Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Trials to Maturity


Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

What would hinder you from serving the Lord as considered in the verse 1? Trials! As soon as tough times come our way, the automatic response is, 'WHY?' Why do you face trials? 
Undoubtedly we all are enduring some trials – you may be feeling very frustrated with your husband or perhaps you are very annoyed with your children. Or it could be that you are going through a season of serious financial challenges with unending demand for more. Or you are emotionally drained, lonely and depressed – you would like to be married but no one is coming your way. It could be that your friend has betrayed you.  It may be that you’ve been jobless for long; or it might be you just lost your job or that your contract is about to come to an end. It may be you are battling a chronic illness, or you can’t have more children. It could be that you are dealing with what may look like unsolvable problem. This passage calls all these, trials of various kinds.
These and many other trials is what James is talking about when he writes of trials of various kinds. ‘Various kinds of trials’ means that they are ‘many-coloured, variegated… diversified, complex, intricate’, to describe. That is, ‘any and every kind’[1]. Trials are sent by God in order to make a person stand. However the word used here carries both that positive meaning but it can also be translated ‘temptations’ – those trials that are sent by Satan to make a person fall. For this sermon we will use the positive sense but James employs the same Word in verses 12, 13 which is translated temptation. Faced with all sort of trials, the question that seem to fill your mind is, “WHY GOD?” In these three verses, the Lord God, our loving heavenly Father provides us with the answer.
 How are we to respond to trials?
Before James answers the WHY question, he addresses the HOW to face to trials question. It is noteworthy that this is where he begins with, for our problem is not that we lack the answers to the WHY question. Our great need is not lack of knowledge, our need is right response.
Our greatest need is HOW we are respond. It is of primary importance that we respond Biblically and not simply emotionally. We more often than not simply respond as per the dictates of emotion – yet the two, emotion and Biblical objectivity are not mutually exclusive. Because the Biblical response here is both emotional and objective!
a)      Respond with joy
When trials of any and every kind come, and they shall come, you should count it all joy. ‘Count’ refers to the importance which we give something - it is a well worked calculation. It is to consider and render a careful rational judgment. The significance and rational judgment of all kinds of trials by biblical standards is joy. A few examples here of how the Apostles of the Lord uses this word ‘count’ in comparing the significance of one thing to another – Peter encourages us to count the seeming delay of Christ’s return as the Lord’s patience that leads to salvation (2 Peter 3:15). Paul counts everything as loss in comparison to the excellence of knowing Christ (Phil. 3:7-8). In the same breath, you should appraise any and every loss, any and every pain, any and every frustration, any and every calamity, any and every pressure, any and every distress as pure joy! In other words, do not waste any trial, any cancer, any sleepless night, any frustration. This is what our Master did – who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross (Heb. 12:2).
All is joy is pure joy. James is emphasizing that Christians must consider their trials as wholly, completely, entirely and utterly joyful… it should not have even a drop of sadness mixed in their libation of joy.[2] It is not to say that you just smile or employ worldly, temporal happiness, or administer the so called ‘holy laughter’ or other religiously coated worldly methods. On the other hand James is not calling us to seek and pray for trials as a means for our joy. Neither is James encouraging us to celebrate in our trials – something like what Kent Hughes describes:
James was not commending that we exult upon hearing that our career position has been given to our secretary, or that the neighbour’s children have leukemia, or that one’s spouse has become adulterous.[3]
Instead, James is calling us to a spiritual, enduring and complete joy in the Lord who is sovereign over all things. It is to trust His Word that He is working out all things for good (Rom. 8:28) including all types of trials. This means you look at the trials in light of their eternal value for your life and that of someone else. We are to consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the eternal weight of glory that will be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18). We can only have joy in the midst of pain and loss when we know that God has not only ordained it but is in it! Yes, Mr. Selvaggio is right when says,
The tears of our trials are part of the divine ink God uses to write the glorious redemptive story of our lives. Our trials are evidence that He is working on us in His heavenly workshop.[4]
Is this the way we respond when different types of trials come? I think, because we expect pleasant experiences only in life, we fail to appraise the experiences with the correct dose of joy. But we must never forget the wise counsel of John Calvin,
We certainly dread diseases, and want, and exile, and prison, and reproach, and death, because we regard them as evils; but when we understand that they are turned through God’s kindness unto helps and aids to our salvation, it is ingratitude to murmur, and not willingly to submit to be thus paternally dealt with.[5]
Clearly, our gracious and loving heavenly Father is using our temporal earthly trials to make us meet for our heavenly home and so we rejoice with joy inexpressible! Yes, we rejoice and are glad even in the midst of severe persecution because we have an assurance from our Lord and Saviour that "great is our reward in heaven!" (Matt. 5:11-12). This is what the disciples did in Acts 5:21: Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. May the Lord help us so that like Paul we may say, ”In all our affliction, we may be overflowing with joy”. (2Co 7:4)

