James 1:4
But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
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(4) Let patience have her perfect work.—Do not think the grace will come to its full beauty in an hour. Emotion and sentiment may have their place in the beginning of a Christian career, but the end thereof is not yet. Until the soul be quite unmoved by any attack of Satan, the work cannot be deemed “perfect.” The doctrine is not mere quietism, much less one of apathy, but rather this, that the conscious strength of patient trust in God is able to say at all times (comp. Psalm 63:8)—

“My soul hath followed hard on Thee;

Thy right hand hath upholden me.”

And if in this patience we can learn to possess our souls (Luke 21:19) the perfect work of God will be wrought within us.

That ye may be perfect and entire (or, complete).—A special proof herein for religious people may be taken with regard to temper. Few trials are harder; and sweetness of disposition often melts away from physical causes, such as ill-health or fatigue. But the great test remains; and it is one which the world will ever apply with scorn to the nominally Christian, refusing to admit the claims of saintliness on the part of any whose religion is not of the household as well as the Church. The entirety and completeness of the life hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3) are manifested most by self-restraint.

Wanting nothing.—The older version, “lacking,” found in Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Genevan Bible seems decidedly better. Here is no wish that the faithful should be free from care, heeding nothing; but rather that their whole lives might be without fault or flaw: a perfect sacrifice, as it were, offered up to God. And this idea is confirmed by reflecting on the original meaning of the word translated “entire” above in the Authorised version=complete, i.e., as an offering, with no blemish.



Jam 1:4IT does not appear from the rest of this letter that the persons to whom it was addressed were under the pressure of any particular trouble or affliction. Seeing that they are ‘the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad,’ the width of that superscription makes it improbable that the recipients were undergoing any common experience. It is the more noteworthy, therefore, that at the very outset James gives this exhortation hearing upon trials and troubles. Clearly it is hot, as we often take it to be, a counsel only for the sorrowful, or an address only to a certain class of persons, hut it is a general exhortation applicable to all sorts of people in all conditions of life, and indispensable, as he goes on to say, for any progress in Christian character.

‘Let patience have her perfect work’ is an advice not only for sad hearts, or for those who may be bowed down under any special present trouble, but for us all. And it is the condition on which it is possible, and without which it is impossible, that any Christian man should be ‘perfect and entire, wanting nothing.’ So I want you to look with me, first at what is the scope of this counsel; and then at how it can be obtained; and then why it is so important: what - how - why.

I. First, then, what is the meaning of the counsel to ‘let patience have its perfect work’?

Notice that the very language of the text puts aside the common notion that patience is a passive grace. The ‘patience’ of my text does ‘work.’ It is an active thing, whether that work be the virtues that it produces, or, as is more probable, its own preservation, in unbroken activity. In any case, the patience that James would have us all cultivate is an intensely active energy, and not a mere passive endurance. Of course I know that it takes a great deal of active energy to endure passively. There is a terrible strain upon the nerves in lying still on the operating-table without wincing, and letting the surgeon’s knife cut deep without shrinking or screaming. There is much force that goes to standing motionless when the wind is blowing. But, for all that, the mere bearing of trouble by no means covers the whole ground of this royal and supreme virtue to which my text is here exhorting us. For, as I have often had occasion to say, the conception of ‘patience’ in the New Testament includes, indeed, that which is generally supposed to be its sole signification - viz., bearing unresistingly and unmurmuring, and with the full consent of a yielding will, whatever pains, sorrows, losses, troubles, or disappointments may come into our lives, but it includes more than that. It is the fixed determination to ‘bate not one jot of heart or hope, but still bear up, and steer right onwards,’ in spite of all hindrances and antagonisms which may storm against us. It is perseverance in the teeth of the wind, and not merely keeping our place in spite of it, that James exhorts us to here. The ship that lies at anchor, with a strong cable and a firm grip of the flukes in a good holding-ground, and rides out any storm without stirring one fathom’s length from its place, exhibits one form of this perseverance, that is patience. The ship with sails wisely set, and a firm hand at the tiller, and a keen eye on the compass, that uses the utmost blast to hear it nearer its desired haven, and never yaws one hairbreadth from the course that is marked out for it, exhibits the other and the higher form. And that is the kind of thing that the Apostle is here recommending to us - not merely passive endurance, but a brave, active perseverance in spite of antagonisms, in the course that conscience, illuminated by God, has bidden us to run.

