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1. Personal Favoritism: 2:1-7
2. The Proper Use Of The Royal Law: 2:8-13
3. The Faith That Saves: 2:14-26
1. Introductory Comments:
"Discrimination is one of the great social tensions of our times. All sorts of people band together to exclude others from enjoying their special privileges. Sometimes the discrimination is based on race or color. Other instances reflect a favoritism arising from differences in religion, sex, age, wealth, or culture….Such unkind conduct may not be too surprising in a world where selfishness and protection of one's own interests are the guiding principles. However, a higher standard is expected from those who profess the Christian faith…Some Christians do not exhibit the sort of biblical conduct that is appropriate to their faith. The charge of "too many hypocrites in the church" is frequently heard. When Christian believers display the same defects of character as their unbelieving neighbors.' (Kent p. 74)
2:1 "My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism."
"My brethren" -We will have more success in helping our brethren improve themselves or change their ways, if we treat them as brethren. There is a lot at stake here! We must let the brother or sister, whom we are correcting know that we deeply love them and are not out to destroy them ( 2Ti_2:24-26 ). We are to appeal to our brethren, as if they were members of our own physical family ( 1Ti_5:1-2 ).
"do not hold your faith" -"do not combine this faith of yours with flattery of human greatness" (Knox). That is, there is no room in Christianity for a worldly sort of personal favoritism or snobbery. These are two things that must not be combined. "Do not hold your faith…..with an attitude of personal favoritism", utilizes the present imperative verb with the negative word me (Greek) . This usage commonly ordered the cessation of an action already in progress (2:6)' (Kent pp. 74-75). The word "hold" means basically the same thing as to have, hence to believe in ( 1Ti_1:19 ). The idea is stop having the habit of trying to combine worldly attitudes with Christianity. Carefully note that showing personal favoritism is just as bad as not bridling your tongue (1:26), failing to help those in need or failing to keep oneself unspotted from the world (1:27). In the sight of God, prejudice and immorality are both sins.
"in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ" -The word "glorious" means, "brightness, splendor, radiance" (Arndt p. 203).
Points To Note:
1. The expression reminds us that Jesus has the exact same degree of glory as the other members of the Godhead ( Heb_1:3 "He is the radiance of His glory"; Joh_17:5 ; Act_7:55 ). 2. Deity is addressed as being glorious ( 2Pe_1:17 ; Act_7:2 ). This was a well-known title for Deity, and James applies it to Jesus. 3. Remember, James was the physical brother of Jesus, and yet terms Him the "Lord of glory". Seeing the resurrected Jesus had made quite an impact upon James ( 1Co_15:7 ). 3. At this present time Jesus occupies a place of glory, He lives in a glorious realm. Roberts notes, "The thought is that of the identification of Jesus….of the Shekinah or "glory" of God by which His presence was signified at the tabernacle in the Old Testament ( Exo_24:17 ; Exo_40:34 ; Num_14:10 ) (p. 87). "despite the poverty and extreme humiliation to which he was subjected while on earth, his is now in a position of great glory' (Woods p. 105). In addition, this same Jesus will come again in glory ( 2Th_1:7 ff).
"with an attitude of personal favoritism" -"the fault of one who, when responsible to give judgment has respect to the position, rank, popularity or circumstances of men" (Vine p. 179). "This word signifies regard shown to persons, not on account of their real worthiness, but on account of their station, riches, and other external circumstances" (Macknight p. 357). See Luk_20:21 ; Lev_19:15 ; Act_10:34 ; Rom_2:11 ; 1Ti_5:21 ; 1Pe_1:17 .
Points To Note:
1. God doesn't act this way, so neither should we ( Eph_6:9 ; Col_3:25 ). 2. In view of the fact that every man and woman is a sinner ( Rom_3:23 ), we need to properly evaluate the real status of even the most popular in the eyes of the world. 3. Personal favoritism is not the same as demonstrating respect. We are to have respect for those in high office ( 1Pe_2:13 ), elders ( 1Ti_5:17 ), older Christians ( 1Ti_5:1 ), our parents ( Eph_6:1 ), etc…."What is taught is that there is no place for worldly acclaim in Christianity" (Woods p. 107). 4. Unfortunately, like these members, we too get caught up in being impressed with the wrong people. We need to have a greater respect for a person's character and spiritual achievements than their external or material success. How many of us would fawn over some famous person much more than a really neat Christian? What if someone famous entered into one of our assemblies, how would be react? And how do we treat people who are obviously on the lower end of the social and economic scale? Who would we be more excited about teaching, a famous and wealthy person? Or, a common man?
2:2 "For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes."
"For if" -A concrete example is now given, an application is made. The truths that God has given were never meant to remain on the theoretical level.
"into your assembly" -Which means that first century Christians also had visitors to their services ( 1Co_14:23 ). It seems clear that the rich man and the poor man in this context are visitors and not regular members. In fact, both of them could be unbelievers.
"assembly" -The Greek word sunagogen is translated here "assembly". It is the same word that is often translated "synagogue". This doesn't mean that Christians were still worshipping in Jewish synagogues. Rather, Christians from a Jewish background often used the terms synagogue and church as synonyms for the gathering or congregation of God's people. 'Numerous instances of this term to refer to Christian congregations can be cited from early Christian literature' (Kent p. 78). It is a mistake to say that this word was only used for the worship service of the Jewish synagogue. Vincent notes, "literally a gathering or congregation, in which sense the word is common in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament Scriptures), not only of assemblies for worship, but of gatherings for other public purposes" (p. 737). We must reject the idea that there was a stage in the early church in which it was virtually the same as Judaism. Peter on the day of Pentecost made it clear to devout Jews that they were lost! ( Act_2:1-41 )
The respect of persons in this context is based on wealth. But many other temptations to elevate or discriminate against people also exist, race, color, gender, age and so on. The people of God must never find themselves defending any kind of prejudice.
"with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes" -Whereby people would immediately see that he was a wealthy man. The statement "gold ring", is literally, a gold-fingered man (Robertson p. 28). Thayer says, 'gold ringed, adorned with gold rings' (p. 674). This seems to indicate that this individual would be wearing many gold rings. An ancient writer mentions one man who wore six rings on each finger. Barclay notes, "The more ostentatious of the ancients wore rings on every finger except the middle finger, and wore far more than one on each finger. They even hired rings to wear when they wished to give an impression of special wealth" (p. 75). "Fine clothes"-"bright, shining, radiant" (Arndt p. 465). The idea seems to be, bright or shining apparel. Possibly either bright in reference to color or due to ornaments.
