James 1

Testing Your Faith

1 [a]1James, a 2bond-servant of God and 3of the Lord Jesus Christ, To 4the twelve tribes who are [b]5dispersed abroad: 6Greetings.
2 7Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter 8various [c]trials,
3 knowing that 9the testing of your 10faith produces [d]11endurance.
4 And let [e]12endurance have its perfect [f]result, so that you may be [g]13perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
5 But if any of you 14lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and [h]without reproach, and 15it will be given to him.
6 But he must 16ask in faith 17without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, 18driven and tossed by the wind.
7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,
8 being a [i]19double-minded man, 20unstable in all his ways.
9 21But the [j]brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position;
10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because 22like [k]flowering grass he will pass away.
11 For the sun rises with [l]23a scorching wind and 24withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.
12 25Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has [m]been approved, he will receive 26the crown of life which the Lord 27has promised to those who 28love Him.
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "29I am being tempted [n]by God "; for God cannot be tempted [o]by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.
15 Then 30when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when 31sin [p]is accomplished, it brings forth death.
16 32Do not be [q]deceived, 33my beloved brethren.
17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is 34from above, coming down from 35the Father of lights, 36with whom there is no variation or [r]shifting shadow.
18 In the exercise of 37His will He 38brought us forth by 39the word of truth, so that we would be [s]a kind of 40first fruits [t]among His creatures.
19 [u]This 41you know, 42my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, 43slow to speak and 44slow to anger;
20 for 45the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
21 Therefore, 46putting aside all filthiness and all [v]that remains of wickedness, in [w]humility receive 47the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.
22 48But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his [x]natural face 49in a mirror;
24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, [y]he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.
25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, 50the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but [z]an effectual doer, this man will be 51blessed in [aa]what he does.
26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not [ab]52bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless.
27 Pure and undefiled religion 53in the sight of our God and Father is this: to 54visit 55orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained [ac]by 56the world.

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James 1 Commentary

Chapter 1

This epistle of James is one of the most instructive writings in the New Testament. Being chiefly directed against particular errors at that time brought in among the Jewish Christians, it does not contain the same full doctrinal statements as the other epistles, but it presents an admirable summary of the practical duties of all believers. The leading truths of Christianity are set forth throughout; and on attentive consideration, it will be found entirely to agree with St. Paul's statements concerning grace and justification, while it abounds with earnest exhortations to the patience of hope and obedience of faith and love, interspersed with warnings, reproofs, and encouragements, according to the characters addressed. The truths laid down are very serious, and necessary to be maintained; and the rules for practice ought to be observed in all times. In Christ there are no dead and sapless branches, faith is not an idle grace; wherever it is, it brings forth fruit in works.

How to apply to God under troubles, and how to behave in prosperous and in adverse circumstances. (1-11) To look upon all evil as proceeding from ourselves, and all good from God. (12-18) The duty of watching against a rash temper, and of receiving the word of God with meekness. (19-21) And of living according thereto. (22-25) The difference between vain pretences and real religion. (26,27)

Verses 1-11 Christianity teaches men to be joyful under troubles: such exercises are sent from God's love; and trials in the way of duty will brighten our graces now, and our crown at last. Let us take care, in times of trial, that patience, and not passion, is set to work in us: whatever is said or done, let patience have the saying and doing of it. When the work of patience is complete, it will furnish all that is necessary for our Christian race and warfare. We should not pray so much for the removal of affliction, as for wisdom to make a right use of it. And who does not want wisdom to guide him under trials, both in regulating his own spirit, and in managing his affairs? Here is something in answer to every discouraging turn of the mind, when we go to God under a sense of our own weakness and folly. If, after all, any should say, This may be the case with some, but I fear I shall not succeed, the promise is, To any that asketh, it shall be given. A mind that has single and prevailing regard to its spiritual and eternal interest, and that keeps steady in its purposes for God, will grow wise by afflictions, will continue fervent in devotion, and rise above trials and oppositions. When our faith and spirits rise and fall with second causes, there will be unsteadiness in our words and actions. This may not always expose men to contempt in the world, but such ways cannot please God. No condition of life is such as to hinder rejoicing in God. Those of low degree may rejoice, if they are exalted to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom of God; and the rich may rejoice in humbling providences, that lead to a humble and lowly disposition of mind. Worldly wealth is a withering thing. Then, let him that is rich rejoice in the grace of God, which makes and keeps him humble; and in the trials and exercises which teach him to seek happiness in and from God, not from perishing enjoyments.

