Life-Study of Jamesby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In 1:2 James exhorts us to count it all joy whenever we fall into various trials. In verse 3 he goes on to say, “Knowing that the proving of your faith produces endurance.” Faith here is the Christian faith given by God in Christ (2:1; Eph. 2:8).
James says in verse 3 that the proving of our faith, the trying and testing of our faith, produces endurance. I can testify that my endurance has increased as a result of opposition and trial. The testings that we suffer produce endurance.
Endurance is different from patience. It is possible to be patient without having much endurance. Our patience may be fragile. What we need is an enduring patience. This enduring patience is endurance.
When you are mistreated by someone, you may first exercise patience. But you will learn that patience alone is not adequate, because in the suffering of trials you also need endurance. Endurance comes out of the proving, the trying, the testing, of our faith.
In verse 4 James continues, “And let endurance have its complete work, that you may be complete and entire, lacking in nothing.” Although James may not have had a clear view concerning the distinction between grace and law, his Epistle is notable and remarkable concerning Christian conduct, emphasizing practical Christian perfection, that the believers should be “complete and entire, lacking in nothing.” This may be considered the main subject of his Epistle. Such perfection in Christian behavior requires the trials of God’s governmental dealing and the believers’ endurance by the virtue of the divine birth through regeneration by the implanted word (vv. 18, 21).
What is the difference between complete and entire? As to help in answering this question, we may use a jigsaw puzzle as an illustration. For such a puzzle to be complete means that it contains all the pieces. If even one piece of the puzzle is missing, the puzzle would not be complete. Hence, to be complete means to have every part of a full unit. A person’s body would not be complete if any part were missing. To be complete is to have all the parts or pieces of a certain unit.
But what does it mean to be entire? Using the illustration of the jigsaw puzzle, we may say that when all the pieces of the puzzle are put together, there is a whole, an entire entity. Suppose a jigsaw puzzle has a hundred pieces. If all the pieces are at hand, the puzzle is complete. Then when these pieces are put together in their proper places, the puzzle is whole or entire. Therefore, the word “entire” in 1:4 denotes the whole, the entirety, of a unit.
In 1:4 James is not using the words complete and entire as synonyms. What James means here is that we need to have all the items of practical Christian perfection. If we have every item, we shall be complete. Following that, we shall have the entire Christian perfection; that is, we shall have practical Christian perfection as a whole.
When James’ writing touches the matter of practical Christian perfection, it is very descriptive and also detailed. On the one hand, this perfection must be complete, with every item present; on the other hand, it must be a whole, an entirety. Therefore, James ends verse 4 with the words “lacking in nothing.” His desire was that those who received his Epistle would be complete and entire in their practical Christian perfection, lacking in nothing.
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