And if you want instances of it I will give you two ‘He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.’ All through Christ’s life the shadow of the Cross closed His view; and, unfaltering, unswerving, unresting, unreluctant, He measured every step of the path, and was turned aside by nothing; because ‘for that hour He came into the world,’ and could not blench because He loved.

I will give you another, lower, and yet like, caught from and kindled by, the supreme example of persistence in duty. ‘None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear to myself, that I might finish my course with joy.’ The Apostle, who was warned on all sides by voices of prophets, and by tears and by supplications of friends, had his path clearly marked out for him, by his own conscience responsive to the will of God. And that path, whatsoever happened, he was resolved to tread. And that is the temper that my text commands us all to cultivate.

Beautiful and hard as bearing sorrows rightly may be, that is only a little corner o£ the grace that my text enjoins.

And so, dear friends, will you let me put the two or three words more that I have to say about this matter into the shape of counsel, not for the sake of dictating, but for the sake of giving point to my words? I would say, then, to every man, bear unmurmuring the burdens and sorrows that each of you have to bear. There are some of us, no doubt, who have some special grief lying at our hearts. There are many of us, I doubt not, who know what it is to have for all the rest of our lives a wound that never can be healed, to carry a weight that never can be lessened, and to walk in a darkness that never can be lightened. Irremediable losses and sorrows are the portion of some of my hearers. Let, patience have her ‘perfect work’; and bow, bow to that supreme and loving will.

But, beyond that, do not let all your effort and energy be swallowed up in rightly enduring what you may have to endure. There are many of us who make some disappointment, some loss, some grief, the excuse for shirking plain duty. There is nothing more selfish than sorrow, and there is nothing more absorbing, unless we guard against its tendency to monopolise.

Work! Work for others, work for God is our best comforter next to the presence of God’s Divine Spirit. There is nothing that so lightens the weight of a lifelong sorrow as to make it the stimulus to a lifelong devotion; and if our patience has its perfect work it will not make us sit with folded hands, weeping for the days that are no more, but it will drive us into heroic and energetic service, in the midst of which there will come some shadow of consolation or, at least, some blessed oblivion of sorrow.

Again, I weald say, on the wider view of the meaning of this great exhortation, let no antagonism or opposition of any sort come between us and the plain path of Christian service and duty. And remember that the patience of my text has to be applied, not only in reference to the unswerving prosecution of the course which God and our own consciences dictate to us in the face of dificulties, sorrows, and losses, but also to the unswerving prosecution of that same path in the face of the opposite things - earthly delights and pleasures, and the seductions of the world, as well as the darknesses and sorrows of the world. He that lets hie endurance have its perfect work will scorn delights as well as subdue sorrows. The clouds darken, but the sun dazzles. It is not only the rocks that threaten Ulysses and his crew, the sirens sit upon their island home, with their harps of gold, and trill their sweet songs, and no man understands what Christian endurance is who has not learned that he has to ‘endure’ in the face of joys as well as in the face of sorrows, and that persistence in the Christian course means that we shall spurn the one and turn our backs upon the other when either of them threaten to draw us aside from the path.

I might gather all that I have to say about this great queenly virtue of perseverance in the face of antagonisms into the one word of the Apostle, ‘I count them but dung that I may win Christ.’ ‘Forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forth unto those that are before, I press toward the mark.’ ‘Let patience have her perfect work.’

II. And now, secondly, a word as to how this preset may best be carried out. It is a precept.

The perfecting of Christian endurance is not a thing that comes without effort. And so the Apostle puts it into the shape of an exhortation or an injunction. He does not specify methods, but I may venture to do so, in a few sentences.

