James 4:15
For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.
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(15) For that ye ought to say . . . .—Referring to James 4:13, in some such a continuation of reproof as this: Woe unto you that say, . . . . instead of saying, If the Lord will”. . . . In fact, it is a thing of the past, not of time, but completed action on the part of God—“If the Lord have willed it, we shall both live and do this or that.” Such is far, be it noted, from Fatalism, in even its best form, as under the teaching of Islam. The sovereignty of God is acknowledged, but with it is plainly recognised the existence of man’s free will, dependent, however, on the permission of the Most High for its fleeting duration and power. St. Paul speaks in similar tone of coming to Corinth, “if the Lord will” (1Corinthians 4:19); and “God willing” (D.V.), “the reference of all the contingencies of the future to One supremely wise and loving Will, has been in all ages of Christendom the stay and strength of devout souls.”

4:11-17 Our lips must be governed by the law of kindness, as well as truth and justice. Christians are brethren. And to break God's commands, is to speak evil of them, and to judge them, as if they laid too great a restraint upon us. We have the law of God, which is a rule to all; let us not presume to set up our own notions and opinions as a rule to those about us, and let us be careful that we be not condemned of the Lord. Go to now, is a call to any one to consider his conduct as being wrong. How apt worldly and contriving men are to leave God out of their plans! How vain it is to look for any thing good without God's blessing and guidance! The frailty, shortness, and uncertainty of life, ought to check the vanity and presumptuous confidence of all projects for futurity. We can fix the hour and minute of the sun's rising and setting to-morrow, but we cannot fix the certain time of a vapour being scattered. So short, unreal, and fading is human life, and all the prosperity or enjoyment that attends it; though bliss or woe for ever must be according to our conduct during this fleeting moment. We are always to depend on the will of God. Our times are not in our own hands, but at the disposal of God. Our heads may be filled with cares and contrivances for ourselves, or our families, or our friends; but Providence often throws our plans into confusion. All we design, and all we do, should be with submissive dependence on God. It is foolish, and it is hurtful, to boast of worldly things and aspiring projects; it will bring great disappointment, and will prove destruction in the end. Omissions are sins which will be brought into judgment, as well as commissions. He that does not the good he knows should be done, as well as he who does the evil he knows should not be done, will be condemned. Oh that we were as careful not to omit prayer, and not to neglect to meditate and examine our consciences, as we are not to commit gross outward vices against light!For that ye ought to say - Instead of what you do say, "we will go into such a city," you ought rather to recognise your absolute dependence on God, and feel that life and success are subject to his will. The meaning is not that we ought always to be saying that in so many words, for this might become a mere ostentatious form, offensive by constant unmeaning repetition; but we are, in the proper way, to recognise our dependence on him, and to form all our plans with reference to his will.

If the Lord will ... - This is proper, because we are wholly dependent on him for life, and as dependent on him for success. He alone can keep us, and he only can make our plans prosperous. In a thousand ways he can thwart our best-laid schemes, for all things are under his control. We need not travel far in life to see how completely all that we have is in the hands of God, or to learn how easily he can frustrate us if he pleases. There is nothing on which the success of our plans depends over which we have absolute control; there is nothing, therefore, on which we can base the assurance of success but his favor.

15. Literally, "instead of your saying," &c. This refers to "ye that say" (Jas 4:13).

we shall live—The best manuscripts read, "We shall both live and do," &c. The boasters spoke as if life, action, and the particular kind of action were in their power, whereas all three depend entirely on the will of the Lord.

For that ye ought to say: it is the real acknowledgment of God’s providence, and the dependence of all our affairs upon him, which is here required; and this is to be done, either expressly with the mouth in such like forms of speech as this is, so far as is needful for our glorifying God, and distinguishing ourselves from those that are profane, as hath been customary with the saints in Scripture, Acts 18:21 Romans 1:10, and other places, but always inwardly, and in the heart.

If the Lord will; i.e. with his providential or directive will, which as yet we do not know, and therefore we say: If the Lord will: for all our counsels and determinations must be regulated by his preceptive or directive will, which we do know; and therefore, with respect to that will, we are not to say: We will do this, or that, if God will, i.e. commands it, but we must first see that it be commanded, and then resolve to do it if God will, that is, if in his providence he shall permit us.

If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that; some read the words: If the Lord will, and we shall live, we will do this, or that; and then the latter copulative and is redundant, and the sense is, that all our actions depend not only upon our living, but upon God’s willing; God may permit us to live, and yet not permit us to do this or that. But if we take the words according to our reading: If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that, the meaning is, that both our life and actions depend upon the will of God, nor the one, nor the other, is in our power. And so here is a double check to the vain boasts of those that were so peremptory in their resolutions, without considering the frailty of their own lives, or the dependence of their actions upon God’s will, when both the one and the other are at his disposal.

For that ye ought to say,.... Instead of saying we will go to such and such a place, and do this, and that, and the other thing, it should be said,

if the Lord will, and we shall live, and do this and that; the last "and" is left out in the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions; and the passage rendered thus, "if the Lord will, and we shall live, we will do this": so that here are two conditions of doing anything; the one is, if it should be agreeable to the determining will and purpose of God, by which everything in the world comes to pass, and into which the wills of men should be resolved, and resigned; and the other is, if we should live, since life is so very uncertain and precarious: and the sense is, not that this exact form of words should be always used, but what is equivalent to them, or, at least, that there should be always a sense of these things upon the mind; and there should be a view to them in all resolutions, designs, and engagements: and since the words are so short and comprehensive, it might be proper for Christians to use themselves to such a way of speaking; upon all occasions; we find it used by the Apostle Paul frequently, as in Acts 18:2, and even by Jews, Heathens, and Turks. It is a saying of Ben Syra, the Jew (p),

"let a man never say he will do anything, before he says , "if God will"''

So Cyrus, king of Persia, when, under pretence of hunting, he designed an expedition into Armenia, upon which an hare started, and was caught by an eagle, said to his friends, this will be a good or prosperous hunting to us, , "if God will" (q). And very remarkable are the words of Socrates to Alcibiades, inquiring of him how he ought to speak; says Socrates, , "if God will" (r); and says he, in another place (s),

"but I will do this, and come unto thee tomorrow, "if God will".''

And it is reported of the Turks (t), that they submit everything to the divine will; as the success of war, or a journey, or anything, even of the least moment, they desire to be done; and never promise themselves, or others, anything, but under this condition, "In Shallah", if God will.

(p) Sentent. 11. (q) Xenophon. Cyropaed. l. 2. c. 25. (r) Plato in Aleibiade, p. 135. (s) Plato in Laches. (t) Smith de Moribus Turc. p. 74.

For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.
Jam 4:15. After the reason has been given in Jam 4:14 why it was wrong to speak as in Jam 4:13, this verse tells us how we ought to speak.

ἀντὶ τοῦ λέγειν ὑμᾶς] is closely connected with οἱ λέγοντες, Jam 4:13, so that Jam 4:14 forms a parenthesis: Ye who say, To-day, etc., instead of saying, ἐὰν ὁ κύριος κ.τ.λ.

According to the reading ζήσομεν καὶ ποιήσομεν (instead of the Rec. ζήσωμεν καὶ ποιήσωμεν), it is most natural to refer καὶ ζήσομεν not to the protasis (as Tischendorf punctuates it), but to the apodosis (Lachmann and Buttmann; so also Wiesinger and Lange); for, first, it is grammatically more correct[210] to make only the conjunctive ΘΕΛΉΣῌ dependent on ἘΆΝ, and to take the two indicatives together; and, secondly, from this construction the striking thought results, that not only the doing, but also the life, as the condition of the doing, is dependent on the will of God: it is accordingly to be translated: If the Lord will, we shall both live and do this or that. Correctly Wiesinger: “It appears to be more suitable to the sense to take ἐὰν ὁ κ. θελ. as a single condition, and not to complete it by a second.” On the other hand, most expositors retain the reading of the Rec., but they construe it differently. De Wette refers καὶ ζήσωμεν to the protasis, and takes the second ΚΑΊ as belonging to the apodosis: “If the Lord will and we live, we shall,” etc.; so also Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Hornejus, Pott, and in general most expositors (also Winer, see critical remarks; on the contrary, Al. Buttmann, p. 311 [E. T. 362], prefers the indicative). Schneckenburger, indeed, refers ΚΑῚ ΖΉΣΩΜΕΝ to the protasis, but he connects it more closely with ἘᾺΝ ΘΕΛΉΣῌ: si Deo placet ut vivamus tum faciemus (similarly Grotius and Hottinger), which, however, cannot be linguistically justified. Bornemann (in Winer and Engelhardt’s N. krit. Journ. VI. 1827) commences the apodosis with καὶ ζήσωμεν, and explains it: “Let us seek our sustenance.”

Winer correctly observes that this explanation (which Brückner erroneously ascribes to this commentary) lacks simplicity, and is not supported by Biblical usage.[211] Bouman and others (see critical notes) refer ΖΉΣΩΜΕΝ naturally to the protasis, and ΠΟΙΉΣΟΜΕΝ to the apodosis. The meaning which this reading, unsupported by authorities, gives appears to be suitable, but yet is not correct, for it would be more correct to have said: ἘᾺΝ ΖΉΣΩΜΕΝ ΚΑῚ Ὁ ΚΎΡΙΟς ΘΕΛΉΣῌ.

The indicative is to be preferred to the conjunctive in the apodosis, as a reciprocal call to definite action corresponds less with the context than the resolution to do something.

[210] The indicative future after ἐάν is only found with absolute certainty in Luke 19:40. See Al. Buttmann, p. 192 [E. T. 222].

[211] The opinion which Winer, in ed. 5, p. 331 f. [see E. T. 357], has expressed, that perhaps no apodosis is to be assumed, James only intending to say that we should always resolve never to speak decidedly, he has in later editions correctly relinquished.

Jam 4:15. ἀντὶ τοῦ λέγειν ὑμᾶς: “A classical writer would rather have said δέον λέγειν or οἵτινες βέλτιον ἂν εἷπον” (Mayor).—ἐὰν ὁ κύριος θελήσῃ: Cf. Berachoth, 17a, “It is revealed and known before Thee that our will is to do Thy will” (quoted by Taylor, op. cit., p. 29); cf. John 7:17, ἐάν τις θέλῃ τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ ποιεῖν, γνώσεται … In the Hebrew commentary on a curious little work called The Book of the Alphabet of Ben Sira there occur the words אם גוזר שׁם, i.e., “If the Name (= God) wills”; and it is said that this formula should never be omitted when a man is about to undertake anything. This passage occurs in the comment on the eleventh proverb of the “Alphabet,” which runs: “The bride enters the bridal chamber and, nevertheless, knows not what will befall her”. The formula, “If the Name wills,” is, according to Ginsberg, of Mohammedan origin, “for the use of formulas was introduced to the Jews by the Mohammedans”. The formula is, of course, not Ben Sira’s, as it forms no part of the work ascribed to him; the commentary in which it occurs belongs to about the year 1000 probably (see Jewish Encycl., ii. 678 f.). Cf., further, Acts 18:21, τοῦ θεοῦ θέλοντος, 1 Corinthians 4:19, ἐὰν ὁ κύριος θελήσῃ; and in Pirqe Aboth, ii. 4 occur the words of Rabban Gamliel (middle of third century A.D.), “Do His will as if it were thy will, that He may do thy will as if it were His will. Annul thy will before His will, that He may annul the will of others before thy will” (Taylor).—καὶ ζήσομεν καὶ … both life and action depend upon God’s will.

15. For that ye ought to say …] Literally, Instead of saying, but the English may be admitted as a fair paraphrase.

If the Lord will, we shall live …] This is the reading of the better MSS. The Received Text gives “If the Lord will, and we live, we will do this or that.” The sense is substantially the same with either, but it is perhaps, more expressive to refer both life and action to the one Supreme Will. It is better here to refer the word “Lord” to God in His Absolute Unity, without any thought of the distinction of the Persons. The reference of all the contingencies of the future to one supremely wise and loving Will has been in all ages of Christendom the stay and strength of devout souls. It has left its mark, even where it has not always been received as a reality, in familiar formulæ, such as “God willing,” Deo Volente, or even the abbreviated D. V. There is, perhaps, a special interest in noting that St Paul uses the self-same formula as St James in reference to his plans for the future (1 Corinthians 4:19).

Jam 4:15. Ἀντὶ τοῦ λέγειν ὑμᾶς, whereas ye ought to say) referring to ye that say, Jam 4:13. An Imperative is here implied, rather say thus.—καὶ, and) If the Lord will, we shall BOTH live AND act. We shall both live, is part of the Apodosis;[61] for, if it were part of the Protasis, and would not be placed before we shall act. Καὶ ζήσωμεν is expressed in Latin by si vixerimus, where the si is incorrectly added, and the καὶ which follows, incorrectly omitted; for ΚΑῚ ΖΉΣΩΜΕΝ (i. e. vivemus) belongs, as we have said, to the Apodosis: and the boasting man so speaks as though he had in his own power, (1.) the particular kind of action, (2.) the action, and (3.) life; whereas (1.) the life of men, (2.) action, and (3.) the particular kind of action, depend entirely on the will of the Lord. See again App. Grit. Ed. ii.—ζήσωμεν·[62] ποιήσωμεν) The Subjunctive gives to the discourse an expression of modesty.[63]

[61] This is the punctuation also of Lachm. But Vulg. “Si Dominus voluerit et (Amiat. omits Si, which other MSS. here insert) vixerimus, faciemus hoc aut illud.” So Tisch.—E.

[62] AB read ζήσομεν καὶ ποιήσομεν; Rec. Text, without very old authority, ζήσωμεν and ποιήσωμεν.—E.

[63] As making the future contingent.—E.

Verse 15. - For that ye ought to say (ἀντὶ τοῦ λέγειν); literally, instead of your saying; ἀντὶ τοῦ, with the infinitive, "saepe apud Graecos" (Grimm). This verse follows in thought on ver. 13, ver. 14 having been parenthetical. "Go to now, ye that say... instead of your saying (as ye ought), If the Lord will," etc. Once more the text requires correction, as the futures ζήσομεν and ποιήσομεν should be read (with א, A, B), instead of the subjunctives of the Received Text. It is generally agreed now that the verse should be rendered," If the Lord will, we shall both live and do this or that." But it is possible to divide it differently, and to render as follows: "If the Lord will, and we live, we shall also do this or that." Vulgate, si Dominus voluerit et si [omit si, Codex Amiat.] vixerimus, faciemus, etc. (cf. Winer, 'Grammar of N.T. Greek,' p. 357). James 4:15For that ye ought to say (ἀντὶ τοῦ λέγειν ὑμᾶς)

James 4:14 was parenthetical, so that at this point the thought is taken up from James 4:13 : Ye who say we will go, etc. - for that ye ought to say. The rendering in margin of Rev. is simpler: instead of your saying.

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