Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations; knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience. And let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing.James 1:2-4 ASV
Count it all joy … Did not Christ say, “Blessed are ye when men shall persecute you … rejoice and be exceeding glad”? (Matthew 5:11,12).
This is exactly the thought of James here.
Manifold temptations … Although the same word is used in James 1:12, below, it is the inner propensity toward evil that is meant there, outward trials and hardships being the thing in focus here. Wessel stated that
James could not have meant here that Christians are “to pretend that they get joy out of things which are disagreeable, for that would be an act of insincerity.
The true view of temptation or trial is that it is an opportunity to gain new strength through overcoming.
This and the following verse (James 1:4) give the theme of the whole letter, which may be variously expressed as “The Testing of Faith,” or “Christian Perfection.”
The proving of your faith … This would be better translated if rendered “the testing” of your faith.
Abraham, the father of the faithful was tested (Genesis 22:1); and it is a foregone certainty that none of the spiritual children of Abraham may expect otherwise than that their faith also will be tested.
However, the testing never ends at the baptistery. Throughout life with its trials and hardships the testing goes on and on.
Worketh patience … James continues to reflect perfectly the words of Jesus Christ who said, “In your patience ye shall possess your souls” (Luke 21:19), the same also being true of the writings of Paul.
This is one of the passages that show that James was acquainted with the writings of Paul (Romans 5:3).
The meaning of “patience” here is that of courageous endurance, and not merely docile submission.
That ye may be perfect … It is a gross error to read “perfect” as used in the New Testament as if it meant “maturity.”
This is exactly the word that Jesus Christ our Lord used of the heavenly Father himself (Matthew 5:48), where Christ commanded, “Be ye therefore perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
This is the theme of the whole epistle of James, all of its various instructions fitting into the category of what is required for perfection.
Implicit in the admonitions of this epistle is that Christians must do their very best to achieve whatever degree of perfection is possible, whatever is lacking to be made up by Christ himself (and there will always be something lacking in every Christian).
Many people insist upon reading “perfect and entire” as “full grown and complete”; but it would be impossible to speak of God as “full grown”! The meaning here is “perfection,” which is exactly what the text says. See our blog on Perfection in Christ.
It is certain that James understood this; and his entire letter is directed to the admonition that the Christian should not presume that Christ’s perfection would be bestowed upon Christians who trusted a subjective trust/faith alone to procure such a status, or who might fail in any manner of doing everything within their power to honor “the perfection in Christ” through their constant imitation of it.
The testing of the Christian’s faith by various external trials, as in this verse and the preceding verse, carries the inherent message that the Christian must pass such tests.
If in his sincerely trying to do so, the Christian should nevertheless fail, Christ in that extremity will surely provide what is lacking.
Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you.Matthew 5:11-12 ASV
In Christ’s teachings, there is often the pattern of proceeding from the general to the specific.
The general class of the persecuted in the preceding verse gives way to the personal and individual cases envisioned in this verse.
There is a similar progression from the general to the particular in the case of Christ’s questions regarding his identity (Matthew 16:13-15).
These verses give a glimpse of the hatred that must ever rest upon God’s true people in whatever age they live.
The apostles took to heart this admonition of the Saviour to rejoice in persecutions.
James (James 1:2-4), Paul (1 Timothy 3:12; Colossians 1:24), and the Twelve (Acts 5:41) were happy in persecutions.
In this passage, Christ firmly underscored the principle motive undergirding human submissiveness to God.
There were, in fact, three of these: love, fear, and hope of reward. There is nothing dishonorable about any of these motives.
If there had been, Christ would not have appealed to all three. His emphasis in this place is on the hope of heaven (see Matthew 6:9).
So persecuted they the prophets that were before you … Christ in this place puts the same dignity upon the apostles as pertained to the prophets of the Old Testament, ranking them, in fact, higher, and showing that they also are to be heeded as inspired men.
It is this possession of prophetic gifts by the first disciples which justifies the church in regarding the New Testament as the inspired word of God (Acts 11:27; 13:1; 15:32). (Also 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 2:20; 3:5; 4:11, etc.).
THE RELATION OF THE DISCIPLES TO THE WORLD (MATT. 5:13-16)
In the Beatitudes, Christ emphasized the inner character of Christians and gave the beatitudes as identification marks of his true followers.
The importance of the inner life is seen in that this was the first thing outlined. Next, Christ turned his attention to the disciples’ relation to the world.