“Blessed is the man, that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath premised to them that love Him.”
Verse 12 may be considered a summary of the preceding context. In verses 2-4 we are exhorted to rejoice when we fall into diverse temptations. Temptations work the approved state of our faith, and approved faith worketh patience. Hence, let us rejoice. In verses 5-8 the church is admonished to ask of God wisdom. We need wisdom. The way of the Christian in the midst of the world is difficult. Only when we receive wisdom from God will we be able to see the present in the light of the future, to reject the treasures of Egypt, of this present time, for the glories that shall be revealed, to endure sufferings and afflictions for the crown of eternal life and glory. In verses 9-11 the holy writer directs our attention to a concrete example of the afflictions of the people of God. How the poor people of God are maltreated by the ungodly rich! However, the lowly brother will be exalted and the rich will be made low. And now James summarizes this context in the words of verse 12. In this verse Jantes emphasizes, first of all, the blessedness of the afflicted. They shall receive the crown of life. Secondly, we are blessed only in the way of endurance. And finally, in that struggle we may be sure of victory because the crown of life has been promised by Jehovah to them that love Him.
Blessed is this man, according to James, supremely happy is he, because he shall receive the crown of life. He is blessed now, in the certain anticipation of this crown. There are two words in the original Greek which are often translated “crown”. The one word refers to a royal crown, can be rendered literally “diadem”, the crown worn by kings. The other word for crown refers to a laurel wreath, which was given to a conqueror, a winner as in the old Grecian or Roman games. The latter word is used in this text. The Christian is engaged in a struggle. He must exert himself to the utmost. He must fight to preserve what he has and to obtain the future glory. Consequently, he shall receive a crown, a winner’s prize, when he shall have struggled unto the end.
James speaks of the crown of life. The crown of the victorious Christian is viewed by Scripture from several aspects. Inwe read of it as a crown of righteousness. In the apostle speaks of it as a crown of glory. And in we read of the crown of life. The expression “crown of life”, appearing in the latter passage and also in the words of , implies that life is viewed as a crown. It is surely beyond all doubt that this refers to eternal life. Eternal life is obtained by the child of God as a prize, is bestowed upon him only as at the end of a struggle. Then he will receive the crown of life, the crown consisting exclusively of life. Life, in the Scriptural sense of the word, is fellowship with the alone blessed God. In heaven we will be characterized exclusively by this life. There will be no death there. Nothing will hinder us in the perfect service of the Lord. Everything, within us and about us, will be perfectly adapted to the blessed fellowship with the Lord. And we shall live forever. Death will eternally be impossible. Of this crown of life, in heavenly beauty and with all the people of the living God throughout the ages, James speaks in this twelfth verse of James 1.
To receive this crown of life, however, we must endure temptation. For, only he who is tried, shall receive the crown of life. This “enduring of temptation” and its accompanying result, “our being tried” is, first of all, an objective requirement for our obtaining of the crown of life. Another way to receive this prize does not exist. Literally we read here of the man who is enduring temptation and, as a result of this, is being tried. Both expressions, “enduring temptation” and “when he is tried” appear in the original in the present tense, and refer, therefore, to an activity, a work which is in progress.
As far as the expression “enduring temptation” is concerned, the word “temptation” (see our interpretation of verse 2) refers to all evil powers and influences, within and without, which would lead us away from the path of God’s covenant. The word “enduring” means literally “to remain, abide, and so to persevere”. Our attitude, therefore, toward this temptation must be one of perseverance. We must not succumb to them, but endure them, bear them without faltering.
The expression “when he is tried”, (literally, “being tried or approved”) refers to the same thought which is expressed in verse 3. James does not refer here to the trial of our faith, but to the results of that trial. Our becoming approved refers to that condition of the Christian wherein his true spiritual character is revealed as purged from all foreign elements. Silver and gold are tried, approved by fire in the sense that they are purged of all impurities, so that their beauty and true character may shine the more brilliantly. So also the Christian is being approved. Many foreign elements cleave to the Christian’s conscious walk and manifestation. The approved Christian is he who, when cast into the furnace of affliction, is being purified, so that the imperishable character of his faith shines the more gloriously, as purged from all carnal and sinful elements.
