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James 1:12

James 1:12 12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. – KJV

James 1:12 12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. – NIV

James 1:12 12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. – ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:12 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
makarios [3107] supremely blessed, fortunate, well off aner [0435] male individual hos [3739] who, which, what, that hupomeno [5278] stay behind, remain; fig: bear trials, persevere, endure, suffer poikilos [3986] various, diverse, motley, of uncertain derivation hoti [3754] that, which… (conjunction) dokimos [1384] approved, tried, acceptable ginomai [1096] to become… lambano [2983] accept, attain, bring, have, hold, obtain, take up away ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) stephanos [4735] crown, badge of royalty, elaborate prize of games ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) zoe [2222] life hos [3739] who, which, what, that epaggelia [1861] announcement, message, promise ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) agapao [0025] love (social or moral sense) autos [0846] her, his, it, them (possessive 3rd person pronoun)

1.12.0 Introduction to James 1:12

In some translations verse 12 is heaped into the same paragraph as verses 13 through 15. For the sake of our study it is not necessary to keep all these verses together strictly for context. To that end verse 12 stands nicely on its own. In fact, verse 12 actually ties together the overall theme of verses 2 though 11 by promising a blessing for endurance through temptation and trials in the form of the crown of life. Always meticulously clear, James does not forget to specify the catch: it is a promise to those who love God. Verse 12 affords us an opportunity to explore several key terms, the nature of the test which results in a crown, the crown itself, promises of God, and love.

1.12.1 Are there any definitions critical to unlocking this verse?

For convenience, definitions for several Greek terms used in this verse are provided.

Makarios (Greek): 1) Blessed 2) happy. Most often translated as blessed, as in the first word of each English version used here of this verse.

Hupomeno (Greek): 1) To remain as in to tarry behind 2) to remain as in abide and not recede or flee; to persevere holding fast to faith in the face of trails, to endure bearing bravely and calmly.

Hupomeno is used 16 time in the New Testament and is translated to numerous English words. In the three translations used in this study the word is rendered differently each time (endureth, persevere, and steadfast), though in each case with substantially the same meaning.

Peirasmos (Greek): 1) An experiment, attempt, trial, proving. 2) trial of a man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy (this meaning is associated with temptation toward sin) 3) of the temptation which the devil, a condition or mental state by which we are enticed to sin or lapse in faith or holiness 4) an adversity, affliction or trouble sent by God and serving to test or prove one’s character, faith, or holiness 5) temptation of God by man – rebellion against God by which man tests and challenges his power and justice.

Peirasmos may be translated as test, trial, or temptation depending on context. Since it may be used in any such case, context must be used to determine the most appropriate English translation to use. In most versions other than KJV the word is translated as trail in this verse. While either trial or temptation may be used, trial would seem a more appropriate choice considering the definitions of the English words test, trial, and temptation (each given below).

Test: An evaluation or method of evaluation.

Trial: 1) Examination 2) state of pain 3) difficulty 4) legal proceeding to determine innocence or guilt.

Temptation: 1) something that seduces or the quality to seduce 2) the desire for something you know you should avoid 3) the act of influencing by exciting hope or desire 4) solicitation toward that which is evil

Dokimos (Greek): Accepted, pleasing, acceptable.

Dokimos is most often translated as approved in KJV and NASB, though in this one case KJV uses the word tested. ESV and NIV both translate this Greek word into the phrase “stood the test.” This is an interesting and compelling context clue that in this application the word Peirasmos almost certainly is better translated trial rather than temptation.

Epaggello (Greek): 1) To announce that one is about to do or furnish something 2) to promise (of one’s own accord) to engage voluntarily 3) to profess.

Although epaggello is sometimes translated differently elsewhere in scripture, it is translated as promise in all versions of this verse.

1.12.2 What is blessed?

The Greek word for blessed was defined in the previous question. The definition of the English word blessed can be summarized as follows: to make or honor as holy, or to confer or bestow well being or prosperity upon.

Mt 5:10-12 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Although this passage is only a portion of the famous beatitudes in Mt 5, these verses speak directly to the issue central to James 1:12. While Matthew tells us what brings the blessing, James tells us what the blessing actually is: Withstand persecution for the name of Jesus and you will receive the crown of life.

1.12.3 How do you survive a trial?

Eph 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Perhaps this verse sounds cliché, but you cannot escape a deeper examination of the armor of God if you are serious about survival.

Ro 5:2-4 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope Get your faith in order and stand firmly in the Lord’s grace. From a position of grace it is much easier to see over and through the mist of worldly sufferings, enduring those sufferings with your eye on the hope. In so doing you develop endurance and character which are important components in the recipe for ultimate survival.

Heb 10: 36-39 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. Once you come into a saving relationship with Jesus, you are a new creation that walks on legs of faith. Never shrink away, for the faith you stand on will preserve your soul for eternal life.

