James 1:2 MEANING

James 1:2
(2-27) Immediately after the salutation, and with more or less a play upon the word which we translate "greeting" ("rejoice," James 1:1; "count it all joy," James 1:2) there follow appeals on behalf of patience, endurance. and meekness.

(2) Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.--Better, Account it all joy whenever ye fall into divers temptations--i.e., trials; but even with this more exact rendering of the text, how can we, poor frail creatures of earth, it may well be asked, feel any joy under such? Do we not pray in our Saviour's words, "Lead us not into temptation"? (See Matthew 6:13, and Note there.) Yet a little consideration will open out the teaching of Holy Scripture very plainly. The Apostle here is following the same line of thought as that expressed in Hebrews 5:14. By use (or habit, more properly) our senses may be exercised to the discernment of good and evil. The grace of God given to the soul is capable of growth and enlargement, like the powers of body and mind. If either be unemployed, weakness must supervene, and eventually decay and death. And just as the veteran who has proved his armour well, and learned to face habitual danger as a duty, is more trustworthy than a raw recruit, however large of limb and stout of heart, so with the Christian soldier. He must learn to "endure hardness" (2 Timothy 2:3), and bear meekly and even gladly all the trials which are to strengthen him for the holy war. Innocence is a grace indeed, and yet there is a higher stage of the same virtue, viz., the purity which has been won by long and often bitter conflict with the thousand suggestions of evil from without, stirring up the natural impurity within. Temptation is not sin. "You cannot," says the old German divine, "prevent the birds flying over your head, but you can from making nests in your hair;" and the soul victorious over some such trying onset is by that very triumph stronger and better able to undergo the next assault, The act of virtue has, in truth, helped to build up the habit, from which, when it is perfected, a happy life cannot fail to spring. The interpretation of our Lord's prayer is rather the cry for help to God our Father in the trial, than for actual escape from it: Lead us not, i.e., where we in our free will may choose the wrong and perish. And there is a strangely sweet joy to be snatched from the most grievous temptation in the remembrance that "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Verses 2-18. - THE SUBJECT OF TEMPTATION. This section may be subdivided as follows: -

(1) The value of temptation (vers. 2-4).

(2) Digression suggested by the thought 'of perfection (vers. 5-11).

(3) Return to the subject of temptation (vers. 12-18). Verses 2-4. - The value of temptation. Considered as an opportunity, it is a cause for joy. Verse 2. - My brethren. A favorite expression with St. James, occurring no less than fifteen times in the compass of this short Epistle. Count it all joy, etc.; cf. 1 Peter 1:6, "Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, ye have been put to grief in manifold temptations, that the proof of your faith (τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως)... might be found unto praise," etc. The coincidence is too close to be accidental, although the shade of meaning given to δοκίμιον is slightly different, if indeed it has any right in the text in St. Peter (see Herr, vol. it. p. 102). Here it has its proper force, and signifies that by which the faith is tried, i.e. the instrument of trial rather than the process of trial. Thus the passage in ver. 3 becomes parallel to Romans 5:3, "tribulation worketh patience." With regard to the sentiments of ver. 2, "Count it all joy," etc., contrast Matthew 6:13. Experience, however, shows that the two are compatible. It is quite possible to shrink beforehand from temptation, and pray with intense earnestness, "Lead us not into temptation," and yet, when the temptation comes, to meet it joyfully, Περίπέσητε. The use of this word implies that the temptations of which St. James is thinking are external (see Luke 10:30, where the same word is used of the man who fell among thieves). 1 Thessalonians 2:14 and Hebrews 10:32, 33 will show the trials to which believing Jews were subject. But the epithet "manifold" would indicate that we should not confine the word here to trials such as those.

1:1-11 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.My brethren,.... Not only according to the flesh, he being a Jew as they were; but in a spiritual sense, they being born again of the same grace, belonging to the same family and household of faith, and having the same Father, and being all the children of God, by faith in Christ Jesus:

count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; not the temptations of Satan, or temptations to sin; for these cannot be matter of joy, but grief; these are fiery darts, and give a great deal of uneasiness and trouble; but afflictions and persecutions for the sake of the Gospel, which are so called here and elsewhere, because they are trials of the faith of God's people, and of other graces of the Spirit of God. God by these tempts his people, as he did Abraham, when he called him to sacrifice his son; he thereby tried his faith, fear, love, and obedience; so by afflictions, God tries the graces of his people; not that he might know them, for he is not ignorant of them, but that they might be made manifest to others; and these are "divers": many are the afflictions of the righteous; through much tribulation they must enter the kingdom; it is a great fight of afflictions which they endure, as these believers did; their trials came from different quarters; they were persecuted by their countrymen the Jews, and were distressed by the Gentiles, among whom they lived; and their indignities and reproaches were many; and their sufferings of different sorts, as confiscation of goods, imprisonment of body, banishment, scourgings, and death in various shapes: and these they "fall" into; not by chance, nor altogether at an unawares, or unexpectedly; but they fell into them through the wickedness and malice of their enemies, and did not bring them upon themselves through any crime or enormity they were guilty of: and when this was their case, the apostle exhorts them to count it all joy, or matter of joy, of exceeding great joy, even of the greatest joy; not that these afflictions were joyous in themselves, but in their circumstances, effects, and consequences; as they tried, and exercised, and improved the graces of the Spirit, and worked for their good, spiritual and eternal, and produced in them the peaceable fruit of righteousness; and as they were attended with the presence and Spirit of God, and of glory; and as they made for, and issued in the glory of God; and because of that great reward in heaven which would follow them; see Matthew 5:11. The Jews have a saying (g),

"whoever rejoices in afflictions that come upon him, brings salvation to the world.''

(g) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 8. 1.

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