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Saturday, May 18th, 2024
Eve of Pentacost
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Bible Commentaries
James 2

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Verse 1

Mr. D’s Notes on James

James 2:1-4

Constable calls this section "hypocritical religiosity." Sounds about right to me as well.

2:1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, [the Lord] of glory, with respect of persons.

The Net Bible translates this as follows: "My brothers and sisters, do not show prejudice if you possess faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ." Other modern translations read along this line as well.

The thought of respect of persons seems to be an added thought in the newer translations, though the thought is similar. If you are a person of faith do not have prejudice. Wow what a comment for our day as well as the American past. Let’s think about prejudice among Christians for a moment.

In Politics: Christian liberals use rhetoric that is fit for the most worldly of persons when talking about conservative Christians as well as conservative lost. This, if not prejudice, is something that will certainly foster prejudice. In my mind they practice what they decry only they use divisive caustic rhetoric with their speech.

We expect this type of rhetoric from the lost, like a recent comment on the news. Ted Kennedy, not a Christian in my estimation by life or tongue, spoke of the COMING Supreme Court judge nominee - none had been made and his rhetoric had already reached the divisive caustic level when he demanded that Bush was going to abuse his power if he nominated anyone but someone that was okay with Kennedy. "Abuse of power" to nominate someone he wants to nominate - a right and requirement of the presidency - not an abuse of power, but quite plain to see is Kennedy’s own abuse of power and position in using such terminology for his own political gain.

To speak of the racial prejudice in the church one only has to look at the congregation make up in most churches. Are there any blacks in white churches; are there any whites in black churches? I’d guess the later is a better percentage than the former, and true, a lot of this can be worship preference as well as doctrinal differences, but I have seen blacks in white churches that are separated from the masses or held forth as if trophies of the church’s acceptance of all people.

In our checkered past as a nation we saw the church at the forefront of both sides, there were some churches teaching that segregation was Biblical while others that taught that it was not, both believing themselves the more correct and Biblical.

In the more to the point prejudice there is the social ladder status that James will soon get to, or there is the financial status which is often tied to the social. The poor of the church keep to themselves because they feel inferior to the rich and the rich allow this to continue because they have a hint of the idea that this is true.

I have met some Christians that were from financially secure to rich, which were as common as the poor of their church, even though their homes were quite different. We met a couple in the Midwest years ago that seemed as run of the mill as anyone else in the church. They invited us to dinner after church at their home. When we pulled into the drive we were impressed with the house as it was a little larger than we had expected. That was the front - when we entered the home we found that it was huge and very well appointed. They were just as common in their home, nothing of an air about them. They lived their money well.

As the meal went forward, we were talking about a problem that an organization was having with the tax people in the state. He asked me a lot of questions about the problem and then gave me a slip of paper and told me to have the organization contact him. It turned out that he was head of the state tax department that was giving the people problems.

One phone call on Monday and the problem was dealt with. He was well to do, powerful and yet quite unassuming in his character and manner. What an example of the believers attitude and life in the church whether rich or poor, whether powerful or powerless, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

Believers seem to have developed another area of prejudice. In the area of education we see in many churches and organizations a bias toward or against certain types of education, against certain schools, or certain doctrinal positions. The bias often leads to hurtful comments and rhetoric which are not needed nor called for.

There are some that believe that the educational system is rotten and corrupt and that Christians should have nothing to do with it. Others feel that the Christian educational system is the best and the lower levels of Christian education are just that - low. Both look up or down their respective noses at each other while filling their own egos with rhetoric fit for the world.

Personally there are times, especially when I am writing that I feel both systems fail their students. I barely passed freshman English in high school and the education I received in Bible college/seminary was quite lacking in the same area. I have struggled with spelling and grammar for many years. I go over my material many times and try and get the spelling/ grammar right. My theology went through several grammar checkers (which had about the same level of efficiency as my own mind) and still I find errors.

I must admit that all of this reading, rereading, grammar checking etc. has given me a greater knowledge of the language, but still I am quite lacking. Our Christian educational system should hold the student to a proper standard so that the education given is truly a proper education. Guess I’m a little prejudiced aren’t I?

When teaching I attempted to hold students to a decent standard, but it was not well received. Students balked and complained because they were required to do some work. Some just rejected the thought and scraped by as they could with little effort - to them the system worked, they did not.

There was one particular class that I could not get the students to do the work in, so ultimately I made the requirement that if they did not turn in their assignments by the specified deadline they would receive a zero. Several decided they didn’t need the credit so opted for the zeros and failed the class. This was not popular. After I resigned, I was called by the school asking why they had failed. I told the caller and before he was finished it sounded like the students were going to get a passing grade for the class. That is a real education - cry in your milk and someone will feel sorry for you and give into your little tantrum. Guess I might be very prejudice - no, just frustrated with a system that promises an education and settles for something less at times.

There is a real doctrinal prejudice as well. I frequent internet discussion boards and find the rhetoric there quite like the political end of the spectrum. Many have "THE TRUTH" while others can’t possibly have the truth because the truth holders have it. The condescension and arrogance spill forth like a tsunami at times. Nothing said is thought out, nor is it ever based on good logic or the Bible - it couldn’t possibly because it does not agree with what they hold as truth.

There is a very serious application to this type of prejudice. I find that many people are unable to find churches to attend because, unless they agree 100 percent with the pastor’s position, they are treated as lesser people - they do not hold to the truth which pastor holds to, thus I cannot associate with them. The same is true, not only of doctrine, but also of music. If a person likes contemporary music and they are in leadership positions, they seldom allow nor condone any other type of music. The hymn lover is already labeled divisive and against change and thus worthless in the church.

In years past I have had doctrinal differences as well as differences of opinion in music and method, yet all knew that there were differences and the differences did not become divisive. We worked together in the other multitude of areas and furthered the Lord’s work greatly. Today, many believers are unchurched due to these problems.

One of the churches where I felt the Lord used me most was a church that had a wide difference in the membership. There was acceptance of one another as a brother or sister and the work of the Lord went forth. Some were doing their thing while others were doing their thing. Separately they were doing as the Lord was leading them. No differences that were cause for problem, just differences that didn’t matter.

If we have the same faith, we have the same ultimate goal - reaching the lost for God and worshiping Him. The church today is so splintered that even these two most basic items are often lost in the divisiveness and power brokering in the assembly.

James continues with an illustration of what he is speaking about. The putting of one above another based on dress.

Verses 1-4


1. "Evil thoughts" is something to consider in your life. Specifically, evil thoughts relating to prejudice, but any evil thought. This text pictures something for us that is a universal truth. If you think it, you will probably also do it sooner or later.

Here we see James illustrate the doing of the thinking. Think an evil thought of prejudice and you will quite possibly act upon that thought by making distinctions between people.

What of your evil thoughts relating to use of your money? What of your evil thoughts relating to eating? What of your evil thoughts about intimate desires? What of your evil thoughts relating to any topic that you want to think about?

Many have had the urge to buy something, the urge may be set aside, but normally the urge rears its head and you think about it some more. Sooner or later, if you don’t control the thought you will soon be making a purchase.

Thinking leads to doing. We saw this problem in verse fourteen and fifteen of chapter one. "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then the lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin: and the sin, when it is fullgrown, bringeth forth death."

Key? Don’t think - well not that drastic, but don’t think about things you ought not to think about - it is well put in Philippians 4:6 "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever things [are] pure, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever things [are] of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if [there be] any praise, think on these things. 9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you."

Think about the Godly things and do them rather than think on evil things and doing evil.

2. Note should be taken that prejudice or putting one above or below the other is "evil." This is not something that the believer would want to be involved in. The word translated "evil" is the word used in Matthew 6:13 when the Lord was teaching the disciples how to pray. "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen."

A good case could be made that He was referring to the Devil in this passage, but at least it relates to the totality of all that is evil not just a little indiscretion based on favoritism.

Why would anyone do this in the church? What would prompt, say an usher to put the rich looking person in the best seat, or the filthy person elsewhere?

In the case of the rich, money might enter into the equation if the church is in financial problems it would be tempting to give the rich the red carpet service. It might even tempt the pastor to make over the person a little more in the greeting time than he normally would. Not questioning all pastors or all ushers, just saying there might be a temptation.

