An Introduction to James (James 1:1)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

“An Introduction to James”

(James 1:1)

Series: Living the Faith [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

October 1, 2017

Greeting:

Welcome everyone to worship!  I’m so glad you’re here!

My name is Matt McCraw, I’m the pastor here at First Baptist Church, Bartow.

I’m so glad to see each and every one of you!

I want to say welcome to our first-time guests.  You can look in the bulletin and find a card there that you can fill out.  We would love to have a record of your attendance here with us and answer any questions you may have.  You can fill that out and put it in the offering plate later in the service.

I also want to say a special welcome to my family and friends that are coming out to support me this morning.  Thanks for your encouragement!

Church, I’m so glad to be with you and I’m looking forward to this morning’s worship service.

Let’s stand now as we pray and prepare to worship!

(prayer)

Introductory Comments:

Church, again, I’m so glad to be with you this morning.  It’s my absolute pleasure to be sharing the Word of God with you.

This morning we will be starting a new series from the book of James, entitled “Living the Faith.”  You’ll want to go ahead and find the book of James in your Bible; it’s found near the end of the New Testament.

Before we get into this passage I just want to thank everyone again for allowing me to be your pastor.  I’ve had a lot of conversations with folks, met community leaders, and even run into some of you at Publix this week!

I look forward to getting to know you all much, much, more.

Today, we’re going to be hearing from a leader of a church from many years ago.

Let’s turn now to the book of James.

We’re only going to read one verse today as we start our series.  I’m reading out of the Christian Standard Bible.  Look with me at James 1:1.

Read the Passage

Read James 1:1 (read in Bible)

“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ: To the twelve tribes dispersed abroad. Greetings.”

Would you pray with me now as we continue to worship together?

(Prayer)

I’d like to introduce (or reintroduce) all of us to the book of James, this morning.

As we do so, I’d like for us to first look at an . . .

I. Introduction to James the Man [on screen]

When it comes to the author of the book of James, one thing we know for sure is that it was written by James.  The question is, “Which James wrote the letter?”

There are three main Jameses in the Bible: James, the son of Alphaeus, also called “James the Less;” there is James the son of Zebedee, also the brother of John, who was one of the 12 original apostles; and finally the third James is James the half-brother of Jesus, also called “James the Just.”

Most biblical scholars agree, as do I, that the letter was written by James the half-brother of Jesus.

There are three main reasons that I believe James the brother of Jesus wrote this book:

  1. First, the book is very Jewish in nature, and James the brother of Jesus was the leader of the early Jerusalem church, which would have been a gathering of Jewish Christians.
    1. Second, James simply refers to himself as James.  The other Jameses may have needed to distinguish who they were, but James, as the leader of the early church would not have needed to do so.
    1. Finally, the early church fathers generally agreed that James the brother of Jesus was the author.

So, there you go . . . we’ve settled that 😀

So, we’ll study this letter with the understanding that James the brother of Jesus was the author.

Notice in verse 1 how James refers to himself, as “a servant of God.”

Some translations may use the words, slave, bondservant, or simply servant.

A bondservant is a servant that is purchased and owned by a master.

The idea here is that James is saying he belongs to God and to Jesus.  He is bonded or attached to them.

James is totally devoted to God and to Jesus; he belongs to them.

Church, let me charge you right now to see yourself as a servant of Jesus!  Not just a servant, but a faithful, joyful, diligent servant that belongs to Jesus!

And so he comes as a servant of Jesus; and as the leader of the Jerusalem church, he comes with the authority of his master.

Notice that although James is the brother of Jesus, he does not claim that title.  He prefers the title of servant of Jesus.

He does not boast in his blood relationship to the Savior, he takes honor in his servant devotion to the Savior.

Rather than be known as someone special, or as someone with great authority, he identifies himself as a servant.

Church, my desire is to be that kind of leader for you all.

Just as James was to the church in Jerusalem, I do, indeed, want to be a leader for you.

I want to teach you.  I want to challenge you.  I want to encourage you.  I want to love you.  I want to hold you accountable.  I want to inspire you.  I want to lead you.

More than anything, as I lead you I want to do so as a leader that is a servant of Jesus Christ!

That’s the kind of leader I want to be to you.  That’s the kind of pastor I want to be for our church.

Well, we now know a little bit about James the man, now let me give you an . . .

II. Introduction to James the Letter [on screen]

Now, let’s talk a little bit about the book of James.

James was a letter written by James (we know that much now), but to whom was it written?  Well, look at the passage again:  “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ: To the twelve tribes dispersed abroad. Greetings.”

It was written to the twelve tribes dispersed abroad.

These twelve tribes seem most naturally to refer to the 12 tribes of Israel; to the Israelites.  However, James’ letter is not addressed to just any old Israelites, but specifically to those Israelites that accepted Jesus Christ as their Messiah.