Verses 12-18 It is not every man who suffers, that is blessed; but he who with patience and constancy goes through all difficulties in the way of duty. Afflictions cannot make us miserable, if it be not our own fault. The tried Christian shall be a crowned one. The crown of life is promised to all who have the love of God reigning in their hearts. Every soul that truly loves God, shall have its trials in this world fully recompensed in that world above, where love is made perfect. The commands of God, and the dealings of his providence, try men's hearts, and show the dispositions which prevail in them. But nothing sinful in the heart or conduct can be ascribed to God. He is not the author of the dross, though his fiery trial exposes it. Those who lay the blame of sin, either upon their constitution, or upon their condition in the world, or pretend they cannot keep from sinning, wrong God as if he were the author of sin. Afflictions, as sent by God, are designed to draw out our graces, but not our corruptions. The origin of evil and temptation is in our own hearts. Stop the beginnings of sin, or all the evils that follow must be wholly charged upon us. God has no pleasure in the death of men, as he has no hand in their sin; but both sin and misery are owing to themselves. As the sun is the same in nature and influences, though the earth and clouds, often coming between, make it seem to us to vary, so God is unchangeable, and our changes and shadows are not from any changes or alterations in him. What the sun is in nature, God is in grace, providence, and glory; and infinitely more. As every good gift is from God, so particularly our being born again, and all its holy, happy consequences come from him. A true Christian becomes as different a person from what he was before the renewing influences of Divine grace, as if he were formed over again. We should devote all our faculties to God's service, that we may be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.

Verses 19-21 Instead of blaming God under our trials, let us open our ears and hearts to learn what he teaches by them. And if men would govern their tongues, they must govern their passions. The worst thing we can bring to any dispute, is anger. Here is an exhortation to lay apart, and to cast off as a filthy garment, all sinful practices. This must reach to sins of thought and affection, as well as of speech and practice; to every thing corrupt and sinful. We must yield ourselves to the word of God, with humble and teachable minds. Being willing to hear of our faults, taking it not only patiently, but thankfully. It is the design of the word of God to make us wise to salvation; and those who propose any mean or low ends in attending upon it, dishonour the gospel, and disappoint their own souls.

Verses 22-25 If we heard a sermon every day of the week, and an angel from heaven were the preacher, yet, if we rested in hearing only, it would never bring us to heaven. Mere hearers are self-deceivers; and self-deceit will be found the worst deceit at last. If we flatter ourselves, it is our own fault; the truth, as it is in Jesus, flatters no man. Let the word of truth be carefully attended to, and it will set before us the corruption of our nature, the disorders of our hearts and lives; and it will tell us plainly what we are. Our sins are the spots the law discovers: Christ's blood is the laver the gospel shows. But in vain do we hear God's word, and look into the gospel glass, if we go away, and forget our spots, instead of washing them off; and forget our remedy, instead of applying to it. This is the case with those who do not hear the word as they ought. In hearing the word, we look into it for counsel and direction, and when we study it, it turns to our spiritual life. Those who keep in the law and word of God, are, and shall be, blessed in all their ways. His gracious recompence hereafter, would be connected with his present peace and comfort. Every part of Divine revelation has its use, in bringing the sinner to Christ for salvation, and in directing and encouraging him to walk at liberty, by the Spirit of adoption, according to the holy commands of God. And mark the distinctness, it is not for his deeds, that any man is blessed, but in his deed. It is not talking, but walking, that will bring us to heaven. Christ will become more precious to the believer's soul, which by his grace will become more fitted for the inheritance of the saints in light.

Verses 26-27 When men take more pains to seem religious than really to be so, it is a sign their religion is in vain. The not bridling the tongue, readiness to speak of the faults of others, or to lessen their wisdom and piety, are signs of a vain religion. The man who has a slandering tongue, cannot have a truly humble, gracious heart. False religious may be known by their impurity and uncharitableness. True religion teaches us to do every thing as in the presence of God. An unspotted life must go with unfeigned love and charity. Our true religion is equal to the measure in which these things have place in our hearts and conduct. And let us remember, that nothing avails in Christ Jesus, but faith that worketh by love, purifies the heart, subdues carnal lusts, and obeys God's commands.

