James Chapter 1: Character Development, Comparison to Sermon on the Mount

Nov 5th, 2009 | By | Category: James, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

James Chapter 1: Character Development, Comparison to Sermon on the Mount

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

James is a general epistle, the first of seven general or catholic epistles that were not addressed to any particular group or ecclesia: James; 1 and 2 Peter; 1, 2, and 3 John; and Jude.

The author was James, but which James? Only two would be viable: James of Alphaeus and James of Zebedee, both of whom were apostles. The author would have to be an apostle because the Church was founded on Jesus Christ and his twelve apostles. Therefore, all of the New Testament writings had to be authored by an apostle. Peter was responsible for the Gospel of Mark, and Paul was responsible for both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts.

The four Gospels are both instructional and historical, telling what Jesus said and did, whereas the Book of Acts is just historical, telling primarily about the ministries of Peter and Paul. The epistles are instructional.

Although modern scholarship almost unanimously cites James of Alphaeus as the author of the epistle, James of Zebedee was actually the author. Ancient authorities and also some from the Middle Ages concur with this conclusion. Reasons why James of Zebedee was the author are set forth in The Keys of Revelation, pages 594-598. An excerpt follows:

“It appears that the message was composed under urgent circumstances and penned by some gifted amanuensis who faithfully and accurately translated the Apostle’s dictation into Greek, the international language of the day, expressing the thoughts in the spirited fashion so characteristic of James of Zebedee. The message does not have any of the usual concluding remarks, salutations, etc., but comes to an unannounced and unexpected conclusion. This abrupt termination suggests that it was written shortly before James Zebedee’s martyrdom at the hands of Herod Agrippa in A.D. 44.

Thus James of Zebedee is the logical author of the Epistle of James, for James of Alphaeus was not martyred until A.D. 62—too late to account for such an abrupt ending of the letter.

“The epistle reveals the character of its author as a dy namic reasoner not given to mincing words but to forceful exhortation, exposing matters to the very core and propounding pure religion in open and easy-to-be-understood practical terms.”

The fact that verse 1 does not say “James, an apostle” should not be surprising, for his brother was John of Zebedee, who, in humility, did not use his name in his Gospel and epistles but kept himself in the background. A certain type of parental influence is sometimes exercised on children. For instance, John the Baptist said of Jesus, “I am not worthy to even unloose the shoelace of Messiah” (Mark 1:7 paraphrase). John’s mother, Elisabeth, manifested similar humility when Mary came to visit her. Elisabeth said the babe in her womb leaped for joy when Mary spoke. Then Elisabeth said she should have gone to greet Mary, and not vice versa, for the one in Mary’s womb was much superior. And Paul said of Timothy, “I see in you your grandmother, as well as your mother” (2 Tim. 1:5 paraphrase). Both James and John of Zebedee were self-effacing, but it was necessary for James to at least attach his first name to this epistle so that we can discern who the author was.

“James, a servant” is rendered “James, a bondservant” in some translations, the implication being that he was purchased with a price. The human race was under bondage to sin and death, and Jesus Christ, as the Redeemer, paid the debt that was owed. James went directly to the point with no flowery language and humbly stated that he was “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The epistle was addressed “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad,” that is, to the Jewish Christians of the twelve tribes of Israel who had a foreign residence. James felt an obligation to fortify fellow Jews who had accepted Christ but who were scattered abroad. In the first century, prior to the Diaspora of AD 69-70, so many Jews were living in foreign nations that there was a synagogue in almost every major city in Asia Minor and in Rome.

Jewish Christians scattered out of fear because they had accepted Christ. For example, before his conversion, Paul was so determined to expunge the “heresy” of the followers of Jesus that he even traveled to Damascus for that purpose. He was like an incendiary bomb in his efforts.

When Jewish Christians moved abroad, they went to places where other Jews had previously lived. In 606 BC, Jews were taken captive to Babylon, and in 536 BC, Cyrus issued a decree that any Jews who so desired could return to their homeland to worship their God. Only a relatively few went back, however—approximately 50,000. The majority, who did not return and were primarily of the ten tribes, were eventually dispersed and are sometimes called “the lost tribes of Israel.” Much of what Anglo-Israelites say is true, and much of what they say is not true. They trace the dispersion of Jews into various lands, even to England, and notice the names of towns, traditions from ancient times, etc. The throne of England is supposedly sitting on the stone on which Jacob rested his head.

At any rate, Christian Jews were dispersed abroad, and James was addressing those Jews. This emphasis indicates an early message; that is, the Epistle of James was written before the message went in a large degree to the Gentiles by the hand of Paul.

Notice the unusual and terse “Greeting.” “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.” James used no flowery language or decoration.

Peter, James, and John were considered ignorant by the world’s standards. It is true they were uneducated, but they were not ignorant. An examination of their epistles and John’s Gospel shows they were well above average in their reasoning. Wisdom in that sense has nothing to do with formal schooling. Important wisdom is the individual’s ability to analyze and to use discretion as to what he accepts as true or false. Of course these three apostles were begotten by the Holy Spirit, so whatever natural capabilities they had in reasoning were greatly

enhanced by the Holy Spirit.

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

James 1:3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

Notice the blunt way in which James started his instruction. “Count it all joy” means to “reckon it as a blessing.” Jesus stated this principle in his Sermon on the Mount. When we are persecuted for truth or for righteousness’ sake (not for abrasiveness and stupidity on our part), we should rejoice, knowing that our reward in heaven will be great. “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so

persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matt. 5:10-12). Jesus’ words made such a deep impression on James that he started his epistle abruptly with this principle.

