My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations;…
He has given them "greeting" (ver. 1), or, literally, wished them "joy." Was this a bitter irony? For in what condition were they? Persecuted, as Jews and especially as Christian Jews; oppressed, the poorer by the richer; and all, in the common heritage of human woe, afflicted in a hundred ways. And does he wish "joy" to these? Yes, even so. And, as though surmising the question, he goes on to insist yet more emphatically on the "greeting" which he has given. Joy? Yes, "count it all joy, when ye fall into manifold temptations." Joy in spite of these things? Rather, joy by reason of these things. Nor was this teaching unique among the apostles of the new faith (comp. Romans 5:3-5; 1 Peter 1:6, 7). And confirmed by the common experience of Christendom: not merely joy in sorrow, but, by the blessed transmuting power of the gospel, joy wrought out through sorrow, strength out of weakness, life out of death. In the text we have these three truths presented - our religion is a faith, a faith tested, a faith perfected.
I. A FAITH. The fundamental condition of all life is faith. We must believe in ourselves, and in the instincts and promptings of our nature; in the world of nature, with its facts and forces and laws; in the world of men, with the relationships which it involves; and, largely, in the conduct and intents of our fellow-men respecting us; for daily we place practical trust in others in a thousand ways. Yes, faith, not knowledge, is the first condition of all life - faith as checked and regulated by knowledge, truly, and as leading to fuller knowledge; but, primarily and essentially, faith. So with the spiritual life, the life in God; we must, as a first condition, believe in him, in his relation to us, in his will concerning us. But why is faith in him called distinctively "faith," when it is but one application, however important, of a principle which runs through all our manifold life? Because, in this application, it is the new use of a disused faculty; it is faith in One who is saving us; who, in saving, is dealing with us in a way we know not. So our faith, religiously, is our practical realization of spiritual things, and an absolute trust in God as the God of our life and God of our salvation.
II. FAITH TESTED. "Divers testings." What are these? A world of sense, to which we have been enslaved; a world of sin, to which likewise we have been enslaved; and a world of suffering, besetting us on every side. The first testing our practical realization of unseen things; the second, our faith in the dictates of duty; the third, our trust in God, as dealing with us in love. Why is our faith thus tested? To prove it, whether true or false. No real holiness is possible, without the possibility of unholiness; hence what we call, specifically, "temptation." And no real trust is possible, without the possibility of untrust; hence what we call, specifically, "trial." Consider the infinite possible cost of holiness, in the constitution of a moral world. Sin; and, if sin, atonement. But God would allow that price to be paid, that holiness might be secured. Consider the terrible cost of a chastened trust, in the redemption of a moral world: suffering, alas, how bitter and prolonged! But God will allow that price to be paid, that trust may be secured. Yes, he will test. The allusion of δοκίμιον: testing of precious metals. So, "that the testing of your faith, being much more precious," etc. (1 Peter 1:7). But the figure fails, for a test applied to a dead thing is only a test; whereas a test applied to a living thing becomes more than a test - developing, strengthening that which is tested. So the tree rocked by the storm, the army on the long march. So here: "The proof of your faith worketh patience." Untried innocence develops into holiness, and holiness becomes an enduring holiness, by the testing of "temptation;" trust develops into enduring trust, and endurance becomes more enduring, by the testing of "trial." So, by these "diverse testings," does God work out our salvation. And in and through all there is the glorious power of the great redemption.
III. FAITH PERFECTED. God is working towards an end: "That ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing." "Entire." Hence the diverse testings, by which each part of our character is put to the proof. Importance of a many-sided education; so a many-sided Christian life. God tests us, therefore, in this way and in that way, that, not halt or maimed, but with a completed manhood, we may enter into life. "Perfect. Not only must each part be proved, but each part put to the hill proof; just as the artist will not only chisel the marble into a complete statue, but also chisel each part of the statue to a perfection of exquisite finish. The goal, then, perfect and entire;" tested sufficiently, in manifoldness and in continuance, till "lacking in nothing." Count it all joy. Yes, a joy sacred and awful, as of the martyr in the flames. But of great tribulation" (Revelation 7:14); and, "They shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy" (Revelation 3:4). - T.F.L.
Parallel VersesKJV: My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;