We understand, of course, that our enduring of temptation and our being approved are intimately related. The one is the result of the other. That man is blessed who endures temptation for he is being approved.
This enduring of temptation with its accompanying result, our approved state, is, first of all, an objective requirement for our obtaining of the crown of life. This does not mean that our obtaining of the crown of life is dependent upon our perseverance unto the end. Thus the Arminian conception would interpret the text. But this view is a denial of the Holy Scriptures. Do we not read inthat nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which there is in Christ Jesus, our Lord? And are we not taught in that it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy? And does not the apostle, Peter, proclaim the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ blessed, in , Who according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead? Besides these passages, the conception that our obtaining of the crown of life is dependent upon us is impossible. Firstly, God’s people have been elected unto eternal life from before the foundation of the world. Hence, our eternal destiny has been divinely determined. Secondly, Christ has bought us with His own precious blood. Our sins are therefore blotted out. No charge can be laid against us. Thirdly, the people of God possess eternal life and can therefore never perish. And, finally,
Christ has received all power in heaven and on earth. Hence, He will irresistibly draw His own unto Himself.
That only the persevering Christian will receive the crown of life is due to the character of the divine work of salvation. On the one hand, the divine work of salvation is a perfect work. He finishes what He begins. And because His work is perfect the character of our faith is such that it cannot succumb, but that it must endure unto the end. In fact, we may surely, declare that the divine purpose of temptations is exactly to reveal the imperishableness of His work of grace. And, on the other hand, the work of God within us is such that we are saved as moral, rational creatures. He alone saves. But we are saved. He causes us to run but we must run; He enables us to will and we therefore must will; He gives us faith and we must believe. And because He saves unto the utmost he that endures temptation, being approved, shall receive the crown of life.
However, our enduring of temptation and being approved is also a subjective requirement for our receiving of the crown of life. We read in the text: Blessed is the man who endureth temptation, for being approved he shall receive the crown of life. We are now blessed, are now supremely happy because we now experience the sure anticipation of the crown of life. Fact is, our enduring of temptation and being approved is the only subjective possibility whereby we now can joyfully look forward to the obtaining of the crown. If we would rejoice now in the future obtaining of the crown and if we now would rejoice in the certainty that God will finish His work, then we must also now experience and taste this blessed work of God within us. Only he is blessed, only he can be blessed who endures temptation. For when we endure temptation, stand steadfastly in the midst of the world, are becoming approved, we increasingly taste the grace of God within our hearts. That man is blessed because he shall, also in his own consciousness, receive the crown of life—he knows that the work of God, which by the grace of God has been begun, shall by that same grace be fully done. And tasting, experiencing this work of divine grace he will also increasingly look forward unto that day when the crown of life shall be given him and the work of God, by grace begun in his heart, shall be completed in heavenly perfection.
Finally, James declares of this crown of life that the Lord has promised it to them that love Him. The position of God’s people in the midst of the world is apparently hopeless. They are the party of the living God but must endure afflictions. Everything seems to be against us and our ultimate triumph appears impossible. However, we may be certain that we will receive the crown of life. God has promised it. When James speaks of “them that love God”, he is expressing the same thought which is implied in the beginning of the text, with this distinction, that the enduring of temptation is possible only in the love of God. It is the love of God which causes and enables us to forsake all things for the life which is above. And God has promised us this crown of life. This promise is no offer. A promise is never an offer. And how ridiculous would be the thought that God offers us this crown of life. How shall we ever accept it? We must die. How can we, who must die, take hold of the eternal crown of life? God has promised it. Let us therefore endure unto the end. Let us continue the good fight of faith. And God will give us the crown of life out of sovereign mercy.