Summary: How do you know for sure that the Bible is reliable? How can I be sure that what I believe is really true? This message summarizes some of the most compelling evidence.
James the Slave
Suffering, Tests, and Temptation
James 1:1 8-17-2014
James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.
Today we begin a study of the book of James, which is a letter that was intended to be read to the whole church, and passed along from church to church. Letters like that were called Epistles. And you can tell James was meant to be an Epistle by the opening greeting, where he addresses the letter not to an individual or even to a specific church, but to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.
Another thing you pick up from James’ greeting is that he is not the type to beat around the bush. It is one of the shortest opening greetings in the New Testament – he just states who he is, who he is writing to, and then a one-word greeting, and then he immediately dives in to his first point. But as short as verse 1 is, what he says is very important. I want to spend all our time today just on verse 1 because I think if we take a careful look at it, it will really help you deal with doubt in your life. I will explain how that is in a minute, but first we need to look into the question of who this Epistle is written to so that we know how much of this book actually applies to us.
Is James for Us?
The book is addressed to Jewish Christians – to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.
That phrase scattered among the nations in the NIV, or literally to the twelve tribes in the dispersion – that refers to the Jews living outside Israel. So the book of James is addressed to Jewish Christians who are scattered around the Gentile world.
So what does that mean for us? Why would James address this book specifically to Jewish Christians? Why not all Christians? Is it because God has a different message for Jewish Christians than He does for Gentile Christians? There are some who teach that. One of the big theological debates out there is the debate between Dispensationalism vs. Covenant Theology. The Dispensationalists are the people who tend to emphasize the differences between Israel and the Church. And they see a huge change between Old Testament and New Testament. The other side emphasizes the unity of Jews and Gentiles in the church, and they emphasize the similarities between Old Testament and New Testament. So you can see, Dispensationalism is not a very helpful word because there are a thousand different places you could fall on that continuum. The people who are the farthest out in the extremes of Dispensationalism are the ones who teach that there are actually two different gospels – one for the Jew and a different one for the Gentile. People like John Hagee preach this. When they see that Paul was known as the Apostle to the Gentiles and Peter was the Apostle to the Jews, they figure that must mean those two men preached two different messages. So usually what they say is all the hard things, like repentance and obeying God and following Christ – that is for the Jews. And salvation through grace through faith – that is for Gentiles.
There are a couple problems with that view. First, in Galatians 1:8 Paul said that if anyone preaches another gospel other than the one Paul preached, let him be condemned to hell. There are not two gospels. There is the one true gospel, and every other gospel is a false gospel.
Secondly, if you actually read Paul’s teaching and the teachings of James and Jesus and Peter and John, you find they all teach the same message. The idea that Paul taught grace and faith (but not repentance or obedience or law), and Jesus and James and Peter taught repentance and law and obedience (but not grace and faith) just does not hold up. Jesus taught salvation through grace alone (Lk.18:12-14). So did James and Peter and John (Jas.2:1, 1 Pe.1:1-5, 1 Jn.5:1). And Paul taught repentance (Acts 17:30) for both Jew and Gentile (Acts 20:21), and that true faith will obey the commands of God (1 Cor.13:2), and that we are not free from the law of Christ (1 Cor.9:21). There is only one message for all believers. Only one message - which means the entire New Testament applies to every believer. It is not just Jewish Christians who need to consider it pure joy when we face trials, and control our tongue and have humility and all the rest of the things he teaches in this book. It is for all of us. And you can tell that because the reasons he gives for all the commands in the book apply to any believer – Jew or Gentile. James gives reasons for his commands, and the logic of those reasons applies to all believers.