Thirdmill Study Bible

Notes on James 1:5-17

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Wisdom - James 1:5

In Scripture, wisdom combines a personal knowledge or fear of God with the practical skills of living. Christians are commanded to ask for wisdom. In this context, James instructed his readers to ask for wisdom so they would be able to endure the hardships of the Christian life. By asking, Christians take the first step in attaining wisdom, which is to admit their need for help from God. Because God gives wisdom without rebuke to all who ask, believers can know that their genuine requests for wisdom will be answered.

Ask for wisdom - James 1:6

Believers must ask for wisdom in faith, doubting nothing. According to James, faith is an assured confidence in God. Those who know and trust God will ask in accord with the will of God. Believers can have confidence they will receive what they ask for because they are asking for what God wants to give them. The one who doubts, however, is like a wave in the ocean, inconsistent and unsettled (Eph. 4:14).

Double-minded man - James 1:7-8

The person who doubts will not receive anything from the Lord. James is speaking proverbially about a person who is characterized by doubt. That kind of person is double-minded and unstable. Here James coins a new word. Before the rise of western views of the mind, which tend towards compartmentalizing people, the mind and heart were understood by ancient cultures as representative of the whole person. What James describes here is a divided person, a person set against himself.

Low position - James 1:9-11

James instructed the poor brother to boast of his high position. This is in line with the teaching of Jesus concerning the place of the poor in his kingdom (Matt. 5:5; 19:30). He then instructed the rich man to boast of his low position. As a sign and foretaste of God’s kingdom, the church does not value material wealth and social status in the ways the world’s economies do. The church values poor and rich people equally (2:2-4) as brothers and sisters in the same family. The sun rises over both, who like the flower will pass away because neither can withstand its heat. With this picture, James reminds both rich and poor in the church that they are dependent creatures, subject to sickness, temptation, trials and death. Indeed, Jesus said, it is more difficult for the rich to enter God’s kingdom, because they depend heavily on their wealth (Matt. 19:24), instead of depending on God.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial - James 1:12

James summarized his words on endurance here in v. 12. Those who endure trials and tribulations are blessed, because enduring in faithfulness, despite troubles reveals they love God. The crown of life is given at the consummation of God’s kingdom (Rev. 2:10; 3:11; 2 Tim. 4:8; 1 Pet. 5:4) to all those whose saving faith, love and hope were manifested in perseverance under trial and good works. SeeBC 24, 37; WCF 16, 33.2.

Tempted - James 1:13

No one should accuse God of being the one who tempted them. Though the word James uses for “test” and “tempt” is the same, it holds different meanings in different contexts. God tests his people, but he never tempts them. Testing has spiritual growth as its goal; tempting has sin as its goal.

How temptation works - James 1:14-15

James describes how temptation works. Temptation originates from within a person when desire drags him away and entices him. Temptation never comes from God. It originates from our own desires, even good desires that are deformed by sin or from the devil (1 Pet. 5:8-9), who seeks to deceive and destroy us. If our desire for what is forbidden is fed or allowed to grow, it can overtake our will, which results in sin. James used the imagery of conception and childbirth to illustrate how desire conceives sin, and sin conceives death. Sin always results in death (Rom. 6:23), but Christ died to destroy sin and death, so those who trust him would be born again to a life of righteousness (cf. 1:18; 1 John 1:8-9). See WCF 6.2-3; WCF 17.3.

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