Hebrew-Christian Epistles. To Jews that believed, including profession, in special circumstances. James (A.D. 45). no call to leave, still keeping law (Acts 21:18-24), faith be manifested by works! Hebrews (A.D. 63) a call to separate. Peter (A.D. 65-67), believers had already left, feeling the loss. A common theme: reality of faith lived. Not Church.
Overview. A transitional time. Still keeping law (Acts 21:20), but saw a new motive, in contrast to external pressure (James 1:25). A danger, laying hold of unseen (2 Cor. 5:7), that Christianity be profession only, without reality. Intellectual reception of the gospel is worthless. “Faith without works is dead”. Key verse: “show me thy faith”.
Trials from Without (1:2-12)
v.1 Greeting. To twelve tribes of Israel dispersed through Gentile world (Acts 8:1), real and professing (Jam. 4:9; 5:1-6) but also “brethren” among (Jam. 2:1). Faith recognized entire nation, though divided (1 Ki. 18:31). Not as apostle, but as “bondman”. Striking if the Lord’s brother. Doesn’t consider himself greater than “my brethren” (v.2).
vv.2-3 Trials. May be persecution (as here), suffering with Christ, or chastening. Joy unnatural response, reason: we know trials lead to growth; produce “endurance” (Rom. 5:3), ability to carry on. Like physical exercise. Hurdle in horse’s track, God tries faith (1 Pet. 1:7). Peter gives other side; “in heaviness”, normal sadness. Smile thru tears.
v.4 Surrender & Results. We must “let it”. Surrender our will to God’s. We interfere with God’s work in us, spoils fruit (Rom. 8:28-29). Impatient child pulls the carrot. Don’t seek escape. Result: full growth in Christian character.
v.5 Asking God for Wisdom. Applies anytime we need wisdom, especially in a trial: make us dependent. Turn first to God. No stupid questions, if right attitude (v.6). Doesn’t make Him angry (c.p. Isa. 7:11-13). Heart toward us (Lk. 18:1-8). Answers to prayer: scripture, circumstances, prophetic word, or Spirit’s witness.
vv.6-8 Faith vs. Double Minded. Attitude in prayer important; in faith, with confidence in His strength and love (Ex. 28). A child jumps to his father’s arms. To ask God without faith is a double mind, not dependence. Mixed motives (e.g. Jer. 42, esp. v.20). Not wrong to have desired outcome but be resolved to hear whatever and obey. Why should God answer if we do not trust Him? Unstable in every area, “wave of the sea” – no solid foundation. Dependence and confidence go hand in hand.
vv.9-11 A Parenthesis. Social circumstances left behind. All enter the school of God, pass through trials. Sets aside the values of the world. Poor and rich learn to depend on God. The poor man in fellowship with rich, and vice versa. A promotion for the one of low degree. A humiliation for the rich brother because he sees riches are perishing, considers money as no longer his own, rejoices together with poor, enjoying together what is really life. Grace takes us out of the world and frees us from social constructs.
v.12 Crown of Life. A summary statement. Far from miserable, the believer is happy. Many OT examples; Heb. 11. Believer knows God using trial for spiritual growth, also reward at the end. Crown of life promised to martyrs (Rev. 2:10), ultimate sacrifice. Endure a trial requires denying self, laying down our life (John 12:25). Connected with loving God more than ourselves. A privilege granted to every saint! Crowns. life, glory, righteousness, rejoicing, incorruptibility, Philadelphia, of gold.