Cross References 56

  • 1. Acts 12:17
  • 2. Titus 1:1
  • 3. Romans 1:1
  • 4. Luke 22:30
  • 5. John 7:35
  • 6. Acts 15:23
  • 7. Matthew 5:12; James 1:12; James 5:11
  • 8. 1 Peter 1:6
  • 9. 1 Peter 1:7
  • 10. Hebrews 6:12
  • 11. Luke 21:19
  • 12. Luke 21:19
  • 13. Matthew 5:48; Colossians 4:12
  • 14. 1 Kings 3:9f; James 3:17
  • 15. Matthew 7:7
  • 16. Matthew 21:21
  • 17. Mark 11:23; Acts 10:20
  • 18. Matthew 14:28-31; Ephesians 4:14
  • 19. James 4:8
  • 20. 2 Peter 2:14
  • 21. Luke 14:11
  • 22. 1 Corinthians 7:31; 1 Peter 1:24
  • 23. Matthew 20:12
  • 24. Psalms 102:4, 11; Isaiah 40:7
  • 25. Luke 6:22; James 5:11; 1 Peter 3:14; 1 Peter 4:14
  • 26. 1 Corinthians 9:25
  • 27. Exodus 20:6; James 2:5
  • 28. 1 Corinthians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 8:3
  • 29. Genesis 22:1
  • 30. Job 15:35; Psalms 7:14; Isaiah 59:4
  • 31. Romans 5:12; Romans 6:23
  • 32. 1 Corinthians 6:9
  • 33. Acts 1:15; James 1:2, 19; James 2:1, 5, 14; James 3:1, 10; James 4:11; James 5:12, 19
  • 34. John 3:3; James 3:15, 17
  • 35. Psalms 136:7; 1 John 1:5
  • 36. Malachi 3:6
  • 37. John 1:13
  • 38. James 1:15; 1 Peter 1:3, 23
  • 39. 2 Corinthians 6:7; Ephesians 1:13; 2 Timothy 2:15
  • 40. Jeremiah 2:3; Revelation 14:4
  • 41. 1 John 2:21
  • 42. Acts 1:15; James 1:2, 16; James 2:1, 5, 14; James 3:1, 10; James 4:11; James 5:12, 19
  • 43. Proverbs 10:19; Proverbs 17:27
  • 44. Proverbs 16:32; Ecclesiastes 7:9
  • 45. Matthew 5:22; Ephesians 4:26
  • 46. Ephesians 4:22; 1 Peter 2:1
  • 47. Ephesians 1:13; 1 Peter 1:22
  • 48. Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:46-49; Romans 2:13; James 1:22-25; James 2:14-20
  • 49. 1 Corinthians 13:12
  • 50. John 8:32; Romans 8:2; Galatians 2:4; Galatians 6:2; James 2:12; 1 Peter 2:16
  • 51. John 13:17
  • 52. Psalms 39:1; Psalms 141:3; James 3:2-12
  • 53. Romans 2:13; Galatians 3:11
  • 54. Matthew 25:36
  • 55. Deuteronomy 14:29; Job 31:16, 17, 21; Psalms 146:9; Isaiah 1:17, 23
  • 56. Matthew 12:32; Ephesians 2:2; Titus 2:12; James 4:4; 2 Peter 1:4; 2 Peter 2:20; 1 John 2:15-17

Footnotes 29

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO JAMES

This epistle is called "general", because not written to any particular person, as the epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon are; nor to any particular churches, as the epistles to the Romans, Corinthians but to the believing Jews in general, wherever they were. The author of it is James; and whereas there were two of this name, who were the apostles of Christ; some have thought it was written by one, and some by another: some think it was written by James the son of Zebedee, and brother of John, which is favoured by the Syriac version, which to this epistle, and the following, premises these words;

``the three epistles of the three apostles, before whose eyes our Lord transfigured himself, that is, James, and Peter, and John.''

Now, that James, who was present at the transfiguration of Christ, was James the son of Zebedee: but neither the time, nor occasion, nor matter of this epistle, seem to agree with him, for he was put to death by Herod, about the year 44, Ac 12:1,2, whereas this epistle was written, as some think, about the year 60, or as others, 63; and it seems pretty manifest that it must be written after the Gospel had been spread in the Gentile world, and was received by the Jews, who were scattered abroad in it; and after many hypocrites had crept into the churches, and many false teachers, and vain boasters, and wicked men, had arisen among them: it seems therefore more agreeable to ascribe this epistle to James, the son of Alphaeus, sometimes called the brother of our Lord, and who was present at the assembly at Jerusalem, when the necessity of the Gentiles' circumcision was debated, Ac 15:1-27 and is the same whom Eusebius {a} calls James the just, and Oblias; and who seems to have resided at Jerusalem, and to have been the bishop, or overseer of the church there; and therefore in character writes this epistle to the Jews, in the several parts of the world: nor need there be any doubt of the authenticity of it. Eusebius indeed says {b}, that it had been accounted spurious by some, and that not many of the ancient writers had made mention of it: but he himself says, that it was publicly read in most churches; and certain it is, that some very early writers have respect unto it. Irenaeus {c} manifestly refers to it, and so does Tertullian {d}; and it is expressly mentioned by Origen {e} among the canonical books of Scripture. The objections against it are of no weight, which are taken from the seeming disagreement between the Apostle Paul, and the writer of this epistle, concerning the doctrine of justification; and from his calling the law the perfect law of liberty, and insisting so much on the doctrine of works; all which will be seen to be agreeable to the other parts of Scripture, and easily reconciled with them; nor is there anything in it unworthy of an apostle and an inspired writer. The occasion of it seems to be partly the troubles and persecutions which attended the saints for the sake of Christ and the Gospel; and the design of it is to encourage them to patience under them, and to wait and hope for the speedy coming of Christ; and partly the evil practices of some that boasted of their faith and knowledge, though they lived very dissolute lives: and the view of the apostle is to show, that faith, without the fruits of righteousness, is not genuine; and he very largely in it exhorts to several duties very becoming Christians, and inveighs against several vices, which were scandalous to them.