In the case of the dirty, it would be the first reaction of an usher to avoid seating them all together and let the person seat themselves. Dirty people are not pleasant to deal with - especially in our current society. They may be homeless, they may be diseased, and they may be mental cases that aren’t on their meds.

For this reason, be careful of them, but realize the rich can be diseased and mentally unbalanced as well. Be Christian in your dealings with all people and you will not have to worry about what you are doing or not doing.

All, rich, poor, and middle class derive their standing before God via the Lord Jesus Christ and not from those things that they might be able to surround themselves within this life. When you see a believer that is down and dirty, look at them through the eyes of Christ and see a brother to be assisted, not despised.

3. Just what does putting the dirty man under your footstool mean? Jamieson, Fausset and Brown mention that under might better be stated by your footstool or on the ground. The thought being, you must stand, or if you must sit, sit on the ground. Others stick with the "under" - the American Standard translates it "under."

The term is translated about a quarter of the time as "with" which would indicate "by" which the lexicon lists as one of the meanings of the word. By the footstool or sitting on the floor while I sit in a nice chair seems to be the thought of the passage, in my mind.

I can’t imagine such a thing going on in our society. This would be a total insult to anyone, even if homeless and in dire poverty. However, I suspect similar things happen from time to time that cause as much insult/embarrassment.

Back in the long hair days of the 60’s and 70’s Christians took a dim view of the practice of men wearing long hair. Some young men had come to know the Lord and were starting to attend church - a very conservative church. After a very few Sundays the deacons of the church cornered the men and informed them their hair was causing them to be unspiritual and that they needed to remedy their problem. Needless to say, their attendance was short lived.

Barnes suggests that the thought behind (under my footstool) would be that of not even offering a seat in our time. This could well be a good application - walking into a church and not being offered a seat, or even assistance as to where to go.

I don’t know how many times we have entered a new church and wandered the premises trying to find out where the Sunday school class was or where the worship service was held. In one church we wandered the entire length of the building and back without being acknowledged. We wandered right out the front door, past a fair number of people and got into our car and drove off. Not one person offered a hello, or get lost, not even a "can we help you."

We entered a church in the Midwest in time for the morning worship service and found ourselves in a large common area with no idea where the service was to be held. There were two long halls at the end of the common area. We stood while some came and went from one hall to another or one door to another. We noticed a young couple standing by the wall, clearly wondering the same thing that we were. Finally it was clear that we were on our own so I went off exploring. I finally stuck my nose in enough doors to find the sanctuary.

I returned to find my wife still standing and wondering. I told her that I had found the spot and invited the young couple to come with us. We sat down and awaited the service. One older lady came by and said hello. Shortly after the service started they had their usual warm greeting time. We stood with the congregation, and it was obvious that we and the young couple were invisible, so we greeted the young couple and sat down.

After the service there was no hindrance to our retreat to the car, as there was none interested in our presence. This sort of occurrence is not uncommon. We have experienced it a number of times and have talked with a number of people that have experienced similar incidents.

PERSONAL OPINION: The greeting time that has swept the nation, a fad, in my mind, is nothing more than an excuse to tell people you aren’t interested in them. There are a few churches that make the greeting time a time to stop and get to know visitors, but most use it as an excuse to say hi and forget the fact that a visitor is present in the congregation.

It has been my observation that normally friendly churches have been transformed into refrigerators by this phenomena of the warm fuzzy culture of Churchianity. Churches where people would stop and say hello and get to know visitors, were transformed into churches where no one talks to visitors before or after services, but are super friendly at the greeting time. Read "super friendly" as getting 20 handshakes and hellos with no one paying attention to anything you say.

We visited a large church in the Midwest that tried to vary its greeting time. The first Sunday was the usual, everyone stand and ..... The next Sunday the pastor told everyone to stand, and then promptly told all the church regulars to sit down. He then told them to look around and see where all the visitors were, followed by a "let’s give them a good hello" and they all stood and swarmed the visitors. The following Sunday, he asked only the congregation to stand. He then asked the congregation to look and see who was sitting down and to greet them. The congregation then descended on those that were seated.

Can you imagine sitting in a congregation of several hundred and having all these hands thrust down upon you with all these toothy, smiling faces telling you hello - very quickly and moving on to the next victim? This is not being friendly; this is more like singling out for embarrassment.

Okay, that hobby horse is dead for a while.

4. The term translated "assembly" is the Greek word for "synagogue," not the normal term "ecclessia" which is translated "church" normally. Both have the thought of an assembly rather than the usual thought of a building. There is no real significance to this in the meaning of the passage, but may give us a little insight into the mind of the writer, James.

It seems to show a close affinity of James to the Jewish way of life. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown comment of his hold on the Jewish synagogue, "the apostle who maintained to the latest possible moment the bonds between the Jewish synagogue and the Christian Church."

It would seem that his thinking was similar to that of Paul, that the Jews might turn to their Messiah, and that they would hold forth that tie between Jews and the church for their acceptance. Paul always went to the Jews first in a new area and when they rejected his message he would take it to the Gentiles.

At this time as in all of the early church proceeding, the church preached in the temple areas where it was allowed, trying to reveal the truth of the Messiah to the Jews that would listen. (Acts 2:46; Acts 3:1)

Jamison, Fausset and Brown take this a little further and state "The people in the Jewish synagogue sat according to their rank, those of the same trade together. The introduction of this custom into Jewish Christian places of worship is here reprobated by James." This may add to the reason that brought James to choose that particular word rather than "ecclessia."

Constable points out that the later Christians used ecclessia, thus James was written in the earlier part of the church’s growth. I would say that this is the least that we can come away with in relation to his use of the term he picked.

5. Constable points out that this man had a double mind; he was prejudice while following Christ. The two cannot coexist, thus he is double minded. This was viewed negatively in the first chapter.

Not only is there the mental decision to show partiality, there is the outward act of being prejudicial. A triple header for the price of one.

Beware of sin, for the little small one you decide upon may have far reaching consequences. It may entail more than one act; it may also entail a number of serious consequences.

6. Some suggest that this situation is a court scenario rather than a worship service, though I am not sure I would agree. They site verse six as proof, but that text does not require it. This could well be just a comment of fact, not relating to the specific situation.

7. We have not commented on the use of "of glory" in verse one. "My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, [the Lord] of glory, with respect of persons." He has clearly pointed out He is speaking of Christ, why did he add "of glory" to his comments? "The Lord" is added by the translators, but it is not in the original documents.

Young gives a bit of a twist to the verse by translating it thusly, "My brethren, hold not, in respect of persons, the faith of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ," Since none of the other translations took this twist, I am not sure how valid it is.

Some possibilities:

a. He calls the readers attention to the "glory" of Christ as a call to remember who it is that we serve. He is our Lord, He is our Jesus, He is our Christ, and He is certainly all glorious.

b. He might be calling attention to the fact that He is glorious, and we are all His children, be we rich or poor.

c. He may have just added it as an impact to the importance of who Christ is.

d. He was just caught up in who he was writing about and wanted to point out the fantasticness of his Lord and Master.

Of these possibles, I would suggest that it probably is the final option. James was known for his prayer life, so he was well aware of how wonderful his God was, and this is just his exclamation of the one that he had chosen to serve with his life.

In closing I would like to relate a story a missionary to Argentina (if memory serves me correctly), told me many years ago. She was sitting by a camp fire talking to some Indians. She was not sharing the Gospel at this point, but was just getting to know the people she wanted to minister to.

Among the people was an old woman dressed in dirty rags. She had some terrible disease that caused her wounds to smell. As the evening wore on the Indians listened and were interested in this white woman. The old woman at one point glared at the missionary and challenged, "If you love me then kiss me. As Mrs. Eggleston left for the evening she walked over to the old woman, kissed her on the cheek and told her that God loved her.

The next night, around the fire, the missionary shared the gospel and she noticed this same old woman sitting there. Of the people that responded the dirty old woman was the first. The love, compassion, and interest of the missionary had its mark on the old woman. She sensed there was something important in what she had to say.

Don’t ever prejudge anyone, you have no idea what God’s plan for that person is, and you further do not know what God’s plan for you in that person’s life is.

