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Commentary

on
James
COMMENTARY ON JAMES
JAMES CHAPTER 1

Intro: The Book of James is written to Christians whose faith was questionable because their works
were not bearing witness. So we might say that the THEME of this book is: Only that faith which
controls the life and cleanses the heart and inspires deeds of love and mercy can save the soul.
While works do not save, faith that saves works. Our walk must tally with our talk. A verse from the
book that expresses the idea of this theme is: "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only"
1:22. Now let's look at James verse by verse.

THE OPENING SALUTATION:

James 1 . 1

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

1. "James" is the BROTHER of the Lord Jesus. Paul calls him the Lord's brother; Gal. 1:18-19.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was also James' mother. Some references to James are:Acts 12:17;
5:12-29; 21:18-25; Gal. 1:18-19; 2:6-9. There are some passages in the New Testament that
distinguish between "His brethren" and "His disciples." John 2:12; 7:3-5; Acts 1:14.

2. "A servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" This is the author's self-identification. This
indicates his spiritual relationship and says nothing of his human relationship. It also says
nothing of his ecclesiastical position (Pastor of the church in Jerusalem). Someone has
commented, "We find here an example of the refusal to know Christ after the flesh." James puts
himself on the same plane with all other believers.

3. "A servant" In calling himself a servant, James used a common Greek term doulos, which
means "a slave." This term emphasizes the supreme and absolute authority of the master and the
entire submission of the slave. Among the Greeks, with their strong sense of personal freedom,
the term carried a degrading connotation.

4. "A servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" The word "and" is the translation of the
Greek conjunction Kai. This can be translated "even". Looking at the phrase this way, it would
read, "A servant of God EVEN of the Lord Jesus Christ." This would emphasize that Jesus is
God manifest in the flesh and to be the servant of Christ is to be the servant of God. It is not
possible to be the servant of two different masters; Mat 6:24. So James is certainly not making
a difference in the two here; John 10:30.

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5. "To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting" "The twelve tribes" is a Jewish
expression to denote the Jewish people as a whole. It also lets us know that James knew nothing
of the "ten lost tribes." But James is not speaking of the twelve tribes in general. He speaks to
Jews who have trusted Christ as their Saviour and were living lives inconsistent with that
profession of faith.

6. "Greeting" is the translation of one word: Chairo. It is a present act. inf. and means, "To rejoice,
be glad."

James 1:2

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

1. "My brethren" is a reference to Jewish "brothers in Christ". The instructions of the epistle
would be totally inconsistent with it being written to an unsaved Jewish brother.

2. "Count it all joy" The word "count" means "To consider, deem, regard as." The words "all joy"
stand at the beginning of the Greek sentence. This is in the emphatic position. It means joy in
the highest degree. James is stating this as the proper attitude toward trials.

3. "When you fall" The word "fall" is peripipto and occurs only twice elsewhere in the New
Testament. In Luke 10:30 Jesus used it of a man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and
"Fell among" thieves. The preposition "peri" (around) pictures the man as being surrounded by
the thieves on all sides with no way to escape.

4. "Into divers temptations" The temptations here are like the thieves who surrounded the man
Jesus tells us about in Luke 10:30. The word "divers" is manifold. Manifold means "diversity".
It refers to the different kinds of temptation rather than to the number.

5. "Temptations" is the Greek "Peiramoi." It does not refer to the solicitation to evil, but rather,
in the objective sense, of trials. The reference cannot be to inner temptations to sin, as in 1:13-14,
since such experiences could not be urged as a ground for rejoicing. It refers to trials.

James 1:3

"Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience."

1. "Knowing this" is a participle from the verb ginosko and refers to a knowledge grounded in
personal experience. We learn from the trial we experience.

2. "The trying" means "Proving." Our faith is proved by trials. It means, "That which is proved
genuine by testing."

CHAPTER ONE 3

3. "Of your faith" recognizes the readers as fellow believers with James. Faith is the foundation
of a vital relationship with God.

4. "Worketh patience" The word "Worketh" shows a continuing process. The word "patience"
means "To abide under, to stay, to remain." It presents the picture of being under a heavy load
and resolutely staying there instead of trying to escape.

PATIENCE IN TRIALS

James 1:4

"But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting
nothing."

1. "But let patience" As we learned in verse 3, patience means, "to abide under pressure." It is
"staying power." The word "But" has an adversative force. It points to a conceived danger to be
avoided. Sore trials are hard to bear uncomplainingly, and it is easy to give way to an attitude
which hinders endurance from exercising its proper effect and thereby incur serious loss.

2. "Let have" is a pres. act. imper. It means more than just to allow it to happen; that would be
being passive toward it. It is a command. God has a reason for the trials. If these trials are not
allowed to accomplish His purpose, then we lose and refuse God's purpose being worked out in
us. God wants the believer to be actively and faithfully cooperating with what He is doing in his
life.

3. "Her perfect work" The word "perfect" refers to a "goal" or the intended purpose. The purpose
of trials is to conform us to the image of Christ. Some of the effects of trials is seen in the
following:

4. "That ye may be perfect" "That" starts a purpose clause. He is saying, "Here is the reason."
Then he gives the reason. You are not perfect (mature) now. The trials are going to help
accomplish this. The words, "Ye may" are from an imperf. act. ind. verb (eimi) meaning "I am."
The imperf. tense is incomplete but continuous action in the past. This is a reference to God's
working continuously in the life to bring us to maturity. An explanation of this is found inEph.
4:12-13. It is potential: "May." The active voice means that the believer has to be volitionally
involved in the process.

5. "Entire" is from a word meaning, "whole or complete." It refers here to all those virtues which
should characterize the mature believer.

6. "Wanting nothing" This is a negative phrase meaning "lacking nothing." James wants full
maturity to be accomplished in the lives of these Christians.
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WISDOM A GIFT

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."

1. "If any of you lack wisdom" "If any of you" reveals that James is not judging them in this
matter though the contents of the book reveal that wisdom was desperately needed by those to
whom he was writing. They are being encouraged here to examine themselves. "Wisdom" is the
ability to take information and apply it correctly. It especially applies to the trials through which
they are passing and the way the Lord would have them respond. God's Word needs to be
applied to our situation when we pass through any difficulty. We need wisdom to do this.

2. "Let him ask" The verb is a pres. act. imper. It is a command. So James is being forceful or
authoritative. The active voice shows their responsibility to act. The present tense means that it
is something a believer needs to practice. The word "ask" is a word that is used to request
something to be given.

3. "Of God" Means that God is the source of wisdom. Books are not the source of wisdom.
Though the Bible is the written source of wisdom for us as Christians, this wisdom is a gift from
God in answer to prayer. He didn't say, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him study the
Scriptures."

4. "That giveth to all men liberally" The word "giveth" refers to the very nature of God. It is a
present tense which means that He is always giving. There are some things that He gives to all
men alike. "To all men" sets the scope of His giving. The word "liberally" means that God gives
generously and without restraint.

5. "And upbraideth not" The negative with the present tense participle means that God
permanently abstains from such a practice. He does not respond to your request with a heap of
insults. Let's get the picture. A man is going through trials. He lacks wisdom and is making a
mess of how he responds to the situation. He makes bad decisions. He blows his stack. He
expresses resentment. Then one day he picks up the Book of James and reads where James says
God will answer prayer and give him wisdom to go through these trials. He believes what the
Word says. He goes to God in prayer and asks for wisdom. God gives it to him. He does not
bawl him out or criticize him or make him feel like a fool because he did not come sooner. James
says that is not the way God does things. God does not give in a way that humiliates the receiver.

6. "And it shall be given him" "It" refers to "wisdom." The phrase, "Shall be given him" promises
that God will not fail to respond to the request. This encourages prayer for wisdom. This prayer
promise probably looks back to verses like the following: Mat. 7:7-11; Mark 11:23-25; Luke
11:9-13.
CHAPTER ONE 5

FAITH MUST BE EXERCISED IN PRAYER

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."

1. "But let him ask in faith" This sets forth the human obligation or condition. The promise of
answered prayer makes spiritual demands on the one asking.

2. "Nothing wavering" The word "wavering" means "to waver because of doubt". Doubting
conveys the picture of a divided mind. When we ask God for something that we are not sure
about, we will not ask in faith.

3. "For he that wavereth is like" The picture here is instability. The unstable man is like a
troubled sea. He changes so fast that if he got an answer to his prayer, he would have forgotten
why he made the request by the time it was answered.

James 1:7

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

1. "For" is introducing a reason why he must "ask in faith nothing wavering." This removes all
questions as to whether he can expect an answer to his prayer.

2. "Let not that man think" The verb "think" refers to a subjective judgment which has feeling
rather than thought for its ground. Answered prayer is based upon faith in a definite promise of
God's Word, not a feeling that God will give certain things.

3 "That he shall receive anything of the Lord" states the unwarranted supposition. "Anything"
is limited to the things he asked for. As a faithless doubter, he can expect no specific answer to
prayer.

DOUBLE MINDEDNESS MAKES FAITH IMPOSSIBLE

James 1:8

"A double minded man is unstable in all his ways."

1. "A double minded man" refers to the man who has more than one idea and cannot settle for
sure upon any.

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2. "Is unstable" Means, "unsettled, lacking a solid foundation." Such a man is unsteady and
wobbling in all his ways.

3. "All his ways" "Ways" is plural and refers to his habitual course of life and action. His whole
life is affected by his indecision.

James 1:9

"Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:"

1. Let the brother of low degree" When James uses the word "brother" he lets us know that he
is speaking to "Christian brothers." The words "low degree" is speaking of a poor class of
people. James freely accepts these poor believers as worthy members of the Christian
brotherhood.

A SUMMARY OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE POOR

(1) The poor are not exempt from judgment; Lev. 19:15.

(2) God provided inexpensive offerings for the poor in Old Testament times; Lev. 5:7.

(3) The poor are to be defended; Psa. 82:3-4.

(4) The man who reproaches the poor reproaches God; Prov. 14:31.

(5) Christ took special notice of the sacrifice of the poor; Mk. 12:43-44.

(6) Giving to the poor is an indication of Christian maturity; Mat. 19:21

(7) When you help the poor you help Christ; Mat. 25:35-6.

(8) There is no profit in giving to the poor apart from the love of God;1 Cor. 13:3.

(9) God uses the faith of poor people as an example; Zeph. 3:12.

2. "Let ... rejoice" is the translation of one word (Kauchaomai) and means "to rejoice" in the sense
of boasting or glorying. It is found inRom. 5:2. It is translated "we joy" inRom. 5:11.

3. "In that he is exalted" The poor man had nothing until he was saved. But his "new birth" has
given him the placing of sons. This is the exaltation of which he speaks.

CHAPTER ONE 7

SUMMARY OF THE DOCTRINE OF SONSHIP

(1) The believer is a son of God; Rom. 8:14; Gal. 4:6.

(2) The believer has been given the Holy Spirit to confirm his sonship; Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:16.

(3) A son is a joint heir with Christ; Rom. 8:17.

(4) The believer waits for his final redemption; Rom. 8:23.

(5) The believer is encouraged to anticipate the riches of heaven; Rev. 21-22.

(6) The poor will be rich in heaven; 2 Cor. 8:9.

James 1:10

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

1. "But the rich, in that he is made low" How are the rich made low? For a better understanding
of this statement let's notice what the Bible says about the rich.

A SUMMARY OF THE DOCTRINE OF RICHES

(1) Some of God's great servants were rich; some examples are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David,
and Solomon.

(2) It is better to be righteous than rich;Psa. 37:16; Prov. 16:8.

(3) Riches will not gain a person a thing in the day of judgment; Prov. 11:4.

(4) A person is not to set his goal in life to be rich;Prov. 23:4-5.

(5) Riches are deceiving; Mk. 4:19.

(6) Riches can cause great temptation; 1 Tim. 6:4-11.

2. It is deflating to a rich person who has first been saved to discover what God has to say about
riches. But he is to rejoice in that he has been made low. He has just learned one of the great
Christian lessons that true riches are in Christ and not possessions.

3. "Because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away" We have here the brevity of life
stated. The verb here is fut. mid. ind. The future tense is predictive. The middle voice speaks of

8 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

the natural aging process. He will just eventually wear out and die. This is in contrast to a
judgment death where something took his life. We all have the sentence of death in ourselves
and are in a dying condition.

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.

1. "For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the
flower thereof falleth and the fashion of it perisheth" There are four verbs here: "Ariseth,
withereth, falleth, and perisheth." All are in the aorist tense which represents a historical event.
James speaks as if these things had already taken place. That is quick! It means life is over in the
speaking of it.

2. "So also shall the rich man fade away in his ways" This statement is also true of the poor man.
But the statement is to the rich. The rich man has a tendency to believe he will live forever. The
word "ways" here refers to his business ventures; the ways that made him rich. The picture is
that the rich man will pass off the scene in pursuit of more wealth. What has he gained? He
leaves it all behind. It is vanity. If money was his object, he lost everything because he took
nothing with him.

THE BEATITUDE OF ENDURING TEMPTATION

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."

1. "Blessed is the man" The word "blessed" is "happy." This is a beatitude like those of Jesus in
Matthew, chapter 5. This is God's estimation and also looks forward to rewards at the Judgment
Seat of Christ.

2. "Endureth" is 3rd p. sing. pres. act. ind. from hupomeno meaning, "to abide under, to bear up
courageously." -Vine. This man won't quit no matter how hard the load may be to bear.

3. "Temptations" This is the same word as is in verse 2 and has the double meaning of "testing
and temptation." Hiebert says of this, "Testing is the meaning here, since an inner enticement
to evil would call for resistance rather than endurance." I disagree with this. Dealing with
temptation on the inner level can put a person under a lot of pressure. It certainly would need to
be resisted and it also would need to be endured. Satan's attacks cannot be avoided. They must
be endured and resisted.

CHAPTER ONE 9

4. "For when he is tried" is an aor. mid. ptc. from ginomai meaning, "to become, or to cause to
be." The aorist tense speaks of a point of time. The middle voice means the subject participates
in the result of the action of the main verb. He does it in his own behalf. It is a participle. The
aor. ptc. precedes the action of the main verb.

MEANING: This means the man that endured was tried, and he himself stayed by the stuff,
refused to sway, continued faithful and proved himself a committed Christian during the trials
of which it is said he endured.

SUMMARY OF THE EFFECTS OF TRIALS

(1) Afflictions teach us not to go astray; Psa. 119:67.

(2) Afflictions cause us to learn God's word; Psa. 119:71.

(3) Afflictions prove God's faithfulness; Psa. 119:75.

(4) Afflictions motivate us to prayer; Psa. 119:107, 153.

(5) Afflictions will give us a reason to testify; Psa. 119:50.

5. "He shall receive" refers to the Judgment Seat of Christ at the Second coming.

A SUMMARY OF THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST

a. All believers will be caught up or raptured;1 Thess. 4:13-18.

b. The faithful will be rewarded; 2 Tim. 4:8.

c. The works of believers will be tried there; I Cor. 3:11-13.

d. It is possible to be saved so as by fire;1 Cor. 3:15.

e. One can receive less than a full reward; 2 John 8.

f. It is not a judicial judgment and therefore a comfort; 1 Thess. 4:18.

6. "The crown of life" This is not to be confused with eternal life itself. Eternal life is not a reward
to those who have successfully endured trials. This is a special crown that those who endure
temptations will get as a reward for their faithfulness.

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A SUMMARY OF THE DOCTRINE OF CROWNS

(1) The incorruptible crown; 1 Cor. 9:25-27. This is given to those who were faithful to
Scripture. These exercised self-discipline and self-sacrifice for the sake of holiness.

(2) The crown of righteousness; 2 Tim. 4:8. This is given to those who love His appearing. For
them the present world revolves around Him and they long for the day when He will take
over and rule.

(3) The crown of rejoicing;1 Thess. 2:19-20. This is the soul-winner's crown. It is given to
those who have any part in the salvation of a soul.

(4) The crown of glory;1 Pet. 5:1-4. This is the shepherd's crown. This is given to those who
shared in the ministry of shepherding the flock of God. I believe this will include the leaders
and teachers who share in the ministry of the pastor.

(5) The crown of life; James 1:12. This is the crown given to those who went through trials and
persecution even to the point of martyrdom for Jesus' sake.

7. "Which the lord hath promised" The verb is an aor. mid. ind. and means that it is a promise
already made once and for all. The middle voice means that the Lord personally made this
promise. It is a promise He will keep.

8. "To them that love him" Is it possible to be saved and not love Him? It is in the sense Jesus is
speaking of here. The context speaks of severe trials where both the events in life and Satan is
on the attack. Jesus said, "If you love me keep my commandments." He did not say, "Keep my
commandments if it is easy." This is a special reward that will be given to those who endure
trials because of their love for Him. Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me?" It would be good for
us to ask ourselves the same question.

GOD IS NEVER THE AUTHOR OF TEMPTATION

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:

1. "Let no man say" is a pres. act. imper. which means it is a command that has to do with the
present tense of their experience. It was an existing condition that James was correcting.

2. "When he is tempted" is a pres. pass. ptc. from a word meaning, "To test, try, prove." This
refers to the same trials that he calls "divers temptations" in verse 2.

CHAPTER ONE 11

3. "I am tempted of God" The perverse nature of man is prone to blame someone else for its sins.
Prov 19:3 says, "The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the
LORD."

4. "For God cannot be tempted with evil" To claim that God can is inconsistent with God's very
nature. God is holy in His nature and His very essence is unapproachable by sin.

A SUMMARY OF THE HOLINESS OF GOD

a. Holiness in God is an active attribute that incites all He does. His holiness is not what is
sustained by effort or preserved by segregation from other beings. The holiness of God is
intrinsic, uncreated, and untarnished. It is observable in every divine attitude and action.
Holiness not only includes His devotion to what is good but also is the very basis and force
of His hatred of evil.

b. God demands that man acknowledge His holiness when he approaches Him; Exo. 3:5; Hab.
1:13.

c. God declares Himself to be holy; Lev. 19:2.

d. David declared that God was holy; Psa. 22:3.

e. The angels praise God for His holiness; Isa. 6:3.

f. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all;1 John 1:5.

5. "Neither tempteth he any man" There are some scriptures that this statement seems to
contradict:

a. God tempted Abraham; Heb. 11:17

b. The Jews were tempted; 1 Cor. 10:9.

COMMENT: The temptations spoken of in these verses are not temptations to sin. They were
means by which God tried and proved His servants.

THE REAL SOURCE OF TEMPTATION

James 1:14

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

1. "But every man is tempted" "Is tempted" is a pres. pass. ind. The present tense refers to a
continued process. The passive voice means that the temptation comes to him. He doesn't have

12 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

to hunt it up. The indicative mood is just stating the fact. "Every man" means that there are no
exceptions.

2. "When he is drawn away" The verb here is a pres. pass. ptc. The present ptc. represents action
that is taking place at the same time as the action of the main verb. In other words, at the time
he is tempted, he is at that time being drawn away. The passive voice means that it is happening
to him.

3. "Of his own lusts" This names the thing in man that makes temptation such a struggle. Man has
desires that are wrong and out of line with his needs and what is right because of his fallen
Adamic nature. Someone has said that temptation has its source not in the outer lure but in the
inner lust. The word "own" individualizes the temptation in each person. The word "lusts"
denotes "strong desire or cravings." James assumes the depravity of the human nature.

A SUMMARY OF THE DOCTRINE OF DEPRAVITY

(1) Definition: In committing the first sin, Adam became degenerate and depraved with a fallen
nature contrary to God and prone to evil. His constitution was altered fundamentally. This
sin nature that became a part of man's fundamental make-up is passed to his descendants so
that they are helpless to meet God's demands for holiness.

(2) Man receives his sin nature from his father; Rom. 5:12.

(3) Man is by nature a sinner; Eph. 2:3.

(4) All of man's righteousnesses are as filthy rags; Isa. 64:6.

(5) Man's depraved nature keeps him from keeping God's Law; Rom. 8:3.