{a} Eccles. Hist. l. 2. c. 23. {b} Ib. & l. 3. c. 25. {c} Adv. Haeres. l. 5. c. 1. {d} Adv. Judaeos, c. 2. {e} Homil. 7. in Josuam, fol. 156. E.

\\INTRODUCTION TO JAMES 1\\

In this chapter, after the inscription and salutation, the apostle instructs the saints he writes to, how to behave under afflictions, and in every state of life; teaches them not to impute their sins to God, but to themselves; directs them in hearing the word, and cautions against self-deception in religion. The inscription and salutation are in Jas 1:1 in which the author of the epistle is described by his name and office; and the persons it is written to, by the tribes of Israel they belonged to, and by the condition in which they were scattered about in the world, to whom the apostle wishes all grace. And as they were in an afflicted state, he begins with an exhortation to rejoice in their afflictions; because hereby faith was tried, and that produced patience, and patience being perfect, is the way to be complete, and want nothing, Jas 1:2-4, but if any wanted wisdom, how to behave under such exercises, he advises to apply to God for it, from whom it may be expected, since he is the giver of it, and gives it to all, and that liberally, and does not upbraid with the former conduct, Jas 1:5 but then such should ask in faith, or otherwise it cannot be thought they should receive, and besides would justly deserve the characters of fluctuating and unstable persons, Jas 1:6-8. And the exhortations the apostle had given, he observes, suited all sorts of persons, poor and rich; the one who is exalted amidst his poverty, and the other who is mean, and frail, and mortal, amidst all his riches; which is illustrated by the flower of the grass falling off and perishing, Jas 1:9-11. And upon the whole, he concludes the blessedness of the man that endures affliction patiently, since a crown of life is promised him, and he will receive it, Jas 1:12 and from external temptations or afflictions, the apostle proceeds to internal ones, temptations to sin; and denies them to be of God, and imputes them to the lusts of men, and gives a very accurate account of the beginning, progress, and finishing of sin by man; and observes, that to place sin to the account of God, and not man, is a very great error, Jas 1:13-16, which he proves from the pure and holy nature of God; and from the good and perfect gifts, which all, and only, come from him; and instances in regeneration, which is of his will, and by his word, and is the beginning and spring of all good in man, Jas 1:17,18. And having mentioned the word, as a means of that grace, he gives some rules about hearing it; that it should be heard with eagerness, and received with meekness; and whatsoever is contrary thereunto should be avoided; as a forwardness to be teachers of it: wrath and anger at the doctrines of it, which do not work the righteousness of God; and all impurity and naughtiness of the mind, which must render it inattentive to it; and the rather all this should be regarded, since the word is the ingrafted word, and able to save the souls of men, Jas 1:19-21 and particular care should be had, that what is heard is put in practice, or otherwise it will be a self-deception; and such will be like a man that beholds his face in a glass goes away, and forgets what sort of a man he is; whereas, if a man looks into the glass of the Gospel hears the word attentively, remembers what he hears, and continues in it, he finds many blessed advantages in so doing, Jas 1:22-25 and then the apostle distinguishes between a vain religion, and a pure one; a vain religion is only a seeming one, and may be known to be so by a man's having no guard upon his tongue; wherefore if he thinks himself religious, he is mistaken and his heart deceived, Jas 1:26 but pure and undefiled religion, which is so in the sight of God, shows itself in a holy life and conversation in general, and particularly in visiting and assisting widows and orphans in distress, Jas 1:27.

James 1 Commentaries