Following Jesus 140

Following Jesus: The Progress of the Pilgrim.

Simply put, the truth we must understand is that “life is hard, but God is good.” 

What should our attitude and perspective be as we make our long and difficult climb up the Hill of Difficulty? Let’s turn of James 1:1-8. It is here that we not only see Scripture acknowledge the reality of difficulties for the Christian, but also our response to them. Let’s see what God has to say about difficulties. 

“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.” (James 1:1 ESV). The identity of the author of this epistle is readily agreed to be the half-brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55). The oldest half-brother of Christ (Mark 6:3) and brother of Jude (Matthew 13:55).  

James initially rejected Jesus Christ as the Messiah (John 7:5) but later believed and became a witness to the Resurrection (I Corinthians 15:7). He was one of the key leaders within the early church (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; Galatians 2:12). He was referred to as one of the “pillars” in the church along with Peter and John (Galatians 2:9). It was recorded by the historian Josephus that James was martyred in 62 A.D. 

James considers himself a bondservant. δοῦλος. Slave! When Paul speaks of himself as a slave of Jesus Christ or of God in Romans 1:1, Galatians 1:10, and Titus 1:1. The word δοῦλος focuses our attention primarily upon James belonging to Christ or to God.  The word also means one who is in “bondage.” It is the most common word for servant and is used of one being a servant of Christ. Can this be said of you and I? Are we people voluntarily and willingly commit ourselves to serve a master we love and respect? (Exodus 21:5-6; Galatians 1:10; Titus 1:1; Genesis 26:24; Numbers 12:7; 2 Samuel 7:5)

“Of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Lest there be any confusion or lack of clarity on our part as we begin this epistle as to whom James was the servant of he makes it abundantly clear. He belongs to God and to the Lord Jesus. 

James is writing to the twelve tribes.  This is a frequent reference to the Nation of Israel or the Jews. (Matthew 19:28; Acts 26:7; Revelation 7:4). The letter’s recipients were scattered abroad. Διασπορά. This is one word in the Greek, the word “dispersion.” It is a noun so it could be rendered, the scattered ones. This is the name given to the Jews who trusted in Christ as savior and who were scattered because of growing persecution for their faith. 

James intention, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was to instruct and encourage the scattered believers who facing trials and increased persecution. These were Jewish believers who had been dispersed (1:1) probably because of Stephen’s martyrdom (Acts 8:1-3; A.D. 31-34) but more likely due to the persecution under Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:1-5; A.D. 44).

Acts 8:1-3. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. (Acts 8:1-3 ESV).

Acts 12:1-5. About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (Acts 12:1-5 ESV)

Perhaps this parallels the persecution of Christians currently occurring in the Middle East and throughout the world. It is to these type of believers to which James writes and sends his greetings.

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