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Bible Commentaries

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary
James 2

 

 

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Verses 1-26

Chapter2

Now my brothers, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons ( James 2:1 ).

This is so difficult. It is so easy for us to fall in the trap of respecting persons. It"s just I don"t know a part of our whole social structure, I guess, is that of respecting certain persons above others. You"ve got to be careful that we don"t fall into that trap.

So often a person will introduce himself, "Well I am Dr. So." Doctor, oh my, we respect the person. We shouldn"t be a respecter of persons. God isn"t. "God is no respecter of persons," the Bible says ( Acts 10:34 ). We shouldn"t be.

If there comes into your assembly a man with a gold ring, fancy clothes, there comes also a man in with rags that smell; And you have respect to him that is wearing the fancy clothing, and you say to him, Oh, sit here in this good place; and you say to the poor man, Stand over there in the corner, or sit under my footstool: Are you not then partial in yourselves, and you"ve become the judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hasn"t God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to them that love him? But you"ve despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, draw you before the courts? Don"t they blaspheme that worthy name by which you are called ( James 2:1-7 )?

You"ve been called Christians. So be careful on this business of respecting a person just because he is rich. Or sort of snubbing a person because he is poor. Now let"s be honest. We are far more apt to stop along the road and help a person with a flat tire who"s driving a Mercedes than we are someone driving a Volkswagen bug. I mean, you see someone out there you know and in distress. "Oh my, you know, I"ll be glad to help him because who knows, maybe they"ll you know offer me five bucks you know for giving them a hand." But you"ve been there. That"s respect of persons. Something we shouldn"t be guilty of.

Interesting God has chosen the poor of this world as far as worldly good but rich in faith. God measures riches on a far different standard than do we. We"re on the gold standard; used to be. We"re on no standard now. Used to be gold notes. In effect, they said the government owes you twenty dollars worth of gold. Then we went to silver notes; the government owes you twenty dollars worth of silver. Now they"re federal notes. They"re not backed by anything so it means the government owes you nothing. It"s true. They"re not backed by anything. Just paper. But gold is not the standard of heaven. Asphalt up there; they pave the streets with the stuff.

God looks at the heart of a man and He sees the faith and the trust that is there in Him. And God says, Oh that"s a rich man. He loves me. He trusts me. God looks at some of the named people in the world who lived in the Four Hundred Club and God says, "Oh, what poor riches. They have nothing." Now we should look at people as God. We shouldn"t have respect for wealthy people but we should be just as concerned to help the poor. In fact, most concerned to help the poor. The rich don"t really need help so much. It"s the poor that need our help, our attention. God help us. I"m guilty here. God help me.

Now if you fulfil the royal law ( James 2:8 )

I love this, the royal law. What is the royal law?

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself ( James 2:8 ),

That"s the royal law. I like the title for it. If you fulfill that royal law, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,

you do well ( James 2:8 ):

Now really, that"s where that young ruler sort of failed, isn"t it, who came to Jesus, fell at His feet and said, "Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus said, Keep the commandments. Which ones? Oh, thou shall not kill, thou shall not steal, thou shall not commit adultery, thou shall not bear false witness. Oh Lord, I kept all these from the time I was a kid. But what I, what do I lack yet? Well if you will be perfect, keep the royal law, go sell everything you have and distribute it to the poor. You"ll have great riches in heaven." Keep the royal law; Love your neighbor as yourself; hard to do, isn"t it? Awfully hard to do. Loving my neighbor as I love myself. But if you keep that, you do well.

But if you have respect of persons, you"re actually committing sin, and you"re convicted of the law as a transgressor. Convinced of the law ( James 2:9 ).

It is pointing its finger of accusation against you.

For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet violate in one point, you"re guilty, guilty of all. For the law says, Don"t commit adultery, but it also says, Do not kill. Now if you don"t commit adultery, but yet you kill somebody, you"re guilty of violating the law ( James 2:10-11 ).

You"re a violator. Doesn"t matter which one of the commandments you violated. Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not commit adultery. Oh, I"ve never done that. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Whoops. But you violate one point; you"re guilty of all. You"re guilty of breaking the law and it really doesn"t matter which of the commandments you"ve broken. You"re guilty of having broken the law. If you keep the entire law let yet you break one of the commandments, then you"re just as guilty as if you"ve broken all of them. You are guilty of being a lawbreaker.

So speak, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that has showed no mercy ( James 2:12-13 );

Think about that for a moment. Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy" ( Matthew 5:7 ). We are also told, "And whatever measure you meted out, it"s going to be measured to you in judgment. Judge not, lest you be judged. For whatever mete you measure, that"s the standard by which you"re going to be judged" ( Matthew 7:1 , Matthew 7:2 ). Now I don"t like that. I want one standard for me and another standard for you.

But I if I stand in judgment against you, and if I begin to point a guilty finger at you and say, Boy, you"re really terrible, look what you did and all. What you did you may not have known was wrong. But I do because I"m judging you for it. And that means that"s the standard by which I"m going to be judged.