Temptations from Within (1:13-18)
vv.13-15 Whence Temptations Arise. Not now “count it all joy” in temptation to sin, from within. Jesus only man never tempted by lusts (Luke 1:35; John 14:30). A danger, to avoid responsibility, blame God. God allows circumstances, without faith, become opportunity for the flesh. But temptation to sin is from within; God cannot be blamed for sin in any form. Impeccability of the Divine nature. Must be a settled issue for us. Fruits of lust (v.15). In a practical sense; every sin begins with a desire and leads toward death. Paul gives deeper principle (Rom. 6:23).
vv.16-17 Whence Good Gifts Come. Giving in to lust will not bring satisfaction. That is the error. What comes from God is for our blessing. Devil seeks to shake our confidence in His goodness (Gen. 3:1), we fall into temptation. Reach out in self will to fulfill lusts brings destruction and death. Man incapable of making himself happy. Knowing God as giver preserves us in temptation. “Father of lights”, unchanging goodness, perfect consistency with Himself (1 Jn. 1:5). Even the sun eclipses, casts shadows in turning. God’s goodness, knowledge is perfect, and unchanging.
v.18 God’s Will In New Birth. Example of perfect goodness of God, truth of new birth. At very beginning, not man’s will or strength, but His. An act of pure grace (Jn. 1:12-13). The “word of truth” involved (Jn. 3:5; 1 Pet. 1:23). God’s purpose: a special possession, like first-fruits offered, of all creatures, we are to represent Him.
Receiving and Responding to Word of God (1:19-27)
vv.19-20 Responding in the Flesh. “knowing this” or “you know this”. New nature desires to do them, but a directive given. Acting on lusts: doing our will, speaking not listening. Dependence: hearing vs. speaking (Prov. 10:19; Acts 15). What James said resulted in “the righteousness of God” in a practical sense (Matt. 6:33).
v.21 Receiving the Word of God. The way to practical salvation, ongoing (1 Pet. 2:2; 11). (1) We must exercise self-judgment; preparatory, but vital. lay aside sin, take God’s side. Void must be filled. (2) Receive the word, called “implanted word”, not external but in our hearts. A nature that wants to please God, and His Word to direct us.
Author. Rose to prominence at Jerusalem (Gal. 1:18-19; Acts 15:13; Acts 21:18), a “pillar” (Gal. 2:9). ministry lines up with epistle. Expositors do not agree. Kelly says James the Less, Darby says the Lord’s brother, James the Just – didn’t believe (John 7:5; Matt. 13:55), converted (1 Cor. 15:7), in Gal. 1 and 1 Cor. 15 called an apostle (Acts 1:14). “Men and brethren, hearken unto me” a good title. Thought Jewish believers should keep law, had Judaizing influence on Paul in Acts 21, and Peter in Gal. 2:4. Still a matter of growth, no error in epistle. Stoned by the Jews in A.D. 62.
vv.22-24 Doers of the Word vs. Hearers Only. A great danger, having received, to hear but not obey; to consider it theory, or for someone else, as optional. We beguile ourselves. By applying the Word we gain spiritual discernment. Obedience manifests reality of faith. An illustration: looking at face in a mirror, exposes condition. To glance and go away unchanged shows no care. God wants reality (Psa. 51:6). If carry on with hypocrisy, become self-deceived; the conscience seared, and a hypocritical religious profession emerges.
v.25 The Perfect Law of Liberty. To “fix the view” is the soul brought into the presence of God by the Word, abiding where all is in the light. Perfect liberty: in contrast with law of Moses, gives us directives the new nature delights to obey! A horse eating hay. The Word finds an ally in the new nature: no drudgery (1 Jn. 5:3; Jn. 13:17; Ps. 40:8).
vv.26-27 Vain Religion and Pure Religion. To hear and not do leads to an outward religious form, no living reality, manifested by uncontrolled tongue (expand ch.3), which reveals the inside. The word refers to outward forms, could be “ritual” (Acts 26:5; Col. 2:18). True religion – not that Christianity is ritual, but faith has evidences in action – practical kindness + personal holiness. Not just the outside of the cup.
Subjects of ch.1 developed further: low and high degree come to the same place, and faith results in practical walk.
