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Bible Commentaries
James 1

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentZerr's N.T. Commentary

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Verse 1

Jas 1:1. I have consulted a number of works of reference such as commentaries, lexicons, dictionaries and histories, as well as the various passages in the New Testament that are related to to the subject, and my conclusion is that the author of this epistle is "James the Lord's brother" (Gal 1:19). In the passage just cited he is called an apostle but not one of the twelve. He was an important man as may be seen by the following passages. Act 12:17 Act 15:13-21 Act 21:18; Gal 1:19 Gal 2:9 Gal 2:12. James calls himself a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is significant, for it indicates that both of these members of the Deity must be recognized as having divine authority. The epistle was especially written to Jewish Christians who were scattered among the Gentiles. The term twelve tribes is used figuratively only, for in Christ there are no tribal distinctions. It is used in the same sense as Paul used it in Act 26:7, where we know he was speaking of them as Christians. The truth is that there were disciples of Christ made from all the twelve tribes. Greeting means a friendly salutation from one who wishes well for the one greeted.

Verse 2

Jas 1:2. Count it all joy cannot mean to pretend that they get enjoyment out of that which is disagreeable, for that would be an act of insincerity. The idea is they should regard it as something that would result in a benefit. Temptations refers to adversities or hardships such as might be imposed upon them by their enemies.

Verse 3

Jas 1:3. Patience means endurance and if the disciples remain true to Christ amidst the trials, it will demonstrate the genuineness of their faith.

Verse 4

Jas 1:4. Since the good result of trials that have been endured through faith is to demonstrate patience, the disciples are urged to "let the good work go on." The word perfect means complete, and if the good work is allowed to continue to the end, it will result in a life that is completely devoted to God or that is willing to go far enough that it will be wanting (lacking) nothing.

Verse 5

Jas 1:5. The word wisdom is from the Greek word SOPHIA which occurs 51 times in the New Testament. It has many shades of meaning concerning which Thayer makes the following statement: "Used of the knowledge of very diverse [different] matters, so that the shade of meaning in which the word is taken must be discovered from the context [connection] in every particular case." We are sure that God will not change the physical conditions of any man's brain, therefore the wisdom which James says He will give in answer to prayer cannot mean the natural gift colloquially called "horse sense." Hence the passage means to ask God to help us in our efforts to use our faculties in acquiring useful knowledge. Upbraideth not means God will never tire of hearing the requests of His children.

Verse 6

Jas 1:6. Regardless of what may be said as to how or when God answers prayer, we are sure He will not grant any petition that is not in harmony with His word. Therefore to ask in faith means to ask for such favors that are in harmony with that word since faith comes by hearing it (Rom 10:17). Furthermore, we must believe that word after we hear it or else our attitude will be a wavering one. James likens such a mind to a wave that is unsteady because It changes its position every time the wind changes.

Verse 7

Jas 1:7. Again, regardless of how or when God answers prayer, He will not grant any petition made by a person such as the preceding verse describes.

Verse 8

Jas 1:8. Double minded means to be uncertain or doubting. Thayer defines it at this place as one who is "divided in interest." Since the passage says he is unstable in all his ways it puts him in the class described in verse six.

Verse 9

Jas 1:9. Low degree. Those in the humble or lowly walks of life may take satisfaction from the exaltation or honor of being a servant of Christ. That is the most dignified station or manner of life that any man can maintain.

Verse 10

Jas 1:10. The rich man who trusts in his wealth (Mar 10:24) has no Just cause for rejoicing unless he become low or humble. The uncertainty of the wealth of this world is likened to the flowers that are flourishing so briefly.

Verse 11

Jas 1:11. As the sun overcomes the beauty and show of the blossoms, so the test of time will finally nut an end to the vanity of riches. Ways means purposes or schemes that a man has that have the accumulation of wealth as their chief motive. This does not condemn the lawful production of property that is intended to be used for doing good. (See Eph 4:28.)

Verse 12

Jas 1:12. Temptations means trials same as in verse 2. They are bound to come especially to a man who is determined to serve Christ in the midst of sinful men. But such experiences are calculated to become a test of his faith. The test will not be completed until the end of life (Rev 2:10), and if the disciple is thus faithful he will receive the crown promised by the Lord.

Verse 13

Jas 1:13. The Bible does not contradict itself, so when it says for us to consider temptations as cause for Joy (verse 2) then here tells us that God does not tempt any man, we know there is a difference between temptations. The key to the subject is in the word evil which is not the same as trials or adversities. It is from an original word that always means the opposite of good; is always morally bad. Of course God does not use such means to test His creatures in their• religious life.

Verse 14

Jas 1:14. James uses the process of natural reproduction to illustrate the course of sin. First a man's lust (evil desire) entices the object or victim of wicked design.

Verse 15

Jas 1:15. With the consummation of the evil design, that is, when it has accomplished its gratification the conception takes place. After the conception the next step is the bringing forth of the creature that was conceived. The name of the creature so conceived and brought forth is SIN. The final destiny of such a creature is death or separation from God. The way to avoid such a regrettable reproduction is for a man to resist all of the enticements as a virtuous woman should resist all who would lure her into a life of shame.

