WHEN COMMON SENSE IS’NT ENOUGH
James 1:1-18 July 19 2009
The character by which our author desires to be known: James, a servant of God, and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was a prime-minister in Christ’s kingdom, yet he styles himself only a servant. Note hence, Those who are highest in office or attainments in the church of Christ are but servants. They should not therefore act as masters, but as ministers. Further, Though James is called by the evangelist the brother of our Lord, yet it was his glory to serve Christ in the spirit, rather than to boast of his being akin according to the flesh. Hence let us learn to prize this title above all others in the world-the servants of God and of Christ. Again, it is to be observed that James professes himself a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ; to teach us that in all services we should have an eye to the Son as well as the Father. We cannot acceptably serve the Father, unless we are also servants of the Son. God will have all men to honour the Son as they honour the Father (John. 5:23), looking for acceptance in Christ and assistance from him, and yielding all obedience to him, thus confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
1. How to apply to God under trouble , and how to behave
in prosperous and in adverse circumstances . (James1:1-11)
James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 1:3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 1:4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 1:6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 1:7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 1:8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
1:9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 1:10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 1:11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.
James Servant ( Romans 1:1). Twelve Tribes . Recipients. The general letters . The seven letters following Hebrews —(James, 1, ;2 Peter,; 1,2,3 John and Jude) —have often been designated as the General Letters. This term goes back to the early church historian Eusebius ( A.D. 265-340), who in his Ecclesiastical History (James 2.23-25) first referred to these seven letters as Catholic Letters, using the word “catholic” to mean “universal.” The letters so designated may be said to be, for the most part, addressed to general audiences rather than to specific persons or localized groups. (2 & 3 John), the two letters that seem most obviously addressed to individuals, have long been viewed as appendages of (1 John), which is clearly general in its address. However, when compared with Paul’s letters, all these letters except(3 John) are clearly general in nature. By contrast, Paul addresses his letters to such recipients as the saints at Philippi, or the churches of Galatia, or Timothy or Titus. As Eusebius noted long ago, one interesting fact connected with the General Letters is that most of them were at one time among the disputed books of the NT.( James, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John and Jude) were all questioned extensively before being admitted to the canon of Scripture. Joy. (Matt 5:11-12; Ro 5:3; 1Pe 1:6). Brothers . James addresses the readers as brothers 15 times in this short letter. He has many rebukes for them, but he chides them in brotherly love. Trials . The same Greek root lies behind the word “trials” here and the word “tempted” in (James 1:13. In James 1; 2-3) the emphasis is on difficulties that come from outside; in (James 1:13-15) it is on inner moral trials such as temptation to sin. Wisdom . Enables one to face trials with “pure joy” (James 1: 2). Wisdom is not just acquired information but practical insight with spiritual implications ( Proverbs 1:2-4; 2:10-15; 4:5-9; 9:10-12). Wave of the Sea. ( Eph 4:14). (James 1:9-10) Brother in humble Circumstances . . . One who is rich . Since James’s discussions of wisdom (James 1:5-8) and of the poor man and the rich man (James 1:9-11) appear between the two sections on trials (James 1:2-4 and12), (James 1:5-11) may also have to do with trials. The Christian who suffers the trial of poverty is to take pride in his high position (James 1: 9) as a believer (James 2:5), and the wealthy Christian is to take pride (James 1:10) in trials that bring him low, perhaps including the loss of his wealth.
Christianity teaches men to be joyful under troubles: such exercises are sent from God’s love; and trials in the way of duty will brighten our graces now, and our crown at last. Let us take care, in times of trial, that patience, and not passion, is set to work in us: whatever is said or done, let patience have the saying and doing of it. When the work of patience is complete, it will furnish all that is necessary for our Christian race and warfare. We should not pray so much for the removal of affliction, as for wisdom to make a right use of it. And who does not want wisdom to guide him under trials, both in regulating his own spirit, and in managing his affairs? Here is something in answer to every discouraging turn of the mind, when we go to God under a sense of our own weakness and folly. If, after all, any should say, This may be the case with some, but I fear I shall not succeed, the promise is, To any that asketh, it shall be given. A mind that has single and prevailing regard to its spiritual and eternal interest, and that keeps steady in its purposes for God, will grow wise by afflictions, will continue fervent in devotion, and rise above trials and oppositions. When our faith and spirits rise and fall with second causes, there will be unsteadiness in our words and actions. This may not always expose men to contempt in the world, but such ways cannot please God. No condition of life is such as to hinder rejoicing in God. Those of low degree may rejoice, if they are exalted to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom of God; and the rich may rejoice in humbling providences, that lead to a humble and lowly disposition of mind. Worldly wealth is a withering thing. Then, let him that is rich rejoice in the grace of God, which makes and keeps him humble; and in the trials and exercises which teach him to seek happiness in and from God, not from perishing enjoyments.