8. There are two different thoughts as to why we kind of naturally pick the rich over the poor. The positive that they might help the church, they might help us, we have status if we know them, and all sorts of positive things, and then there is the negative. It may relate to the fact that we are covetous, greedy and wanting of something of this person. All of these are wrong even though some of them seem to be good reasons.

9. We tend to assume the poor are lazy, uneducated and worthless, when in fact they may be well educated, and may have been rich and hard working. I have done very little rescue mission work, but have done enough to know many of these men are well educated and have been on top in the past - they have just lost their way somehow.

Indeed, in the work a day world in our society we cannot know the background of a person without talking to them and getting to know them. Many janitors are well educated; they just can’t find work and need to support themselves. There are many that have walked away from high profile jobs for a slower, easier life.

We need to take each person we meet at face value and get to know them. All are equal in God’s family, there are no rich or poor, there are only children of God. How dare we try to make it different by our favoritism?

I doubt most of us know the impact it would have on some of our less fortunate to be acknowledged as existing. At my college graduation, I noticed a man sitting alone; he was in a rumpled dirty shirt, slacks, no suit coat and NO TIE! As we passed him, I said hello and he was utterly shocked that anyone had acknowledged his presence. The lesser of our society is rather invisible these days - in part due to the homeless problem, the panhandlers etc. that cause problems, but many of them have done nothing wrong other than become less fortunate.

Barnes has a good thought which I would like to conclude with. "Religion does not forbid proper respect to rank, to office, to age, or to distinguished talents and services, though even in such cases it does not require that we should feel that such persons have any peculiar claims to salvation, or that they are not on a level with all others, as sinners before God; it does not forbid that a man who has the means of procuring for himself an eligible pew in a church should be permitted to do so; but it requires that men shall be regarded and treated according to their moral worth, and not according to their external adorning; that all shall be considered as in fact on a level before God, and entitled to the privileges which grow out of the worship of the Creator. A stranger coming into any place of worship, no matter what his rank, dress, or complexion, should be treated with respect, and everything should be done that can be to win his heart to the service of God."

John 7:24 "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."

Verses 2-4

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; 3 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: 4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

This principle of seating is a Jewish thing from the looks of Proverbs 26:6-7 "Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great [men]: 7 For better [it is] that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen."

Now, I know something about this one. In my early college days we were very poor. We had children to cloth, tuition to pay and a junk car to maintain. We were on the barest of menu at the dinner table. We were not starving, but we were not doing well either.

In the area of dress, I had a nice knit sweater that I always wore over a white shirt and tie at church. With the nice dress slacks I thought I was passable. I did wear nice cowboy boots because that is all that I had. I had neither shoes nor even another pair of boots. Barefooted would have been my alternative and I didn’t think it would look good with dress slacks. I did not own a suit nor a sport jacket and would have had to stop buying food for several weeks to purchase one so had opted to eat instead.

One day I received a call from one of the men in the church. He explained to me that I had some spiritual problems that he and the pastor wanted to talk to me about. I felt there was something really fishy coming, so questioned him. He would not answer any of my questions, just kept wanting to make an appointment with me to talk about the problems.

Finally since he wasn’t going to tell me what the problems were I drove down to the church area and called the pastor from a pay phone and asked to meet him at the church. It was late in the evening, but he agreed to meet.

Now, this pastor is one that seldom wore a suit, and had breath that would derail a freight train. We sat down, not that close together, and began to talk. I told him of my call and asked what my SPIRITUAL problems were.

He beat around the bush awhile then suggested that my dress was lacking for church. He told me that this was the city and that cowboy boots were not appropriate for church wear. He continued that I should wear a suit and that the sweater was totally inadequate if I really wanted to be proper.

I sat there and smiled at him trying to contain my laughter. He was so serious and so smug about his reporting to me of my spiritual problems. I asked him if that was all, and when he said it was I left the church.

That was the last that was said on the subject and we continued to attend the church, sweater, boots and all. I suppose he did not appreciate it, but I had no choice at the time and we felt the church is where the Lord wanted us to attend. Naturally I was soon asked to teach children in Sunday school rather than the adults. The children met downstairs and I wouldn’t be seen - it was so that I could gain more experience however when I talked to the Sunday school superintendent. Again, I thought something was fishy and I quietly asked the pastor if there was a problem with my teaching and off he went again, telling me of my many errors of content in my class.

I had made a comment that the Roman Catholic was a powerful force in many public school systems, which is true and was verifiable at the time. One of the deacons had brought a Roman Catholic to Sunday school with him. I did not know it, nor was the comment offensive to the woman since she joined into the discussion of the class and told me after the class how much she had enjoyed being there. Anyway "class distinctions" do exist in our local churches.

Later on I was given a sport jacket and I wore it most of the time, though I did notice that if I wore it I was asked to assist in gathering the offering, but if I went back to my sweater, I was not asked. Yes, I tried it a number of times just to test my theory. Now, that might be a spiritual problem.

Now, that I finally have had some good years of income I have amassed three suits and some nice shirts and ties and you know what has happened. When I go to church in my suit and tie I am looked down upon as overdressing. Go figure. In fact one day the assistant pastor approached me and said that I was really dressed up. This is after a year or two of seeing me in a suit every Sunday. He said that I looked nice and that I made him feel like a bum. I didn’t think any comment was necessary. Yep, that may be another spiritual problem.

James would have made some hay with these people in his illustration database if he were living today. They might well have been his illustration for this principle of not being prejudiced as a believer.

The comparison here is about as drastic as you can get. At one end the finest of fine and at the other end the dirtiest of dirty - even vile. Now, that comparison might relate well to the thought of close Christian fellowship. How do you have a close relationship with a person that is in vile clothing? It is not the easiest thing to do but we should.

It was interesting; recently I saw a news report about a unit in Iraq that had been on patrol for several weeks. The news man mentioned that they did not have a closeness that he had seen in other units. Later in the report he mentioned that they had not washed their clothes in weeks and that they had not been able to shower in over a week. Now, I wonder why they aren’t as close a unit as others. How could they be? Their clothing would have been doing the marching for them. They must have been well rested.

It is rather natural to place the better dressed above the rest, for they are usually the higher income people and in some churches the people with money are the leaders. It is the people with money that do the giving, so it is they that often do the decision making as to how the finances are spent. It is also rather natural for the poor to be in the background. Not only might they be pushed there, but often they feel inferior and tend to migrate into the background to stay out of the way.

Both ought to feel just as comfortable in the church as the other. This should be a priority with the church today. We are seeing a widening of the rich - poor gap and we need to assure that gap is not visible in the church. We are all born of the same blood and are brothers and sisters in Christ.

The last phrase is of interest. The American Standard Bible clears up the meaning a little. "Do ye not make distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?" The person is judging good and bad by thinking evil thoughts. They are determining for themselves who are better than the other, a job better left to God.

The implication is this is a self-imposed right to judge - in other words the person has set himself as judge over all that come into the church and to determine where they will sit, which in essence is determining which will be honored and which will not.

When ministering with a Christian organization, we used to have pot lucks. When we were last in line, we would sit with the group. When we would be first in line, we would sit down at a table and when it was over we would be sitting at the table alone. Not that I cared that much, I was usually quite interested in the great food. At the time we were on a very limited budget and our diet was not well versed.

We, more than once would get in line first to see if the thesis was correct. At all times if first we were alone, if last I’d guess they were seeking an inner seat so they wouldn’t have to sit with us.

What an arrogant person one must be to try to seat people by their appearance and supposed honor. For that matter, one must wonder at the honored for taking the most honored position.

The question for a church today is to consider whether they are somehow fostering this sort of activity in the church. It might be a topic for the ushers to discuss, though I doubt it is a real problem in most churches.

How else might we apply this passage for our own situation in history?

1. We might consider our "fellowship" activities. Are there free activities as well as those that require a spending of money? We settled into a Sunday school class in a new church and liked the session until they started talking about their upcoming class social. We thought it would be a good time for us to get to know some of the people. This was a short-lived thought as they quickly started talking of the bowling alley that they would meet at for bowling, and then there would be a pizza feed at the local pizza shop. Since only one of us was working at the time, we decided this wasn’t the class for us.