b)     Respond with patience
This will be considered later under chapter 5:7-11 but it is the second way in which we are to respond to trials. For now, I pray that trials will teach you more patience, and more patience as you wait a few more years for this passage to be considered!
Why do you face trials?
a)      To test your faith
The first reason why God sends us a package of trials constantly is to test our faith! Remember that as far as our spiritual lives are concerned, there is nothing more important than our FAITH. God has to keep on keeping it on check through trials.  And so James in this letter is very concerned that we may have a real, genuine, living faith. As much as testing is necessary to establish the quality of gold that perishes, so is the testing of our faith which is far more precious than gold so that this faith may be found to result in praise and glory of honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 1:7). Simply put, James is saying here that God will neither reduce nor remove the testing of your faith because He is interested in a glorious, praiseworthy and honourable faith – our faith must be proved genuine!
You have seen Christians who have gone through terrible times in their lives. Some have as a result of these trials ended up rejecting God and so shipwrecking their faith. Others have successfully waded through trials, and have endured to emerge even stronger Christians. The trials of Daniel left him a better servant of God and of men in three different governments. The trials of his three friends made the seeming power of idolatry nothing. The trials of Nehemiah left Jerusalem a better city. What legacy will your trials leave behind? 
Trials are a very effective means of testing our faith. When under trial our faith is somewhat shaped – so that our experiences confirm what God has said about Himself and His creation including ourselves in His Word. This is what Alec Motyer says,
“When circumstances seem to mock our creed, when the cruelty of life denies His Fatherliness, His silence calls in question His almightiness and the sheer, haphazard, meaningless jumble of events challenges the possibility of a Creator’s ordering hard. It is in this way that life’s trials test our faith for genuineness.”
b)      To cultivate your steadfastness
… the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. Steadfastness is the same as endurance, fortitude or perseverance. The picture here is of a person successfully carrying a heavy load for a long time.[6] This is the intended fruit of trials. It is the very quality expected by God when He sends adversity our way.
 As one drinks from the cup of trials and eats the bread of adversity, growth is to be seen through the continued persistence and continuance in the faith. The progress in faith in the midst of calamity is a mark of tested faith and an improving faith. Faith that gives up on the way is no faith at all. The marathon of a believer running through His Christian life is the indication that there lives a faith, a genuine faith. So we are to run with perseverance the race that is marked out for us.
Imagine a pastor whose wife goes crazy. Surely, this is a terrible burden to bear for them both. The faithfulness of the pastor to care for his wife and to keep on doing it for as long as they are both alive is the mark of steadfastness. If the man gets tired on the last month of her life, and marries another woman to be his wife, he has fallen into sin and this disqualify him from the ministry!
Trials have a way of revealing what we are really made of. Are we vessels of honour or of dishonour? Trials will shortly reveal. They show us how weak or strong we are as we carry on. Trials show if our zeal is sloth after all. Trials reveal if our wisdom was only a wrapping over folly. How true that, “Innocence is best tried by iniquity” (Tertullian). You have to melt the rocks if you want the metal…the hard experiences actually stimulate a deeper commitment and a growing personal holiness. Perseverance is that willingness to keep running the race that is generated in the course of the race at precisely the moment when the muscles are hurting and the lungs are bursting.[7]
But as we carry on under the burden of trials in faithfulness, the richness of the grace of God in keeping and guarding the elect through faith is displayed. There is no doubt that the more weight of trials we have, the more we are trained to pray and to keep our focus on the Lord. This is how trials force us to depend on the Lord for grace, strength and wisdom in the midst of trials which is for our eternal good.
c)      To ripen our spiritual maturity
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (v.4). Perseverance is not the final goal of our trials but it is the bucket of milking more benefits from the trials. Clearly the benefits of trials can only come to the believers who respond appropriately to them. Steadfastness has to have its full effect, that is, it has to do all its intended work first. In other words, steadfastness has to perfect its work so that you become perfected or matured which is the ultimate goal of the trials. This is how Moo puts it,
“When endurance is allowed to run its course and attain its goal, believers will be mature and complete, not lacking anything… the word “complete” suggests the idea of wholeness of Christian character that lacks nothing in the panoply of virtues that define Godly character. This concern for spiritual integrity and wholeness lies at the heart of James’s concern, and he will come back to the matter again and again.”[8]
A mature, ripe Christian is one who, having gone through the diverse trials of life is proved to be meet for glory. Blanchard is right when he asserts that,
God’s desire for the Christian is not that he should stagger through life in a series of spiritual fits and starts, flashing out with the odd bright spot here and there and then sinking back into dullness and defeat. God’s desire for the Christian is nothing less than that expressed by Jesus: ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matt. 5:48)[9].
 This means that our love for God is growing steadily as our faculties are constantly being tuned to conform to His holy will so that we love Him with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength and we love the neighbours He brings our way as ourselves. But even more important, is that we be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29)




[1] A. Motyer, BST The Message of James, (Leicester England, IVP, 1985), pp.29-30
[2] A. Selvaggio, The 24/7 Christian,  (Darlington, Eng: EP, 2008), p.41
[3] R.K. Hughes, James:Faith that Works (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1991), p.18
[4] A. Selvaggio, The 24/7 Christian,  (Darlington, Eng: EP, 2008), p.42
[5] J. Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, vol. 22 (Grand Rapids, MI:Baker Books, 1989). Pp.279-280
[6] D. Moo, The Letter of James, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), p.55
[7] G. Keddie, The Practical Christian, (Darlington, Eng: EP, 1989), pp.28-29

[8] D. Moo, The Letter of James, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), p.56
[9] J. Blanchard, Truth For Life, (Darlington, Eng: EP, 1986), pp.24

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Christ redeemed us from the curse

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"—

Galatians 3:13
The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was and continues to be God and man in two distinct natures and one person for ever.[1]
To all those for whom Christ has obtained eternal redemption, He does certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same, making intercession for them, uniting them to Himself by His Spirit, revealing to them, in and by the Word, the mystery of salvation, persuading them to believe and obey, governing their hearts by His Word, and overcoming all their enemies by His Almighty power and wisdom, in such manner and ways as are most consonant to His wonderful and unsearchable dispensation, and all of free and absolute grace, without any condition foreseen n them to procure it[2]. He executes the redemption in three offices – as the prophet, as the priest and as the king, both in His states of humiliation and exaltation.
Christ in His office as a priest submitted to be hanged upon a tree and in so doing removed the curse from us. The law that we and all have broken spells out judgment and condemnation and death for all. This is the curse of the law – no one is able to obey it and so it is evident that no one is justified before God on the basis of obedience of the law for the Law is very clear – “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” (v.10). Clearly, all are under this curse since, we know that no one is righteous no not one (Rom. 3:10).
However, thankfully Christ took our place when He was hung on the cross for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree" Christ took the curse from us and the evidence of this is that He was actually Himself hanged on a tree – the Roman cross. As He hung upon the cross on our place, He was made to be under the Law and its condemning power, having had all the sins of His people imputed on Him. And while in this place, the Father did not spare Him, but struck Him as many time and as much deeply, as His justice demanded.
The Father gave Him up into His hands, delivered him up to death, even the accursed death on the cross, whereby it appeared that he was made a curse; made, by the will, counsel, and determination of God, and not without his own will and free consent; for He freely laid down his life, and gave himself, and made his soul an offering for sin.[3]
This explains the centrality of the cross in the Christian faith. That which was meant to be a curse, and an object of shame brought eternal hope for sinners. And so we boast in nothing but in the cross of Christ. We preach nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2), even if the message of the cross is folly to those how are perishing, but to us  who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18). Lest any of you empty the cross its power (not that any can) you need to know the death of a cross was the worst mode of punishment both by the Jewish and Roman standards.
The cross and the death of Christ thereafter most clearly shows that Jesus was abandoned of God. The fellowship between the Heavenly Father and His Son was broken for He dealt with Him as a sinner having had the sins of men imputed on Him. So Christ did not only suffer the extensive punishment of the myriads upon myriads of the elect, He suffered it more intensely by the reality of being deserted of God, hence His agonizing cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).

