On the Feast of St. James today, we read a devotion from James: The Apostle of Faith.
It is not difficult to construct the personal characteristics of James. He was jealous and envious of others’ successes (John 7:3–5), as is not uncommon with the second-born in families. His organizational ability was recognized in his promotion to the supervision of the early church. He was conversant in Jewish theology and Old Testament literature and wrote some of the best Greek style in the New Testament. He shared a world view identical to that of Jesus, as he also was brought up in the synagogue of Nazareth. . . .
By the time James wrote [his epistle] . . . , James’s sibling jealousy and doubting skepticism that caused him to question and even reject the Messianic credentials of his Brother had been replaced by a thoroughly integrated and rare blend of authority and humility. He could call himself simply James without further identification because he knew that the church was aware of who he was and of his authority. No trace of the lavish self-praise of his apostolic office so common to apocryphal writing can be found. Instead he could call himself a servant or a slave, doulos. James would have had every right to append to his name the titles of apostle and brother of the Lord, titles of high importance used of him by others. His previous lack of enthusiasm for his Brother’s cause directed him to a self-effacing attitude. He had not accepted the Messianic claims of Jesus before the crucifixion, as did the original 12 disciples. James, a brother according to the flesh, had refused the first invitations of Jesus to become His brother according to the faith. His self-awareness of his own authority, position, and importance was tempered by his own penitent feelings for having rejected Jesus when others, who did not have that personal association with Jesus, were committing their lives to Him. . . .
The servant concept of self-sacrifice was foremost in the mind of Jesus as He spoke about His atonement (Matt. 20:20–28). For Jesus to be a servant meant giving His life as ransom for the sins of many (v. 28). This self-abjection practiced by Jesus is required of all those who attach themselves to Him to share in the benefits of that atonement. “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (v. 26). This was a theme developed by Isaiah. Paul sees the servant posture adopted by Christ as being required of all Christians (Phil. 2:5, 7). James called himself a servant not only because of a keen awareness of the prophetlike authority belonging to him, but also because he is aware of the self-degrading attitude in which his Brother offered the atonement. James is now not only one who has accepted the results of the atonement by faith, but one who with Jesus has assumed the servant position.
Heavenly Father, shepherd of Your people, You raised up James the Just, brother of our Lord, to lead and guide Your Church. Grant that we may follow his example of prayer and reconciliation and be strengthened by the witness of his death; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Devotional reading is from James: The Apostle of Faith, pages 25–27 © 1983 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Prayer is from The Pastor at Prayer, page 267. This edition © 2014 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.