Interesting, all you have to do is just change the picture a little bit and put in different faces and oh, it"s horrible. Terrible. "How could they do such a thing?" Wait a minute. That"s me. I"ve done that.

David had all these beautiful wives. Walking on his roof one day, he saw a gal next door taking a bath. Lusted, desired her. Sent his servants over with a message, the king would like to see you. Committed adultery with her. A few weeks later he gets a note: Dear David, I"m pregnant. Bathsheba.

So David sends a message to his general to send her husband home on furlough. Her husband comes home. David says, "Well how"s everything going? How"s the battle?" "Oh fine." "Well, you know, go home and spend the night with your wife. Talk to you in the morning." He didn"t go home. He slept on David"s porch. In the morning the servant said, "Hey, he didn"t go home last night. He slept right here on the porch." And David called him in and said, "What"s the matter with you, man? Got a beautiful wife there, you ought to you know go home and spend the night with her you know. Enjoy your wife. What"s your problem?" And the guy says, "Well," he said, "I was thinking of all my buddies. They"re out there in the fox holes and it wouldn"t be fair for me to go in and enjoy an evening with my wife while those guys are out there in the trenches. That wouldn"t be very honorable."

So David got him all soused. Told the servants, Keep his wine cup full. So the guy was drunk. Figure he"d stagger home; spend the night with his wife. And instead he staggered to David"s porch, went to sleep again. In the morning, the servant said, "He spent the night here." The Bible says, "He that seeks to cover his sins shall not prosper" ( Proverbs 28:13 ). David tried to cover his sins. Very dastardly way. He sent secret orders with this man back to Joab, the general. It said, "Put him in the front of the battle. When things get tough, withdraw the support from him."

And so Joab did as David commanded and he was killed in battle. Got the report. Killed in battle. David took Bathsheba as his wife. Figured he could cover his tracks. The child was born. David looked like he was a very magnanimous person. Here her husband was killed in battle and now David takes her as one of his wives to raise the child. Isn"t that wonderful? No, it isn"t.

Nathan the prophet came to David. David thought nobody knew. He"d covered it pretty well. Nathan came to him and said, "David, a man in your kingdom, very wealthy man; he had more than he could ever spend. Tremendous herds, sheep, he lived next door to an extremely poor man who had as his sole possession one little ewe lamb that he loved greatly. In fact, it was sort of a pet. He slept with it at night. Slept in the house and it ate at the guy"s table. And the rich man had company. And he ordered his servants to go next door and by force to take the ewe lamb from this man and kill it in order that he might give it to his company. He might feed his company." And David got angry and he said to Nathan, "That man will be surely put to death." David said. Nathan said, "David, you"re the man. You"ve had all these wives. Here"s your neighbor. You take away. You"re the man, David."

You see, if we show no mercy we will be shown no mercy. Whatever measure we meted out, it"s going to be measured to us again. That"s why it"s so dangerous to put yourself in the position of a judge. Judging other people"s actions. "I can"t understand why they would do something like that. That"s horrible for them to do that, you know." Watch out now. You"re setting a standard by which you"re going to be judged. "Blessed are the merciful, they shall obtain mercy"( Matthew 5:7 ). He who doesn"t show mercy, he who judges without mercy will be shown no mercy.

but true mercy rejoices against judgment. Now what does it profit, my brethren, though a man says he has faith, and doesn"t have works? can faith save him ( James 2:12-14 )?

Now at this point many people see James and Paul in conflict in teaching. I don"t. Paul teaches that salvation is through faith, faith alone. "By grace are you saved through faith; not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship" ( Ephesians 2:8-10 ).

Then what does James say, Can faith save him? The answer is yes, faith can save him. A true faith. But make sure you have a true faith. For if you have a true faith, it will be manifested by the works. In other words, to just say you have faith doesn"t cut it. Saying it isn"t enough.

I"ve had people come to me and say, "Oh, I have all the faith in the world." Baloney! Nobody has all the faith in the world. And saying it doesn"t make it so. If you believe certain things to be so, then your life is going to be lived accordingly. And so your life testifies of your faith or your beliefs. And to say that you believe in God and that God is supreme and that God is first in your life, then it will follow that there will be certain evidence that will verify that fact that you have declared to be so. And by the works that you do your faith will be proved or proclaimed. And to say that you have faith and not have any works that correspond is totally wrong. You"ve deceived yourself. You aren"t really walking in faith. If you are truly walking in faith, your works are going to be manifesting that truth.

So "what does it profit if a man says he has faith, and he doesn"t have works? can that kind of faith save him?" No, it can"t.

If a brother or sister is naked, or is destitute of daily food, And you say to them, [Oh] Depart in peace, be warmed and filled; but yet you don"t give them any clothes or any food; what good are your words ( James 2:15-16 )?

They can"t make him warm. They can"t fill his stomach.

Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, if you try to stand alone. Yes, a man may say, You have faith, and I have works: but you show me your faith without your works, I will show you my faith by my works ( James 2:17-18 ).

