Attention!
10 million Ukrainians without power because of Russia. Help us purchase electrical generators for churches.
Consider helping today!

Bible Commentaries

Gann's Commentary on the Bible

James 1

Verse 1

Book Comments:

Walking Thru The Bible

JAMES

Introduction

1. The Need:

James is one of the most practical books of the New Testament and one needed by Christians of every generation. Its stinging rebukes of worldliness and pretense in religion are urgent ones for our time. Its denunciations of social injustice have caused many to label James the "Amos of the New Testament."

The epistle of James appeals from start to finish for Christians to make their lives consistent with their profession.

There is an amazing similarity between this epistle and the Sermon on the Mount:

1) Joy in the midst of trials (James 1:2; cf. Matthew 5:10-12)

2) Boldness in prayer (James 1:5; cf. Matthew 7:7-12)

3) The danger of a bad temper (James 1:19-20; cf. Matthew 5:22)

4) Hearing and doing (James 1:22; cf. Matthew 7:24-27)

And many other parallel points. The practical wisdom of this book impresses all who bother to study it closely.

2. The Author:

There several men in the New Testament who bear the name "James." (Matthew 4:21; Matthew 10:3; Luke 6:16; Mark 6:3). By a process of elimination the most reasonable possibility for authorship of this letter is James the brother of Jesus.

He was the James who played the most prominent role in the early history of the church. This would make him the brother of another New Testament writer, Jude (Judges 1:1, Matthew 13:55).

Neither James nor Jude were sympathetic to Jesus’ claim during the Lord’s personal ministry (John 7:3-5). Jesus appeared to James after His resurrection and all doubts and reservations were removed (1 Corinthians 15:7; Acts 1:14). He is mentioned a number of times in the book of Acts and Paul referred to him as one of the "pillars" of the church at Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9).

In his letter James humbly only identifies himself only as "a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ" (James 1:1).

3. The Background:

The letter is addressed to Jewish Christians who had been scattered from Palestine by persecution (James 1:1). This dispersion had come about because of attacks from unbelieving Jews (Acts 8:1 ff about AD 33, and Acts 12:1 about AD 41).

This book was probably the first of all the New Testament book to have been written, probably about AD 45. (Therefore the controversy over receiving Gentiles into the church had not yet become an issue.)

James knew of the severe trials these saints were having to endure for their faith (James 1:2). He wrote to encourage them in their difficulties and warn them against spiritual laxity and neglect of their duties.

4. The Theme: Daily practice of true religion.

A key verse seems to be James 1:22.

5. An Outline:

I. True religion in a time of trial -- James 1:1-18

1. After a brief salutation (James 1:1), James immediately urges a positive attitude toward his reader’s trials (James 1:2-4). Such difficulties should be faced with prayer James 1:5-8) and with a consciousness of life’s true value (James 1:9-11), God blesses those who endure (James 1:12).

2. When temptation comes, it is not from God (James 1:13) but arises from our own lusts (James 1:14). Yielding to temptations ends in death (James 1:15-16), but God only gives good gifts (James 1:17-18).

II. How our faith is tested in this world -- James 1:19-5:18

The faith of Christians is tested in various ways:

-- its reactions to the word of God (James James 1:19-27)

-- its relations to one’s fellowmen (James 2:1-13)

-- its right actions (James 2:14-26)

-- its control of the tongue (James James 3:1-18)

-- its avoidance of worldliness and strife (James 4:1-12)

-- its acknowledgement of God’s will in all one’s plans (4:13-17)

-- its reaction to oppression (James 5:1-12)

-- its dependence on prayer (James 5:13-18)

III. On restoring the erring -- James 5:19-20

Although the letter is designed to promote endurance, it encourages the faithful to help bring back any who should err from the faith (James 5:19-20).

Conclusion:

! This lovely letter reads very much like a sermon.

! It has tones of compassionate authority which James would use with people dear to him who were facing extreme difficulties.

! It is eminently practical in showing Christians how faith is to be lived in the total arena of life.

6. Major Points in the book of James:

1. Hearing and doing -- James 1:22-25

The truth of the gospel must be translated into concrete deeds and actions of faith. "Hearing" the Word of God is the right point of beginning; we must guard against the notion that contemplating the good is same as being good! (Romans 2:13). One who is content to hear without doing is "deceiving" himself.

2. Living by the "royal law" -- 2:8-13

Loving one’s neighbor as himself is a central commandment of true religion. In the O.T. (Leviticus 1:1; cf. Mark 12:29-31); in the N.T. (Galatians 5:14; Romans 13:8-10).

All of the strong statements in this letter about social justice are based on this law. Love for one’s neighbors requires compassion for widows and orphans (James 1:27). It forbids partiality (James 2:1-7), it prohibits slander (James 4:11-12), and it rebukes exploitation of the poor (James 5:1-6).

3. The relationship of faith and works -- James James 2:14-26

James’ thesis is that faith without works is dead (2:14-17). Remember what Jesus said about validating a claim to faith, Matthew 7:21. Christianity must produce practical results in order to be counted genuine. What we believe, must have a bearing upon how we behave.

Next James challenges the naive assertion that some men may demonstrate their religion by faith and others by works (James 2:18-20). There is no proof that one has faith at all apart from the fruit that faith produces in his daily life. James challenges anyone to show his faith apart from his deeds.

The epistle shows how true faith is exemplified (2:21-26). Abraham demonstrated his faith in offering up his son Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19; Hebrews 11:17-19). Rahab proved her faith in the God of the Hebrews by hiding the spies in her house (Joshua 2:1-24; Hebrews 11:31).

Our confusion over the relationship between faith and works may be traced to the fact that "works" can be taken to mean different things:

(1) the works of the Law of Moses (cf. Romans 3:28)

(2) works of human merit (cf. Ephesians 2:9)

(3) actions of response to the divine will (cf. John 6:29; James 2:14-26).

No man can be saved by works of the Law of Moses or works of human merit; but no man can be saved without an obedient response to heaven’s commands.

SERMON OUTLINE

Let Us Pray

James 5:13-20

Introduction:

The book of James has a great deal to say about the use of the tongue: complaining (James 5:9); and swearing (James 5:12). But he also named some of the highest uses of the tongue: proclaiming God’s Word (James 5:10); and praying and praising God (James 5:13).

Seven times in this section James mentions prayer and encourages us to pray by describing five situations in which God answers prayer

.

1. PRAY FOR THE SUFFERING (James 5:13)

The word afflicted means "suffering in difficult circumstances." James tells us what we should do when we find ourselves in such trying circumstances.

Such prayer of the faithful will either remove the affliction, or enable the child of God to bear it.

2. PRAY FOR THE SICK (J 5:14-16)

Some seem to think that this teaches that full physical health is always just a prayer away. Others relate this process outlines by James as invoking God ("pray over him") and using medicine ("anoint him with oil") -- prayer plus a physician.

A brief explanation and background will be considered here.

3. PRAY FOR THE SINFUL (James 5:16)

This verse points out our spiritual concern for one another. The healing in this verse is spiritual healing, a healing of the souls (Matthew 13:15; Hebrews 12:13; 1 Peter 2:24).

4. PRAY FOR THE STATE (OR STATESMEN) 5:16b-18

As an indication of the power of prayer James refers to a story of the time of Ahab King of Israel (1 Kings 17-18). We are exhorted to pray for our rulers (1 Timothy 2:1-3).

5. PRAY FOR THE STRAYING (5:19-20)

While James does not specifically name prayer in these verses, the implication is there. If we pray for the suffering, the sick, we must pray for the brother who wanders from the truth. (Not that he may be saved in his sin, but that he will turn from those sins.)

"Seeking the Lost" is a common Bible picture of soul-winning. Jesus pictured the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost boy in Luke 15. In seeking the lost and straying we must manifest the right attitude (Galatians 6:1 "the spirit of meekness").

CONCLUSION:

- - - - - -

Author:

1) Apostle - Matthew 4:21; sons of Zebedee and Salome, Acts 12:2

2) James the less (the little, smaller, younger) Alphaeus & Mary - Matthew 10:3 (some think possibly a brother of Matthew, cf. Mark 2:14.)

3) James - brother of Jesus, Matthew 13:55

- not a believer - John 7:5

- After resurrection Jesus appeared to 1 Corinthians 15:7.

- If James is personally responsible for the letter, it likely dates to the late 40s AD, around the time of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15), and no later than AD 62, when James was martyred in Jerusalem.

- Both Paul and Luke indicate that James became a leader in the church in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 9:5; 1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:15 - Galatians 2:12 ff; Acts 12:17; Acts 15:13; Acts 21:18 )

- See Utley for a very full discussion of the various "James" etc.

Good source material:

Guy N. Wood’s Gospel Advocate Commentary series.

Good outline in BKC, and in WW "Be Mature."

See WHG ASV 8x1 looseleaf notes.

Key thought: Belief determines behavior.

Verse Comments:

servant -- The term “servant,” better slave, as one who had been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20, 1 Corinthians 7:23), was used by both Peter (2 Peter 1:1) and Paul (Romans 1:15 Titus 1:1). The ‘servant of the Lord Jesus,’ is an appellation which is often given to Christians, and particularly to the ministers of religion.

Lord Jesus Christ -- Same form used by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem in their epistle to the Gentiles Acts 15:26.

twelve tribes -- Addressing Jewish Christians; perhaps an illusion to refer to the full church, Jewish and Gentile, as the true Israel.

Scattered (dispersion) -- Acts 8:4 This word occurs only here and in 1 Peter 1:1, and John 7:35. See Barnes about the two great dispersions of the Jews, East (under the Assyrians and Babylonians) and West (under Alexander the Great to Egypt, Asia Minor, and Greek and Roman cities.).

Greetings -- Compare the salutation in Acts 15:23, which was also probably written by St. James: “The apostles and the elder brethren unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia, greeting.” (1) Χαίρειν Chairein is common to both, and not found elsewhere in apostolic greeting.

Verse 2

Jas 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,

My brethren -- written to Christians. A favorite expression with James and occurs no less than fifteen times in this short epistle.

count it all joy ... 1 Peter 1:6; Gk chara. Regard it as a matter in which to rejoice. It is not to be considered as a punishment, but as being fit of felicitation.

all -- "All” is placed first in the Greek text for emphasis. In James the trials are not joy, but their possible results are (cf. Matthew 5:10-12; Luke 6:22-23: Acts 5:41; Romans 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:16; 1 Peter 1:6).

fall -- encounter, face, comes your way, come upon you. The tense (Aor. Act. Sub. ) speaks of possible future actions, but with some degree of doubt.

These believers were experiencing some problems but apparently not all of them. Trials and problems are common for believers in this fallen world (cf. 1 Peter 4:12-16; Romans 8:17; Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 3:12).

various trials -- various kinds of trial which they might experience; sickness, poverty, bereavement, persecution, etc.

The Greek word here, peirasmos, refers to an unwelcome or unexpected experience. James may be referring to trials in general, or to specific hardships such as persecution (James 2:6-7; James 4:3, James 4:13), sickness (James 1:1), and poverty (vv. James 1:9-11; James 2:1-7; James 5:1-6).

trials -- "tests" that challenge faith.

Verse 3

Jas 1:3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

knowing -- When you consider how God works for your benefit, not for you destruction.

testing -- "proving" As Jesus was "tested" in the wilderness. The Greek dokimion (“testing”) denotes a positive test intended to make one’s faith “genuine” (cf. 1 Peter 1:7).

patience -- (endurance, perseverance, steadfastness) -- Expresses a growing determination in the face of adversity, based on hope. Those who suffer can express joy (v. 2) during times of trial because of their confidence in the day in which Christ will vindicate them (1 Peter 4:13).

Verse 4

Jas 1:4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

patience -- (see definition in previous verse).

But let patience -- This is a PRESENT ACTIVE IMPERATIVE. Of the 108 verses in the book of James there are 54 IMPERATIVES. It is a book of exhortation to practical living. - Utley

have its perfect work -- its perfect results.

perfect -- mature and complete. The Greek word “perfect” (telos) means “fully equipped,” “mature,” or “ripe.” It is often linked to love (cf. Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 13:9-13; 1 John 4:18).

It seems to have the connotation of a mature faith which issues in faithful, loving service. It does not imply or suggest “sinlessness” or “without fear.”

It is just possible that this could have an eschatological reference. James often looks toward the culmination of the Christian hope (cf. James 1:8-9, James 1:12; James 5:7-8).

lacking nothing -- A mature Christian is described in three ways:

(1) perfect (telos);

(2) with integrity or complete (holokleros cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:23); and

(3) lacking in nothing (NJB “not deficient in any way”).

Trials are God’s means of producing maturity (cf. Hebrews 5:8-9). Maturity is not theological insight only, but daily faithful endurance! Maturity is who we are, not what we know! Its fruit is seen and developed in crisis.

Verse 5

James 1:5 Jas 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

If -- This is a FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL SENTENCE which means it is assumed to be true from the author’s perspective or for his literary purposes.

any of you -- Notice the universal offer of wisdom “if any of you.…” God’s wisdom is available to His children, but they must sense the need, ask, and receive. Wisdom, like maturity, is not automatic.

lacks -- There is a wordplay between vs 4 and vs 5. It is captures in the NASB translations "...lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom." This theme is continued in James 3:13-18.

wisdom -- Refers to the knowledge and understanding of God’s plans and purposes and the ability to live accordingly.

James’ Jewish audience recognized this as the understanding and practical skill that was necessary to live life to God’s glory. It was not a wisdom of philosophical speculation, but the wisdom contained in the pure and peaceable absolutes of God’s will revealed in His Word (cf. James 3:13, James 3:17) and lived out.

In the OT wisdom/knowledge represents two aspects: (1) intellectual and (2) practical (cf. Proverbs 1:1-6). In this context it is the practical, daily insight from God that sustains His persecuted people.

let him ask -- That is, for the specific wisdom which he needs; the very wisdom which is necessary for him in the particular case. It is proper to bear the very case before God; to make mention of the specific want; to ask of God to guide us in the very matter where we feel so much embarrassment. It is one of the privileges of Christians, that they may not only go to God and ask him for that general wisdom which is needful for them in life, but that whenever a particular emergency arises. - Barnes

let him ask ... Pres. Act. Imperative, = "let him continue to ask of God".

God, who gives -- The thought is that God gives absolutely all good gifts to those that ask Him (Matthew 6:11), and wisdom is one of the highest gifts that God can give man is included in the promise (Luke 11:13).

who give to all ... who ask!

liberally and without reproach -- The object of the writer was to encourage those who felt their need of wisdom, to go and ask it of God; and there is no thought that God gives such wisdom to all men whether they ask it or not!

liberally ... generously. This form of the term haplos is found only here in the NT. Its root form (haplotes) came to be used metaphorically of sincerity, genuineness, or purity of motive (cf. Romans 12:8; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22) or liberality (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:2; 2 Corinthians 9:11; 2 Corinthians 9:13). James uses it here to describe God’s free gift of wisdom to those who ask and continue to ask in faith. God, then, is the opposite of the doubting man.

without reproach -- God doesn’t want anyone to hesitate to come to Him in prayer. God is not a harsh, stingy disciplinarian! He is like a loving parent who wants the best for His children.

