle of the Temple in 62 A.D. This fact is recorded by Josephus a well known 1st Century Jewish historian and collaborator with the Roman Government.
The writings of Josephus and others regarding James’ martyrdom also provides us insight into the date of the letter. Prior to 62 A.D.; most likely around 40 to 45 A.D. given the subject matter of James’ discourse on the paradox of faith and works due to James’ contact with the Apostle Paul.
The Epistle of James is more than likely the first written Scripture of the New Testament (remember the NT books are not necessarily strictly listed in chronological order). He recorded his thoughts before the publication and circulation of the gospels, the last of which we know was written around 85 A.D. after the destruction of the Temple and after the death of James, who of course died before the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.
James’ epistle is written to encourage, instruct, and exhort believers to live as followers of Christ. He tells them how to live in such a way as, in a manner of speaking, to take their faith to the next level.
James is writing to Jewish people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. We could say “Jewish Christians” or “Christian Jews;” however, the use of the term Christian had not come into play yet as the followers of Christ were first called Christians at Antioch, in Syria (Acts 11:26).
At the time of James’ writing Christianity remained largely a Jewish religion. And so he is writing to Jewish follower outside Jerusalem, “to the twelve tribes in the diaspora”/dispersion (“tai/j dw,deka fulai/j tai/j evn th/| diaspora/|”).
This letter is a general letter addressed to no particular church but to all Jewish followers of Christ.
I speak of James’ reputation, or pedigree to say this:
While he possessed a considerable reputation and “enjoyed” considerable prestige as one of the Lord’s brothers, he writes to instruct and encourage as a peer, or co-follower, rather than a leader.
James 1:1 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.
James writes to Christian Jews about how to live as a Christian. He’s basically challenging and encouraging them to take their faith, in a manner of speaking, to the next level.
What he gives to them and us is a practical guide to the living the Christian life and spiritual growth.
Tonight, we begin with verse one. The title of our series is “Living Like Christians.” Tonight’s message is entitled:
Knowing Your Place:
James keeps the main thing the main thing by remembering who Christ is, or was, by remembering who he, James, was.
James by his example in this greeting, this opening verse, shows us how to keep the main thing the main thing: remembering our place as servants of God.
And what is the main thing? I suppose we had better rephrase the question in this manner, “who is the main thing?”
The answer of course is Jesus Christ. James gives us a first class lesson in humility and understanding God’s will for our lives in a single verse.
James makes it clear by his example, despite his key leadership role in the church at Jerusalem, that he understands his place in God’s kingdom and he understands God’s will for his life.
He makes no claim to preeminence as the Lord’s brother. He knows his place and it shows, even to his enemies and even in his writings.
We would do well to dwell on his example and hang on his words. James realizes that life and the world doesn’t revolve around him.
His life, as our lives should, revolves around His relationship with God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Regrettably, many Christians today are on a magical mystical search for “God’s will for my life.” They succumb to the culture’s pre-occupation with “self” by assuming that their lives feature prominently in God’s redemptive plan.
Several months from now we will explore at length God’s will and Christian decision making. However, tonight let us understand we need not find God’s will for our life but how our life needs to harmonize with God’s will.
There is a subtle difference between the two mindsets. One mindset has God at the center of its universe while the other mindset has self at the center of its universe.
One mindset is bound to go right while the other is bound to go wrong having commenced its journey using the incorrect navigational tool, or compass—self.
James gives us a fine example of the proper mindset and how to avoid the other pitfall. Let’s look again.
Proposition: Today, I want you to understand your place in God’s world so that you are less likely to stray off course in your Christian walk.
Restate Proposition: Today, I want to share with you two reference points from which you must view yourself so that you can stay on course and know the joy of being in harmony with God’s will.
Today, using James 1:1 we will lay the foundation for understanding the entire book of James and take the first step in a series of steps, in this series of sermons, toward taking our lives in the Lord’s service to the next level.
Restate Proposition: So, I want to give you two reference points of view so that you can take your Christian walk to the next level.
Question: Is there any Christian who does not want to take our relationship with Christ to the next level?
James, already in the first verse, this opening greeting in the letter shows us how.
Shall we consider our first reference point? Lets!
I. Understand that in God’s economy you have no rights—you’re just the servant.
James 1:1a James, a bond-servant…
A. No rights, Ouch! That’s not very encouraging. It should be and I hope it will be.
1. I can hear someone saying, “What do you mean I have no rights! Pastor Keith, that’s not very uplifting!”
2. You’re quite right…humanly speaking it’s not uplifting but it is the key to being God exalting.
a. We are to exalt God, not ourselves.
b. We are to exalt Christ not ourselves.
c. We are to reflect on God’s glory and not our own prestige.
3. Our only value, usefulness, and purposefulness is through our connection to Christ.
a. And what is the nature of our relationship, or connection to Christ?
b. We are a special kind of servant.
i. Special because of the unique connotation of the word bondservant.
ii. Special because of what the word implies.
c. We are like James, we are like those to whom he originally wrote---bondservants.
i. We, like they, are bondservants of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
B. Let’s look at that word bondservant.
1. Let’s consider how James describes himself and what it means.
a. We’ve already discussed James a bit.
b. Let’s quickly review what we’ve discussed and build upon it.
2. And at the same time, let’s remember who James is!
a. James is the head of the church, the first church at Jerusalem.
b. It was a very large church.
i. Some put its number at more than 6,000.
ii. Acts 2 tells us that in one day alone 3,000 souls were added.
iii. We know that the church grew in leaps and bounds.
iv. James, humanly speaking, is a “big wheel.”
3. James is also the brother of the Lord as well as the leader of the church.
a. The apostle Paul sought him out.
b. Others did too.
c. Other’s esteemed him (read the opening of Jude’s epistle—the brother of James).
i. Jude thought this was important.
ii. It was Jude’s way of indicating that he, Jude had something to say, not because Jude was a big deal but because James, a bondservant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, a slave, was a bigger deal than Jude.
iii. Neither Jude no James elevate themselves a Jesus’ brother.
4. And despite all this, James calls himself a bondservant.
a. He does not mention his position.
b. He does not mention his relation.
c. No doubt people are aware.
i. And that’s the power of his example.
ii. And that’s the power of his statement.
C. And just what is a bond-servant? What’s in a name?
1. There are more than a half dozen synonyms for various types of servants in the Bible, in the New Testament.
2. James uses the word doo-los (dou/loj).
a. What’s that? A doulos is the lowest of servants.
b. There are all kinds of servants.
i. There are hired servants.
ii. There are those who are house servants.
iii. There are those who are servants because they are hostages from military campaigns who may even be of noble birth.
iv. A doulos has no room for pride, for demanding his or her rights.
3. A doulos is a unique term that refers to someone born into slavery, with no prestige of his own, save his master’s opinion of him—which may not be known to others or the slave himself.
a. His value isn’t his own—he’s not overly concerned with “self-esteem.”
b. His value and prestige have nothing to do with his family background.
c. He has nothing to be proud of.
d. His only value is how his master views the quality of his service.
4. He serves at the pleasure of his master.
a. He has no value of his own.
b. His value is determined by his master.
c. He has no career path… no aspirations…
d. His will is subsumed to his master’s will.
e. He has no ambition but to serve his master.
f. He has no loyalty to himself only to his master.
g. He offers none of his own opinions, he has no desire to get his own two cents in.
h. He only wants to do what is pleasing to his master.
i. His life’s purpose and ambition (to hear his master say, “well done good and faithful servant).
D. A bondservant’s rights have been taken away, they are forfeit and invalidated by the will of his master.
1. This is how James is describing himself.
2. Furthermore, bondservants don’t communicate with people above their station and there is no one below their station so a bondservant communicates as a peer to his equals.
3. The only authority he has, the only thing he can say worthwhile is to repeat what his master’s desires and will is.
a. And now let me let you in on a little secret about the book of James.
i. From whence does its doctrine come?
ii. Well, there’s the Law of Moses, the Prophets, or what we call the Old Testament.
iii. Some in fact call James the NT Proverbs.
b. That James is also seen as a restatement of the principles of the Sermon on the Mount.
i. Did you know that?
ii. Let me show you what I mean, compare:
· Jam 1:2 with Mt 5:12:
James 1:2 2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…
Matthew 5:11-12 1 "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
· Jam 1:4 with Mt 5:48:
James 1:4 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Matthew 5:48 48 "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
· Jam 1:5 with Mt 7:7–11:
James 1:5 5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
Matthew 7:7-11 7 "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 "Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 "Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
· Jam 2:13 with Mt 5:7;
· Jam 2:10 with Mt 5:19;
· Jam 4:4 with Mt 6:24; Jam 4:11 with Mt 7:1, 2;
· Jam 5:2 with Mt 6:19. 
iii. Now, ask yourself, what is the first beatitude?
iv. Blessed are the poor in spirit/happy are the humble for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
v. And doing the will of God: blessed are those which do hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be satisfied.
4. James communicates these two beatitudes in the first verse.
E. Let me give you some counsel for taking your walk with Christ to the next level:
1. Happiness is found through harmonizing your life not with your own appetites but by humbling yourself in accordance with God’s will.
2. We do this by seeing ourselves not as by masters to be served by God but as servants of God.
3. James was a bondservant born into slavery when he was born again and so are we!
a. His will was no longer his own.
i. His desires were forfeited.
ii. Only the Master’s desires mattered.
b. His desires were no longer his own.
i. He was bought by God.
ii. God was no his master.
c. He wanted what his master wanted.
i. His desire was to demonstrate loyalty to God.
ii. He had no desires of his own.
4. If we follow James’ example of humility and service, then our lives will be pleasing to God and our lives will be in harmony with His will, rather than in painful opposition to it.
a. Therefore, we have to get rid of the mentality of consumer Christianity and put on the mantle of consecrated Christianity as we consecrate ourselves to a joyful life of service by putting God first, others next, and ourselves last.
b. We have to assume the role and conduct of bondservants.
i. Our care is not for ourselves…
ii. Our care is the love of God…
iii. Our concern is to love those God has commanded us to love.
c. That is after all the fulfillment of the Law, according to Jesus:
Matthew 22:35-40 35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" 37 And He said to him, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' 38 "This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 "The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' 40 "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."
POINT: If you want to take your faith walk to the next level, then you must understand that in God’s economy you have no rights.
You must develop the mindset of a bondservant.
You must cultivate an outlook based on the lens of Scripture, not the selfish desires of your own heart wherein you see yourself as a bondservant whose only purpose is to please his master.
This will protect you and I from an inflamed ego or from misguidedly seeking what we want from others and from God, causing us instead to seek God’s will.
So, our first reference point is to see ourselves as we are, as God sees us, as bondservants.
v We are devoted to the service of God.
v We have no prestige of our own.
v In fact there’s nobody beneath us.
v Attitudinally, there are many above us.
v We don’t think of ourselves higher than we should.
v Humility isn’t for hotheads.
v We can’t get entangled in foolish debates because we can talk down to no one and it is not our place to speak to our betters.
v We are truly dead to ourselves.
The second point of reference that enables you to take your life in Christ to the next level by rightly understanding who Christ is and responding accordingly.
II. Realize that you have one God and that God is the Lord Jesus Christ and you are not that God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Once you know who the servant is you won’t confuse yourself for the Master.
James 1:1 James a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.
A. Here’s where a Christian’s daily walk as a bible student comes in.
1. If you don’t want to be a student, a studier, a disciple of God’s word, then you don’t want to be a disciple of Christ.
2. You can’t be a good servant, a real Christian, if you don’t seek to understand the One you serve.
3. And you won’t be able to please Him who is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
4. And your motivation is based on the recognition of His deity and supremacy.
B. Is that what this verse is saying? Yes, that’s what James is saying to Jewish believers and modern day believers.
1. Let me show you the significance of this statement: “a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”
2. Question: What’s the first commandment, of the 10 Commandments given to the Jews on Mt. Sinai?
a. You shall have no other gods before me.
b. Jesus must be your God.
c. He’s telling the Jews that God and Christ are one.
3. Another Question: And what is the Great Shema, the great confession that all Jews make today?
a. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 4 "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
i. This is what set the Jews apart.
ii. The worship of one God.
b. Now, stay with me and travel back with me back to the Sermon on the Mount.
i. What did Jesus say about serving two masters in Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13?
ii. No one can serve two Masters.
iii. If he tries he will hate one and love the other.
c. Next question: And what on earth does this have to do with James 1:1?