And I put first and foremost here, as in all regions of Christian excellence and effort, the one specific which makes men like the Master - keeping near Him. As the Epistle to the Hebrews puts it, ‘consider’ {by way of comparison} Him that endured, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. ‘Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.’

Oh, brethren! there is nothing that sucks the brightness out of earthly joys when they threaten to interrupt our course, and dazzle our eyes, like turning our attention to Christ, and looking at Him. And there is nothing that takes the poison-sting, and the irritation consequent on it, out of earthly sorrows like remembering the’ Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.’ Am I to grumble when I think of Him? Shall I make a moan and a mourning for my sorrows when I remember His? Am I to say, ‘O Lord! Thou hast given me as much as I can manage in bearing this terrible blow which Thou hast aimed at me, without repining against Thee. I cannot do any work because I have got so much to bear’? Are we to say that when we remember how He counted not His life dear to Himself, and bore all, and did all, that He might accomplish the Father’s will? Do not let us magnify our griefs, but measure them by the side of Christ’s. Do not let us yield to our impatience, but rather let us think of Him. Consider Him, and patience will have her perfect work.

Again, let me say, if we would possess in its highest degree this indispensable grace of persistent determination to pursue the Christian course in spite of all antagonisms, we must cultivate the habit of thinking of life, in all its vicissitudes, as mainly meant to make character. That is what the Apostle is saying in the context. He says, ‘Brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations.’ That is a paradox. It bids a man to be glad because he has trouble and is sad. It seems ridiculous, but the next verse solves the paradox: ‘Knowing this, that the trial of your faith worketh patience.’ That is to say - if I rightly understand the meaning of this world in its bearing on myself, the intention of my whole life to make me what God would have me to be, then I shall not measure things by their capacity to delight and please taste, ambitions, desires, or sense, but only by their power to mould me into His likeness. If I understand that the meanings of sorrow and joy are one, that God intends the same when He gives and when He withdraws, that the fervid suns of autumn and the biting blasts of November equally tend to the production of the harvest, that day and night come from the same cause - the revolution of the earth; if I understand that life is but the scaffolding for building character, and that, if I take out of this world, with all its fading sweets and its fleeting sadnesses, a soul enlarged, ennobled by difficulties and by gladnesses, then I shall welcome them both when they come, and neither the one nor the other will be able to deflect me from my course.

And so, lastly, about this matter, I would say bring the future into immediate connection with the present, and that will illuminate the dark places, will minimise the sorrows, will make the crooked things straight and the rough places plain, will prevent joy from being absorbing, and anxiety from being corroding, and sorrow from being monopolising, and will enable us to understand how all that is here is but preparatory and disciplinary for that great and serene future. And so the light affliction, which is but for a moment, will not be so very hard to bear; and the efforts at likeness to Jesus Christ, the consequences of which will last through eternity, will not be so very difficult to keep up; and patience, fed by contemplation of the suffering Christ, and nurtured further by consideration of the purpose of life, and stimulated by the vision of the future to which life here is but the vestibule, will have ‘her perfect work.’

III. And, lastly, Why is this grace so important? James says, with his favourite repetition of the same word, ‘Let her work be perfect, that ye may be perfect.’

Such endurance is indispensable to growth in Christian character.

I do not need to enter, at this stage of my sermon, on the differences between ‘perfect’ and ‘entire.’ The one describes the measure of the individual graces belonging to the man; the other describes the completeness of the assemblage of such graces. In each he is ‘perfect,’ and, having all that belongs to complete humanity, he is ‘entire.’ That is the ideal to which we have to press.

That is an ideal to which we may indefinitely approximate. There are people now - as there always have been - who are apt to substitute emotion and passivity for effort in the path of Christian perfection. I would take James’s teaching. Let your perseverance have her perfect work, and by toil and by protracted effort, and by setting your teeth against all seductions,and by curbing and ruling your sorrows, you will reach the goal. God makes no man perfect without that man’s diligent and continuous struggle and toil, toil, indeed, based upon faith; toil, indeed, which receives the blessing, but toil all the same.

