James 1

 

 

1 “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve

tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.”  SALUTATION.

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.  James the brother of

the Lord (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Galatians 1:19), the first Bishop of Jerusalem,

and writer of the this Epistle, one of the most  prominent figures in the early Church.

(If the person who thus describes himself is the brother of Christ, it is noteworthy

that he keeps entirely out of sight his natural relationship to our Lord, and styles

himself simply "a bond-servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ." That, and

that alone, gave him a right to speak and a claim to be heard. ΔοῦλοςDoulos –

slave is similarly used by St. Paul in Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1 by

St. Peter in II Peter 1:1; and by St. Jude 1:1. It is clearly an official designation,

implying that his office is one "in which, not his own will, not the will of

other men, but only of God and of Christ, is to be performed" (Huther). To the

twelve tribes, etc. Compare the salutation in Acts 15:23, which was also probably

written by St. James: "The apostles and the elder brethren unto the brethren

which are of the Gentiles in Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia, greeting."

 

(1) Ξαίρειν – Chairein – greeting; to be rejoicing is common to both, and not found

elsewhere in apostolic greetings. (It is used by Ignatius in the opening of all his

epistles except that to the Philadelphians.)

 

(2) The letter in the Acts is addressed to Gentile communities in definite regions;

St. James's Epistle, to Jews of the dispersion. So also his contemporary Gamaliel

wrote "to the sons of the dispersion in Babylonia, and to our brethren in Media, and

to all the dispersion of Israel" (Frankel, 'Monatsschrift,' 1853, p. 413). Ταῖς δώδεκα

φύλαις - - Tais dodeka phulais – to the twelve tribes (compare  δωδεκάφυλον

dodekaphulon – twelve tribes in Acts 26:7; Clem., 'Rom,' l, § 55; 'Prefer. Jacob.,' c.i.).

Such expressions are important as tending to show that the Jews were regarded as

representing, not simply the tribes of Benjamin and Judah, but the whole nation,

including those so often spoken of as "the lost tribes" (compare I Esdras 7:8).

Διασπορᾷ - Diaspora -  The abstract put for the concrete. It is the word used by

the Septuagint for the "dispersion" (II Maccabees  1:27; Judith 5:19; compare

Deuteronomy 28:25, etc.), i.e. the Jews "so scattered among the nations as to

become the seed of a future harvest" (Westcott on St. John 7:35).

 

The dispersion, as preparing the way for Christianity, was very important!

It was divided into three great sections, yea four:

 

  • the Babylonian, i.e. the original dispersion;
  • the Syrian, dating from the Greek conquests in Asia, Seleucus Nicator

            having transplanted largo bodies of Jews from Babylonia to the capitals

            of his Western provinces;

  • the Egyptian, the Jewish settlements in Alexandria, established by

            Alexander and Ptolemy I., and thence spreading along the north coast of

            Africa. To these we should, perhaps, add a fourth —

  • the Roman, consequent upon the occupation of Jerusalem by Pompey,

            B.C. 63. All these four divisions were represented in Jerusalem on the day

            of Pentecost (Acts 2:8-11) — a fact which will help to account for

            St. James’s letter. The whole expression, “the twelve tribes which are

            scattered abroad,” makes it perfectly clear that St. James is writing

            to Jews, and to those beyond the borders of Palestine.

 

The first mention of a diaspora created as a result of exile is found in Deuteronomy

28:25 "thou shalt be a dispersion in all kingdoms of the earth". Its use began to

develop from this original sense when the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek

 known as the Septuagint; the word diaspora then was used to refer to the population

of Jews exiled from Israel in 607 BC by the Babylonians, and from Judea in 70 AD

by the Roman Empire.   It subsequently came to be used to refer interchangeably,

but exclusively, to the historical movements of the dispersed ethnic population of

Israel, the cultural development of that population, or the population itself. To date,

when capitalized and without modifiers (that is, simply The Diaspora), the term

generally refers specifically to the Jewish diaspora.  (Wikipedia)

 

vs. 2-18 - THE SUBJECT OF TEMPTATION. This section may be

            subdivided as follows:

           

ü      The value of temptation (vs. 2-4).

ü      Digression suggested by the thought of perfection (vs. 5-11).

ü       Return to the subject of temptation (vs. 12-18).

 

vs. 2-4 - The Value of Temptation. Considered as an opportunity, it is a

            cause for joy.

 

2 “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;

knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” 

My brethren. A favorite expression with St. James, occurring no less than fifteen

times in the compass of this short Epistle. Count it all joy, etc.; compare I Peter 1:7, "Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, ye have been

 put to grief in manifold temptations, that the proof of your faith (τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν

τῆς πίστεως – to dokimion humon taes pisteos – the trial or testing of your faith)...

might be found unto praise," etc. The coincidence is too close to be accidental,

although the shade of meaning given to δοκίμιον (trial)is slightly different, if indeed it has any right in the text in St. Peter (see Herr, vol. it. p. 102). Here it has its proper

force, and signifies that by which the faith is tried, i.e. the instrument of trial rather

than the process of trial. Thus the passage in v. 3 becomes parallel to Romans 5:3, "tribulation worketh patience." With regard to the sentiments here in v. 2, "Count it

all joy," etc., contrast Matthew 6:13. Experience, however, shows that the two are compatible. It is quite possible to shrink beforehand from temptation, and pray with intense earnestness, "Lead us not into temptation," and yet, when the temptation

comes, to meet it joyfully, Περίπέσητε – peripesaete – fall into; ye should be

falling into. The use of this word implies that the temptations of which St. James is thinking are external (see Luke 10:30, where the same word is used of the man who

fell among thieves). I Thessalonians 2:14 and Hebrews 10:32-33 will show the trials

to which believing Jews were subject. But the epithet "manifold" (divers; various)

would indicate that we should not confine the word here to trials such as those.

 

Temptation as cause for joy. What a reversal of the ordinary view, which regards

trial and temptation as an unwelcome visitation! Prosperity is the blessing of the

old covenant, adversity is the blessing of the new. Temptations should be regarded,

not only as probations, as testing what we are, but as designed also for moral

discipline and improvement. The character that has never been tried

may be innocent, but it is liable to be crushed. It is lacking in the strength

and vigor, which come from the formed habit of resistance, and therefore

temptation may be the means of strengthening him who is subjected to it. It

thus becomes an opportunity, and as such should be welcomed with joy. It

produces patience, that “queen of virtues,” which bears up under the

heaviest weight, and purifies and ennobles the whole character. Patience

must next be allowed her “perfect work;” for the Christian can never

consider himself te>leiov tel’-i-os;  9completeness: of full age, perfect)

till he has come “to the perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the

fullness of Christ.”  (Ephesians 4:13)

 

The worldly-minded man will regard such a suggestion as unnatural, and indeed

unintelligible. Only the man who holds the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ

possesses the alchemy by which sorrow may be turned into joy.  To rejoice amidst

trials is in the line of all Christian knowledge and faith and hope. The believer

knows that God is his Father, and that He “pitieth his children.” (Psalm 103:13)

He is sure that God’s arrangements for him must be absolutely the best. (Romans

8:28) He is persuaded that, although God chastises His sons, He has still the heart of

a Father. (Hebrews 12:5-11)  Not only do tribulation and distress not separate the

believer from the Divine love; (Romans 8:38-39) they work for him “a far more

exceedingly and eternal weight of glory.” (II Corinthians 4:17)  So it belongs

to the afflicted Christian to adorn in his own experience this paradox of the

renewed life — “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” (II Corinthians 6:10)

 

3 “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire,

wanting nothing.”  Patience. Υπομονή - Hupomonae in general is patience with

regard to things, μακροθυμία – makrothumia – longsuffering; bear with is rather

long-suffering with regard to persons (see Trench on 'Synonyms,' p. 186, and

compare the notes on ch. 5:7, etc.).

 

Moses “accounted the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of

Egypt.” (Hebrews 11:26) Paul sang hymns to God in the prison of Philippi, although

his feet were fast in the stocks. (Acts 16)  The apostles “rejoiced that they were

counted worthy to suffer dishonor for Christ’s name.” (Acts 5:41) Latimer closed

his brave career at the stake with the famous words, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley.”  Bunyan lay for twelve years in an execrable prison, but he made his cell

the vestibule of heaven. Dr. Arnold could say, between the paroxysms of angina

pectoris, “Thank God for pain.” And from thousands of death-beds, of which the

world has never heard, there has gone forth the testimony of God’s hidden ones:

“We glory in tribulations also.”  (Romans 5:3)

 

  • Trial promotes self-knowledge. It is “the proof of your faith” (v.3). It

            tests the reality and the strength of character. Affliction shows a man

            “all that is in his heart.” The strain caused by some unexpected calamity

            may reveal defects of character which he would not otherwise discover, or            

            possibilities of holy attainment about which he might never have dreamed.

 

  • Trial develops patience. (v.3.) James, throughout his Epistle, exalts and

            inculcates this grace. His word for it here means “persevering endurance.”

            Patience consists in the holding still of some parts of our nature in calm

            waiting upon the Divine will, in order that other parts may be exercised

            and educated.

 

4 “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”  Patience alone is not sufficient. It must have scope given it for its exercise that it may have its "perfect work." That ye may be perfect (ἵνα ῆτε τέλειοι –

hina aete teleioi holoklaeros – that ye may be perfect and unimpaired); compare

Matthew 5:48, "Be ye therefore perfect." Both τέλειος (perfect) and ὁλόκληρος

(entire; complete) were applied to the initiated, the fully instructed, as opposed to

novices in the ancient mysteries; and as early as I Corinthians 2:6-7 we find τέλειος

used for the Christian who is no longer in need of rudimentary teaching, and possibly

this is the thought here. The figure, however, is probably rather that of the full-grown man. Τέλειοι, equivalent to "grown men" as opposed to children; ὁλόκληροι, sound in every part and limb (compare ὁλοκληρίαν holoklaerian – unimpaired, perfect

soundness) in Acts 3:16). From this τέλειος assumes a moral-complexion, that which

has attained its aim. Compare its use in Genesis 6:9 and Deuteronomy 18:13, where it is equivalent to the Latin integer vitae, and the following passage from Stobaeus, which exactly serves to illustrate St. James's thought here and in vs. 4-5, Τὸν ἀγαθὸν ἄνδρα τέλειον εϊναι λέγουσιν, διὰ τὸ μηδεμίας ἀπολείπεσθαι ἀρετῆςTon agathon andra teleion einai legousin dia to maedemia apoleipesthai aretaes.  The "perfection" which is to be attained in this life may be further illustrated from Hebrews 12:23 - a passage

which is often misunderstood, but which undoubtedly means that the men were made perfect (πνεύμασι δικαίων τετελειωμένωνpneumasi dikaion teteleiomenon – to spirits

of just ones having been made perfect, and that not in a future state, but here on earth, where alone they can be subject to those trials and conflicts by the patient endurance of which they are perfected for a higher state of being. The whole passage before us

(vs. 2-6) affords a most remarkable instance of the figure called by grammarians anadiplosis, the repetition of a marked word at the close of one clause and beginning

of another. "The trial of your faith worketh patience; but let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing. But if any man lack wisdom, let him ask of the giving God... and it shall be given him; but let him ask in faith, nothing doubting, for he that doubteth," etc.