Verse 16

Jas 1:16. In the preceding two verses the writer draws an illustration from the natural process of reproduction. In this and the following verse he makes one out of the motions of the heavenly bodies. Err is from the Greek word PLANAO, and it is the verb form of a noun in the same class which is "planet," coming from the Greek word PLANATE% which Jud 1:13 uses where he speaks of "wandering stars." Since these planets or stars were believed to wander from side to side, their action was adopted into language to describe men who stray from the straight path. The verse means that Christians should not imitate the action of those planets here translated by the word err.

Verse 17

Jas 1:17. We may rightly feel indebted to any thing or person that is the source of benefits to us. The planets are not such a source in the sense of being the giver, but instead are themselves a gift to us. The giver of them is God and James calls Him the Father of lights, the last word meaning the planets because they are luminous bodies. Since the Father (or creator) of these lights is the giver of all good things, we should imitate Him and not the planets which have the habit of erring or wandering about. God does not waver and as an indication of the steadiness of His example. James declares that He does not even produce a shadow by turning. The figure is drawn from the circumstance that at certain seasons and at particular places on the earth, when the sun is straight over the equator it cannot cause any shadow. But when it turns to go either north or south (as it seems to do), it will then cast a shadow. James thus describes God as more fixed in His characteristics than the sun.

Verse 18

Jas 1:18. The writer again uses the thought of reproduction for an illustration. A father begets his own children and they become of the same kind of creatures as himself. God begets men by the word of truth concerning Christ (1Jn 5:1). First-fruits is used in the sense of seniority because Christians are the first creatures who are said to have been born to God through faith in Jesus who is the "only begotten" Son of the Father in the sense of personality of being.

Verse 19

Jas 1:19. Wherefore means because of such a truth, namely. that belief of the word concerning Christ begets one unto God, it is a great reason for giving respect to that word. Swift means eager or ready to hear the word of the Lord. No man can be too eager to hear the word of God, but he should be slow or discreet in what he says. Likewise he is not condemned for the mere fact of becoming angry (Ephe-sians 4:26). but he should bring himself into control and not be inclined to fly into a rage at every provocation.

Verse 20

Jas 1:20. A man who controls himself may do right in spite of his anger, but no person will work the righteousness of God because he is worked up by wrath.

Verse 21

Jas 1:21. Lay apart signifies that a man must put his evil practices out of his life himself, and not expect God to work some special influence over him to purify him. All filthiness means any kind of impurity either of body or mind. Naughtiness is a stronger word than is usually attached to it, and means that which is injurious and wicked. Superfluity signifies something that is extra or that is useless as an item of a man's character. The sentence denotes that any evil principle is such an item when it is a part of a man's conduct. Receive with meekness means to accept the word in humility and not in the spirit of resentment. Engrafted signifies to be implanted or received in the heart with the spirit of obedience. If it is so received the word of the Lord will save the soul.

Verse 22

Jas 1:22. Even a good seed that is implanted in the soil will produce no fruit unless it becomes active. So the engrafted word will be fruitless unless the receiver of it becomes active and does what it directs. It is a matter of self-deception to imagine that hearing the ward is all that is required to be acceptable to the Lord. Even men will not be deceived (much less the Lord) by such a character, for it will be apparent to all that such a person is not producing anything useful to others.

Verse 23

Jas 1:23. While a man is standing before a mirror he is seeing himself in reflection but no action is being shown. Likewise as long as a person is only hearing (or reading) the Bible he is seeing his duties portrayed but seeing nothing being done.

Verse 24

Jas 1:24. The moment he leaves the mirror the image disappears from his mind, and he will need to return to it again to "see himself as others see him." It he could remain constantly before the glass he would never forget the vision of his appearance. However, in a literal sense a man could not remain always in front of the mirror and also attend to his other business, but that is not the part of the subject James is illustrating.

Verse 25

Jas 1:25. In mental and spiritual matters it is possible to accomplish things that are impossible with material activities. Hence it is possible to he constantly in the view of the spiritual mirror and at the same time be actively engaged in the Lord's work as the writer now insists. It is called the perfect law of liberty because it makes us free from our sins and gives us the spiritual liberty that cannot be had from any other source. (See Rom 8:2) It is necessary to look into the Bible in order to learn what kind of work the Lord desires, then what is done will be correct as to activity and such will bring the blessing of God.

Verse 26

Jas 1:26. Thayer defines the original for religious as "Fearing or worshipping God," and religion is the noun form of the same term. Bridleth not his tongue would violate verse 19, and such a person is considered self-deceived (verse 22). Such a religion is vain which means "without any force" according to Thayer's definition.

Verse 27

Jas 1:27. Pure means unmixed and undefiled denotes something that is unsoiled. There is not much difference between the two words, but the former has the idea of something not attached to another ingredient to begin with, while the latter denotes that it remains so afterward. Visit. One definition of the word is "To look upon in order to help or benefit" Thayer. It has to do with one's actions toward others. Unspotted from the world means to be free from the vices commonly practiced by mankind.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on James 1". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/james-1.html. 1952.
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