James 1:1 (NCV): “From James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. To all of God’s people who are scattered everywhere in the world: Greetings.”
2 Cor. 2:14 (ESV): “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” (cf. Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:8)
Col. 1:28 (NLT): So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ.
LIVING OUT OUR FAITH
You say you are saved?
Wonderful! Praise God!
What have you done about it?
When we read the Epistle of James, we start with an amazing proclamation in the very first verse, a proclamation so stark we’re compelled to stop right there and meditate on its significance.
James proclaims himself to be the “servant,” or, depending on your translation, the “bond-servant” or “slave,” of Jesus Christ. James is the half-brother of Jesus, a sibling whom Scripture relates not only disbelieved in the Lordship of Jesus but also mocked Him during His public ministry.
Last time, we discussed the significance of James’ coming to faith. This conversion was sparked no doubt by the meeting mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:7, when Jesus “appeared” before James. This was after Jesus was crucified, pronounced dead, buried, and then rose from the dead.
This time, we want to focus on the second part of James 1:1 — what James did after Jesus as Lord intervened in his life.
As we look at James, we need to keep this question in mind: So what? What are we doing after the Lord’s intervention in our lives?
PAYING WITH HIS LIFE
WE’RE TOLD FROM the Bible and other writings that James rose to become the leader of the Jewish believers living in Jerusalem and later suffered a horrific martyrs’ death for his faith.
We read in Acts 15 that it was James who lent the authority of his family ties with Jesus to recognize that God in His mercy had extended salvation through Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.
The apostles Paul and Barnabas had recounted their evangelism to the Gentiles before the Jewish believers meeting in Jerusalem. The council was debating whether Gentiles needed to become Jews before they could be saved or whether they could pass directly from being heathens to salvation.
Luke records the meeting this way (ESV): “After they finished speaking, James replied, ‘Brothers, listen to me. … Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God.’” (Acts 15:13, 19)
That settled the matter for “the brothers, both the apostles and the elders” who then conveyed that message to their Gentile brothers. (v. 23)
FOLLOWING GOD’S PLAN
NOW THAT YOU received God’s Holy Spirit into your heart, what does God expect you to do with it?
We can see what James felt called to do. Here, he is writing a short letter filled with advice and directives on how a new believer should act. Yes, in the Jewish tradition, he focuses on the law and actions, but he ties them in to faith and conversion.
“You say you have faith?” he asks. “Well, show me your faith by your actions. Don’t just tell me about your good works. Show me.” (James 2:18 editor’s trans.)
Whereas Paul’s letters focused on creed, James was concerned with conduct. Paul wrote about belief; James, about behavior; Paul was doctrine, James was deed. The two narrative styles complement one another.
Of the 108 verses in James, 54 contain a directive on conduct.
Commentators note parallels between his writings and the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount.
BECOMING FISHERS OF MEN
SO WE ARE TO BE mindful of the evangelizing function, referenced in the Great Commission, among other teaching.
Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt. 4:19 NKJV)
If you’re not sharing the Gospel, you’re not being obedient.
2 Cor. 9:13 (NCV): “It is a proof of your faith. Many people will praise God because you obey the Good News of Christ—the gospel you say you believe—and because you freely share with them and with all others.”
How do you share the Gospel?
LETTING OUR LIGHT SHINE BEFORE MEN
JESUS TELLS US in Matt. 5:16 (NIV) to let our “light shine before others” that they may see our good works, or our good deeds, “and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Isn’t this what James said by matching our deeds with our faith?
This means acting according to the commandments our Lord gave us: to love one other, to forgive, to serve, to show compassion, to respect, to honor, to refrain from coveting, greed, envy, jealousy, anger, hatred, violence.
Then, when we are given the opportunity, as Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:15 (NLT), to explain our “hope as a believer,” we should “be ready to explain it.”
In his book, Talking With My Father, the late evangelical pastor and author Ray C. Stedman, says it this way:
[Lord] Keep us from being ineffective, ordinary Christians. Challenge us to be true followers of you, ready to fling our lives away for Jesus Christ, ready to be utterly careless of what happens to us in order that He may be glorified. We pray in His name. Amen
—Ray C. Stedman, Talking With My Father
THESE ARE THE questions each of us must answer:
- Do you know the risen Lord?
- Do you worship Him in the way you live your life?
- Are you ready to explain the hope and joy in your heart?
- Can you show how the Lord’s message of salvation is important for you and can be for your audience?
- Are you prepared to share the Gospel?
OUR HEAVENLY FATHER, we humbly ask You to guide us as we strive to honor You in our lives. Grow within us a softer heart, one more gracious, more compassionate; more giving; a heart that does not puff up but pours out, one that does not expect but serves; one that shows we are loved by the King. O LORD, our God, to You belong all the Praise, Honor, and Glory. In the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior, we pray. AMEN