 

  • Trial contributes to moral perfection. (v 4.) This is the end which God

            has in view in all His dealings with His people. He wants them to be

            “perfect and entire;” that is, complete and all-accomplished in spiritual

            culture.  Now, the habit of persevering and joyful endurance conduces to

            the maturity and the symmetry of the soul. Sanctified trial educates. Some

            of the most refined Christian virtues - such, as resignation and

            sympathy, can be acquired only in connection with affliction. A delicately

            balanced Christian spirit is not the outcome of a smooth and unruffled life.

            No character can approximate in finish to the ideal standard which does

            not “come out of the great tribulation,” (Revelation 7:14) and which is

            not made “perfect through sufferings.” (Hebrews 2:10) This thought is   

            emphasized everywhere in the New Testament, from the Gospels to the     

            Apocalypse. It has interpenetrated all literature. “Tis sorrow builds the

            shining ladder up,” on which our souls climb nearer God.

 

  • Faith Perfected.  God is working towards an end: “That ye may

            be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing.” “Entire.” Hence the

            diverse testings, by which each part of our character is put to the proof.

            God tests us, therefore, in this way and in that way, that, not halt or

            maimed, but with a completed manhood, we may enter into life. Perfect.

            Not only must each part be proved, but each part put to the full proof;

            just as the artist will not only chisel the marble into a complete statue, but

            also chisel each part of the statue to a perfection of exquisite finish. The

            goal, then, “perfect and entire;” tested sufficiently, in manifoldness and

            in continuance, till “lacking in nothing.” “Count it all joy.”

 

Peter calls it “the testing of your faith, being much more precious than gold

that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and

honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” – (I Peter 1:7)  But the figure

fails, for a test applied to a dead or inanimate thing is only a test; whereas a test applied

to a living thing becomes more than a test — developing, strengthening that which is tested!

 

 

Digression Suggested by the Thought of Perfection (vs. 5-11)

 

 

5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all (literally “the giving God”) men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 

There can be no true perfection without wisdom, which is the gift of God, and must

be sought FROM HIM!   It is possible that the thought and connection of the passage

is due to a reminiscence of Wisdom of Solomon 9:6, "For though a man be never so perfect (τέλειος) among the children of men, yet if thy wisdom be not with him, he shall be nothing regarded." But whether this be so or not, the teaching is manifestly founded on our Lord's words with regard to prayer, Matthew 7:7, "Ask, and it shall be given you;" and Mark 11:23, "Have faith in God. Verily I say unto you, Whoever shall say... and shall not doubt (διακριθῇ - diakrithae – may be doubting) in his heart," etc. Τοῦ διδόντος Θεοῦ - Tou didontos Theou – the One Giving God. The order of the words shows that God's character is that of a Giver: "the Giving God." His "nature and property" is TO GIVE as well as to FORGIVE!

 

Man often spoils his gifts,:

 

  • by the grudging way in which they are given, and
  • by the reproaches which accompany them.
  • God, on the contrary, gives to all:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Ø      liberally, and

Ø      without upbraiding

 

Ἁπλῶς – haplos – generously; liberally - only here in the New Testament, but

compare ἁπλότης in Romans 12:8; II Corinthians 8:2; II Corinthians 9:11, 13.

Vulgate, affluenter; Authorized Version and Revised Version, "liberally." It is

almost equivalent to "without any arriere pensee (a concealed thought or intention;

 an ulterior motive.)" Μὴ ὀνειδίζοντος – Mae oneidizontos  - upbraiding,

reproaching not: compare Ecclesiasticus 41:22, Μετὰ τὸ δοῦναι μὴ ὀνείδιζε.

 

There is a digression here suggested by the thought of perfection.  There

can be no true perfection without wisdom, which is the gift of God, and it

must be sought from Him.  The teaching is manifestly founded on our Lord’s

words with regard to prayer, Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it shall be given you;”

and Mark 11:23, “Have faith in God.  For verily I say unto you, that

whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be cast

into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those

things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he

saith”.  God’s character is that of a Giver: “the giving God.” His “nature and

property” is to give as well as to forgive. God gives to all liberally, and without upbraiding. 

 

The main thoughts are two: 

           

  • God’s giving – “God, who giveth to all” (v.5); literally, “the giving God.”

      The living, loving Jehovah is the one Source and Fountain of wisdom.

      That is one of His essential attributes; and it is His prerogative to impart it

      to His creatures. He gives the Holy Spirit to work wisdom in the hearts of

      believers. Now, the God of wisdom is the Giver of all good things. (v. 17)

      His resources are infinite, and His gifts are universal and unceasing. In His            

      common providence He imparts blessings to all His creatures — to the

      barnacle that clings to the rocks, and to the archangel that ministers before

            the throne. And He is “the giving God” in grace also. “He that spared not

            His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not also with

            Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)  So He is ready to bestow  

            wisdom at all times, and especially in the day of trial; He waits to impart to

            every devout sufferer a wealth of holy patience and of spiritual joy. And the         

            giving God gives liberally and unreproachingly. It is his characteristic habit

            to be exceedingly bountiful.  “The Lord God, merciful and gracious,

      longsuffering, and ABUNDANT IN GOODNESS AND TRUTH.  Keeping

      mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and

      that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers

      upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third

      and fourth generation.”  (Exodus 34:6-7)

 

  • Man’s receiving –  GOD HAS AN EASY METHOD OF OBTAINING

      WISDOM -  God is single minded in giving.  We are to be single

      minded in receiving!  “Let him ask, and it shall be given him” (ver. 5).

      Holy wisdom is not the result merely of thought or speculation.  It is to be

      had from God, and for the asking. God is the living God, and he is very near

      us; and we, His children, have the freest access to Him. He gives “simply” to

      those who pray simply. He bestows “liberally” upon those who petition

      liberally. It is His way “to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask

      or think.”  (Ephesians 3:20)  When Solomon asked only for wisdom, God

      gave him riches and honor too.  (I Kings 3:11-14)  When the prodigal

      requests only the place of a hired servant, his Father assures him of the

      station and honor of a beloved son. (Luke 15:22-24)  The Lord always

      gives liberally; never with a grudge - never ungraciously. He always

      gives with His heart when He opens his hand. Does the consciousness of

      much personal guilt make any of us slow to “ask of God”? Does our past

      neglect or abuse of His gifts deprive us of childlike confidence in coming

      to Him?  Then let us remember that He “upbraideth not.” What a sweet

      word is that!  God upbraids no one for his great ignorance, or for his

      enormous guilt, or for his repeated backslidings, or for his long delay, or

      for making Himself a last resource, or for coming too often, or for asking

      too much. How easy this God appointed method of obtaining wisdom! We

      have only to “ask, and it shall be given” us. And how great the

      encouragement! “God giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not.”

 

Jesus said “Ask and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find;

knock, and it shall be opened to you:  For every one that asketh

receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh

it shall be opened”.  (Matthew 7:7-8)  Prayer is not real unless it be the

expression of faith. It must issue “from a living source within the will,” and be

inspired by perfect confidence in God’s readiness to help.  God our Father

demands the confidence of His children. “Nothing doubting” should be the

Christian’s motto in prayer. The petitioner must not shift backwards and

forwards between faith and doubt, like a tumbling billow of the sea. He must not

swing like a pendulum between cheerful confidence and dark suspicion. It

must be his fixed persuasion that God is, and that he is the Hearer of

prayer. He must expect an answer to his supplications

 

But without faith it impossible to please Him, for he that cometh

to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them

that DILIGENTLY SEEK HIM”  (Hebrews 11:6)

 

Wisdom means the right use of knowledge.  It takes a wisdom above our own

to “count manifold trials all joy” and to “let patience have her perfect work”

(vs. 2-3)  Steadfast faith, and that alone, will give a man singleness of eye, make

him strong to keep hold of the angel of the covenant, and draw down upon him

the richest blessings of gospel grace.  The “double minded” man shuts his

soul towards God even while professing to open it.

 

May we prove to the uttermost “what is that good, and acceptable and

perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2)

 

6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a

wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”   The Authorized Version

"nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea," is unfortunate,

as suggesting a play upon the words which has no existence in the original. Render,

with Revised Version, nothing doubting: for he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea. Κλύδων – Kludon - the surge; ἀνεμιζόμενος – anemizomenos – being driven

by wind and ῤιπιζόμενοςripizomenos – being tossed - both occur here only.

 

7 “For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 

8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”  The Authorized Version

which makes v. 8 an independent sentence, is certainly wrong. Render, Let not that

man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord, double-minded man that he is, unstable in all his ways. So Vulgate, Vir duplex animi, inconstans in omnibus viis. (The Clementine Vulgate, by reading est after inconstans, agrees with Authorized Version). Another possible rendering is that of the Revised Version margin, "Let not that man think that a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, shall receive," etc. But the rendering given above is better. Double-minded; δίψυχος – dipsuchos occurs only here and in

ch. 4:8 in the New Testament. It is not found in any earlier writer, and was perhaps coined by St. James to represent the idea of the Hebrew, "an heart and an heart (בְלֵב וָלֵב)" (I Chronicles 12:33). It took root at once in the vocabulary of ecclesiastical

writers, being found three times in Clement of Rome, and frequently in his younger contemporary Hermas. St. James's words are apparently alluded to in the Apost. Coust., VII. 11, Μὴ γίνου δίψυχος ἐν προσευχῇ σου εἰ ἔσται η} οὑ: and compare Clem., 'Romans,' c. 23. The same thought is also found in Ecclesiasticus. 1:28, "Come not

before him with a double heart (ἐν καρδίᾳ δίσοῃ - en kardia dison)." Unstable; ἀκατάστατος – akatastatos, only here and (probably) ch. 3:8.

