- James to the Twelve Tribes (1:1)
SYNOPSIS. James [actually “Jacob” in Greek, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus], a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ [Note, though he was half-brother to the Lord, he called himself a slave. Since he was a slave to God, he was also a slave to Christ because Christ is inseparable from God.], to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad [Jews in the Diaspora, living outside Israel]: Greetings.
Notice the author. His name is James, which was “Jacob” in the Jewish language; and he is sometimes referred to as “James the Just,” not the apostle but the half-brother of the Lord. He does not pride himself in his relation to Jesus, for he rejected Him during His life. Rather, he rejoices in the more significant relationship which he had to the risen Christ.
He was a slave of both God and the Lord Jesus Christ. He did not forsake his Jewish appreciation of monotheism and Yahweh’s supremacy, but he did embrace the equal claims of Christ as God and thus bowed to His authority. He realized that it was not God or Jesus Christ but God and the Lord Jesus Christ; He only knew God truly inasmuch as he accepted Christ’s lordship and deity.
Notice the audience. James’ audience was Jews of the Diaspora, that is, Jews who were scattered throughout the world for various reason, primarily as a result of being displaced from their land in the Captivity of the fifth and sixth centuries B.C. Though Israel was scattered, James was still confident that all twelve tribes existed as a testament of God’s faithfulness to national Israel. In this group were primarily saved individuals, though the letter may have passed into the hands of Jews that passively considered Christianity. To this latter group he offers a few challenges to their sincerity and urges them to commit to true religion.
Because of its Jewish audience, James is a book with much emphasis on good works. He is not advocating a works-based salvation. Rather, he is combating the pendulum swing of Jewish Christians coming out of legalism but abusing the grace of Christ as an excuse for levity, laxity, and lawlessness. So, he urges these people to remember that God is the same as He has always been, and He still requires full obedience to an absolute standard.