"poor man in dirty clothes" -the clothing often wore by the poor or a beggar. A person who may have had only one change of clothing. 'squalid (seedy), cheap and or dirty' (Woods p. 108).
2:3 "and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, 'You sit here in the good place,' and you say to the poor man, 'You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool.'"
"pay special attention" -Draper notes, "One of the great dangers of the church is to look for people who can help us instead of looking for people we can help. Too many Christians want to be blessed instead of being a blessing. Some churches seem to build their fellowship out of those who can contribute something rather than finding those who need help" (p. 74)
Points To Note:
1. Barclay reminds us, "The Church was the only place in the ancient world where social distinctions did not exist (or were not to). There must have been a certain initial awkwardness when a master found himself sitting next his slave" (Barclay p. 76). 2. Add to this fact that many members came from the lower social and economic classes ( 1Co_1:26 ). When a rich man visited or was converted there must have been as Barclay notes, "a very real temptation to make a fuss of him, and to treat him as a special trophy for Christ" (p. 76). "In a good place" would probably be near the front, "the visitor is escorted to the most favored place in the building and with great deference there seated" (Woods p. 108).
"You stand over there" -no one was willing to give up their seat for the visitor who was a poor man.
"sit down by my footstool" -sit down on the ground besides my footstool, that is take a seat on the floor next to my feet. Such was a place of extreme humility, conquerors often placed their feet on the necks of their victims ( Heb_1:13 ). Notice the contempt being shown to the poor man, he is rudely told to stand or find a place for himself on the floor. Remember, these might be two non-Christians! For no one to move or give up his seat so the poor man could rest and concentrate on the teaching being presented was inexcusable. It was as if the poor man was simply being tolerated instead of welcomed.
Points To Note:
We must always examine our own actions to make sure that we aren't being rude to our visitors. Do we ignore their presence? Walk right by them without speaking? Allow them to leave without being welcomed and invited back?
2:4 "have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?"
"made distinctions" -this same word is translated to be at odds with oneself, doubt or waver. Woods gives two ideas: "Do you not recognize differences among you based upon material considerations? Is it not true that you fawn upon the rich, when they enter your assemblies, and do you not treat with contempt the poor? If the second, the meaning is, when you show partiality, on the basic of economic standing or other material and worldly considerations, are you not exhibiting doubt (disbelief) in the teaching of our Lord" (p. 110). Distinctions based on such external things were not to exist among Christians ( Gal_3:26-29 ).
"judge with evil motives?" -"prejudiced judges" (TCNT). Such a distinction is anything but righteous. They were fawning over the rich and treating the poor with contempt because their motives were sinful. They were hoping to receive something from the rich man, if nothing more than his approval. Evil thoughts, wrong motives eventually demonstrate themselves in conduct ( Mat_15:19 ). We sometimes fool ourselves into thinking that we can keep such motives well hidden. But please note how a very simple event (two men visiting services) brought these evil motives right out into the open. Note that it was evidently very usual for Christians to have rich visitors-just like today! "What prompts people to show special regard for the rich? Usually the motive is a selfish one. There is lurking in the back of the mind the idea that some day it may be necessary to ask favors of the rich, and it is therefore expedient to flatter them. Why bother with the poor? They can never do anything for us, anyway. Ah, how many sins stem from simple selfishness?" (Woods p. 111)
Arguments Against Prejudice
2:5 "Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?"
"Listen, my beloved brethren" -When a rebuke must be given, remember this person is still your beloved brother or sister. These Christians need to correct themselves, but James wasn't willing to label them as hopeless and neither did he snub them because they had slipped.
"choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith" -Please note that James isn't teaching that God excluded the rich from salvation. Rich Christians did exist ( 1Ti_6:17 ). "James did not mean that there was any merit in poverty, nor that poverty was the cause for their election by God, nor that all the poor will be saved and none of the rich. He was merely recognizing that God had certainly not discriminated against the poor as a class. In fact, far more of the poor had responded to the gospel..then had the rich and powerful ( 1Co_1:26-29 )" (Kent p. 80). Remember, God has chosen that salvation will be offered to all and within the possibility of all ( Joh_3:16 ; Mar_16:16 ). God wanted that poor man saved! God didn't discriminate against the poor, Jesus died for beggars as well as the rich.
"poor of this world" -Which should remind us that poverty is temporary, poverty in material things is a "this world" problem. But even in this life, a poor man can be rich in spiritual things (1:9; Eph_1:3 ).
"rich in faith" -We sometimes forget that faith brings many riches with it. Riches such as confidence, contentment, happiness, meaning, purpose, encouragement, strength, comfort and so on. See 1Pe_1:5 and Jam_1:5 .
"and heirs of the kingdom which He promised" -This poor individual in the world's estimation has a great inheritance. The kingdom of God on the earth is the church ( Rev_1:9 ) and the kingdom of God also includes the future reward for all the righteous in heaven ( 2Pe_1:11 ; Mat_25:34 ; Eph_5:5 ).
"which He promised to those who love Him?" -Such an inheritance is conditional. Please note that God choose to save people that love Him. God doesn't force people to love Him. Of course, those who love God are obedient ( Joh_14:15 ). And this poor man can love God just as much as any rich man. Economics do not inherently prevent a man from loving God. Poverty doesn't have to affect a persons moral character, one can be very poor and very moral. But today, how many people blame crime and sin inherently on economics?
2:6 "But you have dishonored the poor man. It is not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?"
"But you have" -The situation described in the previous verses wasn't hypothetical, these Christians had been demonstrating prejudice based on external appearances. They had actually fawned over the rich and shown contempt for the poor. In contrast to God who had not discriminated against the poor, these Christians were. In fact, they were hindering the poor man from seeing that Christianity is for everyone.
"dishonored the poor man" -to treat shamefully, insult. Poor people have feelings too! The poor man knew that he was being treated with contempt when they told him to stand over there or sit on the floor. The poor man would see no difference between the actions of these Christians and the actions of those in the world. In contrast, God commands us to honor all men ( 1Pe_2:17 ). Each man or woman is created in the image of God ( Jam_3:9 ), and Jesus died for every man and woman, this is reason enough to treat everyone with courtesy and respect. See Pro_14:21 . In the Old Testament God made it clear to His people that the poor were important to Him ( Psa_68:10 ; Psa_69:33 ; Psa_140:12 ). They had not simply ignored the poor man, they had definitely treated him with contempt, as if he was an unwelcome guest.
"Is it the rich who oppress you" -"Oppress"-"exploit, dominate" (Arndt p. 410). By this question, James reminds his readers that the rich as a group had been some of the most powerful opponents against the gospel. "The rich, whom they were favoring over the poor, were the very ones who had added to their misery through much persecution and oppression' (Woods p. 116).
"and personally drag you into court?" -That is forcibly dragged against your will, the term implies violence and harsh treatment. Jesus warned His disciples concerning such mistreatment ( Mat_10:17 ; Joh_16:2 ; Mat_5:11 ). Barclay notes, "No doubt this was for debt. At the bottom end of the social scale men were so poor that they could hardly live, and moneylenders were plentiful and extortionate…If the creditor met a debtor on the street, he could seize him by the neck of his robe, nearly throttling him and literally drag him to the law courts…They had no sympathy; all they wanted was the uttermost farthing" (pp. 78-79). Persecution also probably took the form of lawsuits ( Heb_10:34 ), in which Christians were singled out. Nothing has really changed, to this day various wealthy unbelievers have a tremendous influence on legal verdicts, especially in nations in which there is a tremendous gap between the rich and the poor. Evidently, these rich unbelievers found that corrupt judges would uphold their false accusations or unrealistic demands.
2:7 "Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?"
"blaspheme the fair name" -To blaspheme is to speak reproachfully, disrespectfully and evil against the things of God. The phrase "fair name" means the "unobjectionable, blameless, excellent" (Arndt p. 400).
This verse should really hit home with us. For we often tend to idolize actors, musicians, sport's heroes, political giants and so on who blaspheme the name of God. Why is it that we at times insist on drooling over someone who is ridiculing and opposing everything that we hold dear? Who insults and ridicules the very God whom we serve?
Points To Note:
1. The name which these believers have been called, is the name Christian ( Act_11:26 ; Act_26:28 ; 1Pe_4:16 ). 2. The unbelieving wealthy had ridiculed the name Jesus ( 1Co_12:3 ) and the designation which had been given to His followers, i.e. Christians. "And all too often they are the ones who laugh at Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear" (Draper p. 76). 3. See Amo_9:12 and Act_15:17 . "It is a further indication of the fact that James, who was prominent in the Jerusalem church, is the author of the book which bears his name, than an expression similar to the words…'which is called upon you', occurs from his mouth in Act_15:17 " (Woods p. 117) Barclay notes, "The rich and the masters would have many a reason for insulting the name Christian. A slave who became a Christian would have a new independence; the Christian slave would no longer cringe at his master's power; punishment would cease to terrorize him; he would meet his master in a new manhood. He would have a new honesty. That would make him a better slave, but it would also mean he could not longer be his master's instrument in sharp practice and petty dishonesty…He would have a new sense of worship; and on the Lord's Day he would insist on leaving work aside in order that he might worship with the people of God" (p. 70)
"James was not denouncing wealth per se as evil. Neither was he advocating reverse discrimination, whereby the poor are to be favored at the expense of the rich. He was arguing against favoritism of any kind" (Kent p. 82).
It would appear that James is answering in these next verses (2:8-13) an argument that these Christians have put forward. It appears that his readers are defending their actions towards the rich man by saying that they are only practicing love for their neighbor. James anticipates that some of his readers will try to justify their actions by appealing to the command that says we need to love our neighbor as ourselves.
2:8 "If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself', you are doing well."
"If however, you are" -Which suggests that not everyone was guilty of the above hypocrisy.
"fulfilling" -to carry out, accomplish, perform and keep.
"the royal law" -Which is defined in this verse as being the command to love our neighbor as ourselves. The word royal means: "of or belonging to a king, kingly, regal, hence metaph., principal, chief" (Thayer p. 98).
Points To Note:
Various views exist concerning why the above command is called "the royal law": 1. It is a law which governs or includes all other laws concerning how we treat others, it sums up every command which applies between us and others ( Mat_22:39-40 ; Mat_7:12 ). 2. It is a law made by the King Himself, with whom there is no respect of persons. It is a law which the King Himself practices. 3. It is a law which is fit for royalty, Christians are a royal priesthood and children of the King ( 1Pe_2:9 ; Rev_1:6 ). 3. Clearly it is a principal law ( Rom_13:9-10 ; Gal_5:14 ), which includes all other laws.
We should note that the principle to love one's neighbor as yourself is found in almost all of the world's religions. But it is usually expressed in a negative form, i.e. "whatever is hateful to yourself, do not to your fellow man". It doesn't rise to the positive form, "however you want people to treat you, so treat them" ( Mat_7:12 ). It is much easier to keep the negative-than it is to keep the positive. In addition, in other religions the negative form of this law is typically limited to a select group of people, i.e. people of their own race, religion or culture.
"according to the Scripture" - Lev_19:18 . Jesus then quoted, confirmed and made this principle a part of the New Covenant as well ( Mat_18:19 ; Mat_22:34-40 ; Luk_10:26-28 ; Mar_12:28-34 ). Woods notes, "He who loves God supremely will discharge fully his duty to God; he who loves his neighbor as himself will, in similar fashion, perform every obligation owed to his neighbor" (p. 120).
Point To Note:
The above comment has some tremendous fall out. Concerning talking to others about the Bible, we often tend to excuse ourselves as being too busy or not very good as such things. The bottom line is that if we really love your neighbors, we will want to make every effort to see that they have a chance to hear the gospel message. When we start loving our neighbors as ourselves, we will have the motivation we need to evangelize.
"you are doing well" -Note that we can do well! Pleasing God is not an impossible task.
2:9 "But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors."
"if you show partiality" -There is not room for partiality in the command to love neighbor as self. It would be a perversion of the command to elevate one neighbor above all others or to fawn over certain neighbors and neglect others. Especially when we judge people as important or not important on the basis of external factors.
"you are committing sin" -James doesn't mince words. Let us be impressed that James labels as "sin" what the world often considers to be a small or socially acceptable misdeed. This behavior wasn't some trifling fault. The word "committing" means: "lit., 'work sin', the phrase is rather stronger than the more common 'to do sin'. The position of 'sin' is emphatic: 'it is sin that ye are working'" (Vincent p. 742). (See Mat_7:23 ) That is, you are actively involved in violating the will of God.
"are convicted by the law as transgressors" -The very law that some here might have appealed to as justifying their conduct toward the rich man, actually ended up condemning them. It is noteworthy that the first instance of the law to love neighbor as self ( Lev_19:18 ), is found near a passage that condemns partiality ( Lev_19:15 ).