 

9 “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:  10 But

the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall

pass away.  (see Isaiah 40:6-8, it is also quoted in I Peter 1:24-25)  11 For the sun

is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the

flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also

shall the rich man fade away in his ways.”  The idea is not of the riches taking

wings and disappearing but of the rich man himself, who fades away!Riches and

poverty are among the “manifold trials.”  (v. 2)  The tendency to compare one’s

circumstances with another often tends to spiritual unsteadiness.

 

v. 9  - Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:  A very difficult passage, three interpretations of which are given, none of them entirely satisfactory or free from difficulties.

 

(1) "But let the brother of low degree glory in his high estate [i.e. his Christian dignity]; but let the rich [brother glory] in his humiliation" (i.e. in being poor of spirit, Matthew 5:3).

 

(2) "But let the brother," etc. (as before); "but the rich man [rejoices] in his humiliation" (i.e. in what is really his degradation; compare "whose glory is in their shame," Philippians 3:19).

 

(3) "But let the brother,... but let the rich [grieve] in his humiliation." The ellipse of ταπεινούσθω – tapeinoustho – humiliation in this last is very harsh and unexampled,

so that the choice really lies between (1) and (2). And against (1) it may be urged

 

(a) that the "rich" are never elsewhere spoken of as "brothers" in this Epistle.

See ch. 2:6;  5:1, and compare the way in which they are spoken of in other parts of the New Testament (e.g. Luke 6:24; Matthew 19:23; Revelation 6:15); and in Ecclesiasticus. 13:3;

 

(b) that in v. 11 the thought is, not of riches which make to themselves wings and fly away, but of the rich man himself, who fades away;

 

(c) that ταπείνωσις is elsewhere always used for external lowness of condition, not for the Christian virtue of humility (see Luke 1:48; Acts 8:33; Philippians 3:21). On the whole, therefore, it is best to adopt (2) and to supply the

indicative: "but the rich man [not ' brother'] glories in his humiliation;" i.e. he glories in what is really lowering. Because as the flower, etc. A clear reference

to Isaiah 40:6, which is also quoted in I Peter 1:24.

 

Ἀνέτειλε . ἐξήρανε ...ἐξέπεσε... ἀπώλετο – Aneteile...exaerane ...exepese....apoleto –

rises...withers....falls off...perished.  Observe the aorists here and in v. 24. The illustration or case mentioned by way of example is taken as an actual fact, and the apostle falls into the tone of narration (see Wirier, 'Grammar of New Testament Greek,' § 40:5, 6. 1). Render, For the sun arose with the scorching wind, and withered the grass; and the flower thereof fell away, and the grace of the fashion of it perished. ΚαύσωνKauson - may refer to

 

(1) the heat of the sun, or

 

(2) more probably, the hot Samum wind, the קָדִים of the Old Testament (Job 27:21; Ezekiel 17:10, etc.).

 

Now, “the brother of low degree” finds his poverty a trial. It tries his body, by

exhausting it with labor. It tries his mind, by placing obstacles in the way of

his acquiring knowledge. It tries his heart, by limiting narrowly his

enjoyment of the luxury of giving. It tries his temper, by wearing out his

patience and inclining him to be fretful and satirical. But “the rich brother”

has his trials also, arising out of his riches. The temptations of wealth are

more serious, because more subtle, than those of poverty. The rich man’s

mind is often distracted with care; he finds that “a great fortune is a great

slavery.” Or, he may suffer the weariness and misery of boredom. Especially is

he in danger of allowing his spiritual life to become corrupted by his

abundance. A wealthy man is prone to grow high-minded and self-sufficient.

He has to contend against the inveterate tendency of our fallen

nature to abuse prosperity. When Jeshurun the upright “waxes fat,” he is

apt to “kick,” (Deuteronomy 32:15-22,28-29) i.e. to become self-willed,

petulant, insolent, and neglectful of God. A rich man needs special grace to

make and keep him a Christian.

 

  • HOW TO TRIUMPH OVER THE TRIAL OF POVERTY - A Christian

            man may be “of low degree,” but he is all the same a “brother.” Straitened          

            resources often are, but should be no barrier to the love and sympathy of

            the Lord Jesus.  The Christian who is in a humble station in life is to “glory

            in his high estate.”  He has a real dignity: he is rich toward God. He belongs

            to the Divine family. “His elder Brother is a King, and hath a kingdom

            bought for him.” He moves already in the best and blessedest society; and

            he is an heir of the heavenly inheritance. Angel guardians minister to him,

            and use the very trial of poverty as a means of investing him with the true

            riches.   (Luke 16:11)  What a blessed antidote is there in these things to the

            ills of penury!

 

  • HOW TO TRIUMPH OVER THE TRIAL OF RICHES. (v. 10.)

            The “rich” man here means a wealthy man who is a Christian “brother.”

            There were a very few such persons in the membership of the early Church.

            Now, to the Christian who is wealthy, his very wealth is a God-sent trial.

            He is apt to make his material resources a ground of glorying or boasting.

            But James says here that the rich believer ought to boast “in that he is

            made low.” Although a rich man, let him strive to be “poor in spirit.” It is

            not necessary, at least in ordinary circumstances, that he divest himself of

            all his goods for Christ’s sake. Rather is it desirable that the capital which

            drives the wheels of our commerce should be in the hands of Christian

            men, provided they use it aright. But the rich believer should give very

            liberally out of his profits. He should be a servant of servants to his

            brethren. He should constantly remember the Divine Giver of his

            prosperity; and, finding that it is hard to carry the full cup steadily, he

            should pour it out before the Lord. The greatest honor that can attach to

            the rich man is that he be a humble Christian. Humility is in his case

            particularly beautiful and becoming. In spiritual things he is a pensioner

            upon the charity of Heaven equally with other men. When he realizes his

            own guilt and sin, he ought to feel the more humbled that Providence is

            filling his lap out of the horn of plenty. Let him exult in the grace of Christ

            which has enabled him to pass through “the needle’s eye.” (Matthew 19:24)

            And let him realize how transient and perishable all earthly riches are. “As the      

            flower of the grass he shall pass away.” Therefore, let him not glory in his          

            outward possessions. The rich Christian brother will triumph over the trial of

            material prosperity by glorying is his humiliation as sharing with the

            lowliest the true riches!  “Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man

            glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might,

            let not the rich man glory in riches:  But let him that glorieth glory

            in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord

            which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the

            earth:  for in these things I delight, saith the Lord”(Jeremiah 9:23-24)

 

Material possessions are uncertain and perishable; and the man who joins on his

life to them, and identifies his being with them, must inevitably perish, as they do.

The sirocco-blast of the eternal storm shall wither up both the “grass” and the

flower.The rich man shall fade away in his goings,” i.e. when engrossed

with his commercial journeys and purposes. The wealthy farmer shall be

summoned from the world when he is drawing out the plans of his enlarged

premises. He shall stumble out into eternity a fool  - “God said unto him,

Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall

those things be, which thou hast provided? (Luke 12:20). “Man that is in

honor, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:20).

 

Each of these conditions brings its blessings and its burdens. Each “doth place us

proximate to sin, to suffer the contagion.” But a man may through grace rise to

equally great attainments in spiritual culture and in purity of life, whether he be very

poor or very rich, or possessed of that moderate competency! 

 

Augur prayed “Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die:

Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me

with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the

LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.”

(Proverbs 30:7-9)

 

So what!  There are differences of station, of education, and even of

natural gifts. But, after all, what are these differences in comparison with

that which is common to all — the royal humanity which each one has

received from God? For take the highest, the most cultured, the best

endowed, and again a poor peasant man or woman, and let some crisis of

joy or of sorrow sound the depths of their common nature, and how utterly

do the surface differences disappear in presence of the deep stirrings of the

common manhood or womanhood!  Nay; Jesus said, “a man’s life consisteth

not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:13-15).

A man’s manhood is more than everything. But this is only true in all its truth

when manhood becomes really manhood. What are we now? The wreck of a

splendid ship; the ruins of a glorious temple; discrowned kings. Oh, let our

manhood be re-made, let the crown of true royalty be placed on the brow,

let Christ dwell in our hearts by faith, and then how little and paltry will

seem either the possession or lack of the things which in their folly men

call great! This is the exact thought which James urges in the text: “Let the

brother of low degree glory in his high estate”as being a man in Christ;

“and the rich, in that he is made low” — in the stripping off of his adventitious

greatness, by the estimate of Christianity, that his true greatness may be realized.

 

Our great glory is that we are made in the “image” and “likeness” of God!

(Genesis 1:26)  This is the inalienable dignity of man!  Man has fallen

but Christ has redeemed us!  “Ye were redeemed with the precious blood

of Christ”  (I Peter 1:18-19)  We are “heirs of God and joint-heirs with

Christ” – (Romans 8:17)

 

The great statesman and the mighty author, the great athlete and the popular

entertainer  — they die like common men. They are one with the grass of the

field.  We all have access to the “common salvation” of the grace of God.

The humblest Christian upon whom Christ’s Name is truly named ranks as

high in the sight of God as the Christian millionaire or prince; and, when death

comes, the man of consecrated wealth and the preacher of consecrated gifts

die, like the poorest Christian peasant, CLINGING TO THE NAME OF

CHRIST.  Therefore, let “the rich’ rejoice in that he is made low;” for

what seems his self-humiliation in the eyes of a false world, his light esteeming

of things that are but paltry and vain, this is his true exaltation, “which is in the

sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:3-4). May it be ours to possess, and duly

to prize, “the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness toward us through

Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7)! Amen.

 

 

Return to the Subject of Temptation (vs. 12-18)

 

12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried,

he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to

them that love Him.”  - In the previous part of the chapter James has spoken of

“temptation” in the general sense of “trial,” and as coming mainly in connection

with outward circumstances. In this passage he proceeds to speak of it in the sense

in which the word is now ordinarily used, as meaning only internal trial by

solicitation to sin.  Verse 12 marks the transition from the one sense to the

other, and predicates “blessedness” of “the man that endureth temptation”

in either form.

