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Bible Commentaries
James 1

The Bible Study New TestamentBible Study NT

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Verse 1


From James. Both Paul (Galatians 1:19), and Josephus, the Jewish Historian, call this James the Lord’s brother. See the introduction to this Letter. A servant. He was not an apostle in the same sense as were the Twelve and Paul [On the meaning of apostle, see note on Hebrews 3:1] To all God’s people. Twelve Tribes = Jewish Nation/Race = God’s People. Scattered. If we apply this literally, it would mean the Greek-speaking Jews (see note on Acts 6:1). It is probably better to follow Lardner and apply it to all Christians, Jew and Gentile.

Verse 2


My brothers! This phrase appears again and again, to emphasize the ONE faith and life which Christians share in Christ, both Jew and Gentile. Consider yourself fortunate. Trials do not make you glad when you are suffering through them, but the results ought to make you jubilant! Compare Hebrews 12:5-13 and notes. Many were becoming restive because they were suffering because of Christ; and their unbelieving countrymen were saying that the suffering proved God was angry with them because they had accepted Christ. Compare 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16.

Verse 3


Because. God’s purpose in this is to train you to endure!

Verse 4


Be sure. Don’t be a fatalist, who thinks he is a passive plaything of fate, but accept these things as the discipline of a loving Father. Perfect and complete. “For endurance is a strong power, and patience produces many good things.”

Verse 5


Lacks wisdom. This verse begins a new thought. Wisdom is the cluster of good qualities which form true religion. Jewish thought placed a lot of emphasis on the ethical side of religion. Compare James 3:17; Proverbs 8:22-31. Pray to God. “It is the Lord who gives wisdom. Knowledge and understanding come from him” (Proverbs 2:6). Who will give it. Being put right with God through Christ, the Christian looks to God as Father! This brings man up closer to God’s level. God is available to all who are his children in Christ! God will give wisdom generously to all his people who ask him for it! Graciously. “He will not be angry with you because you did not already have wisdom!”

Verse 6


But you must believe. This is absolutely necessary to SINCERE prayer. Compare what Jesus said in Mark 11:23-24. and notes. Whoever doubts. Aphraates quotes the following as something which Jesus said; “Do not doubt, so that you will not sink into the world, as Simon (Peter), when he doubted, began to sink into the lake.” As a wave in the sea is driven first one way and then the other, so one who sinks in indecision never really comes to trust God.

Verses 7-8


Such a person is a hypocrite. He is unreliable, and has no standard plan of conduct or goal. Because he doesn’t really know what he wants, he can never get anything! That he will receive anything. MacKnight says: “Now, let not that man think, that, by the mere uttering of words not accompanied with sincere desires and actions, he shall receive any spiritual blessings from the Lord.”

Verse 9


The poor brother. This verse begins a new thought. Since James is usually plain-spoken in what he says, we may take this statement at face value. If the poor brother is blessed by God and becomes wealthy, he should not be ashamed of this. There is no virtue in being poor.

Verse 10


And the rich brother. If persecution takes away the rich man’s wealth, he must be glad. After all, he is escaping the temptations and dangers that come to the rich. In any case, wealth is not a permanent thing!

Verse 11


In the same way. The unbelieving Jews believed wealth was proof of God’s blessing. James shows how temporary it really is! As a rich man is conducting his affairs, a robber, or inflation, or some other such thing can make him penniless in a flash! [Johnson views these three verses as saying the same thing as 1 Corinthians 7:17-24.]

Verse 12


Happy is the man. Jubilant!!! This verse begins a new thought. The key to this section of six verses is; “God tempts no one to do evil.” Who remains faithful. Since life is like the puff of smoke that vanishes, it is the one (whether rich or poor) who remains faithful under trials, who will receive the life which God has promised to those who love him.

Verse 13


If a man is tempted. “If trials and suffering cause a man to fall into sin, he must not say, ‘This temptation comes from God,’ as the false teachers are saying.” For God. “God cannot be seduced by evil, nor does He himself use evil things to seduce anyone!” God does permit temptation to come to us, and in this sense He is said to tempt people, but He who is INFINITELY HOLY cannot himself be the source of temptation!!! James 1:14 explains.

Verse 14


By his own evil desire. This is really what Paul was saying in Romans 7:14-25. Any temptation depends upon our own response. This is why Jesus could be tempted without sinning (Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15). God limits the amount of temptation which comes to us (1 Corinthians 10:13). But our own evil desire draws us away and traps us when we permit it to do so!!!

