|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:26,27 When men take more pains to seem religious than really to be so, it is a sign their religion is in vain. The not bridling the tongue, readiness to speak of the faults of others, or to lessen their wisdom and piety, are signs of a vain religion. The man who has a slandering tongue, cannot have a truly humble, gracious heart. False religious may be known by their impurity and uncharitableness. True religion teaches us to do every thing as in the presence of God. An unspotted life must go with unfeigned love and charity. Our true religion is equal to the measure in which these things have place in our hearts and conduct. And let us remember, that nothing avails in Christ Jesus, but faith that worketh by love, purifies the heart, subdues carnal lusts, and obeys God's commands.
Verse 27. - God and the Father; rather, our God and Father. The article (τῷ) binds together Θεῷ and Πατρί, so that they should not be separated, as in the A.V. To visit the fatherless... and to keep himself unspotted. Observe that our duty towards our fellow-men is placed first; then that towards ourselves. Ἐπισκέπτεσθαι is the regular word for visiting the sick; cf. Ecclus. 7:35, "Be not slow to visit the sick (μὴ ὄκει ἐπισκέτεσπθαι ἀῥῤωστον)." The fatherless and widows (ὀρφανοὺς καὶ χήρας). These stand here (as so often in the Old Testament) as types of persons in distress; the "personae miserabiles" of the Canon Law (see e.g. Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalm 68:5; Psalm 82:3; Isaiah 1:17; and cf. Ecclus. 4:10). "Be as a father unto the fatherless, and instead of an husband unto their mother; so shalt thou be as the son of the Most High, and he shall love thee more than thy mother doth." To keep himself unspotted. Man's duty towards himself. (For ἄσπιλον, cf. 1 Timothy 6:14; 1 Peter 1:19; 2 Peter 3:14.) From the world. This clause may be connected either with τηρεῖν or with ἄσπιλον, as in the phrase, καθαρὸς ἀπὸ in Acts 20:26.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Pure religion and undefiled,.... That which is sincere and genuine, and free from adulteration and hypocrisy:
before God and the Father; or in the sight of God the Father of Christ, and all his people; that which is approved of by him, who is the searcher of hearts, and the trier of the reins of men, "is this": not that the apostle is giving a full definition of true religion; only he mentions some of the effects of it, by which it is known, and without which it cannot be true and genuine; and they are these:
to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction; and not only to see them, and speak a word of comfort to them, but to communicate to them, and supply their wants, as they may require, and according to the ability God has given: where there is true religion in the heart, there is love to God; and where there is love to God, there is love to the saints; and this will show itself to them, in times of affliction and distress; and where this is wanting, religion itself is not pure and undefiled:
and to keep himself unspotted from the world: from the men of the world, who defile by their evil communications; and "from the vices of the world", as the Arabic version renders it, which are of a defiling nature; and, where religion is in its power and purity, and the Gospel of the grace of God comes with efficacy, it teaches to separate from the rest of the world, and to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
27. Pure … and undefiled—"Pure" is that love which has in it no foreign admixture, as self-deceit and hypocrisy. "Undefiled" is the means of its being "pure" [Tittmann]. "Pure" expresses the positive, "undefiled" the negative side of religious service; just as visiting the fatherless and widow is the active, keeping himself unspotted from the world, the passive side of religious duty. This is the nobler shape that our religious exercises take, instead of the ceremonial offices of the law.
before God and the Father—literally, "before Him who is (our) God and Father." God is so called to imply that if we would be like our Father, it is not by fasting, &c., for He does none of these things, but in being "merciful as our Father is merciful" [Chrysostom].
visit—in sympathy and kind offices to alleviate their distresses.
the fatherless—whose "Father" is God (Ps 68:5); peculiarly helpless.
and—not in the Greek; so close is the connection between active works of mercy to others, and the maintenance of personal unworldliness of spirit, word, and deed; no copula therefore is needed. Religion in its rise interests us about ourselves in its progress, about our fellow creatures: in its highest stage, about the honor of God.
keep himself—with jealous watchfulness, at the same time praying and depending on God as alone able to keep us (Joh 17:15; Jude 24).
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