Points To Note:
1. The way they had treated the poor man was not the way that they would have to be treated if they had been in his shoes. 2. Their fawning over the rich man didn't proceed from love, rather it proceeded from ulterior motives such as greed or the praise of 'important' men. The truth of the matter is that they loved the rich man's rings, fame, status and fortune, more than they loved him as a person.
2:10 "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all."
"For whoever" -This principle applies to everyone.
"keeps the whole law" -James is obviously not teaching that Christians are still under the Law of Moses (2:12; 1:25). Yet, Christians are clearly under the New Covenant which contains many laws.
"yet stumbles in one point" -'sin in one respect' (Arndt p. 727). That is violate one of the laws or commandments.
"he has become guilty of all" -We recognize the same principle concerning the laws which govern this nation. One doesn't have to violate every law to be a law-breaker. There are people in prison because they violated one or just a couple of laws.
Points To Note:
1. Barclay notes, "The Jew was very apt to regard the law as a series of detached injunctions. To keep one of these injunctions was to gain credit; to break one was to incur debt. Therefore, a man could add up the ones he kept and subtract the ones he broke, and, as it were emerge with a credit or a debit balance" (p. 81). 2. "They believed that if they kept as many laws as they broke, they were righteous before the law" (Draper p. 79). And nothing really has changed. People in the world will argue, "I have never killed anyone. I am not a thief. I am not immoral" (Draper p. 80). And thus reason that they are OK. We must remember that every law which God has given is important and we can't pick and choose concerning which laws we want to keep. 3. When I violate even one command of God, I stand guilty before God, I have rebelled against Him. Kent notes, "His point is that God's law is a unity, being the expressed will of one Lawgiver. Violating God's will at any point means that the offender has disobeyed God's intention" (p. 83). 4. All of the above means that every law of God is important! "The vital lesson taught here is that all of the law of God is pertinent to us, and that we must not feel at liberty to tamper with any portion thereof" (Woods p. 124). 5. We cannot defend ourselves when we sin by pointing to all the laws that we are keeping. And neither can we justify one unscriptural practice by pointing out the other unscriptural practices that we have already accepted. 6. In addition, we tend to justify our sins by pointing to the sins of others. Note, another Christian's inconsistency doesn't cover my inconsistency in a different area. When I violate the law of God, even on one point, I sin!
2:11 "For He who said, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not commit murder.' Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law."
Points To Note:
1. Note how James makes it clear that God had said "Do not commit adultery, do not commit murder". The Old Testament is the Word of God. 2. These two commandments fall under the umbrella of love your neighbor as yourself ( Rom_13:10 ). 3. Again we see that the law of God is a total package. The law of God condemns violation at any point. The real test is not following that principle or law which you already like to observe or fits very nicely into your present lifestyle. Rather, it is conforming to those principles or laws which demand that you give up something that you really like to do. Barclay notes, "A man may be in many respects, in nearly all respects, a good man; and yet he may spoil it all by one fault" (p. 81). See Mat_7:21-23 ; Mat_19:22-23 . We must learn to develop a great love for the entire law of God and not just our favorite portions ( Psa_112:1 ; Psa_119:14-16 ). Let the reader note that the principle of this verse applies to the New Testament.
2:12 "So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty."
"So speak and so act" -present imperatives-do so as a habit. "We are to live continuously both in our words and actions in view of the way we are to be judged" (Roberts p. 98). "You must continue talking and acting" (Wms).
"are to be" -the idea is that judgment can happen or arrive at anytime. The Christian knows that the Lord could come at any time and must always be prepared ( 1Th_5:1-3 ).
"judged by the law of liberty" -"a law that brings liberty" (Beck); "the law that makes free" (Bas). The law of liberty is the gospel message, the words of Jesus Christ ( Joh_12:48 ; Joh_8:31-32 ). The word "judged" doesn't mean "condemned", but it does mean that we will all be confronted by this law and those who have been disobedient will be condemned.
Points To Note:
1. James isn't saying, "But since we are going to be judged by the law of liberty, we don't need to worry about the sins we have or are committing". Rather, the clear meaning is that the "law of liberty" will condemn us if we are violating it (2:8-11; 13). This law of liberty doesn't give us the freedom to live any way that we want, and neither does it overlook sin which hasn't been forsaken and repented of. 2. "James draws his discussion of favoritism to a conclusion by the solemn warning that Christians should always speak and act in view of coming judgment…The law of liberty was first mentioned in 1:25, where it was clearly equated with "the word, implanted which is able to save your souls" (1:21). It refers to the Word of God as found in the gospel…This law of liberty sets believers free from guilt and from slavery to sin, but it also places them under the obligation to obey their Lord and Master" (Kent p. 84).
2:13 "For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment."
"For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy" -In the context, their terrible treatment of the poor man was a demonstration of having no mercy. The law of liberty condemns that type of behavior. See Mat_5:7 ; Mat_6:14-15 ; Mat_18:23-35 ; Mat_25:40 . Here we find incentive to treat the poor man with proper respect, for none of these Christians and none of us can afford to face a judgment in which there is no mercy. This judgment will be merciless, because the person who fails to demonstrate mercy is violating the law of God, judgment without mercy would be strict justice, every sin getting its full punishment---this is the type of judgment that awaits every unbeliever and every unfaithful Christian.
"mercy triumphs" -"to exult over" (Thayer p. 331). "glories in the face of" (Mon). That is the Christian who has been merciful can face the coming judgment with confidence and assurance.
"over judgment" -Please note that James is not teaching that mercy is the opposite of keeping the commands of God. Rather, showing mercy in the context involves keeping the command to love your neighbor as yourself. Those who continue to despise the poor can expect to receive no mercy at the judgment. The law of liberty cannot be contrasted with mercy, rather it defines, commands and exhorts Christians to be merciful. For example, when we approach a brother or sister privately concerning a sin in which they are involved, we are showing mercy. James is not teaching that being merciful covers habitual rebellion to God in other areas of our life, or makes up for not being a Christian. But rather, if we are doing the best we can to abide by God's law, and seeking forgiveness for when we sin, showing mercy to those in physical and spiritual need, then God will extend mercy to us at the last day ( 1Jn_1:5-10 ).