1.12.4 If standing the test for a crown is like a running a race for a crown, then what is this race all about?

1 Cor 9:22-27 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. Paul uses athletics as a metaphor to help us understand the concept James is discussing. The mission is to bring salvation to others. The Good News is only news if it is told to others. Paul then contrasts a worldly race where men compete for a single prize that only one can win. He then transitions into an instruction to us to run such a race. Unlike an worldly race, however, there is one common prize to be won by all who finish or, as James puts it, those who endure and stand to the end. That prize, in the words of James, is the crown of life.

Notice that Paul has more to say on this subject which is often overlooked by popular Christianity. Paul says he disciplines his flesh and controls it so he himself doesn’t loose his own race in the midst of his effort to help others. Paul makes it clear he knows that only by enduring to the end and being constantly vigilant, constantly seeking, and constantly serving will he win his prize. This is an example of faith in action, put to work and not idled. Going to church one day a week isn’t sufficient. Singing a praise song and dropping coin into a bucket isn’t enough. Nothing is ever enough. That’s the point of grace. Grace, however, is not a license for laziness. We must constantly be making the effort, constantly pursuing the goal with single mindedness. As we reach further into the heart of the James Epistle, this subject will continue with us as the underlying theme.

1.12.5 Who or what are we standing or racing against?

Eph 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. If you take the time to really examine this verse from Ephesians, you’ll see what appears to be a contradiction. Paul first says the threat isn’t from men, but then talks of rulers and authorities. What are they but men? The riddle is answered by reading the rest of the verse. Our world is in darkness because individuals and whole groups of people do not have Christ’s love and indwelling spirit.

Jn 9:6 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. As long as there are people without Christ, there will be darkness in the world. Paul explains that these people who live in darkness are slaves to a different power. Paul describes this other power as spiritual evil emanating from heavenly places. Men are not the source of evil in and of themselves, rather they are the willing conduit of evil. Such men seek power as they are lead to seek it, rising to positions of worldly authority. These spiritually evil authorities are what we wrestle against, standing against, and run against.

1.12.6 Can we win on our own?

Jn 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. Jesus makes it clear we can’t do it alone. We must abide in and with him. Just as other men rely on spiritual evil for power, to stand against such men we must rely on Jesus. Ro 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would help us.

1 Thess 3:1-2 Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith We saw that Jesus came, was and is the light of the world, and was and is the embodiment of the Word of God. We saw that the Holy Spirit came to indwell and help us. In our walk of faith, we are commissioned also to aide one another, being an aide and accepting help and encouragement from one another.

1.12.7 What is the crown of life?

Gen 2:9 And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In the very beginning God created the tree of life. It was one of two trees in the center of the garden, presumable standing next to the forbidden tree of knowledge. When they ate of the forbidden fruit they were kicked out of Eden before they had a chance to eat of the other. If God wanted man to forever live in a loving relationship with Him, then why not let them eat of it? Perhaps it was because God knew in advance of man’s fall and all that would have to happen to correct this foreknown fall. After all, what motivation would man have for seeking and submitting to God if his life was already eternal?

Gen 3:22-24 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. The reason we don’t enjoy eternal life today is that God prevented man from eating that fruit after he’d eaten the forbidden fruit.

Rev 2:10-11 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death. We are warned that Satan will orchestrate trouble for us, in some cases to our bodily death. We are to take comfort from knowing that such a first death simply means exemption from the second death described in Rev 20:14-15.

Rev 22:2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. We are promised to see the tree in the midst of New Jerusalem standing beside the river of life, bearing fruit each month, and the leaves will be used. It doesn’t say explicitly that we must eat from the tree to obtain the eternal life. This may be metaphoric anyway, representing the gift of eternal life for those whose names are in the book of life. It appears eternal life is given by Lord Christ, not taken by eating.

The crown represents the prize. The prize of life is literally eternal life.

1.12.8 What are the conditions for receiving the Crown of Life?

Pr 28:13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. (See also Ro 10:9-10) You can’t hide your sin from God. It didn’t work for Adam and it won’t work for you. Confess your sins to receive cleansing, thus mercy. Surely there can be no greater mercy than to be pardoned from sin and granted eternal life as a gift. By confessing you are acknowledging your position in humility as being the creation, not equal to the creator. Remember, Eve was tempted with the idea of being like God.

Ro 8:5-8 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. After confession comes submission. Submission comes by putting your focus on God, His Word, and His Spirit with a servant’s heart and hands.

Jn 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. You must recognize who Jesus is and believe in him. This must be more than an intellectual knowledge, it is a commitment.

1 Cor 10:21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. This verse supports and expounds on Jn 3:18. Commitment to Christ means you can’t ride the fence. You can’t serve evil and at the same time you serve God.

Mt 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. In the great commission we see what Jesus meant in Jn 14:15 when he said If you love me, you will keep my commandments. The Good News is only news if you tell it. Go and tell it.

To summarize these several verses into something easy to remember: ADMIT, SUBMIT, COMMIT, and TRANSMIT. I’m not one who likes to put faith into a formula, but if I were to publish a formula, this would be it.

1.12.9 To whom is the crown promised?

Jn 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” In the well known conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, Jesus gives the answer to our question. This leads to the next obvious question, much as Nicodemus inquired: what exactly does being born again mean?