The Sin of Partiality (2:1-13)
v.1 Respect of Persons. Consider Who He was, the Lord of Glory, and a place He took. associated with the poor, outcast Galileans, the Nazarean, No respect of persons with Him! Not possible to rightly have the faith of Him with respect of persons. Partiality destructive to foundation; there is no difference (Rom. 3:22; 10:12).
vv.2-4 Partiality in Practice: Judges Having Evil Thoughts. A practical example of partiality, preference to wealthy. “Synagogues” here, in transition from Judaism. It exposed a worldly mind; looked on the outward appearance according to worldly standards, superficial criteria. setting up as “judges” with biased judgment.
vv.5-7 Two Arguments. Seeks to reason “beloved brethren”. The higher argument first. God’s values not man’s. He has chosen to save the poor, who are “rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom” (1 Cor. 1:26-29). By actions showed their values were not God’s. He chose the poor, but they had despised the poor. Second reason, from their experience persecution camea from the rich. They blasphemed the name of Christ – “the excellent name”. the religious and political elite in Israel were to blame. Partiality is so deeply ingrained, that we show preference to those we know have no care for our soul.
vv.8-11 The Royal Law. “the royal law” was a commandment Christ referenced numerous times (e.g. Matt. 22:39) as summary of whole law (Lev. 19:18). The law demanded a man love his neighbor as himself, yet did not give power to fulfill it. James does not say the believer is under law, Paul expressly decries (Rom. 6-7), but shows partiality is breaking the law, thus wrong before Christ. A legal man boasts in keeping external commands, but cannot separate one from another. The royal law was inseparably linked from the whole law! See Rom. 13:9. The Law is all or nothing. A chain is as strong as its weakest link. The law, weak through the flesh, breaks at the issue of love.
vv.12-13 The Law of Liberty. Called to live, not under commandments governing external behavior, but the heart. In ch.1 the perfect law of Liberty is introduced. The commandment is perfect liberty to that soul, far higher law than law of commandments, summed up in that Royal Law. Judged by a much higher standard than the law. Not putting saints under law, just showing our standard far higher, therefore partiality has no place. Our lives reviewed at judgment seat, not by external standard, but the inside. A present governmental aspect to this judgment. If we don’t show mercy, cannot expect governmental forgiveness. God delights in mercy over judgment (Mic. 7:18).
The Reality of Faith Proved By Works (2:14-26)
vv.14-17 Profession of Faith Without Works: Dead. faith, if without works, is not true. That kind of “faith” is dead, no life in a dead person. “Can faith save him?” … not speaking of reality, but of the profession. The key is “if any one say”, and “show me” (v.18). The profession of faith will not save the soul. An example in vv.16-17, of emptiness of mere words. Who is so heartless to say those words without follow through. No profit in mere words, and no profit the profession of faith (1 John 2:4-5). Justification in James: no conflict with justification in Romans.
vv.18-20 The Reality of Faith: Provable by Works Only. reality of faith can only be proved by works. A hypothetical supposition. Faith and works cannot be separated. Faith alone is invisible, but has outward manifestations. Not possible to prove one’s faith without works. In v.19 another thing. There is a kind of belief in facts about God – mere intellectual assent – that is still dead (John 2:23-25). One can believer in the unity of the godhead, and still have no more faith than the demons who believe the same, with fear and trembling (Matt. 8:29). There is no vital link with God. Faith in the sense of a natural belief, but without a relationship with God through the implanted word. Contrast this with the Divine gift (Eph. 2:8). True faith from God will manifest itself by acting.
Two Examples of Faith. Two examples show faith will always be accompanied by works as the outward proof. Both found in Heb 11.
vv.21-24 Faith Perfected By Works: The Example of Abraham. Same verse that Paul quotes in Romans and Galatians different purpose. Abraham did no works Rom. 4:1-4, and God reckoned him righteous. Years later God tested his faith. James switches the order. Offering Isaac was outward manifestation that Abraham believed God. The faith God saw in Gen. 15 was seen visibly in Gen. 22. An extreme test: only-begotten, heir of promises, concentrated affection. Trust is the foundation of relationship; called “the Friend of God”. Abraham’s work “derived all its virtue from absolute trust in God” (W. Kelly, adapted). Not that God looks for works in exchange for justification in judicial sense; but an outward demonstration of righteousness before man made when faith works in a believer’s life.
v.25 The Example of Rahab. Total contrast to Abraham in terms of background; “the harlot”. Inhabitants heard the report. Two men “spies” in Jos. 2, called “messengers”. In contrast to countrymen, Rahab believed these were messengers, the Lord would give Israel the land (Jos. 2:9-11). Turned against her own people and king, not world’s definition of “good works”. Murder and treason apart from faith; faith-works. Justify, in this outward, moral sense.
v.26 Conclusion. Another illustration. A dead body is not only useless, a mere outward form; it is revolting to natural sensibilities. So with the profession of faith without reality.