The word implies a contrast with human givers who give and afterwards mar their gift with bitter and reproachful speeches. There seems here a direct allusion to the description in Ecclus. Sirach 20:15, of “the gift of a fool,” “He giveth little and upbraideth much,” NRSV.

and it shall be given him ... An obvious echo of our Lord’s promise in Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9

Verse 6

Jas 1:6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.

James 1:6

ask in faith -- i.e. trust in God, as distinct from from belief in a dogma. A settled trust and confidence in God based on His character and promises as revealed in Scripture Hebrews 11:1.

We cannot hope to obtain any favour from God if there is not faith, Hebrews 11:6.

with no doubting -- No hesitating, no doubting, no vacillation of the mind. We come to God with the utmost confidence and assurance.

wave -- surge of the sea; Isaiah 57:20 The wave of the sea has no stability! It is at the mercy of every wind, and seems to be driven and tossed every way. So he that comes to God with unsettled convictions and hopes, is liable to be driven about by every new feeling that may spring up in his mind.

Verse 7

Jas 1:7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;

James 1:7

let not that man ... A person who doubts God’s goodness dishonors him.

Verse 8

Jas 1:8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

double-minded man -- Literally "two-souled" cf James 4:8.

This term is unique to James in the NT and in Greek literature. Many believe James coined it. It probably comes from the OT’s “double-heart” (cf. 1 Chronicles 12:33; Psalms 12:2). It was used early and often by the early church - Utley

double minded -- Describes someone who tries to live two contradictory lifestyles, or trying to serve two masters, God and the world, Matthew 6:24; Proverbs 11:3

unstable -- a possible reference back to v.6 and a wind tossed wave. It is possible that v. 6 deals with a doubting person and vv. 7–8 deal with a double-minded person.

in all his ways -- There is a slight change of imagery from the wave of v.6 , and the picture presented in v.8 is that of a man who does not walk straight onward, but in “all his ways” goes to and fro, now toward this side, now toward the other, staggering, like a drunken man.

Verse 9

Jas 1:9 Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation,

lowly brother -- humble circumstances; the community that James addresses might have been facing conditions of poverty, James 2:1-7; Hebrews 10:32-35.

Poverty may be one of the "trials" of which James speaks.

This refers to physical poverty (cf. Luke 6:20), although this same term is used by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount for the “spiritually poor” (cf. Matthew 5:3).

Putting v. 9 and 10 together we see that poor Christians and wealthy ones can rejoice that they both have the privilege of being identified with Christ.

glory in his exhalation -- something to boast about -- In the NT boasting is usually viewed negatively (James 3:14; James 4:16; Ephesians 2:9), but here it means boasting about what God had done (James 2:5; Romans 15:18; 1 Corinthians 1:31; Galatians 6:14).

This usage of glory (kauchaomai) can be seen in the Septuagint of Psalms 32:11 and in the NT in Philippians 3:3. (cf. Romans 5:2, Romans 5:3, Romans 5:11).

high position -- the spiritual "exaltation" they enjoy in Christ, James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6 This refers to one’s personal exaltation at being a Christian. In light of this, worldly distinctions and trials fade into insignificance.

Exhaltation G5311, This is a strong Greek term and should be translated “exult”

Verse 10

Jas 1:10 but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away.

James 1:10

Point: But let the brother of low degree glory in his high estate [i.e. his Christian dignity]; but let the rich [brother glory] in his humiliation” (i.e. in being poor of spirit, Matthew 5:3).

the rich -- It seems grammatically that both the lowly and rich are to be considered "brothers", i.e. Christians.

Some view this "rich" man as a non-Christians whose humiliation is because he has no riches in Christ and faces the dreadful fate of the ungodly rich who elevate themselves by oppressing the poor and vulnerable people ( James 2:6-8; James 5:1-6).

However, it does appear that there were both rich and poor are included in those James addresses.

like a flower of the grass -- This imagery comes from Isaiah 40:6-7 (compare Psalms 37:2; Job 15:30-33). He likens their destruction to the grass, which withers in the heat.

Verse 11

Jas 1:11 For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.

James 1:11

sun risen -- This imagery comes from I 40:6-7 (cf Psalms 37:2; Psalms 103:15-16; Job 14:2; Job 15:30-33)

burning heat -- (with a scorching wind ) -- This refers to the desert Sirocco winds. Job 27:21; Ezekiel 17:10

grass -- flower falls -- A picture of Palestine’s flowers and flowering grasses, which colorfully flourish in Feb. and dry up by May. This is a clear allusion to Isaiah 40:6-8, which speaks of the scorching sirocco wind that burns and destroys plants in its path.

This picture from nature illustrates how divinely wrought death and judgment can quickly end the wealthy person’s dependence on material possessions (cf. Proverbs 27:24).

A literal rendering: For she sun arose with the scorching wind, and withered the grass; and the flower thereof fell away, and the grace of the fashion of it perished. (Winer, Grammar of New Testament Greek)

rich man -- fade away -- 1 Peter 1:24; showing that the "riches" of this world will not last into eternity, even if one is a Christian; or if the rich man is a not a believer it indicates ultimate judgment.

* Utley at this point has a great Special Topic: Wealth.

Verse 12

James 1:12

Jas 1:12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

A return to the theme at the beginning of the chapter.