(6) The plowing of the wicked is sin; Prov. 21:4.

(7) Even salvation does not change the malignant nature of the flesh; Rom. 7:18.

(8) Flesh and blood will not inherit the kingdom of God; 1 Cor. 15:50.

(9) Man by nature is under the domain of Satan; John 8:44.

(10) Man's sin nature is so devoid of good and alienated from God that man is even incapable
of responding to God apart from the drawing power of the Holy Spirit; John 6:44.

4. "And enticed" This is a pres. pass. ptc. from a word that means, "to lure by a bait." This is the
method Satan uses to keep the lost and trap the saved.

CHAPTER ONE 13

SOME THINGS ABOUT TEMPTATION

(1) The old sin nature desires wrong things and can therefore be lured.

(2) Paul speaks of Satan's devices; 2 Cor. 2:11.

(3) Peter tells us that Satan seeks to devour us; 1 Pet. 5:8.

(4) Man's sinful nature makes him capable of being deceived and blinded by Satan; 2 Cor. 4:3-4;
Rev. 12:9.

(5) Through temptation Satan can neutralize God's work; 1 Thess. 3:5.

(6) Pride makes man a prime target of Satan;1 Tim. 3:6.

(7) Doctrine taught with patience is a way to deliver those who are caught in Satan's trap; 2 Tim.
2:25-26.

WHEN AN ABORTION WOULD BE BETTER

James 1:15

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

1. "Then when lust hath conceived" "Then" points to sequence. When lust is indulged in, there
is a chain of results that takes place. The words "hath conceived" is an aor. act. infin. from a
word meaning "to take together." It is a coming together. Let's get the picture. Lust sends out
signals, makes a proposition, and the man accepts or yields to that proposition. Here is where
conception takes place.

2. "It bringeth forth sin" The verb is pres. act. ind. It is a word that means "to give birth to." Lust
is not sin. But when lust conceives it is sin. Lust is the desire of the fallen nature. It is a nature
that can only desire evil. We inherited this nature and can't control it. But, as believers, we do
not have to have an affair with lust so that conception takes place. Here is where our
responsiblity lies.

3. "And sin, when it is finished" Sin has a finish and always makes it to the finish line. This is an
aor. pass. ptc. from a word meaning, "to complete entirely, to consummate." The tense speaks
of it as having been completed.

4. "Bringeth forth death" This is a pres. act. ind. It means it keeps on bringing forth death. Death
here is ultimately the second death. This is what is spoken of inRev. 20:14.
14 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

A SUMMARY OF THE DOCTRINE OF DEATH

(1) There is spiritual death where a person can be spiritually dead while physically alive; Gen.
2:17; Eph. 2:1.

(2) There is physical death; Heb. 9:27.

(3) There is eternal death; Rom. 6:23; Rev. 20:15.

(4) There is a death to a Christian when he reckons himself dead to sin; Rom. 6:11.

(5) There is the death to a Christian's fruitfulness; Rom. 8:6.

(6) There is chastening death for the disobedient Christian;1 Cor 5:5; 11:30-32.

James 1:16

"Do not err, my beloved brethren."

1. "Do not err" is a pres. mid. imper. from a word meaning, "To roam, to go astray, deceive,
seduce." The present tense suggests that they were being misled. The middle voice means that
they should not allow themselves to be led astray. It shows personal responsibility in resisting
those who would lead them astray. The imperative mood means that it is a command.

2. "My beloved brethren" is a form of address that shows relationship and tenderness. James is
addressing people he loves. He is speaking the truth in love.

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."

1. "Every good gift and every perfect gift" "Good" describes the giving as useful and beneficial
in its effect. "Perfect" marks the gift as complete and lacking nothing to meet the needs of the
recipient.

2. "Is from above" This is the source of the gifts. If the Christians to whom James writes have
things they consider to be blessings, then they should acknowledge this truth.

3. "The Father of lights" Heaven is the source. The Father in heaven takes personal interest in the
needs of His children. The word "lights" probably refers to the "celestial light" which reflects
the glory of God. Psa. 19:1.

CHAPTER ONE 15

4. "With whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" To err is instability. Satan is


continually trying to lead us astray. We have a God who sees our needs. He gives gifts that are
for our good and they match the need perfectly, and He never varies. No matter how storm-
tossed our souls are, He is always in heaven, above the troubled waters of our lives and we can
always count on Him because it is not possible for Him to change. This verse is saying God is
eternally stable and above our problems and ready to help. Psa. 102:24-27. Our being able to
count on His faithfulness is based on His immutability.

GOD'S WILL AND GOD'S WAY

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."

1. "Of his own will" is an aor. pass. ptc. from a word meaning, "Be willing, be disposed, minded."
The aor. tense speaks of a point of time in the past. This we are told was before the foundation
of the world; Eph. 1:4.

A SUMMARY OF THE WILL OF GOD

(1) It is God's will to save the believer; John 6:40; 1 Tim. 2:4.

(2) It is not God's will that any should perish; 2 Pet. 3:9.

(3) It is God's will to raise the believer up in the last day; John 6:40, 44.

(4) It is God's will to honor the one who serves His Son; John 12:26.

(5) It is God's will to secure the believer forever;John 6:37.

(6) It is God's will to answer believing prayer;John 14:13-14.

(7) It is God's will for the Holy Spirit to guide the believer into all truth; John 16:13.

(8) It is God's will that every man be accountable to Him and punished for his evil deeds; Rom.
226 6.

(9) It is God's will not to impute sin to the believer;Rom. 4:8.

(10) God has willed that whosoever will may come and be saved; Rev. 22:17.

16 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

2. "Begat he us" is aor. act. ind. from a word meaning, "to give birth to, to bring forth." This
speaks of the New Birth which is the experience of every true believer in this age. Salvation is
of the Lord and He is the one who births sons into His family. The aor. tense speaks of the point
in time which He did it and corresponds to our salvation experience. The active voice is the
subject acting and the subject here is God. God begat us. The indicative mood means he is
stating a fact.

3. "With the word of truth" Here we have the means He used to accomplish this. Some verses
that will serve as a good commentary on this are: Rom. 10:17; 1 Cor. 4:15; 1 Thes. 2:13; 1 Pet.
1:23-25.

4. "That we should be" is a pres. act inf. The present tense means he is speaking of the present
tense of church history. The Jews were the ones God began with in the Church Age. It is "to the
Jew first," historically. Remember, James is speaking to the Jews of the dispersion who had
become believers in Christ.

5. "A kind of first fruits of his creatures" The term "creatures" means that the product of the
New Birth is the product of God's creative activity. God created the first man Adam. God
personally creates every new man that comes into being through the preaching of the Gospel;
2 Cor. 5:17.

A SUMMARY OF THE DOCTRINE OF FIRSTFRUITS

(1) The figure is drawn from the Old Testament Law that designated the first portion of the
harvest as belonging to God. This was to be offered to Him before the rest could be used for
ordinary purposes; Exo. 23:19; Lev. 23:9-11; Deut. 18:4.

(2) The firstfruits were specimens and pledge of the full harvest.

(3) Paul used the term of the first converts in a province; Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:15.

(4) It is used by James to refer to the Jews being the first of a new harvest in this church age;
James 1:18.

(5) There is the firstfruits of the Spirit;Rom. 8:23.

(6) Jesus is said to be the "Firstfruits" of the resurrection;1 Cor. 15:20.

James 1:19

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

CHAPTER ONE 17

I . "Wherefore" is the translation of hoste in the Textus Receptus. The so-called better texts reject
this in favor of iste which means "knowing this." We will stay with the right translation. The
word is "wherefore" and sets the stage for an admonition in the light of the truth stated in Verse
18. James says, "If we are the firstfruits of His creatures then there are some things we need to
be careful to do."

2. "My beloved brethren" is a statement of tenderness and affection. James appeals to equals who
are sheep and must be led.

3. "Let every man" is a pres. act. imper. The present tense means "keep on doing it right now."
The imperative mood is a command. The words "every man" means that he has no particular
person in view, but all.

4. "Swift to hear" The word "swift" is an adjective that describes the attitude of a person listening
to the word as he is being instructed in the things of God. James is their instructor at this point.
But the meaning expands beyond that point to include the attitude of one sitting under
instructions in the church today. The words "to hear" are an aor. act. infin. and refer to hearing
at a point of time.

5. "Slow to speak" This speaks of a restraint upon hasty and verbal reactions to what is heard.
Being slow to speak allows time to consider carefully what has been said in order to give a spirit-
controlled reply.

6. "Slow to wrath" Wrath implies more than a passing irritation. It refers to a strong and persistent
attitude of hostility.

GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS NEVER ACCOMPLISHED IN OUR ANGER

James 1:20

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

1. "For" introduces the reason for the warning against yielding to wrath.

2. "The wrath of man" The wrath of man many times is spontaneous and unreasoned. It comes
from a nature that is alienated from God. It can be violent and dangerous.

3. "Worketh not" is a pres. mid. ind. The present tense is continuous action. The middle voice is
where the subject is benefited by the action. There is no benefit to the man who attempts to work
out God's righteousness by his own means. It cannot accomplish its purpose.

4. "The righteousness of God" The righteousness of God is:


18 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

a. I mputed righteousness to all who are saved; Rom. 4:5 8.

b. Imparted righteousness to all who are obedient and filled with the Holy Spirit; Rom. 8:4.

A SUMMARY OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE WRATH OF MAN

(1) The believer is not to retain wrath; Eph. 4:26.

(2) Wrath in the believer grieves the Holy Spirit; Eph. 4:3 1.

(3) Believers are not to provoke their children to wrath;Eph. 6:4.

(4) Believers are to put away wrath as a part of mortifying the flesh;Col. 3:8.

(5) We are not to pray in anger; 1 Tim. 2:8.

(6) Believers are to be slow to wrath; James 1:19.

(7) Man can never fulfill God's righteousness when under the control of his anger; James 1:20.

THE WORD ABLE TO SAVE THE SOUL OF THE SAVED

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."

1. "Wherefore" means "For this reason."

2. "Lay apart" is an aor. mid. ptc. from a word meaning "to put away." The aor. tense means a
permanent act in the past. A good explanation of the meaning here would be to translate it,
"having put off or away." This was done through the salvation experience. But the middle voice
means that they participated in the action in their own behalf. This makes it practical. They had
actually put these things away.

3. "All filthiness" "All" means "every kind of." Filthiness means "dirt filth." The term "unspotted
from the world" in verse 27 puts this statement in its proper light.

4. "Superfluity of naughtiness" means, "malice, ill-will, malignity." It refers to an attitude of


mind that desires the injury of others. This is in keeping with the statement of verses 19-20.

5. "Receive with meekness" The verb is aor. mid. imper. Meekness is not weakness. Meekness
is an attitude that these believers are told to have when it comes to receiving the word. They were

CHAPTER ONE 19

not displaying the best attitude. They were wrangling among themselves. They were also trying
to carry out the principles of Christianity through the "wrath of man." James is correcting this.
The aor. tense means to do this once for all. The middle voice shows that personal action must
be taken in behalf of themselves. The imperative mood means that it is a command. "The
engrafted word" refers to the word that they heard and will hear which the Holy Spirit makes a
part of the believer's inner life. While it may be engrafted and stored there, we must receive it
with meekness, accept its rebuke, correction and instruction in righteousness, if we are benefited
in our practical lives.

6. "Which is able" means that the engrafted word has the inherent ability to save souls.

7. "To save your souls" The verb form is an aor. act. infin. This is not a reference to the "New
Birth." If it were, then James would be teaching works for salvation. It is a Hebraism used to
refer to the whole personality, the real self. It refers to the new man walking in the power of the
Holy Spirit and effectively manifesting the life of Christ through his life in word and deed.

A SUMMARY OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE SOUL

(1) Definition: The non-material ego of man in its ordinary relationships with earthly and
physical things; the immortal part of man (Mat 10:28). Naves Topical Bible

(2) The word "soul" is the translation of psyche and is translated "souls" 58 times, "life" 40
times, "mind" three times, "heart" one time, "heartily" one time and it is inJohn 10:24 and
2 Cor. 12:15 in the Greek but not translated into the KJV.

(3) The word of God divides the spirit and soul; Heb. 4:12.

(4) Man is spirit, soul and body in his essential makeup; 1 Thess. 5:23.

(5) The soul is the man and can be lost and suffer in hell with all the faculties that are manifest
through his physical body; Luke 16:23-3 1.

(6) The souls of the saints are in heaven after death; Luke 16:23; Rev. 6:9-10.

(7) The soul of a saved person can be saved from the destructive consequences of sin; James
1:21.

(8) Man's present state is soulish but his eternal state will be spiritual; 1 Cor. 15:42-49.
20 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

A SOURCE OF SELF-DECEPTION

James 1:22

"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves."

1. "But be ye doers of the word" Verse 21 speaks of receiving the word into the life, but this verse
speaks of the practice of the word. The verb is pres. mid. imper.

(1) The present tense means to continue to do something already going on.

(2) The middle voice means that the choice to keep on doing this will be theirs and that it is to
their benefit to do it.

(3) The imperative mood means it is a command and, therefore, must be done or it will
constitute disobedience.

The word "doers" is a word meaning to carry out the instructions of the word. This word is
found 6 times in the New Testament and 4 of those 6 times are found in James.

2. "And not hearers only" This is a statement of contrast. The word "only" indicates that this
demand in no way disparages the importance of being "hearers." "Hearers" refers to the public
reading and oral instruction of the Word. Evidently their problem was not staying away from
assembly worship where they received the instruction of the Scripture, but putting those
principles into practice. Their practice did not correspond to their teaching.

3. "Deceiving your own selves" The word "deceiving" is a pres. mid. ptc. and refers to a process
of self-deception by means of human rationalism. They evidently thought that attending church
and hearing the Word taught was the fulfillment of all that was required. This word is found two
times in the New Testament:

(1) In Col. 2:4 Paul is warning the Christians there not to be "beguiled" by the wrong reasonings
of others.

(2) In James 1:22 James is warning against self-deception-by their own reasonings.

God's answer to the dilemma of our reasonings is dealt with inProv. 3:5. The soul of man
which is his mind, emotion, and will, is subject to Satanic suggestions and the rationalism of the
old sin nature. The Christian has the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16) and can apply that by faith to
every situation in his life.
CHAPTER ONE 21

THE WORD A MIRROR

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:"

I . "For if any" The "if' is a first class condition. It is assumed to be true.

2. "He is like unto a man" This introduces a vivid picture of his character. The pronoun "he"
means, "this one."

3. "Beholding" is a present ptc. and refers to a continuous gaze, not a passing glance. It suggests
that it is his regular practice. When he does this he will see himself as he really is.

4. "His natural face" means the face that nature gave him. The illustration implies a parallel
spiritual truth. The truth is that the believer can see the old sin nature which allows him to give
attention to avoiding being drawn into an act of sin.

5. "In a glass" means mirror. The mirror is an illustration referring to the word of God. See I Cor.
13:12.

WHEN YOU DON'T NEED TO FORGET WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE

James 1:24

"For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of
man he was."

1. "For he beholdeth himself" The verb is aor. act. ind. and refers to the fact of looking or gazing.

2. "And goeth his way" This is a perf. act. ind. He went away with a settled state of mind that was
not corrected by what he saw in the mirror. That settled state of mind was still true as James
wrote his Epistle.

3. "And straightway forgetteth" The word "straightway" means "immediately." The word
"forgetteth" is an aor. mid. ind. and means "forgot." The middle voice involves him in the act
of forgetting. Sometimes when God shows us something about ourselves it will be something
we won't want to think about. We put it out of our minds to our own hurt.

4. "What manner of man he was" The verb is imperf. act. ind. It refers to the pre-salvation life.
It also refers to his continuous state before conversion. When we see our old sin nature in the
mirror of God's Word, we do not see ourselves as we are now. We see how we were before we

22 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

were saved. As new creatures in Christ we have died to that through the death of Jesus; Rom.
6:6. It is the Christian's responsibility to allow the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to work in
his life to show that he has been changed. He sees his natural face in the mirror so that he will
know that this is NOT what he is now and not what is to control him.

THE WORD OF GOD IS WITHOUT FLAW

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."

1. "But whoso looketh" "But" contrasts this statement to the one who looks and doesn't do
anything about what he sees. "Whoso" means "the one that" and refers to anyone. It is a general
truth. "Looketh" is an aor. act. ptc. and refers to the fact of looking. It can mean a "once for all
glance," but the rest of the sentence forbids that rendering.

2. "Into the perfect law of liberty" The preposition "into" suggests a penetrating look. "The
perfect law" is a reference to the word of God. The word of God is infallible, inerrant, and
verbally inspired.

A SUMMARY OF THE WORD OF GOD

(1) It is God breathed; 2 Tim. 3:16.

(2) It was given through Holy men of God; 2 Pet. 1:20-21.

(3) It was given to equip us to perform all that God requires of us; 2 Tim. 3:17.

(4) It is complete so that the man of God needs no other source for the revelation of God's will;
2 Tim. 3:17.

(5) Every word of it is inspired;1 Cor. 2:13.

(6) Even the plurals and singulars are inspired; Gal. 3:16.

(7) Paul's last charge to preachers is to preach the Word; 2 Tim.-4:2.

(8) It is compared to a mirror; James 1:23-25.

(9) It is a mirror in which a man can see himself the way God sees him; 1 Cor. 13:12.

(10) It is used by God to help His children know their very motives;Heb.4:12.

CHAPTER ONE 23

3. "The law of liberty" The Word of God is not a cruel law of bondage for His people. It liberates
us. It sets us free. It reveals grace and grace is what God can do for a believing sinner because
of the cross. It reveals that God does not save us by grace, then put us under the law for service.
Sin cannot have dominion over us because we are not under law but under grace;Rom. 6:14.
Christians who are led by the Spirit are the only ones not under law; Gal. 5:18. So the Word is
the means God uses to liberate the believer so he can live a different life. He is free from
condemnation (Rom. 8:1) and has the Spirit's power over the flesh to live godly (Rom. 8:13).

4. "And continueth therein" is an aor. act. ptc. and means to persevere in anything. The aorist
tense refers to a point of time in the past. This verse literally says, "Whoso looked into the
perfect law of liberty and continued..."

5. "He being not a forgetful hearer" So many are prone to forget. Sometimes it is deliberate and
sometimes it is just carelessness. But the man who forgets is accountable no matter what the
reason. God's Word is to be a serious consideration.

6. "But a doer of the work" This stresses habitual activity. This is what a correct response to the
Word of God produces.

7. "This man" Not the other man that is mentioned in verse 24 but "this man" that is faithful to
practice the teachings of Scripture.

8. "Shall be blessed in his deed" This is a statement of assurance. It is future tense and can be
looking to the time of the judgment seat of Christ and eternity. But it probably refers to the future
from the time that the deed is performed. The phrase "in his deed" means that in the very doing
of it there is a blessing.

A SUMMARY OF THE PERFECT LAW OF LIBERTY

(1) It is the Word of God;1 Cor. 13:10.

(2) God's Word is truth; John 17:17.

(3) The truth sets men free; John 8:32.

(4) The Word of God is a mirror reflecting man's sins;Heb. 4:12.

(5) Man can see himself in the mirror of God's Word the way God sees him; 1 Cor. 13:12.

(6) Man can be transformed into the image of Christ through looking into the mirror of God's
Word; 2 Cor. 4:18.

(7) Liberty is not freedom in sin but freedom from sin;1 John 1:9.
24 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

A MAN IS NOT ALWAYS WHAT HE SEEMS TO BE

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."

1. "If any man among you seem to be religious" The "if' is a first - class condition and assumed
to be true. The word "anyone" is an indefinite pronoun and leaves the identity indefinite. The
phrase "seem to be religious" refers to a person with a reputation of piety. The picture is not of
a conscious hypocrite but a self-deceived religionist. The verb "seem" is a pres. act. ind. and
means that "he keeps on seeming." He is practicing his religion and continues to live up to his
reputation.

