Thirdmill Study Bible

Notes on James 2:24-4:12

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Unfruitful faith, confronted - James 2:24

James used the word justified in a different context with a different emphasis from Paul (see note above on 2:21-23). Addressing the quality of true faith, James uses the definite article in 2:14 to mark “this kind of faith.” The kind of faith that James confronts is a dead, unfruitful faith without deeds (see notes above on 2:14-17). This kind of naked faith justifies no one because it is not a saving faith.

Rahab's deeds demonstrated her faith - James 2:25-26

James concludes this section with one more example. Rahab was also vindicated by deeds when she believed the God who sent messengers to her in Jericho and demonstrated her faith by aiding their mission (Josh. 2:1-15). James concludes this section with a proverb that compares faith apart from works to a human body without a spirit or breath. See WCF 11.2.

Wisdom and Peace. - James 3:1-4:12

In this section, James addresses the issue of division in the church. In 3:1-12, he describes how a lack of self-control over speech causes great harm in the church. In 4:1-12, he goes deeper to address the motivations of harsh speech and other forms of conflict, self-ambition. Between these two sections, 3:13-18 contrasts this earthly ‘wisdom’ or way of life, with heavenly wisdom. This “wisdom from above” (3:17) is “peace-loving” and “full of good fruit,” and can heal division, if human desires are submitted to God.

Take Control of Your Tongue. - James 3:1-12

In the first part of this section, James discusses troubles caused by the tongue, that is, harmful speech. With numerous images and proverbial examples, James shows though the tongue is small, it is powerful. Wisdom tames the tongue as an instrument of blessing, rather than a weapon of cursing, boasting or slander.

Teachers judged more strictly - James 3:1

Like legal testimony in a court, teaching is a highly responsible form of speech, because it transfers the wisdom of character with its content. Thus, James warns his audience not to become teachers on the grounds of a more severe judgment. God expects those with greater authority to meet greater expectations and higher standards (Luke 12:35-48; Heb 13:17).

We all stumble - James 3:2

According to James, a fully developed man does not stumble in what he says. Speech is an indicator of the inner nature of a person, revealing the heart. James’ proverbial saying is not an expectation of perfection, for he acknowledges that we all stumble. Rather, it is an observation that self-control in a person’s speech usually indicates personal discipline in other areas of life. See WCF 6.5; WLC 149.

Great results from small means - James 3:3-6

Several examples from everyday life demonstrate the disproportionate power of the tongue for both good and ill. First, James describes how horses are controlled only by small bits. One tiny piece of wood or metal in a horse’s mouth gives us the power to direct their whole bodies. Second, ships…are steered by a very small rudder. Though the tongue is a very small part of the human body, it influences the whole. Finally, because the tongue boasts great things and lies, James compares its destructive power to a fire. Though it starts small, it can grow quickly to burn a forest.

Tongue remains uncontrollable - 3:7-8

James uses more examples to illustrate man’s seeming inability to tame his tongue. Ironically, though humans are called to take dominion over all of nature, the tongue remains uncontrollable and full of deadly poison. Perhaps continuing an allusion to the creation and fall narratives in Gen 1-3, James identifies the effects of a lying tongue with the deadly poison of a serpent.

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