Jn 3:5-6 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Jesus first says we must be born of both water and of spirit and in the next verse he explains the metaphor as birth by flesh and spiritual birth. The birth of the flesh came about as a result of parental conception. Birth of the spirit comes about when our spirit is renewed or regenerated through grace. Spiritual conception takes place when we hear the Good News and spiritual birth takes place when we choose to adopt it as our reality, which is to say we believe it and live it (Jn 3:16).

Following the analogy of the cycle of life, after birth we are babes, then we grow and mature. We speak words we learn growing up. Spiritually it is very similar. When we first believe we don’t begin to comprehend it all, but we have a new spirit which has at its core the Holy Spirit to guide and teach it, drawing it toward the Father through Jesus Christ and all the tools he gives us. Sadly, just as we can loose our life through carelessness and foolishness, if we fail to remain steadfast in our faith, living out what we confess to believe, our spiritual life may die prematurely as described in the parable of the sower (Mt 13:1-9). This is why endurance is so important, hence the reason for the extended study of topics like testing, trials, endurance, perseverance, and endurance.

1.12.10 What is a promise?

The Greek word epaggello, here translated as promise, literally means 1) To announce that one is about to do or furnish something 2) to promise (of one’s own accord) to engage voluntarily 3) to profess.

The English word promise can be defined in summary as a pledge, vow, or declaration assuring you will or will not do a specific thing.

1.12.11 Is a promise conditional?

In a contract, a promise is an asset to the one receiving and a liability to the one promising. If the one receiving has no liability, they legally have no grounds for holding the promissory to their promise. In other words, a contract is really two promises, or you might think of it as a mutual promise between two parties. In a contract, one party promises something of value in exchange for a promise from the other party of something else of value. For example, loans and service agreements are common and easily understood contract concepts. The purpose of a written contract is to provide documentation of the promises so they can be legally enforced by either party.

Whereas a contract is an explicitly conditional mutual promise, a covenant is an unconditional promise. In other words, one party declares they will do a certain thing without regard to any exchange or any sort.

The answer to the question may be yes or no depending on whether there is a mutual promise (contract) or a strictly one-sided promise (covenant).

Ro 4:13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. A promise made by God is conditional except in those special instances where a covenant was made. The prime condition is righteousness, and righteousness is culmination of faith. Many words can be used to quantify this quality, but I would boil it down to trust, love, respect, and obedience.

1.12.12 What does it mean to break a promise?

Deu 23:23 You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth. First of all, don’t break a promise. It could be hazardous to your health.

Neh 5:13 I also shook out the fold of my garment and said, “So may God shake out every man from his house and from his labor who does not keep this promise. So may he be shaken out and emptied.” And all the assembly said “Amen” and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised. The threat was very clear to the people Nehemiah spoke with here. They understood the relationship between the dust being shaken from the garment and them being shaken from their homes and jobs. When people realize their home and livelihood are on the line they tend to straighten up quickly. Most people will endure a great deal of unpleasantness to maintain a job or to keep their family intact. It shouldn’t be unpleasant to obey God, but in this particular case the people had done something wrong and Nehemiah was using a clear threat to ensure they came through on their promise.

Ex 20:16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. To bear false witness, in simpler terms, means to lie. Ultimately, a broken promise is nothing less than a lie. A broken promise is a broken commandment. A broken commandment is a sin. Sin results in death.

Ro 6:23 The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ. I personally am as guilty as anyone reading this document of this sin. I deserve the death penalty for my sin.

2 Cor 7:10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. We are blessed indeed that God sees fit to allow us to humble ourselves with a repentant heart and receive his gracious mercy and an undeserved gift, courtesy of the blood of Jesus Christ.

1.12.13 Can God break a promise?

Joshua 21:45 Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. If God cannot lie (Nu 23:19, below), we know then any promise He makes will come to pass. Nu 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? God doesn’t lie. Since he doesn’t lie, and a broken promise is a lie, then he will not break a promise.

Jer 26:13 Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you. The Lord may change his mind, if given cause. There are other instances in scripture where God also changes his mind when moved by man, whether grieved of a promise as a result of man’s failure or moved to hold back a promised curse by a repentant heart.

1.12.14 What is your favorite promise from God?

Take a moment to reflect on God’s promises. Make a brief list of your favorite promises. Choose the one most important to you and write out why it is so important to you and how you’ve had that promise fulfilled in your own life.

Ps 121 is my own personal favorite promise and my favorite chapter in all of scripture. The Lord used this one day when I was in my deepest moment of despair to tell me He will always be there, any time of the day or night, to comfort, protect, and guide me, from now through eternity, and he has the power and authority to do as he has promised.

1.12.15 Summary of James 1:12

A crown is something awarded to a victor. While the crown of life might in fact be literal, it is certainly representative of the promise of eternal life. The race itself represents our life and its many struggles. Our principle enemy we race against is Satan and on our own we cannot win against him. We are assured of victory, however, if we rely on Jesus with true and enduring faith. Some promises are conditional and some are not. Either way, once God declares he will do a thing, it will be done. Any time God places a condition on a promise he offers us responsibility. If we respond by using that responsibility to place our faith in him we will surely receive the promise.