“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.” (James 1:1, AV)
In my former devotional, I mentioned that the James who wrote this letter to the “twelve tribes of the dispersion” was James the half-brother of Jesus. The majority of biblical scholars agree with this view. Of the James mentioned in the Bible, scholars have only suggested one other, namely James the son of Zebedee, John’s brother. However, James the son of Zebedee was martyred in 44 A.D. (Acts 12:1-2), which appears earlier than the writing of the letter.
Now, considering that James was the half-brother of Jesus, it is interesting that James gives his credentials as being a “servant of God and of the Lord Jesus.” When we look at James and his other brothers, Joseph and Simon and Judas (Matt 13:55), we understand that they did not recognize Jesus’s authority later in life. John recorded that Jesus’ own brothers did not believe in Him (John 7:5). Moreover, we see that Jesus’ brothers taunted Jesus to go to Judea for the Feast of Booths, knowing that the Jews were seeking to kill Him (John 7:1-9). Truly, His brothers, including James, demonstrated great disdain for Him.
So what happened to James that changed him from having contempt for Jesus to voluntarily committing to a life of servitude, recognizing Jesus as Lord? There is one great explanation. There was a divine revelation granted to James so that his disbelief transformed into belief. It seems likely that this happened after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Paul recorded that after the resurrection, “he was seen of James; then of all the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:7, AV).
When one comes to experience the resurrection power of Jesus by faith, he or she experiences a powerful transformation. Everything changes. Not only are they saved by grace, but their entire outlook on Jesus changes. Rather than seeing Jesus as just a man who lived a moral life, they see Jesus as Lord, God and Savior. The affections of their hearts change. They desire God and His righteousness. They seek to avoid sin. Moreover, as we see here, they seek to serve God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The word for “servant,” is the Greek, doulos. Strong indicates that this refers to a bondman, and that it refers to one who voluntarily gives himself or herself up to another’s will, disregarding his or her own interests. Therefore, every true believer becomes a servant of Jesus. In this service, we join in a great work of advancing the gospel to people.
There are a variety of ways that we are to serve. Some, like James may be called to levels of spiritual leadership in the church as, a pastor, elder, or ministry leader. Yet not all are called to these positions. Yet all are gifted to serve in the church (1 Cor 12:7), and all are called to some ministry in which they will serve collectively to fulfill the church’s mission. Moreover, all are called to be witnesses to others.
The important thig to remember is this. Everyone who believes is given the same great credentials as James who wrote this letter. Each is a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have been called to “Amazing Servitude.”