James Lesson 1

A SLAVE OF GENUINE CHARACTER (JAMES 1:1)

Opening Discussion:  What do you think of when you hear the word slave?  Discuss the implications of being a slave for Christ.

1.  In referring to himself as a slave for Christ, James was one of two New Testament writers to describe themselves solely in this manner, with Jude being the other.  It is obvious that both men were totally devoted to the authenticity of Christ as God incarnate (or God in the flesh).  Paul also referred to himself as a slave and apostle.

2.  William Barclay, who wrote The Daily Study Bible Series, The Letters of James and Peter, points to four implications of his use of the word slave, when James is referring to himself:

a.  Absolute Obedience.  He considered Christ to be his Master.  He was saying, "I have no rights, but to be lost in His Word and His service.  I will not profess my personal rights or self-qualifications."

b.  Absolute Humility.  James believed that he should not think of his privileges, but his duties; not of his rights, but his obligations.  He desired to be lost in the service of his God.

c.  Absolute Loyalty.  It is the word of a man who has no interests of his own.  Rather, it is a man who thinks, "What I do, I do for God."  This man's profit and preferences did not enter into the calculation.  His loyalty was to his Master.

d.  Yet, There Is a Certain Pride.  It is a title, not of dishonor, but one which connects with Godly servants of old.  Many of the great patriarchs of the Old Testament called themselves servants of God.  Moses referred to himself as a servant of God.  (I Kings 8:53; Malachi 4:4)  As did Joshua (Joshua 24:29); Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deuteronomy 9:27); and Job (Job 1:8).

Q1.  What do you think was in the hearts of James, Jude, and Paul, which caused them to refer to themselves as slaves to Christ?  Should this same feeling be in our hearts, as well?  How will our actions and activities change if we see ourselves in this way?

3.  By taking the title of slave, James not only connects with the Patriarchs of old, but he connects with being submissive to the perfect will of God.  This is the only greatness to which Christians can and should aspire.

4.  Before proceeding with the rest of the James teachings, let me tell you how I see the entire book of James, particularly in view of the above remarks about being a slave. I see the book as a message of encouragement, tempered with practical advice to the church (its leaders, teachers, and members).  To that end, each of the five chapters is written to achieve a specific purpose for this target audience.  The Bible Knowledge Commentary, published by the Dallas Seminary faculty, organizes the messages in James along five major themes, consistent with the five chapters.  Notice that the five themes of the five chapters in James are all action words (I.e., standing, serving, speaking, submitting, and sharing).  We all know that living a God-pleasing life involves action.  It is not a passive, bench warming mission.  We will discuss each of these in future lessons. 

Q2.  As slaves of Christ, whom should we be serving?  And to whom should we be submitting?  (Consider what Jesus taught in Matthew 25:35-40 in your answers.)  Also, what should be our attitude, when doing the work of our Master?

5.  James is not a deep theological book; however, it has a profound meaning for all, especially for the Gentile (or non-Jewish) Christians.  James was raised as a Jew, but he became a follower of Jesus, and later a leader in the Jerusalem Church.  He presided over a meeting, where they discussed allowing Gentile Christians to become members of the church.  (Acts 15:12-19)  Knowing this gives even more meaning to the five themes of the Book of James, as noted in section 4.

Q3.  Discuss some considerations by groups you have been associated with, where the by-laws addressed who could become a member of that club or group.  Why were such rules established in the first place?  Then discuss why the remarks of James (in Acts 15:12-19), have such a profound meaning to the church today.

6.  We serve a God who welcomes all with open arms?  To the wounded and hurting, let them come in. To the discouraged and lonely, bring them into the fellowship.  To the poor and the rich alike, make them feel welcome.  May every church open doors and open arms.  Let all who are willing come into His church, and be treated as Jesus would have treated them.

7.  The Book of James is filled with simple, rich, and powerful lessons, but there were two things about the author that struck me as I studied for this series of lessons:

a.  James likely had a love for nature.  My guess is that he shared this enjoyment with his half-brother, Jesus, as they were growing up.  We see in his writing many references to nature.  For example, in James 1:6, he talks about a "wave of the sea" and "tossed by the wind".  In 1:10, he mentions a "flower of the field".  And in verse 1:11 he refers to the sun "with a burning heat" and "the flower ... and its beautiful appearance".  Other references to nature appear in chapters 3 and 5.  He may have written James while outside or near the water.  While there is no mention of this, it appears he could have been looking at the very things he is using to make his points.  We can learn so much by considering the wonders of nature.  And it is hard to understand how anyone could discount the existence of God, when they look upon the magnificence of His creation. 

Q4.  Ask the group to identify some things that God has created, which draws them closer to God.

The Sermon on the Mount appears to have had a profound impact on the teachings of James.  I say this because of the many references to the sermon in all five chapters of James.  We know that he was not a believer or follower of Jesus, at first; (John 7:5) however, it appears that James came to be a dedicated believer and follower after the crucifixion and resurrection.  (I Corinthians 15:7)  If there remained any skepticism in James before he witnessed his risen Savior, the Lord's appearing would have erased any doubts. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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