Bible Commentaries

Commentary by J.C.Philpot on select texts of the Bible

James 1

Verse 4

James 1:4

"But let patience have her perfect work." James 1:4

Patience then has its work; and what is that?

1. To ENDURE all trials, live through all temptations, bear all crosses, carry all loads, fight all battles, toil through all difficulties, and overcome all enemies.

2. To SUBMIT to the will of God, to own that he is Lord and King, to have no will or way of its own, no scheme or plan to please the flesh, avoid the cross, or escape the rod; but to submit simply to God"s righteous dealings, both in providence and grace, believing that he does all things well, that he is a Sovereign, "and works all things according to the counsel of his own will."

Now until the soul is brought to this point, the work of patience is not perfect; it may be going on, but it is not consummated. You may be in the furnace of temptation now, passing through the fiery trial. Are you rebellious or submissive? If still rebellious, you must abide in the furnace until you are brought to submission; and not only Song of Solomon, but it must be thorough submission, or else patience has not its perfect work. The dross and slag of rebellion must be scummed off, and the pure metal flow down. It is all of God"s grace to feel this for a single moment.

But are there not, and have there not been, times and seasons, in your soul, when you could be still and know that he is God? when you could submit to his will, believing that he is too wise to err, too good to be unkind? When this submission is felt, patience has its perfect work. Look at Jesus, our great example—see him in the gloomy garden, with the cross in prospect before him on the coming morn. How he could say, "Not my will, but your be done!" There was the perfect work of patience in the perfect soul of the Redeemer. Now you and I must have a work in our soul corresponding to this, or else we are not conformed to the suffering image of our crucified Lord.

Patience in us must have its perfect work; and God will take care that it shall be so. As in a beautiful piece of machinery, if the engineer sees a cog loose or a wheel out of gear, he must adjust the defective part, that it may work easily and properly, and in harmony with the whole machine; so if the God of all our salvation sees a particular grace not in operation or not properly performing its appointed work, he by his Spirit so influences the heart that it is again brought to work as he designed it should do.

Measure your faith and patience by this standard; but do not take in conjunction, or confound with them the workings of your carnal mind. Here we often mistake—we may be submissive as regards our spirit, meek and patient, quiet and resigned, in the inward Prayer of Manasseh, yet feel many uprisings and rebellings of the flesh; and thus patience may not seem to have her perfect work. But to look for perfect submission in the flesh is to look for perfection in the flesh, which was never promised and is never given. Look to what the Spirit is working in you—not to the carnal mind, which is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be, and therefore knows neither subjection nor submission. Look at that inward principality of which the Prince of peace is Lord and Ruler, and see whether in the still depths of your soul, and where he lives and reigns, there is submission to the will of God.

"That you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing." James 1:4

The word "perfect" in the Scripture does not mean, as applied to a saint of God, anything approaching to the usual idea of perfection, as implying spotless, sinless holiness, but one who is "matured" and ripened in the life of God, no longer a child but a grown man. As a tree grown to its full stature is said to have attained perfection; so when the Lord the Spirit has brought forth the work of patience in your soul, as far as regards that work you are perfect, for it is God"s work in you; and so far you are "entire," that Isaiah, possessing all which that grace gives, and "lacking nothing" which that grace can communicate.

To submit wholly to the will of God, and be lost and swallowed up in conformity to it, is the height of Christian perfection here below; and he that has that, lacks nothing, for he has all things in Christ. What, then, is the greatest height of grace to which the soul can arrive? Where did grace shine forth so conspicuously as in the Lord Jesus Christ? and where did grace manifest itself more than in the gloomy garden and on the suffering cross? Was not the human nature of Jesus more manifestly filled with the Spirit, and did not every grace shine forth in him more conspicuously in Gethsemane and on Calvary than when enraptured upon the Mount of Transfiguration?

So there is more manifested grace in the heart of a saint of God who, under trial and temptation, can say, "Your will be done," and submit himself to the chastening rod of his heavenly Father, than when he is basking in the full beams of the Sun of righteousness. How often we are mistaken in this matter; longing for enjoyment, instead of seeing that true grace makes us submit to the will of God, whether in the valley or upon the mount!

Verse 18

James 1:18

"Of his own will he begat us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." James 1:18

If we look at the work of the Spirit on the heart, we shall see how, in all his sacred dealings and gracious movements, he invariably employs truth as his grand instrument. Does he pierce and wound? It is by the truth; for the "sword of the Spirit is the word of God," and that we know is "the word of truth." If he mercifully heals, if he kindly blesses, it is still by means of truth; for the promise Isaiah, "Howbeit, when Hebrews, the Spirit of truth has come, he will guide you into all truth." And when he thus comes, it is as a Comforter, according to those gracious words, "But when the Comforter has come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, he shall testify of me."

In fact, if we look at the new man of grace that the blessed Spirit begets and brings forth in the heart, we shall see that all his members and faculties are formed and adapted to a living reception of the truth. As the eye is adapted to light; as the ear to sound; as the lungs to the pure air that fills them with every breath; as the heart to the vital blood which it propels through every bounding artery, so is the new man of grace fitted and adapted to the truth of God. And as these vital organs perform their peculiar functions only as they receive the impressions which these external agents produce upon them, so the organs of the new man of grace only act as truth is impressed upon them by the power of the blessed Spirit. Has, then, the new man of grace eyes? It is to see the truth ( Ephesians 1:18-19). Has he ears? It is to hear the truth ( Isaiah 55:3; Luke 9:44). Has he hands? It is to lay hold of and embrace the truth ( Proverbs 4:13; Isaiah 27:5; Hebrews 6:18). Has he feet? It is that he may walk in the truth ( Psalm 119:45; Luke 1:6; 3:1-38; John 1:4). Has he a mouth? "Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it." It is that he may feed upon the truth, the living truth, yes, upon His flesh who is truth itself ( John 6:35,6).

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Bibliographical Information
Philpot, Joseph Charles. "Commentary on James 1". Commentary by J.C.Philpot on select texts of the Bible. https://pro.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jcp/james-1.html.