Nor need I remind you, I suppose, how, in both the narrower and the wider sense of this word, the perseverance of my text is indispensable to Christian character.

I dare say we all of us know some chronic invalid say, on whose worn face there rests a gleam like that of the Lawgiver when He came down from the mount, caused by sorrow rightly borne. If your troubles, be they great or small, do not do you good they do you harm. There is such a thing as being made obstinate, hard, more clinging to earth than before by reason of griefs. And there is such a thing as a sorrow rightly borne being the very strength of a life, and delivering it from many a sin. The alabaster sheet which is intended to be fitted into the lamp is pared very thin that the light may shine through. And God pares away much of our lives in order that through what is left there may gleam more clearly and lambently the light of an indwelling God.

There is nothing to be won in the perfecting of Christian character without our setting ourselves to it persistently, doggedly, continuously all through our lives. Brethren, be sure of this, you will never grow like Christ by mere wishing, by mere emotion, but only by continual faith, rigid self-control, and by continual struggle. And be as sure of this, you will never miss the mark if, ‘forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forth to those that are before,’ you ‘let patience have her perfect work,’ and press towards Him who is Himself the Author and Finisher of our patience and of our faith.

1:1-11 Christianity teaches men to be joyful under troubles: such exercises are sent from God's love; and trials in the way of duty will brighten our graces now, and our crown at last. Let us take care, in times of trial, that patience, and not passion, is set to work in us: whatever is said or done, let patience have the saying and doing of it. When the work of patience is complete, it will furnish all that is necessary for our Christian race and warfare. We should not pray so much for the removal of affliction, as for wisdom to make a right use of it. And who does not want wisdom to guide him under trials, both in regulating his own spirit, and in managing his affairs? Here is something in answer to every discouraging turn of the mind, when we go to God under a sense of our own weakness and folly. If, after all, any should say, This may be the case with some, but I fear I shall not succeed, the promise is, To any that asketh, it shall be given. A mind that has single and prevailing regard to its spiritual and eternal interest, and that keeps steady in its purposes for God, will grow wise by afflictions, will continue fervent in devotion, and rise above trials and oppositions. When our faith and spirits rise and fall with second causes, there will be unsteadiness in our words and actions. This may not always expose men to contempt in the world, but such ways cannot please God. No condition of life is such as to hinder rejoicing in God. Those of low degree may rejoice, if they are exalted to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom of God; and the rich may rejoice in humbling providences, that lead to a humble and lowly disposition of mind. Worldly wealth is a withering thing. Then, let him that is rich rejoice in the grace of God, which makes and keeps him humble; and in the trials and exercises which teach him to seek happiness in and from God, not from perishing enjoyments.But let patience have her perfect work - Let it be fairly developed; let it produce its appropriate effects without being hindered. Let it not be obstructed in its fair influence on the soul by murmurings, complaining, or rebellion. Patience under trials is fitted to produce important effects on the soul, and we are not to hinder them in any manner by a perverse spirit, or by opposition to the will of God. Every one who is afflicted should desire that the fair effects of affliction should be produced on his mind, or that there should be produced in his soul precisely the results which his trials are adapted to accomplish.

That ye may be perfect and entire - The meaning of this is explained in the following phrase - "wanting nothing;" that is, that there may be nothing lacking to complete your character. There may be the elements of a good character; there may be sound principles, but those principles may not be fully carried out so as to show what they are. Afflictions, perhaps more than anything else, will do this, and we should therefore allow them to do all that they are adapted to do in developing what is good in us. The idea here is, that it is desirable not only to have the elements or principles of piety in the soul, but to have them fairly carried out, so as to show what is their real tendency and value. Compare the notes at 1 Peter 1:7. On the word "perfect," as used in the Scriptures, see the notes at Job 1:1. The word rendered "entire" (ὁλόκληροι holoklēroi) means, whole in every part. Compare the notes at 1 Thessalonians 5:23. The word occurs only in these two places. The corresponding noun (ὁλοκληρία holoklēria) occurs in Acts 3:16, rendered "perfect soundness."