Do the activities require equipment that ALL would have access to? These are some things to think about.

2. Consider how your Sunday school classes are divided. Is there equal opportunity for new comers to make their way into a class that fits their need or are they kept out of some because of the cliques that have formed over the years?

3. How do you take your offerings? Are you doing anything that might make a poor person feel uncomfortable? I have always been partial to the offering plate or box at the back door where people can drop in their giving on the way out of the church.

4. How are the teaching and preaching? Is it on a level where all can understand? How are the illustrations? Do they relate to all classes of people? We heard a sermon and the pastor mentioned he was making over thirty thousand dollars a number of years prior, and he quipped that "Back then thirty thousand dollars was a lot of money." At the door I reminded him that to many people thirty thousand dollars was still a lot of money. At the time we were making much less than his big money.

5. You might consider your church building. Is it too impressive for a poor person to feel comfortable in? We need to have nice buildings to present a good testimony, but impressive is not needed.

We don’t need to cater to the poor, but we need to make them comfortable in the church services. A balance is needed. After all we don’t want to be so low in character and appearance that the rich feel uncomfortable.

The church should be a safe and comfortable place for all to come and meet with brothers and sisters and share their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It was His blood that bought us and He desires that we all feel comfortable with one another.

6. Consideration of your church purpose statement might be good as well. Is there anything within it that would show any prejudice? Is there any way that you could include anything that would assist in your overall purpose not to prejudice?

7. What about your deacon’s fund policy. Is there any built in prejudice? Are you shutting some of your church people out, while including others?

I am NOT saying you must be politically correct, I am saying as James, don’t be people of faith while determining to be prejudiced against or for anyone. There is an important note there, either for or against - both are prejudice and neither have place within the church.

Verse 5

Mr. D’s Notes on James

James 2:5-8

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" is normally translated "hear" and means to hear with understanding. To perceive what is to be heard. Something that is of value, something that is useable, something that should change your life if you hear, perceive and act upon that new knowledge. It is an imperative, a command, something they are to do, not something that they are given a choice about.

"My beloved brethren" is a call to brothers that are very dear to James. One must wonder if he knew some or many of these people personally. If they came from Jerusalem, it is quite possible that he was at the very least, acquainted with them.

"Hath not God chosen the poor" is a question that aims back to the discrimination between the rich and the poor. Why favor the rich, for GOD has chosen the poor? If you are going to favor someone, it would be more sensible to favor the poor - they are closest to God.

How terrible, to go through life favoring the rich and famous in the hope of gain, only to find out you were supposed to favor the poor to get gain - well, favoring is wrong in either case, but the logic is that if you want to favor for gain, wouldn’t you favor those closest to the source of gain?

Not only are the poor chosen, but they are rich in faith and they are heirs of the kingdom.

Just what kingdom is in view here? Since they are still waiting for it, it can’t be anything past and the only kingdoms left are the millennial kingdom, and the eternal kingdom. Since they are Jews the millennial could apply, though they are under the blood and looking now for eternal things not the earthly kingdom of the prophets.

Some Postmillennialists chafe at this thought. They would cry that any Jew, no matter what, must be in the millennium. This is due to their logic or lack there of, in how Israel relates to the church. In my mind they do not, they are separate entities and must be dealt with as such.

They would suggest that any Jew would want to be related to the millennium, rather than be taken away from it by the blood. The question I have is that if there is a choice of an earthly kingdom for one thousand years, and going directly into the eternal state, why would anyone want to make a stop over in the lesser of places for a thousand years?

"Which he hath promised to them that love him" is a phrase that teaches a couple of things. Entrance into the eternal kingdom is based on love of God. There is this one prerequisite - love. This speaks to the easy believe gospel that many preach today. You can hear some words and accept Christ, but there must be a love that is begun at that point or there can be no salvation. The love might be just a seed of what it will blossom into, but love seems to be a requirement.

Secondly, there will be none in the kingdom that do not love God. They won’t be forced to submit at some time future, they will love Him as a consequence of what He has done for them.

The question remains, now, that if one has accepted the Lord but does not show love for Him, are they really saved. I would not want to judge anyone, but if there is no love, then that person had better give some serious thought to what he has done in that acceptance of Christ and whether there was truth in it or a sham.

One that loves not God, no matter if they have accepted Christ mentally or not is in danger in my mind, of not reaching eternity with God. Mental assent is not a change of heart by any stretch of truth.

There is one further question from the text. Did God not choose any rich to be in His kingdom? The test is quite explicit - He chose the poor of this world. No, it does not mean that only poor and no rich were chosen. I would assume that He chose the poor in spirit, those that were humble before Him in His foreknowledge.

The rich man will not be humble before God, unless he has a realization of whom he is before God. This probably goes for the arrogant poor man. All must find humility and realize their need of Christ before God can deal with them, and these are those that were chosen.

God picked the poor and made them heirs. We have no business relegating them to the lesser seats. Let’s look at some of the people God has chosen.

Paul a persecutor of Christians.

David a sheep herder.

John a fisherman.

Andrew a fisherman.

Simon Peter a fisherman.

Matthew a tax collector.

Stanley Derickson a fisherman and son of a tax collector.

Abraham a seventy year old.

Joshua an army commander.

Gideon a poor person.

Elisha a farmer.

Amos a herdsman.

Micah a simple man.

Ironsides, a bank tellers son.

Billy Graham a farm boy.

D. L. Moody a shoe salesman, a son of a bankrupt mason.

Hudson Taylor a chemist’s apprentice.

William Cary a shoemaker.

Billy Sunday a drunken baseball player.

George Beverly Shea an insurance clerk.

Verses 5-9


1. Some suggest we join into every movement to bring equality to all. We should uplift the poor in their struggle. Not sure where you can find Scriptural basis for rebellion to gain equality.

a. Many of these movements are riotous and thus not to be partaken in.

b. Many of these movements want more than equality and at times even want superiority - they want it all.

c. Men of these movements set forth as their precepts things that are not Biblical, thus off limits to the believer.

If a movement is Biblical in all ways, then sure if you have time and feel led, join in and assist, but remember that your first priority is your Lord, then your spouse, then your family and then your employer, after that you contemplate the time you have to commit. Setting any of these below your "movement" work is wrong.

2. Let’s look at this law further and see if we can determine for sure what James was talking about. It is evident that his readers knew exactly what he was talking about or he would have explained himself further. Since these were converted Jews, it would be apparent that they knew about the Old Testament law for certain. Whether they knew of the extensive teaching of Christ, would be questionable, since they came to Jerusalem as practicing Jews and were converted and left within a fairly short period of time. Some may have been around to have heard of the teaching of Christ, but we have no indication that they had been strongly indoctrinated in His information.

What law are we speaking of here? The law of love, the royal law, or the Law of Moses? If you notice the context, it seems to speak of the Mosaic Law. Verse eleven speaks of the Ten Commandments.

Barnes comments: "If ye fulfil the royal law. That is, the law which he immediately mentions requiring us to love our neighbour as ourselves. It is called a "royal law," or kingly law, on account of its excellence or nobleness; not because it is ordained by God as a king, but because it has some such prominence and importance among other laws as a king has among other men; that is, it is majestic, noble, worthy of veneration. It is a law which ought to govern and direct us in all our intercourse with men--as a king rules his subjects."

Matthew 19:19 relates to the idea: "19 Honour thy father and [thy] mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Probably the account of the good Samaritan was an illustration of this principle of life (Lu 10:25-37).

Life Application Bible suggests this is John 15:12 "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you." They suggest this is the thought of the Leviticus 19:18 "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD." They further suggest that this is the basis upon which all personal relationships are to be based. I would tend to agree, but would limit it to Christians, because the lost world would not necessarily accept a Biblical principle as a principle for their lives.

I would refine that thought a little and suggest that Christ was giving a higher application to the love thy neighbor passage of the Old Testament, and gives special emphasis to the love that we are to have for one another as believers.

Christ points this principle to its source in the Law. Matthew 22:37 "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Paul seemed to favor the same line of thinking (not that we should be surprised at that :-) Romans 13:8 "Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law." Galatians 5:14 "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

3. The main thought is, why would you give the rich priority over the poor - it is not a logical thing to do. The rich are basically against you, and the poor are the chosen of God.