Ch. 3 expands on thread of controlling the tongue (Jam. 1:19, 26). more a word to saints.
Nature’s Use of the Tongue (3:1-12)
v.1 Speaking Authoritatively Without Humility. Not against teaching in general, else contradict (1 Tim. 4:13-16), but setting self up as authority without humility + self-judgment. Jews prone (Rom. 2:17-21); applies to all. Humble speak less + listen more. Tongue reveals state (Luke 6:45; Prov. 30:32). speaking increases responsibility. Judgment here present, government of God (1 Pet. 1:16-17; 3:10-12). May also be future sense, judgment seat (Matt. 12:36).
v.2 Controlling the Tongue. General tendency in all to offend in speech (Prov. 10:19). Jokes, lies, gossip, slander, insults, curses. Tongue is hardest member to control, if managed, he’s arrived at Christian perfection (Col. 4:6).
vv.3-8 The Treachery and Volatility of the Tongue. Four illustrations show how difficult control of the tongue is to master. (1) A small bit can turn the massive body of a horse, make them obey command of human master. (2) A relatively small rudder can easily maneuver the course of a huge ship, even in a storm. Tongue used with relatively little effort to produce proportionately massive consequences, for good or evil. If tongue under control, the whole body too. (3) A small fire can lead to a huge forest catching fire, tremendous destruction. Quickly gets out of control, unstoppable. Be careful, huge potential for destruction. Relationships destroyed through the tongue. Still responsible for results of our speech (see Ex. 22:6). Tongue is “fire” just in itself, can lead whole body into sin, can stir every passion of man’s fallen nature, lead to every other evil. Real source is Satan, father of lies (John 8:44), he uses the tongues of men. (4) An animal that cannot be tamed. “Every species” to a greater or lesser degree. Tongue is a poisonous animal that cannot be tamed. Untrustworthiness and harmfulness of the tongue. Four pictures give composite description of the volatile tongue. Doesn’t say the tongue cannot be tamed, only “no one among men”. With God all things possible! Can be bridled (Jam. 1:26), but requires dependence and humility.
vv.9-12 The Moral Inconsistency of Misusing the Tongue. How morally inconsistent to use tongue for evil, use same mouth for blessing and cursing. Men bless God in religious form, then curse fellow man. To the conscience: “It is not right”. “The Lord and Father”, referring to Son as “Lord”. Equally true that the Father is Lord also, though not His distinctive office (Acts 2:36). In vv.11-12 three more illustrations of things that defy a natural order to show the inconsistent use of the tongue defies a moral order. (1) A fountain cannot produce sweet and bitter. (2) A tree cannot produce the fruits of another species (Matt. 7:16-20). (3) Adding salt to water cannot produce sweet water. A common thread: something in the nature that logically cannot produce different outcomes. To do so would violate laws of nature. So with the tongue; to misuse it violates a moral law. Called unrighteousness.
Wisdom’s Use of the Tongue (3:13-18)
v.13 Wisdom Shown. Jews well acquainted with importance of wisdom and understanding (1 Ki. 4:29; Prov. 2:2). Tendency to think wisdom is displayed in teaching others; by words. But true wisdom and understanding shown in a good manner of life, through “works in meekness and wisdom”. Not a self-exalted place, but humility!
v.14 Hypocrisy Manifested. Opposite of true wisdom, false profession by those who have not judged the flesh, been humbled in God’s presence. If competition and contention in the hearts, they are hypocritical. Solemnly warned.
vv.15-17 Two Kinds of Wisdom. Two kinds of wisdom (ch.3), two kinds of faith (ch.2). Decrying fleshly wisdom of man. (1) “earthly” vs. heavenly, centered on self (Phil. 3:19). (2) “natural” vs. spiritual, ignorant of God (1 Cor. 2:14). (3) “devilish” vs. divine, positively evil (Eph. 2:2). Where competition and conflict are, also disorder and “every evil thing”. Wisdom “from above” that God gives has fruits.