Blessed -- true happiness; Echos of Matthew 5:4; Matthew 5:10; Matthew 5:11.

This reflects Hebrew usage (cf. Psalms 1:1; Proverbs 3:13; Proverbs 8:34; Job 5:17; Isaiah 56:2; Jeremiah 17:7). This can be translated “happy” (cf. TEV, NET). This is the same term used in “the Beatitudes” of the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matt. 5:1–17).

Blessed is the person who endures testing -- In this context, “blessed” describes an attitude of determined courage that is unaffected by external circumstances. Job 5:17; Psalms 1:1; Psalms 32:2; Proverbs 8:32,

temptation -- trials.

approved -- Lit. "passed the test". The believer has successfully and victorious gone through his trials, indicating he is genuine because his faith has endured lie Job’s.

crown -- The wreath placed on the head of a victorious athlete or military leader, 1 Corinthians 9:25; 2 Timothy 4:8.

crown of life -- The crown that consists of eternal life, Revelation 2:10.

The genitive here indicates “the crown, which is life.”

Revelation 2:10, the only other place in the New Testament where the “crown of life” is mentioned; and there also it stands in close connection with the endurance of temptation. Elsewhere we read of the “crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:8), and the “crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4).

Those who love him -- are faithful and obedient (cp. James 1:22-25; James 2:5; Deuteronomy 7:9; 1 John 5:2).

Verse 13

James 1:13

Jas 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.

do not say -- James is using diatribe, in which an imaginary opponent presents a contrary opinion. In this way he is able to voice the readers’ possible objection and immediately refute it (also in James 2:3, James 2:16, James 2:18; James 4:13).

This is a PRESENT ACTIVE IMPERATIVE with the NEGATIVE PARTICLE which usually means “stop saying.” The implication is that some believers were saying this. This reflects the literary technique called diatribe. - Utley

Let no one say -- James cautions Christians against interpreting their temptations to sins put there before them to entice them (lure them) to do wrong, but James makes clear in the following verses that men alone are responsible of choosing to sin.

God brings trials (tests) into his people’s lives (e.g., Gen 22), but he never desires that believers fall to temptation.

God brings trials in order to strengthen the Christian’s faith. He never tempts, however, because he never desires his people to sin. Christians should never blame God when they do wrong.

God cannot be tempted -- Because he is perfectly holy, God has nothing in his nature that is open to evil. By becoming fully human, Jesus was capable of being tempted (Matthew 4:1-11), but he never yielded to that temptation (Hebrews 4:15).

God by His holy nature has no capacity for evil, or vulnerability to it (Habakkuk 1:13; cf. Leviticus 19:2; Isaiah 6:3; 1 Peter 1:16).

does not tempt anyone -- This statement seems to be caught up in the differing connotations between the terms “tempt” (peirazo, cf. James 1:13), and “test” (dokimazo, cf. James 1:3, James 1:12). God does not tempt so as to destroy, but He does test so as to strengthen.

God is not the source of evil! Please See RSVA Ecclesiasticus Sirach 15:11, Sirach 15:15; Sirach 15:20. RSVA

nor -- tempt anyone -- Remember when Jesus was in the wilderness it was Satan that tempted him, not the Father. Some have said that the Lord gets blamed for much of the Devil’s work.

God purposes trials to occur, and in them He allows temptation [Satan’s work] to happen, but He has promised not to allow more than believers can endure and never without a way to escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). They choose whether to take the escape God provides or to give in, NOTICE: cf. 2 Samuel 24:1; 1 Chronicles 21:1. Similar to the way that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart Exodus 9:12, and Exodus 9:34 Pharaoh hardened his own heart. (God presented the situation, but Pharaoh was responsible for his own actions.)

Verse 14

James 1:14

Jas 1:14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.

enticed - The Greek word deleazō describes drawing in an unsuspecting victim with an attractive bait or lure. Like bated hooks for fishing or traps for hunting.

when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.. (NASB) These two verbs were used of trapping and luring animals into captivity.

We tend to blame others for our sin. We may blame God, the devil, parents, society, education, etc. We are own worst enemy. The Bible speaks of three enemies of humanity: the world, the flesh, and the devil (cfJames 4:1-7; Ephesians 2:1-3). In this context, “the flesh,” or our Adamic nature, is the culprit (cf. Ecclesiasticus Sirach 15:14-15 RSVA).

Notice that Satan is not even mentioned in this section on human sinfulness. Neither is he mentioned in Paul’s section in Romans on human sin (cf. chapters 1–3). Satan is a real tempter, but he cannot force humans to sin and is, therefore, no excuse for their moral failures. - Utley

his own -- describes the individual nature of lust - it is different for each person as a result of his own tendencies, environment, upbringing, and personal choices. Matthew 15:18-20. 1 Peter 5:8-9

Verse 15

Jas 1:15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

when it has conceived -- The pictures changes from capturing animals to a "birth/grown" metaphor used here in a negative sense while in James 1:18 it is used in a positive sense.

gives birth to sin -- James uses the analogy of human conception and birth to describe sin. Desire is conceived when a person yields to temptation, which results in the “birth” of sin. As sin matures, this ultimately leads to God’s judgment of death.

