"COME, NOW, AND LET US REASON TOGETHER, SAYS THE LORD" (ISAIAH 1.18)
—"The one reading, be understanding!" (Mk. 13.14; Mt. 24.15)
Brief studies and devotionals designed to elucidate the meaning of Scripture, increase our faith, and enable us to draw closer to God. To learn more about this column, see: "01—The Bible Was Written To Be Understood."
In the opening verse of his letter, James describes himself as a “slave of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.*” Take note of two observations relative to this phrase.
(1) James does not here describe himself merely as a servant, or a worker, or an employee, hired to do a job. Rather, he was a slave. A slave (doulos) was one devoid of self-ownership. He was owned by another. Most translations refuse to render the term properly (giving us, ‘servant,’ instead), due to the term’s disparaging connotation. But though enslavement has never been a mark of honor in any earthly society, James proudly boasts of his bondage to Christ. More than being a hired hand, the apostle gave his entire life — body and soul — into the possession of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 6.19-20). His flesh, mind, heart, and will no longer belonged to himself — every waking moment instead belonged to his new owner. It is important to note this slavish attitude — and to emulate it as best as possible.
(2) There is no definite article in this phrase which would distinguish between the terms God and Lord. This indicates that two beings are not in consideration here (i.e., one who is God, the other who is the Lord) — in contrast to the KJV, NIV, etc, which contain a definite article: " a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ," making it seem as though two individuals are involved. Though the Father is certainly God (cf. Eph. 1.3), James here stresses both the divinity and lordship of Jesus alone. The father is not in view. Those who perceive Jesus as merely an excellent human being (to be honored as leisurely as any other respectable human being) are in grave error. Jesus Christ is both "God and Lord" (cf. Jn. 20.28). Let us, as his slave, honor him accordingly.
*New Testament text rendered from my specialized translation of James-Jude.