(1) “pure”, free from moral defilement, pure motives.
(2) “peaceful” promoting unity, not at expense of purity.
(3) “gentle” rather than offensive.
(4) “yielding”, giving way to others, not insisting on one’s own will.
(5) Full of “mercy” and “goodness”, especially to the poor.
(6) “Unquestioning” vs. contentious and skeptical.
(7) “Unfeigned” or genuine, vs. pretended or hypocritical.
Heavenly wisdom looks like a gracious and humble attitude with good behavior and works. No mention of words or teaching.
v.18 Peace. What characterizes one with wisdom from above. True peace a “fruit” or result of righteousness (Heb. 7:2; Isa. 32:17). Peace viewed as a harvest planted earlier by the peacemaker (Matt. 5:9). When we walk in practical righteousness (also peace that flows from it) we sow (or God sows) a seed that later bears abundant harvest of peace. Government of God for the believer (Gal. 6:7).
Draws on thread of temptations to sin (ch.1). Centers around “slow to wrath”, then various forms of evil, the sources and remedy.
The Root and Remedy for Sin (4:1-10)
The Flesh and Its Results (vv.1-3)
Three enemies. the flesh (vv.1-3), the world (vv.4-6), and the devil (v.7)
v.1 Internal Source. What is the root of strife? Wars are continuous, fighting is short term. Root is the flesh; desires of fallen human nature from Adam. “Pleasures” at work in bodies, a hostile force. Solemn to realize sin comes from within, desire to please self. Contrast perfect law of liberty.
vv.2-3 How the Flesh Works. Various streams emanate from lust (2 Tim. 3:4). Most basic form is the root of all kinds. “The flesh lusts” (Gal. 5:17; see Rom. 7:7). Flesh is never satisfied: emptiness & dissatisfaction. Feel needs or desires not wrong, but to pursue them in independence is essence of sin. We need dependence, expressed in prayer (v.2). Asking from standpoint of lust is a wrong motive (v.3). Is it for selfish motives? Searching questions.
The World and Separation From It (vv.4-6)
v.4 Adulteresses and Enemies. Broader system associated with lust; the world: set up by men, energized by Satan, men may live independently. Not literal; spiritual adultery. The believer in the subject place (2 Cor. 11:2). God and the world mutually exclusive. God is jealous (Ex. 34:14).
v.5 Scriptures and the Spirit. Scripture forbids the lusts of the flesh God must be serious about it! Spirit indwells, no envy or lust in Him! Offensive to the Spirit.
Five reasons to be separate (v.4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6).
v.6 Government and Grace of God. God makes His mind known by resisting the proud (characteristic of the world), and giving grace to the humble. Whatever the temptation, He gives more grace. Government of God.
The Remedy For Sin: Six Exhortations (vv.8-10)
The Aorist. Once when converted, yet a repeated exercise.
v.7a Subjection to God. The first step. Sin is independence or insubjection. The secret of strength.
v.7b Resisting the Devil. Great enemy. Defeated (Heb. 2:14) yet permitted. Finds flesh “in us”, can act on it, (c.p. John 14:30). Be sober, watchful (1 Pet. 5:8), not afraid. “Resist”, he meets Christ in us. We “flee lusts”, Devil flees us.
v.8a Nearness to God. We draw, He draws, result is communion. Enjoying it preserves from spiritual harm (Ps. 91:1).
v.8b Sanctification. Unbelievers included, forsake sin. Also practical sanctification; moral cleansing. Inside and out.
v.9 Repentance. Begins in a moment, then continues (Luke 15:7). Taking God’s side against ourselves. Effects are described (2 Cor. 7:9-10). A moral change, not intellectual. Taking sin seriously, getting into God’s presence.
