James wrote to Christians in the midst of temptation and trial. He showed first that the issue of testing is that they “may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing.” It is therefore to be looked upon as a means of blessing and received with joy. He clearly pointed out that God is never the Author of temptation as enticement toward evil, and in a passage full of remarkable force revealed the process of such temptation. It is an appeal through desire to some perfectly legitimate need of life, but suggests its attainment in illegitimate ways. If such enticement be rejected the victory is won.
James showed that the Word of God is the stronghold for faith in meeting temptation. Therefore the Word should be received “with meekness.” Thus, and thus only, will it be possible under temptation to save the soul. James employed the figure of a man looking at himself in a mirror, and going away, and forgetting his likeness, which is graphic. The man who endures temptation is he who, looking into the law of liberty, continues therein.
This action dealing with the effect of faith on temptation closes with a remarkable contrast between the false and the true in religion. The word “religious” here occurs only in the New Testament, and is a somewhat remarkable word. It indicates all manner of external observances, and in this connection stands in direct contrast to the phrase, “pure religion.” In all pure religion the deepest fact is the recognition of relationship to God, and this expresses itself in compassion, which drives men into touch with those in affliction and consecration, which keeps them unspotted from the world.
The whole section teaches us that temptation is not from God, but that in the divine economy it is overruled for the good of the saint.