Consider helping today!
My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
2:1-13. Illustrating "the perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25) in one instance of a sin against it; concluding with reference to that law (James 2:12-13)
Brethren - the equality of Christians as "brethren" forms the groundwork of the admonition.
The faith of ... Christ. James grounds Christian practice on Christian faith.
The Lord of glory. So 1 Corinthians 2:8. Since believers, rich and poor, derive their glory from union with Him, "the Lord of glory," not from external advantages, the sin in question is peculiarly inconsistent with His "faith." Bengel, without ellipsis of the Lord, makes "glory" in apposition with Christ, who is THE GLORY (Luke 2:32): the true Shechinah of the temple (Romans 9:4). Christ's glory resting on the poor believer should make him be regarded as highly by "brethren" as his richer brother; nay, more so, if the poor has more of Christ's spirit than the rich.
With respect of persons, [ prosoopoleempsiais (G4382)] - 'in respectings of persons;' in partial preferences of persons in various ways.
For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;
Assembly - literally, synagogue: this the latest honourable, and the only Christian, use of the term in the New Testament occurs in James, the apostle who maintained to the latest the bonds between the Jewish synagogue and the Christian church. Soon the continued resistance of the truth by the Jews led Christians to leave the term to them exclusively (Revelation 3:9). 'Synagogue,' an assembly or congregation not necessarily united by any common tie. 'Church,' a people bound together by mutual ties, whether assembled or not. From James' Hebrew tendencies, and from the Jewish Christians retaining Jewish forms, 'synagogue' is used here instead of the Christian 'church' [ ekkleesia (G1577), derived from ekkalein, implying union of its members in spiritual bonds, independent of space, and called out into separation from the world]: an undesigned coincidence and mark of truth. People in the Jewish synagogue sat according to rank, those of the same trade together.
The introduction of this custom into Christian worship is reprobated by James. Christian churches were built like synagogues the holy table in the cast end, as the ark had been: the desk and pulpit were the chief articles of furniture in both. This shows the error of comparing the church to the temple, and the ministry to the priesthood: the temple is represented by the whole body of worshippers; the church building was on the model of the synagogue (Vitringa, 'Synagogue'). If, as at Berea, the greater part were converted, the synagogue with its officers became the Christian church. If, as at Thessalonica the majority of the synagogue rejected the Gospel, the apostle withdrew with the minority into the neighbouring house of a convert, a Jason or a Justus, and there continued the Sabbath reading of the Old Testament with a Christian exposition (Romans 16:5; Colossians 4:15). When, as at Corinth, the ruler of the synagogue was converted, he naturally became president or bishop, as tradition records Crispus became. From the synagogue came the ecclesiastical, but unclassical, sense of "presbytery." (Luke 22:26: cf. with 1 Timothy 4:14: also "angel," Revelation 1:20; Revelation 2:1; "shepherd" or "pastor," Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 5:2; "Amen," 1 Corinthians 14:16) (Justin, 'Apol.,' 67). Also the discipline, Matthew 18:17; excommunication, 1 Corinthians 5:4; 1 Corinthians 5:4; the collection of alms, 1 Corinthians 16:2. The love-feast was late on Saturday, the Sabbath evening: when the Eucharist was separated from it, and administered on the following morning, the Lord's day became established as holy: so Pliny's letter to Trajan recognizes it.
Goodly apparel ... gay clothing (apparel: the same Greek).
Have respect to him ... - though ye know not who he is: perhaps a pagan. The deacons used to direct to a seat the members of the congregation (Clement, 'Constitut.' 2: 57, 58).
Unto him. Not in A B G 'Aleph ('), Vulgate. "Thou" is demonstratively emphatic.
Here - near the speaker.
There - far from the good seats.
Under my footstool - on the ground, down by my footstool. The poor must either stand, or if he sit, sit low down. The speaker has a footstool as well as a good seat.
And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:
No JFB commentary on this verse.
Are ye not then partial in yourselves and are become judges of evil thoughts? Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
In yourselves - according to your carnal inclination (Grotius).