Comment: Acts 5:40,41 illustrates this principle, although it is not certain James was among the apostles who were present. “And to him [Gamaliel] they [the council members] agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they [the apostles] departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.”

For verse 2, the Revised Standard Version has, “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials.” “Temptations” in this context would be trials, testings, and provings. There are different types of testings—trials come from God, whereas temptations come from Satan. One can fail to do good, and one can fail to resist wrong. The trials of verse 2 are not necessarily lustings of the flesh. God’s method of testing and trial will be discussed in more detail when verse 13 is treated.

Comment: In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructed us to look past our trials to see their results. Paul picked up this theme in Hebrews 12:11, “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” Peter continued the theme in 1 Peter 1:6,7, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the  appearing of Jesus Christ.” The point is that we will have trials, but we should look beyond them to see what their purpose is. We can rejoice when we see that purpose.

Years ago we had many discussions with Bro. Krebbs about principles. He said that while Peter spoke in his epistle about the value of trials and testings, the emphasis was on the proof of the trials and testings (1 Pet. 1:7). Coming through a trial of faith is an invaluable experience, but the point Bro. Krebbs was making is that the trial itself is also invaluable. From that trial, if we are faithful, comes the proof, the reward, the fruit, but James was saying that the very trial we are privileged to suffer as a Christian is invaluable. James was not discussing the proof, the reward, that results from the trial; rather, he started at the very beginning. Because of what it will lead to, the testing itself is invaluable if we rightly receive it.

James was suggesting, too, that these Jewish Christians were already being tested. He was empathizing with those who were suffering because of their identity as followers of Christ. His advice was to reckon their current experiences as a blessing if they allowed the trials to produce the proper fruitage, such as patient endurance. It takes faith to believe this and to act on that faith by living humbly, being true to Jesus, and witnessing—and then to accept the resultant persecution. Patient endurance of persecution and trials brings spiritual “muscles,” fortitude, and strength to the inner man. Stated another way, the testing of our faith brings the fruit of patient endurance.

Comment: The thought of development is brought out in Romans 5:3-5, “We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience [patient endurance]; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

Reply: This early hope of the Church was expressed by James, Peter, and Paul.

James 1:4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

James boiled down the Christian experience to two cardinal factors: faith and patient endurance. Peter, on the other hand, listed eight: “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity” (2 Pet. 1:5-7). James was saying that faith overcomes the world, that faith is the victory. If the Christian holds on to his faith to the end of his life, he will receive a crown. “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). Faith is the victory, but maintain it. Faith will work patient endurance, and patient endurance has a crystallizing and fortifying effect.

We say, “I would like to have that kind of faith.” As the woman of Samaria said, “ Lord, give me to drink of the water you are speaking of so that I will have life within me and not need any more water” (John 4:15 paraphrase). Next we ask, “How do I go about getting such faith?”

Verse 5 gives the answer; namely, pray for wisdom. Wisdom is the natural desire of one who is hungering to be faithful.

James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

James 1:6 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.

We pray a lot but sometimes have difficulty seeing the answer. At times the answer comes even before we pray, but we do not realize it until later. Here James spoke strongly about the importance of faith. “Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.”

Comment: Proverbs 2:3-6 reads, “Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.”

Reply: The value of that text is to show we do not merely ask but must exert effort. We must search for wisdom and knowledge as one would search for silver and gold. Because they are found in nature in very minute quantities, one must dig through a lot of rubble before striking the silver lode or the gold vein. Praying for wisdom does not mean waiting for something to miraculously occur but means we are to persistently and doggedly pursue the goal of obtaining wisdom from on high. We must be hungry for wisdom in order to persistently and consistently pursue its attainment. We are all fallen creatures by nature and have leaky vessels and wandering minds. It is often difficult to maintain our focus of concentration, especially aswe get older. Therefore, faith and asking—without doubting—are based on a persistent pursuit and a realization that the gracious Lord, who knows our desire and the sincerity of our prayer, will answer our prayers for wisdom. “Let him ask in faith, [with] nothing wavering” is a lot of meaning in very few words.

James was very blunt. We identify him as the fourth stone in the high priest’s breastplate because he was very practical with a no-nonsense, pragmatic type of reasoning.

James was telling us to pray for practical wisdom and saying that such a prayer will be answeredif we have the proper motive for desiring the wisdom and if we are obedient to what we have already received.

Comment: God granted such wisdom to King Solomon so that he could judge the people.

Comment: Many of the apostles amplified and repeated themes they heard from the Master.

About faith Jesus said, “Whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matt. 21:22). And in Matthew 17:20, he said, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”

Reply: Yes, but a characteristic of James is that he did not change the subject like the other apostles. They branched out, but when James had a certain subject in mind, he allowed nothing to distract and used a practical, common-sense type of reasoning. He gave basic “meat and potatoes” instruction.

Q: Does “ask in faith, nothing wavering” mean, as in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace”? Does it mean that we are to pray boldly and sincerely and that we should not be wishy-washy in our requests?

