James 1:6
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
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(6) But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.—Surely this verse alone would redeem the Apostle from the charge of slighting the claims of faith. It is here put in the very forefront of necessity; without it all prayer is useless. And mark the addition—

Nothing wavering.—Or, doubting nothing: reechoing the words of our Saviour to the wondering disciples, as they gazed at the withered fig-tree on the road to Bethany (Matthew 21:21). This “doubting” is the halting between belief and unbelief, with inclination towards the latter. But it may be asked by some one, whence and how is an unhesitating faith to be gained? And the reply to this will solve all similar questions: faith, in its first sense, is the direct gift of God; but it must be tended and used with love and zeal, or its precious faculties will soon be gone. In the hour of some besetting thought of unbelief “the shield of faith” will “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Ephesians 6:16), but that shield must be lifted up, as it were, in an act of faith. “There is no God—at least, to care for me,” may be the hopeless cry, responsive to a cruel wound of the enemy. Let the battle-hymn of the Christian make quick answer, “I believe in God;” and often, with that very effort, the assault will cease for awhile. Further, let us take comfort in the thought that intellectual is not moral doubt: the unorthodox are not as the adulterous. Nevertheless, intellectual doubt may spring from an evil habit of carping criticism and self-opinion, for the foundation of which, in so far as a man himself has been either the wilful or the careless cause, he must bear the curse of its results.

For he that wavereth (or, douhteth) is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.Doubteth is preferable to “wavereth”; there is no play on the Greek words, as in the English text—“wavereth” and “wave.” Like storm-beaten sailors, the doubtful are “carried” up to heaven and down again to the deep; their soul melteth away because of the trouble (Psalm 107:26). And who can describe the terror, even of the faithful, in those hours of darkness when the face of the Lord is hidden; when, as with the disciples of old, the ship is in the midst of the sea, tossed with the bitter waves. Nevertheless, the raging wind will clear the heavens soon from clouds, and by the radiance of the peaceful moon we too may behold our Helper near—the Lord Jesus walking on the sea—and if He come into the ship the storm must cease.

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 him ask in faith - See the passages referred to in James 1:5. Compare the Matthew 7:7 note, and Hebrews 11:6 note. We cannot hope to obtain any favor from God if there is not faith; and where, as in regard to the wisdom necessary to guide us, we are sure that it is in accordance with his will to grant it to us, we may come to him with the utmost confidence, the most entire assurance, that it will be granted. In this case, we should come to God without a doubt that, if we ask with a proper spirit, the very thing that we ask will be bestowed on us. We cannot in all other cases be so sure that what we ask will be for our good, or that it will be in accordance with his will to bestow it; and hence, we cannot in such cases come with the same kind of faith. We can then only come with unwavering confidence in God, that he will do what is right and best; and that if he sees that what we ask will be for our good, he will bestow it upon us. Here, however, nothing prevents our coming with the assurance that the very thing which we ask will be conferred on us.

Nothing wavering - (μηδὲν διακρινόμενος mēden diakrinomenos.) "Doubting or hesitating as to nothing, or in no respect." See Acts 20:20; Acts 11:12. In regard to the matter under consideration, there is to be no hesitancy, no doubting, no vacillation of the mind. We are to come to God with the utmost confidence and assurance.

For he that wavereth, is like a wave of the sea ... - The propriety and beauty of this comparison will be seen at once. The wave of the sea has no stability. It is at the mercy of every wind, and seems to be driven and tossed every way. So he that comes to God with unsettled convictions and hopes, is liable to be driven about by every new feeling that may spring up in the mind. At one moment, hope and faith impel him to come to God; then the mind is at once filled with uncertainty and doubt, and the soul is agitated and restless as the ocean. Compare Isaiah 57:20. Hope on the one hand, and the fear of not obtaining the favor which is desired on the other, keep the mind restless and discomposed.

6. ask in faith—that is, the persuasion that God can and will give. James begins and ends with faith. In the middle of the Epistle he removes the hindrances to faith and shows its true character [Bengel].

wavering—between belief and unbelief. Compare the case of the Israelites, who seemed to partly believe in God's power, but leaned more to unbelief by "limiting" it. On the other hand, compare Ac 10:20; Ro 4:20 ("staggered not … through unbelief," literally, as here, "wavered not"); 1Ti 2:8.

like a wave of the sea—Isa 57:20; Eph 4:14, where the same Greek word occurs for "tossed to and fro," as is here translated, "driven with the wind."

driven with the wind—from without.

tossed—from within, by its own instability [Bengel]. At one time cast on the shore of faith and hope, at another rolled back into the abyss of unbelief; at one time raised to the height of worldly pride, at another tossed in the sands of despair and affliction [Wiesinger].

