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July 14, 1993

A Slave of God

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James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. JAMES 1:1
In New Testament times, slavery was widespread. As a matter of fact, the social structure and economy of the Roman Empire depended upon slave labor. Slaves performed a variety of tasks: from factory work and mining to medicine and secretarial work, from farming and business management to cooking and teaching. Because of its prevalence in biblical times, much spiritual meaning and application has been drawn from the concept of slavery.
The word for “servant” used in James 1:1 is the Greek word doulos, which means “slave” or “servant.” Positioned inside the word doulos are a host of deep and meaningful concepts that add dimension to a believer’s relationship to his Master and Lord, Jesus.
First, there is the concept of aliens (strangers) and citizens (John 15:16—20; 17:6-16; Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 11:13-16). Followers of Jesus are not simply a familiar group of folks who cluster on Sunday. We are an assembly of men and women who are only passing through this life. Our ultimate address is heaven.
The second concept is that of adoption, a procedure found in many legal systems through which a person leaves his natural family and enters another family. As believers in Jesus, we have been adopted into God’s family with all the rights and privileges therein (Romans 9:4; Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 4:4-5).
The third concept has to do with inheritance. When a servant joins God’s family, he or she is positioned for tremendous spiritual inheritance. The bounty and benefits that belong to Jesus are duly transferred to each of us (Ephesians 1:18-19).
The final concept is redemption. A servant belonged to his master but could be freed if someone purchased his freedom for him. According to Romans 6, we were born slaves to sin but Jesus purchased us with his life and death (1 Peter 1:18-19).
So when James opens his letter by calling himself a servant of God, he’s not just giving himself a title that looks good on a business card. It is a rich label he has attached to himself as a follower of Jesus Christ. If you had written this book, would you have been able to give yourself the same title?

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