With this analogy, James asserts that God’s judgment against sin is the result of people’s own choices. All sin ultimately originates in individuals, not in any other source. According to James, desire (the negative, destructive kind) is the source of temptation, which explains the presence of sin and death in the world (compare Romans 7:17-23; Galatians 5:16-21; Ephesians 2:3). FSB

Verse 16

James 1:16

Jas 1:16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

Do not be deceived -- The Greek expression refers to erring, going astray, or wandering. Christians are not to make the mistake of blaming God rather than themselves for their sin. MSB

The same formula is found in 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Galatians 6:7.

Verse 17

James 1:17

Jas 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

James 1:17-27 88-Ho "Are You Kidding"

every good and perfect gift is from above -- These words have a poetic cadence in Greek. They are literally, “every good act of giving (dosis) and every perfect gift (dorema) is from above.” BKC

every good gift -- James moves from evil temptations (which God never gives) to good things which God does give. Matthew 7:11; James 1:5

gift -- gift -- Two different Gk words for "gift" emphasize the inclusiveness of God’s graciousness. The first denotes the act of giving, the second is the object given. MSB

The Bible does list some of the things God has given us: (1) Jesus (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 9:15); (2) the Spirit (Luke 11:13); (3) the Kingdom (Luke 12:32); (4) salvation (John 1:12; Ephesians 2:8); (5) eternal life (1 John 5:11); (6) peace (John 14:27); and (7) wisdom (James 1:5).- Utley

coming down -- The Bible is written in the language of description using the five senses. It is earth-centered or focused. This language is a literary way of expressing the priority of God’s ultimate creation, mankind. The Bible is not a science book, but a theology book. Utley

from above -- namely heaven, descending from the Father of lights, which refers to God as creator of the heavenly lights ( Genesis 1:14-18; Psalms 74:16; Psalms 136:7-9; Jeremiah 31:35) a prime example of his good gifts.

no variation -- God is unchanging in his character and therefore his giving of good, unlike the variation of the night changing to day or the shifting shadow caused by the sun or moon. ESVSB

Verse 18

Jas 1:18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

James 1:18-26 How Faith Shows Itself

1. Reception of the Word

2. Response to the Word

3. Resignation to the Word

his -- His, meaning "the Father" v. 17; God is pictured taking the initiative.

us -- meaning the believers to which James writes.

brought us forth -- This is a common biblical familial metaphor for salvation as becoming God’s children through birth (cf. James 1:12-13; John 3:3; Acts 17:29; Hebrews 12:5-9; 1 Peter 1:3; 1 Peter 1:23; 1 John 2:29; 1 John 5:1; 1 John 5:4).

This phrase could refer to the initial creation of Adam and Eve in Genesis. If this is true then it could explain the difficulty of James 1:21 where believers are to welcome the word that is already implanted in them. [Ecclesiastes 3:11] This then would refer to the image of God in humans by creation (cf. Genesis 1:26; Genesis 5:1; Genesis 5:3; Genesis 9:6) and its full restoration through faith in Jesus Christ. - Utley.

However, in context this seems to refer to becoming a Christian because the agency is the word of truth which implies that salvation is only through the gospel, not creation.

Part of the interpretive ambiguity is the fact that the term “father” is used in several distinct ways in the Bible: (1) creator of all things; (2) begetter and sustainer of Israel (and Israel’s king); (3) begetter and sustainer of spiritual Israel (the church); and (4) relationship within the Trinity (Father-Son). - Utley

Brought us forth by the word of truth -- speaks of spiritual salvation, with “us” meaning believers, the “word of truth” being the gospel, and “brought … forth” (that is, from the womb) being a metaphor for the new birth. The firstfruits of the harvest (cf. Exodus 23:16-19; Leviticus 23:9-14) are pioneer believers, who are a prelude to further conversions yet to come (cf. Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:15). - ESVSB

word of truth -- In Ephesians 1:13; Colossians 1:5; and 2 Timothy 2:15 it is synonymous with “the gospel.”

first fruits of his creatures -- This means first: (1) in the sense of time as in the OT where the first-ripened part of the crop was dedicated to YHWH to show His ownership of all the crops (cf. Exodus 28:19; Exodus 34:22; Exodus 34:26; Leviticus 23:10) and (2) metaphorically first in priority and prominence. - Utley

The Greek word translated “first fruits” (aparche) refers to what is first in honor as well as to what is first in order. The biblical writers used it “of persons superior in excellence to others of the same class.” - Constable.

Verse 19

J 1:19

Jas 1:19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;

James echoes the wisdom of Proverbs on avoiding hasty speech and unrighteous anger, Proverbs 10:19; Proverbs 13:3; Proverbs 16:32; Proverbs 17:28; Proverbs 29:20.

beloved brethren -- James 1:2; and James 1:9 James drives home his concerned loving message.

let every man -- Imperative

swift to hear -- slow to speak ..

His injunction may have particular application and refer to the informality and unstructured dynamic nature of the worship services of the early church (cf. James 3:1 ff). This openness was often abused. This same tension among rival singers, tongue speakers, and prophets can be seen in 1 Cor. 14. - Utley

slow to wrath [become angry] -- It as been notice that never is the ear more firmly closed than when anger takes over.