2. "And bridleth not his tongue" "Bridleth" is a pres. act. ptc. The word means to guide and hold
in check with a bridle. A man's tongue is like a wild horse. It is implied that a true application
of the Word of God will bridle the tongue. Just like a wild horse can be brought under control
with a bridle, so can the tongue. But to let this wild horse run loose can be very dangerous.

3. "But deceiveth his own heart" "Deceiveth" is a pres. act. ptc. meaning that it is a persistent
reality. The word "deceit" means "to cheat, that which gives a false impression." This means he
cheats his own heart or he gives a false impression to his own heart. If you tell yourself a lie and
begin to operate on the basis of that falsehood, then the outcome has to be what the lie produces.
The heart can never enjoy true peace and liberty this way.

4. "This man's religion is vain" The word "vain" means "void of results." It does not mean that
it is without content, which would be another word (kene), but that it is futile because it fails to
bring him to the goal for which religion is intended. His concern with the external leaves the
inner life unchanged.

ORPHANS AND WIDOWS MUST BE HELPED

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."

1. "Pure religion and undefiled" is religion that unites the inner and outward effects of the
Gospel. "Pure" speaks of that which is free from moral pollution or corruption, while "undefiled"
means that which has not been soiled and stained by contact with moral evil. For James, moral
purity has replaced the concern for ritualistic purity.

CHAPTER ONE 25

2. "Before God" means that which is right in His sight. There are those who think God does not
see. Isa. 29:15; Ezk. 8:12.

3. "To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction" "To visit" means, "To look in on, go
see." Christianity is not just a set of ideas. It is practical. God wants His children to be practical
and help those in need. This statement also involves more than sending someone else by to help.
We are to personally administer help in these situations. "The fatherless and widows"
represented the two most needy classes in the ancient world. The "fatherless" is literally orphans
and refers to those who have been deprived of their parents. The "widows" are those whose
husbands have died or abandoned them. They are without means of support.

4. "And to keep oneself unspotted from the world" The word "unspotted" implies a condition
of personal purity that remains unblemished from contact with surrounding pollution. This is
where we need to abstain from the appearance of evil. "To keep" is a pres. act. infin. It means
"to keep on keeping." It shows the need of the cooperation of the man's will. "The world" means
"the world system" that is in conflict with God.

A SUMMARY OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE WORLD

(1) The physical world was made by Jesus Christ; John 1:3.10; Col. 1:16-17.

(2) The world is the scene of man's sin and has been under a curse because of it;Gen. 3; Rom.
8:20-22.

(3) The world came under the dominion of Satan when sin entered; 2 Cor. 4:3-4.

(4) The world has a course that keeps unsaved people captive; Eph. 2:2.

(5) The world loves its own and hates Christ and Christians; John 15:18-19.

(6) Jesus died for the sins of the whole world; John 3:16.

(7) Christians are not to be conformed to this world; Rom. 12:2.

(8) The Church is to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature; Matt. 28:19-
20.

(9) The world will be judged in righteousness by Jesus Christ; Acts 17:31.

(10) The world will finally be destroyed and replaced with a New Heaven and a New Earth;
Rev. 21:1-2.
JAMES CHAPTER 2

ATTITUDES TOWARD THE RICH

James 2:1

"My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect
of persons."

1. "My brethren" is a reminder that James is speaking to those who share a family relationship
through Jesus Christ. It will also set the stage for the rebuke that is to follow concerning
partiality.

2. "Have not" is a pres. act. ind. and means "do not keep on having." James is addressing
something that is going on.

3. "The faith of our Lord Jesus Christ" The "faith" refers to the well-known faith of Christians
as embodied in the Gospel. James emphasizes the Lordship of Christ in this statement. Jesus is
the anointed One to take away the sins of the world; but He is also the Lord of those who have
received Him as Saviour. What James is going to ask them to do is going to have the authority
of His Lordship.

4. "The Lord of glory" In the New Testament, the noun "glory" denotes the "divine and heavenly
radiance" manifesting God's visible presence. Believers are to be light reflecting His presence
in their lives. This cannot be done when they have respect of persons. This does not represent
God's view or God's will.

5. "With respect of persons" This statement stands first in the Greek sentence. It is the emphasis
of what James is saying. It refers to preferential treatment. It would be favoritism based on
external circumstances and appearances which James will illustrate. This is wrong. A person is
to be received by us on the basis of our family relationship. The following scriptures tell us that
God is no respecter of persons: Rom. 2:11; Eph. 6:9; Col. 3:25; 1 Pet. 1:17.

MONEY DOESN'T BUY FAVORS AT CHURCH

James 2:2

"For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there
come in also a poor man in vile raiment;"

1. "For if there come" This verb is an aor. act. subj. The "if' here is a third class condition. James
is saying it may be true and it may not be true, but if it is... He is stating a hypothetical case for
the purpose of illustrating the principle. The subjunctive mood is the potential mood.

26

CHAPTER TWO 27

2. "Unto your assembly" is referring to the time when they assembled for worship and instruction.
The word "assembly" is literally "synagogue". The word "synagogue" means "to come
together." It is using the word as the word "assembled" would be used in the sentence, "The
church is assembled."

3. "A man with a gold ring" The description here is of a person who is wealthy and is
demonstrating it by the wearing of rings and the way he dresses.

4. "And there come in also a poor man with vile raiment" The verb here is the same as above.
It is aor. act. subj. The vile raiment means ragged, tattered clothes that a very poor man would
wear.

James 2:3

"And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here
in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:"

1. "And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing" The words "ye have respect"
means "to look upon." It means to look with favor.

2. "And say unto him" is an aor. act. subj. It is potential. It is spoken of as having taken place.

3. "Sit thou here in a good place" This is the preferential treatment that is given this rich man.

4. "And say to the poor, Stand thou there or sit here under my footstool" He is given a choice,
but either alternative reveals indifference to his comfort and feelings.

James 2:4

"Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?"

1. "Are ye not partial in yourselves" refers to an inner attitude. It probably refers to an inner
admiration for the rich. This would be contrary to the Gospel which rejects all distinctions.

2. "And are become judges of evil thoughts?" James classifies them as judges if they make
distinctions. He says that the judgments they make in such a case as this would necessarily be
based on evil thoughts. They would be acting on the basis of worldly considerations.

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?"
28 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

1. "Hearken, my beloved brethren" The verb is aor. act. imper. This is a command "to hear."
Listen!!! We are also reminded that James is tenderly addressing his brethren. He does not treat
them as opponents or verbally abuse them because they are wrong. He speaks the truth in love.
But he does it with authority as seen in the imperative mood.

2. "Hath not God chosen the poor of this world" The verb is aor. mid. ind. The aorist refers to
a time in the past. The middle voice means He did this in His own behalf. The "poor of this
world" refers to those who are lacking earthly possessions. In the Old Testament, "poor" and
"humble" are almost synonymous.

TRUE RICHES

3. "Rich in faith" This is a further characterization of the chosen. The world may view them as
poor but God views them as rich in faith. "Rich in faith" does not mean that their faith is their
wealth. But faith is the means by which salvation is received. It is also the means by which the
Christian constantly obtains provisions for the Christian life. This is true riches.

4. "Heirs of the kingdom" refers to the future that the "poor of this world" have to look forward
to.

5. "Which he hath promised" is aor. mid. ind. The middle voice means that "He Himself' made
the promise. The aorist tense means that the promise is a premeditated gift. He has already made
this promise once for all.

6. "To them that love him" All believers love the Lord because He first loved them;1 John 4:14-
19.

SHORTSIGHTED VALUES

James 2:6

"But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the
judgment seats?"

1. "But ye have despised the poor" The verb is aor. act. ind. The word means, "to maltreat,
dishonor, suffer shame." The aorist tense means that it has already happened. The active voice
means they are responsible. They acted in doing this and are accountable. James is setting before
them this wrong attitude that needs to be confessed and forsaken. They had demonstrated their
attitude toward the poor by their partiality toward the rich.

2. "Do not rich men oppress you" The word "oppress" is a pres. act. ind. and means "to exercise
dominion against." The oppression is the rich man's ability to dominate the poor through the
influence of his wealth. It is a common practice throughout the world. The verb is present tense
CHAPTER TWO 29

which means James is addressing a present problem. It was going on at the time James was
writing this epistle.

3. "And draw you before the judgment seats?" It is a pres. act. ind. The word "draw" means "to
drag." The use of force is in the word. The phrase "judgment seat" is "tribunal or seat of justice."
This is done to collect debts the poor are unable to pay. It is a means the rich use to make the
poor man poorer and thus continue to oppress him.

A NICKNAME FOR BELIEVERS

James 2:7

"Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?"

1. "Do not they blaspheme" This reveals the bitter religious hostility on the part of the rich. It is
a reference to a verbal blasphemy against the honorable name of Christ. As a general rule, the
rich despise what cannot be controlled by their money. The Christian Gospel tells the rich man
he is a sinner and is in as much danger of hell as any poor man and will go there if he does not
repent. It informs him that God is not impressed with his riches or his accomplishments at all.

2. "The worthy name" The word "worthy" means "good, honorable." It is no doubt a reference
to the name of Jesus. The word "blasphemy" in connection with this statement suggests James'
recognition of the Divinity of Christ. You can slander an enemy, or a neighbor, and you can
curse another person, but blasphemy refers to wrong words and actions toward Deity. James was
the physical brother of Jesus, but He recognizes here that their fathers by natural generation were
different. Jesus is the "Only Begotten Son of God." Joseph was the father of James, but he was
not the father of Jesus.

3. "By which ye are called" marks the personal relationship of the readers to that name. The verb
is aor. pass. The aorist tense means that they had become identified with that name in the past.
The passive voice means that the verbal identification with the name of Jesus was given to them
by the world. This means that the term "Christian" was originally a nickname given them by the
world. See Acts 11:26. Someone said, "The expression is a gentle reminder that they belong to
Christ Jesus and are not at liberty to practice partiality, for it dishonors the honorable name.

THE BIBLE IS OUR AUTHORITY

James 2:8

"If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as
thyself, ye do well:"

30 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

1. "If ye fulfil the royal law" The verb is pres. act. ind. The word means "to accomplish, to reach
that as a goal." The word "royal" literally means "the king's law." It is the will of Christ our
Saviour that needs to be accomplished.

2. "According to the Scripture" James recognizes the Scripture as the final authority. The gift of
knowledge in the days of spiritual gifts never conflicted with the apostles' preaching of and
dependence on the Scriptures.

3. "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" The parable of The Good Samaritan is an
interpretation of this statement. Luke 10:30-37. The term "as thyself' is impossible to
accomplish apart from the filling of the Holy Spirit. God must put this quality of love in us;
Rom. 5:5.

4. "Ye do well" is a pres. act. ind. and means their practice will be acceptable.

James 2:9

"But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as
transgressors.

1. "But if ye have respect of persons" The verb is pres. act. ind. James is not talking about a
situation that does not exist. The present tense means he is saying, "But if ye keep on having..."
It is something going on that needs to be stopped.

2. "Ye commit sin" The verb is pres. mid. ind. It means, "you yourselves keep on committing sin."

3. "And are convinced of the law" is a pres. pass. ptc. "Convince" means "to confute, admonish,
tell a fault." The law shows up this fault and it keeps on doing it.

THE LAW AN IMPOSSIBLE SAVIOUR

James 2:10

"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."

1. "For whosoever" This means without exception. There is no respect of persons.

2. "Shall keep" is an aor. act. subj. from a word meaning, "to observe, to guard or to keep." The
active voice means that he made the decision to do it by an act of his will. The aorist tense is
looking at it as having been done. But the subjunctive mood is potential. So it is looking at a
hypothetical case as having been done.

3. "The whole law" The word "whole" means "all, every whit."

CHAPTER TWO 31

4. "And yet offend in one point" The word "offend" is an aor. act. subj. from a word meaning,
"to trip, to stumble." The suggestion here is that you have a man that has given it all he has. He
is putting forth his best effort. He is doing an amazing job of it. But suddenly he stumbles. He
does not transgress. That is not the word used. That would be used if it were deliberate. It is
saying that he tripped. It is almost an accident. This is the word that is used here. Then it says
"in one point." This may be what seems like a small point, but it is a legitimate point. Here is
a man who has kept the whole law, but in a weak moment violates what might be considered by
some, one small point thus he is guilty of all. That means he is a sinner and must pay for that sin
by going to hell (Rom. 6:23) if his salvation depends on his keeping the law.

5. "He is guilty of all" The verb is a perf. act. ind. It speaks of completed action in the past with
the result that it is still true. At the point that he stumbled it became a fact. He remains a sinner
because of that act.

A SUMMARY OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE LAW

(1) It was given to the Jews at Sinai; Lev. 27:34.

(2) It applies only to those under the law; Rom. 3:19.

(3) It was given that "every mouth may be stopped."Rom. 3:19.

(4) It was given that "All the world may become guilty before God;" Rom. 3:20.

(5) It is by the law that we have the knowledge of sin; Rom. 3:20.

(6) No one will be justified by the law; Rom. 3:20.

(7) The law was added because of transgressions till the seed should come; Gal. 3:19.

(8) If righteousness could have come by law, then this would have been the method used; Gal.
3:21.

(9) It was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ; Gal. 3:24.

(10) Anyone trying to be justified by the law is "fallen from grace." Gal. 5:4.

(11) The law was "taken out of the way" when Jesus died on the cross;Col. 2:14-17.
32 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

James 2:11

"For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no
adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law."

1. "For he that saith" This verse is an illustration of verse 10. A person can't say he is keeping
the law if he is keeping all but one of the commandments.

2. "Now if thou commit no adultery" The use of the negative in the conditional clause fixes
attention on the fact that no adultery is being committed.

3. "Yet if thou kill" "Yet" is the conjunction de most of the time translated "but" showing contrast.
The words "thou killest" is a fut. ind. So this is not addressing a fact but a possibility.

4. "Thou art become a transgressor" "Thou art become" is a perf. act. ind. This means that in the
act of committing murder, one becomes a transgressor of the law, though he may have kept all
the rest of the law.

James 2:12

"So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty."

1. "So speak ye" is pres. act. ind. and means that James is referring to something already in
progress. James had already admonished his readers in these words, "But be ye doers of the
word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves."

2. "And so do" is a pres. act. ind. meaning that their speaking and doing is to be the same.

3. "As they that shall be judged" This is a pres. pass. inf. The present tense means that this law
of liberty is judging while we are acting. It either says "amen" to what we do or says "that's
wrong."

A SUMMARY OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE LAW OF LIBERTY

(1) Christ and His disciples clearly regarded liberty as an essential of the highest religious life.
He began His mission at Nazareth with the words of Isaiah that His work was "to set at
liberty them that are bruised." Luke 4:18.

(2) The law places one in bondage from which Christ sets him free;Rom. 7:1-4; Acts 15:10. The
Jews were not able to bear it.

(3) It is the truth that sets one free; John 8:31-36.


CHAPTER TWO 33

(4) It is a liberty that sets one free from the penalty of sin; Rom. 8:1.

(5) This liberty is not a liberty to sin; Rom. 6:1; Gal. 5:13.

(6) Justification by faith alone is the only thing that would make liberty actual;Rom. 3:28.

(7) Whoever tries to be justified by the law the Bible says, "Ye are fallen from grace." Gal. 5:4.

(8) Our liberty is never to become a stumblingblock to the weak; 1 Cor. 8:9.

(9) Being made free we are servants of righteousness; Rom. 6:18,20.22.

(10) Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty;2 Cor. 3:17.

(11) Satan's ministers will attempt to challenge our liberty in Christ and bring true believers
into bondage; Gal. 2:4.

James 2:13

"For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy
rejoiceth against judgment."

1. "For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy" Matt. 5:7 says,
"Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." There is a parable in the New Testament
that illustrates the meaning of this statement; Matt. 18:23-35.
In most of the uses of the word "mercy" in the New Testament the word is describing an
attitude God has taken toward the believer because of the judgment He has taken on sin at the
cross. Paul says in 2 Cor. 4:1, "As we have obtained mercy, we faint not." In Eph. 2:4 Paul says,
"But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us." In Titus 3:5 Paul
says, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved
us." And on and on we could go giving verses that show God to be a merciful heavenly Father.
God expects His children to derive this characteristic from Him. You know the Bible speaks of
godliness; this is god-like-ness or being like God.

2. "And mercy rejoiceth against judgment" The reason mercy rejoices against judgment is
because it knows that judgment cannot condemn. There was a group of travelers in the early days
of our country traveling west in a great wagon train. As they travelled one day they were
horrified as they saw the smoke of a prairie fire ahead. The quick-thinking leader picked a spot
and burned off a large circle. Then he pulled the wagons into the circle that had already been
burned off. When the fire approached, they were safe because the fire could not burn where it
had already burned. This is the reason mercy can rejoice against judgment. The mercy we have
obtained is based upon what Jesus did for us at the cross. The judgment of God fell on Him. The
34 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

believer is in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) and the judgment of God cannot strike where it has already
struck. This is liberty from the penalty of sin.

PROFITLESS WORKS

James 2:14

"What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works?
can faith save him?"

1. "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say" James is about to use an unanswerable
argument on professing Christians who have the habit of "saying" and not "doing." Here, many
have accused James and Paul of being in opposition to one another on this subject. The thing we
must remember is that behind the human author is the Holy Spirit. So in reality the Holy Spirit
is the author of Paul's and James' writings. That means that if there is a contradiction in the two,
it is the Holy Spirit contradicting Himself. This is impossible. Now let's come back to the
statement, "though a man say." Human nature is no different in any age. People have. a tendency
to "say" without "doing." James is refuting this error.

2. "He hath faith, and have not works?" The man James is speaking of has made his claim of
faith. But he has absolutely no works as evidence of this claim. Saving faith has good works as
evidence of it, genuineness. After Paul said that salvation is by faith without works in Ephesians
2:8-9, in verse 10 he says, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good
works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Now, in this chapter,
James has contrasted the rich and the poor. Some were favoring the rich and looking down on
the poor. This James says is wrong. He uses several arguments including the fact that rich men
are the ones who bring them into court. Then he also speaks to them about the Law which
forbids them to respect the person of man.

3. "Can faith save him?" James is not asking for information. It is a question with an obvious
answer. No! Someone will say that Paul said, "But to him that worketh not but believeth on him
that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." Let me quote Jamison, Fausset
and Brown here: "It seems likely that St. James had seen St. Paul's epistles, for he uses the same
phrases and examples (cf. Vs. 21,23,25 with Rom. 4:3; Heb. 11:17,31 and Vs. 14,24 with Rom.
3:28; Gal. 2:16). At all events, the Holy Spirit by St. James combats not St. Paul, but those who
abuse St. Paul's doctrine." The doctrine of justification by faith alone can easily be abused but
it is no less true (Rom. 3:28). Where it is being abused, the Book of James should be studied.
Now, we come back to the question, "Can faith save him?" The kind of faith James is
speaking of will not save. A good illustration of faith that won't save is found in the Parable of
The Sower; Matt. 13:18-23.
Spurgeon said, "The faith which saves is not an unproductive faith, but is always a faith
which produces good works and abounds in holiness. Salvation in sin is not possible; it always
must be salvation from sin. As well speak of liberty while the irons are still on a man's wrists,

CHAPTER TWO 35

or boast of healing while the disease waxes worse and worse, or glory in victory when the army
is on the point of surrendering, as to dream of salvation in Christ while the sinner continues to
give full swing to his evil passions."

A SUMMARY OF THE DOCTRINE OF WORKS

(1) Works and grace cannot be mixed as a means of salvation; Rom. 11:6.

(2) Works do not save; Eph 2:8; Titus 3:5.

(3) Works can be a fruit of repentance; Matt. 3:8.

(4) We are created unto good works; Eph. 2:10.

(5) We are commanded to do good works; Col. 1:10; 2 Thess. 2:17.

(6) Our faith is to work;1 Thess. 1:3.

(7) The Bible is the guideline for all good works; 2 Tim. 3:16-17.

(8) We are to be zealous of good works; Titus 2:14.

(9) We are to provoke one another to love and good works; Heb. 10:24.

(10) It is completely inconsistent to say we have faith then refuse to do good works; James
2:15-16.

James 2:15

"If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,"

1. "If a brother or sister be naked" James is taking his illustration from the Christian
brotherhood. The word "naked" means "without clothes." Sometimes pictures are shown of
people in Africa who are in this very condition. It would be impossible for believers to clothe
entire nations. But it would not be out of the question for us to respond to a plea for help if that
condition existed in our missions and churches.

2. "And destitute of daily food" means that he does not have food for the day. Christians have
suffered this kind of destitution. Some have the mistaken idea that God will never allow His
children to get into this condition. But the facts are contrary to this. John tells us of those
Christians who stand glorified in heaven after having been saved "out of great tribulation" in
Revelation chapter 7 where God promises in verse 16, "They shall hunger no more, neither

36 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

thirst any more..." Remember these had not taken the mark of the Beast and, therefore, had not
been able to buy or sell.

James 2:16

"And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding
ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?"

1. "And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled" James is
speaking hypothetically. But in speaking this way he does not suggest that this is what they
would do. He says, "And one of you..." He does make it personal. But his suggestion is that there
might be one with this view but never all. It is too contrary to the nature of Christianity.

2. "Depart in peace" suggests that the mere words would be enough to satisfy the needs of this
person.

3. "What doth it profit?" This is a rhetorical question. There is no profit.

DEAD FAITH

James 2:17

"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

1. "Even so faith" The words "even so faith" make the application of the illustration to "faith
without works."

2. "If it hath not works" Someone has said, "Faith alone saves, but faith that saves is never
alone." Works accompany saving faith. Works follow in the train of faith. Faith is the engine,
works are the cars. And it is an engine that never moves out without having a trail of cars hooked
to it.

3. "Is dead, being alone" Dead faith is the "vain faith" ofI Cor. 15:1-2.

James 2:18

"Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy
works, and I will show thee my faith by my works."

1. "Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works" James is dealing with an
anticipated objection. James knows the people that he is writing to. He knows how they think.
So, since they might think such a thought, he will give his answer to it in this epistle.

CHAPTER TWO 37

2. "Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works" The
words "show me" mean to demonstrate. The conclusion is definitely that faith has to have some
way of proving it exists so far as its being seen by another person. The way of being seen by
another is by works. This also brings up another important point here. James is speaking in this
section of justification in the sight of man. Man saw Abraham offer his son Isaac and said, "What
faith!" Man sees Noah building an ark for one hundred and twenty years by which he saves
himself and his house and says, "What faith!" But God saw their faith and justified them by faith
apart from works: "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds
of the law." Rom. 3:28.

DEMONS HAVE FAITH

James 2:19

"Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble."

1. "Thou believest" The pronoun "thou" is emphatic. It means you are self-deceived to claim to
have faith and not have the works that demonstrate faith.

2. "That there is one God" God's existence and His Oneness is asserted here. Christians and Jews
believe this.

3. "Thou doest well" Because this is certainly true. But unless your faith goes further than this,
you still lack saving faith.

4. "The devils also believe and tremble" The word "tremble" means "shudder." There are no
infidel demons.

SOMETHING TO KNOW FOR SURE

James 2:20

"But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?"

1. "But wilt thou know" Learning is a prerequisite to correcting what is wrong in our lives. James
is addressing this statement to a possible unwillingness to know.

2. "O vain man" The word for vain means "empty, devoid of real value." This is the way James
describes the man who rests his eternal destiny on a false faith. This language also suggests
frustration that one should be so stupid as to hold to such a proposition in the light of divine
revelation on this subject. James could well be addressing this to a boasting hypocrite who
nourishes an impure life under the pretense of faith.

38 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

3. "That faith without works is dead?" The faith that built the ark would have been dead without
the work that went into building it. The faith that really saves would be dead unless that faith
would cause us to make the changes that come after that initial faith is exercised. Faith alone
saves, but faith that saves is never alone.

ABRAHAM, AN EXAMPLE OF FAITH APPLIED

James 2:21

"Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon
the altar?"

1. "Was not Abraham our father justified by works" This verse is an illustration. It does not
contradict Paul. Paul said, "For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory;
but not before God. For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted
unto him for righteousness." Rom. 4:2-3. Abraham was justified by faith alone in God's eyes.
But faith wasn't alone. He offered Isaac as a proof of his faith. When men saw him do this, he
was justified by works in their sight.

2. "When he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar" I cannot conceive of a greater act of faith
than what Abraham demonstrated in Genesis 22. And it is not just obedient faith to do what God
said to do, but faith that God would raise Isaac from the ashes of a burnt offering if he went
through with it. Heb. 11:19 says of Abraham's faith, "Accounting that God was able to raise
him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure."

James 2:22

"Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?"

1. "Seest thou how faith wrought with his works" James turns directly to the boasting hypocrite
who nourished an impure life under the pretense of faith. The words "seest thou" reveal that
James is speaking of what man sees of justification. "Faith wrought with his works" means that
his faith rested not in a naked bare profession but was operative; it had influence upon his works.

2. "By works was faith made perfect?" There is a statement like this in 2 Cor. 12:9: "...for my
strength is made perfect in weakness." None would say that our strength or weakness would add
anything to the power of God. It is made perfect because it can be seen. That is the meaning of
this statement. Faith is seen by us when it is "wrought with works." It is made perfect, that is,
more fully known and apparent.

CHAPTER TWO 39

James 2:23

"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. "And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed
unto him for righteousness" The "Scripture" would not be fulfilled, as James says it was, but
contradicted, by any interpretation which makes man's works justify him before God: for that
scripture makes no mention of works at all, but says Abraham's belief was counted to him for
righteousness. God, in the first instance, justifies the ungodly through faith; subsequently the
believer is justified before the world as righteous through faith manifested in words and works.

2. "And he was called the friend of God" SeeIsa. 41:8; Exo. 33:11; 2 Chron. 20:7.

"YE SEE" IS THE KEY

James 2:24

"Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."

1. "Ye see" is the key to understanding James as he comments on justification.

2. "How that by works a man is justified" Jesus said that we are to let our light shine before men
that they may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven. This is
JUSTIFICATION IN THE SIGHT OF MAN. This cannot possibly contradict Paul; and it would
if James is not writing from a different standpoint than Paul.

3. "And not by faith only" See Rom. 3:28; Titus 3:5. Man cannot see my faith. It is only as he
sees the effect my faith has on my life that he can see it. So man is not justified in the sight of
men by faith only.

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?"

1. "Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot" She carries this connotation after her justification
by faith into the inspired writings of James. What a testimony to the grace of God. God's
marvelous grace can go deeper than all our sins.

2. "Justified by works" Rahab acted on her faith and hid the spies. Therefore her faith wrought
with her works justified her faith to the spies.

40 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

James 2:26

"For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."

1. "For as the body without the spirit is dead" Here is a good definition of when death takes
place. The medical world speaks of a person being "brain dead." We understand what they are
talking about, but as long as the spirit is in the body, the person is not dead. But if the spirit has
left the body, the body is dead. Nothing short of a miracle will bring life back.

2. "So faith without works is dead also" Faith answers to the spirit here and works to the body.
The spirit does not derive its life from the body just as faith does not derive its existence from
works. But just the opposite! The body derives its life from the spirit. It is able to function
because it receives its life from the spirit. Therefore if the spirit is not present in the body it is
dead. So faith without works is dead. Gal. 5:6: "For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth
anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love."

SUMMARY OF FAITH AND WORKS

(1) A faith that does not produce works cannot save the soul; 2:14.

(2) A faith that does not produce works is "dead in itself; 2:15-17.

(3) A faith that does not produce works is a hollow mockery and empty sham in the sight of God
and man; 2:18.

(4) A faith that does not produce works is the kind of faith held by demons; 2:19.

(5) A faith that produces works is able to save the soul. This is illustrated in the case of
Abraham; 2:20-24.

(6) A faith that produces works is able to save the soul. This is illustrated in the case of Rahab;
2:25.

(7) A faith that does not produce works is "dead"; that is, inactive and useless; 2.26.
JAMES CHAPTER 3

RESPONSIBILITIES OF TEACHERS

James 3:1

"My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater
condemnation.

1. "My brethren, be not many masters" James again uses the "my brethren" in tender, loving
address to his Christian brothers. The words "be not" Jamison, Fausset, and Brown comment:
"Become not: taking the office too hastily, of your own accord." The word "masters" literally
means "teachers." Jesus was called Master because He was recognized as a great teacher. It is
probable that many of them were wanting to become teachers. This can be brought about by a
person's admiration for his teacher. It can be brought about by a desire to want the spotlight. We
have the inherent pride that is an expression of the old sin nature and it will continually lead us
in the direction of self-exaltation. These Jewish brethren may have had a problem in this area.
Teachers are called of God and placed in the body as He sees fit; 1 Cor. 12:28.

2. "Knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation." This statement reveals that we
will be judged according to the light we have. A teacher is a student of the Scriptures and has to
know something of the Word and will of God to teach it. Therefore he has the greater
responsibility.
There are two dangers that always face the teacher. They are: distortion of truth, and living
a life that contradicts the teaching. Distortion of the truth is a serious offense to God. Peter refers
to this in his second epistle, chapter three and verse 16: "As also in all his epistles, speaking in
them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are
unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction."
Jesus said, "But I say unto you, that every idle word that men speak, they shall give account
thereof in the day of judgment."Matt. 12:36. The second danger for the teacher is the danger of
contradicting his teaching with his life. Teachers are continually engaged in passing judgments,
both moral and intellectual. The very nature of their work makes them criticize the actions of
those who are wrong. James warns them that all who have professed to point out to others the
way in which they should live, will receive greater condemnation than the rest of men if they
have failed to walk in the way themselves. We have a good illustration of this principle revealed
in Rom. 2:17-24.

41

42 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

A MATURE MAN

James 3:2

"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."

1. "For in many things we offend all" Notice he includes himself by the use of the pronoun "we."
First of all, James is saying that every man is guilty of sin. It is a common pitfall with the teacher
to become so engrossed in condemning sin in others that he forgets that he himself is also a
sinner.
Another thing James may be saying here is that because we are all sinners, all have an old
sin nature, and we can go so far as to make it impossible to live the Christian life by our
teaching. In other words, it is impossible to live sinlessly perfect. In the most saintly Christian
there is sin. So we need to teach Christians to constantly bring their weaknesses and sins to the
Lord in brokenness and obtain forgiveness. We cannot live sinless, but we can live a cleansed
life. And you cannot be more right with God than the blood of Christ makes you.

2. "If any man offend not in word the same is a perfect man" This is probably one of the
hardest areas of the Christian life. It is so hard to control the tongue. Zodhiates tells a story in
his commentary on this passage:

There was an old man who often complained of pain and weariness in the
evening, as many of us do. A friend asked him why he complained so. The old man
replied, "Alas! I have every day so much to do. I have two falcons to tame, two hares
to keep from running away, two hawks to manage, a serpent to confine, a lion to
chain, and a sick man to tend and wait upon." "Why, you must be joking," said his
friend. "Surely no man can have all these things to do at once." "Indeed, I am not
joking," said the old man, "but what I have told you is the sad, sober truth for the two
falcons are my two eyes, which I must diligently guard; the two hares are my feet,
which I must keep from walking in the ways of sin; the two hawks are my two hands,
which I must train to work, that I may be able to provide for myself and for my
brethren in need; the serpent is my tongue, which I always bridle, lest it speak
unseemly; the lion is my heart, with which I have a continued fight, lest evil things
come out of it; and the sick man is my whole body, which is always needing my
watchfulness and care. All this daily work wears out my strength." The old man was
certainly frank about the struggle the believer has in this life. He very aptly described
the tongue as a serpent, for it can spread deadly poison around.

If a photographer were to announce his ability to photograph the tongue, with a record of all
the bad things it had said and all the good things it had left unsaid, he would not starve to death,
he would be put to death.

CHAPTER THREE 43

3. "And able to bridle the whole body." That is if a man can control his tongue which is the
hardest member to control, he will be able to control the whole body.

James 3:3

"Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their
whole body."

1. "Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths" The statement in verse two calls for this
illustration. A bridle is not used on the body but it is on the horse. And the effect of the bridle
on the horse is an illustration of the effect of the bridle on the tongue. "We put" is a pres. act. ind.
meaning that the subject acts through the bridle on the horse not the horse on the subject.

2. "That they may obey us" It is for this purpose that the "bits" are used. The rider must maintain
control if he is to effectively use the energies of the horse.

3. "And we turn about their whole body." "We turn" is a pres. act. ind. and means that the
subject acts and is in control. The control of the horse's mouth results in directing the whole
body. The personal pronoun "we" means that this is an illustration with which both writer and
readers were familiar from everyday experience. The Bible writers drew vital spiritual lessons
from everyday experience.

James 3:4

"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."

1. "Behold also the ships," takes us to another illustration. It is again something that the readers
will be acquainted with.

2. "Which though they be great" emphasizes their size. Compared to the horse the ship is great.
A ship is so big it will hold many horses.

3. "And are driven of fierce winds" The ships have no will of their own like the horses but are
nevertheless subject to the winds beating against them from without. James says these winds are
"fierce" and suggest that they cannot be controlled.

4. "Yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth."
The rudder of ancient ships was an oar-like projection fastened to the ship's stern. Compared to
the size of the ship, this rudder was very small. It is very important to maintain control over that
small rudder. The governor is the man who steers the ship. The word "willeth" is a pres. mid.
ind. Here the will of the governor is behind the hand on the rudder.

44 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

James 3:5

"Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a
matter a little fire kindleth!"

1. "Even so the tongue is a little member" The words "even so" make the tongue the "little
member" illustrated by the "bits" in the horses' mouths and the "small helm" of the big ship.

2. "And boasteth great things" Xanthus, the philosopher, once told his servant that the next day
he was going to have some friends for dinner and that he should get the best thing he could find
in the market. The philosopher and his guests sat down the next day at the table. They had
nothing but tongue; four or five courses of tongue. The philosopher finally lost his patience and
said to his servant, "Did I not tell you to get the best thing in the market?" The servant answered,
"Isn't the tongue the organ of sociability, the organ of eloquence, the organ of kindness, the
organ of worship?" Then the philosopher said, "Tomorrow I want you to get the worst thing in
the market." And on the morrow, the philosopher sat at the table, and there was nothing but
tongue; four or five courses of tongue. The philosopher again lost his patience and said, "Did I
not tell you to get the worst thing in the market? The servant replied, "I did; for isn't the tongue
the organ of blasphemy, the organ of defamation, the organ of lying?" Well done servant! You
have taught the philosopher a lesson. This is the lesson James is trying to teach us.

3. "Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth" Again James contrasts the smallness of the
tongue with the greatness of its effects. He is saying, "such a small fire kindles such a great
forest." Just a spark, and a fire that will take hundreds of men and many weeks to put out may
be started. We have seen this happen many times in various parts of our country. A camper in
one of our forests may have neglected to put out a campfire. From this, a whole forest has been
set ablaze where wildlife and homes have been destroyed. Millions of dollars and lives have been
wasted because of a small fire uncontrolled.

James 3:6

"And the tongue is a 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."

1. "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity" Here he amplifies the little tongue to a world-
sized problem. Think of Hitler and the problem his tongue caused the world. A little girl came
to her mother and asked, "Which is the worse, Mama, to tell a lie or to steal?" The mother
replied that both were wrong and she could not tell which was the worst. "Well, Mama," replied
the little girl, "I've been thinking about it, and I think it is much worse to lie than to steal." The
mother asked her why she thought this and she replied, "Well you see, Mama, it's like this. If
you steal a thing, you can take it back, unless you've eaten it, and if you've eaten it, you can pay
for it; but a lie is forever." How true was the perception of this little girl. Paul said, "Lie not one
to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds." Col. 3:9.

CHAPTER THREE 45

2. "It defileth the whole body" The tongue is a member of your body like your arm or your leg.
If your tongue says wrong things, people will consider you no better than your tongue. If a man
or woman has a bad tongue, you usually choose to stay away from him. I've never heard anyone
say, "I'll fellowship with you, but not with your tongue!" A dirty tongue makes the whole body
dirty.

3. "And setteth on fire the course of nature" The word "course" here means "a series of
successive acts or practices." - Webster. The idea is a cycle, a continuous course of conduct.
The words "of nature" refers to man's fallen nature;Eph. 2:1-3. Man is depraved and it is his
nature to sin. The tongue activates in man what is natural for him. To see what is natural for man
see Rom. 1; Gal. 5:19-21.

4. "And it is set on fire of hell" The word hell is used here to stand for those who belong to its
sphere; Satan, demons, and the whole world system. Jesus speaking of the Church said, "The
gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The gates of hell have certainly made an attempt but
have failed. So hell sets on fire the tongue in this same manner.

James 3:7

"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:"

1. "For every kind of beasts...." Here is a statement that is amazing. All of these different named
creatures can be tamed. They can be trained. This is a fact that can be seen in many places of the
world. I recently saw a special on T.V. where a pig had been trained. When you go to Sea World
you see dolphins and whales perform acts that demonstrate the truth stated in this verse.

2. "Is tamed" is a pres. pass. ind. from a word meaning, "to subdue or tame."

James 3:8

"But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison."

1. "But the tongue can no man tame" We can use all the force we possess; we can punish the
tongue all we wish; we can forbid it to talk; but the same sinful nature will permit the tongue to
continue in its uncontrolled state. Only salvation which gives us a new nature and the filling of
the Holy Spirit can get to the root of our problem and bring self-control.

2. "It is an unruly evil" The word "unruly" means "unsettled." It is unpredictable. In this unsettled
state it may praise one man and slander another. There is also a further meaning of this word and
it is "ungovernable." Have you ever tried to hold your tongue with your fingers? It will slip from
between them. Our text says it is ungovernable.

46 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

3. "Full of deadly poison." The word from which the word "poison" is translated is "arror." The
tongue can be like a poison arrow. It can make sick, cause intense pain and even kill (the
testimony and influence). Someone said to John Wesley, "Mr. Wesley, I pride myself in
speaking my mind; that is my talent." "Well," said Mr. Wesley, "the Lord wouldn't mind if you
buried that talent."

James 3:9

"Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made
after the similitude of God."

1. "Therewith bless we God, even the Father;" The word "bless" means "to speak well of." We
Christians offer the sacrifice of praise to God (Heb. 13:15) and this is right. It is normal for the
believer to praise God. The words "even the Father" remind us that we have a son's relation to
God. He is not only our God but also our Father by spiritual birth.

2. "And therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God" Now this is
nothing but inconsistency and hypocrisy. Many people who claim to be Christians come to
church and bless God with their mouths and they have such a negative personality that they have
nothing good to say about anyone. In fact, they go beyond just mere negative statements and
wish the curse of God on their supposed enemies.

James 3:10-12

"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."

1. "Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing" This would confuse any listener.
This is the impact that James wants to make by this statement.

2. "My brethren" James is not saying that because you are doing these things you are not saved.
He uses the tender respectful term "My brethren."

3. "These things ought not so to be" James is deploring this condition. He is saying this should
never have happened. It is almost like saying, "I shouldn't even have to say anything to you
about this."

4. Then James gives three illustrations to prove his point: the fountain, the fig tree, and the vine.
James' argument is irrefutable.

CHAPTER THREE 47

SUMMARY OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE TONGUE

(1) The tongue is used to deceive; Rom. 3:13.

(2) Every tongue will ultimately confess that Jesus is Lord; Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:11.

(3) The tongue needs to be bridled; James 1:26.

(4) The tongue is a boaster; James 3:5.

(5) The tongue is a fire and world of iniquity; James 3:6.

(6) The tongue defiles the whole body; James 3:6.

(7) The tongue is set on fire of hell; James 3:6.

(8) No man can tame the tongue; James 3:8.

(9) The Christian is to refrain his tongue from evil;1 Pet. 3:10.

(10) The believer is not to just love with his tongue; I John 3:18.

James 3:13

"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."

1. "Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you?" James has already implied
in this book that there were those to whom he addressed himself who were sadly lacking in
wisdom (1:5). This statement and the one in verse 15 tell us that those who made the claim to
having wisdom did not have it. The words "endued with knowledge" means that those who were
causing the problems that James is dealing with CLAIMED that their wisdom and knowledge
came from above.

2. "Let him show out of a good conversation" The word "show" means "to put on display." The
words "out of a good conversation" means "manner of life." The life one lives should
demonstrate the grace of God and the faith of Christ.

3. "His works with meekness of wisdom" James is emphasizing works because works have to be
consistent with what one says in the Christian faith. The Christian says this is what I believe and
then you can observe him living according to that statement of faith each day he lives. The words
"meekness of wisdom" mean that the Christian life is not a boasting, bragging faith. His words
are spoken in meekness; his life is lived in meekness.

48 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

A little girl in a Chinese village watched a missionary as he went about the Master's work.
She saw him go to the homes where there were sickness, death, and sorrow, and she watched him
as he moved about the village, though she never- heard him speak in public. One day she went
to another village and followed some girls into a mission school. There she heard a lady talking
to them, in Chinese, about someone to whom little children came. One of the little girls asked
the visitor, "Do you know who it was?" "Yes," she replied, "I know him. He lives in our
village." She had never heard of Jesus Christ, and when the teacher described the beautiful life
of Christ, she thought she was talking about the missionary who lived in her village.

James 3:14

"But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the
truth."

1. "But if ye have" This is a first class condition. James is addressing himself to an existing
problem. "Ye have" is a pres. act. ind. and means "If ye keep on having" or, "If ye continue to
have."

2. "Bitter" This word is used in Romans 3:14 of evil speaking; inEphesians 4:31 of bitter hatred;
in Hebrews 12:15 of a root of bitterness producing bitter fruit.

3. "Envying" This word comes from a word that means "to boil or bubble up." It is something that
puts fire under our wisdom and knowledge, as they express themselves in action. The word
"envying" means in this case the boiling within to do wrong.

4. "Strife" means "contention." There is no possibility for unity as long as this condition exists.
Notice James is not telling those who are not participating in these evils to be peaceful with those
who are doing wrong so they can be at peace with one another. He attacks the wrongdoers and
calls them to repentance. The way to have peace in the fellowship is for those who are wrong to
get it right.

5. "In your hearts" When people go wrong it is always in the heart. We like to turn that around.
We say, "That brother may be wrong but his heart is right." That is not what God says.

6. "Glory not" This is used in the sense of boasting. When people make a claim to having God's
wisdom and the conditions of envying, bitterness and strife exist it is not a time for boasting.

7. "And lie not against the truth." When one lives contrary to the life he professes it is a lie
against the truth.

Summary: Let's restate this verse: Since ye have bitter envying and strife, a condition that exists
among you at the present time, do not boast because when you do, you are lying against the
truth." The truth of God is totally contrary to what is going on in your midst now. To glory in

CHAPTER THREE 49

what you are doing would be to teach that the truth made you like you are. "Bitter envying and
strife can never be sanctified by man to be used for good. They are a lie against the truth.

James 3:15

"This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish."

1. "This wisdom descendeth not from above" This statement does let us know that there is a
wisdom which does not come from above. It is called "the wisdom of this world."

2. "But is earthly, sensual," The word "earthly" is put in contrast to the words "from above." So
it speaks of the wisdom of this world. Paul says, "Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where
is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" 1 Cor. 1:20.
The word "sensual" comes from a very interesting word. We get our word "psychic" from this
word. It is the adjective of the word "pseuche," from which we get our words psychology,
psychiatry. This word is used by Paul in1 Cor. 15:44 where it contrasts the body at the time of
death, a natural body (Psuchikon) with a spiritual body. So the psyche translated sensual is the
part of us that is of the world and only allows us to know the natural world around us. It will
never bring us into touch with God. This is the reason the psychologists and psychiatrists who
are not born from above and who do not pray and receive wisdom from above are incapable of
offering any real solution to man's problems. That is hard to accept by a society of people who
place so much emphasis and value on worldly wisdom. But it is a fact to be reckoned with. 1
Cor. 2:14 says, "But the natural (psychic) man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God..."
The wisdom that these Christians are being controlled by is of this world completely.

3. "Devilish." The word is translated from the same word as "demons." Plato used this word to
describe the intelligence of demons. So, evidently demons can speak to the psychic or the natural
man. This reminds us that we are in a real warfare against the forces of evil. Our protection is
the Word of God and the filling of the Holy Spirit.

SUMMARY OF THE WISDOM OF THIS WORLD

(1) The Gospel is not to be preached with the wisdom of this world; 1 Cor. 1:17.

(2) The wisdom of this world will make the preaching of the cross of no effect;1 Cor. 1:17.

(3) Paul took great care in avoiding this; 1 Cor. 2:4-5.

(4) The preaching of the cross is foolishness to the worldly wise (implied); 1 Cor. 1:19.

(5) God will ultimately destroy the wisdom of the wise; 1 Cor. 1:19.

(6) The world by wisdom has never come to know God; 1 Cor. 1:21.

50 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

(7) God in His wisdom made it so that man would never come to know Him through the wisdom
of this world; 1 Cor. 1:21.

(8) The foolishness of God is wiser than men; 1 Cor. 1:25.

(9) God chooses the unwise of this world to confound the wise that no flesh should glory in His
presence; I Cor. 1:26-29.

(10) The worldly wise professing themselves to be wise have become fools; Rom. 1:22.

TROUBLE FOR SURE

James 3:16

"For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work."

1. "For where envying and strife is" The words here are the same as those in verse 14. The
envying manifests itself in a zealous drive to accomplish a selfish end. The word "strife" means
that these "worldly wise" have a party spirit and do not mind fighting for their ideas and personal
self-exaltation.

2. "There is confusion" The word "confusion" means "a state of disorder, disturbance, confusion,
anarchy." I Cor. 14:33 says, "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all
churches of the saints."

3. "And every evil work." The word "evil" means "good for nothing." There is a lot of "good for
nothing" works going on today.

WISDOM FROM HEAVEN

James 3:17

"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."

1. "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure" In other words, it is wise to be pure. The
word "pure" means "chaste, holy." Rom. 12:1 tells us that we are to present our bodies "holy."

2. "Then peaceable" The word "then" is from a word that means "thereafter or hereafter." It means
"next in line." Purity comes first, then peace follows. Some references to peace are:John 14:27;
16:33.

CHAPTER THREE 51

Not long ago a Hindu woman was converted chiefly by hearing the Word of God read. She
suffered much persecution from her husband. One day a missionary asked her, "When your
husband is angry and persecutes you, what do you do?" She replied, "Well, sir, I cook his food
better; when he complains, I sweep the floor cleaner; and when he speaks unkindly, I answer him
mildly. I try, sir, to show him that when I became a Christian I became a better wife and a better
mother." The consequences of this was that, while the husband could withstand all the preaching
of the missionary, he could not stand the practical preaching of his wife, and gave his heart to
God.

3. "Gentle" The word "gentle" means first "belonging to a family of social standing; of the upper
classes; of good birth." Then it means "mild; moderate; not violent, harsh or rough." -Webster.
Paul was a gentle person; 1 Thess. 2:7. Paul told Timothy to be gentle;2 Tim 2:24. It is a fruit
of the Spirit; Gal. 5:22. Jesus Himself is our example in this;2 Cor. 10:1.

4. "Easy to be entreated" It is the only time this word is found in the New Testament. It means
"easily prevailed upon, won over, or persuaded to comply." It refers to a person who easily
complies, who readily obeys. Christ is our Lord and His Word is His instruction to us. This
means that we are to be the kind of people who are easily entreated by His Word. The opposite
of what he is saying here is being hardheaded, argumentative and rebellious. The Word of God
is constantly entreating us to do right. The wisdom from above will cause us to be easily
entreated. This is not just true of our response to God through His Word, but we are to have this
attitude toward one another. As Christians we should be known as people who can be easily
approached and very cooperative.

5. "Full of mercy" In ancient Greek religions "eleos" or "mercy" was considered to be a god who
stood as the personification of compassion and sympathy. In Athens in the Stoa there was an
altar consecrated to Mercy where the persecuted, even among the strangers in Athens, could find
refuge and exemption from taxation, and where they could have freedom to speak and do as they
wished. That was the conception of mercy by the ancient Greeks. Aristotle conceives and speaks
of it as the grief that one feels for someone suffering unworthily.

To understand the word mercy as used here we must go to the cross; John 3:16; Titus 3:5.
God's grace paves the way for God to be merciful to us. In the manner in which He is merciful
to us we should be merciful to others. It is easy to be merciful to our friends. But remember if
we are like God we will be merciful to our enemies and to people who frustrate us. We need to
be ready to show mercy to people who have the same attitude toward us that we once had toward
God.

6. "Good fruits" First, we can contrast this with bad fruit. So much bad fruit or spoiled fruit is seen
today. The word "fruits" used here indicates the desirability and expectancy of results through
our words and works of mercy. Let's notice the kinds of fruit spoken of in the Word of God:

(1) The Bible pictures every Christian as fruitful; Matt. 13:8.


52 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

(2) There is the parable of the Vine and branches that has to do with fruit bearing;John 15:1-8.

(3) There is the fruit of the Spirit;Gal. 5:22; Eph. 5:9.

(4) There is the fruit of the lips;Heb. 13:15.

(5) The hypocrite is spoken of as being without fruit; Jude 12.

7. "Without partiality" The word means "not distinguished, undivided in the sense of being only
one unit." Here it refers to one who does not push himself forward. He does not want others to
distinguish him as someone extraordinary who deserves honors and laurels. The great Puritan
preacher, Thomas Manton, said, "Fools are the greatest censurers: what they want in worth is
made up in pride; and because they cannot raise themselves to an equality with others, they
endeavor by censures to take them down, that they may be as low as themselves."

8. "Without hypocrisy" A hypocrite in ancient Greece was one who played the part of an actor.
It means or refers to a person who acts differently than he really is. James is saying that he who
has Christ in his heart ought not to act differently from what he really is. This is wisdom from
above. If a person is a Christian he should act the part; he should be himself. For a person to be
a Christian and not live the Christian life is to be a true failure.

A SUMMARY OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE HYPOCRITE

(1) A hypocrite puts on outwardly; Matt. 23:28.

(2) Hypocrisy is called leaven; Luke 12:1. Leaven is a type of sin in the Scriptures.

(3) Paul told the Church at Rome to let love be without dissimulation (hypocrisy) Rom. 12:9.

(4) Peter spoke to those who had been purified from hypocritical love; 1 Pet. 1:22.

(5) Hypocrisy can be laid aside; I Pet. 2:1.

(6) This word is translated six times in the New Testament and it is used in connection with
"love" and "faith" five times; see Rom. 12:9; 2 Cor. 6:6; 1 Tim. 1:5; 2 Tim. 1:5; 1 Pet. 1:22.

James 3:18

"And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace."

1. "And the fruit of righteousness" Fruit is the product that comes from a plant and is the natural
outcome of that plants existence. The believer has imputed to him the righteousness of Jesus
Christ. He is said to be partaker of the divine nature; 2 Pet. 1:4. This nature will bear fruit.

CHAPTER THREE 53

2. "Is sown in peace" Those to whom James is speaking have had anything but peace. The
fightings and wars will be mentioned in the next verse. But the fightings and wars do not come
from the new nature but the old; Gal. 5:18-19. Spirit-filled Christians have an outflow of the
inner presence of the Lord in the Person of the Holy Spirit and it is always peace.

3. "Of them that make peace" Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be
called the children of God" Matt. 5:9 God's people are characterized by being peace makers.
This is an indictment against those who sow discord in the church and participate in gossip and
do those things that cause hard feelings between Christians. This is done many times by those
who claim that what they are doing is standing for the truth!!!
JAMES CHAPTER 4

James 4:1

"From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your
lusts that war in your members?

1. "From whence come fightings and wars among you?" This question is proof of the existence
of this state of affairs among the Christians of James' day. There are some verses that might help
us to understand what kind of wars were being fought:

(1) 1 Tim. 6:4: The word "questions" in this verse means "debates." Also the phrase, "strifes of
words."

(2) 2 Tim. 2:23: This verse speaks of "foolish and unlearned questions that gender strifes." The
word "gender" is the word for "beget." Strifes are begotten or conceived when "foolish and
unlearned questions" are brought up. The word "knowing" is a perf. act. ptc. It means that
we have a knowledge of this from past learning.

(3) 1 Cor. 6:1: Here believers were going to law with one another. They were fighting it out in
the courts.

Zodhiates says, "We are sure that the Christians to whom James is writing were not
actually engaged in a war of arms, but as a group of Christians, they were hostile to other
groups. We can safely deduce that these groups with whom they were at variance were
Christian groups, for what else would the expression "among you" imply? Thus, we have one
Christian group against another in a state of war."

Spurgeon likens the various denominations to various rooms in Noah's ark. He says, "In
the ark, rooms were made. Those who lived in one room did not stand or sit with those who
lived in another; but they were all in the same ark.

But these are not proper applications. First, of all there were not different denominations
in that day. Second, those to whom James is speaking were agreed one hundred percent on
the plan of salvation and the major doctrines. Denominational differences today are over the
basic issue of how you get to heaven. I would agree with Spurgeon's illustration if we are
speaking of those who are in the same ark! But if a person does not believe the plan of
salvation correctly he is not on the same ark with me. So, it is not those kinds of differences
over which these Christians are at war.

The war was going on between Christians in the same fellowship. It happens today.
Churches are torn apart and sometimes destroyed because of the debates and strifes that go
on. Most of the time it is over petty differences.

54

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2. "Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?" James now puts the
verbal finger on the source of their problem. He recognizes that the external fights start from
within. The word "lusts" here means more than strong desires. It means desires actualized.

Paul says, "But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and
bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." Rom. 7:23

Whether we want to face it or not, while we are on earth and in this body, we are constantly
facing a state of war between our old sin nature, called the flesh, and the Spirit; Gal. 5:17. James
says that these desires to give in to the flesh are warring in our members. It is not just a mild
problem.

"A man who had let an offender go instead of avenging himself of an insult, and who was
criticized in consequence, said to the friend who chided him, `Tell me, my friend, if you were
climbing a hill, and a great stone or block rolled down toward you, would you consider it
disgraceful to step aside, and allow it to rush past? If not, what disgrace can there be in avoiding
and giving way to a man instigated by anger, until he has had time for reflection, and his agitated
mind finds rest in repentance?' There is an old legend that tells of Hercules encountering a
strange animal on a narrow road. He struck it with his club and passed on. Soon the animal
overtook him, now three times as large as before. Hercules struck it fast and furiously, but the
more he clubbed the beast, the larger it grew. Then Pallas appeared to Hercules and warned him
to stop. `The monster's name is strife,' she said. `Let it alone and it will soon become as little
as at first.' This is valuable advice for those of us Christians who engage in counter-blows,
thinking that only thus can we stop the blows."

Only the indwelling Christ can handle the problems that arise within us. He must be trusted
to handle the flesh when it attacks the believer through lust.

James 4:2

"Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet
ye have not, because ye ask not."

1. "Ye lust and have not" The word "lust" here is a different word from the word in verse 1. The
word here means, "The setting of one's heart or soul upon something." James is saying it is
pointless to desire evil in your hearts since that desire is not going to give us pleasure. The
phrase "and have not" means that the desire in itself will not bring to pass what is desired. It is
wrong for a believer to want what is not God's will for his life.

2. "Ye kill" is a very strong statement made by James. It is inconceivable that James is using this
word in the literal sense. I take it to mean that he is using it in the figurative sense and refers to
killing another's influence through the use of the tongue. There is also the killing of the spirit
of an individual through criticism. There are those today who are sitting at home and are
56 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

completely out of service because their fruit-bearing life has been effectively "killed" through
the abuse of someone's tongue.

3. "And desire to have" This desire to have is coming from the flesh. The whole context demands
this conclusion. This being true, the desires are selfishly motivated.

4. "And cannot obtain" The Psalmist said, "Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give
thee the desires of thine heart." Psa. 37:7. But these are not delighting themselves in the LORD.
They are selfishly motivated. So God is no doubt standing in the way of their selfish desires.
James says, "And cannot obtain."

5. "Ye fight and war, yet ye have not" This is going on between believers. They were fighting
for position and recognition. James calls it "war." It is in our nature to fight for what we want.
But it is not God's way. Paul tells Timothy, "And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be
gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves;
if God peradventure will give them repentance." 2 Tim. 24-25. Then James says, "yet ye have
not." They were not accomplishing the ends they desired through this approach.

6. "Because ye ask not" The words "ye ask" is a pres. mid. infin. The present tense means "to keep
on asking." The middle voice means that they failed because they did not ask for help to get
themselves straight. If we want to be effective prayer warriors we need to begin by praying for
ourselves and removing those things in our lives that are not pleasing to the Lord.

WHY PRAYER GOES UNANSWERED

James 4:3

"Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

1. "Ye ask" is a pres. act. ind. and means "to continue to ask." They had been asking.

2. "And receive not" is also a pres. act. ind. and means that they were not getting what they were
asking for. Prayer must meet proper conditions if it is to be answered.

3. "Because ye ask amiss" The word "amiss" is an adverb standing emphatically before the verb
and means, "In an evil manner, badly." Their petitions were motivated by a mean and
unacceptable desire. This is a strong indictment against selfishness in prayer.

4. "That ye may consume" means "to spend." This means that they were asking the Lord for
something for the purpose of spending.

CHAPTER FOUR 57

5. "Upon your lusts" Gives the intent or motivation of the prayer. It is like asking the Lord for a
sum of money to go out and get drunk on. Or, to do something else that springs from the old sin
nature. It is asking the Lord to help you gratify the flesh.

A certain man was noted for two things: his poverty and his happiness. He was the
embodiment of sunshine, despite the fact that he had none of this world's goods. Someone asked
him if he would not like to be rich. "No sir," was the reply, "I don't want to be rich." "And
why?" asked his friend. "Because all the rich I work for never laugh," came the answer. Lusts
are never satisfied.

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."
1 "Ye adulterers and adulteresses" Can you imagine this being addressed to saved people? Both
men and women are addressed. It is a strong statement against worldliness. The context will bear
this out. The Jews would understand this figurative language. Psa. 73:27-28 says, "For, lo, they
that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. But
it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare
all thy works." There are many passages in the Old Testament where God charged Israel with
adultery when they were unfaithful to Him. Some of those places are:Isa. 54:5; 57:3-13; Jer.
3:20; Ezk. 16:6-29; 23:1-49; Hos. 9:1.

2. "Know ye not" calls for an affirmative answer. This is an appeal to their consciences. They are
not ignorant on this subject. The people who are doing wrong know what they are doing.

3. "That the friendship of the world" The word "friendship" comes from a word that means love.
So James is talking about "loving the world" which is forbidden by God;1 John 2:15-17. The
word "world" refers to the world system. The styles, the fads, the likes and dislikes along with
all the philosophies of this world must be included in this. Friendship is based on a common
interest and concern. This statement gives a true evaluation of what worldliness is. Jesus explains
our relationship to the world in John 15:18-21.

4. "Is enmity with God" The word "enmity" is the opposite of love. (Vine ) Webster says, "The
attitude or feeling of an enemy or enemies; hostility." God and the world are at enmity toward
one another. When we are friendly to the world we are making friends with God's enemies.

5. "Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." This is a hard
statement especially when applied to saved people. But James wants us to know the position that
we put ourselves in when we become friendly with the world.

