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  • A flesh brother of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 13:55) and of Jude (Jude 1:1). He was not one of the twelve apostles chosen by the Lord while He was on earth, but he became an apostle after the Lord's resurrection (Gal. 1:19), and he became the leading elder in the church at Jerusalem (Acts 12:17; 15:2, 13; 21:18). Reputed to be, with Peter and John, a pillar of the church, he was mentioned by Paul as the first among the three pillars (Gal. 2:9).

  • James ranked the Lord Jesus as equal with God. This was contrary to Judaism, which did not recognize the deity of the Lord (John 5:18).

  • The tribes of Israel. This indicates that this Epistle was written to the Jewish Christians, who had the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory (James 2:1) and were justified by faith (James 2:24), regenerated by the word of truth (v. 18), and indwelt by the Spirit of God (James 4:5), and who were members of the church (James 5:14), awaiting the Lord's coming back (James 5:7-8). However, for the writer to call these believers in Christ "the twelve tribes," as God's chosen people were called in His Old Testament economy, might indicate that he lacked a clear view concerning the distinction between Christians and Jews, between God's New Testament economy and the Old Testament dispensation. Perhaps he did not see that in the New Testament God had delivered and separated the Jewish believers in Christ from the Jewish people, who were then considered by God a perverse generation (Acts 2:40). In His New Testament economy, God does not consider the Jewish believers to be Jews set apart for Judaism but Christians set apart for the church. As members of the church of God, they should be as distinct and separate from the Jews as they are from the Gentiles (1 Cor. 10:32). Yet James, a pillar of the church, in his Epistle to the Christian brothers still called them "the twelve tribes." (This might have been the reason that he addressed the word in James 5:1-6 to the rich class in general among the Jews.) This was contrary to God's New Testament economy. See note James 2:21.

  • See note 1 Pet. 1:14c. This dispersion must have included the scattering of the Jewish believers from Jerusalem caused by the persecution after Pentecost (Acts 8:1, 4).

  • James 1:16, 19; 2:1, 5, 14; 3:1, 10, 12; 4:11; 5:7, 9, 10, 12, 19

  • The Christian faith, given by God in Christ (2 Pet. 1:1; James 2:1).

  • Although James might not have had a clear view concerning the distinction between grace and law, his Epistle is distinguished and remarkable in its presentation of Christian conduct, emphasizing practical Christian perfection that the believers might be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing. This may be considered the main subject of this Epistle. Such perfection in Christian behavior requires the trials of God's governmental dealing and the believers' endurance by the virtue of the divine birth through regeneration by the implanted word (vv. 18, 21).

  • It was by His wisdom that God, in Christ, made His eternal plan and carried it out (1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 3:9-11; Prov. 8:12, 22-31). And in His New Testament economy God made Christ first our wisdom (1 Cor. 1:24, 30). The wisdom of God is needed for practical Christian perfection. Hence, we need to ask God for it.

    In light of the content of this Epistle, it seems that James did not have a clear vision concerning God's New Testament economy. However, he did have the wisdom to portray matters that concern the practical Christian life.

  • James was reputed to be a man of prayer. Here he charged the recipients of his Epistle to pray for wisdom, implying that his wisdom was given to him by God through prayer. In his Epistle he stressed prayer (James 5:14-18). Prayer is a virtue of practical Christian perfection.

  • Or, with simplicity, generously, without reserve (Rom. 12:8; 2 Cor. 8:2).

  • A stingy man would not give; if he were to give, he would give with reproaches, with stinging words. God, who gives to all liberally, is not like such a man.

  • Or, wavering ... wavers.

  • God made man only one soul, with one mind and one will. When a believer doubts in prayer, he makes himself double-souled, like a boat with two rudders, uncertain in direction. Faith in prayer also is a virtue of practical Christian perfection.

  • Or, glory, rejoice. When a lowly brother boasts and rejoices in exaltation, spontaneously he is led to praise the Lord (James 5:13). He should not boast in the secular way, i.e., without praising the Lord.

  • Or, elevation, high estate.

  • It is easy for a lowly brother to boast, rejoice, and praise the Lord in his exaltation. It is not easy for a rich one to do so in his being brought low. Whether in exaltation or in being brought low, to rejoice and praise is a virtue of practical Christian perfection.