It is essential we understand that in this section James is not pitting works against faith. The faith that cannot save (2:14 "can that faith save him?"), is a certain kind of faith. A faith that isn't active. The faith that James commends in this section is the same type of faith that Paul praises, a faith which is obedient that actively seeks to do the will of God ( Rom_4:18-22 ; Rom_1:5 ). Neither is James saying that there are things we must do to earn our salvation, for James believed in the grace of God just as much as the other apostles (2:12-13; 4:6-8; 5:20). The "works" mentioned in this epistle are simply another way of saying a faith that works or a faith that is active. The works under consideration are not works of the Law of Moses ( Rom_4:2 ff), or works of human invention ( Tit_3:5 ). What James is discussing in this chapter could be seen as a commentary on what Jesus said in Mat_7:21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven"). Neither is James introducing a completely new topic at this point. This section is simply one more way of illustrating the vanity of merely being a hearer of the word and not a doer. They are another example of "vain religion" (1:26). Woods notes, "It should be apparent to the most casual reader that Paul and James are discussing two different kinds of works in these passages ( Eph_2:8-9 ; Jam_2:21-22 ). Paul refers to works which are excluded from God's plan to save; James discusses works which are included in it" (p. 131).
2:14 "What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?"
"What use is it" -"What good is it" (Wey). Mat_16:26
"if a man says he has faith" -"present active subjunctive, 'if one keeps on saying'" Robertson p. 33). Once gain, what we profess with incredible confidence about ourselves can be completely wrong. "Nothing in the context suggests that the person is attempting to deceive others. He claims to possess true faith, and one may assume that he was sincere about the claim" (Kent p. 89).
"but he has no works?" -Which will be illustrated in 2:15-16, i.e. a faith that isn't active.
"Can that faith" -James isn't saying, "Can faith save him". Rather, can that kind of faith, can mere intellectual belief save him? James clearly believes in "faith" (5:15). The question isn't, "Can faith save him", rather, "Can faith which is nothing more than a verbal profession save him?" Of course the answer is "no". Roberts notes, "It is noteworthy that the verbs in the statement, "If a man says he hath faith and have not works", are present active subjunctives, thus, "If one keeps on saying he has faith, but keeps on not having works…." Mere profession, without obedience to God's commands, is worthless" (p. 132). It should be clear that Paul never taught a salvation by mere mental assent. Paul often emphasized the need for a faith that obeys, a faith that is active ( Rom_2:6 ; Rom_6:13 ; Rom_6:16 ; Rom_8:13 ; Rom_12:1-2 ; 1Co_15:58 ; Rom_10:9-10 ; Col_2:11-12 ).
"save him?" -Remember James is writing to Christians. This statement clearly reveals that the Christian doesn't have an automatic ticket to eternal life. The doctrine of once-saved-always-saved doesn't fit this verse. In addition, neither does the Calvinistic idea that God gives the believer his or her faith. This question would never be brought up in a context in which the faith of every Christian had been miraculously given them by God.
Point To Note:
The argument is at times made that while an active faith is necessary to remain a Christian, faith-only is what enables one to become a Christian. But the New Testament is clear that more than just a mental belief in Jesus is necessary. Paul mentions confession ( Rom_10:9-10 ); repentance ( Act_17:30 ) and baptism ( Col_2:12-13 ; Rom_6:3-5 ) as conditions which are all prior to salvation. In addition, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense that there is one type of faith that enables you to become a Christian and another type of faith that is necessary to remain a Christian. James is talking about a faith that results in salvation, the same type of faith that is described in Rom_4:1-25 or Eph_2:8 .
2:15 "If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,"
"without clothing" -"naked" (KJV), "ill-clad" (Mof). Without sufficient clothing ( Mat_25:36 ; Act_19:16 ).
"in need of daily food" -"Indicates that the person under consideration is in the greatest possible destitution, in a condition of want that would (or should) touch the hearts of all but the hardest" (Woods p. 133). And remember, this is a fellow Christian in dire need. James had just dealt with the fact that some of his readers were showing a definite contempt for the poor (2:1ff). It may be that James is recording something that had actually happened among his readers. Such cases of need did exist in the early church ( Act_11:28-30 ; 1Co_16:1 ). " it must be describing someone in desperate straits, whose clothing and food were not adequate, and who needed prompt and substantial assistance" (Kent p. 91) A brother or sister who needs help right now!
2:16 "and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?"
"and one of you says to them" -Let the reader be impressed that the early church also had inactive members. Hypocrites were found in their congregations also.
"Go in peace" -Which was a common Jewish expression meaning "farewell" ( Mar_5:34 ; Luk_7:50 ). "A formula of wishing well, blessing addressed by the Hebrews to departing friends" (Thayer p. 182). Also including the ideas of hope for your welfare and health.
"be warmed and be filled" -The tenses here are interesting. Literally the verse would read, "keep on going in peace, get yourselves warmed and filled." "Those with insufficient clothing are bidden to 'Warm yourselves!' Those in need of food to 'Fill yourselves!' And, with a wave of the hand and a dismissal of all responsibility, the poor are told 'Farewell!' Be off. Best wishes" (Woods p. 134).
Points To Note:
Be impressed that the Bible doesn't pull any punches. Note the integrity of the Scriptures, the short-comings of professed Christians are not hidden, but exposed in graphic detail. We might be shocked by such a callous attitude towards those in need---but we are at times guilty of the same thing. Maybe not so much concerning physical needs, as spiritual needs. We see someone who is manifesting spiritual weakness and yet we don't attempt to take the time to encourage them, build a friendship, and so on. And yet physical needs do pop up, maybe not with the Christians in this community, but there are many Christians in the Philippines and other countries who are truly in need of "daily food". But at times our attitude is, "Someone else will take care of that, someone else will give".
"what use is that?" -Which clearly means, such warm words are completely useless and unprofitable. Warm wishes cannot take the place of warm clothes and food. But it is easier to talk than to help. We often think that we are really accomplishing something by just talking about the problem.
2:17 "Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself".
"Even so" -Just like mere words directed at a Christian in need are completely worthless, so faith that isn't active is completely worthless.
"if it has no works" -Remember we aren't talking about works of human merit or observing the Law of Moses. Rather, we are talking about faith that does the will of the Father ( Mat_7:21 ), faith that actively obeys the will of God. The present tense here is used in the Greek, "it if keep on not having works".
"is dead" -"destitute of force or power, inactive, inoperative" (Thayer p. 424). (2:20,26) Note that such a faith is presently useless, it isn't in danger of dying, it is completely dead right at this very moment.
