James 1:20
For the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.—Sarcastically rings the context. Perhaps there is still a sharper point to the satire: the wrath of man does not work God’s righteousness “to the full.” The warning may well be sounded in the ears of Christians still, who are not less apt than Jonah of old to say quickly and in self-excuse, “I do well to be angry” (Jonah 4:9). How many a holy work of household and parish has been and is thus hindered and destroyed; and if the golden words of the first bishop of the Church had been heeded better, there never had appeared one page of her long history blotted with the blood of a religious war.

1:19-21 Instead of blaming God under our trials, let us open our ears and hearts to learn what he teaches by them. And if men would govern their tongues, they must govern their passions. The worst thing we can bring to any dispute, is anger. Here is an exhortation to lay apart, and to cast off as a filthy garment, all sinful practices. This must reach to sins of thought and affection, as well as of speech and practice; to every thing corrupt and sinful. We must yield ourselves to the word of God, with humble and teachable minds. Being willing to hear of our faults, taking it not only patiently, but thankfully. It is the design of the word of God to make us wise to salvation; and those who propose any mean or low ends in attending upon it, dishonour the gospel, and disappoint their own souls.For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God - Does not produce in the life that righteousness which God requires. Its tendency is not to incline us to keep the law, but to break it; not to induce us to embrace the truth, but the opposite. The meaning of this passage is not that our wrath will make God either more or less righteous; but that its tendency is not to produce that upright course of life, and love of truth, which God requires. A man is never sure of doing right under the influence of excited feelings; he may do that which is in the highest sense wrong, and which he will regret all his life. The particular meaning of this passage is, that wrath in the mind of man will not have any tendency to make him righteous. It is only that candid state of mind which will lead him to embrace the truth which can be hoped to have such an effect. 20. Man's angry zeal in debating, as if jealous for the honor of God's righteousness, is far from working that which is really righteousness in God's sight. True "righteousness is sown in peace," not in wrath (Jas 3:18). The oldest and best reading means "worketh," that is, practiceth not: the received reading is "worketh," produceth not. See Poole on "Jam 1:19" For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. This is so far from engaging persons to do that which is right and acceptable in the sight of God, that it puts them upon doing that which is evil. The Alexandrian copy reads, "with the wrath of men do not work the righteousness of God"; do not attend upon the word and ordinances of God with a wrathful spirit. Compare, with this, 1 Timothy 2:8. For the wrath of man worketh not the {s} righteousness of God.

(s) That which God appoints.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Jam 1:20 gives the reason of the exhortation βραδὺς εἰς ὀργήν: for the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God. The preponderance of authorities decides against the reading κατεργάζεται, and in favour of ἐργάζεται. From the fact that δικαιοσύνην is twice in the N. T., namely Acts 10:35 and Hebrews 11:33, joined with the simple verb, it does not follow that ἐργάζεται is a later correction (against de Wette, Wiesinger), especially as κατεργάζεσθαι is also found united with abstract substantives, as in Romans 1:27 with τὴν ἀσχημοσύνην, in Romans 2:9 with τὸ κακόν, and in Romans 7:18 with τὸ καλόν. With the reading ἐργάζεται,—and also with κατεργάζεται, when this latter, as is frequently the case (see especially Romans 2:9-10), is synonymous with the former,

δικαιοσύνη is equivalent to τὸ δίκαιον, as is frequently the case in the O. and N. T.; see Acts 10:35 above referred to, and the frequently occurring phrase: ποιεῖν τὴν δικαιοσύνην, Genesis 18:19; Isaiah 56:1; Matthew 6:1; 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:7; 1 John 3:10; Revelation 22:11. Θεοῦ is added in contrast to ἀνδρός for the sake of a more exact statement, so that δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ is the righteousness willed by God[91] (similar to τὸ δίκαιον ἐνώπιον τοῦ Θεοῦ, Acts 4:19; Luther: “the wrath of man works not that which is right before God”); so Beza, Hornejus, Wolf, Bengel, de Wette, Bouman, and others correctly explain it. The opposite of δικαιοσύνην Θεοῦ ἐργάζεσθαι is ἁμαρτίαν ἐργάζεσθαι, chap. Jam 2:9 (comp. Matthew 7:1 : ἐργαζ. τὴν ἀνομίαν; 1Ma 9:23 : ἐργαζ. τὴν ἀδικίαν; also comp. Romans 2:10 : ἐργαζ. τὸ ἀγαθόν; Galatians 6:10). James was the more constrained to give prominence to this idea, as ὀργή itself and the words flowing from it were considered by the pharisaical disposition of Christians, against whom this warning is directed, and of whom it was said: ζῆλον Θεοῦ ἔχουσιν, ἀλλʼ οὐ κατʼ ἐπίγνωσιν, Romans 10:2, as something that was pleasing to God. With the reading κατεργάζεται this verb may also be equivalent to effect, to bring about (as Jam 1:3). Gebser, Grashof, and others understand, in accordance with this view, by δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ: “the condition of justification before God;” but, on the one hand, an unsuitable thought is expressed by this, and, on the other hand, a mode of expressing the idea δικαιοσύνη τοῦ Θεοῦ, peculiar to Paul, is without ceremony ascribed to James. But as little is it to be justified when Wiesinger, following Hofmann (Schriftbew. I. ed. 1, p. 548 f.), finds expressed in the words of James, that “one by wrathful zeal effects not on others the δικ. Θεοῦ, i.e. that state of righteousness in which God begets men by His word of truth.”[92] Though δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ can denote the righteousness wrought by God, yet this idea is here unsuitable, since no man could entertain the opinion that his wrath could do what can only be effected by God. Also in this case James would only emphasize an impossibility of ὀργή, whereas he was required to bring prominently forward its rejection; moreover, on others is inserted into the text.[93] The same reasons are also decisive against the explanation of Brückner (“the wrath of man works not the righteousness which God accomplishes—this generally stated both in respect to the ἈΝΉΡ and in respect to others on whom one strives to work”), in which a twofold reference is arbitrarily assumed. Brückner correctly rejects the explanation of Lange, that James speaks against “the delusion of wrath, which imagines to administer and accomplish in the world the righteousness of God especially against unbelievers,” because there is no reference to this in the context; it is, moreover, linguistically unmaintainable, as ἘΡΓΆΖΕΣΘΑΙ does not mean “to administer and accomplish.”