 

V. 2 taught that temptation regarded as an opportunity should be a cause for joy.

V. 12 teaches that the endurance of temptation brings a blessing from God, even the crown of life. Compare  Revelation 2:10, the only other place in the New Testament where the "crown of life" is mentioned; and there also it stands in close connection

 with the endurance of temptation. Elsewhere we read of:

 

  • the "crown of righteousness" (II Timothy 4:8), and
  • the "crown of glory" (I Peter 5:4).

 

The genitive (τὸν στέφανον τῆς ζωῆς – ton stephanon taes zoaes – the wreath,

crown of life) is probably the gen. epex., "the crown, which is life." Ὁ Κύριος

Ho Kurios – The Lord of the Received Text has but slight authority. It is wanting

in A, B, א, ff, and is deleted by the Revisers, following all recent editors. Render,

which He promised, etc. The subject is easily understood, and therefore, as

frequently in Jewish writings (e.g. I Maccabees), omitted from motives of reverence.

 

 

  • THE GLORY AWAITING HIM WHO ENDURES.This comfortable word

      “Blessed” reminds us of the Beatitudes. The blessedness of which

            it speaks belongs not only to all Christians who -  “ letting patience have

            its perfect work” - endure “temptations” in the sense in which the word

            is used in v. 2, but to all also who escape victorious from the solicitations

            of evil desire, referred to in the verses which follow.  The word must be taken

            in the broad, generic sense of “ testing.” Of this there are two forms —

            enticement to sin, and afflictions of righteousness.  Both the temptations to

            sin and the trials of righteousness are intensified now, the heart itself being so

            prone to evil, and the world an evil world. Hence the immense difficulties

            of salvation from sin. We have an index to this in the intensity of

            temptation to even a Sinless One in a world of sin, as shown in the

            conflicts of the Son of man. View the wrestling in the desert, “immediately

            the Spirit driveth Him into the wilderness.  And He was there in the

            wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan, and was with the wild beasts”

            (Mark 1:12-13) “in those days He did eat nothing” (Luke 4:2) and the

            agony in the garden! “being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: 

            and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the

            ground” – (Luke 22:44)  And how much more to us, whose nature is so    

            responsive to the influence of the world!  Notice here:

 

ü      The character of the blessed man. He “loves the Lord,” and in the

      spirit of this love he endures temptation.” Love is the substance

      of the Christian character, and love “endureth all things.”  (I

      Corinthians 13:7)  Love alone will enable a man to stamp out lust.

 

ü      His glorious reward. “He shall receive the crown of life.” Not a

      chaplet of parsley, not even a diadem of gold; but a crown composed

                        of life.  Eternal life itself will be the believer’s reward. V.2 taught that

                        temptation regarded as an opportunity should be a cause for joy. V.12

                        teaches that the endurance of temptation brings a blessing from God,

                        even the crown of life. Compare Revelation 2:10, the only other place in                             the New Testament where the “crown of life” is mentioned; and there                                  also it stands in close connection with the endurance of temptation.                              Elsewhere we read of the “crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:8),

                        and the “crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4).  Temptation unresisted, as we

                        will see, is always pregnant with sin and death; but holy endurance

                        entails upon one the gracious reward of spiritual life, which shall be                                    confirmed in spotless purity forever and ever. This glorious blessing

                        is guaranteed; the believer has for it a definite warranty from his                                         Redeemer.

 

ü      The time and condition of its bestowal. It is “when he hath been

                        approved;” i.e. tested as gold or silver in the white heat of the

                        refiner’s fire. The one way to the kingdom is the way of persevering                                   endurance. “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the

                        crown of life.”  (Revelation 2:10)

 

13Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God

cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man:”

God is not the author of temptation; compare Ecclesieasticus. 15:11-12, "Say not thou,

It is through the Lord that I fell away: for thou oughtest not to do the things that He hateth. Say not thou, He hath caused me to err: for he hath no need of the sinful man." From God; ἀπὸ Θεοῦ - apo Theo (the article is wanting in א, A, B, C, K, L). Contrast ὑπὸ τῆς ἰδίας ἐπιθυμίας – hupo taes idias epithumias – his own desire when being

drawn away . Ἀπὸ Θεοῦ (from God) is a more general expression than ὑπὸ Θεοῦ

(by God), which would refer the temptation immediately to God. Ἀπὸ Θεοῦ is

frequently used as a kind of adverb divinitus (from heaven; by inspiration). Cannot be tempted; ἀπείραστος – apeirastos -is not tempted with evils;- Vulgate, intentator malorum; Revised Version - "cannot be tempted of evil;" Revised Version margin, "is untried in evil." Alford has a good note on this word, in which he points out that it has

but two meanings:

 

(1) that has not been tried;

(2) that has not tried.

 

The rendering of the Vulgate is thus etymologically possible, but is against the context. The use of the word may, perhaps, be extended somewhat wider than the renderings given above would allow, so that it may be paraphrased as "out of the sphere of evils" (Farrar). Neither tempteth He, etc. Here the writer has in his mind the conception of a direct temptation from God. Αὐτός – autos – He is emphatic. Render with Revised

Version, And He Himself tempteth no man.

 

14 "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed."

This verse states the true origin of temptation. While the occasion might be of God

"in the order of His providence and of our spiritual training," the inclination is not of

Him. Compare with this verse the description of the harlot in Proverbs 7:6-27. Here

lust is personified, and represented as a seducing harlot, to whose embraces man

yields, and the result is the birth of sin, which in its turn gives birth to death.

 

15 "Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is

finished, bringeth forth death."  This verse shows where temptation passes into

sin. Ἐπιθυμία - Epithumis - lust, is clearly not in itself "true and proper sin," but

it is no less clear that, as our Article IX. says it "hath of itself the nature of sin."

With this whole passage we should compare St. Paul's teaching on ἐπιθυμία, ἀμαρτιὰ,

and θανατός = epithumia, hamartia and thanatos -  lust, sin and death in Romans

7:7-11. Ἀποκύειν - Apokuein - occurs only here and in v. 18; translate, gendereth.

 

Moral evil has no place in God. There is nothing in Him that temptation can

take hold of. And if He is not Himself open to the seductions of sin, it is

impossible that He can be a tempter of others. God is the infinite Light, and

sin is darkness. God is the eternal Righteousness, and sin is crookedness.

God is the unchangeable Beauty, and sin is deformity. So, He will not and

cannot solicit men towards what is opposed to His own nature. He tries and

tests men; but He does not tempt them. He does not cause sin; he simply

permits it. When we pray, as Christ has taught us to do, “Bring us not into

temptation,” we beg that God may not in His providence place us in

circumstances from which our hearts may take occasion to sin.

 

  • THE GENESIS OF SIN -  Four stages are described:

 

ü      The desirethe appetite draws the man towards evil indulgence.

 

ü      The will yields to the desire, which thus becomes pregnant with action.

 

ü      Sin is born, the offspring of the unhallowed union between will and

                        desire or lust.

 

ü      Lastly, sin, “when it is full grown, bringeth forth death  First there

      cometh into the mind a bare thought of evil, then a strong imagination

      thereof, afterwards delight, and evil motion, and then consent. And so

      little by little our wicked enemy getteth complete entrance, for that he is

      not resisted at the beginning” (Thomas a Kempis).

 

 

  • THE GENESIS OF TEMPTATION – vs. 13-14 – The sacred writers very

      rarely deal in such abstract psychological analysis as we have in this

            passage. These verses remind us that there is natural history in the moral

            world as well as in the physical — “the law of sin and of death” as well

            as “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” There are two conflicting

            theories always prevalent regarding the origin and development of

            temptation:

 

ü      The false theory. (v.13.) Men are prone to ascribe the authorship of

                        temptation to God. This heresy is as old as the garden of Eden and the                               Fall.  Our first parents blamed God for the first sin. And the world has                                   adopted the same excuse, in various forms, ever since. Systems of                                                 philosophy have done so. Pantheism, for example, says that man is

                        only a mode of the Divine existence, and that good is God’s right hand,                             while evil is his left,  Fatalism teaches that all events, good and evil,

                        come to pass under the operation of a blind necessity. Materialism in

                        our day regards the vilest passions of bad men and the holiest

                        aspirations of believers as alike only products of our physical

                        organism. And the same dreadful error prevails equally in common

                        life. Superstitious persons, from the time of James until ours, have

                        had the impression that their misdeeds are necessitated by the

                        Divine decrees. Some blame their nature for their sins, and ascribe to

                        their Maker the origination of their corrupt propensities, as the poet

                        Burns did once and again in lines of daring blasphemy. (Now the

                        sins of Hollywood surpass even that – CY – 2009)  Others trace their

                        sins to their circumstances, blaming God’s providence for surrounding                                them with evil influences, to which, they submit, and lay them under

                        an inevitable necessity of sinning. But the apostle advances reason and                               argument against this impious theory.

 

ü      The truth. (v.14.) Temptation originates within the heart of the

                        sinner himself. It is in vain for him to blame his Maker. Sin is no

                        part of our original constitution, and it is not to be excused on the

                        plea of an unfavorable environment. A man sins only when he is

                        enticed by the bait, and “drawn away” by the hook of “his own

                        lust.” That is, the impelling power which seduces towards evil is the                                   corrupt nature within us. The world and the devil only tempt

                        effectually when they stir up the filthy pool of depraved personal

                        desire. “Lust” includes, besides the appetites of the body, the evil                                      dispositions of the mind, such as pride, malice, envy, vanity,

                        love of ease, etc. Any appeal made from without to these vile

                        principles and affections can be successful only with the consent of

                        the will. Every man is personally responsible for his sin; for each

                        man’s sin takes its rise in his own lust.” Conscience brushes away

                        the cobwebs of the false theory, and assures us all that we are

                        merely our own traitors.”  (If I willfully keep my consicience

                        in darkness and continue in errors which I might easily know to

                        be such by a little thought and searching of God’s Word, then my

                        conscience can offer me no excuse for I am guilty of blindfolding

                        the guide which I have chose and then knowing him to be

                        blindfolded, I am guilty of the folly of letting him lead me into

                        rebellion against God)  Only one Man has ever lived within whose

                        soul there was no hook or bait of corrupt desire on which any evil                                       suggestion could fasten; and no one but he could say, “The prince

                        of the world cometh, and he hath nothing in me.” (John 14:30)

                        and that Man is Jesus Christ

 

  • THE GENEALOGY OF SIN. (v.15.) “Lust” is throughout this

            passage personified in allegorical fashion as a harlot, ever striving, like

            the harlot Folly of Proverbs 9:13-18, to allure and captivate the will.

            First, she draws the man “who goes right on his way” out of the path

            of sound principle and wholesome pleasure; and then she entices him

            into her embrace with the siren strain, “Stolen waters are sweet.” Lust

            may be said to “conceive,” when it obtains the consent of the will, or

            disarms its opposition. The man who dallies with temptation, instead of

            meeting it with instant and prayerful resistance, will be sure eventually to  

            succumb to it. From the guilty union of lust with the will, a living sin

            is born. The embryo corruption becomes developed into a deed of positive

            transgression. And this is not all. Sin, the progeny of lust, itself grows up

            from the infancy of mere choice to the adult life of settled habit; (the

            chains of habit are generally to small to be felt until they are too strong to

            be broken) and “when it is full-grown,” it in turn becomes, as the result

            of union with the will, the mother of death. It was so with the sin of our

            first parents in Paradise. It was so with the sin of Achan (Joshua 7:21); he

            saw, coveted, took, and died. It is so with the sin of licentiousness, which

            has suggested the figure of this passage; the physical corruption which the

            practice of sensuality entails is just a sacrament of spiritual death. (“receiving       

            in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet” – Romans          

            1:27)  Death is the fruit of all sin. Sin kills peace; it kills hope; it kills         usefulness; it kills the conscience; it kills the soul. The harlot-house of lust

            and sin becomes the vestibule of perdition.

 

But how readily men push the responsibility of their actual sin away from themselves

to God! They are placed in such and. such circumstances by God, therefore God is

the author of the sin to which those circumstances lead. So they argue with their own

hearts. The very thought is blasphemy!  The true genesis of sin is man’s will

yielding to his desire and not resisting it!  SUCH THE DARK PEDIGREE OF

SIN AS SET FORTH BY JAMES UNDER THE INSPIRATION OF THE

HOLY SPIRIT!

 

 

Vs. 16-18 - The connection of thought with what goes before appears to be this.

God cannot be the author of temptation, which thus leads to sin and death,

because all good and perfect gifts, and these only, come from Him.

 

16 "Do not err, my beloved brethren." Do not err; better, be not deceived;

μὴ πλανᾶσθε - mae planasthe. The same formula is also found in I Corinthians

6:9; 15:33; Galatians 6:7.  

 

17 "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down

from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of

turning."  Every good gift, etc. The words form a hexameter verse, though this is

probably accidental, and no sign that they are a quotation. Δόσις - dosis - giving

and δώρημα - doraema - gratuity should be distinguished. "Every kind of gift that

is good, and every one that is perfect in its kind" (Dean Scott). Δόσις and δῶρον

occur together in the Septuagint in Proverbs 21:14. They are expressly distinguished

by Philo, who says that the latter involves the idea of magnitude and fullness, which

is wanting to the former (see Lightfoot on 'Revision,' p. 77) "Every good gift and

every perfect boon, Revised Version. The Father of lights (ἀπὸ τοῦ Πατρὸς τῶν

φώτων - apo tou Patros ton photon). The word must refer to the heavenly bodies,

of which God may be said to be the Father, in that He is their Creator (for "Father,"

in the sense of Creator, compare Job 38:28). From Him who "made the stars also"

(Genesis 1:16) comes down every good and perfect gift, and with Him "there can be

no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning." These last words appear to fix

the meaning of φῶτα - phota - lights, as τροπή - tropae - to turn; revolve is used in

the Septuagint as in classical writers for the changes of the heavenly bodies (see

Job 38:33; Deuteronomy 33:14; Wisdom of Solomon 7:18). Οὐκ ἔνι - Ouk eni -

 "there is no room for." It negatives, not only the fact, but the possibility also

(compare Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11).

 

18 "Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a

kind of firstfruits of His creatures."  Begat; literally, brought forth; ἀπεκύησεν -

apekuaesen. The word has been already used of sin in v. 15. The recurrence of it

here points to the connection of thought. The offspring of sin has been shown to

be death. God, too, who is both Father and Mother (Bengel), has His offspring.

But how different! Us (ημῦς - haemus). To whom does this refer?

 

(1) To all Christians.

(2) To Christians of the apostolic age.

(3) To Jewish Christians, to whom the Epistle is specially addressed.

 

Probably (3). Just as Israel of old was Jehovah's firstborn (Exodus 4:22), so now the

germ of the Christian Church, as found in these Judaeo-Christian communities, was

to be "a kind of firstfruits." The thought may be illustrated from a striking parallel in

Philo ('De Creat. Princ.'): Τὸ σύμπαν Ἰουδαίων ἔθνος ... τοῦ σύμπαντος ἀνθρώπων

γένους ἀπενεμηυη οῖα τις ἀπαρχή τῷ ποιῃτῇ πατρί. Transfer this from the Jewish to

the Judaeo-Christian communities, and we have the very thought of the apostle.

By the word of truth (compare I Peter 1:23, where, as here, the new birth is

connected with the Word of God). A kind of firstfruits of his creatures (ἀπαρχή -

aparchae - firstfruit ). The image is taken from the wave sheaf, the firstfruits of

the harvest, the earnest of the crop to follow. St. Paul (according to a very possible

reading) has the same figure in II Thessalonians 2:13, "God chose you as firstfruits

(ἀπαρχήν - aparchaen);" see Revised Version margin. Elsewhere he applies it to

Christ, "the Firstfruits of them that are asleep" (I Corinthians 15:20). "His

creatures (κτισμάτων - ktismaton)." It does not appear to be absolutely necessary

to extend the use of this word so as to include the irrational creation as well as

mankind. בדיה is frequently used in rabbinical writings for the Gentile world, and

κτίσμα may be given the same meaning here, and perhaps κτίσις in Mark 16:15;

Romans 8:19, etc.; Colossians 1:23.

 

The exhortation of v.16 introduces additional confirmation of the truth

that God cannot tempt men to sin. He is the Author of all good. He not

only abhors evil, but from Him come those gracious influences which

destroy it. Three shades of thought appear in the argument of v.17.

 

  • CONSIDER HIS GIFTS. Each of these is “perfect” in its matter, and

            good in the manner of its bestowal. While raw sins (v.14) and ripe

            sins (v.15) alike spring from one’s “own lust,” “every good gift and every

            perfect boon is from above.” All temporal blessings come from God; and

            even in this lower province His bounty is supreme. But especially He is the

            Author of all spiritual blessings - every good gift of grace, and every

            perfect boon of glory. Jesus Christ came down from heaven. The Holy

            Spirit is from above. Ministering angels descend the stairway “whose top

            reacheth to heaven.” (Genesis 28:12)  The regenerated are born from

            above (v.18; John 3:3). The graces of the new life are from God: wisdom,

            strength to bear trials (v. 5); single-mindedness, to rise above outward        

            circumstances (v. 8); steadfast endurance of temptation (v. 12). And, at last,

            the holy city, new Jerusalem, shall come down out of heaven from God.”

            (Revelation 21:2)  It is impossible, then, that God, the universal Benefactor,

            can be in any way responsible for a man’s sin.

 

  • CONSIDER HIS WORKS. He is “the Father of the lights.” What a

            splendid title! and how suggestive of the purity of God! He is Light in His

            own nature, and He is Light in all His relations to the universe. He made the

            starry lights — to which, indeed, the expression seems primarily to refer.

            He is the Author of all intellectual and spiritual illumination — all Urim and

            Thummim, “lights and perfections.” Thus Jesus Christ, as Mediator, is “the         

            Light of the world;” (John 8:12) and, in relation to the absolute God whom

            He reveals,  He is “Light of light.”  We worship, not light, but the Father

            of the lights.” Let us think of some of the lights of which God is the Father.

 

 

ü      SUN-LIGHT. The sun is a great work of God. It is adorned like a

                        bridegroom;” and it is strong like a “giant to run a race.” (Psalm

                        19:4-6) Our whole world, and many others, get all their light from it.

                        The moon takes the sun’s place during night; but its light is just

                        sunlight second-hand. Star-light, too, is sun-light, for all the

                        twinkling stars are suns. Now, God made all these upper lights.

                        He made also all light and fire which man has on earth. Every coal

                        field is just so much “sown” light. Every lump of coal is full of

                        bottled sunshine. Man may strike a light, but only God is its Father!

 

ü      LIFE-LIGHT. The light of life is a higher kind of light than sunlight,

                        and it also comes from God. We see it:

 

Ø      In plants. What makes a flower so beautiful? It is the light

      of life. The eye of the daisy - the “day’s eye” — is bright

      with this light.

                       

Ø      In animals. Life-light makes the birds sing and the lambs

      gambol, and fills the air with the buzz of insect gladness.

      The lion is the king of beasts so long as he has the light of life,

      but “a living dog is better than a dead lion.” (Ecclesiastes 9:4)

 

Ø      In man. In him this light is of a more precious kind, which shall

      burn on forever. God “hath set the world (eternity) in their

      heart” – Ecclesiastes 3:11) The soul that rises with us, our life’s

      star, shall never set. It shall blaze on alter the great lights of

      heaven shall have been put out.

 

Ø      In angels. Every angel is “a flame of fire.” (Hebrews 1:7) 

      Those who stand before God’s throne are the brightest; they

      are the seraphim, the shining ones. The angels are “the

      morning stars,” and God is their Father.

 

             

ü      TRUTH-LIGHT. This gives us the light of knowledge. Every useful

                        book which tells us truth about nature, or the world, or our own

                        bodies and minds, is a light from God. But the highest and best kind

                        of truth is about God himself, and about the way to Him. We have

                        this truth in the Bible; and so the Bible is a lamp shining in a

                        dark place”  (II Peter 1:19) for it tells of Jesus the Savior, who

                        lived and died and lives again — “the Light of the world,” the dear

                        Son of “the Father of the lights.”

 

 

ü      GRACE-LIGHT. Truth-light is a light outside; but grace-light is one

                        which God kindles within our hearts. Only those persons have the

                        light of grace whose souls are illuminated by God’s Holy Spirit. No                                    sooner does he touch our sin-blinded minds and our sin-darkened

                        hearts than they begin to shine with God’s light. This new soul-light

                        will “shine more and more unto the perfect day.” (Proverbs 4:18)

                        All the lamps of grace are fed, as well as kindled, by “the

                        Father of the lights

 

ü      HEAVEN-LIGHT. The home of God is full of light. In hell, all is

                        darkness; on earth, there is mingled light and darkness; in heaven,

                        there is only light. “There shall be no night there.” God and the

                        Lamb are “the light thereof.” (Revelation 21:23)  And everything in                                  heaven reflects its light — the jasper walls, the pearly gates, the

                        golden streets, the crystal river, the white robes, Now it is

                        holiness that is the light of heaven. All there is pure. Grace-light, when

                        a good man dies, blazes up into glory-light. And all the holiness of

                        heaven streams from the Holy, Holy, Holy One — “the Father of the                                lights.”

           

            His people, again, are children of light;”     (John 12:36, Ephesians 5:8,, I            

            Thessalonians 5:5) they reflect the luster of the Sun of righteousness. In God

            is no darkness at all;” but sin is darkness, so it cannot proceed from Him.

            He is only “the Father of the lights.”

 

  • CONSIDER HIS NATURE. The expressions in the last two clauses

            have almost an astronomical savor. They have evidently been suggested by

            the mention of the upper starry lights. The thought which they present is

            that, while God is the Creator of sun, moon, and stars, He is not subject,

            like them, to revolutions and mutations. “With him can be no variation;”

            literally, “parallax.” Parallax, in astronomy, denotes the apparent

            displacement of a star from its true position; but with “the Father of the

            lights there can be no parallax, no real change of place or purpose. “God

            is always in the meridian.” The shadow of the Almighty is not “cast by

            turning.” In the world of astronomy there are revolutions and eclipses

            but not so with God!

 

  • CONSIDER HIS BEST GIFT.  In v. 18 the apostle singles out for special

      mention the highest and best of all God’s gifts to His people, that of

      regeneration.

 

ü      THE BEST OF ALL GIFTS. Regeneration is the summum bonum,

                        being a gift which at once supplies man’s deepest want, and satisfies

                        all that is highest in His nature. The new birth is a necessity; for man                                    comes into the world destitute of the principle of spiritual life. It does

                        not come from reformation; it is a “new birth” - the re-creation of

                        the whole soul after the Divine image, through the infusion of a new                                   spiritual principle. It involves a new heart, a new self, a new

                        character, a new life.

 

ü      THE SOURCE OF THE GIFT. Where resides the power that can

                        renew the soul? Not in a man himself; one’s birth is not one’s own

                        act. It is “the Father of the lights” who performs the miracle of                                         regeneration. Such a change can only be effected by His almighty

                        power. To bestow this gift is the special office of God the Holy

                        Ghost; we are “born of the Spirit.” And what induces God to confer

                        this invaluable blessing? He gives it of His own will.” He is not                                         constrained to give it, He is not moved by fitful impulse. He is not

                        incited by any deservings on our part, for we have none.

                        The ultimate cause is simply “the good pleasure of his will.” It is

                        His nature to love, and bless, and bestow gifts of grace upon the                                         undeserving. Man’s will in union with his lust generates sin and

                        death (v.15); but the will of “the Father of the lights” imparts

                        new life to dead souls.

 

ü      THE INSTRUMENT OF THE GIFT. “By the Word of truth;”

       the gospel of Jesus Christ — the doctrines of grace contained in the          

      Scriptures. The gospel is in our hands as a definite “word,” and

      one which is ABSOLUTELY and DIVINELY TRUE.  The new

      birth is connected with the Word of God.  The Holy Spirit is the

       Agent in regeneration, He employs the Word as the instrument.           

      Although the Scriptures are charged with moral power, man’s         

      understanding is so blind, and his affections are so corrupt, that they

      could never by themselves impart life to any soul; but in the hand of

      the Spirit the doctrines of grace become “living and powerful.”    

      Thousands have been regenerated in connection with the private

      reading of the Bible, and hundreds of thousands as the result of public      

      preaching. “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by

      wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of

      preaching to save them that believe”  (I Corinthians 1:21) The

      Word is needed in regeneration as the means of calling forth the new         

      thoughts and feelings, the new desires and resolves, of the new life.

      Only in connection with the apprehension of revealed truth can a man        

      begin to believe the gospel, or love the Savior, or in any way “exercise      

      himself unto godliness.”  (I Timothy 4:7)

 

ü      THE PURPOSE OF THE GIFT. “That we should be a kind of

                        firstfruits of his creatures.” These words refer to God’s gracious

                        purpose towards His people themselves. They suggest the dignity and                                 honor which belong to the regenerate. The image is derived from

                        those provisions of the Hebrew ceremonial law by which the firstfruits

                        of the harvest, and the firstborn of man and beast, were dedicated to

                        God.  These Hebrew Christians of the dispersion were the precious

                        firstfruits,” in the first century, of the entire world of the redeemed.

                        Similarly, we in this age are the “firstfruits” in relation to the Church

                        that is still future. Not only so, but the entire company of believers of

                        all ages and of both worlds is “the Church of the Firstborn.”

                        (Hebrews 12:23)  They are all of them elect, precious, devoted to God.                               Every regenerate man is a pledge of the ultimate regeneration of the                                  “multitude which no man could number” (Revelation 7:9) as well as

                        of “the restoration of all things,” (Acts 3:19-21) when the new

                        creation of the world shall be accomplished, and Paradise be restored.

                        In conclusion, have we the assurance that this incomparable gift is                                       ours?  Can we say, individually, “He begat us”? What a joy to know,                          from the marks of grace upon us, thatwe have passed out of death

                        into life”!  (John 5:24)

 

 

 

 

EXHORTATION (vs. 19-27)

 

  • TO HEAR RATHER THAN TO SPEAK,
  • NOT ONLY TO HEAR, BUT ALSO TO DO.

 

19 "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to

speak, slow to wrath:" The text requires correction. For ὥστε... ἔστω πᾶς - hoste

….esto pas of the Textus Receptus, read, Ἴστε ἀδελφοί μοι ἀγαπητοι ἔστω δὲ πᾶς -

Iste adelphoi moi agapaetoi esto de pas - , א, A, B, C, Latt. Ἴστε is probably

indicative, and refers to what has gone before. "Ye know this, my beloved

brethren. But let every man," etc. The verse gives us St. James's version of the

proverb, "Speech is silver. Silence is golden." Similar maxims were not infrequent

among the Jews. So in Ecclesiasticus. 5:11, "Be swift to hear; and let thy life be

 sincere; and with patience give answer;" compare 4:29, "Be not hasty in thy

tongue, and in thy deeds slack and remiss." In the rabbinical work, 'Pirqe Aboth,'

1. 12, we have the following saying of Rabbi Simeon, the son of Gamaliel

(who must, therefore, have been a contemporary of St. James): "All my days

I have grown up amongst the wise, and have not found ought good for a man

but silence; not learning but doing is the groundwork; and whoso multiplies

words occasions sin." This passage is curiously like the one before us, both

in the thoughts and in the expressions used.

 

20 "For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God."

This verse gives the reason why men should be slow to wrath. Because man's

wrath does not work God's righteousness (δικαιοσύνην Θεοῦ - dikaiosunaen

Theou), the righteousness which God demands and requires.

 

21 "Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and

receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls."

With the form of expression in this verse, compare I Peter 2:1, "Putting away,

therefore, all wickedness (ἀποθέμενοι οῦν πᾶσαν κακίαν - apothemenoi oun

pasan kakian - putting off all malaice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies,

and all evil-speakings, as new-born babes long for the spiritual milk," etc.

Filthiness (ῤυπαρὶαν - ruparian - filthiness ). Here only in the New Testament,

never in the Septuagint but the adjective ῤυπαρός -ruparos -  is the word used

of the "filthy garments" in Zechariah 3:3-4 - a narrative which illustrates the

passage before us. Kακίας - kakias - of evil is not vice in general, but rather that

vicious nature which is bent on doing harm to others (see Lightfoot on Colossians

3:8). Thus the two words ῤυπαρία and κακία comprise two classes of sins:

 

  • the sensual and
  • the malignant.

 

Engrafted; rather, implanted. The word is only found again in Wisdom of

Solomon 12:10, where it signifies "inborn." St. James's teaching here is almost

like a reminiscence of the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-9). The

"implanted Word" is the gospel teaching. "The seed is the Word of God"

(Luke 8:11).

 

THE RECEPTION OF THE WORD - “The Word of truth” is within our reach,

and is the means of conveying to us the great gift of regeneration. For this

commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee,

neither is it far off.  It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go

up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?

Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go

over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do

it?  But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart,

that thou mayest do it.”  (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)   “Say not in thine heart,

Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)

Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from

the dead.)  But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and

in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach.  That if thou shalt

confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that

God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart

man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made

unto salvation.  For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not

be ashamed.  For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for

the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.  For whosoever shall

call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  (Romans 10:6-13)  It is most

important that we cultivate those dispositions which are most favorable to

the realization of that saving power. Jesus said “Take heed WHAT ye hear” (Mark

4:24)  and “Take heed…HOW ye hear” (Luke 8:18).  These three verses in James

contain four counsels, each of which touches a deeper part of our nature than the

one preceding. If we would rightly “receive” the Word, we must have:

 

  • A QUICK EAR. “Swift to hear.” This precept refers to the acquisition

            of religious knowledge, whether in connection with reading or hearing.

            We should be careful as to the entire matter of our reading. For spiritual    

            instruction we should go less often to books about the Bible, and more

            often straight to the Word of God itself, that we may hear Him speaking

            in it. We should also be “swift to hear” the oral proclamation of the gospel.          

            “Belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans

            10:17). His Word appeals to the heart more powerfully when spoken by a

            living earnest man, than when it is read even from the written page of

            Scripture. We should, therefore, embrace every opportunity of hearing in

            the sanctuary, and be attentive and teachable, and follow up our hearing

            with reflection and obedience.

 

  • A CAUTIOUS TONGUE. “Slow to speak.” This exhortation naturally

            follows the preceding, for the man who is exceedingly fond of hearing

            himself speak will never be a ready listener. The precept is good for

            common use in the conduct of our life; but its specific reference in this

            passage is to caution in the declaration of “the Word of truth.” While

            we are under a sacred obligation to “exhort one another day by day”

            (Hebrews 3:13), and to “speak often one to another” (Malachi 3:16),

            we are to be “slow to speak” in the sense of weighing well our

            words, and of realizing the responsibility which attaches to them. Ministers

            should preach only what they have carefully thought out; and they should

            beware of publishing crude speculations on theological subjects. It is right,

            too, that candidates for the ministry should be required to undergo a

            lengthened curriculum of training before they are entrusted with the

            continuous instruction of a congregation (James 3:1-2; 1 Timothy 3:6).