A: Yes. Those are the cardinal points, but James will bring out some other thoughts later. For example, he will ask, “Is what you are requesting in prayer right for you as a Christian? Why are you making this petition?” However, it is always proper to ask for wisdom from God and His Word and for understanding what His will is. Our prayer requests should generally include the clause “if it be in harmony with thy will.” For instance, we may request restored health for a brother, but it may not be the Lord’s will to grant the petition. Because God knows our frailty of endurance in certain areas, we hope we will develop in an experience and then pass on to another experience. Sometimes God’s will is for one to remain in an experience until his or her dying day. Meanwhile, it is good to have sympathy for others and not just for self.

“For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” James likened wavering faith to wind-tossed waves of the sea. Strong winds can blow one off course, in another direction, but the primary motion of the waves is up and down. Accordingly, some brethren have highs and lows. The literal result of an angry sea is seasickness. Spiritually speaking, the Christian hopes to go resolutely on, by God’s grace, steering a straight course in spite of the winds of adversity and the slough of despondency. Some pursue the Christian course as if it is a hundred-yard dash, but we are in a marathon, a lifelong race toward the goal of the high calling.

During severe weather, the man at the helm in the smaller vessels of the past had to hold the wheel with all his strength, for if the vessel was blown off course, the wheel spun around and the craft turned and was difficult to get back on course without breaking the rudder. Proper spiritual steering is based on faith and the knowledge of God’s Word and will. We all need more and more of such wisdom.

Comment: Perhaps in the back of James’s mind while he was writing this portion of his epistle was his experience when the Twelve were in the boat on the Sea of Galilee with Jesus and the storm and angry waves were about to overwhelm them. They cried out, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38). He replied, “O thou of little faith” (Matt. 8:26). The connection between waves and faith may have been very real to him.

Reply: That is why it is important to realize James of Zebedee was the author of this epistle. Although all twelve apostles were in the boat, only about five or six apostles went through all or most of the experiences during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Even to this day, severe storms are characteristic of the Sea of Galilee.

The Epistle of James furnishes the barest material that is necessary for a Christian to make his calling and election sure. Of course other factors enter in, based on the period of the Church in which a Christian lives. Sometimes dispensational truth is essential for making the high calling, but the information James provided is the basic substance needed to prevent spiritual shipwreck. James stressed the importance of some simple but fundamental truths.

James 1:7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

James 1:8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

Curt and abrupt, James talked no nonsense and got right to the point. He was telling us to have resoluteness of purpose, tenacity of will, persistence, and perseverance. God wants to bless us in abundance, but certain prerequisites must first be pursued.

Comment: Mark 11:24 reads, “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”

Reply: Yes, James drew from the Gospels. An interesting talk or study would be to show where Paul, Peter, and John differed from James. They branched out and introduced some new thoughts, whereas James kept emphasizing what Christ had said and done, yet he mentioned the name of Jesus only twice in his entire epistle (James 1:1; 2:1). Had James not mentioned Jesus and not given his own name, we would not know who wrote the epistle. James gave the barest of information, but he supplied what was essential to be certain his epistle is part of the canon of Scripture.

If Christians are not to be “double minded,” then they should be single-minded. They must have a single eye.

Comparison of Sermon on the Mount and Epistle of James

The Keys of Revelation, page 597, states that the Epistle of James “consists of a series of minitopics that to a remarkable degree in subject matter, parallels, and tone bear semblance to the Sermon on the Mount, with which the author was obviously familiar.”

(James 1:2) – “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations [testings or provings of your faith].”

(Matt. 5:12) – Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

The common denominator is rejoicing in tribulation.

(James 1:5) – “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

(James 5:13-15) – “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray…. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”

(Matt. 7:7-11) – Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”

The common denominator is asking in prayer and the willingness of the Father to answer prayers in the affirmative that are in harmony with His will. Wisdom and spiritual sickness are certainly proper subjects of prayer. (Healing is needed so that spiritual sickness does not interfere with one’s worship of God.)

(James 1:4) – “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

(Matt. 5:48) – “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

(James 2:13) – “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shown no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”

(Matt. 5:7) – “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”

(Matt. 6:14,15) – “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

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

(Matt. 5:3) – “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

These comparisons did not just happen. The similarities are intentional, for the Sermon on the Mount left a deep impression on James of Zebedee.

(James 4:4) – “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”

(Matt. 6:24) – “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

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

(Matt. 7:1,2) – Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

(James 5:2) – “Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.”

(Matt. 6:19) – “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.”

These verses show the deterioration and the corruption of riches and the goods of this world.

A quiet consideration of the Epistle of James and the Sermon on the Mount reveals many similarities. There are also comparisons between James and Peter, and between James and Paul. For instance, James spoke of the importance of works in the sense of their being an evidence, or proof, of a living faith. He did not contradict the truth that faith justifies, but he showed that we must have a living faith, a practiced faith. James mentioned the importance of deeds in his epistle, using common-sense reasoning, whereas Paul emphasized that faith does the justifying. For example, he said that Abraham believed God, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness. If James had been familiar with Paul’s reasoning on these subjects, he would have been careful to insert some type of modifying clause to show he was not contradicting Paul. However, because James died relatively early compared with the other apostles and because Paul’s ministry was among the Gentiles, there was very little communication between the two apostles. The point is that James, the first apostle to be martyred, wrote his epistle much earlier.

James spoke of a justifying faith that is practical and can be seen (James 2:14-26). If a person expresses that he has a lot of faith in God, his deeds should not belie his words. A faith that justifies is evident before men; it is manifested in deeds. On the other hand, Paul spoke of faith in the sense of being justified with God. This perspective of faith is not seen but is part of the secret inner life of the Christian and includes his hopes, his aspirations, and his love for and fealty to God. Thus James spoke of faith as being justified in the sight of men, and Paul spoke of faith as being justified in the sight of God.

