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"From Brother to Bondservant"
James 1:1; Introduction
Sunday School Youth Group Study Notes
January 20, 2008
Theme: The introduction to James' New Testament book points to the resurrection of Jesus.
(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)
a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad:
Greetings (James 1:1).
The Book of James is one of the most practical books in all the New Testament. It was written by a man who was the pastor of the first Christian church in all of history—the church in Jerusalem. Most Bible scholars believe that it was the first of the New Testament books to be written—probably somewhere between 45 and 50 A.D.
I. WHO WROTE THIS BOOK?
A. It was written by a man named James (Duh!!). But there are four of them. Which one wrote it?
1. The first one was one of the brother of the apostle John; but since he was killed in 44 AD (Acts 12:2), he probably couldn't have written it. The other two "Jameses" in the Bible didn't have the sort of authority that the writer of this book seems to have (Luke 6:15-16).
2. The most likely candidate is the fourth "James". He was the "half-brother" of the Lord Jesus. Jesus was born of Mary only, and had God as His Father. But James had Mary as his mother, and Joseph as his father (Matthew 13:55-56).
B. Here are some amazing facts:
1. At first, James and the other half-brothers of Jesus didn't believe in Him (John 7:3-5).
2. But after Jesus died on the cross and ascended to heaven, James was found among those who believed on Him (Acts 1:12-14). Later on, James became an important authority in the church (Galatians 1:18-19), and was even the pastor of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 12:17; 15:13-21; 21:18).
3. At the beginning of this letter, James calls himself the "bondservant" of Jesus Christ; and even puts Jesus in the same category as God. Think about it: Do you have a brother? Would you ever be willing to say that you were your brother's "bondservant"? Would you ever call him "God"?
C. What happened to change James from "brother" to "bondservant"? What did he see that suddenly changed him from a "disbeliever" into a "disciple"? It was that he saw Jesus—his 'half-brother' who claimed to be God in human flesh, who died on the cross, and then was said to have been resurrected—alive after the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-7; especially verse 7). Just the first few words of this little New Testment book alone give us evidence that Jesus Christ rose from the dead; and that what the apostles said about Him is true!
II. WHO DID HE WRITE THIS BOOK TO?
A. He said it was waritten to "the twelve tribes". He is referring to the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 35:22-26); and so, the people that he was writing to were Jewish. (By the way: There is nothing about Christianity that is against the Jewish people. The earliest Christians were Jewish. The apostles were all Jewish. Even Jesus Himself was Jewish.)
B. But James also calls them the twelve tribes "which are scattered abroad" or who are "dispersed abroad" (New American Standard Bible); so he's writing to Jewish people who are not in Jerusalem. These are Jewish people who believed on Jesus; but who, because of their faith in Him, had to flee from Jerusalem because of persecution. They lived in other parts of the world.
III. WHAT IS HIS BOOK ABOUT?
A. James wrote to these Jewish Christians to encourage them, and to teach them how to live faithfully for Jesus during the hard-times of life. It deals with just about every problem you can face in life; and it tells you what to do to solve your problems through faith in Jesus.
B. One of the amazing things about the Book of James is how much it points back to the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on The Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:28). Get to know the Sermon on the Mount, and you'll know a lot of the background for the things that James teaches. It's the "How To" book for The Sermon on The Mount.
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WHAT TO DO THIS WEEK:
Try reading through the book of James this week—perhaps one chapter a day.
(There's only five chapters; so you can break it up a little bit if you need to.)
And don't forget to pray before you read, and ask God to teach you from it how to live for Him!
WHAT WE'LL TALK ABOUT NEXT SUNDAY:
How to Handle Life's Trials (James 1:2-4)
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