"being by itself" -"being alone" (KJV), "by one's self, alone" (Thayer p. 163). Here is what so many religious people claim as being the only condition for salvation, that is, faith that is alone, "faith only". James makes it clear that "faith alone" is completely worthless. Carefully note that if faith which says something is dead ("be warmed and filled"), then how much more is pure mental assent--- something which is absolutely worthless! Clearly, we do not gain God's favor at the moment we believe that He exists ( Joh_12:42-43 ). Jesus notes that many will end up lost who had "faith" that He is the Son of God ( Mat_7:21-23 ).
2:18 "But someone may well say, "You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works."
"But someone may well say" -The expression "someone may well say" is used in other places as introducing a speaker who is objecting to what is being presented ( Rom_9:19 ; Rom_11:19 ; 1Co_15:35 ). The problem with this is that the objector seems to be arguing that he has works and that James has the faith only.
Points To Note:
1. Woods takes this passage as meaning, "It is as if James should say, 'Suppose some one comes forth with the objection that one's piety and devotion to God are not always exhibited in the same fashion; one may show his loyalty to God by faith, another by works; yet, both be equally pious and devout in God's sight'" (p. 137).
1. The challenger introduced in this passage may be a third party, someone who sees the discussion that James is having with an advocate of "faith alone" and who challenges the faith only person to demonstrate their professed faith without obedience.
2:18 "You have faith, and I have works" -The person making this statement might be trying (as Woods contends above), to argue that one man will be saved by his "faith in itself" and another man by the result of his faith. James will have none of this. And to this day many people try to make a distinction between what a person believes and what a person does. So many people, who do bad things, will argue, "But I have a good heart".
Kent notes: " The …..church has provided sanctuary for some whose connections with it are merely external. To them the church differs little from a service club…On the other hand, some people let works take the place of faith. They may become so deeply involved in charitable works and social service that little attention is given to the development of a growing trust in God. In many cases, such works are not the demonstration of faith at all but are merely humanitarian impulses" (p. 99).
2:18 "show me your faith without the works" -Some view this and the rest of verse 18 as the words of James and not the "someone" that he has mentioned. At this point in the conversation James jumps in and demonstrates that a distinction cannot be made between a faith that saves and obedience to God. Woods notes, "It follows, therefore, that one who disparages works must resort to them to prove that he has any faith at all!" (p. 137).
Point To Note:
The above point needs to be taken seriously. Today, those who advocate salvation by faith-only, still find themselves pointing to something which "proves" that they have accepted the Lord. Whether such alleged proof is the "sinners prayer", "coming forward at some rally" or a feeling. In the end, no one really believes in salvation by faith alone or a salvation at the point of mental assent.
"and I will show you my faith by my works" -Just as repentance has deeds which naturally follow it ( Act_26:20 ; 2Co_7:10-11 ), so faith has works, deeds or natural fruits ( Luk_6:46 ; Mat_21:25 ; Luk_7:30 ). What this is saying is that if you really believe, then the lifestyle, the obedience will naturally follow.
Points To Note:
1. Too many Christians complain about lacking the motivation to talk to others about the gospel and live the Christian life. The question isn't one of motivation, rather, it is one of whether or not one is truly a believer! A real trust in God and love for Him will naturally result in obedience to His will ( Rom_13:10 ). 2. The disciples at one point complained to Jesus that they needed more faith, Jesus disagreed. Jesus stated that they just needed some of the real stuff ( Luk_17:5-6 ).
James isn't done yet, he continues to press the issue, "But James wants to close even more avenues of escape" (Davids p. 125).
2:19 "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder."
"You believe that God is one" -"there is one God". One of the basic truths which one must accept, is that there is one God ( Deu_6:4 ). In the Jewish religion, the confession that God is one was repeated twice each day. This was one of the basic distinctions between Christianity and all the surrounding pagan religions. Let us remember, that the statement "God is one" was never meant to imply that "God" is only one person ( Gen_1:26 ; Joh_1:1 ; Act_5:3-4 ). "In the plural form of the Hebrew word Eloheem (God) appearing in Gen_1:1 : 'In the beginning God ( Eloheem , the plural form of El , God), created the heavens and the earth'" (Woods p. 139). The "oneness" under consideration is a oneness of purpose, belief and unity ( Joh_10:30 ).
"You do well" -Immediately James makes it clear that he isn't downplaying the importance of believing the right doctrines. But rather, doctrinal soundness is meaningless if we don't practice what we believe. One can believe everything about God, Jesus, the Bible, what to do to be saved, the church---and still be lost because they have put none of it into practice. Believing the truth about baptism doesn't save you---salvation happens when you act upon that belief ( Mar_16:16 "and is baptized").
"the demons also believe, and shudder" -
Points To Note:
1. First of all we must reject the idea that demons are mythical beings. Various religious and non-religious writers have tried to explain away the New Testament references to demons and demon possession as being a popular superstition among the Jewish people. But Jesus charged, rebuked, commanded and cast out demons ( Mar_5:9-12 ). 2. Kent notes, "Jesus frequently encountered persons possessed by demons during His ministry and they always recognized deity and spoke respectfully ( Mat_8:29 ; Mar_1:24 ; Mar_5:7 ; Luk_8:28 ; Act_16:17 ; Act_19:15 )" (p. 97). 3. Various ideas exist concerning the origin of demons. One of the more popular ideas is that they are of the same class as the angels that sinned in 2Pe_2:4 . During the ministry of Christ we find an incredible amount of demon possession. It would appear that God allowed such because it would only further His purposes and glorify His Son, specifically when Jesus demonstrated His power in casting them out. Which clearly demonstrated that even the devil himself is no match for God. We find some demon-possession in Acts, but very little if any spoken of in the epistles. If would appear that as the miraculous gifts ceased, so did demon possession. If demon possession was going to be with mankind until the end of time, it is strange that in the instructions to preachers, christians and congregations-this topic is never discussed.
"also believe" -also believe that God is one. So much for depending upon mental acceptance of the truth. The demons are very orthodox and sound in their beliefs! They realize fully that Jesus is the Son of God, they don't have any doubts about what their fate will be ( Luk_8:31 ; Mar_1:24 ). They realize that God isn't going to change His mind. Unlike some denominational leaders---the demons believe in hell!