Wanting nothing - "Being left in nothing;" that is, everything being complete, or fully carried out.

4. Let endurance have a perfect work (taken out of the previous "worketh patience" or endurance), that is, have its full effect, by showing the most perfect degree of endurance, namely, "joy in bearing the cross" [Menochius], and enduring to the end (Mt 10:22) [Calvin].

ye may be perfect—fully developed in all the attributes of a Christian character. For this there is required "joy" [Bengel], as part of the "perfect work" of probation. The work of God in a man is the man. If God's teachings by patience have had a perfect work in you, you are perfect [Alford].

entire—that which has all its parts complete, wanting no integral part; 1Th 5:23, "your whole (literally, 'entire') spirit, soul, and body"; as "perfect" implies without a blemish in its parts.

But let patience have her perfect work; i.e. effect: q.d. Let it have its full efficacy in you, both in making you absolutely subject to God’s will, and constant to the end under all your sufferings.

That ye may be perfect and entire; that you may grow perfect in this grace, as well as in others, and have the image of Christ (to whom ye are to be conformed) completed in you.

Wanting nothing; either not failing, not fainting in trials, or not defective in any thing which is a needful part of Christianity.

But let patience have her perfect work,.... Or effect; or be brought unto perfection; which may denote both the sincerity and continuance of it unto the end, with constancy: patience may be said to be perfect, when it appears to be real and sincere, and not dissembled; for as there may be a feigned faith, a dissembled love, and an hypocritical hope, so likewise a mere show of patience: and certain it is, that as there is a patience which is commendable, there is one that is not, 1 Peter 2:20. And this phrase may also design the constant exercise of this grace to the end; for he that endures, or is patient, and continues so unto the end, shall be saved, and enjoy that perfection of glory and happiness expressed in the next clause:

that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing; which cannot be understood of the saints in this present life; only as they are in Christ, and in a comparative sense; or as perfection may denote sincerity, and uprightness; or of a perfection of parts, but not of degrees; for the saints are very imperfect in themselves, and are very far from being complete in soul, body, and spirit; and want many things, and are wanting in many things, both in the exercise of grace, and in the discharge of duty; but when patience has had its perfect work, and has been tried to the uttermost, and is found right, and has held out to the end; then shall the saints be perfect in holiness and happiness, and be entire, whole, and complete; as they will be in the resurrection morn, both in soul and body, and will want no good thing, and will be free from every sorrow, nor will they be deficient in any service; and to this sense agrees James 1:12.

{4} But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

(4) The third argument, proposed in manner of an exhortation, that true and lasting patience may be discerned from false and temporary. Affliction is the instrument God uses to polish and refine us. Therefore through the work and effect of afflictions, we are perfected in Christ.

Jam 1:4. The verification of faith effected by the πειρασμοί produces ὑπομονή, and on this account temptations should be to the Christian an object of joy, as it depends on them that ὑπομονή is of the right kind. This is indicated in this verse. Oecumenius rightly observes: σκόπει οὐκ εἶπε τὴν ὑπομονὴν ὁριστικῶς, ὅτι ἔργον τέλειον ἔχει, ἀλλὰ προστακτικῶς ἐχέτω· οὐ γὰρ προϋποκειμένην ἀρετὴν ἐξαγγέλλει, ἀλλὰ νῦν ἐγγινομένην, ὡς χρὴ γίνεσθαι νομοθετεῖ.

