Calvary Road Baptist Church

“POINT OF AGREEMENT”

James 1.1

I feel compelled to share something with you folks this morning on our way to the message from God’s Word. I have a serious problem . . . and my problem is with television preachers. Not every single television preacher, mind you, but almost every single man and every single woman who poses as a preacher of the Word of God on television, does something which sticks in my craw so badly I just cannot swallow. No. On second thought, it is every single living television preacher. Let me rephrase that. It is what they do not do that really grieves me. What those on television do not do is preach the whole counsel of the Word of God. Actually, the fact that they are on television almost demands that they stop short of the whole counsel of God’s Word. They must conform the length of the sermon to the airtime that has been paid for, and they must soften the thrust of the sermon to keep their contributions coming in.

What is the key area that these folks fall short in? In a word, it is Bible doctrine. Early on in my Christian life, I heard one notable television preacher actually brag about not preaching doctrine. He said, and I quote, “I will not preach doctrine. Doctrine divides.” His name was Rex Humbard, and he preached from the Cathedral of Tomorrow in Akron, Ohio. Want to know something? He was right! Doctrine does divide. It divides that which is right from that which is wrong, that which is of the light from that which is of darkness, that which is of God from that which is of the Devil. Of course, doctrine divides. Doctrine is supposed to divide! Precisely because doctrine divides, it is not preached on television. Precisely because doctrine divides, it is not often preached in most churches in the modern United States of America. You know what doctrine really is? It is teaching. It is truth. Jesus once said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” John 8.32. Therefore, is doctrine important? Heavens, yes. By the preaching of Bible doctrine, we learn the truths of God’s Word, which set us free.

This morning my text is James 1.1. Please locate that verse in your Bible. Since this letter written by James was quite probably the first of the New Testament books to be written, it sets the tenor for all New Testament teaching. James establishes, in written form, the truth around which Christianity has rallied since the undeniable and irrefutable resurrection of Jesus Christ took place. Therefore, it is quite appropriate that this letter begins with the basic Christian doctrine; the fundamental point of agreement. Though this point of agreement is always denied by the cultist, and though this point of agreement is typically not strongly put forth by those who “minister the Word” on television, the fundamental point of agreement for genuine Bible Christianity is the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. That Jesus Christ is God cannot be disputed by those who are partakers of the divine nature, who have truly repented of their sins, who have been born again by the power of Almighty God. When the deity of Jesus Christ is disputed, it is only disputed by those who are not Christians in the Bible sense of Christianity.

My text being only one verse, but what is probably the first New Testament verse to be written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, supplies three references which makes the assertion of Christ’s deity by believers undeniable. James 1.1: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.”

First, THERE IS THE REFERENCE TO THE AUTHOR

Recognize that the Holy Spirit is the divine Author of scripture, Second Timothy 3.16: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Therefore, there are three things about the human instrument the Spirit of God used to communicate this inspired book that must be noted to properly grasp his importance:

First, there is his identity. We have two Biblical clues concerning our human author’s identity. There is the clue of his name and the clue of his kinship: First, we examine the clue of his name. There are numerous Bible references to men named James in the New Testament.[1] Of those references, I am convinced, and most conservative scholars are agreed, only three different men are being referred to. Of the three, two were apostles of Jesus Christ. One was slain by Herod, who had been with John and Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration, and the other James, the son of Alphaeus identified in Acts 1.13, is not mentioned after the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. The third James, the man the Holy Spirit used as a human instrument to write this letter, was the senior pastor of the church at Jerusalem, and is seen presiding over church business in Acts 15.13, where we read, “And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me.” This James was a prominent leader in early Christianity. Next, we move on to the clue of his kinship. Who was this man related to? Turn to Galatians 1.18-19, where the Apostle Paul writes,

18     Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.

19     But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.

According to the Apostle Paul, our man is identified as the brother of the Lord Jesus Christ. How could that be? Our Lord Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, was He not? Matthew 13.54-58 clears up the picture:

54     And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?

55     Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?

56     And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?

57     And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.

58     And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

Matthew clearly shows the Lord Jesus Christ had at least four half brothers and two half sisters. However, this causes no problem for the Bible believer. The simple explanation is that Mary was indeed a virgin at the time of Christ’s conception, and until the Savior was born in Bethlehem. There is absolutely no theological necessity for Mary remaining a virgin throughout the course of her married life. She and Joseph, in all respects, were a normal married couple after the birth of her first child, the eternal Son of the living God who became a man. After Christ’s birth, along with other children, James was conceived and born. Thus, with the same mother and a natural father, James was the half brother of the Lord Jesus Christ. What a perspective he had concerning the deity of Jesus Christ.

