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 its teaching to personal life and testimony.
Prophets Exemplify Long-Suffering
James brings in compelling reason to bolster his admonition to his brethren to be long-suffering to each other. He refers to the prophets and to Job for illustration of long-suffering and patience.He says, “Take, my brethren, the prophets who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of long-suffering and patience. Behold, we count them happy who endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” The prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord are worthy show-pieces to set before these persecuted brethren. The prophets suffered affliction because of their faithfulness to the Lord. Yet these prophets were long-suffering toward their persecutors. It is interesting to notice that the word applied to the prophets is long-suffering and not patience, while for Job it is patience and not long-suffering. In Job’s case it was things or circumstances of life that caused his suffering, and he manifsted remarkable patience through it all. But the prophets were suffering at the hands of men, so in their case it was long-suffering and not patience. With these two illustrations, James clinches his admonition to his brethren to be longsuffering toward those who were responsible for their suffering, and at the same time to be patient in all their trials and afflictions. The coming of the Lord will right all things.
James closes the portion dealing with the coming of the Lord with the words, “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by Heaven, nor by earth, neither by any other oath; but let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay, lest ye fall into condemnation.” While this verse does not bear directly on the coming of the Lord, it does bear practical admonition as to the manner of life of those who do anticipate the coming of the Lord.
It is a bit difficult to arrive at the correct meaning of this verse. Some take it to mean that all oaths are forbidden. Yet God Himself used the oath to bind promises He made to men like Abraham. In the sixth chapter of Hebrews when God made a promise to Abraham, He confirmed it by an oath. And since He could swear by no greater, He swore by Himself that the promise would be fulfilled. Paul used the oath for confirmation when he said, “God is my witness” (Phil. 1:8), and, “Behold, before God, I lie not” (Gal. 1:20). Paul did not hesitate to use the oath for confirmation, so James evidently was not referring to that kind of oath. He, no doubt, was referring to the careless way in which the name of God was used to give credence to what was being said. Some people like to interject the name of God in the statements they make to impress their listeners that they are telling the truth. This, I believe, was what James was condemning. Let your yes be yes, and your no, no. To add more for credence is condemning.
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Be longsuffering, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient for it until it receives the early and late rains. May you also be patient, having your hearts established, for the coming of the Lord has drawn near. Do not grumble one against another, brethren, lest you be condemned; behold, the judge is standing at the doors. Take the prophets who have spoken in the name of the Lord, as an example, brethren, of patience and long-suffering. Behold, we call those happy who are steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and saw the purpose of the Lord, how He is very compassionate and merciful.
But above all my brethren, do not swear at all; neither by Heaven, nor by earth, nor by any other oath. But let your yes be yes, and your no, no, that ye fall not into condemnation.