As I said earlier, it is commonly held that James was the leader of the early Jerusalem church, which would have been predominantly Jewish Christians.

Nearly 100 percent of the early Christians were all Jewish, so there would have been many of them.  James could not have personally ministered to each one, so he wrote this letter to be read and taught to the different groups of Jewish Christians that were scattered abroad.

Is everyone still with me? 😀

Most scholars date the writing of the letter to about the mid AD 40s.  So then, it is one of the earliest New Testament books that we have.

James’ primary theme throughout the letter is living out genuine faith, which is why I’ve entitled our series through the book of James, “Living the Faith.”

James is a very practical book which talks about how to really live the Christian life.

It’s so practical and instructive, that many scholars have compared James to the book of Proverbs.

Some of us like controversial topics.  Well, you won’t be disappointed with the book of James.

The book of James is not without controversy from some throughout history, mostly because some have misunderstood James’ discussion about faith and works, particularly as compared to Paul’s view of faith and works.

Indeed, Martin Luther called the book of James, “a right strawy epistle.”  Basically, Luther didn’t hold the book of James as valuable as some of the other biblical books.

Now, we at First Baptist Church of Bartow believe that all Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable, so we look forward to studying the book of James and discovering its value for us.

In time, we will talk more about James’ view of faith and works and how it compares to Paul’s view of faith and works.

So, James is seeking to speak to those who have put their faith in Jesus, concerning how they can really live out their faith.

Let me ask you something, church, although this letter was written nearly 2,000 years ago, does it bear importance for us today at First Baptist Church of Bartow?  (You Betcha!). Well, let’s talk about that for a minute.

Let us now answer the question . . .

III. Why does this matter for me today? [on screen]

First of all, the book of James matters for us because it is the very Word of God!

James was given to us by the Holy Spirit of God, not just for the church at Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago, but also for the First Baptist Church at Bartow in 2017!

Secondly, on a practical level, we need to know how to live as Christians!

Illustration: My son Levi is learning to walk right now, and we are trying as best as we can to teach him.  We’re not leaving him to himself to figure it out.  We are helping him along!

In the same manner, God’s Word is there for our benefit; for us to know about God and know about ourselves and know how we relate to God!

James, in particular, is explicitly practical in nature, proving very valuable to us as believers in knowing how to live as followers of Jesus.

Finally, I believe that there is an issue that is prevalent among some churches today.

I’ve seen this problem in churches where I have served, and I have even fallen victim to this problem before.

The problem is that many of us know the content of the Bible backward and forwards, but we don’t live it out.

We can name all the books of the Bible, recite verses, answer Bible trivia, and all the rest; but we don’t know how to love our neighbor, and we don’t forgive those who have offended us, and we don’t share the gospel, and we don’t treasure the things of God, and so on.

I am guilty of this so often.

Story: Just yesterday some of our youth and some of our men gathered to help clear logs and limbs from a church member’s home.  I was able to gather with them and see them living out their faith.  They put their faith into action!  That is what James calls us to do!

Folks, I want to love God with more than just my mind.  I want to love him with my heart, soul, and strength as well.  I want to love Him with everything that I have!  And I want to live a life that shows that I am in love with Him and I am a servant devoted to Him!

This is is why James matters for us today.

Concluding Thoughts:

The book of James calls us to examine our lives to see if we are “living the faith.”  I want to ask you to join me in letting the Word of God examine our lives, as individuals and as a church body.

I want to commit to you to be a pastor that leads you as a servant of God, and as a pastor who will preach the Word of God to you as faithfully as I know how.  I won’t be perfect, but by God’s grace, I’ll do my best to be faithful to you and faithful to God.

Let me challenge you now to make these four commitments this week.

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Make a commitment to open yourself to the Word of God. [on screen]
  1. Make a commitment to pray for yourself. [on screen]
  1. Make a commitment to pray for your pastor. [on screen]
  1. Make a commitment to pray for your church. [on screen]

Closing:

As we close, I want to invite all of you here to submit yourself to God as James did, as a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

For some of you, that means recommitting yourself this day to serve Jesus with all that you have.

For others in here, that may mean that you need to give yourself to Jesus for the very first time.

(Gospel Presentation)

(Closing Prayer)

Benediction:

Join us tonight for evening worship at 5:30 PM as we look at 1 Thessalonians 1.

One quick word, we will have Wednesday meal this week at 5:15.  We will have Publix sandwiches.  So, come on out and join me at 5:15 on Wednesday as well.

As we close today, I’d like to close by singing the doxology song.  I’m sure you know it, but we have the words on the screen just in case.

Let’s just sing it a cappella.

(Sing Doxology – a cappella)

Thanks so much church.  God bless you.  I’ll see you later.

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