In the forests of northern Europe and Asia there lives a little animal called the ermine. He is
mostly known to us by his snow white fur, which is the most beautiful in the fur markets of the

58 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

world. In some countries the state robes of judges are lined with it, the white being emblematic
of purity and honor. The ermine takes a peculiar pride in his white fur coat. At all hazards he
protects it against anything that would spoil it. It is said that the fur hunters take cruel advantage
of the ermine's care to keep his coat clean. They do not set a snare to catch him at some unwary
moment, but instead find his home, a cleft in the rock or the hollow of a decaying tree, and daub
the entrance and interior with filth. Then the dogs start their chase. Frightened, the ermine flees
toward his home, his only place of refuge. He finds it daubed with uncleanness, and he will not
soil his pure white coat. Rather than go into the unclean place, he faces the yelping dogs and
preserves the purity of his fur at the price of his life. This should be the stand the Christian takes
toward the friendship of this world. Jesus died for us. May we have the courage to stand against
His foes with Him.

James 4:5

"Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?"

1. "Do ye think" The word think is "dokeite" meaning "do you suppose, does it seem to you, do
you imagine." It may be that one's mind becomes so corrupt that though he sins constantly he
has no sense of guilt. He may even use the Scripture to justify his sin. When this is done, the
Scriptures are neutralized in their effectiveness to correct the wrong. The tragedy of modern
Christianity is that it puts it's seal of approval on those whom the Scripture condemns.

2. "The spirit" refers to the Holy Spirit. Having rebuked their worldliness as spiritual adultery (vs
4), and a disregard for the teaching of Scripture (v. 5), James adds a third rebuke: he speaks of
the reaction of the indwelling Spirit. Then he quotes the Old Testament as confirming that God's
response to man is in accord with man's inner attitude.

3. "That dwelleth in us" The word "dwelleth" is an aor. act. ind. The aorist tense refers to a point
of time in the past when the Spirit came into us. When this took place is explained inEph. 1:13.
The aorist tense also speaks of a "once for all act." A scriptural explanation would be, "That
came to dwell permanently in us at the point of salvation."

4. "Lusteth to envy" The word "lusteth" is from a word (epipothei) meaning "to yearn after, to
long for." It has a prepositional intensifier attached to the word making it indicate the greatest
possible desire and yearning. Another has suggested that the term denotes "the longing affection
of the lover." The word "envy" is used here in the sense of jealousy. God is a jealous God. The
Holy Spirit is in us to do a work. When we are not submitting to His leading He is jealous in the
sense He desires to have our affections and support. We understand a husband being jealous
when his wife gives her attention to another. We are the bride of Christ. He is grieved when we
give our attention to another.
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WHO GOD IS AGAINST

James 4:6

"But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace
unto the humble."

1. "But he giveth more grace" It is the grace of God that enables a believer to withstand the
natural inclination to do wrong. God gives grace not to be a friend of the world.

2. "Wherefore he saith" Probably refers to the general teachings of the Word of God. But the
reference closest to this is Prov. 3:34: "Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace to
the lowly."

3. "God resisteth the proud" The word "proud" is found in its various forms about six times. It
is a word which is made up of two words which means "to show oneself above." It is self-
exaltation. It is to overestimate our own worth. The word "resisteth" is a military term meaning
"to take one's position against an enemy, to meet in battle, to set one's self against." This is not
a passive resistance of God's but is an active battle that He declares against the proud. Zodhiates
says, "There is no other sin mentioned in the Bible that arouses God in such a way as to
transform His lovingkindness into fury. He resists it because it is the only sin which will hinder
man from appropriating divine grace."

4. "But giveth grace to the humble" When we are humble we will confess our true condition and
will naturally receive the grace of God, not once and for all, but continuously, as the tense of the
verb indicates. When someone asked St Francis of Assisi why and how he could accomplish so
much, he replied: "This may be why. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the earth and
said, `Where can I find the weakest, the littlest, the meanest man on the face of the earth?' Then
He saw me and said, `Now I've found him, and I will work through him. He won't be proud of
it. He'll see that I'm only using him because of his littleness and insignificance."' Phillips
Brooks said, "The true way to be humble is not to stoop till you are smaller than yourself, but
to stand at your real height against some higher nature that shall show you what the real
smallness of your greatness is."

WHAT TO DO WITH SATAN

James 4:7

"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."

1. "Submit yourselves therefore to God" The word "submit" means "to place oneself under."
It is an action of the will. The Apostle Peter commands us: "Humble yourselves therefore under
the mighty hand of God" 1 Pet. 5:6. The word "therefore" means that because "God resisteth the
60 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

proud, but giveth grace to the humble" we should humble ourselves to His wishes, His will, His
authority. When we do, we get grace. When we don't we get justice. Paul is a man who
submitted to God and look at what God did with him. Satan is one who did not submit to God
and look at what happened to him.

When we submit to God, then the responsibility of the outcome of our lives is His. That is
the reason it says, "God giveth grace to the humble."

2. "Resist the devil" The biggest threat to our humility is the devil. He challenges the will of God
in our lives constantly. A godly life is characterized by its conflicts with sin. The place most
frequented by Satan is that in which holiness dwells. The word "resist" means, "to stand against
or to take your stand against." This is a defensive battle. Sin and Satan will come after the
believer. When this happens we must take our stand. Either we will resist him or we will be
taken captive by him. There is no discharge in this war.

The word "devil" here means "to accuse, to malign, to slander." This is one of the many
names attributed to Satan. The meaning of this word is descriptive of his principal work. He
comes to us and accuses God of being mean and not understanding our situation. This is
basically what he did to Eve. Let's look now at a summary of the Doctrine of Satan.

SUMMARY OF THE DOCTRINE OF SATAN

(1) His name was originally Lucifer; Isa. 14:12. The word Lucifer means "bright shinning one."
This speaks of splendor and glory.

(2) He is a created being; Ezk. 28:13.

(3) He was perfect in beauty when he was created; Ezk. 28:12.

(4) He was perfect in his ways until iniquity was found in him; Ezk. 28:15. This means he was
created with a will and the possibility of disobedience.

(5) Through pride he rebelled against God and tried to exalt himself above the stars of God; Isa.
14:13.

(6) He tempted Adam and Eve to sin in the Garden of Eden;Gen. 3:1-8.

(7) After man sinned, Satan came to be called "the god of this world."2 Cor. 4:3-4.

(8) He is the accuser of the brethren; Rev. 12:10.

(9) He is said to be "as a roaring lion walking about seeking whom he may devour." 1 Pet. 5:8-9.

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(10) He has a host of demons who evidently followed him in the rebellion that are under his
control; Matt. 12:24-26; Rev. 12:4.

(11) He controls fallen men; Eph. 2:2; John 8:44.

(12) He can get control of the most sincere Christian; Matt. 16:22-23.

(13) Our responsibility regarding Satan is clear:

(a) We must be sober and watch lest he devour us; 1 Pet. 5:8-9.

(b) We must give him no ground whatsoever; Eph. 4:27.

(c) We must resist him on the grounds of the Cross; James 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:8-9.

(d) We must put on the whole armor of God; Eph. 6:11-18.

(e) We must not be ignorant of his devices; 2 Cor. 2:11.

(f) We must overcome him by the Word of God;Matt. 4:1-11; 1 John 2:14.

(g) We must triumph over him in Christ's Name; Eph. 1:19-22; 2:6.

(h) We must overcome him by the blood of the Lamb;Rev. 12:11.

3. "And he will flee from you" This is a tremendous promise. Satan can be successfully resisted.
Billy Bray, the Cornish miner, whose rugged piety has been a blessing to many, says that one
year his crop of potatoes turned out so poorly that, when he was digging them, Satan, at his
elbow, said, "There, Billy, isn't that poor pay for serving your Father the way you have all the
year? Just see those small potatoes!" He stopped digging and replied, "Ah, Satan, at 'it again:
talking against my Father, bless His name! Why, when I served you I did not get any potatoes
at all. What are you talking about?" Thanking God for whatever He gives us is one sure way of
resisting the devil. He cannot stand being around places where there is constant praise of God.
He would rather be around where there is complaining and grumbling and praise of self.
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GETTING CLOSE TO GOD

James 4:8

"Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and
purify your hearts, ye double minded."

1. "Draw nigh to God" One of the great mysteries concerning God is the fact of His being so
accessible and near. "Draw nigh" means to take the step of faith and approach God. It is in the
imperative mood, therefore, a command. It is aorist tense meaning to do it once for all; it
probably means to draw nigh with the intention of staying there. Only in Christ can this be done.
Man changes. He will be hot one day and cold the next. But Jesus never changes; He is the same
yesterday, today and forever.

In the Old Testament tabernacle, to draw nigh to God you had to come through the outer
court. In the outer court you first came to the brazen altar (the cross) where the sacrifice had to
be made. Then you came to the laver (sanctification) where you washed before entering the holy
place. When you came into the holy place, there was only the veil separating you from the
Shekinah glory of God. But now that Jesus has died, even the veil has been taken away; Heb.
10:20. So, in the light of this we are told inHeb. 10:22, "Let us draw near with a true heart in
full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies
washed with pure water."

2. "And he will draw nigh to you" "Draw nigh" here is a future active ind. The future tense means
in the future, consequent of our coming to Him. It is the picture of the prodigal coming to the
father's house. The order is never reversed. It is our duty to draw nigh to God and in doing so
He draws nigh to us.

3. "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners" This statement has its origin in the practice of the priests
washing their hands and their feet before entering the tabernacle; Mark 7:3; Exo. 30:19-21; Lev.
16:4. Zodhiates says that the hands are the organs and symbols of ethical actions. So this would
mean that those to whom James is speaking had been sinful in their actions. Now it is impossible
to live without sin and because of this God has provided a laver; 1 John 1:9. For a man to
suppose that he can by-pass that laver on his way to worship God is to place God, by his action,
on the level of sinful man. This is no doubt the reason he addresses them as "sinners". This is
definitely speaking to those who are addressed as "brethren" in 3:12.

4. "And purify your hearts" The word "purify" means "to sanctify." It means our hearts are to
be set aside to be used of the Lord. The heart is the seat of the mind, emotion and will. It is
probably used synonymously with the soul. It is easy to give our hearts to selfish or worldly
pursuits. James tells us to sanctify our hearts. Consecrate them to the use of our Lord. If we do,
the mind, emotion and will will be subjected to His Lordship.

CHAPTER FOUR 63

5. "Ye double minded" We discussed this word back in chapter one verse eight. It refers to a man
of two souls. It speaks of a wavering and doubtful disposition. There are many Christians who
waver between the world and God. They are unstable in all their ways. Jesus taught us to have
a single eye. He said, "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for
the kingdom of God."
Another aspect to which we would call your attention is that this refers to man's inner life,
the heart. Man can clean his hands and appear to men to be right but men cannot see his heart.
This man can be wavering and doubtful without others seeing. But we are to live before the Lord.
Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" Matt. 5:8. Dr. Robert E. Speer
tells the story of an old sculptor who was cutting a figure that was to stand in a niche in the wall
so that it's back would never be seen, yet he was working with the same painstaking care on the
back as on the front. Someone asked, "Why are you working on the back of that figure? No one
will see it." "Ah," replied the sculptor, "God will always be looking upon it." So this story
illustrates something about which all of us should be concerned. God looks upon us and searches
our inner lives. Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart.

STEPS IN DRAWING NIGH TO GOD

(1) Take the initiative: "Let us..."

(2) Have a "true heart." Absolute sincerity

(3) Come to God "In full assurance of faith."

(4) Inward cleansing: "Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience."

(5) External cleansing: "And our bodies washed with pure water." SeeEph. 5:26.

SELF HUMILIATION

James 4:9

"Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy
to heaviness."

1. "Be afflicted" (Talaiporeo) Vine says that this word came to signify that which is miserable.
It is in the middle voice and gives the meaning of self-inflicted misery. Paul says, "0 wretched
man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Rom. 7:24. The word
"wretched" comes from the same Greek root. The burden of indwelling sin was a load which the
apostle could neither cast off nor bear. He could only groan under its pressure and long for
deliverance by a power greater than his own. Now those to whom James is writing had evidently
come under the power of the old sin nature and were not disturbed over their condition. There
64 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

is a time to rejoice, but not when you are under the power of sin and doing the things that they
were doing.

2. "And mourn and weep" Jesus said, "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted"
Matt. 5:4. Man does not want to do this; he had rather be laughing all the time. Man is ashamed
to reveal his true state. If he is miserable, he covers it up. A professional clown recently came
to entertain the children at a Christian Academy. In just a moment after he began his act he had
the students' undivided attention and rolling with laughter. After the performance, the pastor,
who was also the head of the Academy, invited him to his office. Soon, in their conversation, the
clown revealed that inwardly he was a miserable and lonely man. He asked the pastor, "What
do you believe it takes for a man to be saved?" It wasn't long until the professional clown and
the pastor were kneeling and he received Christ as his personal Saviour. Now he knows the
source of true joy and happiness. He was able to laugh and cause laughter when he really needed
to mourn.

3. "Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into heaviness" Any laughter and
rejoicing experienced by these professing Christians would have to be carnal and therefore
sinful. It is as if James says, "Wipe that silly smile off your face. Quit that hypocritical rejoicing!
The way you people are acting you need to be mourning over your condition.

James 4:10

"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up."

1. "Humble yourselves" This means that we are responsible for the attitude of pride. The lack of
humility is our fault. We must take action to correct this. God gives us a verbal rebuke through
His Word and also brings circumstances to our lives to humble us. But we must humble
ourselves and receive these things as from the Lord or they will not profit us.

2. "In the sight of the Lord" This takes all the hypocrisy out of it. One of the most disgusting
things is to see someone "acting" humble. James says that this is to be done in the sight of the
Lord. This assures that it will be from the heart.

3. "And he shall lift you up" The life of Joseph is an illustration of this principle. He humbled
himself in Potiphar's house and the Lord laid it upon this Egyptian captain to make him the head
of his whole household. The same thing happened when he was put in prison and he was finally
exalted over the entire land of Egypt. God gave us a pattern in Jesus Christ. First, He "made
himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness
of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto
death, even the death of the cross." Then, after He did this, the Scriptures say, "Wherefore God
also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the
name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under

CHAPTER FOUR 65

the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father;
Phil. 2:7-11.

QUIT CRITICIZING YOUR BRETHREN

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."

1. "Speak not evil one of another, brethren" To do this is contrary to the spirit of Christianity.
In becoming Christians, we all admitted that we were sinners beyond our ability to do anything
about it. We recognized if we were to be saved it would have to be based on the grace of God
alone. This means that we have already admitted that there is much in each of us worthy of
criticism. When we come down to it, the things which we may accuse our brethren of are the
very sins which we may have committed in our own minds and hearts. The fact that others did
not know of it does not mean that God did not.

A man in a responsible position, entrusted with large sums of money, was one day tempted
to put some of the cash to his own account. He knew that it would be a long time before his theft
could be discovered. He resisted the temptation but felt that he must tell somebody the anguish
of mind through which he had passed. He went, therefore, to the man who had occupied the
position before him, and told him all about the temptation, and how he had almost fallen. To his
surprise, the man did not reprove him, but put his hand on his shoulder in a fatherly sort of way
and said, "I know exactly how you felt. I went through it all myself when I occupied your
position." It was of course humiliating for both men to admit the temptation of the heart,
although neither had committed a crime.

2. "He that speaketh evil of his brother" Remember, James is addressing himself to existing
conditions. He is not shadow boxing. The word "speak" means "to speak flippantly, without
exercise of the faculty of reason." It is running one's mouth without cause.

3. "And judgeth his brother" The word "judgeth" here means "to condemn." In this word James
is showing what their evil speaking amounted to. Evil speaking is the same as condemning
someone and by so doing we are assuming to have the same authority as the Word of God. A
lady, paying an early morning visit to a neighbor, was ushered into a rather untidy room for
which her hostess profusely apologized, but her visitor smilingly replied, "I had eyes for nothing
but these lovely roses," pointing to a vase of beauties which occupied a prominent place on the
table. Just as the eye sees what it looks for, so the soul that is itself beautiful finds all that is best
and noblest, and most worthy of praise, in the men and women that surround us.

66 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

4. "Speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law" Manton says that every sin is an affront to the
law that forbids it. He says that by doing contrary to it we do, in effect, judge the law not fit to
be obeyed.

5. "But if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law but a judge" That is, when you
exercise such a rash superiority over the law, you exempt yourself from obedience and subjection
to it. This is true when you approve what the law condemns. This is also true when we Christians
today approve what the word of God condemns. It is so easy to fall into this trap. We take
ourselves out from under the very word we claim to believe.

THE JUDGE PLAYS GOD

James 4:12

"There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest
another?"

1. "There is one lawgiver" There are others who have had the name of lawgivers but only God
is the absolute and supreme Lawgiver. He is the only One Who when He gives a law can never
be wrong about it. He is the only One Who can be absolutely right about the judgment of those
who break the law. In other words, no one can deny the charges brought against them for the
breaking of His law. They cannot deny they did it and they cannot say they didn't mean it or
understand. God is omniscient.

2. "Who is able to save and to destroy" This part of the verse recognizes God's sovereignty or
His absolute power over man. In His sovereignty He chooses to save the believer and to destroy
the unbeliever.

3. "Who art thou that judgest another?" Jesus said, "Judge not according to the appearance, but
judge righteous judgment" John 7:24. It seems that we are commanded to exercise our judgment
in situations, but refrain from passing judgment on our fellow beings. There is a story that will
illustrate this. Dr. Miller of the Central Emergency Hospital in San Francisco said they had a
green nurse in the detention ward where they also had a very violent case. He said the man was
in the worse stage of delirium tremens. The doctor tells of being awakened in the middle of the
night by the head nurse requesting that he come immediately to the patient. He said, "When I got
there I found him raving and very violent, with the new nurse scared out of her wits." Then the
doctor said, "Why did you let him go so far? I left you with medicine to give him as soon as he
got delirious." "Yes, doctor," replied the nurse, "but you told me to give that to him if he saw
any more snakes, and this time he was seeing blue dogs with pink tails."
The nurse should have had judgment enough to know if the medicine would take care of the
snakes it would get the blue dogs with pink tails. Judgment is a great gift of God in the way we
have just illustrated it. It is something no other of God's creation has.

CHAPTER FOUR 67

A lawyer once asked a man who had at various times sat on juries, "Who influenced you
most- the lawyers, the witnesses, or the judge"? He expected to get some useful and interesting
information from an experienced juryman. This was the man's reply: " I tell you sir I always
make up my own mind. I am a plain man, and a reasoning man, and I am not influenced by
anything the lawyers say, nor by what the witnesses say. No, nor by what the judge says. I just
look at the man in the dock, and I say, "If he hasn't done anything wrong why is he there?" And
I bring them all in guilty! There are a lot of Christians like that juryman. Without giving full
consideration to facts and evidence, they judge. It is against such judgment James writes.

HOW TO PLAN TOMORROW

James 4:13

"Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there
a year, and buy and sell," and get gain:

1. "Go to now" is a phrase intended to provoke them to consideration. It is a statement to motivate


them to action.

2. "Ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city," Here it speaks to the business
men. Merchants did their business like this. He is speaking to those who undertake business
without seeking the will of God in the matter.

3. "And buy and sell and get gain" These are the words of a man who is used to making his plans
and working them. A business man has been given talents and abilities. He can work a plan out
in his mind to make money and he can make it work. He has that ability. But here we see that
even God-given talents and abilities are not to be used without our Lord's guidance. A principal
may be suggested here. Many people are born with talents in music, art, public speaking, etc.
These can be dedicated to the service of God. But it is also possible that God would not allow
these talents and abilities to be used until a person has grown enough spiritually to use them
without being built up with pride through the use of them.

James 4:14

"Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a
vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away."