ἡ δὲ ὑπομονὴ ἔργον τέλειον ἐχέτω] The emphasis is not placed on ἔργον,—that ὑπομονή has an ἔργον is understood of itself,—but on τέλειον (Wiesinger). James wishes that the ἔργον of ὑπομονή among Christians be τέλειον, in order that they may be τέλειοι: as he, moreover, strongly emphasizes τέλειον εἶναι. In explaining the thought, de Wette confounds the abstract (ὑπομονή) with the concrete (ὁ ὑπομένων), and understands by ἔργον τέλειον “the active virtue which the patient man must perfectly have.” This explanation of de Wette agrees in essentials with the explanations of Erasmus, Calovius, Morus, Pott, Augusti, Gebser, Kern, Schneckenburger, according to which ἔργον τέλειον is distinguished from ὑπομονή, and the moral activity which the Christian has to exercise with his ὑπομονή indicated. Thus Erasmus: quemadmodum in malis tolerandis fortis est et alacris, ita in bonis operibus exercendis sibi constet. Pott: perseverantiae fructus sit perfectum virtutis studium. This interpretation is, however, incorrect; it not only gives rise to unjustifiable changes of meaning, as that of ὑπομονή into ὁ ὑπομένων, or of ἐχέτω into παρεχέτω (Pott), or into κρατείτω (Schulthess), but gives also a thought which with the following ἵνα κ.τ.λ. would be tautological. Most expositors (even Brückner,[41] in opposition to de Wette) refer ἔργον τέλειον to ὑπομονή itself; ἔργον = work, realization (Wiesinger); comp. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 : τὸ ἔργον τῆς πίστεως; for the ὑπομονή of the Christian is not only a suffering, but even more a doing. This doing is to be τέλειον, that is, not only, as many interpreters explain, enduring to the end (Luther: “patience is to continue stedfast to the end;” Calvin: haec vera crit patientia, quae in finem usque durabit; similarly Jerome, Serarius, Salmero, Estius, Gomarus, Piscator, Piraeus, Hornejus, Carpzov, Semler, Hottinger, etc.), but complete, and that not only in respect of its internal condition,—so that it is wanting in no essential points of true ὑπομονή,—but also in respect of its activity (Lange[42]), so that it in no way yields to the ΠΕΙΡΑΣΜΟῖς, which yielding occurs when a man by the temptations is determined to something which does not correspond with the principle of faith. Bouman: Haec ὙΠΟΜΟΝΉ consummatum opus habet, quando ita se gerit, in quo habitat, homo, ut universam per vitam et animum et linguam et pedes regat ac moderetur. That ὙΠΟΜΟΝΉ in this manner has an ἜΡΓΟΝ ΤΈΛΕΙΟΝ is necessary, in order that Christians may be perfect and entire, which as Christians they should be. This James indicates in the following words: ἽΝΑ ἮΤΕ ΤΈΛΕΙΟΙ ΚΑῚ ὉΛΌΚΛΗΡΟΙ] ἽΝΑ is not here ἘΚΒΑΤΙΚῶς (which Baumgarten and Pott regard as possible), but ΤΕΛΙΚῶς, in order that. De Wette and Wiesinger incorrectly refer it to the future judgment.

τέλειοι and ὉΛΌΚΛΗΡΟΙ are synonymous terms; ΤΈΛΕΙΟς is properly “that which has attained its aim,” ὉΛΌΚΛΗΡΟς “that which is complete in all its parts, is entire.” Both expressions are found in the LXX. as the translation of תָּמִים (Genesis 6:9; Ezekiel 15:5); besides this verse, ὉΛΌΚΛΗΡΟς in the N. T. only occurs in 1 Thessalonians 5:25 (ὉΛΟΚΛΗΡΊΑ, Acts 3:16).[43] It is true that both τέλειος (in the LXX. and in the classics) and ὁλόκληρος (particularly in Philo, but not in the LXX.) are used with special reference to sacrifice; to which, however, there is here no allusion (against Kern). Still more arbitrary is the interpretation of Storr: qui superiores e certamine discedebant.

