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James 1

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

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Verse 1


WRITER: This book was written by James, called James "the less," little of stature, Mark 15:40, also called "the just" and referred to as one of the "Seeming Pillar" Apostles, James 1:1; Matthew 4:21; Galatians 2:9; Galatians 2:12. This James is also considered to have been the pastor of the Jerusalem church who presided over the Jerusalem conference, Acts 15:13-19. He once doubted that Christ was the Messiah, John 7:6, but was won by special vision, 1 Corinthians 15:7. He was also a brother of Judas who wrote the book of Jude, Judges 1:1. He was still alive and had a right to lead about a wife in A.D. 59, 1 Corinthians 9:5. He was a leading elder in the Jerusalem church when Paul made his last trip, Acts 21:18-25.

DATE: A.D. 60,

OCCASION: James wrote the book to brethren of the twelve tribes scattered abroad, saved people who were perhaps saved on the day of Pentecost, from the seventeen different nations and had returned to their communities and had organized fellowships or programs of service and worship in their own communities where they had been confronted with a conflict between those who believed one had to keep the Law of Moses in order to be saved and stay saved and those who had understood, in a more mature way, that salvation was obtained by a penitent believer by faith in Christ, and he should work to show this faith.

In this sense, this is perhaps a particular-- not a general epistle in that it was written to particular congregations of believers confronted with the issue of whether or not a mixture of works and grace was the proper method of acquiring and retaining salvation or whether the proposition was true that people are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. The proposition is therefore not one of work or faith but of work and faith which should harmoniously go together. This appears to be a general epistle only in the sense it was to be generally circulated among the churches, local congregations of Asia Minor.

( Five Subject Matter Divisions)

CHAPTER 1 Faith tested-James 1:1 to James 2:26

CHAPTER 2 - Faith, Tongue-Test – James 3:1-18

CHAPTER 3 - Faith Rebuked Worldliness –James 4:1-17

CHAPTER 4 - Faithless Rich Warned –James 5:1-6

CHAPTER 5 - Faiths Exhort of the Lords Return –James 5:7-20


1) Christian greetings are extended by James the less, "the Just," cousin of our Lord, pastor of The Jerusalem church, who presided over the Jerusalem council, brother of Judas, who wrote the book of Jude.

2) To the brethren of or from among the twelve tribes, then in (Gr. Diaspora) "dispersion"- brethren who had been saved at Pentecost from among the seventeen nations and carried the Christian faith and program of worship home with them to face multi-perils and trials.

Verse 2

1) My "brethren" (beritu - Syriac, meaning a fetter), (Gr. adelphoi) indicates a tie of affectionate affinity that existed between James and the brethren of the dispersion - individually and collectively -perhaps developed during the weeks following the great Pentecost revival when converts from seventeen nations stayed in Jerusalem for fellowship and instruction in the work of Christ - when many of the church sold possessions io help them meet needs for a time (Acts 4:32-37; Acts 6:1-7).

2) Calculate (Gr. agesasthe) or consider it "whole joy" when physically surrounded and overwhelmed by testings of variegated (Gr. poikilois) or many colored kinds (Matthew 5:11-12; 2 Timothy 3:12).

Verse 3

Experimentally recognize that the proof or good standard of your faith is patience - accomplished or achieved - a frame of mind that endures in perseverance, (Colossians 1:11; Romans 5:3).

Verse 4

1) Let patience have, or hold, or maintain her noble balance under pressure of the power of trials and testing work.

2) The purpose of persevering patience is to make perfect, (Gr. teleion) (mature), or fully attain the Christian goal; (Gr. leipomenoi) - lacking, digressing, or coming short in nothing (Matthew 5:48; John 4:24).


When a founder has cast his bell he does not at once put it into the steeple, but tries it with’ the hammer, and beats it on every side, to see if there is a flaw. So when Christ converts a man, He does not at once convey him to heaven, but suffers him to be beaten upon by many temptations and afflictions, and then exalts him to his crown. As snow is of itself cold, yet warms and refreshes the earth, so afflictions, though in themselves grievous, keep the Christian’s soul warm and make it fruitful.

