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James 5:10-12 by Robert Dean
Series:James (1998)
Duration:1 hr 2 mins 23 secs

Patience and Old Testament Examples; James 5:10-12

It is difficult to live the Christian life. We are constantly being tested, our faith is constantly being challenged, and it is up to our volition to determine whether we are ready to meet that challenge. The problem is there are many believers who are failures in the Christian life and they are going to be losers at the judgment seat of Christ because they have not been willing to face the challenge to endure. That is the theme of James in this epistle: endurance, perseverance. It is the Greek word HUPOMONE [u(pomonh] which means to stay in there under pressure, HUPO = under; MENO = to remain under, meaning to stay in the midst of that outside pressure of adversity by applying doctrine consistently so that you can avoid converting that outside pressure of adversity into stress in the soul. As James come to his conclusion in 5:7 he returns to this theme of patience and endurance.

James 5:10 NASB "As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord." In this verse James come to providing a couple of examples to emphasize the whole aspect of a personal sense of an eternal destiny. This is not exactly a correct translation. Literally the introduction of this verse in the Greek is a mandate, a command. "You all receive an example." This is the present active imperative second person plural of the verb LAMBANO [lambanw] which means to receive, to take. The word for example is HUPODEIGMA [u(podeigma] and it means an example, a type, something to provide a prototype for. It is used positively in John 13:15 NASB "For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you." This was after the foot-washing which teaches forgiveness, a function of impersonal or unconditional love for all mankind. Negatively it is used for the exodus generation and their disobedience and carnality in Hebrews 4:11 NASB "Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through {following} the same example of disobedience." So the emphasis in this word if that throughout the Scriptures God has provided objective revelation of people's lives, both their failures and their successes, in order to give us models or patterns of behaviour to learn by. "Receive and example" is an idiomatic phrase: Follow the example. It is a command, not a statement as it is translated in the English. Of what? "Of suffering and patience." The word here for suffering is not the normal word for suffering or adversity, it is KAKOPATHIAS [kakopaqiaj], a compound word but its meaning has very little to do with its parts. One of the great errors in Greek studies is that you will always find somebody who comes along and they find a word like this and they try to break it down etymologically and say that is what the word means. Usage determines what a word means.

KAKOPATHIAS is the combination of a word for evil and a word for emotion, but it doesn't have anything to do with evil emotion. It has to do with suffering, going through difficult times and it has undertones of the hardship and the suffering that the person goes through in times of the outside pressure of adversity. When you go through outside pressure of adversity there is always an emotional reaction. This issue is not that you have a certain emotional reaction or not and that that is wrong or right, it is automatic; the issue is: what are you going to do with it? That is where volition comes to play. Whenever we hit adversity, sometimes there is instant discouragement, sometimes instant anger, resentment, bitterness, shock, whatever it may be. The issue is what you are going to do with that. Are you going to let that stay there and continue bitterness, anger, etc., or are you instantly going to confess, move on, orient to the Lord and not get involved in emotional sins.

What James is saying here is that in the Old Testament there are many examples of suffering and patience. The word for patience is MAKROTHUMIA [makroqumia]. The construction is interesting. There is an article noun, the conjunction KAI [kai], and then article noun. What this indicates is that there is a connection between the two nouns which indicates that they are closely linked together.  Suffering in patience would be one way of translating it, but instead of saying suffering in patience the author just says suffering and patience, links them together grammatically. So, "As an example of suffering in patience [applying patience in times of adversity], take the prophets who spoke in the name of he Lord." So here he is going to cast us back to the Old Testament prophets to see how they handled the outside pressure of adversity. They clearly went through adversity. Jesus refers to this in Matthew 23:29, 30 NASB "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, 'If we had been {living} in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in {shedding} the blood of the prophets.' So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets." All the prophets went through tremendous adversity and rejection. Daniel refers to this in his prayer of national repentance just before the end of the seventy years of captivity. Daniel 9:6 NASB "Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land." They continuously went through rejection.

A personal sense of eternal destiny changed and motivated the life of Old Testament saints. Hebrew 11:1 NASB "Now faith is the assurance of {things} hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." The word translated "hoped for" is a participial form of ELPIZO [e)lpizw]. It doesn't mean hope like we normally use it, like "I really hope it is a nice weekend," i.e. an optimistic wish but there is no certainty or conviction whatsoever. ELPIZO means confident expectation. There is a certainty of what will transpire. That is what we mean by a personal sense of eternal destiny. There is a certainty that the Judge is standing at the door. So faith is the assurance of things confidently expected, the conviction of things not seen. We have such a conviction that the reality of the judgment seat of Christ is so overwhelming and real and present to us that it is dominating every decision in the present time. This is the introduction to Hebrew 11, that these are going to be examples. All of the Old Testament saints who are portrayed here are examples of those who had such a level of confidence of what would happened that it revolutionized their present tense decision-making.

Hebrews 11:2 NASB "For by it the men of old gained approval." That is a poor translation. They did not gain approval. The concept of approval would be the Greek verb DOKIMAZO [dokimazw]. The word here is MARTUREO [marturew] which means a testimony: For by it [faith/doctrine] the men of old had a testimony. It is that personal sense of eternal destiny that so impacts our present tense decision making that it creates a life that is a testimony to the angels in heaven in the angelic conflict and to man on earth. This is when we really begin to live the spiritual life and reap the benefits of it.

