James 2:22: Faith and Works, Part 9

Verse 22:[1] Seest thou (or, thou seest[2]) (Heb. 11:17) how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

[Faith, etc., ἡ πίστις συνήργει, etc.] Faith wrought with (or, was for a help to [Erasmus, thus Tremellius out of the Syriac, Castalio], was an attendant to [Illyricus, Pagnine, thus Beza, Piscator]) works (Vulgate, Montanus, etc.), that is, it was active, not idle (Estius, thus Menochius), not dead (Estius); it was efficacious through works (Cameron, similarly Beza, Piscator). Together both Faith and Works concur to hold fast and to reveal the benevolence of God, or a state of grace before God; Faith from the beginning of this state to its consummation; Works, as following Faith, necessary to preserve that state at the present time and occasion. The language of συνήργει, wrought together, teaches that Faith and the Works of faith are able not incorrectly to be called the Cause, as of justification, so of salvation, not indeed the primary Cause, which is the good pleasure of God, Ephesians 2:4; Titus 3:4; but the Conditions, which are called causes without which not, or causes in a class of their own (Grotius). Indeed, justification is not the only operation of faith, but also the purification of the heart, Acts 15:9, which is sanctification (Dieu). Then, if James had meant this, that Faith wrought with works unto justification, as the Papists maintain, he would rather have said, Works wrought with faith, than Faith wrought with works (Cameron, similarly Dieu). The sense is, therefore, that they had from faith its works, so that they might be, and work, and, in a manner of speaking then, justify (Dieu). Faith enlarged his spirit, or, incited it to good works. He declares the nature of true faith in this member and the following (Vorstius). He shows that true faith not only puts itself forth in believing, as the hypcrites were maintaining, with whom James had to do; but also in working (Cameron).

Seest thou how faith wrought with his works? He doth not say, works wrought with his faith, as he should have said, if he had intended their concurrence in justification; but faith wrought with his works, i.e. his faith was not idle, but effectual in producing good works, it being the office and business of faith to respect Christ for sanctification, as well as righteousness, Acts 26:18.

[And by works faith was consummated (or, perfected [Erasmus, Pagnine, Tremellius, Piscator, etc.]), ἐτελειώθη] Unto its end it was conducted (Beza). It put forth its proper force, as it is here taken actively, just as in 2 Corinthians 12:9.[3] See also 1 John 4:17[4] (James Cappel). The sense: Through works was this accomplished, lest Faith should be deprived of the hoped for outcome. A thing is perfected when it brings forth its designed effect. Faith is not able to attain this ἄνευ συναιτίων, without concurrent causes. Faith is perfected through love, says Tertullian (Grotius). Works perfect faith, just as enjoyment perfects an act, Aristotle’s Nicomachian Ethics 10:4, or as graceful charm perfects the age of blooming, not efficiently and formally; but as a concomitant accident, or appendix and end of perfection, presupposing an inward perfection of the action, or of faith, and following upon it. Therefore, to whatever extent good works project Faith’s life, force, and sincerity, and to the extent that they illustrate and adorn it, they are rightly called the perfection of Faith (Dieu). Perfection is twofold, 1. Absolute, or of degrees, as in James 1:25; 1 Corinthians 13:10; Ephesians 4:13. 2. Inchoate, or of parts, just as are called perfection, both, 1. sincerity, as in Psalm 18:32, and, 2. proper development, as in 1 Corinthians 2:6; 14:20; Hebrews 5:14; 6:1. Now, works perfect faith, 1. by way of operation and consummation, when through works faith comes to maturity; as a tree is perfected when it grows in such a way that it bears fruit, Numbers 17:8: and sin is perfected, James 1:15, when it has passed into habit (Gataker). Works are the complements, that is, the proper and mature fruit, of Faith (Junius). Only then is faith made complete, after it has brought forth good fruit. It is not made more certain and robust, the more of good works it brings forth (Vorstius). Good actions are after the likeness daughters cherishing their mother; and the good habit, from which they proceed, they confirm and perfect (James Cappel). 2. Metonymically (Gomar), or declaratively (Gataker out of Piscator, thus Gomar, Beza), because they declare faith to be perfect and sincere (Gomar, similarly Piscator, Cameron); just as the virtue, or power, of Christ is said to be perfect in infirmities, 2 Corinthians 12:9; because then it exerts itself maximally, and shows how great it is (Cameron). The nature of the matter extorts this exposition. For faith is the cause, works the effects. Now, a cause is not perfect by its effect, but is declared to be perfect; as good fruits do not make, but indicate, a good tree (Gomar, similarly Beza).

And by works was faith made perfect; either, 1. Faith by producing good works is itself encouraged, heightened, improved; and so not made perfect by any communication of the perfection of works to it, but by being stirred up and exercised as to the internal strength and power of it. Or rather, 2. Faith is made perfect by works declaratively, inasmuch as works evidence and manifest the perfection and strength of faith. Faith is the cause, and works are the effects; but the cause is not perfected by the effect, only its perfection is demonstrated by it, as good fruit doth not make a tree good, but show that it is so. See 2 Corinthians 12:9.

[1] Greek:  βλέπεις ὅτι ἡ πίστις συνήργει τοῖς ἔργοις αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐκ τῶν ἔργων ἡ πίστις ἐτελειώθη;

[2] Greek:  βλέπεις.

[3] 2 Corinthians 12:9a:  “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee:  for my strength is made perfect (τελειοῦται) in weakness.”

[4] 1 John 4:17:  “Herein is our love made perfect (τετελείωται), that we may have boldness in the day of judgment:  because as he is, so are we in this world.”

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