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 in the first verse of this epistle calls himself a bond-servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Greek word used here is “doulos” or a “slave.” So James, who was the half-brother of Jesus and the leader of the Jerusalem church, who many claim was appointed the Bishop of the Jerusalem church by Jesus Himself and the other apostles, is calling himself a slave to the Lord. He is telling us and his audience, that he is not only a slave, but the lowest form of a slave, a bond-servant. Like many do today, James could have started his letter with his long list of accolades. His impressive list of credentials, but he doesn’t! Instead, he introduces himself as a “doulos” to the Lord Jesus Christ. A doulos was a bond-slave who belonged to their master, they were their master’s property. When a slave was set free, they could if they chose to, willingly commit their lives to the master. If they loved their master that much, they could agree to give up their life, their rights and everything they owned to be a lifelong slave to their master. The person doing this would become the property of their master to do his will and his bidding for the rest of their lives. This is important for us to consider because many people today would have us believe this does not mean slave. That somehow this word means we can give our lives to our master and take it back whenever we want. That as Christians, we can do as we please in this world and the truth is, that is just not the reality of our salvation.
That is not what God intends and not the message James wanted to convey to his readers. What James is telling us is that he willingly gave up his life to Jesus, he willingly became a bond-servant of Christ. That his love for the Lord is so great, he has willingly with joy forfeited his life to serve his Master and King, who is Christ Jesus our Lord. This is so very important for us to understand because when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior this is what we are saying to God. We are giving our lives over to Jesus and with all of our heart agreeing to become His bond-servant. To do His will, not ours! We are saying to Jesus, “You Lord are Master of my life come in, take all that I have and make my life yours.” This is why Paul tells us in his first letter to the Corinthian church, “that we have been bought with a price. We are no longer ours, but the Lords.” Jesus purchased freedom for us with His blood, which He willingly shed for us at the Cross of Calvary. And when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we give our life over to Him. Jesus becomes our Master and we are the bond-servants of His kingdom. In addition, this shows us the heart of James. Because of the grace that was shown to him by God through Christ, James has been changed by the Holy Spirit. He now has a heart for God, a heart for Jesus, a heart for the lost and for his fellow believers. What James has shown us here in these opening verses is that he has died to self, in order that he could live for Christ and be effective for the kingdom of God.