The worst death was cast upon the Son of Man:
Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning,
Was there ever grief like His?
Friends through fear His cause disowning,
Foes insulting His distress;
Many hands were raised to wound Him,
None would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced Him
Was the stroke that Justice gave.
                                                Thomas Kelly, (1769-1854)
What a terrible death it was – what the Lord was subjected to was far more than death of a mortal soul. Why? But this was;
a)      A painful death: As the Son of God was subjected to all these tortures, we must realize that the pains were great and acute. This sort of death made its assaults upon the vitals by the exterior parts, which are the most sensitive. In this He was to be both the priest and the sacrifice. For He was making his soul an offering for sin. Moreover He had to meet death, his and our enemy, in its greatest terror, and so conquer it.
b)      A bloody death: Christ was to lay down his life for His elect, and therefore had to shed His blood to atone for our sins. Blood made atonement for the soul (Lev. 17:11), and therefore in every sacrifice of propitiation special order was given for the pouring out of the blood, and the sprinkling of that before the Lord. This is what He did, for us.
c)       A shameful death: Christ died the death of the vilest of slaves and criminals. The cross and the shame were synonymous. God having been injured in his honour by the sin of man got Christ to know the worst shame in order to bring any and every man whom He had chosen to His honour and glory.  Praise the Lord that Christ perfectly satisfied this demand!
d)      A cursed death: The Jewish law (Deut. 21:23) branded it a curse. He that is hanged, is accursed of God and so is under a particular mark of God's displeasure. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"— (Gal 3:13). Christ submitted to be hanged upon a tree and in so doing removed the curse from us.[4]
We must understand the understanding of the cross has a bearing on our understanding of sin:
Ye who think of sin but lightly
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed,
See Who bears the awful load;
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of man and Son of God.
                                Thomas Kelly (1769-1854)
But our joy is that this death brought justification and life for us for we read;
… we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Gal 2:16).
As our Redeemer, He was appointed and called of God the Father, and which He agreed and submitted to, both by His being born as babe and the obedient life thereafter and the vicarious death upon the cross. In this way He obtained an eternal redemption for us for He was duly qualified being born as man and so having the right of redemption as our kinsman redeemer and able to perfectly and effectively do it, not for one but for all the elect being God.
From the passage, the Lord Jesus redeemed a people called, ‘us’ which includes Paul the Apostle, and all who were given into the hands of Christ by the Father. For all that the Father drew by His electing love had to be submitted into the hands of Christ and be redeemed as such. The us has a people described as the ‘sheep’ or ‘the church’ or the elect.
No one but only those who had known the electing hand of God in the eternity past, that is before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) are effectively able to come to Christ with a saving faith. But this number is a great number for it has been accumulating ever since the creation since the redeeming work of Christ spans all ages and so at the close of age, there shall be a people from every age, from every nation, every tribe, every language. For as many of us have were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise (Gal. 3:28-29).
Here is the significance of the death of Christ on the accursed tree:
v  Christ became so poor that the poor sinful children of men, believing on Him, might be delivered from the pit of destruction and the torment of prison of hell and receive freely the glorious riches of heaven. The cross is the very bottom of Jesus’ poverty on our behalf, but it is crest of the treasury of our salvation.
v  Christ was charged with rebellion and all manner of sins that we might be set free from every charge in the day of judgment, and be presented faultless before God the Father with exceeding joy.
v  Christ was ashamed in every way so that we, vile as we are, might have glory, honour, and eternal life through faith in Christ’s atonement. The cross seals this for His shame was our shame and since He bore it all, we are free from all shame.
v  Christ was rejected by men so that we might be received into God’s kingdom with triumph at the last day, and receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. The cross was the display of this rejection but it is our gate in which we enter the kingdom of God.
v  Christ was unclothed that we, who have no righteousness of our own, might be clothed in the perfect righteousness that Christ has wrought out for us, and not stand naked before God at the Last Day. He hung upon the cross naked, before men, so that we might be enthroned before God with great glory.
v  Christ was reviled and held in derision so that we, who are all defiled with sin, might have a wedding-garment, wherein we may sit down by the side of the angels and not be ashamed.
v  Christ, the only Son God, was made worst rebel by human standards of the Roman cross, so that we, who are born in sin and children of wrath, might be counted blessed for Christ’s sake.
v  Christ was hung on a tree, enduring the most grievous sorrows in His soul, and most painful sufferings in His body. He was crowned with thorns and thistles to remove the curse which we all deserve because of sin, by laying it on Christ. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.”… it was that we, who are miserable transgressors, both by nature and practice, may be reckoned innocent for Christ’s sake.
v  Yes Christ was spit on, smitten of men, so that we, who are worthy nothing but condemnation, may be counted worthy to escape God’s judgment, and be pronounced not guilty before the assembled world.
v  Christ died that we, in our last hours, through faith in Christ may have strong consolation. It all came to pass that we may enjoy strong assurance – we may know whom we have believed, and may go down the valley of the shadow of death fearing no evil.[5]
Wonder of the cross shall be our meditation… the cross of the humble King who never wore an earthly crown … the cross o wonderful cross, what glory, what victory we have found. So would you lay all your sins on Christ? Christ has fully satisfied the justice of God, procured reconciliation, and purchased an everlasting inheritance for us!