Are become judges of evil thoughts, [ kritai (G2923)] - "judges," and [ diekritheete (G1252)] 'partial' are akin. Translate, 'Do ye not partially judge between men, and are become evilly-thinking judges' (distinction-makers) (Mark 7:21). The "evil thoughts" are in the judges themselves (Luke 18:6): Greek, 'judge of injustice,' "unjust judge." Alford, 'Did ye not (by such distinctions) doubt' (for faith is inconsistent with distinctions between rich and poor). So the Greek means, Matthew 21:21; Acts 10:20; Romans 4:20; James 2:1 shows that diekritheete (G1252) must comprehend 'unbelieving distinction-making.' As it implies the process; so kritai (G2923) the definite result: the diakrisis (G1253) (so Acts 15:9 uses the active) precedes the krisis (G2920). The same play on the kindred words occurs Romans 14:10; Romans 14:23. The blame of being a judge, when one ought to be an obeyer, of the law, occurs James 4:11.]
Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
Hearken. James brings to trial the self-constituted "judges" (James 2:4).
Poor of this world. 'Aleph (') B read [ too (G3588) kosmoo (G2889)] 'those poor in respect to the world.' In contrast to 1 Timothy 6:17. Not of course all the poor; but they, as a class, furnish more believers than the rich. The rich, if a believer, renounces riches as his portion; the poor, if an unbeliever, neglects what is the special advantage of poverty (Matthew 5:3; 1 Corinthians 1:26-28).
Rich in faith - their riches consist in faith (Luke 12:21; 1 Timothy 6:18; Revelation 2:9: cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9). Christ's poverty is the source of the believer's riches.
Kingdom ... promised (Luke 12:32; 1 Corinthians 2:9; 2 Timothy 4:8).
But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?
The world's judgment of the poor contrasted with God's. Ye - from whom better things might have been expected: no marvel that men of the world do so.
Despised the poor, [ eetimasate (G818)] - 'dishonoured those, whom God honours, so inverting the order of God' (Calvin).
Rich - as a class.
Oppress, [ katadunasteuousin (G2616)] - 'abuse their power against you.'
Before the judgment seats - instituting persecutions for religion, as well as oppressive lawsuits, against, you.
Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?
'Is it not they [ autoi (G846)] that blaspheme,' etc., as in James 2:6? Rich pagan must be meant; none others would directly blaspheme the name of Christ. Indirectly, rich Christians may be meant, who, by inconsistency, caused His name to be blasphemed: so Ezekiel 36:21-22; Romans 2:24. There were few rich Jewish Christians at Jerusalem (Romans 15:26). They who dishonour God by willful sin 'take (or bear) the Lord's name in vain' (cf. Proverbs 30:9 with Exodus 20:7).
That worthy name (Psalms 52:9; Psalms 54:6) - which ye pray may be "hallowed" (Matthew 6:9), "by the which ye are called" [ to (G3588) epikleethen (G1941) ef' (G1909) humas (G5209)]: which was called upon you (cf. Genesis 48:16; Isaiah 4:1, margin: Acts 15:17) so that at your baptism 'into the name' (Greek, Matthew 28:19) of Christ, ye became Christ's people (1 Corinthians 3:23).
If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
[ Ei (G1487) mentoi (G3305)] 'If, however (in the honour, you pay the rich), ye are fulfilling the royal law,' etc., not depreciating the poor, but only honouring each according to his due, my censure does not apply; but respect of persons is a breach of it' (Alford after Eatius). I prefer, 'If in very deed, on the one hand, ye fulfill the royal law, etc., ye do well; but if, on the other, ye respect persons, ye practice sin.' The Jewish Christians boasted of the "law" (Acts 15:1; Acts 21:18-24; Romans 2:17; Galatians 2:12). To this the 'indeed' alludes. '(Ye rest in the law): If indeed (then) ye fulfill it, ye do well; but if,' etc.
Royal - the law that is king of all laws, as He is King of kings: the sum of the Ten Commandments. The great King is love: His law is the royal law of love. He 'is no respecter of persons;' to respect persons is at variance with Him and His law. The law is the "whole;" the particular "scripture" (Leviticus 19:18) quoted is a part. To break a part is to break the whole (James 2:10).
Ye do well - being 'blessed in your deed,' as doers, not forgetful hearers (James 1:25).
But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
Respect of persons violates the command to love all alike "as thyself."
Ye commit [ ergazesthe (G2038 ): work] sin - referring to Matthew 7:23, as James 1:22. Your works are sin, however ye in words boast of the law (note, James 2:8).
Convinced - Old English for 'convicted.'
As transgressors - not merely of some particular command, but of the whole.
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
'Aleph (') B C, Vulgate, read Whosoever shall have kept [ teereesee (G5083)] the whole law, and yet shall have offended [ ptaisee (G4417), stumbled: not so strong as "fall," Romans 11:11 ] in one (point: the respecting of persons), is (hereby) become guilty of all.' The law is one seamless garment, which is torn if you but tear a part; or a musical harmony, spoiled if there be one discordant note (Tirinus); or a golden chain, whose completeness is broken if you break one link (Gataker). You break the whole law, though not the whole of the law, because you offend against love, the fulfilling of the law. If any part of a man is leprous, the whole man is judged to be a leper. God requires perfect, not partial obedience. We are not to choose parts of the law to keep, which suit our whim, while we neglect others. Any sin brings death: not that all sins are equal as acts but all alike betray a state of natural alienation from God.
For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.
He is One who gave the whole law; therefore they who violate His will in one point, violate it all (Bengel). The law and its Author have a complete unity.
Adultery ... kill - selected as the most glaring violations of duty toward one's neighbour.
So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
Summing up the previous reasonings.
Speak - referring back to James 1:19; James 1:26: the fuller discussion is given, James 3:1-18.
Judged by the law of liberty (James 1:26) - i:e., the Gospel law of love; not a law of external constraint, but of free instinctive inclination. The law of liberty frees us from the curse of the law, that henceforth we should be free to love and obey willingly (Romans 8:2-4). If we will not in turn practice love to our neighbour, that law of grace condemns us more heavily than the old law, which spake nothing but wrath to him who offended in the least (James 2:13). Compare Matthew 18:32-35; John 12:48; Revelation 6:16, "wrath of the (merciful) Lamb."
For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
The converse of Matthew 5:7. 'The [hee] judgment (which is coming on all) shall be without mercy to him who showed no mercy.' "Mercy" here corresponds to "love," James 2:8.
Mercy rejoiceth against judgment. Mercy, so far from fearing judgment as to its followers, glorifieth against it, knowing that it cannot condemn them. Not that their mercy is the ground of their acquittal, but God's mercy in Christ toward them, producing mercy on their part toward their fellow men, makes them to triumph over judgment, which all otherwise deserves.
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
James, passing from the particular "mercy" or "love" violated by "respect of persons," notwithstanding profession of the "faith of our Lord Jesus" (James 2:1), combats the Jewish tendency (transplanted into Christianity) to substitute a lifeless acquaintance with the letter of the law for change of heart to holiness, as if justification could be thereby attained (Romans 2:3; Romans 2:13; Romans 2:23). It seems likely that James had seen Paul's letters, because he uses the same phrases and examples (cf. James 2:21; James 2:23; James 2:25 with Romans 4:3; Hebrews 11:17; Hebrews 11:31; and James 2:14; James 2:24 with Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16). At all events the Holy Spirit by James combats, not Paul, but those who abuse Paul's doctrine. The teaching of both alike is inspired, and to be received without wresting of words; but each has a different class to deal with: Paul, self-justiciaries; James, advocates of a mere notional faith. Paul urged as strongly as James the need of works as evidences faith, especially in the later letters, when many were abusing the doctrine of faith (Titus 2:14; Titus 3:8). 'Believing and doing are blood relatives' (Rutherford).
Though a man say - not 'if a man have faith', but if "a man say [ legeee (G3004), allege] he hath faith;" referring to a mere profession of faith, such as was usually made at baptism. Simon Magus so "believed and was baptized," and yet had "neither part nor lot in this matter," for his "heart," as his words and works evinced, was not right in the sight of God. The illustration (James 2:16) proves the emphasis on "say;" if "one of you say" the words to a naked brother [ eipee (G2036), referring to the words; legee (G3004), to the sentiment] 'Be ye warmed, notwithstanding ye give not those things needful.' The inoperative profession of sympathy answers to the inoperative profession of faith.
Can faith save him? - rather, 'can such a faith (literally, the faith) save him?' the empty boast contrasted with true fruit-producing faith. So that which self-deceivers claim is called "wisdom," though not true wisdom (James 3:15). The "him" also is emphatic; the particular man who professes faith without having works to evidence its vitality.
If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
Greek, 'But if,' etc., taking up the argument against, one who 'said he had faith, yet had not works.'
A brother ... - a fellow-Christian, whom we are specially bound to help, independent of our general obligation to help all fellow-creatures.
And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
Passive sentimental impressions from sights of woe not carried out into active habits only harden the heart.
