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Bible Commentaries
James 1

Concordant Commentary of the New TestamentConcordant NT Commentary

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Verses 1-25

1 James is never called an apostle and does not write this epistle in that character. Rather, he puts himself in the place of a slave. Hence the epistle is not concerned with authoritative teaching so much as with service.

1 Nothing can be plainer than the fact that this letter is addressed to a special class. It is not for the tribes in the land. It is absolutely impossible to apply it indiscriminately to the nations without causing the utmost confusion. It is solely and exclusively for the sons of Israel outside the land, in the dispersion.

2 The tumultuous times, the provocation and persecution of the Romans, the fanatical commotions of the Jews, the repeated insurrections and revolts in the land, all contributed to bring many trials upon those of the dispersion who espoused the cause of Christ. At one time

Claudius commanded all Jews to depart from Rome ( Act_18:2 ), and those of the Circumcision who believed never ceased considering themselves Jews. The "Christians" were understood to be a Jewish sect.

3 It has been pointed out that the papyri sometimes use the word "testing" as an adjective, the equivalent of "tested" or "genuine", as it is in this passage and especially in 1Pe_1:7 , the only other occurrence. But it was not their faith which was producing endurance, but the testing of their faith. Hence the word has its usual grammatical force here. In Peter also, the Greek idiom, which we have tried to carry over into English, accounts for the difficulty, and allows us to translate the word uniformly. The papyri were mostly written in upper Egypt, far from the land of Israel and the countries to which the Scriptures were first sent. Not only are they tinged with local idiom, but were written loosely, as we write English in our every day transactions, with little regard for the correctness and accuracy which characterize a divine revelation. They are no criteria as to the meaning of words which occur several times in the Scriptures, or are found in the Septuagint.

5 This letter records more of our Lord's teaching as recorded in the gospels than any other epistle.

5 Even faith is different in quality in James from that found in Paul's writings. There faith is the necessary channel of grace, because it has no merit in itself. Here faith is more in the nature of a meritorious act, apart from which no blessing can be expected.

9 James doubtless has a very special application to Israel in the time of the end. At that time (we seem to be on the verge of it even now) there will be many wealthy men among the Jews, so that their combined riches will enable hem to have "a kingdom over the kings of the earth". They will form a plutocracy' such as the earth has never seen. Yet they will be destroyed in the fall of Babylon (Rev.18). Some of God's people will be in the city ( Rev_18:4 ). James' warning seems to be most apt in the case of these. Should they lose their wealth in the destruction of the city, they would have nothing but their own allotment in the land. Even if not involved in Babylon's overthrow, it is impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom with his riches ( Mar_10:23 ) , for the readjustments of that day will take his wealth from him.

12 Life, in James, is the result of endurance to the consummation. Hence it is figured by the victor's wreath. We cannot boast of our life in Christ, but, in the kingdom, life comes to those who overcome.

17 It is a fact that all physical blessing may be traced to the sun as its source. All life that teems on the earth is directly or indirectly dependent on it. Hence God is compared to the sun in His beneficence. All spiritual good comes down from Him just as all natural good descends from the sun. The moon, however, is not a source of light, but a mere reflection. It is inconstant, now full orbed and now a faint streak in the sky. The earth, too, in its turning, changes from light to darkness.

21 The salvation of the soul has to do with the feelings and experience, not, as is usually supposed, with ultimate destiny. The soul is the seat of sensations. If these are pleasant and agreeable, if there is comfort and joy, the soul is saved. To lose the soul is to part with the power of enjoyment.

Verses 26-27

26 The outward form of divine service, the rites and ceremonies of the sacerdotal system of Moses, was but the exterior shell of truth. It was the letter: truth was the spirit. The ritual was full of precious meaning. But most ritualists feed on the husks and throw away the kernel. It should have its counterpart in a righteous and beneficent life. With us, who serve God in spirit, and have no confidence in flesh, ritual is a relapse into the shadows, when we have the substance in Christ. We are warned against it in the epistle to the Colossians. "Now let no one be arbitrating against you who wants, in humility and the ritual of the messengers, to parade what he has seen, feignedly, puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding the Head. . ."

( Col_2:18 ).

2 The word "synagogue" is translated "assembly" in the A. v. As it occurs over fifty times and is always (except once "congregation", Act_13:43 ) rendered "synagogue" elsewhere, there is no real reason for rendering it otherwise here. It is significant of the fact that we have here, not an ecclesia, or called-out company, but a gathering based on physical relationship. For the synagogue was the gathering center of Jews, and Paul invariably separated his converts from it.

2 The scene here depicted could hardly be imagined outside the traditional synagogue of that early day, for the ecclesias or "churches" had not yet become as like the synagogues as those we know today. One of the signs of present apostasy is this spirit of toadying to the rich and despising the poor. It can have no place where our position in Christ is appreciated. A rich man who enjoys God's grace is pained by such partiality.

8 James writes to those under the law. Showing partiality to the rich and offending the poor is an infraction of the precept to be loving your associate as yourself But the law is not only intersocial. It has a divine side. A single transgression, no matter what it is, brings in a breach between the One Who gave the law and the culprit. The breaker of one commandment is not "guilty" of all, but enters into the same condemnation as those Who commit all the other crimes in its category.

14 James looks at faith entirely from the human side, Paul from the divine. What a man says he has, if he has it not, cannot, of course, save him. But James is not speaking of a pretended faith. He insists that faith apart from works is dead. He boldly says, " That faith cannot save him." Yet Paul is affirming that righteousness is through faith, that it may accord with grace ( Rom_4:16 ). And he insists that if it is grace, it is no longer out of works, else grace comes to be no longer grace ( Rom_11:6 ). The salvation to which James refers does not include justification, hence there is not the necessity for grace. Paul speaks of grace continually, and refers to it over a hundred times in his epistles. James only mentions it twice in one passage ( Jam_4:6 ). James is dealing with a nation in covenant relationship with God, and an administration in which faith and works are mingled, whereas Paul is connected with the dispensation of unadulterated grace to those who have no claim on God whatever. Such a combination as James insists on would do away entirely with all the blessings which have come to the nations on the ground of grace, for it is impossible for grace to operate except through sheer, unaided faith. It will not do to say that such faith is vital and must manifest itself in works. This is true, yet such works are in no sense the root of righteousness. They are the fruit. To add works to a dead faith would not vivify it. Briefly, the differences between Paul and James are not to be explained away. They are irreconcilable contradictions if we take them to refer to the same divine administration and the same people. Left to their own time and place, there is no reason why they should agree. God is continually changing His methods, to conform to the various objects He has in view.

18 The solid foundation stands with this seal: "The Lord knew those who are His" ( 2Ti_2:19 ). Suppose we do not know? That does not affect their salvation. God knows the heart and does not need any demonstration. Not so with men. Before we accept a man's faith we demand that he depart from iniquity. This is the ground of James. It is not what appears to the Lord, but to men.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on James 1". Concordant Commentary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/aek/james-1.html. 1968.
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