Hebrews 11:6 NASB "And without faith it is impossible to please {Him,} for he who comes to God must believe that He is and {that} He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." There are two doctrines there that are the object of the verb "believe," one that God exists, and two, that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. The whole concept of rewards in Scripture entails the judgment seat of Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 3:10-13. So this is that personal sense of eternal destiny again. It is emphasizing the fact that God rewards those who seek Him. In verse 7 we see a clear example of how a personal sense of eternal destiny helped Noah deal with the greatest meteorological disaster in all of human history—by faith, by trusting God and understanding specific doctrines in relationship to God, "Noah, being warned {by God} about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation [deliverance] of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith." So Noah faces a problem and because he understands that God has a plan and purpose in history and he understands where history is going he is going to make present tense decisions in light of future events. That is how a personal sense of eternal destiny solves problems. "…became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith." This brings in the important concept of inheritance, which is not the same as salvation, as entering into heaven. It is talking about the fact that by trusting God in a particular way at a particular time in relation to a particular problem, Noah gained an eternal position as an heir of righteousness, which is according to the norm or standard of the doctrine in his soul. So there will be rewards for Noah, rewards for Old Testament saints. The Scripture is not clear when this will be. We know that church age believers will be rewarded at the judgment seat of Christ. Old Testament saints are not resurrected until the end of the Tribulation. The only other judgment that the Scriptures speak of is the great white throne judgment, but that is for unbelievers alone.

Then we have the example of Abraham. Hebrews 11:8 NASB "By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going." Abraham was already a believer, his eternal destiny was already determined. But this is not what this is talking about; it is talking about inheritance, his possession in the land that was promised to him in the Abrahamic covenant. [9] By faith [trusting in specific doctrines] he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign {land,} dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; [10] for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God." Abraham lived in tents, which means he never received the inheritance. Inheritance means a possession and it is not something that is guaranteed to every believer.

Romans 8:16, 17 NASB "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God [salvation], and if children, heirs also, heirs of God, and fellow heirs with Christ if indeed we suffer with {Him} so that we may also be glorified with {Him.}" There was no punctuation in the original Greek text. Example: A woman without her man is nothing. Which way can that be punctuated? 1) A woman: without her, man is nothing; b) A woman without her man, is nothing. They are the same word but the way you punctuate the sentence completely changes the meaning of the sentence. So when we look at Romans 8:16, 17 we have a case of a misplaced comma. It should read "… and if children, heirs also, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ [no comma]" because joint heirs with Christ is dependent upon the condition: "if we suffer with him." If being heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ are the same thing then that is what we get at salvation, and that would be dependent on suffering with Him. So the way it is punctuated in the NASB being an heir is dependent upon suffering with Him. That is a works concept for salvation. But if we repunctuate it, "heirs also, heirs of God, and fellow heirs with Christ," making two categories of inheritance—heirs of God is what every believer has in common; joint heirship with Christ is dependent upon suffering with him, i.e. advancing to spiritual maturity—then there are two categories of inheritance, and that is what the Scriptures indicate. There is that which comes to every believer at the point of salvation and there is that inheritance which belongs to believers as a result of their obedience and advance to spiritual maturity. The same thing is true in the Old Testament.

So Abraham is said to have inheritance, as is Isaac and Jacob, but they never actually received that inheritance; it was still something in the future: "for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God." They were confident that God would provide it. They had confident expectations that were future. They never realized it on earth; they will realize it eventually. Because they anticipated the fulfilment of the promise it impacted their decisions that they made during life. 

Hebrews 11:17 NASB "By faith [by means of trusting in specific doctrines] Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten {son;} [18] {it was he} to whom it was said, "IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED." [19] He considered that God is able to raise {people} even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type." He anticipated the future and on the basis of future reality, confident expectation of what the future would be, he made present tense decisions.

Hebrews 11:32 NASB "And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets." There is an interesting list of Old Testament heroes. They are faith heroes because they are included in this chapter. Most of these men were failures. Samuel was not, but all of the others failed miserably, and the tremendous encouragement from this passage is that these men that God set forth for us as examples of trusting Him were also tremendous failures. But at some critical point in their life they understood their eternal destiny, they had a confident expectation of the future and made a present tense decision on the basis of future tense reality, and it transformed the history of Israel. Because of that glimmer of maturity and trust God puts them in a chapter praising their faith and their maturity. God does not expect us to be perfect but He does expect us to advance to maturity and to walk by means of god the Holy Spirit. [33] who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed {acts of} righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, [34] quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight."

This is what James is referring to, that we are to look at the examples of the Old Testament prophets and their example of suffering and patience in the midst of suffering.

James 5:11 NASB "We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and {is} merciful." Now he moves to the next level. Not only were they patient but they endured. Just as there was restoration and recompense in the life of Job, so then, whether in life or in eternity, the believer who endures in the midst of suffering can expect to receive full compensation for whatever loss, whatever adversity we encounter during life. If we continue to advance to maturity, even though we may lose everything in this life, the rewards that we have at the judgment seat of Christ will make up for that a thousand fold. The basis, once again, for endurance is the character and the grace of God.  

James 5:12 NASB "But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment." "Above all" does not mean highest priority here, it is merely a rhetorical device to emphasize a shift in thought. What James means in this verse is simply: don't get involved in the sins of the tongue.