One of you - James brings home the case individually.
Depart in peace - as if all their wants were satisfied by the mere words. The same words in the mouth of Christ, whose faith they said they had, were accompanied by deeds of love.
Be ye warmed - with clothing, instead of being as heretofore "naked" (Job 31:20; Job 5:15).
Filled - instead of being "destitute of food" (Matthew 15:37).
What doth it profit? - concluding as at the beginning, James 2:14. Just retribution: kind professions unaccompanied with corresponding acts, as they are of no "profit" to the needy object, so are of no profit to the professor. So faith consisting in mere profession is unacceptable to God, the object of faith, and profitless to the professor.
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Faith ... being alone. Alford joins, 'is dead in itself.' Bengel, 'If the works which living faith produces have no existence, it is a proof that faith itself (literally, itself) has no existence, is dead.' "Faith" is said to be 'dead in itself,' because when it has works it is alive, not in its works, but in itself. The English version does not mean that faith can exist "alone" i:e., severed from works), but, Even so presumed faith, if it have not works, is dead, being by itself - i:e., severed from charity; just as the body would be "dead" if severed from the spirit (James 2:26). So Estius.
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 'But some one will say' [ all' (G235) erei (G2046) tis (G5100): erein (G2046) expresses the mind of the speaker], continuing the argument from James 2:14; James 2:16. One may [ lege (G3004)] allege he has faith, though he have not works. Suppose one were to say [ eipe (G2036)] the words to a naked brother, 'Be warmed,' without giving him clothing 'But some one (entertaining right views) will object [ erei (G2046)] against the "say" of the professor, etc.
Show me thy faith without thy works - if thou canst; but thou canst not SHOW - i:e., evidence-thy alleged (James 2:14) faith without works. "Show" does not mean prove, but exhibit to me. Faith is unseen except by God. To show faith to man, works in some form are needed: we are justified judicially by God (Romans 8:33), meritoriously by Christ (Isaiah 53:11; Romans 5:19), mediately by faith (Romans 5:1), evidentially by works. The question is not as to the ground on which believers are justified, but as to the demonstration of their faith: so Genesis 22:1, it is written, God did tempt Abraham - i:e., put to the test of demonstration his faith, not for the satisfaction of God, who knew it well, but of men. The offering of Isaac (James 2:21) formed no ground of his justification; for he was justified previously on his simple believing in the promise of spiritual heirs, numerous as the stars (Genesis 15:6). That justification was showed by his offering Isaac forty years after. That work of faith demonstrated, but did not contribute to his justification. The tree shows life by fruit, but was alive before either fruits or even leaves appeared.
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
Thou - emphatic. Thou self-deceiving claimant to faith without works.
That there is one-God, [ ho (G3588) Theos (G2316) estin (G2076) heis (G1520)] - 'that God is one:' God's existence is also asserted. The fundamental article of Jews and Christians alike; the point of faith on which especially the former boasted themselves, as distinguishing them the Gentiles; hence, adduced by James here.
Thou doest well. But unless thy faith goes further than an assent to this truth, 'the demon ("devil" is restricted to Satan, their head) believe' in common with thee, 'and (so far from being saved such a faith) shudder' [ frissousin (G5425)] (Matthew 8:29; Luke 4:34; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6; Revelation 20:10). Their faith only adds to their torment at having to meet Him who is to consign them to their just doom: so thine (Hebrews 10:26-27), not the faith of love, but fear, that hath torment, (1 John 4:18).
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Wilt [ theleis (G2309 )] thou know. "Vain" men are not willing to know, since they have no wish to do the Wilt [ theleis (G2309 )] thou know. "Vain" men are not willing to know, since they have no wish to do the will of God (John 7:17). James beseeches such a one to lay aside his unwillingness to know, and as the preliminary step to be willing to do.
Vain - who deceivest thyself with a delusive hope, resting on unreal faith.
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
Abraham our father justified by works - evidentially before men (note, James 2:18). In James 2:23 James, like Paul, recognizes that it was his faith that was counted to Abraham for righteousness in his justification before God.
When he had offered, [ anenengkas (G399)] - 'when he offered;' i:e., brought as an offering.
Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
How, [ hoti (G3754)] - that. In the two clauses, emphasize "faith" in the former, and "works" in the latter, to see the sense (Bengel).
