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Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

James 5

Verse 1

Jas 5:1. Go to is the same phrase as that in chapter 4:13. There it is a rebuke for those who are boastful of their expected gain, here it is against those who have obtained it by wrongful means which will be considered at verse 4. The miseries will come upon them at the day of judgment.

Verse 2

Jas 5:2. Wealth that is not needed and especially that has been accumulated in an evil manner, will deteriorate by the simple fact of hoarding.

Verse 3

Jas 5:3. Witness against you means that the fact of their cankering and rusting will prove they did not need them and that they had been hoarded. For the last days denotes that these treasures will be against them at the last great day of judgment.

Verse 4

Jas 5:4. The mere possession of wealth does not condemn one as may be seen from Mat 27:57; Mar 15:43; Luk 23:50-51; Mar 10:24; 1Ti 6:17-19. The question is as to how a man obtains his wealth and the use he makes of it. In the present verse the men became rich by withholding the wages of their employees. This does not have any bearing on disputes about what should be the wages, but is considering only what was kept back by fraud. Sabaoth means "hosts" or armies, and the thought is that He who is able to command the armies of Heaven will be able to deal with all unjust men.

Verse 5

Jas 5:5. Day of slaughter signifies a day of great preparation for gratification of self at the expense of others. Been wanton means they had lived in luxury upon the things they had fraudulently taken from the poor.

Verse 6

Jas 5:6. This verse might seem to be a break into the line of thought but it is not. The poor people who had been imposed upon were not receiving their just dues, and they would naturally feel disturbed over the seeming neglect of the Lord. James mentions the fact of the condemnation and slaying of the Just One, meaning Christ, that even He did not resist. (See Isa 53:7 and Act 8:32.)

Verse 7

Jas 5:7. James now addresses the poor brethren who had been unjustly treated, and on the basis of facts and truths just revealed, exhorts them to be patient unto the coming of the Lord when all wrongs will be adjusted. As an example of patience he refers to the husbandman or farmer as he proceeds in his business. Early and latter rain actually means the fall and spring rains. I shall quote from Smith's Bible Dictionary as follows: "In the Bible 'early rain' signifies the rain of the autumn, and 'latter rain' the rain of spring. For six months in the year, from May to October, no rain falls, the whole land becomes dry, parched and brown. The autumnal rains are eagerly looked for, to prepare the earth for the reception of the seed."

Verse 8

Jas 5:8. Also patient has reference to the patience of the husbandman commented upon in the preceding verse. Christians can well afford to be patient for their interests are far more valuable than those of a farmer. Draweth nigh. Whether James has reference to the destruction of Jerusalem which was then only a few years away, at which time the persecutions of the disciples were to be somewhat eased, or to the personal appearance on earth of Jesus for the judgment, the time would be comparatively short when the endless duration after the judgment is considered.

Verse 9

Jas 5:9. To grudge means to murmur against another because of oppression. Christians not only were told to be patient under the persecutions from enemies in the world, but to exhibit the same patience toward their brethren who are so unthoughtful as to mistreat them. Lest ye be condemned when Jesus comes to summon all before the judgment, at which time he will condemn all who did not maintain patience under difficulties as well as those who caused the difficulties. Judge standeth at the door is explained by the comments on the preceding verse.

Verse 10

Jas 5:10. A few verses above James refers to the farmer who sets an example of patience under times of anxiety. He now makes reference to the teaching prophets of old time for the same purpose of a lesson in patience.

Verse 11

Jas 5:11. Those who endure afflictions are to be counted happy because of what it indicates for them. (See chapter 1:2, 3.) Just after using the word endure James makes mention of the patience of Job which verfles the definition often given of the word patience, namely, that it means en durance. End of the Lord means the outcome of the case under the blessing of the Lord. It shows that He is merciful even though he suffers a righteous man to be afflicted for a good purpose (Job 42:12-17).

Verse 12

Jas 5:12. Swear not. Jesus taught that his disciples should not make oaths in Mat 5:34-35, and the reader should see the comments at that place. Sometimes an attempt is made to justify making oaths by saying Jesus was only condemning false oaths. But James spoils that theory by his words neither by any other oath, which rules out every shade and grade of swearing. Besides, there is nothing that should urge the Christain to make oaths, for this is a case where he can obey the command of the Lord and satisfy the laws of the land also. Instead of making an oath the Christian can notify the officer saying "I will affirm," and his word will be taken for the same value as an oath. That is what the scripture here and at Mat 5:37 means by directing that your yea be yea and your nay be nay. The fundamental difference between an oath and an affirmation is that the latter does not use the name of God; also that one says "I affirm" instead of "I swear." Lest ye fall into condemnation is another way of saying that if a disciple makes an oath he will be condemned, because both Jesus and James have forbidden it.