But let him ask in faith; with confidence of God’s hearing, grounded on the Divine attributes and promises, Mark 11:24 1Jo 5:14.

Nothing wavering; either not disputing God’s power or promise; or rather, not doubting, not slandering through unbelief, Romans 4:20, where the same Greek word is used: so Acts 10:20, nothing doubting; and Mark 11:23, where it is opposed to believing.

For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed: this notes either the emptiness and unprofitableness of faithless prayer, when men’s minds are thus at uncertainties, tossed to and fro; the confidence they sometimes seem to have, like waves, falls down and fails, and their prayers come to nothing: or, the disquiet and torment distrust works in the minds of such waverers, which are never settled till faith come and fix them, Isaiah 57:20.

But let him ask in faith,.... Not only in the faith of the divine Being that God is; but in the faith of the promises he has made; and in the faith of his power and faithfulness to perform them; and in the faith of this, that whatever is asked, according to the will of God, and is for his glory, and his people's good, shall be given.

Nothing wavering; about the thing asked for, whether it is right or no to ask for it; for that should be settled before it is asked for; nor about the power of God to do it; nor about his will, in things he has declared he will do; nor about his faithfulness to his promises; nor at all questioning but what is proper, suitable, and convenient, will be given in God's own time and way.

For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed; he is troubled, restless, unquiet, and impatient; and he is fickle, inconstant, unstable, and unsettled; and is easily carried away with every wind of doctrine, temptation, and lust.

But let him ask in faith, {f} nothing wavering. {6} For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

(f) Why then, what need is there of another mediator or priest?

(6) A digression or going aside from his matter, as compared to prayers which are conceived with a doubting mind, but we have a trustworthy promise from God, and this is the second part of the epistle.

Jam 1:6. A more particular statement how prayer must be made; αἰτείτω δὲ ἐν πίστει] With αἰτείτω the αἰτείτω in Jam 1:5 is resumed; δέ indicates the carrying out of the thought.

The prayer, if it is to be heard, must be a εὐχὴ τῆς πίστεως, chap. Jam 5:15 (comp. Sir 7:10 : μὴ ὀλιγοψυχήσῃς ἐν τῇ προσευχῇ σου).

ἐν πίστει] that is, in the confident assurance of being heard; on what this is founded is not here expressed. The explanation of Calvin: fides est quae Dei promissionibus freta nos impetrandi, quod petimus, certos reddit (similarly Baumgarten), expresses what is in itself true, but is not here indicated by James. Some ancient commentators incorrectly supply to πίστει as a more definite statement Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

The object of the prayer (namely, τὴν σοφίαν) is not here named, where only the necessary condition of prayer is treated of. The remarks made by many expositors on the manner in which the Christian should ask for external good things are here inappropriate.

μηδὲν διακρινόμενος] expresses the same idea as ἐν πίστει, only in a negative form; μηδέν is here, as frequently, adverbial = on no account, nulla ratione. διακρίνεσθαι is, according to N. T. usage, to doubt; compare besides Acts 10:20; Acts 11:12 : particularly Matthew 21:21 : ἐὰν ἔχητε πίστιν καὶ, μὴ διακριθῆτε; Romans 4:20 : οὐ διεκρίθη τῇ ἀπιστίᾳ; Romans 4:23; it is not = ἀπιστεῖν (Luke 24:21), or ἀπειθεῖν (John 3:36), but includes in it the essential character of ἀπιστία; while πίστις says “Yes” and ἀπιστία “No,” διακρίνεσθαι is the conjunction of “Yes” and “No,” but so that “No” has the preponderance; it is that internal wavering which leans not to πίστις, but to ἀπιστία. The deep-lying ground of it is pride, and so far Theophylact is right in saying διακρινόμενος δὲ ὁ μεθʼ ὑπεροψίας αἰτῶν, ὑβριστὴς ὁμολογουμένως, ὁ διακρινόμενος; whereas Oecumenius, in the words: λέγων ἐν σεαυτῷ, ὅτι πῶς δύναμαι αἰτησαί τι παρὰ τοῦ κυρίου καὶ λαβεῖν, ἡμαρτηκὼς τοσαῦτα εἰς αὐτόν, brings out a point which belongs not to διακρίνεσθαι, but to a yet weak faith.[49] Comp. with this passage Hermas James 29: tolle a te dubitationem et nihil omnino dubites petens aliquid a Deo.