Anger is not a sin (lest Jesus be accused of sin in the cleansing of the Temple or His harsh words to the Pharisees), but it is an emotion easily used by the evil one (cf. Proverbs 14:17; Proverbs 16:32; Ecclesiastes 7:9).

The Greek word ὀργήν· "anger" in this context may by implication refer to (1) persecutions, trials, temptations or (2) personal pride or jealousy related to Christian worship (cf. 1 Cor. 14).

Verse 20

Jas 1:20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

James 1:20

Point: When one gets maliciously angry it does not produce anything good.

wrath of man -- An angry response to temptations does not advance the righteousness in character and conduct that God is seeking to produce in the believer. - Constable

righteousness of God -- the justice of God NLTSB; behavior that pleases God, NIVZSB; man’s malicious angry/wrath doesn’t produce righteousness, justice, or holiness that God wants to develop in man’s character, it is not "God like".

“Righteousness” here is -- closer to the usage of the OT (Isaiah 61:3) and Jesus (Matthew 3:15; Matthew 5:6; Matthew 5:10; Matthew 5:20; Matthew 6:1; Matthew 6:33; Matthew 21:32), in the sense of conducting one’s life by the will of God, according to his standards. ESVSB

Verse 21

James 1:21

Jas 1:21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

lay aside -- The removal of clothing is often used as a biblical metaphor for spiritual characteristics (cf. Romans 13:12; Gal. 3:27; Ephesians 4:22-25; Colossians 3:8, Colossians 3:10; Colossians 3:12; Colossians 3:14; 1 Peter 2:1). Dirty clothing is an OT metaphor which is often used for “sin” (cf. Isaiah 64:6; Zechariah 3:4). - Utley

filthiness -- It is essential to put away, or remove, all moral filth (ryparian, used only here in the NT; cf. rypara, “shabby,” in James 2:2) and all the abundance of evil, BKC

overflow of wickedness -- the "remains of wickedness" are those habits that may carry over from a previous sinful life before conversion; "excessive: vile character that is more like the Devil and not God’s.

receive with meekness -- with humility, gentleness.

Engrafted word -- the Word compared to seed implanted in the heart (RSV, etc,, cf Jesus’ parable of the sower.)

“Planted” (emphyton, used only here in the NT) contrasts with grafted. The Word is to be rooted in the fertile soil of the soul. It is that Word of God which can save, Romans 1:16.

James describes the gospel as a seed that is planted in the heart (Jeremiah 31:33).

James’ wording in the "laying aside" and "receiving" indicate the voluntary nature of man’s response to the gospel.

able to save -- refers to the ultimate salvation of man on the last day, but perhaps also indicates that this manner of life (holiness, righteousness) is a quality that adds "abundant living" now.

your souls -- "Souls" here refer to the whole nature of man, physically and spiritually James 5:20; Genesis 2:7; 1 Peter 3:20.

Verse 22

James 1:22

Jas 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

doers of the word -- The fact that James calls professing believers to be “doers,” rather than simply to do, emphasizes that their entire personality should be characterized in that way. MSB

James’ audience would have probably heard this message in the context of public worship (Revelation 1:3).

In several places, James appears to be reflecting on Jesus’ teachings. These verses reflect the teaching of Jesus (Matthew 7:24; Matthew 7:26; Luke 6:46; Luke 6:49). - New Living Translation Study Bible.

“The call to ‘do what it says’ lies at the center of all that James teaches. It sums up the message of the whole book: Put into practice what you profess to believe. Indeed, James 1:22 may well be the key verse of James’s epistle.”. - Burdick, p.175.

not hearers only -- This word was used in Greek literature for those who attended lectures but never joined the groups. Hearing the truth is not enough; believers must act on it and continue to act on it daily (cf. Luke 11:28; Romans 2:13). - Utley

deceiving yourselves ..

This word παραλογιζόμενοι was used in mathematics to refer to a miscalculation. Professing Christians who are content with only hearing the Word have made a serious spiritual miscalculation. - MSB

The deception comes from thinking they have done all that is necessary when actually listening to the Word is only the beginning. - BKC

NOTE: In these two verse (James 1:21-22) we see the essence of salvation - 1) repentance "lay aside" 2) faith, receive the word; 3) obedience to the word - by becoming "doers of the word." WG

Verse 23

Jas 1:23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;

if -- 1st class conditional sentence assumed to be true from author’s perspective or for his literary purposes.

hearer of the word -- Hearing is good, but obedience must follow.

observing -- A Gk word (katanoeo) meaning to look carefully and cautiously, as opposed to taking a casual glance.

natural face -- "face of birth"

mirror -- Ancient mirrors were made of polished metal. They were very expensive and produced only a distorted reflection (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12). God’s word functions as a spiritual mirror reflecting a true perfect image.

Verse 24

James 1:24

Jas 1:24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.

he -- It is interesting that James cited a man (andri) in this illustration. A woman would probably not give just a cursory glance, and if she saw a flaw she would probably do what she could to cover it or correct it. Not so this man who sees the “face of his birth” (prosopon tes geneseos) and then forgets about it. - BKC

James uses this analogy to illustrate that those who hear the message without acting on it are like those who, after observing themselves, leave and forget what they look like. - FSB

Three mistakes we make when we look into a mirror.