"and shudder" -"struck with extreme fear, to be horrified" (Thayer p. 658). "to be rough, to bristle , then to shiver, tremble, indicating a cognizance of their appointed doom' (Vine p. 26). "The problem was not that their faith was insincere. On the contrary, they believed so completely in the coming doom that God has promised that they shuddered at the prospect" (Kent p. 97). This word rendered "shudder" is an interesting word. It means "to bristle". "It pictures one's hair standing up on end. The devil believes in God so strongly that his hair stands right up on end!" (Draper p. 89). Once again let us be impressed with the fact that without application, believing all the right doctrines will not save us!
2:20 "But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?"
"But are you willing to recognize" -Inferring the previous truths had been clear, plain and simple to understand. James conclusion is so clear that he calls upon all who disagree with him to abandon their foolishness and admit the obvious.
"you foolish fellow" -literally an empty-headed fellow. The person who would even attempt to argue that mere belief can save a person is lacking reason and the truth. Notice that James doesn't say, "Let's agree to disagree" or "your point is just as valid as mine".
"that faith without works is useless?" -Draper gives a good illustration when he says, "If I tell my wife I love her and never go home or provide her with any of the necessities, do you think she would believe me?…..We have created a entire culture of Christianity in America where we say we believe things that we are not practicing" (p. 90). But the real tragic thing is that there are people in this country who would argue that they love their mate or their mate loves them, even when they are treating each other in a horrible manner. There are a good number of people who would disagree with Draper's above point. James calls such people "foolish" and "empty-headed".
The Faith That Saves
2:21 "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?"
"Was not Abraham our father" -James introduces a Biblical example (an approved example) which would immediately catch the attention of all Christians. Abraham was the father of the Jewish race, but especially the father of all the faithful ( Rom_4:12 ; Gal_3:26-29 ). He is the spiritual ancestor of all Christians. "These to whom James wrote included many Jewish people; and those who were not would, as Christians, be interested in, and would soon acquire a knowledge of, one who occupied such a prominent place in the history of the Lord's people in earlier dispensations; and his example would, therefore, be most impressive. Further Abraham is the spiritual ancestor of all "who walk in the steps of " his faith today ( Rom_4:1-25 )" (Woods p. 143) The example of Abraham would be impressive to Christians from a Jewish background, but also very impressive to Christians from a Gentile background, who have now become the spiritual children of this great man of faith ( Gal_3:29 ).
"justified" -"to deem to be right, to declare, pronounce to be righteous" (Vine p. 285). "To be acquitted, be pronounced and treated as righteous" (Arndt p. 197). Remember, the context is dealing with a faith that results in salvation (2:14). Hence, justified here must mean accounted right in the sight of God.
"by works" -Not works of human invention, merit-nor works of the Law of Moses. The "works" are defined in the next statement:
"when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?" -Abraham was justified when he obeyed what God had commanded. It wasn't Abraham's idea to sacrifice Isaac, rather it was a command from God ( Gen_22:1-2 ).
Points To Note:
1. This above example is also found in Heb_11:1-40 . A chapter that deals with the type of faith which pleases God (11:6), the quality of faith which results in salvation (10:39). What James calls a faith joined with works, the Hebrew writer simply calls "faith": "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac" (11:17). 2. Abraham demonstrated the same quality of faith when he obeyed God's call to leave his homeland ( Heb_11:8-10 ), and when he believed God's promise that he and Sarah would have a son ( Rom_4:17-21 ).
Do James And Paul Contradict Each Other?
Jam_2:21 "Was not Abraham our father justified by works"
Rom_4:2 "For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about; but not before God".
Points To Note:
1. For those who believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, it is silly to contend that two inspired writers could ever contradict each other---does God contradict Himself? 2. First, let the reader realize that when James uses the word "works" he is talking about an active faith, a faith that obeys God. When Paul is talking about "works" he is talking works of the Law of Moses, doing something that would earn or merit salvation (4:2 "he has something to boast about"; 4:4). When James talks about a faith minus works, he is talking about mere mental assent, a conviction which can't bring itself to trust God fully. When Paul talks about faith, he is talking about an active faith, a complete trust in God (4:5, 17-22). Faith with works in the book of James-is identical with the faith that saves in the book of Romans. Remember, the "faith" which is praised in Romans, is the faith by which a man lives his life ( Rom_1:17 ). See also the following passages ( Rom_1:5 ; Rom_2:7 ; Rom_2:10 ; Rom_6:16-17 ). 3. Rom_4:3 is a quotation from Gen_15:6 : On this occasion all that God expected of Abraham was to believe what God had promised. It is a clear misuse of Rom_4:3 to argue that one must only believe in God to become a Christian. First of all, when the statement was made, Abraham wasn't a lost man. Abraham had been a believer in God long before this. He had manifested faith by leaving Ur ( Gen_12:1-4 ; Heb_11:8-10 ). He had built altars and worshipped God ( Gen_12:7-8 ; Gen_13:18 ). Before Gen_15:6 , Melchizedek said of Abraham, "Blessed be Abram of God Most High" ( Gen_14:19 ). Before the statement of Gen_15:6 , God had said to Abraham, "I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward" ( Gen_15:1 ).
Abraham's faith was reckoned as righteousness---on other occasions besides Gen_15:6 . It was viewed as righteous when he left his homeland ( Heb_11:8 ; Gen_12:1-3 ; Rom_4:13 ). Rom_4:22 "Therefore also it was reckoned to him as righteousness". But this conclusion is based on verses 17-21, which refers not to Gen_15:6 , but to some 15 years later in Gen_17:1-27 when Abraham is about 100 years old.
The statement in Rom_5:1 "Therefore having been justified by faith", must be kept in context. The faith of the previous verses, the faith of Abraham is an obedient and active faith (4:12, 17-21). A faith by which one lives. Paul has demonstrated that all down through the life of Abraham, his obedient faith had resulted in being accounted as righteous---and much of this was before being circumcised and definitely before the Law of Moses was given. Paul's point is not than one is saved at the point of mental acceptance. Rather, that circumcision and observing the Mosaic Law are not and were not eternal conditions for salvation. Therefore, it is false to argue that circumcision and observance of the Law of Moses are eternal conditions for salvation.
Paul and James agree that the faith that results in acceptance with God is a faith that continues to act. Justification isn't a one time event that covers us all our lives. We must continue to manifest our faith, "But the righteous man shall live by faith" ( Rom_1:17 ).
2:22 "You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;"
"faith was working with his works" -"It was easy to see, in this historic incident, that Abraham's faith wrought (exercised itself) with his works" (Woods p. 145). The phrase "working with", means to cooperate with and the tense is imperfect. Hence, faith and the results of an active faith kept cooperating with each other. Abraham's convictions and his actions were operating in perfect harmony. Note: Abraham didn't journey to the land of Moriah and proceed to offer up Isaac out of anger, bitterness, resentment, self-pity or fear. Abraham was doing what God commanded from the motive of faith!