2. To look upon all evil as proceeding from ourselves ,
and all good from God . (James1:12-18)
James 1:12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 1:13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 1:14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 1:15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 1:16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 1:18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created.
Blessed . (Jer 17:7-8; Matt 5:3-12);also ( Psalms 1:1; Matt 5:3; Rev 1:3). Crown . The Greek for this word was the usual term for the wreath placed on the head of a victorious athlete or military leader (2Tim 4:8; 1Peter 5:4; Rev 2:10 ). Life . Eternal life, as the future tense of the verb (“will receive”) indicates. Tempted . In (James 1:13-14) the verb refers to temptations that test one’s moral strength to resist sin (Matt 4:1). God cannot be tempted . Because God in his very nature is holy, there is nothing in him for sin to appeal to. Nor does He tempt anyone. (Gen 22:1). The three stages —desire, sin, death —are seen in the temptations of Eve (Gen. 3:6-22) and David (2Sam 11:2-17). Every good and perfect gift is from above . (James 1: 5; 3:17. Father of . . . Lights . God is the Creator of the heavenly bodies, which give light to the earth, but, unlike them, he does not change. Birth . Not a reference to creation but to regeneration ( John 3:3-8). Word of Truth. The proclamation of the gospel (1Peter 1:23-25). First-fruits . (Lev 23:9-14). Just as the first sheaf of the harvest was an indication that the whole harvest would eventually follow, so the early Christians were an indication that a great number of people would eventually be born again.
It is not every man who suffers, that is blessed; but he who with patience and constancy goes through all difficulties in the way of duty. Afflictions cannot make us miserable, if it be not our own fault. The tried Christian shall be a crowned one. The crown of life is promised to all who have the love of God reigning in their hearts. Every soul that truly loves God, shall have its trials in this world fully recompensed in that world above, where love is made perfect. The commands of God, and the dealings of his providence, try men’s hearts, and show the dispositions which prevail in them. But nothing sinful in the heart or conduct can be ascribed to God. He is not the author of the dross, though his fiery trial exposes it. Those who lay the blame of sin, either upon their constitution, or upon their condition in the world, or pretend they cannot keep from sinning, wrong God as if he were the author of sin. Afflictions, as sent by God, are designed to draw out our graces, but not our corruptions. The origin of evil and temptation is in our own hearts. Stop the beginnings of sin, or all the evils that follow must be wholly charged upon us. God has no pleasure in the death of men, as he has no hand in their sin; but both sin and misery are owing to themselves. As the sun is the same in nature and influences, though the earth and clouds, often coming between, make it seem to us to vary, so God is unchangeable, and our changes and shadows are not from any changes or alterations in him. What the sun is in nature, God is in grace, providence, and glory; and infinitely more. As every good gift is from God, so particularly our being born again, and all its holy, happy consequences come from him. A true Christian becomes as different a person from what he was before the renewing influences of Divine grace, as if he were formed over again. We should devote all our faculties to God’s service, that we may be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.
After the inscription and salutation . Christians are taught how to conduct themselves when under the cross. Several graces and duties are recommended; and those who endure their trials and afflictions as the apostle here directs are pronounced blessed and are assured of a glorious reward . But those sins which bring sufferings, or the weakness and faults men are chargeable with under them, are by no means to be imputed to God, who cannot be the author of sin, but is the author of all good . All passion, and rash anger, and vile affections, ought to be suppressed. The word of God should be made our chief study: and what we hear and know of it we must take care to practise, otherwise our religion will prove but a vain thing. To this is added an account wherein pure religion consists .
As every good gift is from God, so particularly the renovation of our natures, our regeneration, and all the holy happy consequences of it, must be ascribed to him (James 1:18): Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth. Here let us take notice,
A true Christian is a creature begotten anew. He becomes as different a person from what he was before the renewing influences of divine grace as if he were formed over again, and born afresh.
The original of this good work is here declared: it is of God’s own will; not by our skill or power; not from any good foreseen in us, or done by us, but purely from the good-will and grace of God.
The means whereby this is affected are pointed out: the word of truth, that is, the gospel, as Paul expresses it more plainly, (1Con. 4:15), I have begotten you in Jesus Christ through the gospel. This gospel in indeed a word of truth, or else it could never produce such real, such lasting, such great and noble effects. We may rely upon it, and venture our immortal souls upon it. And we shall find it a means of our sanctification as it is a word of truth,
The end and design of God’s giving renewing grace is here laid down: That we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures-that we should be God’s portion and treasure, and a more peculiar property to him, as the first-fruits were; and that we should become holy to the Lord, as the first-fruits were consecrated to him. Christ is the first-fruits of Christians, Christians are the first-fruits of creatures.