1. we only glance

2. we look and forget

3. we look and do nothing

Three reason for looking into a mirror

1. for examination

2. for restorations ( Ezekiel 37-38 Ezekiel 37:4 John 15:3

3. for transformation - Romans 12:1-2

1. Receive the word - v. 21 James 1:21

2. Live the word - v. 22 James 1:22

3. Share the word -

HOW

1) speak - v.26 James 1:26

2) service - v.27 James 1:27

3) being separate - v. 27b

Verse 25

James 1:25

Jas 1:25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

perfect law of liberty -- the law that sets one free; the gospel is perfect in freeing one from sin, John 8:32. John 8:3-36

Here "law" is equivalent to "the word" in James 1:18; James 1:21-22

This phrase is parallel to “the royal law” in James 2:8 and “the law of liberty” in James 2:12 (also, notice John 8:23; Romans 8:2; Romans 14:1 ff; 1 Corinthians 8:1 ff; 1 Corinthians 10:23-33; Galatians 6:2). - Utley

The law to which James referred is the revelation of God’s will contained in Scripture (cf. Matthew 5:17). It is perfect because it is the perfect will of a perfect God. - Constable

liberty -- The “Law that gives freedom” seems like a paradox. Law seems to imply restraint and therefore a lack of freedom. Not so with God’s Law. His perfect Law provides true freedom. BKC

Though the OT law was “holy and righteous and good” (Romans 7:12), it had no power by itself to enable sinful people to conform to it. Thus, the OT law did not liberate God’s people but enslaved them, as Paul taught (Gal. 3:10–4:7; cf. Rom. 2:1–3:20; Romans 5:20; Romans 6:14-15; Romans 7:1-25). ESVSB

continues -- It is possible to be enslaved by sin again after being set free if one does not continue in the word. Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:9; Galatians 5:1

blessed -- Note James’ agreement with Paul that Christians live in comparative liberty under the “law of Christ” (Galatians 5:1; Galatians 6:2; cf. Matthew 11:30). Obedient adherence to the Word of God is the key to experiencing God’s blessing in life now as well as in the eschatological future. - Constable

Verse 26

James 1:26

Jas 1:26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.

if -- condition assumed to be true.

Verses 25–26 are not a reference to religious hypocrites, but to sincere, unfulfilled, uninformed, unfruitful religionists.

religious -- This refers to ceremonial public worship θρησκὸς (cf. Acts 26:5). This term is used only here in the NT. In particular, it refers to the outward appearances of one’s religious practices. - Constable.

James chose this term, instead of one referring to internal godliness, to emphasize the external trappings, rituals, routines, and forms that were not followed sincerely. - MSB

The term “religious” means “one concerned with scrupulous details.” James envisions (1) legalistic believers who trust in rules or (2) gnostic believers who trust in knowledge, neither of whom live godly lives. - Utley

bridle his tongue -- "Bridle" means "control", or as another translation renders it, "keep a tight rein."

Human speech is a major issue in James (cf. James 1:19; James 3:2-12: Matthew 15:8-9; Colossians 2:20-23; 2 Timothy 3:5). Self-control is a sign of Christian maturity (cf. Galatians 5:22-23).

deceive his own heart ..

religion is useless -- vain -- worthless -- futile -- This is an empty show (cf. Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8-9; Colossians 2:23; 2 Timothy 3:5; James 1:19; James 3:2-12). Religion can be a barrier to God (cf. Romans 9:30-32).

Verse 27

James 1:27

Jas 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

pure -- clean --

undefiled -- faultless ..

pure and undefiled religion -- James picks two synonymous adjectives to define the most spotless kind of religious faith—that which is measured by compassionate love (cf. John 13:35).

to visit -- look after (NIV) -- care for (NET) -- This expresses true religion in terms of service, as do Deuteronomy and Matthew 25:31-46. Also, see Micah 6:6-8 for a definition of true religion.

fatherless (orphans) and widows -- Orphans and widows were particularly vulnerable in ancient times (Deuteronomy 14:29; Ezekiel 22:7; Acts 6:1-6).

They were dependent upon the care of others, since the husband and father was the means of economic support and social contact (Exodus 22:22-24; Deuteronomy 10:18). Christians are called to take care of the helpless (cp. 1 Timothy 5:3-16)

affliction -- trouble -- distress -- Taking care of orphans and widows is a duty that lies close to the heart of God (cf. Exodus 22:21; Deuteronomy 10:18; Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 5:28; Ezekiel 22:7; Zechariah 8:10). Yet many who professed to love Him neglected it (Psalms 68:5; Ecclesiastes 4:10; Mark 12:40). - Constable

unspotted -- unstained -- from being polluted --

Likewise personal moral purity is an excellent external indicator of godliness (cf. Acts 15:20; 1 Timothy 5:22). -Constable

James uses the sacrificial language of “the lamb without blemish” (Exodus 12:5; 1 Peter 1:19) to describe the pure religious person.

from the world -- Remember that as believers we are in the world, not of the world (cf. James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17); lack of involvement and heavy involvement are both inappropriate.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on James 1". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gbc/james-1.html. 2021.