There is a tremendous lesson here! There are many people who do what God commands, but the motive behind their obedience isn't faith. Some even try to argue that as long as you do the right thing---motivation doesn't matter. Paul and James both disagree with that point of view ( 1Co_13:1-4 ).
"as a result of the works" -Or couldn't we just as well say, "as a result of such obedience, as a result of obeying what God has said"?
"faith was perfected" -"to bring to an end by completing or perfecting, of bringing to completeness" (Vine p. 174). Which means that there can be such a thing as an imperfect faith. And James has already described an imperfect faith, a faith that lacks obedience to the Divine will (2:14). "Neither works nor faith operating alone can justify" (Woods p. 145). The right act-was to obey what God commanded, the right motive, was to do it because God can be trusted.
2:23 "and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness", and he was called the friend of God."
"the Scripture was fulfilled" -The Scripture under consideration is Gen_15:6 , the same verse that Paul quotes in Rom_4:3 . "Fulfilled"-"was actually and fully realized" (Vincent p. 745). "In God's sight his faith was fully approved…and the statement that Abraham believed God was shown to be true beyond any possibility of doubt, and was fully realized to the utmost limit" While the text of Gen_22:1-24 doesn't mention the word "justified", the idea of being approved in the sight of God is present, when God re-states His promises to Abraham ( Gen_22:16-18 ). The word "reckoned" means to pass to one's account, "credit someone with something" (Arndt p. 476). In other words, Abraham was viewed by God as being innocent and just. This Scripture in Gen_15:6 was not fulfilled until many years after it was stated. It demonstrates that justification, rather than being a one time act for all time, is a continual process. A continued course of living by a faith that is active is necessary.
Woods makes a good observation on Gen_15:6 : "there was nothing more, at the moment, for Abraham to do but to accept, without hesitation the assurances of such from God…It is a violent perversion of this passage and historic incident from it to assume that because Abraham's faith was accepted as an act of righteousness when there was nothing else required of him at the time that in our case faith will suffice without the performance of those conditions which are required of us now" (p. 146). In the book of Romans the faith that results in OUR justification includes confession ( Rom_10:9-10 ) and baptism (6:1-5).
"he was called the friend of God" -"loved by God" (Alford p. 1608). ( 2Ch_20:7 "Abraham thy friend forever"; Isa_41:8 "the seed of Abraham thy friend"). "To this day it is said that Abraham is known among the Arabs as "El Khalil" equivalent to "the Friend" (Pulpit Commentary p. 32).
2:24 "You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone".
"You see" -A conclusion that James believes that all should be able to see clearly-this isn't hard to understand or comprehend.
"justified by works" -"Works" in the context are obedience to the commands of God (2:21). The works under consideration are not----- following human traditions, rules or the Law of Moses ( Eph_2:8-9 ; Tit_3:5 ). There are various commands that must be obeyed before we can be accounted as righteous or forgiven: The command to believe that Jesus is the Son of God ( Joh_8:24 ); the command to repent ( Act_17:30 ); the command to express our belief in a confession ( Rom_10:9-10 ); the command to be baptized ( Mar_16:16 ).
"not by faith alone" -"merely, only, alone" (Thayer p. 418). The same truth is presented in Jam_1:22 ; Jam_2:17 ; Jam_2:20 . Note, that James never says that a man is not justified by faith, but the faith that results in justification is active and responsive to the commands of God. But faith that doesn't act, conviction that doesn't express itself---never has saved anyone. Obedience to the commands of God without the proper motive doesn't save---and mere mental assent doesn't save either.
The Example Of Rahab
"The illustration of Rahab utilized a person who was in stark contrast to Abraham in virtually every way except as illustrative of an energetic faith. Rahab was a woman, a Gentile, a pagan, and a prostitute. Yet, by naming her, James was effectively making the point that the only faith that God accepts is a faith that works-----whether from a respected Abraham or an unlikely Rahab" (Kent p. 108).
By using the example of Rahab, James is also teaching: 1. Anyone, from any background can manifest this type of faith, therefore whoever wants to be saved, can be saved. 2. Culture, upbringing, and so on are not insurmountable barriers to salvation. 3. People can change overnight. 4. The accounts in the Old Testament are historically true!
2:25 "And in the same way was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?"
Points To Note:
1. The example of Rahab demonstrates that this principle of being justified by an active faith was true outside the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. It extends to every race, gender, culture and condition of life. To this day, the righteous individual is the person who lives by faith ( Rom_1:17 ). 2. Notice the harmony with this verse and the account in Jos_2:1-24 . All the details are the same! 3. Rahab is also praised in Hebrews 11:31. 3 . Her faith was demonstrated in obedience, she received the messengers, protected them, and sent them to a place of safety. 4. All of her actions on this occasion were motivated by her faith that the God of Israel was the true God. Faith was indeed the moving cause of action. Barclay notes, "and unless Rahab had been prepared to risk all to help the spies her faith would have been a useless thing" (p. 92). "By his choice of Abraham and Rahab, therefore, James shows not only that the acid test of faith is works but also that this principle has universal application, embracing both patriarch and prostitute" (Adamson p. 134). Woods notes, "Abraham and Rahab------the former from the highest ranks of the most illustrious, the second from one who had been on the lowest rung of the social ladder, to show that in neither instance was salvation by faith only" (p. 150). James makes it clear that God doesn't lower His standards for people from lowly backgrounds. The spirituality demanded of the former prostitute is the same spirituality which is demanded of the noble citizen or founding father.
2:26 "For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead".
Points To Note:
1. Men and women have a dual nature, spirit and body. 2. Here is a good definition concerning at what point a person is dead, i.e. when the spirit has departed ( Ecc_12:7 ). 3. This illustration once again stresses that an inactive faith, a faith that doesn't respond to Divine directives, is a useless thing. 3. This verse also reveals that if life is present, then the spirit is present. Therefore it would seem reasonable to conclude that human life begins at conception, at conception the spirit or soul is present ( Zec_12:1 ). We must reject the idea that one isn't a human being until they exit the birth canal. 4. Remember, this also applies to a person who is already a Christian. If our faith ceases to be active, we are spiritually dead! 5. Note the graphic nature of the illustration. Faith, by itself, is like a dead body.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on James 2". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany