Looking at the Greeting in James 1

Bible Book: James  1 : 1
Subject: James, Intro to
Series: James - Owen
[Editor's Note - Dr. Owen shares a sermon series on The Book of James containing twenty sermons. One sermon per week will be added to SermonCity beginning 1/28/2013.]

In an introductory way, let us consider The Type of Book that James is.

a) James Is In A Particular Section

J. Hampton Keathley, III wrote…

The New Testament is composed of twenty-seven books written by nine different authors. Based on their literary characteristics, they are often classified into three major groups—

1. The historical (five books, the Gospels and Acts)

2. The epistolary (21 books, Romans through Jude)

3. The prophetical (one book, Revelation).


The New Testament could also be classified in this way…

1. The Gospels (Matthew – John)

2. History (Acts)

3. Pauline Epistles (Romans – Philemon)

4. General Epistles (Hebrews – Jude)

5. Prophecy (Revelation)

J. Vernon McGee said…

The Epistle of James is the first (McGee includes Hebrews in the Pauline epistles) in a group of epistles customarily called General Epistles, which includes James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, and Jude. They are designated as general or “catholic” epistles in the sense that they are universal, not being addressed to any particular individual or church, but to the church as a whole.

John Gill noted…

This epistle is called “general,” because not written to any particular person, as the epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon are; nor to any particular churches, as the epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, etc. but to the believing Jews in general, wherever they were.

Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts states…

Like the Pauline epistles, the general epistles follow the customary form for Hellenistic Greek correspondence: an introduction listing the author and recipients with a greeting and thanksgiving, followed by the body or substance of the letter, and a conclusion. The original destinations of the general epistles are often uncertain and the greetings are correspondingly general. James writes to Jewish Christians “scattered abroad,” Peter to Christians throughout Asia Minor, and the Johannine letters were probably likewise written to churches and individuals in Asia Minor. Jude writes to an unnamed region troubled by false teachers.

b) James Is In A Particular Style

James Adamson in his commentary said…

D. A. Hayes, for example, rightly aligns him in substance and authority with Elijah and Moses, and in style and diction with some of the best qualities of the Psalms and the Prophets. … In subject matter nearly all the commentators have been struck by the strong affinity between the Epistle of James and the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke; thus Hort writes: “the style is especially remarkable for constant hidden allusions to our Lord’s sayings, such as we find in the first three Gospels.” (page 21 – see further notations about why this is the case)

John MacArthur wrote…

The book of James has been compared with the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, particularly the book of Proverbs, because of its direct, pungent statements on wise living. And James’s strong condemnation of social injustice (cf. chaps, 2, 5) has prompted some to call him “the Amos of the New Testament.” But James was also profoundly influenced by the Sermon on the Mount (see page 2 in MacArthur’s Commentary on James).

In an introductory way, let us also consider The Theme of the Book of James.

J. Vernon McGee said…

It is clear that James’ theme is not works, but faith – the same as Paul’s theme, but James emphasizes what faith produces.

Hamilton Smith wrote…

In its five chapters we are not to look for any unfolding of Christian doctrine, or the presentation of the exclusive privileges of the assembly. All these deeply important truths are unfolded in other inspired Epistles. The main object of this searching Epistle is to appeal to the professing people of God and exhort believers to a practical walk that proves the reality of their faith, in contrast with the vast profession in whose midst they are found. Christian conduct must ever be of the deepest importance, but never more so than when an easy-going profession has put on the outward cloak of Christianity without personal faith in the Lord Jesus. Here, then, we find our faith tested and our conduct searched.

In James 1 there is set before us the practical Christian life.

In James 2 the practical life is presented as the proof of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

In James 3 and James 4 seven different evils are passed before us which characterise the vast profession and into which the true Christian can easily fall but for the grace of the Spirit of God.

In James 5 the apostle contrasts the condition of the professing mass with that of God’s suffering people, and presents the coming of the Lord in relation to both classes.

Guy King, a preacher and writer of a previous generation summarized the theme of James in the title of his expositional study on this epistle: “A Belief That Behaves.”

G. Coleman Luck writes…

A careful study of this book reveals that James is dealing with an entirely different realm or aspect of the Christian life from that which Paul emphasizes. Paul deals primarily with the doctrine of justification before God, which comes not at all through works, but entirely through faith in Christ and His atoning death. James, on the other hand, is dealing primarily with justification before men. He is not a disparaging a true heart of faith, but rather is emphasizing the fact that such a faith should result in an outward life of piety and “good works.” Only through these outward signs can men around us “see” our faith. In brief, James is dealing with the practical Christian life as it should be lived before the world – consequently his message is of perpetual importance.