(James 2:17) – “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”

(James 4:17) – “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

(Matt. 7:21-23) – “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

(James 1:26) – “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.”

(Matt. 5:22) – “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire [eternal destruction].”

(James 3:2-18) – “For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is   fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”

These last three citations—James 1:26; 3:2-18; and Matthew 5:22—are comparisons between a bridled, or controlled, tongue and an unbridled one. A bridled tongue fosters peace, goodwill, mercy, good fruits, etc. An unbridled tongue causes much harm. Once again James was greatly influenced by Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Similarly, the Apostle John was greatly influenced by Jesus’ talks on the night of the Memorial.

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

(Matt. 5:33-37) – “Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.”

Both James and Matthew said one should “swear not” but should let his yea be yea and his nay be nay.

On another occasion, the comparison between the apostles Peter and James will be treated.

Peter was in the vicinity of Israel longer than Paul, who was from Tarsus. Even though Paul was on the scene with the stoning of Stephen, the bulk of his time was spent among the Gentiles. In the beginning of his ministry, he went to Damascus and then to Saudi Arabia for three years (Gal. 1:17,18). However, Peter and James were contemporaries for quite some time, and it is interesting to see how much each influenced the other. Peter echoed what James Zebedee, the firebrand, said. The Epistle of James was written very early, before the epistles of Paul and Peter; and in the most ancient manuscripts, the Epistle of James was placed ahead of Paul’s epistles.

(James 2:21-23) – “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.”

(1 Cor. 10:1-9,31-33) – “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.

Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents…. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”

Abraham was justified by good works that evidenced faith, whereas the works in the tenth chapter of 1 Corinthians were negative. The children of Israel failed in the wilderness because their works were not mixed with faith. “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Heb. 4:2). Thus Paul equated works with faith but in a negative way. James did not contradict Paul but said that faith would be manifested by good works.

(James 2:25) – “Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?”

(Heb. 11:31) – “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.

James and Paul both mentioned Rahab. James was a deep thinker but was given to very few words. His type of reasoning influenced both Peter and Paul in another way. For instance, in later years, Paul had to counteract Jewish Christians who felt that the Christian must obey the Law (be circumcised, observe holy days, etc.), as well as have faith in Christ. Hence he tried to separate faith and works, and he said that faith justifies, not works. However, earlier James had said that works manifest a living faith, although he also inferred that faith justifies. In his earlier years, Paul did not have to refute the thought that the Christian must obey the Law because he went into virgin territory and introduced a new religion, but after Gentiles were converted and stablished in the faith for a while, the Jewish Christian element began to trouble them. Paul  wrote epistles (such as Galatians) and/or went back a second time to try to straighten out the confusion. The point is that the writings of Peter and Paul did not contradict those of James; rather, they were a confirmation.

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

James 1:10 But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.

James 1:11 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.

Comment: Verse 9 in the NIV has “humble circumstances” instead of “low degree.”

Reply: Yes, the humble brother with little of this world’s goods is contrasted with the rich brother of verse 10.

Comment: The Holy Spirit is a balancing factor if we fully submit ourselves to God’s will. The humble ones are given the necessary strength and encouragement, and the ones with more temporal means, who might have too much self-esteem, are given experiences to develop meekness and humility.

Why is the “brother of low degree” told to rejoice? What is the problem? He may feel inferior to the brother with more of this world’s goods or even be envious. As a result, discouragement may set in. In reality, however, the very fact the “brother of low degree” has been called by God is a great honor. By being singled out and called, he has actually been exalted. He should dwell on the future, on the treasures in heaven, rather than be concerned with treasures on earth. “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6).

Comment: The humble brother with less means gets greater pleasure out of the things the Lord provides. For example, a gift that might mean little or nothing to the rich person is a great blessing to the humble one.

Reply: That is true when one has the proper heart attitude of contentment.

There is the expression “He does not have a dime in his pocket, but he likes to window-shop.”

A certain satisfaction comes from seeing material things without feeling the need to possess them. In the next life, all things will be ours, as it were, if we are faithful now.

Comment: Because of the large middle class in this country, we do not see the contrast as much between rich and poor. Brethren in countries like Poland and Romania are a mixture of some having very little and others having a lot.

Reply: There should be a feeling of sensitivity to the condition of other brethren so as not to place a stumbling block before them.

“As the flower of the grass he [the rich] shall pass away” (verse 10). “You can’t take it with you” is a common expression. The passing, or fading away, of the rich man (verses 10 and 11) is usually considered from the standpoint of death, but his riches can pass away earlier.

Comment: Since we know that not many rich are called, the Lord has given us blessings as brethren in Christ to try to supply the needs of one another and to receive help joyfully when we ourselves are in need.

Generally speaking, it is much more difficult for one of the “have” class to lose his wealth than for one of the “have not” class to gain riches. When high-paid executives lose their jobs in a merger or downsizing, they do not immediately think of liquidating their assets and lowering their standard of living. Instead they are miserable, thinking they must maintain the status quo. They do not realize they are much better off than the poor who are unemployed. They should humble themselves. Any of the consecrated who lose their jobs are in a much better condition because they have the Holy Spirit, the friendship of the brethren, and rich hopes and dreams of seeing God and being with Jesus. Their attitude should be to count the trial as joy and to realize that Divine Providence permitted the trial to humble them.