I don’t know, but it seems to me that James is actually speaking to a middle class of folks that might show preference between two other classes. The middle class ought to identify better with the poor than with the rich.

In today’s society we have a shrinking middle class and most are headed toward the poor class rather than the rich class, so logically, even today it is wiser to favor the poor if you are going to favor, but James is clear we ought not to favor either way.

4. Constable makes the basic point that if Christ has given the poor great benefit, why should we deny any benefit in the church to the poor. You just can’t argue with that point - it is plain truth and such a simple truth, that many must have been missing it among those that James was writing to - probably many in our own day are missing the same truth.

5. It would be easy to concentrate on doing for the poor that we are showing partiality to them and not the rich. This ought not to be true either. The thought isn’t one over the other, it is equality for all.

It is evident in the New Testament that it is hard for a rich person to see past their riches to see the need they have for Christ, yet that need is there and deserves to be met if they respond to the Gospel.

The thought of witnessing to the rich is daunting to most. Witnessing in general is daunting to most, but to approach someone of means seems to be even more difficult for most of us.

Years ago I was told of a television repairman that worked only in Hollywood, and only serviced rich people’s televisions. He did this not only because of a desire to service them, but also he felt a call to witness to them.

He drove a Cadillac to the home, carried his tools and equipment into the house in very nice leather cases. He would carefully remove items from the TV set and place them elsewhere, then take out a fine piece of heavy velvet to cover the top of the set.

After his work was done, he made it a habit as he put away his tools and replaced items on the top of the set, to share the gospel with his customer. If the person objected he would stop, but most allowed him to continue. This was his calling - to minister to rich people in the hope that he could share his Lord with them.

We need to treat everyone equally.

6. I might suggest one application to the above truth in today’s church. Pastors that institute contemporary music without discussing it with the congregation are in fact showing partiality to those that want this new music. To stop singing hymns that many appreciate and desire is to shun part of the congregation. To tell them they are obstructionists, or old fogies, or a number of other names, is also showing partiality and ought not to be done in the church in any age.

Verse 6

But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?

"Ye have" indicates James knew the specifics of what he was talking about. There was a definite problem among the recipients, and it would seem that it was widespread since he didn’t single out a specific group, but rather seems to address all of them.

How do the rich oppress us today?

a. They make their fortunes from the poor. It has been reported that Oil companies have made tremendous profits off of the latest round of gas price raises, and will continue to do so, since the prices are still high. Profit is the name of the game, but gouging is not.

b. They control politics.

c. They control our thinking to a point through advertising and products they produce.

d. Since they are what they are, and we the poor of the world look up to them in our warped world view they cause us to stumble into covetousness and dissatisfaction with whom and what we are in Christ.

I don’t say this to shift the blame from the individual, but it is rather a fact of life, if you live in America today you are probably covetous to one degree or another. If you are on top of your spiritual game then this is not true, but many in our country pass off mediocre spiritual living as the norm and it is far from the Biblical requirement.

Colossians mentions that covetousness is idolatry. I recently saw a very heated debate on an inter-net forum as to whether Paul meant that covetousness was literally idolatry. My view is that he said it was thus he must have literally meant that it was. Many and varied were the spin doctors that attempted to make it say other than what it said. Why? Why were the spin doctors working so hard? The only reason I can think of is that they don’t want to give up coveting.

"Despised" is the verb - they have put action to their thoughts. They have thought evil things and given action to the detriment of others. Outward sin might be the more blunt way to put it. This is the dishonoring, the insulting, and the contemptuous actions of a believer toward a poor believer. Neat church to have to attend as a poor person isn’t it. Today we can roam from church to church till we find one we can feel comfortable in, but back then there was probably only one or two to go to and that is what you were stuck with.

They despised the poor. How does that translate into our own generation? No American is poor in comparison to some in the third world countries, but how would you class a poor person today - how would you describe them?

Receiving food stamps.

Receiving welfare income.

Receiving house rent subsidies.

Receiving two free meals a day for the children at school.

Receiving free phone service if needed for some reason, be it business or personal.

Receiving kickbacks/refunds from the state and federal government on their income taxes.

Receiving free to low cost medical care.

Receiving free to low cost dental care.

Receiving help with their power bills.

Receiving help with their water and sewer bills.

Receiving free food at the food banks.

Now compare that with some in the third world countries - receiving nothing and starving to death.

Some comparison! We really don’t have "poor" in our country today, but relative to the rich we class them as poor.

How do we despise the poor today? Some of us are disgusted with their taking, taking, taking from the system that is financed on our backs. Some of us think they are lazy and ought to go to work. After all, that is a Biblical principle.

These thoughts might even be correct, but for us to take action on these thoughts would be wrong. We ought not to allow their condition to change how we treat them in the church situation. Indeed, maybe we should try to get involved in their lives and see if we can assist them into self reliance. On top of that, they are lost and don’t know any better, thus why would we feel we should act against them. On the contrary, we should act for them by bringing them to the Lord.

Verse 7

Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?

Back to the rich. It is the rich that blaspheme the name of Christ. How, might be a worthy consideration.

a. Many verbally, outwardly blaspheming Christ in their everyday language.

b. They tend not to worry about the poor. They often take advantage of the poor thus taking advantage of Christ’s chosen.

c. They often pollute the celebration of His birth by commercializing it.

d. They seldom look to the welfare of the poor, fatherless, and widows.

e. By ridiculing your faith.

f. By making fun of things religious, as the media has done for many years.

Verse 8

If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:

What is the "royal law" referring to? A regal law or the law of the king. Some suggest "thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Leviticus 19:18) as the law spoken of here. From the context this is part of the royal law at the very least if not all of it.

The construction seems to me to show that if we obey the law, then the love will be the outworking of our fulfilling, thus indicating that the royal law is actually something else. The fulfilling is a present tense and the loving is a future tense, again indicating that the loving is an outworking of the fulfilling.

Verse nine seems to me to indicate the law of the Old Testament, or some law that is set and that is to be obeyed, and that will convict us if we don’t. At the very least this is a set of commands which cause us to sin, if unfulfilled, as well as have the capability of convicting us of our transgressions.

The Old Testament law certainly fits into this set of requirements. We will see more about this law in the application section.

How do you love that neighbor that sticks a running hose into your open car window and fills your car with water? How do you love that neighbor that knowingly blocks your car in so you can’t move it? How do you love that neighbor that knowingly borrows things and does not return them?

Some might suggest that you love them very grudgingly, but I doubt that is what God meant when He moved James to pen the words.

We should love them as if they have done nothing, especially if we ever want to witness to them about the Lord that we serve.

Verse 9

But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

"Sin" is the same word that is used in Romans 5:12 "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:"

James uses the present tense here, something that is ongoing. Someone once stated that he had never met the Devil so he probably didn’t exist. Someone responded that if you are going the same direction you never meet.

The least you can come away from this text with is that we are definitely not to show respect between persons in the church, and that if we do it is sin. That is enough to cause us to determine not to show prejudice in the church, no matter what law he is speaking about.

Verse 10

Mr. D’s Notes on James

James 2:10-14

For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one [point], he is guilty of all.

The absolute key to the Law and understanding it. The law is unforgiving. The law is absolute. The law is unkeepable. Yet, people constantly are trying to do so.

The proof that it is unkeepable and that it is unforgiving is the sacrificial system that went with the law. The sacrifices were to bring the sinner back to God when the sinner sinned, or broke the law.

If you don’t understand these two principles relating to the law you need to read the Bible more carefully, for James has made it quite clear without sugar coating it. If you offend in any point, no matter how minute, you are guilty of all and need to sacrifice for your error.

Some seem to use this truth as a club. If you break any of the law then you have failed, and they tend to leave the sinner in his sin rather than share the grace of God via the Gospel of Christ. How terrible to condemn the sinner to hell without showing him the grace side of that judging God they one day will face.

James is speaking of a future keeping and offending, not something that is present, nor an activity that is going on necessarily among the brethren. He is saying IF you attempt to keep the whole law and violate it in one point. Remember. This is the context of showing partiality to the rich. Even if you keep the whole law, if you show partiality, you are guilty of the entire law.