So it isn"t just the declaration. It"s the declaration that has something behind it. The proof behind it is the works that I do. Now the works don"t save me. They only prove that I have saving faith. And if I don"t have works that are corresponding to what I am declaring, then I do not have saving faith, just the declaration, the verbal affirmation isn"t enough and it won"t do it.

Now a lot of people made mistakes; going forward and saying the sinner"s prayer and then going away and living the same kind of life doing the same kind of thing. They say, "Oh yeah, I was saved. I went forward and I said the sinner"s prayer." No, no, the sinner"s prayer isn"t going to save you. It is a living faith in Jesus Christ that brings about actual changes in your life and the proof is in the works; the proof of your faith. Your works have to be in accordance, in harmony with what you are declaring to be true.

You believe that there is one God; [Ah] you do well: the devils believe the same thing, and they tremble ( James 2:19 ).

"Oh, I believe in God." Big deal. Who doesn"t, except some fool? The Bible says the fool is the one that says there is no God. So you say you believe in God, it only proves one thing, you"re not a fool. But it doesn"t save you. The devils believe in God, they probably believe more firmly in Him than you do. They said to Jesus, "We know who you are, you"re the Holy One of God" ( Mark 1:24 ). So you say, "Oh I believe Jesus is the holy One of God." So what? Have you submitted your life to His lordship? Are you doing His works? Are you obeying His commands?

You see, not all who say, Lord, Lord, are going to enter the kingdom of heaven. So you say, "Oh Lord, Oh the Lord, Oh the Lord," yea, yea, but saying is not going to do it. Jesus said, "not all who say, Lord, Lord, are going to enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of the Father" ( Matthew 7:21 ). James is telling you the very same thing. It isn"t saying I have faith, it is demonstrating the faith because of the works of my life are in harmony with what I am declaring that I believe.

If I believe that there was a bomb planted in this room, set to detonate in two minutes, and I"d stand up here and calmly proclaim to you, "You know, huge bomb in this room going to detonate in two minutes and blow this whole place to smithereens." Terrible of people to do that, isn"t it? Can"t imagine the mind of a person that would plant such a bomb. Why would they want to destroy us? You"d say, "Ah, you don"t really believe there"s a bomb here." Why? Because my works don"t correspond with what I"m declaring that I believe. But if I go running out of the door and say, "Get out of there, you know. Bomb"s going to blow up in two minutes," you know, then you"re more apt to believe that at least I believe what I"m telling you because now my actions are corresponding with what I am declaring that I believe to be so.

Now the same is true. You say, "Well I believe in God and I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and all." Well, do your actions correspond? Do your actions really show that Jesus is the Lord of your life? Is that demonstrated by the works that you do? That"s what James is saying. Don"t just say it. Don"t rest in just words, beautiful words. But let"s see the actions that demonstrate that you truly believe what you"re saying.

Will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead ( James 2:20 )?

It isn"t really alive. It isn"t a living faith. It isn"t a saving faith.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar ( James 2:21 )?

You see, his works corresponded with his faith. He believed God. He believed that through Isaac God was going to raise up a nation because God has promised that. Through Isaac shall thy seed be called. Now his very offering up of Isaac was proof of his strong belief in the word of God. Believing that God would if necessary raise Isaac from the dead to keep His promise. And so his faith was in keeping or his works were in keeping with his faith.

Seest thou how faith wrought with his works ( James 2:22 ),

They were working together. His faith produced the works as faith will also produce the corresponding works in our life.

and by works was faith made perfect ( James 2:22 )?

Not a question mark. In the Greek there is no question mark there. It"s just the declaration, "by works his faith was made complete." His faith was proved.

And the scripture was fulfilled which said, Abraham believed God, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only ( James 2:23-24 ).

The works being the proof of the faith.

Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also ( James 2:25-26 ).

When your spirit leaves your body, your body is dead. The body without the spirit, dead. So faith, if it doesn"t have corresponding works, is not a true faith. It"s dead. It does nothing for you. It cannot save you. Dead faith can save no one. It"s a living faith and a living Lord and that living faith can be demonstrated by the actions of my life that are in harmony and corresponding with what I declare to be true and what I declare I believe to be true. There has to be the corresponding works for faith to be alive.

Therefore, let us examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith, the true faith that saves. Not just the verbalizing of the Apostle"s Creed. I believe but the actions of my life being in harmony with it.

Father, help us that we might indeed be doers of the word and not hearers only. That we might not just affirm a belief but may we demonstrate that belief by the attitudes and actions of our lives. Lord, help us not to be deceived. In Jesus" name, Amen.

May the Lord bless you and guide you as you go this week. As you face the many temptations, may the Lord give you strength and may you walk and live after the Spirit. And may you respond after the Spirit. In the temptation may you not yield to the flesh and react after the flesh. May your life be pleasing unto God, as our actions come into harmony with our declarations of what we believe. May we show it in the works that we do. In Jesus" name. "

 


Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.

Bibliography Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on James 2:4". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/james-2.html. 2014.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 25th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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