Verse 15


Then his evil desire. The false teachers passionately loved adultery, so James uses the symbolism of a birth. Evil desire conceives, grows, and gives birth to sin. See 2 Peter 2:14. When it is full-grown. When sin comes to maturity, it gives birth to death (eternal death).

Verse 16


Do not be deceived! “Do not let the false teachers fool you into believing that God himself is the source of sin, and will not punish it!”

Verse 17


Every good gift. “To demonstrate that God cannot seduce people with sin and evil, I tell you that God himself is the source of every good gift that blesses us (such as a sound mind, health, good fortune, etc.), and every perfect present (such as the forgiveness of sin, God’s grace, eternal life) comes down out of heaven from God!!!” Of the heavenly lights. To the Jewish mind, God’s creation of light is a demonstration of His goodness! Compare 1 John 1:5. He himself. “He does not rise and set like the sun and the moon! Will He give us holy desires one time, and then seduce us to do evil??? NO! He is always the source of GOOD, and nothing but good!!! It is blasphemy, then, to say that God seduces men to sin so He will have an excuse to bring misery on them.”

Verse 18


By his own will. “The spiritual birth made possible by God’s act in Christ was not something God was forced to do. He did this by his own free will, because He loves us.” He brought us into being. “We are spiritually brought into being by the word of truth, and born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5).” First place. The symbolism would be familiar to the Jew. Just as the first fruits herald the new season, so those who are brought into being by the word of truth declare a new order of things in the spiritual world. God is calling a spiritual harvest out of the world and into Eternity!!! See Philippians 3:20-21 : 1 Corinthians 15:20.

Verse 19


Remember this. This verse begins a new thought. Compare Romans 12:1, Everyone must be. “Be quick to hear the Good News of God’s act in Christ; but be slow to speak about it until you understand it; and be slow to become angry in religious matters. Incomplete knowledge is dangerous in the hands of one who does not know what he is doing!”

Verse 20


Man’s anger. “Anger is a normal human response, and some use anger and persecution to try to bring others to their beliefs. But this cannot bring the faith which pleases God. It can only make men hypocrites by forcing them to profess what they really do not believe. A blind, furious zeal in religious matters is a subversive evil, which will destroy the one who uses it.”

Verse 21


Rid yourselves. “Get rid of those things which will destroy you!” Every filthy habit. Evil desires, greed, drunkenness, immorality, etc. The false teachers were addicted to these things. All wicked conduct. This is the deep hostility which leads people to do as much meanness and evil to each other as they can. Submit to God. The word which God plants in your heart is the Good News (compare John 6:45). But it has value ONLY as you submit to God! Jesus explained this by the parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23).

Verse 22


Do not fool yourself. “You do not practice what you preach because you think the Scriptures are a good-luck charm, and that if you listen to them being read, you will have life. But you are only fooling yourself, because you must put it into practice! (Matthew 7:24-27,)

Verses 23-24


Is like a man. “A man looks into a mirror and a few minutes later has forgotten what he looked like.”

Verse 25


The perfect law that sets men free. The Good News is the perfect law that sets men free, because: (1) It frees men and women from the slavery of their human nature and gives them back free will; (2) It freed the Jews from the Law of Moses, which was a curse; (3) It sets believers free from the guilt of sin and from the punishment to come; (4) It shows us that everyone is entitled to receive and obey the Good News; (5) Because it forbids prejudice. In what he does. In the things he does in response to the Lord’s commands, as he SEES them in the perfect law that sets men free. Faith cannot be divorced from action, as James 2:22 shows. See also Matthew 7:21-23.

Verse 26


If he does not. “If you think of yourself as religious, but rant and rave against those who differ with you in religious opinion (and think of this ranting and raving as a mark of devotion to God), your religion is worthless!” You can see this in certain types of people, such as in Acts 17:5. “If you do not have enough faith to control your tongue, you do not have enough to be saved!”

Verse 27


What God the Father. “Hypocrites think religion is doing religious things, but here is what God the Father says is religious.” Note: the word translated religion means worship through external things. Christians are to think of good works as being worship to God! But, only those things which God has commanded. Pure and genuine religion is this: Faith is made perfect through actions. MacKnight says: “According to the apostle, religion does not consist so much in the warmth of affection with which we worship God, as in good works.” Even driving out demons and performing miracles cannot substitute for doing what the Father wants you to do! See what Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23. “Value this as the best sacrifice and the greatest worship, to offer yourself as good and as just as possible!” Compare Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:28; Matthew 25:31-46.

Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on James 1". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ice/james-1.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.
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