Now, there is a side question here. Is James saying if you show partiality you have done no greater sin than murder, have you indeed made yourself the same before God as a murderer, or an idolater, or an adulterer? This seems to be the implication, if you break a small part, then you are guilty of breaking it all. In other words, there isn’t a bunch of laws, there is one law, and the one law is to be obeyed, in all of its little intricacies.

Today, in America, the Federal and state governments, not to leave out county and city governments have created a massive amount of little fine pointed laws to do what they want to accomplish in society. Example, if you kill someone, you will likely be charged with murder, illegal use of a firearm, disturbing the peace, attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, restriction of liberties, and possibly disturbing the peace, illegal use of a deadly weapon, and if it is someone of another race you will be open to charges on federal/state racial laws. We have laws for everything; you can do nothing without breaking someone’s laws.

These are laws, plural, while God has set forth one law, a single all-encompassing law with many sub points. Break one and you are guilty of all.

When I was in the service the order went out that there would be a big inspection. The order included a warning; anyone that did not pass inspection would not go on liberty that weekend. The inspection came. One man had one dirty shoe, another had dirty pants, and another had poorly polished shoes. The three stayed aboard a ship that weekend. Either the whole man passed, or he didn’t pass. One error and it was failure. That is the way of God’s law.

Verses 10-14


1. I would like to digress a moment. This context is based on the wrong concept of showing partiality in the church. This thought of partiality is alive and well today in our churches. We attended a Baptist church in Denver years ago and were introduced just after the group of Baptist Bible college students was introduced. I also was a student at the school, just not introduced as such. After church the students were mobbed and we left the church with not one person speaking to us.

In another church we had been attending Sunday school and church for a couple of months and had not been recognized in any way by anyone. Finally the rumor mill went into action full steam and they found, through the gossip vine, that I was the new manager of a large auto parts store in town (Which was not true.) In both the Sunday school and the worship service we were introduced and asked to stand. In both services both before and after we were mobbed with welcomes and congratulations. We spent a lot of time explaining that the gossip was incorrect and that I was a television repairman for Montgomery Ward. The next Sunday it was back to normal, no one speaking to us. I guess that is what we get for proving the rumor mill incorrect.

I trust enough has been said, so that you will treat all new comers and church members in the same manner. It is very important to God that you do, and it will make your church into a refuge for all comers, not just the few that you feel belong. It is Christ’s church, and all belong, not just a few - all the redeemed should be acceptable in any church of like faith.

2. We have spoken of good works. There are some that would work their way to heaven and there are those that would work like mad to keep the salvation that they have through grace. Now, both are doing good works for the wrong reason, thus they are incorrect works. These works will have nothing to do with their reward, in that they were done for the wrong reason.

How sad, to go through life working to please God yet finding that you have not done so, that you have instead done all this work for no reason at all. The moral to this story is to be doing good works, but be sure you are doing them for the right reason - to please God, and done out of love for Him.

3. Barnes makes the point that no matter how righteous you may be, your good, cannot outweigh the action of one sin. The good cannot count for or against sin. Telling the truth your entire life yet telling one lie on the witness stand is not an equal equation. One lie makes you a liar and guilty of the whole law, and no matter how often you have told the truth, the telling cannot outweigh the one lie.

So it is in marriage. Some men think falling into one act of adultery is not so bad because they have been faithful before and since. Ask some wives how they feel about that faulty thinking. One act of adultery makes you unfaithful, untrustworthy, and suspect in all areas of life. Those twenty years of faithfulness may relate to the wife trying to work things out but I can pretty much guarantee that it will make little effect on the hurt, the pain, and the disgust she has for the one act.

So, it is with those that work in the hope of doing enough good to get into heaven. They have failed in the one point of accepting the work of Christ, thus their good is for naught. All the good in the world cannot outweigh the rejection of Christ’s work on the cross.

4. Constable lists three interpretations for verse fourteen. One is that of the Armenian that sees this as a saved person that has fallen away. The next thought would be that the person is a professing Christian only. The third view which is Constable’s is that the person is saved, and not living correctly, or that the person is not saved.

That is kind of what is called covering your bases - one or the other is true. This is the correct position in my mind as well, so call me a fence rider.

5. Gill makes an interesting observation. He comments that Adam, before the fall had the ability to keep the whole law, but after the fall, he had lost that ability. True the Law had not been given, but in the definition we are using here, that the law is God’s will, Gill’s observation is true, although it is rather mute as a point. The reason being is that Adam’s knowledge of God’s will was to not eat of the one tree. Nothing else was on the agenda, other than tending the garden and his wife, which would have been natural. As long as the fall had not occurred, he was able to keep the law - yes, not eating of the tree - actually not much different than the Old Testament saint, keep the whole law and you keep the law - the Old Testament saint just had a lot more sub points than Adam.

6. The Life Application Bible notes tell us that in the time James was sharing these thoughts with the readers that the Jewish theologian would disagree with him. They would have broken down the law into light and heavy laws. Some less important and others more important.

This dichotomy in thinking is not all that lacking in our own church society today. We tend to view adultery, murder and the like as the heavy or biggies, while those little sins of the personal life are less weighty and would be the lighter sins.

I’m told that some Holiness folks that believe that they are living life perfectly, without sin, achieve this state by believing that not all imperfections are sin. The little stuff isn’t sin, only adultery, murder etc. Thus, they live perfect lives. Very convenient to adapt wrong so easily to prove your doctrine.

The sins of the mind/heart especially are light - so light that many believers today don’t even consider them sin, but just the way they are built. God calls it all sin and it all breaks His will no matter how "small."

They, further suggest that the Christian life is a lifestyle that you must adopt, that the life of purity is something that must be an integrated part of whom we are as believers.

Doctors and experts over the past few years have stated that physical weight problems can only be controlled long term by changing your life style. The permanent changes are required to loose weight and to keep it off. So, the spiritual life is a taking away of sin and keeping it away. The believer must cleanse themselves and assure that they stay that way.

7. The Life Application Bible further notes that a sin against a person, such as showing favoritism, is actually a sin against God. It is His will you thwart by slighting the person.

The "What would Jesus do" fad fits well in the reverse, though no one speaks of it. What would Jesus not do? This is just as valid a question. When you consider your relations with other people, ask these questions for guidance in handling the situation.

When we put sin in the context of offending God, it becomes a little more difficult to rationalize our actions.

8. The Life Application Bible makes the comment that when it comes judgment time, that God’s mercy will win out against His judgment. They further relate that this is due to His character.

What do you think of that line of thought?

I reject the thought in that His mercy is part of His character and His judgment is part of His character. By the nature of these facts neither can win over the other. Judgment deals with judging facts justly. Mercy is about showing mercy. He shows His mercy by offering salvation, but He will judge those that reject salvation.

To accept the statement from the Life Application Bible, we would have to conclude that the Christ rejecter standing before God for the final judgment will be given mercy and be saved from hell because God’s judgment cannot win over His mercy. This line of thought is counter productive to common reason as well as against the teaching of the Word - well not to mention that it is against another of his attributes - TRUTH.

9. Verse fourteen is the substance of a large debate in Christianity today - not the magazine. There is a large discussion whether Lordship is required for salvation. Lordship boils down to the idea of a believer having good works or not. One that has good works has made Christ Lord of his/her life. Someone that has no works cannot have Christ as Lord.

They question the salvation of anyone that has not made Christ Lord of their life and is consistently portraying that commitment through good works.

I believe this is a valid question. Though we might question one’s salvation if they have no good works, we should never judge them as lost, and condemn them as such. That is for the Creator, not the created. To question the person’s salvation and to be concerned about their status before God is normal and good - it gives action to our concerns for the person.

10. Some might suggest, since if we break one point of the law we have broken all, why should we worry about it after we have sinned that first time. A fairly logical conclusion, but it is not God’s conclusion. It is for this very reason that we must continue to try to maintain a pure and holy life.

From the looks of the church in general, we have adopted this polluted thinking, for purity and holiness are far from most people’s consideration today in the church.

There are many issues before the church today relating to moral judgment, and the variety of reaction to immorality is disappointing at best. There are some that take a stand against immorality, while others seem to embrace it.

