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Bible Commentaries
James 1

Godbey's Commentary on the New TestamentGodbey's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

1. “James the slave of God and Lord Jesus Christ.” In the Greek Testament we have two words translated “servant,” oiketees, a hired servant, and doulos, a slave. The New Testament is expository of the old. The Hebrew slaves all went free at Jubilee, every fifty years. However, the law of Moses provided for its indefinite perpetuity if the slave was unwilling to go free and preferred to remain with his master; but in that case, the master must draw him up to the door-post, drive a nail through his ear, by this painful tragedy, nailing him fast, thus indicating that he is to be his slave forever. Now let us see the verification of this grand symbolic truth in the Gospel economy. All sinners are the devil’s slaves. Sanctified Christians are God’s love slaves, while the unsanctified are His hired servants. This we see constantly evinced by their speech and deportment. Our Savior forbade His apostles to go and preach under the Gospel dispensation till they received the sanctifying fiery baptism of Pentecost. If the Church had remained true and obedient to this heavenly mandate, she would have escaped the withering and blighting curse of the hireling ministry. The Holiness Gospel blows the jubilee trumpet, which is the signal to all the hired servants in the Lord’s kingdom to go free, i. e., to go back into the devil’s country, whence they came, and be perfectly free to commit all manner of sin, or go forward into the experience of entire sanctification. The Jubilee proclaimed to all the Hebrew slaves a decisive emergency, i. e., they must either accept their freedom or have their ears bored and enter into perpetual slavery. Even so the sanctified Gospel brings to all the Christians who hear it an inevasible ordeal. They can not reject the call of the Holy Ghost to go forward into sanctification without forfeiting justification. If they stay with their good old Master, they must let the Holy Ghost, their Sanctifier, pull them up to the door-post, the cross of Calvary, and nail them fast. There Adam the first must bleed and die, thus consummating their love slavery forever. Sanctified people, like the Hebrew love slave, no longer serve God for a reward, but for love alone. They only regret that they can not do, bear and suffer enough for Christ’s sake. They are more than willing to give everything in their power, and wait till they enter the pearly portal for every iota of recompense. O, how happy this love slave, free from care and solicitude as an angel in heaven. All responsibility for soul, mind and body, in time and eternity, devolves on his Master. Now, contemplate the Divine ownership! Do you not see that a truly wise master will always conserve his own interest in the welfare of his slave? I belong to God unreservedly and eternally. I am perfectly becalmed in Him. I know He manages me all right, spiritually, providentially, physically, temporally and eternally. Hallelujah! I am lost in God’s will as free as Gabriel.

Verse 2

2. “My brethren, consider it all joy when ye fall into many temptations.” How striking the contrast of Apostolic preaching with the puny, timorous, howling religion of the present day. Doubtless temptation is the grandest source of blessing this side of heaven, for it simply opens the way for a fight with the devil, in which we are sure to conquer if we are true to our Great Captain. The soldier that fights no battles wins no victories, lives and dies a coward, receiving no diadem. The terrible conflicts with the strong intellect of Satan constitute our grandest means of grace this side of heaven.

Verses 3-4

3, 4. .. “Let patience have its perfect work, in order that you may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing.” O, how grandly the apostles preached on Christian perfection! How contrastively with the feeble, cautious and cowardly pulpit utterances of the present day! Good Lord, help us all to emulate the clear, bold simplicity of apostolic speech! “Perfect,” in this verse, is teleioi, finished, brought to an end, complete. It is the strongest adjective in the Greek language, descriptive of a work actually and absolutely finished. Now what is this finished work? It is certainly the very work Jesus came to do. He came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). You all know sin is the work of the devil, and his only work. Hence Jesus came to destroy sin in your heart and mine. When sin is utterly exterminated in your heart, then, and not till then, are you what the Holy Ghost calls a perfect Christian. You may be as ignorant as a Hottentot, or as wise as Solomon. Intellectual culture and theological learning have nothing in the world to do with your Christian character. If Jesus has completed His work in your heart you are free from sin, and a perfect Christian, and ready for heaven. This is the only standard of salvation found in the New Testament. “Entire,” is holokleeroi, a compound word, from holos, the whole, and kleeros, part, hence it means entire, i. e., complete in every part. What are the parts? Divine love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness. goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, i. e., practical holiness (Galatians 5:22). These graces imparted to the human spirit by the Holy Spirit constitute the beautiful constellation of Christian character. The second work of grace, i. e., entire sanctification, perfects all of these graces, by eliminating out of the heart all of their antagonisms: e. g., perfect love is nothing but love unantagonized by the malevolent affections, while perfect faith is not the greatest faith, but faith free from doubt. When you get under the cleansing blood pursuant to your humble, doubtless faith, the Holy Spirit eliminates the surviving depravity antagonizing each one of the spiritual graces. “Lacking in nothing.” Glory to God for an omnipotent Savior, who is more than a match for the devil, and abundantly competent to destroy all of His works, so there will be no deficiency in your character.

