James One

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

James. James was prominent in the early Jerusalem church, one of the “pillars” along with Peter and John (Galatians 2:9). He was one whom the Lord Jesus went to see after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7). An ossuary (that is, a burial box) bearing the Aramaic inscription “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” has been discovered and accepted by a number of authorities as an authentic reference to this James.

Jesus Christ. James is called “the Lord's brother” (Galatians 1:19), and is apparently the one mentioned in Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55 as the first of four “brethren” of Jesus who were sons of Mary. He became the presiding elder in the church at Jerusalem (compare Acts 15:13; 21:18). Because of such credentials, one might expect his epistle to have more personal references, but he only identifies himself in this one verse, as a “bondservant” of the Lord Jesus Christ. He and his brothers did not believe in Jesus during His earthly ministry (John 7:5), and they were not with Mary at the cross (John 19:26). Later, however, possibly as a result of James' encounter with the Lord after His resurrection, they were converted (1 Corinthians 15:7), and were with their mother in the upper room as all the disciples were awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14). James, then, quickly became a leader in the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17). One of the other brothers, Jude, also became a leader (Jude 1), writing the New Testament epistle that bears his name.

scattered abroad. James was writing to his Jewish brethren who were “scattered abroad” in the dispersion. They may well have included many of those he had met on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came, and the 120 disciples (Acts 1:15) were supernaturally endowed with ability to proclaim “the wonderful works of God” to those Jews who had come to Jerusalem for the feast “out of every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:4-6, 11). Many of these were converted (Acts 2:41), and all were profoundly stirred. When James became leader of the Jewish church in Jerusalem, he no doubt was also greatly concerned with all those Jews who had returned to their homes in various countries, both those who had professed faith in Christ and those who were still undecided. His epistle was addressed to both these groups. It reveals a keen awareness of the Jewish law and its true implications, as well as the earthly ministry of Jesus. It seems to have been the first written of the New Testament epistles, written even before the council met in Jerusalem to decide the proper way to deal with Gentile Christians (Acts 15), since there is little, if any, mention of this question in the epistle.

greeting. An incidental confirmation that the epistle of James was written by the same James who presided at the Jerusalem council is the fact that both begin with the word “greeting” (Acts 15:23), a term not used by writers of the other New Testament epistles.

James 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;

temptations. The “temptations” that were coming were actually “testings.” James realized that persecutions would inevitably reach these Jewish Christians, and wanted to help them prepare for them. They had already been severe in Jerusalem. Stephen had been slain (Acts 7:59-60), as had James, the son of Zebedee and brother of John (Acts 12:1-2) and, no doubt, others. According to the historian Josephus, James himself, author of the epistle, was executed in a.d. 62.

James 1:3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

James 1:4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

lack wisdom. When a believer prays for wisdom, he must remember that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10) and that in Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). The wisdom that God provides in answer to prayer must always be in accordance with His Word.

James 1:6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

James 1:7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

James 1:8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

James 1:9 Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:

James 1:10 But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.

James 1:11 For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.

James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

crown of life. On the “crown of life,” see also Revelation 2:10, where persecuted overcomers in Smyrna-type churches are also promised “the crown of life.”

James 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

God cannot be tempted. Since Jesus was God, and did not cease being God when He also became man, this statement assures us that Jesus not only did not sin, but also that He could not sin.

James 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

James 1:15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

finished. The word used here for “finished” (Greek apoteleo) occurs only here. It is an emphatic word, implying an ultimate and final consummation. Thus sin, if allowed to continue without repentance and redemption, must result in eternal and irrevocable spiritual death.

James 1:16 Do not err, my beloved brethren.

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

Father of lights. God's first recorded words were “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). He is the “Father of lights” but He did not create light, for “God is light” (xTerm 1:5), and is “dwelling in the light” (1 Timothy 6:16). In fact, He had to “create darkness” but only had to “form the light” (Isaiah 45:7). Scientifically speaking, as far as the physical creation is concerned, all matter is essentially energy in motion, and light is the most basic form of energy.

no variableness. This attribute of the Father of lights—that is, no variableness—is suggested by the most basic and universal law of science, the law of conservation of energy. God can “form the light” into many different kinds of energy, but the total quantity is conserved, neither being augmented by creation nor decreased by annihilation. “Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it” (Ecclesiastes 3:14).

shadow of turning. The word “turning” is from the Greek trope. When combined with the Greek for “in” (that is, en), it becomes entrope, which means in the Greek “confusion” or “shame.” We get our English word “entropy” from this source, which thus literally means “in-turning.” In science, any system which “turns in” on itself, without drawing on external sources of energy or information (in other words, a “closed system”) will experience an increase of entropy, or disorganization. This is, so far as all evidence goes, a universal principle of science, and seems to reflect God's primeval curse on “the whole creation” (Romans 8:22). That is, even though all things are being conserved in quantity by God, they are deteriorating in quality, running down toward physical chaos and biological death. But God Himself, who imposed these laws on His creation, is not bound by them. There is not even a “shadow of turning” with Him!

James 1:18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

word of truth. We are “born again” through the incorruptible “word of God” (1 Peter 1:23; note also James 1:21; Ephesians 5:25-26).

firstfruits. See 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23. Christ is Himself the “firstfruits” from among the dead, but among “His creatures,” we are His firstfruits. There may be also a suggestion here, since James was writing specifically to and about Jewish believers in Christ, that these were considered His firstfruits, with Gentiles coming later. Even Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, agreed that the gospel should be preached “to the Jews first” (Romans 1:16).

James 1:19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:

James 1:20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

James 1:21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

superfluity of naughtiness. Instead of “superfluity of naughtiness,” read “abundance of wickedness.”

engrafted. This is the only occurrence of the word; the basic meaning is probably “implanted.”

James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

James 1:23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:

in a glass. Note also James 1:25. The Word of God is like a mirror, which enables us to see ourselves as we are. See also 1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 Corinthians 3:18.

James 1:24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

James 1:25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

James 1:26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.

seem to be religious. The Greek word for “religious” is used only here in the New Testament. It refers to an outward show of piety, and does not necessarily refer to Christianity.

James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Pure religion. The word for “religion” is related to the word for “religious” (see above note). This word is used only in James 1:26-27, with one significant exception. In Colossians 2:18 it is translated “worshipping,” but in connection not with worshipping God, but angels. Since angels who receive worship are actually fallen angels following Satan, it follows that “religion” and “religious” are used in the Bible only in relation to pagan religions. The Christian faith is never called a religion in Scripture.