[1] The Baptist Confession & The Baptist Catechism, (Solid Ground Christian Books, Birmingham, Al, 2010), question 24, p.98
[2] Ibid, p. 21-22
[3] William Gill, Vol. 4, (Baker, Grand Rapids, MI, 1980), P.382
[4] This is four things are drawn from Matthew Henry’s commentary
[5] J.C. Ryle, Mark, (Banner of Truth, Edinburgh, UK, 1857), pp. 341-343

Monday, January 11, 2016

A servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ


James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.

Practical
James is a practical book which reduces the pretensions of the religious to size. I chose it so that none of us may be tempted to be heady. For God is not interested in intellectual Calvinists, He is interested in practically godly Christians. The church of Christ does not need those who are theologically aligned but lack in holiness. Our faith must be a living faith, a working faith, a faith to live by. A faith that has been born by the Holy Spirit through His Word, and faith that is sustained by the Holy Spirit through His Word. 
We must remember that of God’s own will He brought us forth by the Word of truth that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures so that we put away all filthiness and rampart wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word which is able to save your souls. Yes be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

I am particularly amazed by three attributes of this wonderful letter:

Pastoral
In this letter is a strong tone of a gracious, wise and loving pastor. This book is deeply concerned with the average Christian’s daily struggle against the pressures of the world, the tug of temptation and the subtle suggestion of compromise. It is an antidote to the problems that bedevil every Christian. It is a wise counsel, giving guidance for godly living.
Penetrating
This book is faithful in bringing timeless truths to bear on everyday life in a way that is quite irresistible. It will grip your mind and your heart all at once. It will reach your conscience and would change your behaviour, if you would listen. This letter is addressed to you - do not divert its message. 
Few things would do more to revitalize present-day Christianity than a determined effort on the part of believers to take James seriously and put his teaching into practice.” Curtis Vaughan. 
We profess faith in Christ, but trust to materialism (Sir Fredrick Catherwood, MP European Parliament) - This letter will help see yourself from the right lens and bring you to terms with the message of the Bible. It is rich in the Law (there is a lot from Leviticus) and fresh with the gospel (so much from the teachings of Christ, especially the Sermon on the Mount).

 I have the pleasure of serving this spiritual delicacy to you by simply unpacking the first verse.

