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The Power of Faith Under Temptation
1. Servant] better, ’slave.’ The word does not suggest any degradation, but only absolute surrender to the Master. St. James’s humility prevents the mention of the earthly relationship. Scattered abroad] RV ’of the Dispersion.’ Jews were found (sometimes in great numbers) in all the cities of the Roman empire. They kept up their connexion with the mother-country by going up to the great Jewish feasts. Greeting] better, ’joy be with you.’ This form of salutation is found elsewhere only in Acts 15:23.
2. Temptations] better, ’trials’ (from without). Trials, rightly borne, bring joy. The Christian is bidden to pray ’lead us not into temptation’ (= trial); but for him, trial, when it comes, may be made to yield ’peaceable fruit’ (Hebrews 12:11). Out of bitter may come sweet.
3. Trying] RV ’proof,’ or ’process of testing.’
4. Perfect and entire] better, ’full grown’ (Ephesians 4:13), and ’complete’ (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
6. Wavereth] RV’ doubteth.’ Wave] RV ’surge.’ St. James is thinking of the sudden storms on the lake of Galilee. This is the first of the eleven metaphors drawn from the natural phenomena of Palestine which recall our Lord’s earlier parables, and show St. James as a keen observer of nature.
8. A double-minded man is unstable] better, ’he is a double-minded man, unstable,’ etc. ’Double-minded’ is one of the key-words of the Epistle. It implies half-hearted allegiance—an attempt to combine the service of God with the service of self and the world (Matthew 6:24).
9, Rejoice] better, ’exult.’ Poverty is an instance of those trials which may become joys. The poor man is to exult in his high estate as a Christian: the rich man is to glory in the loss of those riches which are so dangerous and so fleeting.
11. Burning heat] better, ’sirocco,’ the hot wind of Palestine which parches vegetation. Ways] better, ’goings’; perhaps used of the journeyings of rich merchants (James 4:13).
12. When he is tried] RV’ when he hath been approved.’ Crown] the wreath that crowns the victor (2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 2:10).
13-15. Trials from within (= temptations). The Jews seem to have sometimes believed (from a mistaken interpretation of passages like 2 Samuel 24:1) that God sent temptations, and that it was therefore impossible to resist them (Romans 9:19). This error was fatal alike to any true conception of God and to any realisation of human responsibility. It made the one God inconsistent with Himself. God is insusceptible to evil, and never tempts to sin, though He may permit temptation, in order that we may be made stronger by resisting it. Temptation comes from a man’s own heart, with its evil desire, that draws him from the right path. Desire becomes the mother of sin. Sin grows up and has a child—death.
17. God is the source of good, and of good only. Every good gift and every perfect boon (not’ gift,’ as AV) comes from Him, who is the creator of the sun, moon, and stars. But, while they change and vary, and, as they revolve, are sometimes in shadow, He is always the same. Shadow of turning] RV ’shadow that is cast by turning.’
18. Begat] RV ’brought forth.’ It seems at first sight natural to see in this v. a reference to the new birth of baptism, or to the regenerating power of the gospel (1 Peter 1:23). But such ideas are foreign to the simplicity of St. James’s theological thought. The word of truth is the divine word which brought about the creation of man in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). Firstfruits] see Numbers 15:21; Deuteronomy 18:3-4; Romans 11:16.
19. Wherefore] RV ’ye know this.’
20. The bitter words and angry passions of men will never bring about that righteousness—that entire and loving obedience to His divine will—which God requires from His children.
21. Superfluity of naughtiness] better, ’overflowing of malice.’ The much-speaking of the Jews often ended in evil-speaking.
Engrafted] RV ’implanted.’ The Word is like a seed lying in the heart, which, under favourable conditions, would grow and bear fruit in life.
22-25. Hearing without doing is useless. A mere hearer is like a man who glances at his natural face in a mirror (1 Corinthians 13:12), and then goes away and at once forgets what he looks like. But the man who practises as well as hears stoops down and gazes into the perfect Law of Christ, obedience to which is perfect freedom. He remembers the ideal of Christian manhood he sees there, and strives to realise it in life. Thus he wins blessing. See on James 2:12.
26. Religion] better, ’religious observance, the outward service of God.’ In order that the service and worship of God may be acceptable, the man who offers it must (1) show practical love and sympathy, and (2) strive after personal holiness (Psalms 40:6-8; Psalms 51:16-17; Isaiah 1:10-20); otherwise he is inconsistent.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on James 1". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany