James 1:1 “James the servant of God and of The Lord Jesus Christ to the Twelve Tribes in the Dispersion. Greetings.”
Although Paul encourages the young pastor Timothy that “All Scripture is God breathed,” we don’t always act as if that is true when it comes to the introductions and conclusions to the New Testament epistles. Here James’ words are easy to pass over, but we do so at the peril of losing some precious truth.
We learn from this verse who has written the epistle and to whom he is writing. However, what looks simple on the surface is more complicated when we look into it. We know the book is written by James, but which James? The simple moniker “James, the servant of God and The Lord Jesus Christ” presumes that the original audience would have known who he was. Most scholars for the past two thousand years have narrowed who this James is down to three people. James the Just, the brother of Jesus, James the son of Zebedee and James the son of Alphaeus. James the son of Alphaeus we know was martyred early in the church’s history, and so it is unlikely he wrote it. We know so little of the son of Alphaeus that it is hard to imagine that he would have signed his name without saying that he was the son of Alphaeus just for clarification. That leaves the brother of our Lord.
But why, then, doesn’t he sign the letter “James, the brother of Jesus?” I think this says something deep and profound about the character of James as it had been formed under the Gospel. To be able to claim a real and familial connection to Jesus would have instantly given James credibility before his hearers. However, James knew what kind of brother he’d been to Jesus (Mark 3:21, John 7:1-5), refusing to believe in Him until after he’d seen Him risen from the dead. He would not take advantage of what was actually to his shame.
Rather, James has only this to boast in, that He is a slave to Christ. He has been bought by the blood of Christ. The Lord Jesus now owns him and has total authority over his life. This is all of James’ glory, power, and authority.
Do we see ourselves as James did? Or do we cling to our titles, our boasts, our accomplishments, our connections? Can we truly say that we boast in nothing but the cross of Christ? Then let us find our boast only in this, that Jesus owns us and we live to do His bidding.