 

 

  • A CALM TEMPER. “Slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh

            not the righteousness of God” (vs. 19-20). Much speaking tempts to

            passionate speaking; every one knows what is meant by “the heat of

            debate.” At all times we ought to be slow to wrath:” to cultivate such

            a spirit is an important part of the imitation of God. But we should

            particularly guard against irritation of temper at Church-meetings, and in

            conversation or conference upon religious subjects. The clergyman must

            labor to avoid the odium theologicum. The preacher must threaten and

            warn only in love and tenderness – “speaking the truth in love”

            (Ephesians 4:15) The hearer must not listen in a captious spirit, nor quarrel

            with the truth when it comes to him in practical form. For an angry heart will        

            destroy edification (v. 20). Scolding from the pulpit will not “work the     

            righteousness of God” in the hearts of the hearers; and, on the other hand,           

            resentful feelings against the preacher can only hinder regeneration and     

            sanctification.

 

  • A PURE HEART. (v.21) If “the Word of truth” is to sanctify and

            save, it must be received in a docile, humble, tractable spirit; and this

            involves the “putting away” of all malice and impurity. Wherefore

            lay apart  - ἀποθέμενοι, — ap-ot-eeth’-ay-mee; from (ajpo>) and

            (ti>qhmi); to put away (literal or figurative): — cast off, lay apart (aside,

            down), put away (off) all filthiness - rJupari>a, — hroo-par-ee’-ah; from

            (rJuparo>v); dirtiness (moral): — {the word is used in Zechariah

            3:3-4} and superfluity - perissei>a, — per-is-si’-ah;  (perisseu>w);

            surplusage, i.e. superabundance: — abundance (-ant, [-ly]), superfluity.

            of naughtiness” - kaki>a, — kak-ee’-ah; from (kako>v); badness, i.e.

            (subject) depravity, or (active) malignity, or (passive) trouble: —

            evil, malice (-iousness), naughtiness, wickedness.  “Wherefore lay

            apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness” - Thus the two

            words rJupari>a and kaki>a comprise two classes of sins — the sensual

            and the malignant – compare the seventeen listed works of the flesh

            listed in Galatians 5:19-21. Hasty and passionate speech is just a foul

            overflow from the deep depravity of the heart; and, if we would prevent

            the overflow, we must cleanse out the dark pool of corruption itself. If

we put away the “filthiness” of the heart  by a gracious process of

            earnest renunciation, that filthiness will no longer soil the tongue or

            spoil the temper. Those who cultivate the quick ear and the cautious

            tongue and the calm temper, in connection with the purifying of the

            heart, prepare themselves as good soil for the engrafted (implanted)

             Word” ( see Luke 8:15). The grandest joy of life is to have the scion of the

            Word so “implanted” that it shall prove itself to be the power of God to

            the soul’s salvation, by working out visibly in the life “the righteousness of

            God.” And the teaching of this passage, is that if a man would attain that

            blessing, his own will must co-operate with the grace of God and the

            power of “the Word of truth.”

 

The right spirit for the Christian is to be receptive; ready to hear, and to

receive with meekness the engrafted Word, which is to be as the seed

falling on the good ground (Matthew 13:3). It has been noted that man has

two ears and only one mouth; showing that he should be more ready to hear

than to speak. 

 

Being impatient of hearing, too eager to speak, wrathful in speech at that;

rebutting what seemed the blow of the truth against themselves, turning

that blow against others, perhaps against the speaker?  All this?  What a Babel

of confusion! As opposed to this spirit of censorious anger, James urges a quiet,

gentle humility in the hearing of the Word.

 

22 "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own

selves."  They are not merely to receive and hear the Word; they must also act

upon it. Compare St. Paul's teaching in Romans 2:13, "For not the hearers

(ἀκροαταὶ - akroatai) of a law are just before God, but the doers of a law shall

be justified." Ἀκροατής - akroataes - hearer) occurs nowhere else except in

these passages. Deceiving your own selves (παραλογίζειν - paralogizein -

to lead astray by false reasonings; only here and in Colossians 2:4. Not

uncommon in the Septuagint

 

23"For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man

beholding his natural face in a glass:"  An illustration from life, showing the folly

of being led astray. His natural face (τὸ πρόσωπον τῆς γενέσεως αὐτοῦ - to

prowopon taes geneseos autou - literally, the face of his birth). The expression is

an unusual one, but there is no doubt of its meaning. In a glass; rather, in a mirror,

ἐν ἐσόπτρῳ - en esoptro -  compare I Corinthians 13:12, Δἰ ἐσόπτρου - di esoptrou -

through a mirror. The mirror of burnished brass.

 

24 "For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth

what manner of man he was."  Observe the tenses; literally:

 

·         He considered (κατενόησε - katenoaese) himself,

·         has gone away (ἀπελήλυθε - apelaeluthe -), and

·         straightway forgot (ἐπελάθετο - epelatheto -) what he was like (compare

note on v. 11).

 

25 "But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein,

he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed

in his deed.  There is an application of the illustration in the form of a contrast.

Looketh into (παρακύψας - parakupsas - one peering; bending). For the literal sense

of the word, see John 20:5, 11; Luke 24:12. The figurative meaning occurs only here

and in I Peter 1:12.  Properly it signifies to "peep into." See its use in the Septuagint,

Genesis 26:8; Proverbs 7:6-27; Ecclesiasticus 21:23. When used figuratively, it

conveys the idea of looking into, but scarcely with that intensive force which is

often given to it and for which ἐγκύπτειν - egkuptein -  would be required (see

Dr. Field's 'Otium Norvicense,' p. 147). Its use in St. Peter, loc. cit., is easy enough

to explain.  Angels desire even a glimpse of the mysteries. But what are we to say

of its use here? Is it that, though the man took a good look at himself in the glass

(κατανοεῖν - katanoein - consider, is a very strong word; compare Romans 4:19),

yet he forgot what he was like, while the man who only peeps into the law of

liberty is led on to abide (παραμείνας - parameinas - abiding; continuing) and so

to act? The perfect law of liberty; rather, the perfect law, even the law of liberty;

νόμον τέλειον τὸν τῆς ἐλευθερίας - nomon teleion ton taes eleutherias - the

perfect law of the freedom. The substantive is anarthrous (used without an

article), yet the attributive has the article. This construction serves to give

greater prominence to the attributive, and requires the rendering given above

(see Winer, § 20:4). The conception of the gospel as a "law" is characteristic

of St. James (compare ch. 2:8, "the royal law," and ch. 4:11). A forgetful hearer

(ἀκροατὴς ἐπιλησμονής - akroataes epilaesmonaes - forgetful listener; a hearer

characterized by forgetfulness, contrasted with ποιητὴς ἐργοῦ - poiaetaes ergou -

a doer characterized by work.

 

James has said in v.21 that the wise hearer is a receiver of the Word, and he

now proceeds to emphasize the fact that he is also a “doer” of it. Receiving

represents the root of the Christian life, and “doing” indicates its fruit

 

The purpose of preaching is not that the people may be “very much pleased,”

but that they may be profited, edified, and inspired to live an upright, generous,

godly life. The highest praise that can be bestowed upon a Christian minister is

not to tell him how much his preaching is enjoyed on sabbaths, but to let

him see how well it is being translated into the life on the other days of the

week. The mission of the pulpit is an agency for man-building. Its work is to

promote the doing of the Word of God in the everyday lives of men. Those people

who regard “hearing” as the sum of Christian duty have no idea of the nature of

true piety. Their profession is nothing better than an empty form. What does this

profit, if their church-going carries with it no power to direct their daily life

into the ways of holiness?

 

The simile here is that of two men looking at their faces in a mirror. “The Word

of truth” is the spiritual glass in which we may see the reflection of our own souls.

The Bible not only reveals the holy God to man; it also discovers sinful man to

himself. But the mere hearer, after he has momentarily recognized himself in it,

goes on his way and forgets his moral uncomeliness. He finds it convenient

not to remember that what he saw was the features of “the old man, which

waxeth corrupt after the lusts of deceit.” (Ephesians 4:22) The wise hearer, on

the other hand, looks into the mirror that he may learn the law of his renewed life.

The gospel law brings no bondage or terror to him. It does not constrain

him to an unwilling obedience. It is to him “the perfect law, the law of

liberty (v.25), which the Holy Spirit is writing within his heart. The

apostle indicates three elements of contrast between the conduct of the two

men in relation to the gospel mirror.

 

  • The one man “beholdeth;” the other “looketh.” In the case of the mere

            hearer it is only a passing, cursory, careless glance of the eye — a look

            at the mirror, and at himself in it. But, in the case of the wise hearer, it is

            the serious, eager, anxious gaze of the soul: this man stoops down to take a

            close look “into” the law of liberty.

 

  • The one man “goeth away;” the other “continueth” to look. The mere

            hearer glances hastily and briefly, because uninterestedly, He thinks

            always of sermons as dull, and is glad to dismiss the subject of religion

            so soon as the church-service is over. But the wise hearer goes on looking.

            His gaze is persistent and unwearied. He looks so long that what he sees

            becomes indelibly impressed upon his heart.

 

  • The one man straightway forgetteth” - the other is a doer that

            worketh. The mere hearer soon dismisses the thought of the spots and

            blemishes which he saw upon his spiritual features when he glanced at

            them in the gospel mirror. But the wise hearer looks carefully and

            continuously, because he wants to know himself, and because it is his

            purpose to be always a “doer.” He has learned that it is the business of his

            life to obey the perfect law of liberty. By the doing of this work he will

            attain both self-knowledge and self-government. And in the doing of it he

            shall be “blessed.”  Merely to hear the Word and feel its power, and then

            to go away and forget, is to be drugged as with an opiate that makes us

            insensible to our danger; on the other hand, to hear and to do, and to abide

            in the doing, is to realize the bounding gladness of the full flow of living

            health!

 

CONCLUSION. We learn from this passage, what is insisted upon

throughout the whole Bible, that the secret of true human happiness lies in

holy obedience to the will of God.  This is ably illustrated in Psalm 1:2 –

his delight is in the Law of the Lord; and in His Law doth he meditate

day and night”  It is a Law which is a living power, evermore working its

perfection into our imperfect life!