The following words: Ὁ ΓᾺΡ ΔΙΑΚΡΙΝΌΜΕΝΟς Κ.Τ.Λ., are annexed to the preceding ΔΙΑΚΡΙΝΌΜΕΝΟς, more clearly explaining it (in figurative language) with reference to the exhortation ΑἸΤΕΊΤΩ Κ.Τ.Λ.; but the reason of this exhortation is given in Jam 1:7. The first ΓΆΡ, accordingly, has the meaning of namely, whereas the second has that of for. According to this interpretation, the relation of the thoughts expressed in Jam 1:6-7 is more correctly recognised than when we say that the first γάρ assigns the reason why we should pray nothing doubting, but that this thought is only brought to a conclusion in Jam 1:7 (Wiesinger, and so in the earlier edition of this commentary, where it is said that the sentence taken together would read: Ὁ ΓᾺΡ ΔΙΑΚΡΙΝΌΜΕΝΟς, ἘΟΙΚῺς ΚΛΎΔΩΝΙΜῊ ΟἸΈΣΘΩ, ὍΤΙ ΛΉΜΨΕΤΑΊ ΤΙ Κ.Τ.Λ.). Lange incorrectly supposes that the first ΓΆΡ has a more limited meaning, whilst it declares the ΔΙΑΚΡΙΝΌΜΕΝΟς as incapable of praying aright; whereas the second ΓΆΡ refers in a wider sense to the unbelieving condition of the man to God, and therefore is to be rendered by also.

ἔοικε] only here in the N. T. and in Jam 1:23.

ΚΛΎΔΩΝ ΘΑΛΆΣΣΗς] only here in the N. T. and in Luke 8:24 (ΚΛΥΔ. ΤΟῦ ὝΔΑΤΟς); usually ΚῦΜΑ. The verb ΚΛΥΔΩΝΊΖΕΣΘΑΙ occurs in Ephesians 4:14; Isaiah 57:20, LXX. The point of comparison is contained in the subjoined words: ἈΝΕΜΙΖΟΜΈΝῼ ΚΑῚ ῬΙΠΙΖΟΜΈΝῼ] The verb ἈΝΕΜΊΖΕΣΘΑΙ is entirely an ἍΠΑΞ ΛΕΓ. occurring nowhere else, equivalent to ἈΝΕΜΟῦΣΘΑΙ, found in classical language (see Hegesippus James 6: ἉΛῸς ἨΝΕΜΩΜΈΝΗς) = agitated, i.e. agitated by the wind. The verb ῥιπίζεΙΝ (only here in N. T.) is also elsewhere used to denote the agitation or excitement of water by the wind; see Dio Chrysostom, xxxiii. p. 368 B: ΔῆΜΟς ἌΣΤΑΤΟΝ ΚΑΚῸΝ ΚΑῚ ΘΑΛΆΣΣῌ ΠΆΝΘʼ ὍΜΟΙΟΝ, ὙΠʼ ἈΝΈΜΟΥ ῬΙΠΊΖΕΤΑΙ; Philo, de mundo: πρὸς ἀνέμου ῥιπίζεται τὸ ὕδωρ. Heisen incorrectly explains ῬΙΠΊΖΕΣΘΑΙ as equivalent to calefieri et accendi; the word never has this meaning, although used of the kindling of fire.[50] The two expressions (which Lange incorrectly denies) are synonymous, and are placed together only for the sake of strengthening the idea. The opinion that ἀνεμίζ. refers to agitation coming from without, and ῥιπίζ. to agitation coming from within (Bengel), is without foundation; also the assertion that the former word denotes the cause and the latter the effect (Theile, Wiesinger) is not entirely correct, as ἀνεμίζεσθαι itself expresses the effect.

By this image the mind of the doubter is characterized as unsteady and wavering, to which a calm and sure rest is wanting.[51] Comp. Isaiah 57:20-21, LXX.: οἱ δὲ ἄδικοι κλυδωνισθήσονται καὶ ἀναπαύσασθαι οὐ δυνήσονται, οὐκ ἔστι χαίρειν (שָׁלוֹם) τοῖς ἀσεβέσιν.[52]

[49] As weak faith is to be distinguished from διακρίνεσθαι, so also is the doubt, of which the believer is conscious as a trial. Calvin strikingly remarks: Fieri quidem non potest in (hac) carnis infirmitate, quin variis tentationibus agitemur, quae sunt veluti machinae ad labefactandam nostram fiduciam: ita nemo reperietur, qui non sensu carnis suae vacillet ac trepidet. Sed oportet ejusmodi tentationes fide tandem superari, quemadmodum arbor, quae firmas radices jecit, quatitur quidem venti impulsu, sed non revellitur, quin potius suo loco stabilis manet.—Whilst the διακρινόμενος, according to the proper meaning of the term, will not believe, it is the longing of the tried to be confirmed in the faith.

[50] Theile correctly rejects this explanation, saying: “Hoc, quamquam undae spumantes ventis revera incalescunt Latinisque etiam ebullire aestusque dicuntur, longius tamen petitum est.”—The verb ῥιπίζειν comes either from ῥιπίς = (1) follis (a bellows); (2) flabellum, having the meaning both of kindling (the fire) and of fanning (for the sake of cooling); or from ῥιπή = vibration, which is also used of wind; thus ῥιπὴ Βορέαο, Il. xv. 171; ῥιπαὶ ἀνέμων, Sophocles, Ant. 137; also ῥιπή = storm, Pind. P. ix. 49. The original import of the German verbs schwingen, bewegen, is thus entirely equivalent to ἀνεμίζειν.

[51] “A doubtful petitioner offers not to God a steady hand or heart, so that God cannot deposit in it His gift,” Stier.

[52] Lange supposes that James has used these expressions with a conscious reference to the O. T. symbols, according to which the sea is “the emblem of the national life, agitated hither and thither in pathological sympathies,” whilst in his time “these waves of the sea” had already begun to roar.

Jam 1:6. ἐν πίστει: πίστις, as used in this Epistle, refers to the state of mind in which a man not only believes in the existence of God, but in which His ethical character is apprehended and the evidence of His good-will towards man is acknowledged; it is a belief in the beneficent activity, as well as in the personality, of God; it includes reliance on God and the expectation that what is asked for will be granted by Him. The word here does not connote faith in the sense of a body of doctrine. This idea of faith is not specifically Christian; it was, and is, precisely that of the Jews; with these אמונה (Emûnah) is just that perfect trust in God which is expressed in what is called the “Creed of Maimonides,” or the “Thirteen principles of faith”; it is there said: “I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is the Author and Guide of everything that has been created, and that He alone has made, does make, and will make all things”. In Talmudical literature, which, in this as in so much else, embodies much ancient material, the Rabbis constantly insist on the need of faith as being that which is “perfect trust in God”; the měchûsarê ’amanah, i.e., “those who are lacking in faith,” (cf. Matthew 6:30, ὀλιγόπιστοι = קטני אמונה) are held up to rebuke; it is said in Sotah, ix. 12 that the disappearance of “men of faith” will bring about the downfall of the world. Faith therefore, in the sense in which it is used in this Epistle, was the characteristic mark of the Jew as well as of the Christian. In reference to αἰτείτω δὲ ἐν πίστε: Knowling draws attention to Hermas, Mand., ix. 6, 7; Sim., Jam 1:4; Jam 1:3.—μηδὲν διακρινόμενος: διακρίνεσθαι means to be in a critical state of mind, which is obviously the antithesis to that of him who has faith; it excludes faith ipso facto; Cf. Matthew 21:21, If ye have faith and doubt not (μὴ διακριθῆτε) …; Aphraates quotes as a saying of our Lord’s: “Doubt not, that ye sink not into the world, as Simon, when he doubted, began to sink into the sea”.—ἔοικεν κλύδωνι θαλάσσης: a very vivid picture; the instability of a billow, changing from moment to moment, is a wonderfully apt symbol of a mind that cannot fix itself in belief. ἔοικεν occurs only here and in Jam 1:23 in the N.T., κλύδων only elsewhere in Luke 8:24.—ἀνεμιζομένῳ: a number of verbs are used in this Epistle ending in -ιζω, viz., ὀνειδίζω, ῥιπίζω, παραλογίζομαι, φλογίζω, ἐγγίζω, καθαρίζω, ἀγνίζω, ἀφανίζω, θησαυρίζω, θερίζω, στηρίζω, μακαρίζω; the word before us is one of the sixteen used in the Epistle which do not occur elsewhere in the N.T., nor in the Septuagint.—ῥιπιζομένῳ: from ῥιπίς a “fan”; it occurs here only in the N.T., but cf. Daniel 2:35 (Septuagint), καὶ ἐρρίπισεν αὐτὰ ὁ ἄνεμος; the word is not used in Theodotion’s version. With the verse before us cf. Ephesians 4:14.… κλυδωνιζόμενοι καὶ περιφερόμενοι παντὶ ἀνέμῳ τῆς διδασκαλίας.