John Blanchard said…

James is a practical book, dealing with everyday life. … Yet it is not devoid of doctrine, as we shall see when we begin to dig into the text. As Alec Motyer puts it, ‘… the distinctive value of James is his striking grasp of the integration of truth and life. … It is said that when a student was once asked to name his favourite translation of the Bible he replied ‘My mother’s.’ ‘Is it a translation into English?’, his friend went on. ‘No’, he replied, ‘it is a translation into action!’ That, in a nutshell, is James’ great concern.

With regard to this opening verse, Craig S. Keener said…

The three basic elements of a letter’s introduction were (1) the author’s name; (2) the name of the recipient(s); (3) a greeting (usually the same greeting as here). Because this is a “general letter” (cf. comment on “letter-essays” in the introduction to James under “genre”), it proceeds immediately to the argument, without other epistolary features. (From the IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament)

I. Let’s Consider The Identification Of James

(James 1:1) James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

A. His Identity Can Be Discovered Through A Process Of Elimination

1. Who Are The Several Men Named James?

John Gill wrote…

The author of it is James; and whereas there were two of this name, who were the apostles of Christ; some have thought it was written by one, and some by another: some think it was written by James the son of Zebedee, and brother of John, which is favored by the Syriac version, which to this epistle, and the following, premises these words; “the three epistles of the three apostles, before whose eyes our Lord transfigured himself, that is, James, and Peter, and John.” Now, that James, who was present at the transfiguration of Christ, was James the son of Zebedee: but neither the time, nor occasion, nor matter of this epistle, seem to agree with him, for he was put to death by Herod, about the year 44, (Acts 12:1,2).

J. Vernon McGee said…

The problem of authorship is a major one. There is no question that James wrote the Epistle of James, but which James was the author? Some find at least four men by the name of James in the New Testament. I believe that you can find three who are clearly identified:

1. James, the brother of John and one of the sons of Zebedee. These two men were called “sons of thunder” by our Lord (see Mark 3:17). He was slain by Herod who at the same time put Simon Peter into prison (see Acts 12:1–2).

2. James, the son of Alphaeus, called “James the less” (see Mark 15:40). He is mentioned in the list of apostles, but very little is known concerning him. I automatically dismiss him as the author of this epistle.

3. James, the Lord’s brother. He was a son of Mary and of Joseph, which made him a half brother of the Lord Jesus. In Matthew 13:55 we read: “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?” In the beginning, the Lord’s brethren did not believe in Him at all, but the time came when James became head of the church at Jerusalem. In Acts 15 James seems to have presided over that great council in Jerusalem. At least he made the summation and brought the council to a decision under the leading of the Holy Spirit. I believe it was this James whom Paul referred to in Galatians 2:9, “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” This James is the man whom we believe to be the author of this epistle.

R. W. Dale said…

It seems to me practically certain that James, the writer of this epistle, was not one of the twelve apostles.

James – Greek 2385. Iakobos, ee-ak'-o-bos; the same as G2384 (Iakob – from the Hebrew name Jacob – the supplanter, the heel catcher) Graecized; Jacobus, the name of three Isr.:--James.

2. Who Is This Specific Man Named James

Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts says…

The author of this letter identifies himself simply as James, “a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1). The name was quite common; and the New Testament lists at least five men named “James,” two of whom were disciples of Jesus and one of whom was His brother. Tradition has ascribed the book to James, the brother of the Lord, and there is little reason to question this view, since the language of the epistle is somewhat similar to James’ speech in Acts 15. This James is mentioned twice in the Gospels (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3), both times as one of the brothers of Jesus. Although he is not called a follower of the Lord until after the resurrection, he was probably among the disciples who obeyed Jesus’ command to wait in the Upper Room and who were there filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14; 2:4). When Peter left Palestine (Acts 12:17), James seems to have become the leader of the Jerusalem church. It has been argued that the Greek of this epistle is too sophisticated for a Galilean such as James, but this assumes that he never had the opportunity or aptitude to develop a proficiency in Koine (“common”) Greek. As a prominent church leader, it would have been to his advantage to become fluent in the universal language of the Roman Empire.