1. "Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow" God, our Creator has endowed us with
many gifts and faculties, among them memory. We can recall the past but as much as we would
like we cannot foretell the future. St. Augustine said, "God will not suffer man to have the
knowledge of things to come: for if he had prescience of his prosperity, he would be careless;
and understanding of his adversity, he would be senseless." James says you talk of a long time
(v. 13: "Continue a year."), and you do not even know what will happen on the next day. We are

68 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

serving a God who knows tomorrow so we should never make a move concerning tomorrow
without consulting Him.

Then, let's look at another question. Is it wrong for a person to make provisions for the
future? The answer is suggested by Solomon. Solomon tells us to learn from the ant: "Consider
her ways, and be wise; she provideth her meat in summer, and gathereth her food in harvest;"
Prov. 6:6-8. Joseph laid up food in the cities against the years of famine; Gen. 41:35. But we are
also to be governed by Matt. 6:19-20: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where
moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves
treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break
through and steal." These thoughts do not contradict each other. A spiritual man is sensible about
his spiritual future as much as he is about his future physical needs. If a person goes overboard
in any area it should be to lay up treasures in heaven.

2. "For what is your life?" Life is not composed of a few chemical elements that make up the
body. Life is not only distance in time but is existence and actions relative to everything one
comes in contact with.

3. "It is even a vapor" James is emphasizing the time or duration here. The brevity of life is set
forth by many comparisons in Scripture: by the flowers of the field, Isa. 40:6-7; by the wind,Job
7_7; a leaf before the wind, Job 13:25; by a shadow, Job 14:2. This does not teach the extinction
of life after death. When we see the vapor disappear it does not follow that it ceases to exist.

James 4:15

"For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that."

1. "For that ye ought to say" Many times we do not know what to say. Here we are told. God's
word spells it out for us. This means that even in our talk we should acknowledge God's will and
authority over us.

2. "If the Lord will" The word "If' makes it conditional. The word "Lord" acknowledges our
submission to His authority. The word "will" acknowledges His Sovereignty, His ultimate
authority. All our undertakings must be referred to the will of God.

3. "We shall live" means that our life right here on the earth is in His hands. God is not
disinterested or uninvolved.

4. "And do this, or that" The words "this or that" means that it is referring to any conceivable
thing. It means if we seek and do God's will in the "this or that" it will truly be a happy
experience.
CHAPTER FOUR 69

SUMMARY OF THE DOCTRINE OF GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY

(1) God has supreme volition. He is absolutely free in all his decisions; Isa. 40:13-14.

(2) God is unlimited in power in His control over the affairs of nature and history;Isa. 45:9-
19; Rom. 8:18-39.

(3) God in His sovereignty is working out a plan in human history to save His creation; Eph.
1:11.

(4) Once a person is saved, God works His sovereign will in man so man can cooperate with
God's will; Phil. 2:13.

(5) A believer is predestined to body glorification, and an eternal inheritance by God's


sovereign will; Eph. 1:5.11. The "Adoption" is the redemption of the body; Rom. 8:23.

(6) God works in His sovereignty to secure those whom He has predestinated; Phil. 1:6.

(7) God's sovereignty is never to be seen as removing man's free will or responsibility to
choose; 1 Tim 4:10.

James 4:16

"But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil."

1. "But now ye rejoice in your boastings" Boasting seems to be something that we all inherited
with the fall of Adam. It is hard for us to rid ourselves of it even as Christians. We even boast
of our humility! When Bonaparte was about to invade Russia, a person who had endeavored to
dissuade him from his purpose, finding he could not prevail, quoted to him the proverb, "A man
proposes, but God disposes." Napoleon indignantly replied, I dispose as well as propose." A
Christian, on hearing the impious boast, remarked, "I set that down as the turning point of
Bonaparte's fortunes. God will not suffer a creature with impunity thus to usurp His
prerogative." It happened to Bonaparte just as the person predicted. His invasion of Russia was
the commencement of his fall.
There is a story of a little watch which became dissatisfied with its little sphere in a lady's
pocket. It envied Big Ben, the great tower clock in London, as one day it passed with it's
mistress over Westminster Bridge. "I wish I could be up there," said the little watch so delicately
strung. "I could then serve the multitude." "You shall have your opportunity, little watch," said
a voice. Magically the watch was drawn up to the tower by a slender thread. When it reached the
top, its mistress said to it, "Where are you, little watch? I cannot see you." Nor could anybody
else. It's elevation became its annihilation. The little watch may have been proud that it reached
such heights, but it destroyed its usefulness to itself and others.

70 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

The following is an interesting article someone has written:

Think about yourself.


Talk about yourself.
Use "I" as often as possible.
Mirror yourself continually in the opinion of others.
Listen greedily to what people say about you.
Be suspicious.
Expect to be appreciated.
Be jealous and envious.
Be sensitive to slights.
Never forgive a criticism.
Trust nobody but yourself.
Insist on consideration and the proper respect.
Demand agreement with your own views on everything.
Sulk if people are not grateful to you for favors shown them.
Never forget a service you may have rendered.
Be on the lookout for a good time for yourself.
Shirk your duties if you can.
Do as little as possible for others.
Love yourself supremely.
Be selfish.
This recipe is guaranteed to be infallible. It will surely make you miserable.

2. "All such rejoicing is evil" The word evil means "bad, useless, good for nothing." Neither
deception nor boasting about the success of one's deception does anybody any good, not even
the boaster. It just helps to puff him up, which is bad for him. A boatman once took a party out
boating. In the group was a young man who was a "know-it-all". After getting out to the open
sea, the boatman gave life belts to everyone except this egotistical young man. "Where is mine?"
cried the terrified youth. "Don't worry!" said the boatmen, "you don't need a life belt. You'll
never be drowned. A fellow with a head as hollow as yours can't sink!" The man who thinks he
has a full head, but brags about his evil doings, independent of God, shows how empty-headed
he really is. And in the sight of God and men he is declared to be good-for-nothing.

THE SIN OF OMISSION

James 4:17

"Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."

1. "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good" This is to be taken in context. It refers


particularly to those merchants about whom he has just been speaking. They were not ignorant
of their wrong. The word "knoweth" is from a word that means "to see." It refers to a positive
knowledge. It is one thing to do wrong in ignorance; it is quite another to willingly do wrong
when you know what you are doing is wrong.

2. "And doeth it not, to him it is sin" Does this mean that if a person does wrong and is in
ignorance of his wrong that it is not sin? Absolutely not. It is still sin but the responsibility for
which he would be held accountable would be different. Any violation of God's will is sin
whether in ignorance or full knowledge. David prayed, "Keep back thy servant also from
presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be
innocent from the great transgression" Psa. 19:13.

It is a Christian's duty to refer everything to the will of God in light of life's uncertainties.
We must never act as if we are equal with God.

71
JAMES CHAPTER FIVE

THE RICH HAVE A BAD REPUTATION

James 5:1

"Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you."

1. "Go to now, ye rich men" The first six verses of this chapter are a prophetic and stern
denunciation of the ungodly rich. The rich are not condemned here because they are rich, but it
is hard to possess riches without being corrupted. The problems that the rich will have is clearly
stated in 1 Tim. 6:9-10.

2. "Weep and howl" "Weep" is an aor. act. imperative. This is a command and it refers to a point
of time in the past. Since it is speaking about something that is not happening but should, it
means that this is something that should have been already taking place. The word "howl" is a
pres. act. ptc. The present participle represents action as taking place at the same time as the
action of the main verb. The word "howl" means "to lament aloud." There is no conjunction
between these two words in the Greek text, so it means "Weep howling." You need to be
weeping aloud over this.

3. "For your miseries" The word means "wretchedness, calamity."

4. "That shall come upon you" This is a prediction. God knows the future. God is telling them
that their efforts to protect themselves from future miseries by this means of obtaining wealth
is useless. Their future did not include the need for wealth.

Josephus tells us about a persecution of the Jews in Alexander only forty years after the
ascension of Christ. By the command of Falcus they were forced into a strait place of the city,
without sustenance, food, or fresh air, where they were not able to stir one for another, and if any
wandered abroad, they were knocked down and slain. Many of them were smoked and choked
to death in a fire. Thirty-eight of their counsellors and rich men were sent for, dragged through
the streets, and beaten to death.

James 5:2

"Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten."

1. "Your riches are corrupted" "Are corrupted" is a perf. act. ind. This means that their riches
had been corrupted in the past and remained in that condition. James is talking to a particular
group of rich. He had addressed them in Chapter four. It is not a sin to be rich. Abraham was rich
and many other followers of the Lord have been. But these had never submitted to the Lordship
of Christ. They went on their trading ventures without so much as consulting the will of God in

72

CHAPTER FIVE 73

the matter. One cannot separate his relationship to the Lord from his business life. One is either
a Christian twenty-four hours a day or he is not a Christian at all.

An Arab once lost his way in the desert and was in danger of dying from hunger. At last he
found one of the cisterns out of which the camels drink, and a little leather bag near it. "God be
thanked," he exclaimed. "Ah, here are some dates or nuts; let me refresh myself." He opened the
bag, but only to turn away in disappointment. Alas, they were only pearls, and what good were
they to a man who was dying of hunger? Was this man rich or poor? He was rich, yet poor. His
riches were corrupted as James says in our verse.

2. "And your garments are motheaten" This is a perf. act. ind. The perfect tense means that it
happened in the past and it remains true. This could mean that they were wearing motheaten
garments in order to hoard money. The rich often make money their security. The Lord is the
Christian's supply and security against the day of famine.

James 5:3

"Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and
shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days."

1. "Your gold and silver is cankered" The phrase "is cankered" is a perf. act. ind. It is already
in that condition.

2. "And the rust of them shall be" The phrase "shall be" is fut. mid. ind. It means that the gold
and silver shall of themselves witness against you.

3. "And shall eat your flesh as it were fire" The phrase "shall eat" is fut. mid. ind. These things
that you have put your confidence in will do to you what fire will do. Riches are provisions for
the flesh. But instead of providing protection, they themselves turn into a destructive force to
destroy the flesh.

4. "Ye have heaped treasure together" The verb is aor. act. ind. These rich men had stacked it
up.

5. "For the last days" This seems to indicate that they had the prophetic information of the Great
Tribulation. The last days here is not a reference to the last days of their lives, as old age. There
are those today who would hoard stores of things to take them through the tribulation period.
There is absolutely no verse of scripture in the Bible which would justify this kind of action. If
a person wants to get ready for the tribulation period, let him do it by winning the unsaved;
before the tribulation, the Lord will come and store us all in His presence!!!
The Parable of the Rich Fool is a good commentary on this verse: Luke 12:16-21.

74 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

James 5:4

"Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept
back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the
Lord of sabaoth."

1. "Behold, the hire of the laborers" The word "behold" means "Look!" or "See here." The "hire"
refers to wages. "Laborers" refers to those who work for the rich.

2. "Who have reaped down your fields" The rich businessmen had fields equivalent to our farms
where people are hired to reap when the harvest comes.

3. "Which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth" This statement implies some legal technicality.
They were cheating their workers out of honestly earned money by some legal means. This kind
of dishonest action cries out to be punished.

4. "And the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of saboath"
God has heard and He will even the score in judgment. This is a transliteration of the Hebrew
plural noun "Of Hosts." It is one of the most majestic titles of the God of Israel. It expresses not
only His majesty and power as Creator and Ruler of the world, but also as Commander of the
hosts of heaven.

James 5:5

"Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts,
as in a day of slaughter."

1. "Ye have lived in pleasure" The verb is (truphao) aor. act. ind. meaning, "to give one's self up
to pleasure." The aorist tense means it is a past fact. The active voice means that they were
responsible for their actions. They were not just the victims of their society.

2. "And been wanton" The verb here is (spatalao) an aor. act. ind. meaning, "self-gratification."
It is found only one other place in the New Testament where it is translated "live in pleasure"
I Tim. 5:6. Zodhiates says the first word applies to the rich faring sumptuously every day, but
the second one might be laid to the charge of the Prodigal, scattering his substance in riotous
living. In modern Greek the word means "to waste."

In the palace of Nero in Rome, not far from the Colosseum, where the Christian martyrs
were tortured and killed, there is a dining room that had something like a well in the middle of
it. Nero and his guests used to eat so much that they could not hold any more, so they would go
to this hole in the midst of the room, vomit what they had just eaten and begin again. How
disgusting, yet it is true. Such was the life of the notorious Nero. He was a man, yet he lived as

CHAPTER FIVE 75

a pig. And no doubt we could find many such pigs in the night clubs and luxurious rooms of our
modern aristocracy.

3. "Ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter" The heart is the seat of lusts and
desires. The word nourished can be translated "fattened." There are farmers who buy cattle in
order to fatten them for the slaughter. In our verse it is speaking of the judgment. The rich fatten
their hearts, satisfy their lusts and are headed straight for the judgment. They seem to be as
senseless about it as the stupid cow that is being fattened for the slaughter. A boy who had
managed to make the pigs follow him faithfully to the slaughter house was asked how he did it.
He said, "That is easy, I just go before them and I keep dropping a few beans, and so feeding
them I lead them to the slaughter." That is the technique of the devil. He baits us and leads us
along until we are trapped.

James 5:6

"Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you."

I . "Ye have condemned and killed the just" This could be paraphrased "Because the just do not
resist you, you have exploited and taken advantage of the passive attitude and the peaceful
desires of the just. This speaks of the absolute ruthlessness of the ungodly mighty and rich. They
discover that the Just of this earth will not resist them or will not utilize the same bloody
methods that they do, therefore, they oppress them all the more. The passivity and peacefulness
of the Just emboldens the wicked. The word condemned (katedikasate) is a word which implies
a lawsuit. This may have been the method they used. Then they killed them to stop the
possibility of protest.

God is committed to judge these rich people who have at their disposal the means to
condemn and kill the Just. He will even the score and exercise punishment more than equal to
their crimes.

2. "And he doth not resist you" The verb is pres. mid. ind. The middle voice means he does not
defend himself. He trusts God to be his defense and take care of him.

THE DOCTRINE OF TURNING THE OTHER CHEEK

(1) Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek; Matt. 5:38-48.

(2) We are like sheep led to the slaughter; Matt. 10:16; Rom. 8:36.

(3) We are taught to take wrong; 1 Cor. 6:7; 1 Pet. 3:17.

(4) Servants were taught to submit to oppressive masters;1 Pet. 2:18-24.


76 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

(5) We are to recompense no man evil for evil; Rom.12:17.

(6) We are taught to trust the Lord to even all scores; Rom.12:19-21.

James5:7

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

1. "Be patient therefore, brethren" The verb is imperative; therefore, a command. The word
"patience" means "longsuffering." Patience is abiding under afflictions without murmuring and
accepting injuries without revenge. Longsuffering is patience extended and lengthened out so
that it is able to do its "perfect work." James 1:4 The word "brethren" reaffirms his confidence
in their salvation.

2. "Unto the coming of the Lord" This part of the verse tells us how long that we are expected
to be patient. Many believe a person has to "hold out faithful to the end" to be saved. This is not
taught in the Scripture. Salvation is a gift of God to a believer. But Christians are expected to be
faithful to the end as a service of love to our wonderful Saviour. This is what James is speaking
about.

3. "Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long
patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain" Clement, another Greek church
father, born about A.D. 150, informs us that James and his brother Jude were farmers. This
explains why James so often brings vivid illustrations from a farmer's life. It was something that
he lived with and fully understood. He knew how hard a farmer had to work, and how long he
had to wait for the yielding of the ground, and how fully dependent upon God a farmer had to
be for this yield. Thus, he once again turns to his own farming experience to give us an
illustration with which to counteract the anticipated objection by the Christian to be long-
suffering until the coming of the Lord to vindicate righteousness. "Behold," says James, "the
husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he
receive the early and latter rain."

SUMMARY OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE SECOND COMING

(1) Jesus promised He would return for His disciples; John14:3; Acts 1:10-11.

(2) We are taught to look for His return; Matt.24:42.

(3) We are taught to wait for His return;I Thess. 1:10.

(4) We are to keep ourselves prepared for His return; I Thess.3:13


CHAPTER FIVE 77

(5) This is the "Blessed Hope" of Christians; Titus 2:11-14.

(6) This hope purifies Christians; 1 John 3:3.

(7) This is when the resurrection and rapture will take place; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:51-58.

(8) The hope of His return will be ridiculed by scoffers in the last days; 2 Pet. 3:3-4.

(9) We are to live in such a way as not to be embarrassed at His return; 1 John 2:28.

THE LORD'S RETURN IS IMMINENT

James 5:8

"Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh."

1. "Be ye also patient" The word is aor. act. imper. It is a command, therefore, a duty. The word
also means that the believer is to be patient just as the farmer.

2. "Stablish your hearts" The word "stablish" means a "prop." What he actually advises us to do
is to prop ourselves up. That means the heart is drooping and needs a prop. So many times we
want God to prop us up or we expect other Christians to do it. And sometimes we feel that when
we fail it is the other person's fault. James is telling us that we have the responsibility of
propping up our own hearts. Mohammed once overheard one of his followers say, "I will loose
my camel and commit it to God." "Friend," said Mohammed, "Tie thy camel and commit it to
God." Try to prop up your heart in times of discouragement. Running away from your problem
will not solve it. The heart is the mind, emotion, and will. Here is the battle ground.

3. "For the coming of the Lord draweth nigh" The word "coming" here means "body presence."
(parousia) He is saying the coming of the Lord is so real, so certain, so imminent that we can
look for Him any time. McCheyne, the Scotch preacher once said to some friends, "Do you think
Christ will come tonight?" One after another they said, "I think not." When all had given this
answer, he solemnly repeated this text, "The Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not."

DON'T HOLD A GRUDGE. JESUS IS WATCHING

James 5:9

"Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge
standeth before the door."

1. "Grudge not one against another, brethren" The word "grudge" means "to have feelings that
are internal and unexpressed." So if we have hidden feelings against a brother, even though they

78 COMMENTARY ON JAMES

are unexpressed, it is still sin. God desires our happiness and this happiness cannot be in the life
of one who has hidden feelings toward a brother or sister in Christ. This means we must forgive
our brethren immediately instead of desiring to see them punished by God for an injustice they
have inflicted upon us. The tense is present so it is speaking about a continuous thing going on.
Some people carry a grudge and grumble all the time. Once I read of a church calling a new
pastor. There were only a few negative votes, the great majority being in favor of the nominee.
A gracious member of the minority moved to make the choice unanimous. But one man in the
minority, a stern old Scotchman, was by no means disposed to make any such soft surrender of
opinion and he wasted no words. His ultimatum was quick and straight. "There is one thing ye
might as well understand right here and now. I'll let you know there will never be anything
unanimous in this church as long as I am in it." To be a chronic griper in God's family is an
awful thing. A certain father was a chronic growler. He was sitting with his family in the
presence of a guest in the parlor one day when the question of food came up. One of the children,
a little girl, was telling the guest very cleverly what food each member of the family liked best.
Finally it came to the father's turn to be described. "And what do I like, Nancy?" he asked
laughingly. "You," said the little girl slowly, "Well, you like most anything we haven't got."

2. "Lest ye be condemned" Since grudging is a sin, the judgment of God is sure to those who
continue in it. To avoid judgment, the sin must be repented of.

3. "Behold the judge standeth before the door" This speaks of eminence. This is the language
of Rev. 3:20.

James 5:10

"Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an
example of suffering affliction, and of patience."

1. "My brethren" refers to the prophets. James is calling them his brethren. Paul is my brother;
James is my brother; the prophets are my brethren.

2. "Take" is a pres. act. ind. verb. It is in the emphatic position in the sentence which means it
stands first in the sentence.

3. "The prophets" qualifies the words "My brethren." The prophets were attacked for their
message. Jeremiah was put in prison for telling the truth. There are many New Testament
references to the persecution of the Old Testament prophets; Matt. 5:12: 22:6; 23:29-37; Luke
13:33; Acts 7:51-52.

4. "Who have spoken in the name of the Lord" They were sent by Him, they represented Him,
and their message had the effect of God speaking. "Thus saith the Lord!"

CHAPTER FIVE 79

5. "Example" means a "pattern or model." Those to whom James is speaking know their Old
Testament scriptures. They know about the persecution that the prophets endured. James is
saying these men are our model. Follow the pattern these men set out for us.

6. "Suffering affliction" This means "the suffering of what is base or evil." This is evil in the
sense of ridicule, torture, abuse, etc.

7. "Patience" This word shows that they courageously endured the afflictions without giving in.

James 5:11

"Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and
have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy."

1. "Behold, we count them happy which endure" The verb "endure" pictures a great load being
placed upon one. It is the ability to carry these burdens that will make others call us blessed after
we are gone. There is a story that will illustrate the meaning of this part of the verse.

St. Basil was a great man of God, one of the greatest of the church fathers. One of his noble
orations is dedicated to the memory of forty martyrs of Sebaste who were ordered by the officers
of Licinius, in the year A.D. 320, to offer sacrifices to heathen idols. These were soldiers who
had proven to be excellent in every respect. They had become valiant in battle, and their
reputation among the kings was great. But Licinius the Emperor issued a decree that they must
renounce Christ or else their lives would be in danger. Those who refused to give up Christ were
submitted to indescribable brutalities and tortures. The story is as follows:

"The torturers were called forth. The first was ready and the sword was sharpened ... Then
some of the persecuted Christians fled, others succumbed, others wavered, and some before even
being submitted to the tortures were afraid because of their threatenings. Some, when facing the
tortures, became dizzy. Others entered the battle, but were not able to persevere to the end in
suffering the pains, and this is why in the middle of the martyrdom they renounced Christ and
sank ... At that time the invincible and gallant soldiers of Christ proceeded visibly to the middle
at the time when the judge was showing the decree of the king and was asking them to submit
to it. Without being afraid of anything which they saw, nor losing their heads as a result of their
threatenings, they confessed that they were Christians. Blessed tongues which pronounced those
holy words, which sanctified the air, which were commended by the angels, which wounded the
devil and the demons, and which the Lord registered in the heavens."

These Christian soldiers were offered money and honors in order to induce them to join the
ranks of the heathen. But to earthly honors they would not yield. Then came threats of
indescribable tortures. What an answer these Christian soldiers gave: "Do you have blessings of
equal value to those you endeavor to deprive us of, to give us? We hate your gift because it will
mean our loss. We do not accept honor which is the mother of dishonesty. You offer us money
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which remains here, glory which fades away ... We have despised the whole world. Those things
which we see in the world do not have for us the value of the heavenly things which we hope and
long for ... We are afraid of only one punishment, the punishment of hell. We are here ready to
be tortured ... for you to twist our bodies and to burn them."

The judge was infuriated by the courage of these brave Christians, and so he devised a slow
and most painful way of putting them to death. It was very cold. He waited for the night when
the wind was violent and the air freezing. He ordered these soldiers to be thrown naked on the
frozen lake in the center of the town to die from freezing. There is no more atrocious and painful
death than that. These Christian soldiers did not have to be forced to take off their clothes. They
took them off themselves and marched on to the frozen lake. As each went, he said, "We are not
merely putting off our clothes, but we are putting off `the old man, which is corrupt according
to the deceitful lusts"' (Eph. 4:22). All together they shouted, "The winter is bitter, but heaven
is sweet; the freezing painful, but sweet the rest. Let us persevere a little longer and we shall be
warmed in the bosom of the Patriarch [meaning Christ]. Let us exchange all the eternity for the
pains of one night. Let the leg be burned so that it may ever dance with the angels ... How many
soldiers have died in the battle remaining faithful to a mortal king, and we, for the sake of
remaining faithful to the true king, shall we not sacrifice this life? ... We are going to die
anyway; let us die so that we may live." Their prayer was unanimous and ascended with one
voice, "Forty have we entered this ordeal, may all forty of us receive the crown of martyrdom.
Oh, Despot, grant that not one of our number may yield ... You honored this number because you
fasted forty days."

In spite of this earnest prayer, one of their number did not persevere and gave in to the offers
of the heathen persecutors. Great sorrow came upon the others because only thirty-nine remained
in the arena of death. Their plea became even more vigorous to their Heavenly Father. Forty
entered the ordeal and forty wanted to see the face of the Lord. The deserter came to the warm
place prepared by the emperor's executioners. But going from the extreme cold to the warm
place, and plunging himself into the water, he died instantly. The guard, a heathen who was
watching all the developments and saw angels ministering to these saints of God, on hearing
their prayers, decided to answer them. He took off his clothes and declared with a loud voice,
"I am a Christian, too," and jumped naked on the frozen lake joining the thirty-nine to complete
their number to forty. Thus their prayer was answered, for forty entered the ordeal of martyrdom
and forty saw the face of Jesus Christ. Now, whose memory was cursed and whose was blessed?
We call the saints who persevered unto death blessed, indeed.

2. "Ye have heard of the patience of Job" The verb is aor. act ind meaning they knew of the
patience of Job because they were students of the Scriptures.

3. "And have seen the end of the Lord" The verb here is also an aor. act. ind. meaning "Ye saw."
They had seen how God had blessed in the end for Job. This is the point James is making.
Patience is never wasted. God always keeps His promises to us. God never forgets us as His

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children and we always win out in the end. You see, the Lord controls the end! Have you ever
read the last book and the last chapter of the Bible?!

4. "That the Lord is very pitiful" The word "pitiful" is from a word meaning "intense inner
yearnings of the heart." The Lord is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities."

5. "And of tender mercy" The reason why Job had such a good end was God's tender mercy, not
his own merit. We need to always remember that God responds to our need not because we
deserve it but because He is "very pitiful" and of "tender mercy" toward us.

If we would look beyond the immediate to the end we would be happy in the midst of
affliction. "Fine day," said a man to a farmer, "Bad for potatoes," was the discontented reply.
Next day being wet, "Fine weather for potatoes," said the man. "Yes, but bad for corn," said the
farmer.

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."

1. "Swear not" is a pres. imper. The present tense tells us that it was going on. The imperative
mood is a command to stop. It is hard to imagine that these Jews were using the Name of God
with disrespect. However, they could have easily been using heaven and earth and other things
to swear by. This is also forbidden in Scripture.

2. "Lest ye fall into condemnation" This is the result when rash and false swearing takes place.
These Jews had been persecuted by the rich and probably in the courts. So this could easily refer
to this kind of judgment. It could also refer to the judgment of God because of their breaking His
Commandments.

WHAT TO DO WHEN AFFLICTED

James 5:13

"Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms."

1. "Is any among you afflicted?" The verb is a pres. act. ind. and comes from a word that means
"to suffer hardships." Affliction is a fact of life. James is not in doubt as to whether these fellow
believers are suffering affliction. But this is James' way of putting it to them and us today. Are
you going through hard times? Then the thing to do is pray. But remember that hardships are sent
of God to purge us and cause us to bear more fruit;John 15. So prayer is said to be the answer

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to affliction. God will answer the prayer of the afflicted person. On the value of affliction, see
Psa. 119: 67, 71.

2. "Is any merry?" The word "merry" has to do with the well-being of the soul, the strength and
the disposition of the mind, the inner self which the world, press as hard as it may, cannot affect
in any way. The Christian is not merry just because of what is going on around him but in spite
of it. There is an inner life which is molded by God who made it and directs it. That is why one
finds Christians passing through the valley of the shadow of death singing. The word sing here
is the word from which we get our word "Psalm." The basic meaning of it is "to touch sharply,
to pluck, to pull, to twitch." It refers mostly to the plucking of the strings of a musical
instrument. Then it came to mean to sing by mouth. If all is well with our souls, we ought to
sing.

SEND FOR THE ELDERS

James 5:14

"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:"

1. "Is any sick among you?" The verb is pres. act. ind. from a word meaning "to be without
strength, primarily physical, bodily strength, to be weak in the body." This is not always caused
by personal sin. It can be, but in the case of this verse, James does not say this. Paul was a man
who suffered much physical infirmity. Heb. 4:15 says, "For we have not an high priest which
cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities..." (Same word)Matt. 8:17 says that Jesus,
"Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses." Some people believe that this means that
Jesus, through the blood of His Cross, fully restored man to his original image, including the
giving to him of nonsusceptibility to physical weaknesses and illness. I believe this to be the
wrong interpretation of the verse. The verse means that Jesus Christ was in the full sense a
human being, subject to all the afflictions that attack our bodies. Therefore He is fully able to
sympathize with us in our affirmities. Why God permits sickness in the life of some and not in
the life of others is something that is impossible for us human beings to fathom. He knows best.
It was painful for Him to have chosen the way of the Cross, but He chose it, and one of the
reasons may be that you and I might not complain if He chooses for us the way of affliction.

2. "Let him call" The word is an aor. mid. imper. The imperative mood means that it is a
command. This shows the urgency of the situation. Notice it did not say, "Let the elders of the
church search and find them." They are to call for the elders to come to their bedside and pray.

3. "For the elders of the church" The word "elder" is sometimes used for ancestors. Heb. 11:2
says, "The elders received a good report." The Bible speaks of "The tradition of the elders,"
Matt. 15:2. Sometimes it is put for elders in years and wisdom; 1 Tim. 5:1-2. But none of these
fit the context. Thomas Manton says that it refers to that order of elders who are elsewhere called

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bishops, whether ruling or teaching elders. There was usually a plurality of preachers in the early
churches. They had one pastor, but there were others who studied under him and aided in
teaching of the word of God and shared in responsibilities such as this. Manton goes on to say,
"In sickness we call in the best helps, and it is to be supposed that the best gifts reside in them
who are called to teach in the church." Note the words "of the church." This excludes these
professional healers who claim to be God's gift to all the saved. When a person who is a member
of one of the Lord's churches gets sick, he has instructions here concerning his approach to the
problem. He is to call for the elders of the local church of which he is a member.

4. "And let them pray over him" The words "let pray" are aorist middle imperative. First, this
means that it is a command. The aorist tense refers to the fact of the event and the middle voice
is where the subject is benefited by the action of the verb. The benefit here would come when
their prayer was answered in behalf of the sick person. The words, "over him" probably refers
to the elders standing around his sick bed.

5. "Anointing him with oil" The word "anointing" is an aorist active participle. The action of the
aorist participle always precedes the action of the main verb. This means the anointing with oil
took place prior to the prayer. The oil refers to olive oil used by the people of that day for many
things. It is used here as a symbol of the Holy Spirit.

6. "In the name of the Lord" We are ambassadors for Christ and stand in His stead; 2 Cor. 5:20.
We do it in His authority and in His behalf. The Lord is giving the elders the authority to act in
His Name in His behalf with regard to this sick person who has called for prayer. What a
privilege and responsibility is placed upon these elders!

James 5:15

"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."

1. "And the prayer of faith" That is, the prayer that is made in faith. We are told that "the just
shall live by faith" Heb. 10:38. Faith is to be the motivating principle of life for the Child of
God. It should be that when a person of the world looks at a Christian he would say, "There is
a man of faith." Without faith it is impossible to please God. So when an Elder prays for a sick
person it should be a prayer offered in faith that the sick person will be healed.

2. "Shall save the sick" The verb is a future active indicative. The future tense means that the
healing will take place sometime after the prayer of faith is offered. This may indicate a
recuperation period. The active voice is where the subject does the acting. Prayer is the subject
and it means that the kind of prayer that is spoken of here is the prayer that will save the sick.
This is the reason it does not seem to me that oil is medicinal. Some good Bible scholars insist
that the oil in this passage is medicinal. In other words, the Elders were to administer medicine

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then pray the prayer of faith. This interpretation is totally out of keeping with the statements
made in the passage.

3. "And the Lord shall raise him up" The verb here is future active indicative. The Lord is the
subject and the active voice means the Lord will act to raise the sick person up. It is definitely
referring to the supernatural restoration to health.

4. "And if he have committed sins" The "if' is a third class condition. It is the condition of
possibility. In other words, maybe it is true, maybe it is not true. James is not saying that he has
committed sins. But he is saying if he has, there is forgiveness for him.

The possibility of sickness because of personal sin ought to cause us to examine our lives
daily and ask for cleansing. We know from 1 Cor. 11:30 that sickness can be chastening for sin.

5. "They shall be forgiven him" God does not only heal his body but in the case of personal sin,
He cleanses the man of the cause. Sin must be dealt with if the sickness is chastening because
of sin. When the sick person confesses the sin, forgiveness is obtained; 1 John 1:9. Then healing
for the body will take place.

AN ILLUSTRATION OF A MISSIONARY'S LIFE

Many of you are familiar with C. T. Studd, one of the great missionary pioneers that God
sent out to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. C. T. Studd became very ill on the mission
field. There was no medical help of any kind available. If something wasn't done he would not
be able to continue his missionary work. So he read this passage of Scripture, and as he read it,
God spoke to his heart and impressed him to do what the passage said. He looked around in that
mission field and there was only one elder in the whole territory, because not many people had
come to know the Lord Jesus Christ. That elder was only twenty years of age. You see, it isn't
a matter of age; it is a matter of qualification. This twenty-year-old man was an elder in
relationship to the others. Studd looked around and could not find any olive oil. So he took the
oil out of his kerosene lamp, and he asked the twenty year old elder to anoint him with oil and
pray for him, and God raised him up.

THE ELDERS NEED TO BE RIGHT TOO

James 5:16

"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The
effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."

1. "Confess your faults one to another" The word "confess" means "to agree with." It is a present
middle imperative verb. The present tense means to keep on doing this. It speaks of a principle.
The middle voice means that personal benefit comes to the one doing it. And the imperative

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mood means that it is a command. The word "faults" means "slips" that we make. It is the same
word that is found in Gal. 6:1. This is not the same word that is translated "sins" in verse 15.
This word refers to things that are wrong in the life but are called "faults" instead of sins.

The words "one another" means "one another of the same sort." James considers the elders
of the same quality and rank with one another and the one for whom they are praying. So the
confession in this case is not just agreement with God in our hearts that we have faults that need
to be corrected, but an admission to one another that this is true.

This confession to one another is to be done by the Elders. This is suggesting that the Elders
need to get right in this area of their lives before prayer is made. It could be that if this were
practiced literally, there would be more healing in answer to prayer.

BUT I HAVEN'T DONE ANYTHING WRONG!

"In the early part of the reign of Louis XVI, a German prince traveling through France visited
the arsenal at Toulon, where the galleys were kept. The commandant, as a compliment to the
prince's rank, said that he was welcome to set free any one galley slave whom he should choose
to select. The prince, willing to make the best use of the privilege, spoke to many of them in
succession, inquiring why they were condemned to the galleys. Injustice, oppression, false
accusations were assigned by one after another as the causes of their being there. In fact, they
were all injured and ill-treated persons. At last he came to one who, when asked the same
question, answered to this effect: "Your Highness, I have no reason to complain. I have been a
very wicked, desperate wretch. I have deserved to be broken alive on the wheel. I account it a
great mercy that I am here." The prince fixed his eyes upon him and said: "You wicked wretch!
It is a pity you should be placed among so many honest men. By your own confession, you are
bad enough to corrupt them all; but you shall not stay with them another day." Then, turning to
the officer, he said, "This is the man, sir, whom I wish to be released."

2. "And pray one for another" The same "one for another" is found here as in the former clause.
James does this to teach us that when we pray for each other it should be with the consciousness
of our equality in the sight of God. Now we pray for a brother who may have sinned, but later
that brother may be praying for us who have sinned. We are taught here not to pray for a brother
in Christ with an attitude of superiority. Gal. 6:1 gives us a look at this principle.

3. "That ye may be healed" The verb is an aorist passive subjunctive. The passive voice means
that the subject is acted upon by someone other than itself. Here God acts in healing. The
subjunctive mood means that the healing is dependent upon our submission to the truths set forth
in the passage and the sovereignty of God.

4. "The effectual fervent prayer" The word "prayer" here is not the ordinary one that refers to
prayer in general, but a word that refers to specific requests. This means that we can name our
requests. Once there was a sexton in a church who was very devoted to the pastor. But a new

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pastor came, and some one asked the sexton what he thought of the new preacher. "Well," said
the sexton, "I like him pretty well, but when it comes to praying, the former preacher asked the
Lord for things the new preacher doesn't even know the Lord's got."

The words "effectual fervent" is the translation of one Greek word that has the meaning of
being effective and powerful. So we cannot do much to enhance the meaning of the text.

SUMMARY OF THE DOCTRINE OF PRAYER

(1) Prayer is worship; Luke 2:37.

(2) Prayer is to be in faith; Matt. 21:21-22; Mark 11:22-24.

(3) Forgiveness of others is necessary to answered prayer; Mark 11:25-26.

(4) Prayer should be fervent; Col. 4:12 .

(5) Prayer and fasting go together; Matt. 17:21; 1 Cor. 7:5.

(6) The prayer of faith can save the sick; James 5:15.

(7) Prayer should be in the Holy Spirit; Jude 20.

(8) The Holy Spirit aids in prayer; Rom. 8:26-27.

5. "Of a righteous man" Man by nature is unrighteous. Religious men are self-righteous and this
is nothing but filthy rags in the sight of God;Isa. 64:6. The righteous man here is the saved man
who has been clothed in the righteousness of Christ; 2 Cor. 5:21. But he also has experiential
righteousness because he has confessed his faults to his brethren and they have prayed for one
another and have been set right with God.

6. "Availeth much" It means that much can be received in answer to prayer. George Mueller
received over $7,500,000 in answer to prayer in his day. Bro. Lester Roloff received literally
millions of dollars in answer to prayer to keep homes open for the fallen and forgotten. By way
of summary let's notice:

(1) The qualification of the prayer: fervent, effectual.

(2) The qualification of the person: a righteous man.

(3) The effect of the whole: availeth much.


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YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE PERFECT TO GET A MIRACLE

James 5:17

"Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might
not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months."

1. "Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are" This is the Elijah of the Old Testament.
There is no prophet besides Moses that commands more respect of the Jews. The Jews expect
Elijah to come before the return of the Lord. Every year during the Passover in the Jewish home
they set a place at the table for Elijah. But James is saying that he is just like we are and was
subject to all the passions that we experience. James is saying that if Elijah could get this kind
of answer to prayer, then we can too.

2. "And he prayed earnestly that it might not rain" He prayed specifically. He had a particular
request. And it was not a passive prayer. The word "earnestly" shows the sincerity of this man's
request.

3. "And it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months" And this in
answer to a man's prayer. In other words, man can implore God to step in, set aside the natural
processes, and work a miracle.

James 5:18

"And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit."

1. "And he prayed again" There are two miracles here. He got the first miracle when the rain
stopped and now he is going to get another one in answer to prayer.

2. "And the heaven gave rain" Another miracle. He got exactly what he asked for.

SOMETIMES CHRISTIANS NEED TO BE CONVERTED!

James 5:19

"Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;"

1. "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth" James is speaking to brethren. The words "err
from the truth" mean that they knew the truth. You have to know the truth in order to err from
it. They knew the right way. The word "err" means "to wander, a wandering." This suggests
carelessness. Many Christians in our day are careless.

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2. "And one convert him;" The word "convert" means "to turn again or return again." 2 Tim.
2:24-26 is a good commentary on this. It is possible for us to rescue an erring brother.

James 5:20

"Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save
a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."

1. "Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way" James says
let him know that this work of saving an erring brother is an important work. The "sinner" here
is the "brother" of the last verse. It is possible for the believer to become an awful sinner. But
notice an important thing here. James does not call him a "Christian;" he calls him a "sinner,"
because that is what he is.

2. "Shall save a soul from death" The "soul" is the "life." This man is about to die physically. He
is about to lose his soulish life. A Christian who wanders from the right way is in danger of
physical death. This must be connected with the "sick" in verse 14. Again a sick person may not
be that way because of personal sin. But it is a common way God chastens His children. So
James deals with this aspect of it in these verses.

3. "And shall hide a multitude of sins" This means that he will be forgiven of his sins. They will
be blotted out by the blood of Jesus. It also means they will disappear from sight because the
brother will cease from sin.