Verse 5

5. Wisdom here is generic for the gracious economy, and means experimental religion. When Solomon says, “Get wisdom,” he means to get God’s religion. Heaven is full of salvation; you have nothing to do but tap the ocean by faith and you will get full. You need not be afraid of asking too frequently, nor for too much. You have nothing to pay but your sins.

Verse 6

6. “But let him ask in faith doubting nothing for he that doubteth is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed by the tempest.” Faith is the hand by which we receive the salvation of the Lord. Doubt is a paralysis, more or less affecting that hand, and defeating our efforts to receive the needed grace. Sanctification is the only doubt-killer. We here have a nautical metaphor presented by the Holy Ghost for our instruction. The unsanctified man, beleaguered with doubts, is the ship on the stormy sea, tossed by the merciless waves and driven by the angry tornadoes, while the sanctified soul is the ship safe in the harbor, secure from the raging tempest, never again to drift, the sport of the stormy billows.

Verses 7-11



7, 8. “Let not that person think that the double souled man, most unstable in all his ways, shall receive anything from the Lord.” The Bible describes the sinner, one soul (or mind), and that a bad one; the sanctified man, one soul, and that a good one, while James’ double souled man is an unsanctified Christian. We are born into the world with the carnal mind, transmitted from Satan through Adam the first. In regeneration, the Holy Ghost imparts the mind of Christ, simultaneously subjugating the carnal mind and giving grace to keep it in subjection. Then follows the civil war in the heart between the good soul and the bad one, i. e., the Spirit and the flesh. In sanctification after regeneration, the Pentecostal fire consumes the carnal mind, leaving the mind of Christ to reign in the heart without a rival. We see from this Scripture that the unsanctified Christian must totally abrogate the carnal mind, and get victory over it, in order to prevail with God in prayer. “Most unstable in all his ways.” O, how significantly the Holy Ghost describes the unsanctified man! Today he is all honey and, you think, a Christian; tomorrow he is all vinegar and you think he is a sinner. Truly his religion is always in the subjunctive mood, so you never know where to locate him. He does things unbecoming a Christian and repents at once. O, how he needs sanctification to establish him.

9. “Let the poor brother boast in his exaltation.” The penniless scavenger, sweeping the streets, intelligently saved and gloriously sanctified, hears the angels singing all the day long, ready to encircle him in their pinions of light, and waft him like lightning to the bosom of God.

10. “And the rich man in his humility.” While God blesses the pauper with the transcendent grace of entire sanctification, exalting him above kings and millionaires, He blesses the rich man with that perfect humility which enables him to consecrate all to God, who fills him with the Holy Ghost, makes him humble as a beggar, benevolent, and takes him up to heaven.

11. .. “So also the rich man shall pass away in his ways.” If the rich man holds on to his selfish, avaricious ways, though he may bloom as the rose and flourish in royal splendor, he is destined to fade like vernal flowers,

blighted by the withering siroccoes of endless damnation; while, if in the full and eternal abandonment he takes God’s method, consecrates all and lives for heaven, he will rejoice with Abraham and Job in the city of God.

Verses 12-15



12. While James assures us that all external temptation is a great source of blessing, Opening to us the devil’s battlefield, in which we receive the grandest spiritual gymnasium, as we come in contact with the powerful intellect of Satan, he warns us against all internal temptation as out of harmony with the gracious economy, exceedingly detrimental to our spiritual welfare and perilous to our heavenly hopes.

13. Where it says, “God tempted Abraham,” it should read “tested” him, as James assures us that “God tempts no man with evil, neither can He be tempted of evil.”

14. “But each one is tempted, being drawn out and allured by his own lust.” This internal temptation is a powerful argument against inbred sin. The sanctified heart is a citadel impregnable against all possible assaults by the adversary. Troy stood a siege of ten years against the combined armies of Greece, led on by the bravest heroes in the world’s history. When the crafty Ulysses succeeded in the introduction of wooden horses filled with armed men into the city, that world-renowned capital, in one awful night, fell to rise no more. So long as your heart is clean, the combined powers of earth and hell can never hurt you; on the contrary, the battleground of Satan will develop your gifts, mature your graces, cultivate your heroism, inspire your martyrdom, and add stars to your crown, which will accumulate new luster with the flight of eternal ages. Entire sanctification is an eternal fortification against all internal temptation; meanwhile, all possible outward temptation will only augment your efficiency in this life and brighten your felicity in the world to come.

“God worketh together for good all things to them that love Him” (Romans 8:28),

hence you see that God must assuredly, in His transcendent providence and grace, make Satan himself a great source of blessing to His true people. Internal foes are cutting down the Lord’s people by myriads on all sides. Meanwhile an omnipotent Savior is ever ready, waiting and anxious to turn them all out, where, instead of ruining our souls, they would actually become an auxiliary force to develop our heroism and brighten the victor’s wreath in a blissful eternity.

15. “Then lust conceiving hatcheth out sin, and sin being perfected bringeth forth death.” The lust here mentioned is the very nature of Satan, the virus of hell, transmitted to every human being, through Adam the first. We all ought to be converted before we are old enough to commit sin, and then sanctified before we backslide. In that case the devil nature would never develop into a wicked life. A boy finding some eggs out in the forest, bringing them home with him, put them under a hen; within a dozen days a great commotion is heard in the poultry yard; they go out and find a lot of black-snakes running round among the chickens, which they kill outright. When I was a little boy going around hunting up the eggs, my mother would say, “Willie, be sure you leave a nest egg, or the hen will leave the nest.” Good Lord, help us all to take every nest egg out of our hearts, so the devil will quit the nest. So long as you leave a nest egg the devil will lay more and hatch them out, and you will have an everlasting brood of snakes in your heart. O, the importance of sanctification as the only possible way to break up the devil’s nest in the heart. You do not have to do anything to make the lust hatch out sin. It will hatch spontaneously. Sin, when perfected, i. e., when you yield to the lust and commit known and willing sin, bringeth forth death, i. e., condemnation, which, if not removed by pardon, will send you to hell. Be sure you get under the blood and have the devil’s nest egg washed out of your heart, and the fining fire utterly consume all of the pollution of inbred sin.

Verses 16-19



16, 17. Here the Apostle warns us against deceivers who oppose the truth he here reveals in the two works of grace, regeneration for the sinner, and sanctification for the Christian. He here certifies that two gifts come down from God out of heaven, i. e., “the good,” regeneration, and the perfect, sanctification. “With whom there is no parallax nor shadow of change.” Parallax is the angle which a planet makes with the sun. The argument here is that we should have no parallax with the glorious Sun of Righteousness. You all know that your shadow lengthens as you advance from the equator to the poles. It is significantly true in the spiritual as well as in the physical world. North pole churches are the blight of Christianity in the present age of secular ecclesiasticism. God wants us all to live under the equator, where we cast no shadow; as your shadow is simply the measure of your distance from God. O, the long shadows, cast by the popular churches. They rival each other with the high steeple, whose long shadow is the measure of their own condemnation. In equatorial latitudes flowers never fade, fruits never fail, winter never comes and summer ever lasts. So long as you cast any shadow with God, you are not ready to meet Him. Complete consecration puts you in line with God, and forever obliterates your shadow. Sanctification comes spontaneously, responsive to simple faith, when you are entirely consecrated. While out on the college campus on a beautiful, moonless, starlit night, observing the heavenly bodies with a telescope, responsive to my request to see the planet Jupiter, the professor continued to move the telescope hither and thither, exploring the celestial vaults, when suddenly a flood of light sweeps down. Behold, that beautiful and majestic planet, fourteen hundred times as large as this world, encircled with majestic belts, and traversed by brilliant satellites, suddenly burst upon an enraptured vision. Even so, the moment you get in line with God His light shines through you, dissipating forever all your doubt about the witness of the Spirit.

18. .. “That we should become first fruit of His creatures.” Throughout the Bible the millennium is contemplated as the heavenly harvest. Satan’s long, dark night followed the eclipse of Eden’s bright day, destined in due time to be superseded by the glorious millennium Sabbath. Romans 13:12. During this dreary, dark night of Satan’s reign and hell’s harvest, the saved have been few. Luke 13:23. The millennium will be earth’s glorious, heavenly harvest, of which the few who are plucked as brands from the burning, during these dark centuries, are but the first fruits.

19. James is a wonderfully practical preacher, elucidating every ramification of domestic as well as public life. Empty talk has been a snare to millions. Many people fall into idle gossip, and soon talk their religion all away. We should all do more infinitely more thinking than talking. Ten minutes five in prayer and five in religious conversation is ample time for a pastoral visit. Many preachers backslide, and cause their members to backslide, by unprofitable conversation.

Verses 20-24



20. The “righteousness of God” here mentioned contrasts vividly with our own righteousness, arising from our good works, which is filthy in the sight of God, and utterly inadequate to the severity of the Divine judgments. Unless we are covered with the righteousness of God in Christ, received, and appropriated by faith only, we are certain to go down under condemnation when we stand before the great white throne.

21. “Therefore laying aside pollution and residue of evil, receive with meekness the engrafted word which is able to save your souls.” When the sinner receives the “righteousness of God,” mentioned in James 1:20, he is then freely and fully justified by faith for Christ’s sake; however the pollution of original sin, “the residue of evil,” still survives in the heart. Apothemenoi, laying aside, is the Greek aorist, always revealing an instantaneous action. Hence we see clearly and unequivocally in this verse the second work of grace, in sanctification instantaneously wrought in the heart, in the removal of the pollution and remainder of sin. The residue theory of depravity surviving in the heart after regeneration, is hotly contested by Zinzendorfians, but a clear translation of this verse forever sweeps all controversy from the field. “Superfluity of naughtiness” is perfectly, correctly, and more lucidly translated “residue of sin” or “remainder of evil,” which clearly and forever settles the question that there is a residue of evil in the heart of the regenerate, to be eliminated by a subsequent work of grace. Sanctification actually engrafts the word in the heart, so it is no longer a dead letter like a branch severed from the trunk, but a living graft full of spiritual vitality, always flourishing and bearing fruit, perpetuating and consummating the Salvation of the soul.

22. Full salvation completely purifying the heart, always makes the outward life truly exemplary and obedient.

23, 24. The Bible is God’s looking-glass in which we all, when duly illuminated by the Holy Ghost, see ourselves as we are. That is the reason why candid spiritual truth has always been intolerably odious to impenitent sinners, and explains why Paul raised a row and received a thrashing everywhere he went. History repeats itself. In the days of Christ and the apostles, the Jewish churches were largely filled with impenitent sinners. It is equally true of the worldly churches of the present day.

Hence the pulpit in the main has laid aside the straight, hard, spiritual truth of conviction, conversion and sanctification, and gone off into intellectualism, which has no power to disturb the conscience nor save the soul. The sanctified preachers are set out of the churches for no reason save that they incessantly hold up God’s looking glass, i. e., the Bible, before the eyes of the wicked, carnal people, till they see themselves as they are in God’s sight, horrifically ugly with depravity, and black all over with transgression. Then they become mad and want to break the glass and kill the man who holds it up.

Verse 25



25. Egypt is sin land; the wilderness, law land; Canaan, grace land; and heaven, glory land. Pharaoh emblematizes the devil, who rules the sinner with a rod of iron, so long as he remains in the brick kilns and mortar yards of his galling slavery. The law was given from Mt. Sinai in the wilderness because all the people who live in that country have depravity, i. e., the man of sin, in their hearts, who must be held in subjugation by the law, otherwise he will break out and commit actual sin. The law not only holds him in subjection, but condemns him to die “The soul that sinneth it shall die” thus providing for the utter extermination of the sin principle out of the heart and the complete sanctification of our spiritual being. Into Canaan, i. e., grace land, Adam the first never can come. Hence the inhabitants of that land are as free as if there was no law, from the simple fact that there is nothing in their hearts antagonistic to the law of God; neither is there anything which needs the law to hold it in subjugation. Hence all the inhabitants of grace land enjoy this perfect law of spiritual liberty. While grace land is free from sin and unutterably delectable because of perfect spiritual liberty, yet it is everywhere encumbered with infirmities, i. e., sins of ignorance, which, though perfectly compatible with Christian perfection, must all be eliminated by the subsequent action of the Holy Ghost in glorification, when this mortal puts on immortality, thus wafting us out into glory land, disencumbered of every infirmity, similitudinous to the angels.

Verses 26-27



26. The tongue is the exponent of the soul. Hence it is always homogeneous with it, and a true exponent of it. We bridle horses not only to keep them, but especially to work them. So God bridles our tongues in sanctification, so that we speak no more for Satan, but for God only.

27. “This is pure and undefiled religion with God even the Father, to relieve the orphans and widows in their afflictions, and to keep yourselves unspotted from the world.” Hence you see the beautiful globe of our religion contains two hemispheres, i. e., philanthropy and purity. The world has much philanthropy, but it is all more or less contaminated with selfishness and utterly destitute of salvation. Philanthropy is the human and purity the divine side. Hagiazo, sanctify, means to take the world out of you. Hence, to “keep yourself unspotted from the world” simply means to get sanctified and keep sanctified. The Bible is a plain book when unobscured by the fogs of creedism. Holiness always superinduces philanthropy, while true and disinterested philanthropy only exists with genuine holiness. O, how simple is the whole problem of religion when you let the Bible speak! There is nothing in it but philanthropy and purity.

Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on James 1". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ges/james-1.html.
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