Verse 11

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.

(See Exodus 20:13-14 and Deuteronomy 5:17-18 for the basis of his comments. See also Matthew 5:19 "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." and Galatians 5:3 "For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.")

This is kind of like sailing through a red light at the proper speed limit. The fact that you were not speeding does not forgive the running of a red light (as many today must think :-)

Here, James supports what I have just stated. In a sense we in America have one law, we call it big brother, that totality of government that we must answer to. We are moving toward God’s concept of one law in America. As my illustration pictures, if you are guilty of one, you are guilty of many, it is not hard to jump to the end result that littering will one day be considered the same as murder. Some environmentalists might suggest this now. Killing and/or abusing animals carry about the same sentence as some murders.

The emphasis seems to be placed on God’s statement of right and wrong. He has declared many things as off limits, thus one or the other matters little, failing in one is failing in all. Killing someone fails God, committing adultery fails God, as does a single lie - all fail God and His expectation for us.

Can you see a better indication in Scripture of our need to be totally pure - other than when we are told to be holy because God is holy? Purity of the individual is the standard set as it is for the church.

Think of the implications of this for the one that attempts to keep the law including worshiping on the Sabbath (Saturday). If you miss one week of church have you broken the entire law? It would seem that you have and that you are guilty of all.

There are those today that take one attribute of God or one command and make that their life’s work. This is wrong. We need to take God in His totality and serve Him in all that He is, not just one part of Him.

Paul, in I Corinthians, speaks of the importance of love but the whole book is not about love. There are those today that stress love to the ignoring of God’s judicial side, His retribution side, and His varied other sides.

Others take Christ’s interest in the social and physical side of people and exclude all other parts. They stress the social doing, rather than the gospel telling. The whole is needed.

Verse 12

So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.

"So speak ye" calls every believer to watch their speech, especially to the brethren. We will be judged by the law of liberty, thus we need to speak as though we know the hammer is raised over our head and ready to fall if we speak unwisely.

Ephesians 4:29 "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers."

If, as we have shown before, the law of liberty is that revealed will of God, then we know that we are free or at liberty to do anything that we want, but here we are shown that some of that freedom will be judged if it is incorrectly used freedom.

We are free to show partiality, but we will be held accountable for doing so. We can practice equality among all and we will be rewarded for our good works. We can speak and do anything we want, but we shall be judged one day yet future.

The speaking and doing are imperatives, or commands, if you will. While we are saying and doing, we are to do it correctly. The saying and doing are not options for life, but commands for life. It is of interest that the judging is also a present tense which means we will be judged along the way as we are saying and doing.

Many speak of the judgment seat of Christ and the future date of that occurrence and well it probably is, but in some manner tabs are being set as we go along the way - God is keeping up with how we are saying and doing. That ought to scare the sloppy living believer - to know that God is watching on a day to day basis and keeping track of how they are doing and that tracking is resulting in continuing judgment.

I don’t know the effect of this ongoing judging, but what if, as we are living poorly, we are being judged and as time goes on there is no change in our lives - will God begin to bring changes into our lives relating to how He is judging us?

This probably relates, in part, to the chastisement of the believer mentioned in Hebrews twelve. It is clear that an erring child of God is chastised for their inappropriate life.

It also probably relates to the fact of John fifteen, where it seems clear that an unfruitful branch is removed - not destroyed, but removed. The clear indication is that an unfruitful believer is open to removal from this life rather than be allowed to damage the whole.

Many teach that you only need to take Jesus on and you are in - true, but there are true ramifications to not moving from the point of salvation onto a righteous way of life filled, with proper actions and good works.

Only believers are subject to this law, all others will be judged by the law that they failed to respond to. All are condemned by the law, but all can be commuted by Christ.

Verse 13

For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

I have to believe that this is one of the lines of thinking that Hatlo’s comic strip was based on. This text speaks to the believer, while Hatlo’s strip was based on those that are in hell. If you are not knowledgeable of this old cartoon, it was a one frame cartoon in which the person in hell is comically portrayed as being tormented according to the way he lived his life. I believe it was entitled Hatlo’s Inferno, but memory is foggy about things that far back. At any rate one that lived a life of being nasty to people was tormented by people being nasty to them for eternity, according to the strip.

Some passages that relate to this thought of us being judged or treated as we speak and to, and do for others are:

Mark 10:31 "But many [that are] first shall be last; and the last first."

Matthew 5:7 "Blessed [are] the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy."

The Lord was clear that we are not to return bad action for bad action, but rather be forgiving as long as one continues to be wronged, even if the other person does not seek forgiveness. Matthew 18:21-22 "Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven."

Verse 14

What [doth it] profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

This text is used often to prove that the believer must work to keep their salvation. The clear indication of those that incorrectly use this verse is that if you have no works you can’t be saved by faith alone.

I have stated many times that I like the arm twisting that is available to those that teach this way. They can look to a person’s works and tell them clearly that if they don’t do more works that they are on their way to hell - that will move many to more works.

However, this is incorrect application of the verse and a wrong concept of why we should have good works. Good works should result from a commitment to serve and love God. It is a labor of love, not a labor of fear.

The term "profit" can also be translated "advantageth." Both words indicate a gain or advantage. James asks if there is any profit to a person that has faith, but no works. Clearly there is no advantage to the person if faith is all he has. The advantage of works on top of faith is the reward and pleasure of God.

The verse is clear to me, that if a person SAYS he has faith, but has no works there is no evidence of his salvation. Faith produces salvation, but salvation normally produces works. Saying you have faith means nothing normally, but if your works are clearly present then they will believe you have the faith.

This is why so many believers, when looking at a "believer" - one that says they are a believer, but has no works - wonder at the "salvation" of the professor. If there were good works, the professed faith would be more believable.

James posses a question. Can faith alone save a person? That is a man professing faith, but having no works - can faith save him? Since this is a professed faith - faith that may or may not exist, most likely not, due to there not being any works - can that kind of faith (false faith) save a man? No is the only answer available.

We will see in the next section that James illustrates this quite clearly. Let’s just read it for now.

15 "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 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? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 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."

It is rather akin to the big bully that comes forth saying he is strong and can whip anyone. At that point his strength profit him nothing, but if he takes on a person or two and proves his strength, then his strength profiteth in that some will fear him.

When I was in grade school we were about to go in for school and I turned and ran into a big kid on a bike. I was a skinny, sickly kid and he was big, older and strong, according to him. He cut his hand on a fancy hand guard on his bike - not sure what good a hand guard is if it cuts your hand, well that is the commercial world for you - anyway, he was hollering at the top of his voice that he was going to beat me to a pulp and that he was going to really hurt me like I had hurt him.

All day in school I was planning my escape plans. I had several plans depending on where he was when I left school. As I tore out of the school, I could not see him, but ran to my bike and was pedaling with fear. I took the most direct route home, and surprise - I didn’t see a trace of the kid. My relief was grand when I rolled into our drive way. His strength and his warnings, and his threats seemed quite fallow.

The Net Bible states that the construction of the sentence is that a negative response is expected from this question, which adds further weight to our explanation of the passage.

Verse 15

Mr. D’s Notes on James

James 2:15-20

If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

This verse is quite clear, if a brother or sister is naked or destitute - nothing lacking in clarity here. James sets the stage for action based on this situation.

He has made it quite clear that he is speaking of a believer that is in trouble. Years ago we heard some hollering in the street outside our home. I looked out and there was a black woman walking down the street nude. She was screaming at a man that was walking with her. She stopped in front of our house and was continuing her screaming.

I was on the phone with the 911 operator telling the woman that we had a naked black woman in the middle of the street. I guess I wasn’t clear because the operator asked "Well, what does she look like, can you describe her?" I told the operator that she was naked and that if she would just send an officer out that I was sure he could recognize her.

Clarity is the key unless you are speaking to someone that has fog in their ears.

James is clear. He wants specific action for the destitute believer - he is using this as a negative illustration, but the thought is when you see a needy believer, take care of that need, don’t send them away lacking. The term naked used here is just that, without clothes. It can describe the human body, or someone with just undergarments on. The thought of the verse is also clear that the person is destitute by no action of his own.

