|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
2:1-13 Those who profess faith in Christ as the Lord of glory, must not respect persons on account of mere outward circumstances and appearances, in a manner not agreeing with their profession of being disciples of the lowly Jesus. St. James does not here encourage rudeness or disorder: civil respect must be paid; but never such as to influence the proceedings of Christians in disposing of the offices of the church of Christ, or in passing the censures of the church, or in any matter of religion. Questioning ourselves is of great use in every part of the holy life. Let us be more frequent in this, and in every thing take occasion to discourse with our souls. As places of worship cannot be built or maintained without expense, it may be proper that those who contribute thereto should be accommodated accordingly; but were all persons more spiritually-minded, the poor would be treated with more attention that usually is the case in worshipping congregations. A lowly state is most favourable for inward peace and for growth in holiness. God would give to all believers riches and honours of this world, if these would do them good, seeing that he has chosen them to be rich in faith, and made them heirs of his kingdom, which he promised to bestow on all who love him. Consider how often riches lead to vice and mischief, and what great reproaches are thrown upon God and religion, by men of wealth, power, and worldly greatness; and it will make this sin appear very sinful and foolish. The Scripture gives as a law, to love our neighbour as ourselves. This law is a royal law, it comes from the King of kings; and if Christians act unjustly, they are convicted by the law as transgressors. To think that our good deeds will atone for our bad deeds, plainly puts us upon looking for another atonement. According to the covenant of works, one breach of any one command brings a man under condemnation, from which no obedience, past, present, or future, can deliver him. This shows us the happiness of those that are in Christ. We may serve him without slavish fear. God's restraints are not a bondage, but our own corruptions are so. The doom passed upon impenitent sinners at last, will be judgment without mercy. But God deems it his glory and joy, to pardon and bless those who might justly be condemned at his tribunal; and his grace teaches those who partake of his mercy, to copy it in their conduct.
Verse 4. - The copula (καὶ) of the Received Text is certainly spurious. It is found in K, L, but is wanting in א, A, B, C, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic. B also omits the negative οὐ (so Westcott and Herr margin). If this manuscript is followed, the sentence must be read as a direct statement, and not as interrogative. But if (with most manuscripts and editions) the interrogative be retained, the translation is still doubtful. Διεκρίθητε ἐν ἑαυτοῖς may mean:
(1) "Are ye not divided in your own mind?" so the Syriac and R.V., which would imply that this respect of persons showed that they were halting between God and the world - in fact, double-minded.
(2) "Do ye not make distinctions among yourselves?" R.V. margin; this gives an excellent sense, but is wanting in authority, as there appears to be no other instance forthcoming of the passive with this meaning.
(3) "Did you not doubt among yourselves?" this (doubt) is the almost invariable meaning of διακρίναομαι in the New Testament, and the word has already been used in this sense by St. James (James 1:6). Hence this rendering is to be preferred. So Huther, Plumptre, and Farrar, the latter of whom explains the passage as follows: "It shows doubt to act as though Christ had never promised his kingdom to the poor, rich in faith; and wicked reasonings to argue mentally that the poor must be less worthy of honor than the rich." Judges of evil thoughts (κριταὶ διαλογισμῶν πονηρῶν); sc. their own (thoughts), which caused them to respect persons. Thus the phrase is equivalent to "evil-thinking judges." (On the genitive, see Winer, 'Gram. of N. T. Greek,' p. 233; and cf. James 1:25, ἀκροάτης ἐπιλησμονής.)
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Are ye not then partial in yourselves,.... That is, guilty of such partiality as must appear to yourselves, and your own consciences must accuse you of; or do not ye distinguish, or make a difference among yourselves, by such a conduct, towards the rich and the poor:
and are become judges of evil thoughts; or "are distinguishers by evil thoughts"; that is, make a distinction between the rich and the poor, by an evil way of thinking, that one is better than the other, and to be preferred before him.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
4. Are ye not … partial—literally, "Have ye not made distinctions" or "differences" (so as to prefer one to another)? So in Jude 22.
in yourselves—in your minds, that is, according to your carnal inclination [Grotius].
are become judges of evil thoughts—The Greek words for "judges" and for "partial," are akin in sound and meaning. A similar translation ought therefore to be given to both. Thus, either for "judges," &c. translate, "distinguishers of (that is, according to your) evil thoughts"; or, do ye not partially judge between men, and are become evilly-thinking judges (Mr 7:21)? The "evil thoughts" are in the judges themselves; as in Lu 18:6, the Greek, "judge of injustice," is translated, "unjust judge." Alford and Wahl translate, "Did ye not doubt" (respecting your faith, which is inconsistent with the distinctions made by you between rich and poor)? For the Greek constantly means "doubt" in all the New Testament. So in Jas 1:6, "wavering." Mt 21:21; Ac 10:20; Ro 4:20, "staggered not." The same play on the same kindred words occurs in the Greek of Ro 14:10, 23, "judge … doubteth." The same blame of being a judge, when one ought to be an obeyer, of the law is found in Jas 4:11.
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