ἐν μηδενὶ λειπόμενοι] the negative expression added for strengthening the two positive expressions; as in Jam 1:5 : ἁπλῶς καὶ μὴ ὀνειδίζοντος, and in Jam 1:6 : ἐν πίστει, μηδὲν διακρινόμενος. As regards the expression itself, ἐν μηδενί is not to be taken, with de Wette, as a supplement to λειπόμενοι, as the supplement to this verb is always in the genitive; therefore the expression has been correctly translated by Wiesinger and in this commentary, not by wanting nothing, but by wanting in nothing (which Lange has overlooked). The question, however, occurs, can λειπόμενοι be explained as = wanting? This idea is not contained in the verb by itself, and therefore can hardly be attributed to it when it stands absolutely, as here. It is therefore safer to take λείπεσθαι in its usual meaning, and thus, with Lange, to explain λειπόμενοι by coming short of, namely, short of the goal marked out to the Christian. It is incorrect, with Pott, to say: tota loquendi ratio ab iis qui cursu … relinquuntur et seperantur (so also Lösner, Krebs, Storr, Augusti); for although the verb in classical writers has often this reference, yet there is here no mention of a relation to others, and accordingly the appeal to Polybius, p. 1202, ed. Gronov.: ἐν τῇ πρὸς Ῥωμαίους εὐνοίᾳ παρὰ πολὺ τἀδελφοῦ λειπόμενος, does not suit. According to the meaning here given, λειπόμενοι forms a strong contrast to τέλειοι.

[41] “Nothing else can be meant than the perfect work of endurance, particularly as different stages of this are conceivable.”

[42] Lange here arbitrarily understands by ἔργον τέλειον specially: “the unreserved acknowledgment of their Gentile-Christian brethren, the open rupture with Jewish pride of faith and fanaticism.”

[43] A limitation of this idea to moral perfection is not required by the context. Lange has the following strange remark: “The Jew was a symbolical κλῆρος of the household; as a Christian he was to become a real κλῆρος, and thus ὁλόκληρος.”

Jam 1:4. ἡ δὲ ὑπομονὴ ἔργον τέλειον ἐχέτω: “But let endurance have its perfect result”; the possibility of losing heart is contemplated, which would result in something being lacking; the words recall what is said in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Joshua 2:7. “For endurance (μακροθυμία) is a mighty charm, and patience (ὑπομονή) giveth many good things”. Cf. Romans 5:3.—ἵνα ἦτε τέλειοι: Cf. Matthew 5:48; Matthew 19:21; see Lightfoot’s note on the meaning of this word in Php 3:15, “the τέλειοι are in fact the same with πνευματικοί” (Ep. to the Philippians, p. 153). That in the passage before us it does not mean perfect in the literal sense is clear from the words which occur in Jam 3:2 (assuming that the same writer wrote both passages), πολλὰ πταίομεν ἄπαντες. “The word τέλειος is often used by later writers of the baptised” (Mayor).—ὁλόκληροι: Cf. Wis 15:3; in its root-meaning ὁλόκληρος implies the “entire lot or destiny,” so that the underlying idea regarding a man who is ὁλόκληρος means one who fulfils his lot; here it would mean ‘those who fully attain to their high calling’.—ἐν μηδενὶ λειπόμενοι: this is merely explanatory of ὁλόκληροι.

4. But let patience have her perfect work] Better, and let endurance have a perfect work, there being sequence of thought but not contrast. The word for “perfect” expresses the perfection of that which reaches its end, and so implies, possibly, a reference to our Lord’s words in Matthew 10:22. The form of the counsel implies that the work might be hindered unless the will of those who were called to suffer co-operated with the Divine purpose. The sufferings must be borne joyfully as well as submissively.

that ye may be perfect and entire] The latter word implies completeness in all parts or regions of the spiritual life, as the former does the attainment of the end, the completeness of growth. The corresponding substantive is used for the “perfect soundness” of the restored cripple in Acts 3:16; the adjective, in a like spiritual application, in 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

wanting nothing] The English is unfortunately ambiguous. Better, failing or lacking in nothing.