6. let him ask in faith] The prominence thus given to faith at the very outset of the Epistle must be borne in mind in connection with the subsequent teaching of ch. James 2:14-26. Faith, i.e. trust in God, as distinct from belief in a dogma, is with him, as with St Paul, of the very essence of the spiritual life.

nothing wavering] Better, “nothing doubting.” Another echo from our Lord’s teaching (Matthew 21:21). The variations in the English version hinder us from seeing that St Paul, when he said that “Abraham staggered not at the promise of God … but was strong in faith” (Romans 4:20), was reproducing the very thought and language of St James. The primary idea of the verb used, as here, in the middle voice, is that of the inner “debating” which implies doubt. It does not involve the absolute negation of unbelief, though, as in Romans 4:20, it tends to this, but represents the state of one who meets the question, “Will God keep His promise?” now with Yes, and now with No. The words of our own poet,

“Faith and Unfaith can ne’er be equal powers,

Unfaith in aught is want of faith in all.”

Tennyson’s Merlin and Vivien.

reproduce the substance of St James’s teaching.

he that wavereth is like a wave] Better, he that doubteth. The English play upon the word, though happy in itself, has nothing corresponding to it in the Greek. Wycliffe gives “doubt”. Tyndal introduced “waver” in the previous clause, but kept “doubteth” in this.

driven with the wind and tossed] Better, driven by the winds and blasts, both words describing the action of a storm at sea, the latter pointing especially to sudden gusts and squalls. The image, true at all times and for all nations, was specially forcible for a people to whom, like the Jews, the perils of the sea were comparatively unfamiliar. Comp. the description of the storm in Proverbs 23:34 and the comparison of the wicked to the “troubled sea” in Isaiah 57:20. Popular speech likens a man who has no stedfastness to a ship drifting on the troubled waves of life. St James goes one step farther and likens him to the unresting wave itself. Now he is in the depths, now uplifted high. In Ephesians 4:14 the same image describes those who are “carried about by every wind of doctrine.” So far as St James wrote from personal experience we trace, perhaps, a recollection of stormy nights upon the Sea of Galilee. If we could identify him with the son of Zebedee, we might think of him as remembering such a night as that of Matthew 8:24 or John 6:18.

Jam 1:6. Πίστει, in faith) James also begins and ends with “faith.” Comp. ch. Jam 5:15. In the middle of the Epistle he merely removes the hindrances to faith, [and shows its true character.—V. g.]—ἔοικε, is like) The same word occurs in Jam 1:23.—κλύδωνι θαλάσσης, a wave of the sea) Such is the man who is destitute of wisdom, not obtained by prayer.—ἀνεμιζομένῳ, which is driven by the wind) from without.—ῥιπιζομένῳ, which is tossed) from within, by its own instability.

Verse 6. - The A.V. "nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea," is unfortunate, as suggesting a play upon the words which has no existence in the original. Render, with R.V., nothing doubting: for he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea. Κλύδων, the surge; ἀνεμιζόμενος and ῤιπιζόμενος both occur here only. James 1:6Doubting (διακρινόμενος)

Compare Matthew 21:21. Not equivalent to unbelief, but expressing the hesitation which balances between faith and unbelief, and inclines toward the latter. This idea is brought out in the next sentence.

A wave (κλύδωνι)

Rev., surge. Only here and Luke 8:24; though the kindred verb occurs at Ephesians 4:14. The word is admirably chosen, as by a writer who lived near the sea and was familiar with its aspects. The general distinction between this and the more common κῦμα, wave, is that κλύδων describes the long ridges of water as they are propelled in horizontal lines over the vast surface of the sea; while κῦμα denotes the pointed masses which toss themselves up from these under the action of the wind. Hence the word κλύδων here is explained, and the picture completed by what follows: a billow or surge, driven by the wind in lines, and tossed into waves. Both here and in the passage in Luke the word is used in connection with the wind. It emphasizes the idea of extension, while the other word throws forward the idea of concentrating into a crest at a given point. Hence, in the figure, the emphasis falls on the tossing; not only moving before the impulse of the wind, but not even moving in regular lines; tossed into rising and falling peaks.

Driven by the wind (ἀνεμιζομένῳ)

Only here in New Testament.

Tossed (ῥιπιζομένῳ)

Only here in New Testament. From ῥιπίς, a fan. Anyone who has watched the great ocean-swell throwing itself up into pointed waves, the tops of which are caught by the wind and fanned off into spray, will appreciate the vividness of the figure.

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