  • In v. 6 James used the surge of the sea to illustrate a doubting heart, and in v. 10 he used the flower of the land to portray the fading rich man. Here he used the sun in the heavens with its scorching heat to illustrate the factor that causes man's riches to fade under God's governmental dealing. In v. 17 he used even the turning of the planets to illustrate variableness, which is in contrast to the invariableness of God the Father. In dealing with the problem of our tongue in James 3:3-12, he used twenty kinds of things for illustrations. Moreover, in James 4:14 he used vapor to portray the brief appearing of our life, and in James 5:7-8 he used the farmer's long-suffering to teach us how to await the Lord's coming. James was a wise and experienced man, having not only the experience of human life but also wisdom from the divine source through his seeking by prayer (v. 5; 3:13, 17). Yet it seems that his sympathy for and compromise with Judaism frustrated him from seeing a thorough vision of the wisdom concerning God's New Testament economy, a vision that Paul saw and unveiled in his Epistles. See note James 3:121 and note James 3:171a.

  • Or, hot wind.

  • What a sobering word to those who pursue riches! Yet it is a soothing word to the rich who are being brought low through the loss of their riches.

  • Verses James 1:2-12 deal with trials (see note James 1:131a). Trials come from the believers' environment to prove their faith (vv. 2-3) through suffering (vv. 9-11). The believers should endure the trials with all joy (v. 2) because of their love for the Lord, that they may receive the blessing of the crown of life.

  • I.e., the approving of the believers' faith (v. 3).

  • The glory, the expression, of life. The believers endure trials by means of the divine life, and this will become their glory, their expression, the crown of life, as a reward to them at the Lord's appearing, for their enjoyment in the coming kingdom (James 2:5).

  • This indicates that the underlying thought in vv. 12-27 is the crucial need of the divine life. The begetting Father and His begetting us, His making us the firstfruits of His creatures (vv. 17-18, 27), the implanted word of life (v. 21), and the perfect law of life (v. 25) all confirm this.

  • To believe in the Lord is to receive the divine life for our salvation; to love the Lord is to grow in the divine life for our maturity that we may be qualified for a reward — the crown of life — and enjoy the glory of the divine life in the kingdom.

  • Or, tried, tested. The Greek word for trials and trial in vv. 2, 12 is the noun form of the word for tempted here and in v. 14. The two words are very similar in form; both refer to being tried, tested, proved. To be tried, tested, proved, by outward suffering in the environment is a trial (v. 2). To be tried, tested, proved, by the inward enticing of lust is a temptation (v. 14). The trial is dealt with in vv. 2-12 the temptation is dealt with in vv. 13-21. As for the trial, we should endure it by loving the Lord that we may obtain the blessing — the crown of life. As for the temptation, we should resist it by receiving the implanted word that we may obtain salvation — the salvation of our souls (v. 21).

  • Lit., from.

  • The Greek word means both is untried and is untriable; hence, not temptable, not to be tempted, incapable of being tempted.

  • The devil, not God, is the tempter (Matt. 4:3; 1 Thes. 3:5).

  • The tempter, the devil, is the begetting father of sin (1 John 3:8, 10), having the might of death (Heb. 2:14) through sin (1 Cor. 15:56). He injected sin into Adam, and through sin death passed on to all men (Rom. 5:12).

  • Giving refers to the act of giving; gift refers to the thing given.

  • Lights here refers to the heavenly luminaries. The Father is the Creator, the source, of these shining bodies. With Him there is no shadow cast by turning (in contrast to the situation with the heavenly orbs, where the moon waxes and wanes by its revolving, and the sun can be eclipsed by the moon), for He is not variable, not changeable. As such, He is incapable of being tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone.

  • Or, variableness.

  • Sin, the source of darkness, brings forth death (v. 15). But the Father of lights brought us forth to be the firstfruits of His creatures, full of the vigorous life that matures first. This refers to the divine birth, our regeneration (John 3:5, 6), which is carried out according to God's eternal purpose.

  • The word of the divine reality, of what the Triune God is (John 1:14, 17). This word is the seed of life, by which we have been regenerated (1 Pet. 1:23).

  • Of His own will, by His intention, to carry out His purpose by begetting us that we may become the firstfruits of His creatures.

  • God will renew His entire creation to have a new heaven and new earth with the New Jerusalem as the center (Rev. 21:1-2). He first regenerated us to be the firstfruits of His new creation by imparting His divine life into our being through the implanted word of life that we might live a life of perfection. This must be the seed of practical Christian perfection. This life will consummate in the New Jerusalem as the living center of God's eternal new universe.

  • Or, Know this.

  • Hearing tempts us to speak, and speaking is the fire that kindles wrath (cf. James 3:6). If we bridle our speaking (cf. v. 26), we will quench our wrath. James's word here, given to strengthen his view of practical Christian perfection, has the tone of the Old Testament proverbs (Prov. 10:19; 14:17).

