The Epistle of James
Earl Miller continues his excellent exposition of the Epistle of James. He presents in these articles the experiential aspect of Christianity. We recommend a close study of each paragraph, and an application of us teaching to personal life and testimony.
James, writing to his beloved brethren who were scattered abroad because of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, refers to the coming of Christ as an added incentive to be patient in their trials.
The Parousia of Christ
The word James uses for the coming of Christ is “parousia.” This word is used 24 times in the New Testament concerning the coming of Christ. The primary meaning of the word is “presence.” It refers not only to the moment of Christ’s return, but to the entire period of His presence. Thus when Christ comes at the Rapture and we are caught up to meet Him in the air, we will be with Him in the heavenlies during the time of the Tribulation Period on earth. The judgment seat of Christ, where all the saints are judged as servants, will take place during this time. The parousia of Christ, therefore, refers to the entire time we are with Him in the heavenlies before He returns to the earth to set up His kingdom.
The Long-Suffering of Saints
James begins this portion by saying, “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord.” The word “patience” used here is not the same word as was used in the first chapter. In the first chapter the word was “hupomonee” which we saw meant the ability to remain alive under the pressure of trials. But in the fifth chapter the word is “makrothumeesate.” The meaning of this word, according to Zodhiates in his excellent book THE PATIENCE OF HOPE, page 77, is “a holding out of the mind before it gives room to action or passion — generally passion.” Thus, the word should be translated “long-suffering” rather than “patience.” Patience, as the word is used in the first chapter, refers to things, to the circumstances of life, But the word used in the fifth chapter refers, not to things or circumstances, but to persons. We are to exercise patience with respect to circumstances, such as the trials of life, but we are to be long-suffering toward those who bring the trials upon us. James, thus, exhorts his brethren to be long-suffering toward their oppressors until the coming of Christ.
Patience and Long-Suffering
Patience and long-suffering are two Christian graces enjoined upon the people of God, but only long-suffering is attributed to God. God has no need of patience, for trials in the circumstances of life do not enter into His experience, but He is very long-suffering toward man. Man may resist Him, fight against Him, or perpetuate persecution against His saints, yet God does not strike them down; He is long-suffering. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to the knowledge of the truth. We sometimes wonder why God does not stop the cruel oppression of ungodly men, but He is long-suffering toward them, giving them every opportunity to repent. Patience, therefore, has to do with things, the circumstances of life, while long-suffering has to do with persons. Since long-suffering is characteristic of God, James urges his brethren to be long-suffering toward their oppressors.
The Imminent Coming of Christ
The imminent coming of Christ was the hope of God’s people even in that day. It is still the hope of God’s people today. When James wrote, it was some 35 or 40 years since Christ left them to ascend into Heaven, but before He left, He promised to come again to receive them to Himself, that where He is they might be also. They were expectantly looking for Him to come, and perhaps wondering why He delayed so long, so James admonishes them to patiently wait for His coming. Today, 1900 years later, Christ still has not come. But we have signs on the political, economic, and religious horizons which point to the near return of Christ, signs which they did not have in that day.
“Behold the farmer waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it, until he receives the early and latter rain.” The farmer waiting for the fruit of the earth is the simile that James uses for the Christian waiting for the coming of the Lord. The farmer sows the seed and then waits for the fruit. The seed does not come from himself as a source, but from the earth, a source outside himself. He only sows the seed into the ground, then through the process of germination, death and resurrection take place; the seed dies as a seed that fruit may be produced. The farmer waits patiently for this process to provide him with the precious fruit of the earth.
In like manner, when Christ came the first time, He finished a work which provides redemption for everyone who believes. Now the good news of salvation by faith in Christ is preached in all the world. When we first believed, the seed was sown in our hearts. Then through the process of death and resurrection (dying with Christ and rising with Him), we mature as sons of God. And now we patiently wait for His coming. As the farmer can do nothing to hasten the harvest, so the Christian can do nothing to hasten the coming of the Lord. Like the farmer, he patiently waits for His coming.
Establish Your Hearts
The eighth verse says, “Be patient estabilsh your hearts, for the coming of the Lord draweth near.” Discouragement comes easily to the people of God when trials are sore. Job cursed the day of his affliction. Sometimes because of adverse circumstances, one is tempted to pull up stakes and move to another place, hoping thereby to start over again and through faith attain success in a new place. The pasture always looks greener on the other side of the fence. But the disciples, after toiling all night without a single catch of fish, were told the next morning to let the net down on the right side of the boat, and immediately they caught 153 great fish in their net. They did not go to another place, success came in the same lake, and in the same waters where they had fished all night without success. So with the child of God; he may think that the luscious pasture is somewhere else, but by patiently waiting he finds the best picking in the place where he is. It was the same old net in the same old place that yielded the fish.
The word for patience here is the same word as in the previous verse, and should really be translated long-suffering. The word “establish” comes from a Greek word meaning “to prop.” We are to prop up our hearts, and from this we get the ward “establish.” An established heart is a propped up heart. Since the verb is in the active voice, it implies that it is something we can do ourselves. Of course, when we attempt to establish our hearts, God is working behind the scenes to bring success to our endeavours. Passivity is good up to a certain point, but there come times when we need to take action ourselves. We are commanded to “lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12), and to “keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21). These are things we are commanded to do ourselves. But you might say, “How can one keep himself in the love of God?” You look at your puny self and think such a thing is impossible. True! Yet God did not put those words in His Book just to take up space. If you become so passive that you will not even try to do the impossible, of course, you will not be kept in the love of God. But if you attempt the seemingly impossible, you will marvel at the way you are kept in the love of God. You wonder how that can be. God knows; you don’t need to know. He works behind the scenes, as the poet has said;
“Truth forever on the scaffold;
Wrong forever on the throne,
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadows,
Keeping watch above His own.”
Now why should we prop up or establish our hearts? Because the coming of the Lord is drawing near. As time passes on, people scoff at the coming of the Lord. They say, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the begining of creation” (2 Pet. 3:4). The longer His coming is delayed, evil men and seducers are waxing worse and worse. Inadvertently Christians go along with the crowd and become careless in regards to the coming of the Lord. In view of this, we should be diligent in establishing our hearts, for the coming of the Lord is much nearer now that it was then.
The Greek word translated “grudge” is “stenazate.” According to Arndt & Gingerich’s Lexicon, the word means, “to sigh, to groan because of undesirable circumstances, or to groan against or complain against someone.” In this particular incident James uses the word in reference to those who were complaining against others. Undesirable circumstances have borne down on these Christians so that they began to complain one against the other. So, James says, “Grudge not against one another, brethren, lest ye be condemned; behold the judge standeth at the door.” The Greek has the word “door” in the plural. “Behold, the judge standeth at the doors.” Does this mean that the judge, who is Christ, is standing at the verge of His coming again? Or does it mean that He is standing at each individual heart to judge the attitude of that heart? With the word “door” being in the plural, and with the expression “lest ye be judged” all seem to point to the parousia of Christ where at the judgment seat of Christ the attitude of every heart will be openly expressed.