From the first verse we learn:

1.      James Considered himself a servant

Who is a servant?
The word translated ‘servant’ (doulos) could also be translated, ‘slave’. A servant at the time, whether male or female was owned by another! This means that such a servant had no human rights attached to him for he was considered a personal property. Such a servant was there to be used and be disposed at the will of the master.

It is most remarkable that James considered himself such a servant, even though he was the leader or pastor of the very first church of Christ in Jerusalem (Acts 21:18). Even if James would have wanted to designate himself one of the pillars of the church in Jerusalem, he would have been justified for this is how Paul referred to him in Galatians 2:9. Paul even called him an apostle along Peter! Besides, being the brother of Jesus, it shocking that he would have referred to himself as ‘James, a servant’. Yet, he is not lying - James was a servant of God. He was no more than a servant of Jesus Christ! Those who serve in the enterprise of the gospel are servants.

It is clear that James is a humble Christian who viewed himself in the light of eternity. He did not think of himself more highly than he ought (Romans 12:3). 
"The mark of a great man of God is no that he thinks himself great, but rather that he thinks himself utterly insignificant." (John Blanchard). 
This is how Paul responded to the Corinthian immaturity –
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 1Co 3:5.
Whether Paul or Appollos or Peter or Murungi or whoever you are, are nothing and can do nothing… yes, says Paul, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
I am nothing more than what Christ has assigned me. Christ has simply assigned me or any other church leader to be a servant indeed and in practice. Failure to conform to this biblical standard of church leadership, disqualifies the person from the designated position. If one is more than a servant, then the Lord has not assigned such a person any position in His church.

Look at yourself – are you more inclined to think of yourself more highly than you ought? Do you have an insatiable appetite for recognition and appreciation? Remember that 'the only Person who had the right to assert His rights waived them.' (Kenneth Wuest). Jesus Christ is the only who had such rights -  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Php 2:6-8.
Undoubtedly Jesus was a servant and since this was true of Jesus, how much more you who are owned by God? This is how God puts it in His word - You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1Co 6:19-20. Commenting on this verse John Blanchard says,
Paul’s words are particularly appropriate here because he is using the language that would apply to the purchase of a slave, and a slave would not have the luxury of choosing his own master, dictating the terms of his employment and then asking to be given credit for everything he did. It was the master who did the choosing, paid the price, sent the slave to work and had the right to expect loyal and humble obedience.
Clearly we know that we did not choose Christ but He chose us to go and bear fruit (John 15:16). This is how the famous missionary C.T. Studd puts it,
I had known about Jesus dying for me, but I had never understood that he had died for me then I did not belong to myself. Redemption means buying back, so that if I belonged to him, either I had to be a thief and keep what wasn’t mine, or else I had to give up everything to God. When I came to see that Jesus Christ had died for me, it didn’t seem hard to give up all for him.”

2.  James served God & the Lord Jesus Christ

With the understanding that God has bought us at the cost of His Son, and we are his and we owe all to Him, this comes with a responsibility of service to Him. When James describes himself as a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, he stands along Abraham (Psalm 105:6); Moses (Joshua 14:7); Joshua (24:29) and Paul (Rom.1:1; Phil.1:1).

What does it mean to be a servant of God and Jesus Christ? It means that he had no authority that he claimed from himself. He did not stand on his own feet, rather what he said, was spoken with divine authority. He is messenger of God and all he had to say what he had received from God, his Master.
In placing Jesus Christ alongside God, James shows that Jesus has the same honour with God the Father. And as the Father is Lord, so is Jesus. The word Lord is used here to mean the sovereign Creator and Saviour who reigns over all the creation. In using the term ‘lord’, James is saying that God the Father and Jesus Christ deserve equal service as the Sovereign Master. In this sense, it is equal to the words of Thomas, “My Lord and my God (John 20:28) and the words of Jude, “Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord (Jude 4).

Clearly the words employed to describe God the Father and God the Son show a very precise theology of who is God. He is not only the Father, upon whom the plan of salvation was conceived and planned in His electing love, but He is also God the Son who in the fullness of time was born and fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies. He is Jesus the Son of David and Son of Mary – fully human. But He is also Christ the Son of God and the Son of Man.

