James 4:12: Curing Detraction and Censoriousness, Part 2

Verse 12:[1] There is one lawgiver, (Matt. 10:28) who is able to save and to destroy: (Rom. 14:4, 13) who art thou that judgest another?

[There is one Legislator] God alone is Legislator, 1. absolutely and independently: 2. universal: 3. supreme: 4. perfect: 5. spiritual, or of souls, and who obligates consciences simply and directly: 6. who is able to save and to destroy, as it follows (Gataker). The argument: Thou that detractest inflictest injury upon the Legislator (Menochius), namely, God, whom consequently thou oughtest to fear; not to equate thyself with Him, much less to set thyself above Him, which thou art nevertheless doing, when thou usurpest the judgment of the law received from Him (Estius). It belongs to Him to condemn or absolve us, not to men (Menochius). It signifies that those seize for themselves the entire majesty of God, who claim for themselves the right of prescribing Law, that is, to souls and consciences. But such are those that impose their own will as law (Calvin). Our Legislator is not Moses, but Christ, Hebrews 8:6. A manuscript adds here καὶ κριτὴς, and Judge,[2] and thus the Latin, Syriac, and Arabic read it (Grotius).

There is one lawgiver; one absolute, supreme, universal and spiritual Lawgiver, and who can simply and directly bind men’s consciences, and make laws for their souls, Proverbs 8:15, 16; Isaiah 33:22; Acts 4:19. By this he intimates, that they did invade God’s right, who took upon them a legislative power in prescribing to other men’s consciences, and making their own will the rule of the others’ duty.

[Who, etc., ὁ δυνάμενος, etc.] Who is able to save and to destroy (Estius, thus Beza, Piscator, etc.), either temporally, or eternally, with nothing hindering; that is, who has over men the supreme power of life and death, of salvation and destruction (Estius). Christ, placed by God as Judge of all, has the right and power (for δυνάμενος signifies this here, as in Acts 4:20;[3] 2 Corinthians 13:8[4]) of saving and destroying us. Therefore, to Him the entire judgment concerning dubious matters is to be left (Grotius). God alone is able to save the penitent detractor, or to destoy the impenitent detractor. Therefore, no concession is to be made to this sin (Dickson). Other Legislators are not able to save the keepers of their law, at least not from God, or eternally; neither are they able to destroy the violators, except with God assenting (Gataker).

Who is able to save and to destroy, both temporally and eternally, Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:6; Isaiah 43:13; whereas other lawgivers cannot save or destroy men’s souls, nor so much as their lives, without God’s concurrence.

[But who art thou, etc.?] How ignorant, how rash (Tirinus)? Why arrogates thou this to thyself (Menochius)? What art thou making thyself? Art thou not a man? neither as the author of Law, nor as the Judge of souls, art thou constituted by God (Grotius). The argument: Since all men are by nature equal, one ought not to take to himself the power of judging another, unless he receive it from the lawgiver, who is superior to both, that is, from God. Compare Romans 14:4 (Estius).

Who art thou; what a sorry creature, a man, a worm, that thou shouldst lift up thyself into God’s place, and make thyself a judge of one not subject to thee! That judgest another; the servant of another Master, Romans 14:4. It is a fond thing for thee to take upon thee the power of a judge, when thou hast no power of saving or destroying, rewarding or punishing.

[1] Greek: εἷς ἐστιν ὁ νομοθέτης, ὁ δυνάμενος σῶσαι καὶ ἀπολέσαι· σὺ τίς εἶ ὃς κρίνεις τὸν ἕτερον;

[2] Thus Codices Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and Vaticanus, and a number of Byzantine manuscripts.

[3] Acts 4:20:  “For we cannot (οὐ δυνάμεθα) but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”

[4] 2 Corinthians 13:8:  “For we can do nothing (οὐ γὰρ δυνάμεθά τι) against the truth, but for the truth.”

Leave a Comment