Faith wrought [ sunergei (G4903 ): was working] with his works - for it was by faith he offered his son.
By works was faith made perfect - not vivified, but attained its consummated development [ eteleioothee (G5048)]. So 2 Corinthians 12:9, "my strength is made perfect in weakness" - i:e., exerts itself perfectly; shows how great it is: so 1 John 4:17; Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:9. The germ, from the first, contains the full-grown tree; but its perfection is not attained until it is developed. So James 1:4, "Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect" - i:e., fully developed in the exhibition of Christian character. Alford, 'Received its realization.' So Philippians 2:12, "Work out your own salvation:" salvation was already in germ theirs in free justification through faith. It needed to be worked out to developed perfection in their life.
And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
Scripture was fulfilled - Genesis 15:6, quoted by Paul, as realized in Abraham's justification by faith; by James, as realized subsequently in Abraham's work of offering Isaac, which, he says, justified him. Plainly James means by works the same thing as Paul means by faith; only he speaks of faith in its manifested development; Paul speaks of it in its germ. Abraham's offering of Isaac was not a mere act of obedience, but an act of faith. Isaac was the subject of God's promises, that in him Abraham's seed should be called. The same God calls on Abraham to slay the subject of His own promise, when as yet there was no seed in whom those predictions could be realized. James' saying that Abraham was justified by such a work, is equivalent to saying, as Paul, that he was justified by faith; for it was faith expressed in action, as in other cares faith is expressed in words. Paul states as the mean of salvation faith expressed. Paul opposes self-righteousness; James, unrighteousness. The "scripture" would not be fulfilled, as James says it was, but contradicted, by any interpretation which makes man's works justify him before God: for that scripture makes no mention of works at all, but says that Abraham belief was counted to him for righteousness. God, in the fiat instance, 'justifies the ungodly' through faith; subsequently the believer is justified before the world as righteous through faith manifested in words and works (cf. Matthew 25:35-37, "the righteous," Matthew 25:40). Greek, 'But Abraham believed,' etc.
And he was called the Friend of God - He was not so called in his lifetime, though he was so from the time of his justification; but he was called so, when recognized as such by all, because of his works of faith. 'He was the friend (active), the lover of God, as to his works; and (passive) loved by God as to his justification by works. Both senses are united' (John 15:14-15) (Bengel).
Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
Justified, and not by faith only - i:e., by 'faith severed from works,' its proper fruits (note, James 2:20). Faith, to justify, must, from the first, include obedience in germ (to be developed subsequently), though the former alone is the ground of justification. The scion must be rafted on the stock, that it may live; it must bring forth fruit, to prove that it does live.
Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
Rahab's act was such that it cannot be quoted to prove justification by works as such. She believed assuredly what her other countrymen disbelieved, and this in the face of every improbability that an unwarlike few would conquer well-armed numbers. In this belief she hid the spies at the risk of her life. Hence, Hebrews 11:31 names this as an example of faith, rather than of obedience. "By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not." If an instance of obedience were wanting, Paul and James would hardly have quoted a woman of previously bad character, rather than the many moral and pious patriarchs. But as an example of grace justifying men through an operative, as opposed to a mere verbal faith, none could be more suitable than a saved "harlot." As Abraham was an instance of an illustrious man, the father of the Jews, so Rahab is quoted as a woman, one of abandoned character, and a Gentile showing that justifying faith has been manifested in those of every class. The nature of the works alleged is such as to prove that James uses them only as evidences of faith, contrasted with a mere verbal profession: not works of charity and piety, but works the value of which consisted solely in their being proofs of faith: they were faith expressed in act, synonymous with faith itself. The consequent is put for the antecedent. We are justified by works because we are justified by faith, which always works. Our justification by works is the fruit and natural necessary development of our justification once for all by faith. So Romans 1:17, "the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith."
Messengers - spies.
By another way - from that whereby they entered her house; namely, through the window of her house on the wall, and thence to the mountain.
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Faith is a spiritual thing: works material. Hence, we might expect faith to answer to the spirit: works to the body. But James reverses this. He therefore does not mean that faith answers to the body; but the FROM of faith without the working reality answers to the body without the animating spirit. It does not follow that living faith derives its life from works, as the body derives its life from the animating spirit. Faith apart from [ chooris (G5565)] the spirit of faith, which is LOVE (and love evidences itself in works), is dead, according to Paul also, 1 Corinthians 13:2.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on James 2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter