James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings. My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
James continues his letter with a greeting to the twelve tribes scattered abroad. The word used for greeting carries an additional meaning. It doesn’t just mean “hello,” but rather “hello and be filled with all joy.” Joy because of our salvation, joy because through Jesus and our faith in Him we have become children of God and joint-heirs with Christ. And joy because no matter what happens to us in this world we will spend eternity with Christ. Most importantly, we need to understand this is a supernatural joy. It’s not a joy which comes from us, nor the fallen world we live in. Rather, it comes from God, as one of the many gifts of our salvation, which has been given to us, through the mercy and grace of God. Moreover, not only has Jesus promised us this, but He has also guaranteed it to us, with His resurrection. The resurrection of Christ, is the proof of our redemption, and His guarantee to us is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit who takes up residence in every believer who places their faith in Christ alone for salvation. The Holy Spirit is our assurance and our proof that we will see Jesus face to face.
That no matter what happens to us in this fallen world our eternity is secure in the arms of Christ and we will spend eternity with Him. And until we go home to be with the Lord, the Holy Spirit will remain with us, to guide us and carry on His work of sanctification in our lives. Sanctification is God’s process of spiritual growth carried out in the lives of every believer through the work of the Holy Spirit who indwells us. Moreover, the process of sanctification can be either accelerated or hindered by our love for the Lord, our study of scripture and our submission to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our day to day lives. Lastly, the phrase, “twelve tribes scattered abroad”, was a reference to the entire nation of believing Israel. These were Jewish believers living in all corners of the world. Those who were scattered by the expulsion of the Assyrians and Babylonians as well as those who were recently scattered by the martyrdom of Stephen. And even more recently by the persecution started by Herod Agrippa I, which was related to the martyrdom of Stephen. This happened around 31-34 A.D. and we can read about it in the book of Acts, chapter seven. James is speaking to those Jewish believers who have been scattered abroad because of the persecution against Christians. God in turn used this to spread the Gospel of Christ outside Israel to the surrounding nations.