C. James is telling the Jews that Jehovah, or YWH, and Jesus Christ are the same.
1. Remember that James is writing to Jewish people who claim to follow Christ.
2. Remember that he is describing himself as a bought and owned servant of whom?
James 1:1b James a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
a. What we have here is a statement on the deity of Christ.
b. God and Christ are listed as equals (because they are).
c. Christians have Christ as their God.
d. They are His servants, He is not their servant.
i. He’s not a genie in a bottle whose purpose it is to gratify their desires.
ii. He’s the Old and New Testament God who we are to serve, according to the loving example that Christ set for us.
iii. Nonetheless we cannot take our relationship with Christ to the next level unless we understand our place.
e. If we want to take our faith walk to the next level, then we have got to grasp this truth in all its implications in our own lives.
i. Love Him.
ii. Tremble at His word.
iii. Isaiah 66:2—turn there.
Isaiah 66:2 "For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being," declares the LORD. "But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.
D. If you want to take your walk to the next level and live in joy and heart peace by being in harmony with God’s will then treat Jesus as your Master, as your God, and find His will by obeying His commands.
Luke 6:46-49 46 "Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? 47 "Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 "But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great."
a. Your well being is determined by your love of Christ and your obedience to His commands.
b. Those who hear and obey enjoy stability and that peace that surpasses all human understanding.
c. Those who do not destroy themselves and those around them.
i. They are unstable through their lack of belief and faith.
ii. James later describes those who live this way thusly:
James 1:6-8 like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
E. Unless you see Him as God and treat Him as such then you cannot take your walk to the next level.
1. To do so you must know your place.
2. You must see yourself as a bondservant with no rights.
3. He must be your God.
4. And you must realize you can’t fool Him.
a. He knows your thoughts from afar…
b. He knows your words before they are on your tongue…
c. He knows your secret sins…
d. He wants you to change and will devote all His power to changing you, if you want to change.
Taking Your Faith to the Next Level: Knowing Your Place
When we consider the implications of this statement we…
v Understand you have no __________________________ because you are a _________________________.
v Realize that Christ is ________________ and you are not; instead you a very special kind of servant (a bond servant).
As we reflect upon the implications of these realities, we find freedom in the liberty our relationship to Christ as His bondservants…
1) In avoiding taking offense when others may treat you “unfairly.”
2) In avoid wrong priorities and being free from foolish pride when you see yourself from the right perspective.
o You don’t have to worry about appearances.
o You don’t have to be concerned with peer pressure because your true peers have the same goals as you—living as a faithful bondservant.
o Since only your master’s will counts you need only concern yourself with fulfilling His desires so clearly expressed in the Scriptures.
3) In seeing the necessity of staying in close contact with your Master through prayer and receiving and carrying out the instructions found in His word.
4) In experiencing a simplified life and worldview. There is tremendous liberty and joy in seeing our world through the clear, “black and white,” lens of Scripture that is the will of God.
Application: so how does a bondservant live?
v In close communication with his Master through prayer.
v He lives a life of the careful study and application of his Master’s commands—studying God’s word.
v He stays connected to his Master and thinks what his Master thinks and does as his Master commands.
v This keeps God big and the bondservant small.
v He greets his peers as peers, saying rejoice!
v He has no inferiors so that he doesn’t think more highly of himself than he should.
v He does not address his betters as he has nothing to instruct them.
v He is content to live as his Master’s will dictates and does so with joy.
All this is made possible by his knowing his place:
v He has no rights because he is the servant of the Master. Therefore, he doesn’t take up for himself, he cannot be offended;
v Christ is his Master and all he does is done to honor, esteem, and please Christ—no other reason.
It is this outlook that enables him to take his walk to the next level as he seeks to improve his service and not rise above his status. He forgets the past and presses on, he does not seek restitution or retribution, he entrusts Himself to Him who judges righteously.
MacArthur, John Jr: The MacArthur Study Bible. electronic ed. Nashville : Word Pub., 1997, c1997, S. Jas 1:1
Jamieson, Robert ; Fausset, A. R. ; Fausset, A. R. ; Brown, David ; Brown, David: A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, S. Jas 1:1
Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. Jas 1:2
MacArthur, John: James. Chicago, Ill. : Moody Press, 1998, S. 1