Jam 1:4. Ἔργον τέλειον, perfect work) This is followed by τέλειος, “a perfect man.” The man himself is characterised (as τέλειος, perfect) from his actions, and the work in which he is engaged. For the attainment of this character, there is need of joy. Τέλειος is equivalent to δόκιμος in Jam 1:12. Compare the note on 2 Timothy 2:15.—ἐχέτω, let it have) He uses exhortation as in Jam 1:2, “COUNT it all joy.” The patience which rejoices is perfect.—τέλειοι καὶ ὁλόκληροι, perfect and entire) This expression denotes something absolute: ἐν μηδενὶ λειπομενοι, “wanting nothing,” is a relative expression; for the word λείπεσθαι, “to be in want,” is opposed to πλεονεκτεῖν, “to abound.”[5]

[5] Men of the world, or even men of letters, if at any time they desire to honour any one with the greatest praise, adorn him with the praise of a perfect (omnibus numeris absoluti) or accomplished man. We may see from the passage itself with what sort of characters this description truly corresponds: probation is required, and perfect work. That which is complete in the eyes of the world is nothing in the sight of God, in the absence of faith.—German Version.

Verse 4. - Patience alone is not sufficient. It must have scope given it for its exercise that it may have its "perfect work." That ye may be perfect (ἵνα ῆτε τέλειοι); cf. Matthew 5:48, "Be ye therefore perfect." Both τέλειος and ὁλόκληρος were applied to the initiated, the fully instructed, as opposed to novices in the ancient mysteries; and as early as 1 Corinthians 2:6, 7 we find τέλειος used for the Christian who is no longer in need of rudimentary teaching, and possibly this is the thought here. The figure, however, is probably rather that of the full-grown man. Τέλειοι, equivalent to "grown men" as opposed to children; ὁλόκληροι, sound in every part and limb (cf. ὁλοκληρίαν in Acts 3:16). From this τέλειος assumes a moral-complexion, that which has attained its aim. Compare its use in Genesis 6:9 and Deuteronomy 18:13, where it is equivalent to the Latin integer vitae, and the following passage from Stobaeus, which exactly serves to illustrate St. James's thought in vers. 4 and 5, Τὸν ἀγαθὸν ἄνδρα τέλειον εϊναι λέγουσιν, διὰ τὸ μηδεμίας ἀπολείπεσθαι ἀρετῆς The "perfection" which is to be attained in this life may be further illustrated from Hebrews 12:23 - a passage which is often misunderstood, but which undoubtedly means that the men were made perfect (πνεύμασι δικαίων τετελειωμένων), and that not in a future state, but here on earth, where alone they can be subject to those trials and conflicts by the patient endurance of which they are perfected for a higher state of being. The whole passage before us (vers. 2-6) affords a most remarkable instance of the figure called by grammarians anadiplosis, the repetition of a marked word at the close of one clause and beginning of another. "The trial of your faith worketh patience; but let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing. But if any man lack wisdom, let him ask of the giving God... and it shall be given him; but let him ask in faith, nothing doubting, for he that doubteth," etc. James 1:4Perfect work (ἔργον τέλειον)

"This is followed by a perfect man. The man himself is characterized from his condition and work" (Bengel). Work (ἔργον) is the word with which κατεργάζεται, worketh, is compounded. It is the accomplished result of patience in moral purification and ennobling. Compare work of faith, 1 Thessalonians 1:3.

Perfect and entire (τέλειοι καὶ ὁλόκληροι)

The two words express different shades of thought. Τέλειοι, perfect, from τέλος, fulfilment or completion (perfect, from perfectus, per factus, made throughout), denotes that which, h has reached its maturity or fulfilled the end contemplated. Ολόκληροι, from ὅλος, entire, and κλῆρος, a lot or allotment; that which has all which properly belongs to it; its entire allotment, and is, therefore, intact in all its parts. Thus Peter (Acts 3:16) says of the restored cripple, "faith has given him this perfect soundness (ὁλοκληρίαν). Compare the familiar phrase, an accomplished man. Note, also, James' repetition of the key-words of his discourse, rejoice, joy, patience, perfect.

Wanting nothing (ἐν μηδενὶ λειπόμενοι)

Rev., more literally, lacking in nothing. Note James' characteristic corroboration of a positive statement by a negative clause: entire, lacking in nothing ; God that giveth and upbraideth not; in faith, nothing doubting. The conditional negative μηδενὶ, nothing, is used, rather than the absolute negative οὐδενὶ, as implying nothing which may be supposed ; no possible thing.

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