… According to the Jewish historian Josephus, James was martyred in a.d. 62. Those who accept him as the author of this epistle have proposed a date of writing ranging from a.d. 45 to the end of his life. However, several factors indicate that this may be the earliest New Testament writing (c. a.d. 46–49): (1) there is no mention of Gentile believers or their relationship to Jewish Christians; (2) the allusions to the teaching of Christ bear so little verbal agreement with the Synoptic Gospels that James probably precedes the composition of the Gospels; (3) James uses the Greek term for “synagogue” in 2:2 (nkjv: “assembly”) in addition to the term “church” (5:14), thus indicating a very simple church organization of elders and teachers (3:1; 5:14) which was patterned after the Jewish synagogue; and (4) James does not mention the issues involved in the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 (a.d. 49).

(See Guy King – page 9&10)

R. W. Dale stated…

I prefer to think that when James heard from Mary, his mother, and from the apostles that Jesus had risen from the dead, his unbelief gave way.

B. His Identity Can Be Discerned Through The Process Of Exposition

(James 1:1) James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

1. Notice The Role That He Claims For Himself In This Verse

A. T. Robertson said that the “servant” (‎doulos‎) was a “Bond-servant or slave as Paul (Rom. 1:1; Phil. 1; Titus 1:1).”

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says that the word indicates…

“a slave, bondman, man of servile condition; … one who gives himself up wholly to another’s will.”

The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says of this concept…

The emphasis here is always on “serving as a slave.” Hence we have a service which is not a matter of choice for the one who renders it, which he has to perform whether he likes or not, because he is subject as a slave to an alien will, to the will of his owner. … In doulos the stress is … on the slave’s dependence on his lord.

2. Notice The Relationship That He Claims For Himself In This Verse

He connects himself with “God and … the Lord Jesus Christ.”

God – Greek 2316. theos, theh'-os; of uncert. affin.; a deity, espec. (with G3588) the supreme Divinity; fig. a magistrate; by Heb. very:--X exceeding, God, god [-ly, -ward].

As G. Coleman Luck said…

The introduction in verse 1 is brief but noteworthy. Although “the Lord’s brother” and the recognized leader of the Jerusalem church, James shows his true humility of spirit by calling himself simply “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Far from arrogating any superior position to himself, he places himself on a level with all of God’s servants.

Hamilton Smith wrote…

The writer of the Epistle speaks of himself as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Inasmuch as the James who was John’s brother, and the son of Zebedee, was early martyred by Herod (Acts 12: 2), it is probably right to assume that this is the James who took a leading place among the Jewish believers at Jerusalem (Acts 12: 17; Acts 15: 13; Acts 21: 18; Galatians 2: 12).

To understand the Epistle it is necessary to remember the position of Jewish believers in Judea and Jerusalem as brought before us in the Acts of the Apostles. It is evident that at that time there were great numbers of believers who had not definitely separated from the Jewish system. We read of believers “continuing daily with one accord in the temple.” Later we find “a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” Then again we read that there were also “certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed,” who said it was needful to circumcise believers. Later we hear of “many thousands of Jews” which believed and were “all zealous of the law”, and who, apparently, had not even given up the sacrifices and offerings and Jewish customs (Acts 2: 46; Acts 3: 1; Acts 6: 7; Acts 15: 5; Acts 21: 20).

II. Let’s Consider The Immigrants Of Judaism

(James 1:1) James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

A. They Were Scattered Jews

scattered – Greek 1290. diaspora, dee-as-por-ah'; from G1289; dispersion, i.e. (spec. and concr.) the (converted) Isr. resident in Gentile countries:--(which are) scattered (abroad).

1. There Was The Dispersion Of The Past

Albert Barnes wrote…

“The twelve tribes which are in the dispersion,” or of the dispersion (‎en ‎‎tee ‎‎diaspora‎). This word occurs only here and in 1 Peter 1:1, and John 7:35. It refers properly to those who lived out of Palestine, or who were scattered among the Gentiles. There were two great “dispersions;” the Eastern and the Western. The first had its origin about the time when the ten tribes were carried away to Assyria, and in the time of the Babylonian captivity. In consequence of these events, and of the fact that large numbers of the Jews went to Babylon, and other Eastern countries, for purposes of travel, commerce, etc., there were many Jews in the East in the times of the apostles. The other was the Western “dispersion,” which commenced about the time of Alexander the Great, and which was promoted by various causes, until there were large numbers of Jews in Egypt and along Northern Africa, in Asia Minor, in Greece proper, and even in Rome. To which of these classes this Epistle was directed is not known; but most probably the writer had particular reference to those in the East. See the introduction, Section 2. The phrase “the twelve tribes,” was the common term by which the Jewish people were designated, and was in use long after the ten tribes were carried away, leaving, in fact, only two of the twelve in Palestine.

2. There Was The Dispersion Of The Persecution

Warren Wiersbe said…

The word scattered in James 1:1 is an interesting one. It means “in the dispersion.” The term the dispersion was used to identify the Jews living outside the land of Palestine. But the Greek word carries the idea of “scattering seed.” When the Jewish believers were scattered in that first wave of persecution (Acts 8:1,4), it was really the sowing of seed in many places; and much of that seed bore fruit (Acts 11:19ff).

B. They Were Saved Jews

1. We Believe This Because Of The Men That Are Addressed

Wiersbe also said…

James sent his letter to Christian Jews. At least nineteen times he addressed them as “brethren,” indicating not only “brothers in the flesh” (fellow Jews), but also “brothers in the Lord.”

(James 1:2) My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;

(James 1:9) Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:

(James 1:16) Do not err, my beloved brethren.

(James 1:19) Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:

(James 2:1) My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

(James 2:5) Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?

(James 2:14) What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

(James 2:15) If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

(James 3:1) My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.

(James 3:10) Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.

(James 3:12) Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.

(James 4:11) Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.

(James 5:7) Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.

(James 5:9-10) Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. {10} Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.

(James 5:12) But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.

(James 5:19) Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;

2. We Believe This Because Of The Message That Is Advanced In This Epistle

It is the message of substantiating one’s faith by their works.

Barnes said…

‎Many have supposed that James here addressed (merely unsaved) Jews, and that the Epistle was sent to them as such. But this opinion has no probability; because:

(1) If this had been the case, he would not have been likely to begin his Epistle by saying that he was “a servant of Jesus Christ,” a name so odious to the Jews.

(2) And, if he had spoken of himself as a Christian, and had addressed his countrymen as himself a believer in Jesus as the Messiah, though regarding them as Jews, it is incredible that he did not make a more distinct reference to the principles of the Christian religion; that he used no arguments to convince them that Jesus was the Messiah; that he did not attempt to convert them to the Christian faith.

III. Let’s Consider The Introduction Of Joy

(James 1:1) James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

A. Notice The Implications Of This Word “Greeting”

1. It Was A Common Expression

John Blanchard said…

In modern practice, this verse would represent no more than the ‘Dear Sir’ and ‘Yours faithfully’ of a letter, together with the signature of the sender – yet there is a wealth of deep spiritual truth locked into these words.

2. It Was A Cheerful Expression

John MacArthur said…

Chairein (greetings) means “rejoice,” or “be glad,” and was a common secular greeting. But to James the word was no mere formality; he expected what he wrote to gladden his readers’ hearts by giving them means to verify the genuineness of their salvation. That, James knew, would provide great comfort to them in their trials, which Satan persistently uses to try to make Christians doubt they are indeed God’s children and fellow heirs with Jesus Christ.

greetings – Greek 5463. chairo, khah’ee-ro; a prim. verb; to be “cheer”ful, i.e. calmly happy or well-off; impers. espec. as salutation (on meeting or parting), be well:--farewell, be glad, God speed, greeting, hail, joy (-fully), rejoice.

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says that one meaning of the word is…

‎to rejoice, be glad; … ‎in a broader sense, to be well, to thrive; in salutations, the imperative “Hail!” from the Latin salve.

B. Notice The Instances Of This Word “Greeting”

1. This Word Expresses A Simple Hello

(Matthew 26:49) And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.

(Matthew 28:9) And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

2. This Word Expresses A Substantial Happiness

(Matthew 2:10) When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

(Luke 15:32) It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

(Luke 19:6) And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.


In Reformation times a few theologians, most notably Martin Luther, argued that this epistle was too defective to be part of the canonical New Testament.

A young man had been appointed by the Foreign Mission Board to go to Africa. The thrill was dampened by just one thing. The girl who had been his sweetheart through the years would not marry him if he accepted the appointment. To all of his pleas and reasoning, her answer was a definite no. One month before the time he was to sail he decided to write her one more letter. He hoped something had happened to change her mind. After he wrote it, he added a postscript which read: “If this letter has made you miserable, just throw it in the wastebasket and don’t answer it.”

Something had happened, and with a joyous heart she wrote and told him in a dozen different ways she loved him enough to go to the end of the world with him. When she started to the post office to mail it, however, she found it was raining so hard she hesitated, then told her younger brother she would give him a quarter if he would run and mail it. Anxiously she watched for a wire or a letter.

None came. The months dragged by on leaden feet and she learned that he had gone without her. Years later, when the family was moving to another house, she found an old coat that belonged to her brother. In a pocket was her letter.

May we not miss out on a deeper relationship with Christ by failing to open this special letter as Martin Luther did!