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RESPECT OF PERSONS ; FAITH AND WORKS
We next have some admonition concerning respect of persons, or the relation of the rich and the poor (James 2:1 ; James 2:13 ). This would seem to be connected with the trials of the poor mentioned in chapter 1. It not infrequently happens that the people who complain of the abundance of the rich, are the most obsequious in their conduct, as if they expected something from them as a result. Perhaps it was so here. Or it may be, that this instruction laps on more closely to what had been said about “pure religion,” visiting the fatherless and widows, and keeping one’s self unspotted from the world (James 1:27 ).
Respect of persons was incompatible with these things. Note that the Revised Version translates “have” of James 2:1 by “hold” These two things could not be held at once and the same time. What instance is given of holding it (James 2:2-3 )? Of what wrong would they be guilty in such a case (James 2:4 )? What kind of judges would such partiality show them to be (same verse)? What would demonstrate the unwisdom as well as unkindness of partiality (James 2:5 )? What would show their meanness of spirit (James 2:6 )? Their disloyalty to their Savior (James 2:7 )? On what principle should they exercise themselves toward rich and poor alike (James 2:8 )? How were they in danger of violating this principle (James 2:9 )? What fundamental truth about sin is enunciated in this connection (James 2:10-11 )?
INSTRUCTION ON THE RELATIONSHIP OF FAITH AND WORKS (James 2:14-26 )
If the subject of respect of persons grew out of the declaration about “pure religion” at the close of chapter 1, there is reason to believe the same of the present subject.
Before considering the verses, it may be well to remark on a criticism sometimes made that James is here contradicting Paul. The latter insists upon faith without works, while the former insists upon works with faith. But there is no contradiction, because Paul is laying down the principle of salvation, while James is showing the working of that principle in the life. Paul as well as James insists upon a faith that brings forth fruit, and was himself a fine example of it. The epistle of James was written at an early period, before Paul’s epistles were generally known and before the council at Jerusalem (Acts 15:0 ), which may account for this treatment of the subject of faith from a different standpoint to that made necessary by the admission of Gentiles into the church.
Observe the change the Revised Version makes in the last clause of James 2:14 . “Can that faith save him?” Faith saves, James declared, but not the kind of faith which produces no fruit. Not dead faith, but living faith. What illustrations of a fruitless faith are in James 2:16-17 What illustrations of a fruitful faith are given in James 2:21-25 . Read carefully James 2:22 , which teaches that Abraham’s faith was simply shown to be faith, a perfected thing by his obedience to God. So our faith in Christ can hardly be called a saving faith if it works no change in our lives and produces no results.
1. What two things are discoursed of in this lesson?
2. What presumably, led the writer to speak of the first?
3. What seems more likely from the context, that “Assembly” (James 2:2 ) means a plan of worship or a lawcourt?
4. What indicates that James is not contradicting Paul in regard to justification by faith?
5. What is the test of saving faith?
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Gray, James. "Commentary on James 2". The James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29