And another point. It is even hard for a wealthy person to be immersed, for taking this first step requires a humbling. No wonder Jesus said, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!… It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:23,25). If those with means use their wealth in the Lord’s service—and sometimes this is done secretly so we cannot judge—that is a great credit to them, for who knows if we would be faithful if we were in their position? One danger is that people feel power when they have money, and they tend to become disoriented as regards the truth. The principle is that the one who has ten talents and faithfully uses them in the Lord’s service will be greatly blessed. The one who has, and faithfully uses, only one talent will be blessed proportionately less. However, to attain a position in the Little Flock is such an honor that we would not murmur or complain if we made the grade as the very humblest Christian on the lowest level. When a brother is exalted in the present life in popularity, influence, etc., that is between him and the Lord. If that exaltation carries through to the next life and the individual is part of the Little Flock, God bless him, for the exaltation is deserved from God’s standpoint. God will grant proportionately more honor and distinction as He sees fit, for “one star differeth from another star in glory” (1 Cor. 15:41).

Q: Was James talking about a person’s lifetime? The humbling process is only for a relatively short life span, for we will all die.

A: That would be considering the matter from the standpoint of time, which is one perspective.

When verses 11 and 12 are considered in the same context, James was saying that one’s circumstances can change overnight. A brother may be rich one day and then be greatly humbled overnight by a change in circumstances when the sun arises with its heat. Consider the sun in nature. The sun in conjunction with moisture makes plants grow, but the burning heat of the sun by itself causes plants to wither and die. Moisture in the air moderates the sun so that it heals, nourishes, and encourages the growth of grass. With the consecrated, however, the situation is different. They are expected to patiently endure the heat of the noonday sun, realizing God saw fit to permit the trial, the testing, to prove their faith in Him.

James 1:12 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.

“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation [trials, testings]” to the end of his course, for then “he shall receive the crown of life.” How we receive and/or accept our trials determines the benefit we derive from them. Remember, it is not the gale but the set of the sail that determines the goal.

Comment: The NIV reads, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” Also, Strong’s gives the meaning for the word “endureth” as “to have fortitude.” The idea is to stand and persevere through the trial, to have fortitude, so that our characters will be developed.

Reply: We must all be tried. God tests or proves us to see if we love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Blessed is he who overcomes in the testing, who surmounts the obstacles.

Comment: Reprint No. 5499, entitled “The Purpose of Our Trials,” is pertinent. A portion follows: “The word blessed does not, of course, always suggest a happy condition as relates to the feelings, or emotions, but rather as relates to the outcome. It is used here in connection with the results of trial to the Christian. The child of God who wins the crown of life will be very highly favored or blessed of God; then whatever conduces to this end is a very great blessing, even though it causes much pain to the flesh…. What is signified by enduring temptation? Evidently the thought is not the enduring of one temptation for one time or for many times…. The reference is to the retaining permanently of the attitude of patient endurance and faithfulness when tempted, of remaining true to God under temptation and stress.”

Comment: Verse 2 says we are to “count it all joy” when we have various trials. Then James went on to discuss some of the different trials we could have; for example, double-mindedness, humble circumstances, and being rich.

The term “for when he is tried” covers one’s lifetime. The reference is not to a momentary trial but to enduring until death. “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” is the thought (Rev. 2:10). Incidentally, there are two types of patience: cheerful endurance and long-suffering endurance. Both qualities are needed in the Christian life.

Comment: The “love” of verse 12 is from the Greek word agape.

Reply: We do not want to discuss agape versus phileo love now, for to do so would divert the study. A discussion would involve the different types of love and whom they are manifested toward. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16), but doesn’t He love the Church more than the world? Those who are of an evangelistic frame of thinking put such an emphasis on John 3:16 that they vitiate the type of fervent, emotional love we should have for Jesus and for God. Many of us came into the truth because we saw that God has agape love, but when He adopted us into His family, we then had phileo love, emotional love. We felt that if Jesus died and bought us with his blood, we had an obligation to serve as bondservants of God.

The word “temptation,” which means trial or testing, can be used in various ways. Sometimes temptation has an evil connotation, and sometimes it does not. For instance, we are tempted with evil when lust is involved in the temptation. However, verse 12 is more theoretical, just meaning we should endure the test, whatever the trial might be. Verse 13 treats temptation from the evil standpoint. Other trials, if we successfully pass through them, are actually stepping-stones to making our calling and election sure. While the proof of our faith is precious, even the testing itself is an invaluable experience. If we pass the test, so much the better. Our attitude should be as the hymn states: “Send grief, send pain. Sweet are thy messengers, sweet their refrain.” All who “live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12), so if a Christian does not suffer persecution, something is wrong and he should re-examine his life. If everyone thinks favorably of a Christian, he is not living the Christian life as he should.

Comment: The same Reprint article (No. 5499) comments about the variety of our temptations. “Temptations come from a variety of sources. They may come from friends, who may tempt us to live a life of more or less self-indulgence, to relax in a measure our fidelity to the Lord.

The enticements of wealth or worldly society, a natural love of ease and disinclination of the flesh to endure hardness—any or all of these may prove strong and subtle temptations to the Christian.”

Comment: We get a wonderful schooling in the consecrated life. All the circumstances that are put together for our individual testing also test other brethren as well. While we may learn lessons along one line, others may be receiving lessons in another area—all from the same trial.