v.10 Humility. Not seeking our glory. Pride leads to failure (Prov. 16:18). God will lift us up as objects of His love.
vv.11-16 Two Kinds of Sin
The Sin of Criticizing and Judging (4:11-12)
vv.11-12 Criticizing and Judging. Anything to hurt another, lies or truth. Adds “brethren”, obligation to care. Root is judging: imputing evil motives in what is hidden, usually hypocrisy. He who judges sets himself as judge of the law, because the law is fulfilled by love. Who are we to judge our neighbor when our motive violates God’s standard? We put ourselves in place of the Law-giver. Not putting saints under law, showing their spirit contrary to the spirit of the law. We are to judge (1 Cor. 5:12; 6:2 10:15; 14:29), not to judge (1 Sam. Jn. 7:24; Rom. 14:3; 1 Cor. 4:3).
The Sin of Independence or Boastfulness (4:13-16)
vv.13-16 Independence and Boasting. Faith very practical. Dependence acknowledges the Lord’s will. Boasting betrays independence: leaving God out (Luke 12:18). Sin is independence. We don’t know if we have tomorrow. Parenthesis on the brevity of life. How foolish for mortal man to boast about events a year from now! Make plans, but say, “If the Lord will”. A scriptural expression (1 Cor. 4:19; 16:7). Men celebrate boastfulness. A rebuke for boasting, also for glorying in it. “The world” is characterized by celebration of human independence (c.p. Phil. 2:5-9).
A General Conclusion (4:17)
v.17 Knowledge and Responsibility. Sin is not just doing bad things; also not doing the good you know. “To him it is sin”, responsibility is personal. The more light, the more responsible. Knowledge without practice incriminates.
Divided into two halves. First injustices saints experience – sins against believers, then governmental chastening, sickness – sins of believers.
Handling Injustices: Sins Against Believers (5:1-12)
Rich and Poor. God’s heart is toward the poor (Luke 7:22; 2 Cor. 8:9; Psalm 41:1; 1 Tim. 6:9). Riches make selfish.
The Sins of the Rich Unbelieving Jews (vv.1-6)
vv.1-3 Judgment Warned on the Greedy Rich. Mistreatment by elite. Character exposed by treated the poor. True saints called “brethren” in v.7. Prophetic warning of impending judgment. Were celebrating their status, should howl and weep. Start weeping now, no opportunity for repentance. Poetically, ill-gotten wealth now rotten, gold corroded into poisonous acid. Piling up treasure, sheer greed (Matt. 6:19). “The last days”, just preceded appearing, though a precursor in 70 A.D., Piling wealth meaningless in view.
v.4 Injustices Heard by the Lord of Sabaoth. Indicted on three specific counts + general greed in vv.1-3. (1) cheating the laborers of their wages to poverty and starvation. Wages and defrauded reapers crying out. “The Lord of Sabaoth” or Lord of Hosts used in the prophets when Israel oppressed by cruel enemies (1 Sam. 17:45, first mention 1 Sam. 1:3). Name invokes the Lord as Captain of hosts of heaven, all power to deliver His people and crush their enemies.
v.5 Living Luxuriously and Indulgently. Rich condemned. It says “on the earth”. Their thoughts are here below. Heaven does not factor in. Expression “as in a day of slaughter” an allusion to lusty rampage of a victorious army through an enemy camp or city. Grabbing for myself, as fast as I can, without concern or self-restraint.
v.6 Killing the Just One. Indicted for killing the Just One; c.p. Acts 7:52. The word “just” in the singular. Belonged to the same generation as killed the Lord. Slaying of faithful remnant included (John 15:20). “He does not resist”, Jesus did not defend Himself or retaliate (1 Pet. 2:23). Even now He waits at God’s right hand. Will “resist” and far more at His second coming (2 Thess. 1:8)! God does not intervene, instead works by grace. Companions in tribulation.
The Reaction of the Faithful to these Injustices: Patience (vv.7-12)
vv.7-8 Patience for the Lord’s Coming. Hope of Lord’s coming has moral effect. Two aspects not distinguished, but appearing is here especially. A present hope for first century Christians. Deal with injustices, not by retaliating, but by patiently waiting. The example of a laborer on a farm, sows then patiently waits. Cannot rush the process. The timetable is God’s. It had “drawn nigh” when James wrote, how much nearer today? Sufferings rewarded in glory (Rom. 8:17; 2 Tim. 2:12). The “laborer” is a believer, but application to the Lord as Sower.
v.9 Guard Against Complaining. Danger of pressures of injustices, trials, the flesh in us and in our brethren, lead to difficulties. need grace. See Matthew 7:1-2. Incur God’s governmental judgment. Judge will set everything right.
vv.10-11 Remember Examples of Patience. Old Testament saints, “the prophets”, raised up by God to speak in His Name when His people were in a bad state; e.g. Micaiah, Isaiah and Jeremiah. We see how their path was vindicated by God, their happy portion now, and at the resurrection to come. Famous example in Job: physical, emotional, and spiritual pain – amazing endurance. If only saw the beginning would not know the Lord’s heart. We have “seen the end of the Lord”, he did not allow Job to suffer in vain.
v.12 Oaths Prohibited: Don’t Resort to the Flesh. Danger to react in the flesh, swearing or oaths. Spoils our testimony. Jews especially had a habit, Gentile world too. When a man’s word is questioned, habit of using oaths; “I swear to God.” A man’s ordinary word cannot be trusted. N.T. forbids common oaths. Swearing “by heaven” or won’t make your word better; can only bring down the government of God. A man’s word should be unequivocal and binding; “yea, yea and nay, nay”.
Chastening and Restoration: Sins of Believers (5:13-20)
v.13 Turning to God In All Circumstances. A transition, connects with preceding and succeeding subjects. Believer can turn to God vs. resorting to the flesh (v.12). Prayer, the proper and automatic response of faith. In joyful circumstances? Singing keeps God in our minds. Psalms are songs of praise, have to do with Christian experience.
vv.14-15 Sickness and Prayer of the Elders. Positive chastening, not necessarily punitive. A purpose for our blessing. May hinder us from sinning. Ask for prayer, and expect to be healed! “Elders of the assembly”, officially appointed in that day. Not the oil, only a sign, but “prayer of faith shall heal the sick”. Not the gift (1 Cor. 12:9), nor apostles (Mark 6:13), but those in responsibility. Earlier in James (Jam. 2:1) it was the synagogue , now it is “the assembly”. Can still carry forward with this. A possibility the sickness was a result of sin. Governmental forgiveness. Not confess to elders… tends to class-priesthood. Confession first to God, then to one another.
vv.16-18 Confession and Intercession. General resource of confession and intercessory prayer, applicable where no elders officially appointed. The “therefore”, knowing God’s heart towards us encourages us to be open. Confess offenses mutually to one another, because the heart is open to our brethren. We don’t want to hide our sin to preserve a false reputation. Our hearts are united in a bond of love. Supplication is an intense request. Confidence that God hears prayers and answers them. Fervency and personal righteousness are two keys to the efficacy of prayer. An example. Elijah, of like passions, shows we do not need to achieve moral perfection in order to pray. Twice, God altered the forces of nature to answer. To stop the rain Elijah had to “pray prayerfully”, to start he simply “prayed”. We do not follow example of praying for judgment, but the example of earnest prayer.
vv.19-20 Restoring a Wayward Brother. God’s desire is to see restoration. Grace active in restoration. Directly connected with converting a sinner, also applies to a backslidden believer (Gal. 6:1). Restoration first to the Lord, the Lord’s work (Psa. 23:3; Luke 24:15). Can involve bringing the fault before them, bringing out scripture, and praying. Requires patience and love. An encouragement for restorers. (1) They have done something for the person, sparing from the ultimate consequence of that sin. (2) They have done something for God, covering a multitude of sins that would have otherwise spread out before Him in their nauseous insults to His holy nature (1 Pet. 4:8). Effect of restoration is to brings back from the error of his way, not make sinner comfortable in their sin. True grace results in practical holiness (Tit. 2:12).