A second fact necessary to understand the importance of James is his insight. Remember, this James grew up with a sinless older brother. He was a firsthand witness to the Son of God’s growth as He increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man, Luke 2.52. This James saw the time come when the Lord Jesus Christ left home and began His earthly ministry. More than other men on earth at that time, James had insight from personal observation and divine revelation into both Who and what the Lord Jesus Christ was. His observations and his statements, then, are of critical importance, though we recognize that his conversion and the opening of his spiritual eyes to the truth about his elder half brother did not take place until after Christ’s resurrection from the dead. It was then that the greatest skeptic of history became the most prominent pastor of the church at Jerusalem. What was the basis of his conversion? It was the undeniable resurrection of Jesus Christ. Call it insight if you want, but his was an insight that resulted from conversion.

Finally, there was his influence. As mentioned, James was the most visible leader of the first and greatest church of that day. From the important church meeting called to settle the most pressing issue Christianity had to that time faced, you see in Acts chapter 15 that it was this James who presided over that meeting, which included the apostles. It was not Peter who presided, or Paul. The man who presided was James. Additionally, he was an extremely good example of God’s grace in a man’s life. His reputation as a godly man of prayer was known all over the world and disputed by no one. Thirdly, he was, as I have mentioned before, the writer of the first New Testament letter to be inspired of the Holy Ghost.[2] Finally, he was influential as a man whose name was instantly recognizable throughout Christendom. What does all this tell us? It tells us that we are dealing with an author whose words must be listened to. How dare anyone be so foolish as to ignore or overlook what James has to say about God and about the Lord Jesus Christ.

Second, THE REFERENCE TO THOSE ADDRESSED

Three things about those James writes to:

Notice, first, their genealogy. James called them “the twelve tribes.” You know what that proves? It proves, contrary to the assertions of so-called British-Israelites, of which was the late Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, the founder of the Worldwide Church of God in Pasadena, CA, that there were no lost ten tribes of Israel. The Mormons are also wrong on that one, claiming that Native Americans comprise the lost tribes of Israel. Only, the tribes of Israel have never been lost. It also proves that this letter was addressed to Jewish people, that this letter was not actually addressed to all Christians everywhere, but was specifically addressed, like the epistle to the Hebrews and the epistles of First and Second Peter, to Jewish Christians. Finally, the genealogy supports the contention that this was the first New Testament book written, since in the early days of Christianity almost all believers were Jewish Christians.

Next, notice their geography. They were “scattered abroad.” Jewish people had a history of being scattered. As a matter of fact, what they were called in exile, the Diaspora, means scattered abroad and is the very word James uses here.[3] First, of course, there was the Assyrian captivity, when, after the split of Israel into northern and southern kingdoms, the northern kingdom was overwhelmed and carried away by Assyria. Second, there was the Babylonian captivity. In that dispersion the kingdom of Judah, the southern kingdom, was carried off by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar and then allowed by the Persians to return seventy years later. There were a number of lesser dispersions, but the final great dispersion of the Jewish people occurred in 70 AD and continues to this day. In this dispersion, the Roman Empire sacked Jerusalem and burned the city. It is claimed by some archaeologists that the plunder from the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem provided the resources for the construction of the Coliseum in Rome. I think the timing of both events supports that view.[4] However, James is not here referring to any of these Jewish dispersions. He is referring to the Jewish Christian dispersion mentioned in Acts 8.1 and 11.19-20:

8.1        And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

11.19    Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.

20         And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.

The dispersion described in the passages I have just read was brought on by the persecution of Jewish believers for their faith in Christ. Saul of Tarsus, later known as the Apostle Paul, figured prominently in fueling that persecution which led to this dispersion. Therefore, the people James is writing to are likely former Jerusalem church members who have fled persecution and who were providentially scattered by God to spread the gospel as they went.

Third, notice their greeting. He writes “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.” This greeting shows friendship. He is not writing to people he does not know. He writes to former church members. These were beloved brothers and sisters in Christ to whom he has taught and preached God’s Word. This greeting also shows goodwill. He is not angry with them. He has fond feelings for them. These people are fellow believers in Jesus Christ. However, there is something unusual in his greeting, especially since he is a Jewish Christian. He does not wish them peace, which would be shalom. Paul opens every one of his letters to individuals and churches with a wish for both grace and peace.