  • The righteousness of God does not need the help of man's wrath, which is of no use in the carrying out of God's righteousness.

  • This likens the word of God to a living plant that is planted into our being and grows in us to bring forth fruit for the salvation of our souls. We need to receive such a word in meekness, in all submission, without any resistance.

  • The salvation of our souls, according to the context of this chapter, implies the enduring of trials raised up by the environment (vv. 2-12) and the resisting of the temptation of lust (vv. 13-21). James's view concerning the salvation of our souls was somewhat negative and was not as positive as that of Paul, who said that our soul can be transformed by the renewing Spirit, even into the image of the Lord from glory to glory (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23; 2 Cor. 3:18). See note 1 Pet. 1:55 and note Heb. 10:393a.

  • The same word as in 1 Pet. 1:12.

  • The perfect law, the law of freedom (or liberty), is not the law of letters written on tablets of stone outside us but the law of life inscribed on our hearts (Heb. 8:10), the moral standard of which corresponds with that of the kingdom's constitution, decreed by the Lord on the mount (Matt. chs. 5—7). Since the law of letters was not able to give man life (Gal. 3:21) but was able only to expose man's weakness and failure and keep him in slavery (Gal. 5:1 and note Gal. 5:14c), it was a law of bondage. Since the perfect law of life is the function of the divine life, which was imparted into our being at regeneration and supplies us throughout our Christian life with the unsearchable riches of the divine life to free us from the law of sin and death and fulfill all the righteous requirements of the law of letters (Rom. 8:2, 4), it is the law of freedom. This law is the law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21), even Christ Himself, who lives within us to regulate us by imparting the divine nature into our being, that we may live a life that expresses God's image. James might have considered this law the basic rule of the Christian life for practical Christian perfection.

  • In Greek, religious (adjective) and religion (noun) refer to ceremonial service and worship to God (implying the fear of God). The adjective is used only here. The noun is used in a positive sense here and in v. 27, in a negative sense in Col. 2:18 (for worship), and in a general sense in Acts 26:5. James's writing concerning God's New Testament economy is not as striking as Paul's, Peter's, and John's. Paul focuses on Christ living and being formed in us (Gal. 2:20; 4:19) and Christ being magnified in us and lived out of us (Phil. 1:20-21) that we as the church, His Body, may become His fullness, His expression (Eph. 1:22-23). Peter stresses the fact that God regenerated us through the resurrection of Christ (1 Pet. 1:3), making us partakers of His divine nature, that we may live a life of godliness (2 Pet. 1:3-7) and be built up as a spiritual house to express His virtues (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). John emphasizes the eternal life, given to us for our fellowship with the Triune God (1 John 1:2-3), and the divine birth, which brings into us the divine life as the divine seed that we may live out a life that is like God (1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:17) and be the church, a lampstand, which bears the testimony of Jesus (Rev. 1:9, 11-12) and which will consummate in the New Jerusalem for God's expression unto eternity (Rev. 21:2-3, 10-11). Of the matters that are characteristic of the New Testament, James stresses only God's begetting of us (v. 18), the perfect law of freedom (v. 25), the indwelling Spirit (James 4:5), and a minor aspect of the church (James 5:14). He does not speak of Christ as our life or of the church as the expression of Christ, the two most outstanding and dispensational characteristics of the New Testament. This Epistle shows that James must have been very religious. It might have been because of this and his practical Christian perfection that he was reputed to be, along with Peter and John, a pillar, even the first, in the church at Jerusalem (Gal. 2:9). However, he was not strong in the revelation of God's New Testament economy in Christ but was still under the influence of the background of the old Judaic religion, the primary elements of which were to worship God by ceremonies and to live a life in the fear of God. This is proved by the words in Acts 21:20-24 and in Acts 2:2-11 of this Epistle. Because his spiritual sight was covered by Judaism, he could not fully enter into the revelation of God's New Testament economy as Paul, Peter, and John were able to do.

  • Not to bridle the tongue is to speak quickly (cf. v. 19) and loosely without restriction. This always deceives the speaking one's own heart, deceiving his conscience — the consciousness of his heart.

  • In this word of James's, given to strengthen his view of practical Christian perfection, an element of the Old Testament charges is implied (Deut. 14:29; 12-13, 24:19-21).

  • Not to be worldly, not to be stained by worldliness. This too is a part of James's God-fearing view of practical Christian perfection. To visit orphans and widows is to act according to God's loving heart, a characteristic of perfection on the positive side, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world is to be separated from the world according to God's holy nature, a characteristic of perfection on the negative side.

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