It is such an exalted position to be a servant of a president in statehouse – where the political power of the land dwells. What a privilege to be a comptroller of State House? But it is a loftier position to be a servant of the Holy God. To be servant of God is to be highly lifted by God for what could be better than to be the dispenser of the grace of God? To be a preacher of the gospel of God is to be a minister of the mercies of God to sinners. To serve the Lord is to have the honours of God as your badge. It is a shame that there are few labourers in the fields of God. It shows that far more Christians are in love with the world than we can imagine. For even many of those who are servants of God show themselves to be masters than servants. They lord it over people instead of serving them.
James so served God and Christ that he is described like this:
Of so great temperance, that he drank neither wine nor strong drink, and ate no flesh. So pious, that his knees were made like a camel’s hood by frequent prayers. He died a martyr; they would have him persuade the people to abandon the doctrine of Christ, which, when he refused, and pressed the quite contrary, he was thrown down from a pinnacle of the temple, and his brains dashed out with a fuller’s club, and so gave up the ghost.[1]
  1. 3.      James served the people of God

He writes to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion. In writing to these people, James displays his love for them. His love for God is displayed in his love for His people. Faith in the Saviour must be displayed by love for the saints. Since the love of Christ has been cast upon the saints, how you who claims to serve Christ, who gave His life as a ransom for them must be manifested in the love for the objects of this divine love.
The people that James is concerned about have been scattered among the nations – they are in diaspora. This is a reference to the ethnic Jews who had been scattered by the persecution of the saints to different nations. As these people moaned in a foreign land, they would naturally want to know where is their God. In response James by the hand of God writes to them in order to encourage them to living their Christian lives faithfully.
We know that while this letter was addressed to the Jews, it has something for us. For we are the Israel of God (Gal. 6:16). And so we are strangers and exiles on earth (Heb. 11:13). We have no abiding city here, but we seek the city that is to come (Heb. 13:14). We are the elect exiles (1Peter 1:1). And for this reason we need constant encouragement to help us live as pilgrims do. As we bear the reproach of aliens and foreigners we have a need to be encouraged to persevere in faith in the midst of suffering.

This letter has a very special focus on Christian relationships: caring for orphans and widows (1:27); to be impartial in our courtesy (2:1); the duty of love for our neighbour (2:8); he calls us to love and compassion for the needy (2:15-16); he warns us of social sins like bitter jealousy and selfish ambition (3:14) speaking evil against another brother (4:11); pay our workers faithfully and honestly (5:4); Grumbling (5:9); ministering to the sick (5:14); confessing sins to one another (5:16); pursuing those who have gone astray (5:19-20). In this way we serve our people.

Thankfully although the recipients of this letter were of the Dispersion, yet they had been faithfully preserved by the hand of God. They were still the twelve tribes – not one had been lost or forgotten. They enjoyed the presence and protection of God even though in a foreign land. The Lord preserves His people as a united entity and perpetuates them to His cause so that He is glorified not only as the Creator and Saviour, but also as the Preserver and Sustainer of His people – so that none of His people shall be lost. John Blanchard puts it this way;
God’s people may be oppressed, they may be persecuted, they may be in the minority, they may find the going hard, they may be ridiculed, they may be thought irrelevant by the world; but they are still the ‘twelve tribes’, held secure in the preserving hand of God.

When James writes the brief salutation, ‘Greetings’ he means “Rejoice!”  This particular greeting occurs in the New Testament only in James’ letter embodying the Jerusalem Council decision (Acts 15:23) – a parallel that tends to confirm common authorship[2]. Rejoice that such is your God, and such is your privileged position of being servants of God. Even though you meet trials of various kinds – count it all joy, for your faith is being strengthened by God in these trials. Be steadfast in trials because you know your God. Rejoice because you will receive the crown of life.
Having considered the introduction to the book and the first verse, do you think this is an epistle of straw as Martin Luther called it? This is letter is excellent in addressing the Christian life. It calls us to be faithful Christians 24/7

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[1] Thomas Manton, James, Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, reprinted 1998, p.13
[2] Douglas Moo, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, James © 2004, p.58