Finally, THE REFERENCE TO THE AGREEMENT

Read that first phrase again. “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The one who serves is James, the Greek word for servant being doulos, a slave. James is a slave without chains who has the liberty to serve. James is a slave who gives obedience. He is constrained to serve his master.

The question is who is James’ master? Who is the one who is served? This brings us to the problem of James’ grammar. How many of this man were there? It is quite obvious that we are talking about one man. However, James indicates that he is servant, the slave if you will, of both God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet James’ grammar is clear. It does indicate that he is the bond slave of both God and the Lord Jesus. That is what he intended to communicate. As well, keep in mind that James’ use of the word kurios, translated lord in this verse, “is frequent in the LXX for Elohim and Jahweh.”[5] Thus, James refers to God the Father using the Greek word theos, but also refers to Jesus using the word lord, kurios, which is an appellation of deity.[6] What can James mean by this? Can you imagine how offensive James’ statement would be to an unconverted Jew, rightly determined as he was to insist that there is only one true and living God? I beg for patience, for a few moments. Do you remember the principle of one master? I am sure James was aware, as were all Christians of his day, of the lesson the Lord Jesus taught during His earthly ministry about the impossibility of serving two masters. The principle Jesus stated in Matthew 6.24 reads this way, and I quote: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.” It seems as though we have a paradox here. On one hand, James seems to tell us that he serves two masters. However, one of the masters he claims to serve said that it is impossible to serve two masters. Either there is an error on the part of James, or the Lord Jesus Christ, thereby indicating to us that scripture cannot be trusted. Or something else entirely is afoot. Since I reject the notion that scripture is in error, the only alternative in light of this paradox we are confronted with is this: The Fundamental Point Of Agreement Among Christians, that God and Jesus Christ are of one essence, though they are clearly shown in scripture to be two distinct Persons. James in no way challenges the truth of Deuteronomy 6.4: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.” He was in perfect agreement with Paul in First Corinthians 8.4 (“We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.) and First Timothy 2.5 (“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”). There is only one true and living God, the God of Israel, the God who has revealed Himself in nature and who has more fully revealed Himself in scripture. However, that one God exists as three Divine Persons, God the Father being the First Person, Jesus Christ being the Second Person, and the Holy Spirit being the Third Person. Three Divine Persons, yet one God, the Trinity.

My friend, there are other passages of scripture which deal with the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ that I could have brought to your attention. Perhaps you are already familiar with some of them. However, we see from this passage that the fundamental point of agreement, from the earliest days of New Testament scripture writing, is the reality that Jesus Christ is God!

Think about it. Jesus and God are of the same essence and likeness. He is not just the Son of God. He is God, the Son! Do you realize that today? Do you realize that God the Son died for your sins on the cross of Calvary? Do you realize that it is God you are called to serve? I hope you do. As well, do you realize that to be a real Christian is to be His real servant? James could have referred to himself using many appellations; pastor, prominent person, brother of the Messiah, or something else I cannot imagine. However, he chose to describe himself using the word servant. What appellation did he deem by inspiration of the Holy Spirit to be most appropriate? Servant. Slave! What do we know about slaves? They do not worry about their raiment; they just do their master’s will. They do not concern themselves over housing, they just do their master’s will. They do not worry about anything, except doing their master’s will.

You say you agree that Jesus Christ is God, that you also agree on this fundamental truth of Bible Christianity. Are you also willing to describe yourself as His servant, with all its implications? Are you willing to content yourself with serving Him and letting Him concern Himself with meeting your needs?



[1] Matthew 4.21; 10.2-3; 13.55; 17.1; 27.56; Mark 1.19, 29; 3.17-18; 5.37; 6.3; 9.2; 10.35, 41; 13.3; 14.33; 15.40; Luke 5.10; 6.14-16; 8.51; 9.28, 54; 24.10; Acts 1.13; 12.2, 17; 15.13; 21.18; 1 Corinthians 15.7; Galatians 1.19; 2.9, 12; James 1.1; Jude 1

[2] It is suggested this epistle may have been written in the 40s by G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary On The New Testament Use Of The Old Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), page 998, while 40-50 A.D. is the estimation of Joseph B. Mayer, The Epistle Of James, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1990), page 168.

[3] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 721.

[4] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOylD1KC6kc

[5] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol VI, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1933), page 10.

[6] “That THEOS is used here for the Father is evident 2 Pet. i.2,” Mayer, page 339.



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org