 

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,

nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the

scornful.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth

he meditate day and night.  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers

of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not

wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.  The ungodly are not so: but

are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.  Therefore the ungodly shall

not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly

shall perish.”   (Psalm 1:1-6)

 

26 "If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue,

but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.  Seem (δοκεῖ - dokei -

is seeming; seems to himself rather than to others); translate, with Revised

Version, thinketh himself to be. Vulgate, Si quis Putat se esse. Religious

(θρῆσκος - thraeskos - ritualist). It is difficult to find an English word which

exactly answers to the Greek. The noun θρησκεία - thraeskeia - refers properly

to the external rites of religion, and so gets to signify an over-scrupulous devotion

to external forms (Lightfoot on Colossians 2:18); almost "ritualism." It is the

ceremonial service of religion, the external forms, a body of which εὐσεβεία -

eusebeia - godliness; holiness is the informing soul. Thus the θρῆσκος

(the word apparently only occurs here in the whole range of Greek literature)

is the diligent performer of Divine offices, of the outward service of God, but

not necessarily anything more. This depreciatory sense of θρησκεία is well seen

in a passage of Philo ('Quod Det. Pot. 'Jus.,' 7), where, after speaking of some

who would fain be counted among the εὐλαβεῖς (godly) on the score of diverse

washings or costly offerings to the temple, he proceeds: Πεπλάνηται γὰρ καὶ

οϋτος τῆς πρὸς εὐσεβείαν ὁδοῦ θρησκείαν ἀντὶ ὁσιότητος ἡγούμενος

(see Trench on 'Synonyms,' from whom the reference is here taken).

"How delicate and fine, then, St. James's choice of θρῆσκος and θρησκεία!

'If any man,' he would say, 'seem to himself to be θρῆσκος, a diligent observer

of the offices of religion, if any man would render a pure and undefiled θρησκεία

to God, let him know that this consists, not in outward lustrations or ceremonial

observances; nay, that there is a better θρησκεία than thousands of rams and rivers

of oil, namely, to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with his God

(Micah 6:7-8); or, according to his own words, ' to visit the widows and orphans

in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world'" (v. 27)

 (Trench on 'Synonyms,' p. 170: the whole passage will well repay study.

Reference should also be made to Coleridge, 'Aids to Reflection,' p. 15).

Bridleth not (μὴ χαλιναγωγῶν - mae chalinagogon - no bridling). The thought

is developed more fully afterwards (see ch. 3:2, etc., and for the word, cf. Polyc.,

'Ad Philippians,' c.v.).

 

27 "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit

the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted

from the world.  God and the Father; rather, our God and Father. The article

(τῷ - to - ) binds together Θεῷ - Theo - God and Πατρί - Patri - Father,  so that

they should not be separated, as in the Authorized Version. To visit the fatherless...

and to keep himself unspotted. Observe that our duty towards our fellow-men is

placed first; then that towards ourselves. Ἐπισκέπτεσθαι - episkeptesthai -  to be

visiting is the regular word for visiting the sick; compare Ecclesiasticus 7:35,

"Be not slow to visit the sick (μὴ ὄκει ἐπισκέτεσπθαι ἀῥῤωστον - mae okei

episketespthai arroston)." The fatherless and widows (ὀρφανοὺς καὶ χήρας -

orphanous kai chaeras - bereaved ones and widows). These stand here (as so

often in the Old Testament) as types of persons in distress; the "personae

miserabiles" of the Canon Law (see e.g. Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalm 68:5;

82:3; Isaiah 1:17; and compare Ecclesiasticus 4:10). "Be as a father unto the

fatherless, and instead of an husband unto their mother; so shalt thou be as the

son of the Most High, and he shall love thee more than thy mother doth."

To keep himself unspotted. Man's duty towards himself. (For ἄσπιλον - aspilon -

unspotted, compare I Timothy 6:14; I Peter 1:19; II Peter 3:14.) From the world.

This clause may be connected either with τηρεῖν - taerein - to be keeping or with

ἄσπιλον, as in the phrase, καθαρὸς ἀπὸ - katharos apo - clean from in Acts 20:26.

 

Government of tongue may serve as a test of a man’s religion, it being

“a most material restraint which religion lays us under; without it no man

can be truly religious.” Sins of the tongue include not only such flagrant

ones as lying, swearing, filthy conversation, etc., but what Bishop Butler

calls “unrestrained volubility and wantonness of speech,” which is the sin

more particularly alluded to by St. James, and which is the occasion of

numberless evils and vexations in life.” “If people would                        

 

  • observe the obvious occasions of silence;
  • if they would subdue the inclination to tale-bearing, and
  • that eager desire to engage attention which is an original disease in

            some minds, they would be in little danger of offending with their

            tongue, and would, in a moral and religious sense, have due government

            over it”.   (Bishop Butler).

 

It has been well said that the talkative often do more harm than the willfully false

and malicious. They betray secrets, part friends, embitter foes, wound hearts,

blight characters and hinder truth. Is not this true of many a man who seems to

himself to be religions?  “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty;

and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Proverbs 16:32)

 

The two verses (26-27) enforce by an example what those immediately

preceding illustrate by a simile. The words “religious” and “religion” denote

external religious service - the outward attire of godliness, rather than its

inward spirit. The apostle indicates in these two sentences the “work” of

which every one who truly “receives” the gospel is a “doer.”

 

  • AN EXAMPLE OF VAIN RELIGIOUS SERVICE. (v.26.) This

            statement points back to the exhortation of v.19. The tongue is an

            unruly member; (see ch. 3) -  it requires to be “held in with the bit and

            bridle” of Christian principle. A man’s words are a true index or evidence

            of his character; and they also react upon that character, and tend to confirm

            it for good or evil. Should, therefore, a person who has been for many years

            a member of a Christian Church indulge always, without restraint, in evil   

            speaking; should he be in the habit of soiling his tongue with impure, or

            malicious, or false, or foolish words; what other conclusion can be drawn

            about his character than just that he is not a true Christian? Such a man is a

            “hearer only,” and therefore either a self-deceiver or a hypocrite. He may

            cherish some of the sentiments and instincts of religion; but the most

            sublimated sentiment is quite worthless, if it cannot be translated into

            everyday life. Where there is no government of the tongue, what avails

            love for the Church and its services? “This man’s religion is vain;” it is

            an idle, empty, useless, unreal thing — a counterfeit of genuine worship.

            The apostle’s language here is exceedingly strong; but it is the language of

            inspiration, and it runs parallel with what we read in other parts of

            Scripture – Jesus said “But I say unto you, That every idle word that

            men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

            For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt

            be condemned.  (Matthew 12:36-37). Many professing Christians may well

            tremble when they read this verse. How prone we all are to sin with our

            lips! How constantly we are tempted to idle speaking! Let us guard against

            the sin of slander, of depreciating goodness, of imputing selfish motives;

            and against every other form of uncharitable speech. If we do not “keep

            our mouth with a bridle” (Psalm 39:1), we “deceive our hearts” as to

            our spiritual state before God; in which case there is danger that all our

            psalm-singing and sermon-hearing may only help to drag us down to a

            deeper perdition.

 

  • AN EXHIBITION OF TRUE RELIGIOUS SERVICE. (v.27)

            James here submits a rubric for the ritual of the Church. The services

            which God loves are not ceremonial observances, but habits of purity and

            charity. The moral in our Church life is infinitely more important than the

            liturgic. Indeed, the moral and spiritual are the great end which our fellow-

            ship contemplates, and to that end rites and ceremonies are but the means.

 

ü      The true ritual consists in the maintenance of personal purity in a

      world of sin. The Christian is a man who, having been once washed all       

      over in the blood of atonement, must labor in the strength of God’s

      Spirit to keep himself from fresh defilement, he is to guard himself

      against the contaminations of the world, its pursuits, ambitions,

      counsels, and its grosser pleasures. He must not become an ascetic

      or a hermit; rather, he is to show to his fellow-men that he can live in

      the world an unworldly life. It is hard to do so, doubtless; it requires

      rare moral courage to resist evil, and. to brave the contempt and     

      persecution which such resistance entails. Yet this is the worship to

      which God calls us. He will not accept our “devotions” if we refuse

      him our devotion. A holy life is the most beautiful of psalms. It is the       

      blossom and fruit of all other praise. It is grander than the finest cathedral

      of service, for it is the perfect realization of the Divine ideal of worship.

 

ü      The true ritual consists in the exercise of active benevolence in a

      world of suffering. Christ, when on earth, “went about doing good;”

      (Acts 10:38) and every Christian is an imitator of Christ. “A doer

      that worketh” (v.25) finds his chief sphere of social activity in

      kindness to the poor and suffering. We are joined together in the    

      fellowship of the gospel that we may be helpful to our fellow-

      Christians and our fellow-men who are in affliction and poverty.

                        All our public worship is “vain” if no hearts are made happier, and

                        no firesides warmer, because of it. The Church exists that its

                        members may be inspired to become a fountain of spiritual sympathy

                        to the widow, and a ministry of moral help to the orphan. A

                        congregation can offer no comelier praise than the music of constant

                        acts of loving-kindness and tenderness and self-sacrifice. Where this                                  

                        worship is not rendered, the grandest sanctuary, so called, will be

                        rather only a sepulcher of souls, and the most aesthetic church-service

                        a “vain oblation.” The true gospel cultus lies in personal acts of

                        sympathy and kindness, done to the poor out of love to Jesus, and

                        because the poor are His brethren (Matthew 25:34-40).

                        Every professing Christian should therefore try the reality and strength

                        of his piety by this test: Does he give himself to the celebration of the

                        true full ritual of Christ’s house - that which lies in A LIFE OF

                        PURITY AND CHARITY?

 

  • PRACTICAL RELIGION - Christianity is the religion of the life, and the

      ceremonial cleanness is cleanness of conduct and heart.

 

ü      The ritual. Doing good. So Romans 12:1; Hebrews 13:16. A

                        concrete instance is given here, viz. the visiting of the fatherless

                        and widows in their affliction, but only as an instance of the ritual

                        of the law of love. And notice the immense significance of the words,

                        “before our God and Father.” Such as He is we must be, “pitiful,

                        and of very tender mercy” (James 5:11).

 

ü      The cleanness. “Unspotted from the world.” This is man’s

      duty towards himself.

 

"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.

Materials are reproduced by permission."

 

This material can be found at:

http://www.adultbibleclass.com

 

If this exposition is helpful, please share with others.