Reply: Yes, the schooling we receive is invaluable, and we hope to graduate.

James 1:13 Let 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 does not test us to cause our downfall but tests us for beneficial reasons. His tests are constructive in that successful overcoming helps us to attain more and more to His likeness. On the other hand, the Adversary tempts us to cause our downfall, to wean us away from God and Jesus, to destroy us as new creatures. For those who succumb, there is only a temporary feeling of pleasing the flesh, but if not reversed, walking after the flesh leads to death.

The subject of temptation is a lifetime study. Many Scriptures in the Old Testament show God doing the tempting, and we must study the background of each situation in order to understand the thinking. James stated the matter very succinctly when he said that God Himself cannot be tempted with evil. God does not try to cause our downfall but tests for our benefit.

1 Kings 22:12-23 reads as follows:

“And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramoth-gilead, and prosper: for the LORD shall deliver it into the king’s hand.

“And the messenger that was gone to call Micaiah spake unto him, saying, Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good.

“And Micaiah said, As the LORD liveth, what the LORD saith unto me, that will I speak.

“So he came to the king. And the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go against Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we forbear? And he answered him, Go, and prosper: for the LORD shall deliver it into the hand of the king.

“And the king said unto him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the LORD?

“And he said, I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd: and the LORD said, These have no master: let them return every man to his house in peace.

“And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?

“And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.

“And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner.

“And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him.

“And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.

“Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.”

The king of Israel’s northern kingdom sought advice as to whether he should go to a battle in Ramoth-gilead, which was east of the Jordan. All of the king’s prophets told him to go ahead and that he would prosper, for the Lord was with him. When Micaiah, the true prophet, was consulted, he said sarcastically, “Go and prosper. Do what the other prophets say.” His manner of speaking was really indicating, “If you are dumb enough and headstrong enough to follow the advice of your prophets, the result will be your destruction.” The king’s reaction was, “Didn’t I tell you that Micaiah never has a good word for me?” In the near future, the authorities will feel the same way about us, for we believe Satan is the god of this world and its kingdoms. As citizens in a foreign land, we obey the laws, but we look for a future kingdom.

Micaiah then told about a hypothetical situation in which he saw Jehovah in heaven asking the angels, “How can I tempt the king of Israel to go to the battle in Ramoth-gilead?” God rejected various suggestions until one angel said, “I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of the king’s prophets.” God said, “Go ahead and you will prosper.” (We know this incident is hypothetical because God would not seek advice from angels.) Micaiah told the king of Israel, “I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills like sheep without a shepherd.” He meant that in going to the battle in Ramoth-gilead, the king would die, leaving the throne vacant.

The scenario indicates that God would send a lying spirit in the mouth of the false prophets to entice the king of Israel, but that did not actually happen. Micaiah was saying that if the king of Israel went into battle, he would not be successful. The king responded, “Put Micaiah in prison until I return,” and Micaiah replied, “You will not come back.” This account is only one of many incidents in Scripture where, according to the wording, evil actions seemingly attributed to God need to be explained and understood. A familiar and prominent such statement is that Jehovah hardened Pharaoh’s heart in connection with the ten plagues and the Exodus from Egypt (Exod. 4:21; 7:3; 14:4). The net effect is that God permits certain trials to come on each of the consecrated by not destroying the individuals or circumstances that cause the trials. God loves righteousness and hates iniquity; He is all pure and holy and has no evil thoughts or motives.

In Deuteronomy 8:2,16, Moses said, “And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no…. Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end.” Only two individuals, Joshua and Caleb (and Eleazar and Ithamar in the priesthood) successfully passed the tests in the wilderness. The nation made a covenant with Jehovah at Sinai, saying, “All these things will we do” (Exod. 24:3,7). Even if the people could not keep the Law perfectly, they would have met the various trials properly if their heart attitude had been right. Approximately 2 million Israelites perished, and then another 2 million—that is, the next generation, the children of the parents—entered the Promised Land. The purpose of the wilderness experiences was to test the Israelites and to do them good.

Deuteronomy 13:1-3 reads, “If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a [miraculous] sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” This type of test would be searching, for the false prophet produces signs and wonders, that is, miracles, and mankind generally assumes that anything supernatural is good. The bottom line of the test is that while the sign or wonder comes to pass, it is a means of seducing people to “go after other gods.” The test is whether one will follow the sign or God’s Word. Furthermore, under the Law, if one overheard a false prophet trying to entice others, the individual was required to bring the matter to the authorities. Failure to do so brought death to the individual.

Notice that the false prophet says, “Let us go after other gods,” and not “You go after other gods.” The fraternal attitude can be very seductive because we all crave recognition, love, sympathy, and the interest of others. Since the human heart is deceitful, an emotional appeal can be misleading. Therefore, we should try to view a matter from God’s standpoint by asking, “How would God or Jesus view what is happening?”

Comment: The next few verses—Deut. 13:6,8,9—are sobering: “If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; … Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.”

Reply: Yes, under the Law, this would be righteous indignation. While in the present life in the Gospel Age, the Christian is not to commit murder, yet sometimes it is necessary to kill the influence of an evil person. If a person in our area, either by conduct or teaching, is seducing others away from the Lord, it is our responsibility to negate that influence. We are not the policemen of the entire country, but each ecclesia is responsible for those in its midst.