Fellowship News

Verse 5

1) If however any fall short (Gr. leipetai) - (drawing account runs low) of wisdom, he is exhorted to (Gr. aiteito) implore, request, and keep on going back to God for wisdom to help to apply accumulated knowledge (Ecclesiastes 2:26; Luke 11:11-13).

2) God gives to every earnest petitioner - wisdom liberally - He doles it out actively, gladly and does not even (Gr. oneidizontos) "chide" or complain for one’s asking (Hebrews 4:16).


There is a motto which reads: "You can do more than pray AFTER you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray UNTIL you have prayed."

- The King’s Business

Verse 6

1) Divine petitions to God for wisdom must be made in faith, (Gr. diakrinomenos) (Not one thing doubting), not in indecision, not questioning, not criticizing, (Luke 11:13; Hebrews 11:6).

2) Frequently with clarifying illustrations, James compares a doubting person with a sea-weed, bounced about with the waves - unstable, tossed and uncertain, Plant yourself like a rock in stormy trials and keep on and on petitioning - and you, not the tumbling seaweed doubter, shall have victory. (1 Corinthians 15:57-58).


Faith knows that God has His moment, and in that moment everything yields to His will. Faith can wait. If she comes to a prison gate, she can stand without until God touches the bars, and it flies open. If the enemy hurls rocks from the battlement, she stands unmoved and unharmed. Faith knows some Jericho’s need to be compassed fourteen times, and she carries with her the word of victory to give the final shout.

- Selected


A traveler crossed a frozen stream

In trembling fear one day,

Later a teamster drove across,

And whistled all the way.

Great faith and little faith alike,

Were granted safe convoy,

But one had pangs of needless fear,

The other all the joy!

- Selected

Verse 7

Let not that wavering, unstable, doubting, carping critic (Gr. oiestho - suppose) he shall receive even one thing requested of the Lord, except he ask in imploring faith.


Doubt sees the obstacles,

Faith sees the way!

Doubt sees the darkest night, Faith sees the day!

Doubt dreads to take a step, Faith soars on high!

Doubt questions, ’Who believes?" Faith answers, I!"

- Gospel Banner

Verse 8

A two-faced or two-minded man, "Mr.-going-both-ways" - (Gr. akastatos) - a reeling, staggering, mentally and emotionally fickle man, is unsettled in all his ways. He must put his faith in God, petition Him for wisdom and help, else he will live and die unstable, wavering and useless to Christian service, (Proverbs 3:3-5; Hebrews 11:6).


Irresolution is a worse vice than rashness. He that shoots best may sometimes miss the mark; but he that shoots not at all can never hit it.

- Feltham

Verse 9

1) The brother of low-degree (in outward appearance or worldly goods), let rejoice or glory in that he is exalted, lifted up, or gained in wisdom in the Spirit, because of his earnest imploring of God in faith.

2) God has chosen to bless, pour out His blessings, on even the poor in spirit who intreat Him (Matthew 5:3; James 2:5; 1 Corinthians 4:10-13).

Verse 10

The rich (Gr. plousios) are to rejoice and glory as children of God - not because of their earthly riches (plutocracy) but because, though as a flower of "fodder," he withereth and shall pass away - he too, may ask in faith nothing wavering and find God’s will and place for him thereby.

Verse 11

1) James is replete with his use of illustrations from natural experiences of life, using more examples per chapter than any other writer in the New Testament, other than Jesus.

2) He describes the sun as having completed a risen act "no sooner is risen than the (Gr. kausoni) ’scorching, burning’ heat of it begins to wither the grass and the petal of the flower with its appearance of beauty begins to fade."

3) Abruptly James asserts (Gr. houtos) "just like this," the plutocratic one exists and is careless in insecure ways and his works rendered carelessly with plutocratic riches soon fade and are extinguished, as if tried by fire. Psalms 1:4.

4) James indicates that the testing of life is designed to, call men to prepare to meet God. The trial of life’s works are to be by the Word of the Lord and by fire.

5) The Word teaches that salvation comes by faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31; 1 John 5:1). It also teaches that services rendered to the Lord, after salvation, rendered by faith, according to the will of God expressed in the Word, shall be richly rewarded, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.

Verse 12

1) James declares that blessed or "spiritually prosperous" is the person who abides or holds up under all temptations and endures allurements or testings. The person having been so approved shall one day receive the Crown of Life which the Lord has promised or announced for the ones who love Him. The Crown of Life is a special reward for all children of God who faithfully persevere in suffering and sacrifice for Christ unto death, Romans 8:17; 1 Corinthians 3:13-15; Revelation 2:10.

2) The Crown of Life will be given, in the future, to those who received God-life by salvation, by faith in Jesus Christ, in this life, and persisted in faithful service and suffering and sacrifice until the end. The Crown of Life promised, is a reward, not salvation. (2 John 1:8).


Who does God’s work will get God’s pay, However long may seem the day, However weary be the way; Though powers and princes thunder "Nay," Who does God’s work will get God’s pay.

He does not pay as others pay, In gold or land or raiment gay; In goods that vanish and decay; But God in wisdom knows a way, And that is sure, let come what may, Who does God’s work will get God’s pay.


Verse 13

1) James admonishes no one to charge allurements, (Gr. peirazomai) or temptation in the evil sense, to God, for God, the Trinitarian Deity, is not allured of evil things, neither does He Himself allure men to do evil. Temptations, in the evil sense, come from one’s own evil nature and from Satan, not from God. Matthew 15:18.

2) Trials and testings are permitted of God - it is these through which men by faith in Him should persevere, nothing doubting. Note: a) Joseph, b) Moses, c) Daniel, d) Peter, and e) Paul.

Verse 14

1) Man’s source of evil or bent toward evil is inherent. Lust is personified as the harlot that baits, allures, or traps men to do evil deeds.

2) James then affirms that each one who is tempted, or allured in the evil sense, experiences such by letting go of his own inherent desires, when he is baited, trapped, or drawn away by another evil person, or by Satan, as David did, Psalms 51:1-16.

Verse 15

1) The term lust conceived (conscio) is from Latin and (Gk. sellabousa) refers to the flesh desire of the male and female as the flagellation of male and female reproductive sperm and egg join to produce a sinful creature. (Psalms 51:5).

2) Every person has death "in him" from conception and birth. Death is only the fruit of the old, conceived nature, mature or full grown, 1 Corinthians 15:56, Romans 5:14; Romans 5:21; Hebrews 9:27-28.

3) Here, lust that leads to conception, is not sin, within sacred matrimony, but the fruit, creature produced in conception, is a sin creature, - See Hebrews 13:4; Psalms 51:5.

Verse 16

1) James warns the dearly beloved brethren to avoid being allured, led away, or led astray. He would have them aware that evil deeds come from an evil nature and the evil nature stays with a saved person as long as he lives.

2) But he is admonished to subdue it, to keep it under control, while serving the Lord by faith Romans 12:1-2; Colossians 3:5-14.

Verse 17

1) James asserts that every giving act, (Gr. dosis) that is genuine and good, and every gift given, comes from Almighty God the Creator and Sustainer of life and light (Gr. photon). Perfect gifts come from this Perfect Giver and Sustainer of life.

2) No perfect (Gr. teleion) gift can come from Satan because he owns nothing to give. Let faith in God, as the Owner of all things and Sustainer of all life, be reaffirmed in the heart and mind of every believer.

3) He changes (Gr. paralloge) not, Malachi 3:6.


There is an Eye that never sleeps

Beneath the wing of night; There is an Ear that never shuts

When sink the beams of light; There is an Arm that never tires

When human strength gives way; There is a Love that never fails,

When earthly-loves decay.

- Selected

Verse 18

1) James affirms that one’s being begotten as a child of God is according to His own will (Gr. bouletheis). This means that He willed or purposed our salvation first, John 1:13. It is effected "by the Word of Truth".

2) This means that God uses a) the instrumentality of the preaching of the Word, b) the convicting of the Holy Spirit, and c) repentance and remorse in wrought by the Holy Spirit upon the heart of an unsaved person to bring him to the place of personal acknowledgment of his sin. This is followed by the sinner’s exercising the gift of faith, (the first spiritual gift) 1 Corinthians 13:13, in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, Ephesians 2:8-9.

3) We are a kind of first fruits of His creation, Romans 16:5. We become new creatures in Him by a) the initiative act of God’s sovereign will and purpose in eternity; b) effected by the power of God in time, through the Word of Truth, the Gospel, and c) accepted by the voluntary volition and choice of each -man in time. This is a summary statement of what the Bible teaches concerning foreknowledge. foreordination, and predestination, as they relate personally to redemption.

Verse 19

1) In the light of this, each person is admonished to be (Gr. tachus) swift to hear or give heed to the Word of Truth.

2) He is to be (Gr. bradus) slow or cautious to speak, gab or do idle talk, Titus 1:7.

3) He is to be slow with reference to impassioned, wrathful anger - such as the release of an enraged temper, Matthew 12:36; Ephesians 4:26.


Cotton Mather used to say there was a gentleman mentioned in the nineteenth chapter of Acts, to whom he was more deeply indebted than almost any other person. And that was the town dark of Ephesus, whose counsel was to do nothing rashly. Upon any proposal of consequence it was usual with him to say, "Let us first consult with the town clerk of Ephesus:’ What mischief, trouble, and sorrow would be avoided in the world were the people more in the habit of consulting this gentleman.

_ Selected

Think all you speak, but speak not all you think. - Thoughts are your own; your words are so no more.


Verse 20

1) Impassioned anger (Gr. orge) wrath of a natural man does not produce righteousness toward God.

2) James therefore encourages each believer to exercise control when he is tempted in his passions to do wrong deeds and speak wrong words. Ephesians 4:30-32.


If you would learn self-mastery, begin by yielding yourself to the One Great Master.

- Lobstein

Those who can command themselves command others.

- Hazlitt


When Abraham Lincoln was candidate for the Presidency, someone asked him what he thought of the prospect. With characteristic humor he answered, "I do not fear Breckinridge, for he is of the South and the North will not support him; I do not much fear Douglas, for the South is against him. But there is a man named Lincoln I see in the papers, of whom I am very much afraid. If I am defeated, it will be by that man."

- Gospel Herald

Verse 21

1) Filthiness (Gr. ruparian) and over-flowing malice which obstruct the righteousness of God in one’s life should be subdued (Gr. prauteti) with meekness. The (Gr. emphuton) implanted Word, the living Christ, is to be entertained in the soul-life of each one to help Him subdue the old man according to the will of the Lord.

2) In this manner the full life of each of God’s people may be redeemed, Romans 13:12; Colossians 3:8; Ephesians 4:22; Ephesians 4:25; 1 Peter 2:1.

Verse 22

1) Children of God are admonished to keep on becoming doers or agents of the Word and not idle hearers only, or idle agents and haters, deceivers, and deluders of their own selves. James 4:17.

2) The idle hearer who turns away from doing good becomes a base self-deceiver, Romans 2:13; Colossians 2:4; Ephesians 2:10.


Dwight Moody once was in a boat That caught on fire while afloat And he helped them put out the flame By passing buckets, but there came Some passengers with this to say Won’t you sir, lead us while we pray That God will save us from this fire?

But Moody said, "Friend, your desire is worthy, but if I were you I’d pray and pass the buckets, too."

- From "The Shepherd"

Verse 23

1) Any person who is a hearer of the Word and

not an active agent, doing the things taught therein, is like a grown man gawking at his birth-face in a mirror, a metal reflector, beholding his own form with vain pride.

2) He is headed for destruction, a terrible fall, Proverbs 16:18; Proverbs 29:23; 1 John 2:16.


When you get what you want in your struggle for self and the world makes you king for a day

Just go to the mirror and look at yourself and see what that guy has to say.

For it isn’t your mother or father or wife who judgment upon you must pass

The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life is the man looking back from the glass.

He’s the fellow to please, never mind all the rest for he’s with you clear through to the end

And you’ve passed your most dangerous and difficult task if the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner, and chisel a plum and think you’re a wonderful guy

But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum if you can’t look him straight in the eye.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years and get pats on the back as you pass

But your final reward will be heartaches and tears if you’ve cheated the man in the glass.

Verse 24

1) This gawking, self-admirer, "in the window beholds himself," and off he goes, forgetting what sort of fellow he was. He doesn’t comb his hair. He doesn’t shave his beard. He doesn’t wash his face. He has been a vain beholder, without improving his personal appearance one whit.

2) This is the way of the way-side hearer of the Word, deceived. Matthew 13:4; Matthew 13:19. Having even known to do good and doing it not, to him it was sin, James 4:17. He sins by omission.

Verse 25

1) In contrast with or in addition to the goggle eyed man who stares in a mirror and does nothing, James asserts that he who looks into the perfect law of liberty, the Word of the Lord, and continues as an active agent of work thereby, this man shall be spiritually prosperous in the doings or practice of Him. Matthew 6:33; Psalms 1:3.

2) This hearing, gazing, and intent-on-doing agent of the Word, the finished law of liberation, shall be (Gr. makarios) "prosperous" in all his deeds, Romans 10:4; 1 Peter 1:12, Romans 8:2; John 8:32; John 8:36; Matthew 5:3-12.

Verse 26

1) Should anyone think or appear a religious person to be, a mutterer of prayers or counter of beads, not bridling, directing or controlling his own tongue, but deceiving, playing tricks on his own heart - vain or empty is the religion of this man.

2) Religion, without tongue control, constitutes spiritual suicide to one’s influence of life. Proverbs 18:13; Proverbs 21:23; Proverbs 25:18.


Guard well thy tongue -

It stretches far;

For what you say

Tells what you are.

- Selected

In company guard your tongue; In solitude, your heart. Our words need watching. So also do our thoughts and imaginations which grow most active when we are alone.

- Spurgeon

Verse 27

1) The test of Christian faith is the doing of the things which Jesus taught and practiced, Matthew 7:16; Matthew 25:40.

2) Pure, clean, undefiled religion along side of that God approved, is to inspect, to look upon, to visit with the idea of superintending, giving to orphans and widows who are bereft of father or mother, in the midst of their tribulations or afflictions, John 14:18.

3) The one who engages in this pure religion, is to keep or guard himself, unspotted, unspeckled from the present world order. 1 Corinthians 9:26-27; 2 Corinthians 6:14-17.


I do not know how long I’ll live

But while I live, Lord let me give

Some comfort to someone in need

By smile or nod - kind word or deed

And I at me do what e’er I can

To ease things for my fellow man.

I want naught but to do my part

To "lift" a tired or weary heart.

To change folks frowns to smiles again -

Then I will not have lived in vain

And I’ll not care how long I’ll live

If I can give - and give - and give.

_ 365 Sunrays


David Brainerd, under the date of April 25, 1742, wrote in his journal:

"Farewell, vain world, my soul can bid adieu; Your Saviour taught me to abandon you. Your charms may gratify a sensual mind, But cannot please a soul for God designed Forbear to entice, cease then my soul to call; ’Tis fixed through grace - my God shall be my all. While He thus lets me Heavenly glories view, Your beauties fade; my heart’s no room for you."

- Gospel Herald

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on James 1". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/james-1.html. 1985.
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