ἈΝΔΡΌς stands here as in Jam 1:8; Jam 1:12; it forms a contrast neither to the child (Thomas: ira fortis et deliberate non dicit pueri, qui cito transit), nor to the woman (Bengel: sexns virilis maxime iram alit), nor to ἄνθρωπος, Jam 1:19 (Lange).

[91] It is true the expression δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ occurs not elsewhere in this sense; but this can be the less an objection to it, as the relation in which the genitive Θεοῦ is placed to δικαιοσύνη is not entirely opposed to the genitive of relation, as is evident if we designate the δικ. Θ. as that δικαιοσύνη which is actually so according to the determination of God.

[92] In the second edition (p. 628), Hofmann has indeed altered the words, but not the thought, in the explanation given in the first edition. When he defines the distinction in the use of the idea δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ, in Romans 1:17 and here, to consist in this, that Paul speaks of justification, in James of regeneration, the untenableness of his explanation is the more evident, for that ὀργή produces regeneration could occur to no one.

[93] Contrary to the Biblical use of language, Oecumenius explains the expression δικαιοσύνη as equivalent to ἕξις ἑν ψυχῇ κατʼ ἀξίαν ἐκάστῳ ἀκονεμητική. Pott wholly arbitrarily refers the verse to the teachers of the Christian religion, paraphrasing it: iratus nequit docere religionem christianum prout fas est Deoque probatur.—Several commentators (also Kern) to this verse cite Sir 1:21 : οὐ δυνήσεται θυμὸς ἄδικος δικαιωθῆναι; but incorrectly, since δικαιωθῆναι has an entirely different meaning from κατεργάζεσθαι δικαιοσύνην Θεοῦ.Jam 1:20. ὀργὴ γὰρ, etc.: Man’s wrath is rarely, if ever, justifiable; even “just indignation” is too often intermixed with other elements; and frequently the premisses on which it is founded are at fault. Man, unlike God, never knows all the circumstances of the case. On the subject of anger, see Matthew 5:21-22, and cf. the Expositor, July, 1905, pp. 28 ff.20. the wrath of man …] Better, A man’s wrath, so as to represent the absence of the article in the original. By “the righteousness of God”—the phrase is common to St James and St Paul (Romans 10:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Php 3:9)—is meant the righteousness which God requires and which He also gives. The besetting sin of the Jews was to identify their own anger against what seemed sin and heresy with the Will of God, to think that they did God service by deeds of violence (John 16:2), that they were thus working out His righteousness. The teaching is again after the pattern of the purely ethical books of the Old Testament (Ecclesiastes 7:9). The MSS. give two forms of the verb rendered “work;” the commonly received one, which conveys the thought, “does not work out or bring to completeness,” and that of the better MSS. which means simply, “does not work, or practise.”Jam 1:20. Ὀργὴ wrath). A most powerful passion.—ἀνδρὸς, of man) The male sex especially cherishes wrath, 1 Timothy 2:8; and its actions, whether just or unjust, are more widely exposed to view. The wrath here intimated is that of nature, without grace.—δικαιοσύνην Θεοῦ, the righteousness of God) All duties which are divinely enjoined and pleasing to God.—οὐ κατεργάζεται, worketh not) That is, altogether hinders the righteousness of God; although it seems to itself, while inflamed, especially to work that (righteousness); [and therefore it constitutes the principal part of these three-membered sentences.—V. g.] Purer effects are produced without anger.Verse 20 gives the reason why men should be slow to wrath. Because man's wrath does not work God's righteousness δικαιοσύνην Θεοῦ), the righteousness which God demands and requires.
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