Verse 13

Jas 5:13. Afflicted is from KAKO-PATHEO, and Thayer defines it, "To suffer evils; hardship, troubles." It does not refer to physical diseases which will come in the next verse. When a disciple is beset with these trials he should be in the frame of mind that would lead him to go to God in prayer for strength and encouragement. Merry does not mean to be gay or frivolous, for the original is defined to denote "Be of good cheer." The phrase let him sing psalms is from the noted Greek word PSALLO, and Thayer defines it as follows: "In the New Testament to sing a hymn, to celebrate the praises of God in song." There are times when a person is not in the "mood" for singing and James recognizes that truth in this verse. David also recognizes it in Psa 137:2-4. Solomon likewise had the thought in mind when he spoke of the inappropriateness of the man "that singeth songs to an heavy heart" (Pro 25:20).

Verse 14

Jas 5:14. The word sick is from AS-THENEO, which Thayer defines at this place, "To be feeble, sick." Robinson defines it, "A sick person, the sick." It is the word that is used in the Greek text at Luk 7:10; Joh 4:46 Joh 11:3; Act 9:37 and other similar passages. From the above information we are sure the word in our passage has the regular sense of bodily disease, and not a figurative or spiritual condition as some teach. This verse should be regarded in the same light as Mar 16:17-18 :1 Corinthians chapters 12, 13, 14; Eph 4:8-13; Heb 2:3-4 and all other passages dealing with the subject of spiritual gifts. In the early years of the church the Lord granted miraculous demonstrations to confirm the truth that had been preached while the New Testament was being completed. Among those miracles was that of healing the sick and since elders (or pastors, Eph 4:11) were among those receiving such gifts, it is reasonable that they should be called in such a case. The use of oil does not signify anything contrary to these remarks, for Jesus sometimes used material articles in connection with His miraculous healing, such as clay in the case of the blind man in Joh 9:6-7. Just why such things were done in connection with the miracles we are not told and we need not speculate as to why.

Verse 15

Jas 5:15. Prayer of faith means miraculous faith which was one of the spiritual gifts discussed in the preceding paragraph (1Co 12:9). The forgiveness of sins is mentioned in addition to the healing of sickness. This shows that sickness is not spiritual for that would be the same as guilt of sins. It would be meaningless to speak of healing spiritual sickness or a condition of sin and then add that the man's sins also would be forgiven. That would be equivalent to saying the Lord would heal a man of his sins (would forgive him) and would also forgive his sins. It would not alter the discussion to say that the sins were what caused the man to be sick, for that would still leave the truth that it refers to sickness of the body.

Verse 16

Jas 5:16. Confess your faults does not mean merely to confess that we have faults, but the faults themselves are to be acknowledged. One to another denotes that we are to confess the faults that we have committed against another; we are to confess such faults to him. Sins which are known to God only need only be con fessed to Him. That ye may be healed. This is said in direct connection with the mention of faults, hence we know the last word is used figuratively or concerning a spiritua) cure. No man can do another man's praying for him, but both can pray together for the forgiveness of the one at fault. Effectual means active or practical, and it is used to indicate a man who not only prays to God but who also makes it his business to serve Him. The prayers of such a man will be regarded by the Lord.

Verse 17

Jas 5:17-18. The account of this event with Elias (Elijah in the Old Testament) is in 1Ki 17:1-7 1Ki 18:41-46. The prophet did not perform the feat merely to demonstrate his miraculous power, for such kinds of evidence were not necessary at that time. The connection shows that Ahab was a wicked king of Israel, and the Lord saw fit to punish him with a dearth by withholding the rain. The prayer of Elijah is not recorded, but he was a righteous man and realized that the wicked king would not be brought to repentance but by some severe judgment. Accordingly, when he prayed to the Lord on the subject his prayer was accepted as just and the chastisement was sent on the king and his country. It was therefore a miracle granted because of the righteousness of the request. Yet even at such a time, had he not been a righteous man his prayer would not have availed any, to say nothing about its availing much. Subject to like passions means he was only a human being, yet because of his good life his prayer was heard, since that was yet in the days of special providence.

Verse 19

Jas 5:19. To err from the truth means to wander to one side according to the comments at chapter 1:16. To convert such a person means to induce him to turn and reenter the pathway of truth, since the word convert literally means to reverse a direction.

Verse 20

Jas 5:20. A sinner is any person who is doing wrong, whether he be a man of the world or an erring disciple. No man can repent for another but he may be able to persuade the guilty one to repent. If he succeeds he will save a soul from death because the one in error was going the way that leads to spiritual death. Hide is from KALUPTO. and both Thayer and Robinson explain it to mean that by reason of the repentance of the erring one, the Lord will overlook and not punish the one who had gone astray. This act of the Lord's mercy would be equivalent to hiding the sins because they would not be brought up to judgment afterward.
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on James 5". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/james-5.html. 1952.