Comment: A beautiful promise pertaining to temptation is 1 Corinthians 10:13, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” Of course we are responsible for recognizing the way of escape that the Lord provides.

Reply: Yes, that promise is beautiful. If one fails under certain circumstances, there are steps for recovery, but such failures would normally be the exception, not the rule, for those of the Little Flock attitude and condition.

James 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

In this case, the temptation arises from one’s own lustful or sinful desires. It is true that Satan uses tactics to encourage the Christian’s weaknesses, but the illegitimate desires usually arise from within the individual rather than from an outside source.

Comment: An evil thought that is not rejected is dangerous.

Comment: An example of such a temptation is a play or movie that is reported to be somewhat risqué. The Christian should not willfully go to see it under the assumption that he or she is above the temptation.

Reply: Especially if the Christian has weaknesses along that line, he should not think he is strong enough to resist the allurement or enticement by shutting out the evil and concentrating on what is good. The following incident is an example along this line. Years ago a mind-reading exhibition was to be given in a theater in Connecticut. A consecrated brother suggested that attendance would be beneficial in order to “show up” the man doing the mind reading. We wanted nothing to do with the exhibition because it utilized occult powers.

Comment: Verse 14 is telling us to be aware of our weaknesses, and we all have them along one or multiple lines. We should avoid anything that would put us in the path of temptation.

Reply: We are to make straight paths for our feet (Heb. 12:13) by going nowhere near the temptation. A person can be drawn away of his own lust and enticed (fall, be overcome).

James 1:15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

There is a saying: “Sow a thought; reap an act. Sow an act; reap a habit. Sow a habit; reap a character. Sow a character; reap a destiny.” From the seed thought, the progression of evil can continue and continue until a destiny is formed, the destiny being the destruction of the new creature. The reference is not to a temporary shortcoming but to the danger of repetitive wrong thinking and wrongdoing, which wear down resistance and hopelessly ensnare the individual.

Comment: The emphasis is on the importance of the beginning or thought stage. We are not to harbor wrong thoughts. Part of Christian maturity is to know from Scripture what thoughts the Lord would disapprove.

Reply: Yes, we are responsible for trying to resist wrong thoughts. God created us with a free will, and that freewill capability incurs responsibility. God does not tempt us with evil thoughts.

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

James 1:17 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.

There is another saying: “We cannot prevent the birds from flying over our heads, but we can stop them from making a nest in our hair.” God does not test us with lustful desires and evil; such temptations come from either Satan and the fallen angels or our own fallen flesh. Every test from the Father is intended for our good—for our edification, growth, and spiritual health.

He is all light, and “in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).

The term “Father of lights” is meaningful. God’s thinking on our behalf is for our good at all times, whether it results in a chastisement or a suffering experience or is otherwise. His motive is always with good intent and is not ephemeral. He has a well-thought-out interest in our welfare, which starts even prior to our consecration (such as providential watch-care and seeing that we get certain training for use after consecration). It is the Father who calls us, but He uses the technique of drawing us to Christ. He is a kindly Father with pure intentions for our welfare and salvation, and He is interested in all aspects of our development.

Comment: His being called the “Father of lights” indicates His benevolence.

Comment: The nominal Christian response to a person who has lost a loved one, even a baby, is that God wanted the individual so He took him. Such reasoning maligns God’s character.

With God there is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” God is the same at all times; with Him there is not even a hint of “turning.”

Comment: Verses 16 and 17 in the NIV read: “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

There is a progression to sin: lust, sin, and finally death. What the flesh wants at the moment is nothing (and is often sinful) compared with the good and perfect gifts the Father will give ultimately to those who are faithful.

James 1:18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Verse 18, which is related to verse 17, shows that God’s motive in calling us is for our good, so “that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” God calls us, rather than Jesus. “The Father himself loveth you” (John 16:27). And when called, we look to Jesus as our instructor, Redeemer, and Savior and for further counsel. “No man cometh unto the Father” except through the Son (John 14:6).

God does the calling; He decides who should be favored with the Word of truth. Humanity is not the source of the call. The new creation is begotten “not of blood”; that is, not through heredity, friends, man’s power, or man’s authority (John 1:13). Individuals who are called are personally called, and not because of their parents. Moreover, the new creation is not begotten of the will of the flesh—not of one’s own will or desire. “Draw nigh to me [God]” is part of the call, for God must issue the invitation (James 4:8).

Acts 2:39 reads, “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” God gave the promise, not man. The children of the consecrated are temporarily justified through the parents. When vacancies occur, God will look first among the children of the consecrated.

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

How does this verse, beginning with “wherefore,” tie in with verse 18?

Comment: We are to be “swift to hear” the Word of truth that begets us and “slow to speak” until we grasp the principles of that Word of truth.

Reply: Yes, the Father begot us with the Word of truth; therefore, it behooves us to pay strict attention to that Word.

How does the caution to be “slow to wrath” fit into the picture? What wrath?

Comment: James was referring to our own wrath. He was talking not about righteous indignation but about improper or rash wrath.

Comment: Christians are to turn the other cheek and not return evil for evil (Matt. 5:39; Rom. 12:17,21). To use a cliché, they should not fly off the handle.

Reply: We should not be too hasty and thus jeopardize our calling by acting rashly. The high calling to the divine nature is the best gift we could ever have.

James 1:20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

The wrath usually expressed is not justifiable. However, the Scriptures do not say we should never be angry. Before getting angry, we should ask, “Is this really a case of righteous indignation in harmony with God’s will, or is it just selfish wrath that would inflict injury on others?” Man’s wrath does not accomplish the righteousness of God.

James 1:21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

“Lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness.” We are to put away and avoid all forms of evil, all filthy habits, all wickedness—in thoughts, words, and deeds. The tongue is inclined to looseness, to gibberish. And foolish, jesting talk, which may not start with evil intent but at times can cut sharply, is dangerous. The best advice is to avoid foolish talk and jesting. Other translations read: “Rid yourself of all filthy habits and all wickedness.” “Put away the malice that runs to excess.” “Do away with all impurities and bad habits.” Motives, as well as conduct, must be considered by each individual, not just in regard to the grosser sins but in regard to everything.

“Receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” The word “engrafted” carries the thought of being incised, of being cut in stone. The engrafted word is not superficial, and it cannot be erased. Moreover, it should be studied with the intent of doing God’s will.

Comment: The “engrafted word” refers back to the initial begetting with the Word of truth. We are to nurture that Word and let it grow and become deeply implanted in our hearts, minds, and souls.

James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

There is a difference between hearing and doing, between writing that is superficial and that which is incised.

Comment: Not only are we to be swift to hear God’s Word, but having heard, we must be swift to obey.

“Deceiving your own selves.” There can be self-deception in the sense that familiarity with Scripture is not necessarily an indication of the development of the individual in the real knowledge of God. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12).

James 1:23 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:

James 1:24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

“For he beholdeth himself.” In looking in the mirror of God’s Word, we should see not only our own imperfections and impurities but also the perfect pattern, Christ. The comparison, showing where we fall short of the perfect pattern, is not to be forgotten but is to be worked on. In other words, if we just see ourselves in the mirror and not the perfect example, pride is a danger—pride in regard to our influence, popularity, works, abilities, etc. We need to grow in Christlikeness.

James 1:25 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.

What is the “perfect law of liberty”? Sometimes the perfect law of liberty is misinterpreted as meaning that we want to do things our own way. That is the philosophy of the world today.

Regardless of how many people are hurt, fancy rights are claimed, such as free speech.

However, these supposed “rights” curb the feelings and liberties of others and thus are devilish. What is considered liberty today is actually license.

The “perfect law of liberty” means the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. In becoming a slave of Christ, we are to do his will, which is true freedom: freedom from sin and death.

Comment: Of course the “looking glass,” or mirror, is God’s Word, but we are reminded of the laver, in which the Israelites could literally see their own faces (Exod. 38:8).

Reply: Yes, and their blemishes were symbolically washed away with water from the laver.

We, as Christians, are washed with the water of truth and the blood of Christ.

If we are “not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work,” we shall be blessed. It is our free choice to receive the Word properly and to adjust our lives accordingly. God has given us all the helps and promises, so it is up to us to earnestly receive the Word and to obey it.

The “perfect law of liberty” is full liberty to do God’s will. As the Apostle John said, “The truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). As a bondservant of Christ, the Christian has a yoke of liberty to do what God wants. The man who hears and obeys shall be blessed in his “deed” of a lifelong looking into the Word and following the instructions therein.

James 1:26 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.

James warned of the danger of not bridling the tongue. One bridles the tongue by being swift to hear and slow to speak. Those who speak too much, too freely, and too quickly are bound to sin, for they do not have time to control their thoughts. “Look before you leap” is the principle.

Comment: We should become aware of the situation before we speak.

James 1:27 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.

“Pure religion and undefiled before God, even the Father.” The Greek word kai can be translated either “and” or “even” depending on context; here it should be “even.”

Bridling the tongue, visiting orphans and widows, and keeping unspotted from the world are all a part of having pure religion. But there is both a literal and a higher meaning regarding orphans and widows. We are to preach the Word to others so that they will get the Heavenly Father for a father and so that those who are spiritually hungry and lonely widows will become espoused to Christ. With this double significance regarding orphans and widows, one meaning is along practical, natural lines of daily living and showing concern and interest in

others among the brotherhood. The other meaning is from the spiritual standpoint, for the gospel message is the best medicine of all.

Comment: In prior centuries, there was more of a necessity to provide temporal help for orphans and widows.

Reply: Paul gave advice that younger Christian widows should remarry but that it was better for the older ones to remain separate and single. If possible, the immediate family was to take care of temporal needs for their own.

To keep oneself “unspotted from the world” is difficult. We are to be in the world but not of it.

Comment: James 4:4 emphasizes the danger of the world for the Christian: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”

Reply: Leading evangelists who cater to influential persons with money and in government positions are establishing friendships with the world. Such alliances and friendships are dangerous for Christians, for their consecrations are compromised and jeopardized. James called them enemies of God, and they do not even realize it.

Comment: The use of worldly music to attract young people is also dangerous.

Reply: Yes, that is a worldly method.

It is necessary for us to be in the world for employment purposes, but we must guard carefully the time outside of work. We must be alert and study surrounding conditions lest we get distracted or entangled.

There are two methods for keeping unspotted from the world. (1) We ar e to make “straightpaths” for our feet and thus avoid harmful situations (Heb. 12:13). (2) When our robes become spotted, we must wash them by asking forgiveness in Jesus’ name.

A wrinkled robe is different from a spotted robe, for wrinkles come from inactivity. One might keep himself unspotted from the world yet be sitting (inactive) and thus creating wrinkles.


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