This can be important in this context of helping those that are in need - "need" is the key. I am not sure that help is the real need when someone is destitute by their own action - depends on what they are doing to correct their situation.

"Destitute" is a word that can be translated "lacking" or "wanting." It is used as lack in James 1:5 "If any of you lack wisdom," If you are naked, you are most likely lacking, but the lacking is probably the cause of the nakedness.

Verses 15-20


1. Good works are second nature to the believer. They are foreign to the lost person. Thus the question that must be asked is this. If a person has a lot of good works, is that person saved? My father was always doing nice things for people. Even though he was poor, crippled and had no future, he was always doing for others.

I talked to him about spiritual things toward the end of his life and he mentioned that he had always done a lot of good works in the hope that he would be allowed into heaven. This in itself is not the ticket to heaven as I explained to Him. We must enter heaven via the name of Christ, not our works, but once on our way to heaven we will certainly do good works.

He understood the Gospel, but I do not know if he had accepted the work of Christ or not. The works of Christ are our basis of salvation, our works for Him are our basis for reward - not that reward is the motivation for them.

There are some that view witnessing/visitation as the total basis of good works. This is not so. Witness is an important part of the believers’ life, but it is not the only good work. Anything that you do that furthers the church or good, are good works. It can be teaching, mission work, pastoring, cleaning the church, mowing the church lawn or doing good for one of the poor in the neighborhood. Good works of any sort are right and proper for the believer.

2. We might deviate for a moment and consider James style of delivery. Notice that he, as did the Lord Himself, uses illustrations to bring home a point. There are some in our today’s church that decry illustrations and stories as a waste of the congregation’s time.

They submit that the Word of God will stand on its own. Yes, the Word stands on its own, but the Lord and other Biblical writers used the illustration to give emphasis to the point. Illustrations are not wrong; they only assist the hearer in their understanding and comprehension.

There is that possibility that illustrations can go far past their intended use. I’ve heard speakers use a verse as their "jumping off point" and they never again return to the Word. They simply string one story into the other. This is often called good preaching by those listeners with itching ears.

A well-placed illustration is great for the understanding, but a string of illustrations will tax the patience of the person that came to hear the Word preached.

3. In our time we often hear of the famines around the world and I usually find these accounts of interest, not that I am interested in suffering, but in the fact that we seldom hear of these tragedies in time to give any real assistance. Usually when the American public hears of trouble it is after thousands have died and assistance is too late for many of those that are still alive.

The media almost seems to create their own news by sitting on the news till it is a catastrophe then they will report so they can gain their precious ratings.

When famines break out why isn’t the United Nations on the spot to start calling for food and assistance so the network can be up and running before thousands are dead and near death?

4. Constable gives a good application to this thought of blessing someone in need and then sending them away and the thought of faith without works. He agrees that true faith will bring about works, but he goes a step further. He says if you have a personal belief on specific items, then that should produce works in that area of faith. His example was that of believing that abortion is wrong. That belief should cause us to work against abortion. Not, necessarily to go out and march, but we ought to be vocal against it at every opportunity, we should give to support the repeal of legislation that is counter to that belief and that faith should produce other works.

You can draw your own application from this. If you believe in marriage being for a man and woman, then act on that belief, if you believe that a believer’s responsibility is to witness, then get to it, if you believe that we should give to the ministry of our church, then get into your billfold and do so.

This is a very practical passage and we should make it practical to our own lives. If you have a firm conviction, then act upon it and get busy doing something about it.

5. Just a challenge to your normal hearing of deputation requests from missionaries. These folks are out doing the work of the Lord and have need of assistance from the brethren. Often we hear the requests, but don’t really consider how God might have us relate to those requests. Often I believe pastors say no before they consider what God might be able to do from their congregation.

Next time you hear a request, consider it in light of this passage. You may still have to turn them away without an assist, but you will have given the request due consideration, rather than just brushing it aside out of hand.

We were on deputation for five years and never once did a pastor say that if we came to present our ministry that his church would consider supporting us. Almost every time we were told ahead of time that there would be no support forthcoming. The Lord did bless and raise up some support from those churches through individuals, so the Lord did over-ride the matter of factness given us.

I have received two requests as an individual recently that I have not taken lightly. I can’t, in all sincerity, afford to give further, but feel it is my obligation to give due consideration.

6. Life Application Bible suggests that a person can have a belief of Jesus, without a belief in Jesus. The indication being that you can know of Christ, you can know facts relating to Him and His ministry, and you can know that He existed, but that does not mean that you have a personal belief in Him to save your soul.

I tend to agree, but question, if there is no faith "in" how can there be a proper faith "of" the facts relating to Him. It seems difficult to think of a situation where someone could know all the facts about Him without moving to the understanding of His significance in life.

This may be an important consideration for the church and their ability to reach the lost. How do we assure the person moves from that belief about Him to the belief in Him? Do we even think about it in our ministries today? Often, I fear, people just blurt out the gospel and knowledge and assume the person is accepting the facts and then moving to application of the facts to their life.

I suspect this is the reason many stress discipleship - founding the new convert in the basic doctrines of the church - with this time spent with the person we will see if they have really grasped the facts in a personal way.

7. Possibly we should note that faith without works does not mean that works are required in all situations. There may be situations like the thief on the cross beside the Lord. He had no time for doing of good works other than his verbal confession. There might be a deathbed situation where a person accepts the Lord, but later dies.

We need to use some common sense in our understanding of these doctrines.

8. I am not one for social programs, but there is a real need to address these situations in today’s church. Many in our country are in trouble financially. It may be due to their poor decisions, but that does not matter when they view their current situation.

How are some ways the church can minister to people that are in need?

a. Have financial training classes so that you will stop the cycle of problems in your church. Offer the classes to new members now and then. Teach retirement classes for the seniors. Anything that can help the congregation to be financially responsible.

b. Have a healthy deacon’s fund to assist in the short term.

c. Have a good knowledge of the government social programs that are available to the citizen in your area.

d. Have a food closet for folks to use as they have "need."

e. Have a clothes exchange program where you can donate unused items and pickup items that are needed. This might even include used - working - electronics and tools etc., anything that a person might need but not be able to afford.

f. Have a deacon board that divides the congregation among the deacons and gives them the task of keeping in touch with their charges so that needs might be discovered and met.

g. Sermons on financial and social responsibilities might be needed to properly educate the congregation.

There are many other ways we can minister to members if we just put our minds to it. "Need" is the key however. We don’t need to become a communistic state and share all things commonly, but we certainly do need to serve the needs of our people instead of just giving them a blessing and a God’s speed.

Years ago when in Bible college we had to move from campus housing due to a misunderstanding - move the same day we found out about the misunderstanding. We were in a total mess financially; having to rent a trailer, dig up deposits etc. for a new place. We had our belongings in a trailer behind a six-cylinder Chevy II that barely got the trailer rolling. East of the school was a large hill. It took us two tries to get up the thing.

We had no idea what to do with the albatross on the back. We stopped at our pastor’s house and told him what had happened. A perfect time for him to say bless you, we will be praying for you, but he didn’t take that opportunity, instead he offered us his garage to store our belongings in. What a relief that was, to be able to walk away from that for a few days.

That one small act turned our whole outlook around - it was no longer a situation of desperation, but now there was some hope of surviving this mess that God had allowed upon us. That pastor will never know how real his faith was at that moment. It was literally the step between despair and hope for us.

9. We’ve spoken of the person in need that receives a word of blessing instead of something to help with the need, but let us think of the person walking away from that situation that has been treated poorly.

Now, it is time for true confessions. I watch the Dr. Phil Show, a show about people coming to Dr. Phil for answers to their problems. Normally the person lays out their problems to the national television audience and toward the end of the show, Dr. Phil offers to get them the help that they need, be it doctors or therapy. He makes it happen all the time.

Recently a teenager that had been fighting Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for years was on the show. She laid out her troubles and trials followed by a couple of experts giving a few comments and the summation of the show was - Well we hope you’ve found something in all of this that will help you sort through your problem. No offer of help, no offer of a free book, no offer of further help in any way.

I had to wonder what the young woman felt like, knowing the usual drill of tell all, and get help. She told all and got zip. I had to think she must have felt like chopped liver along side a pile of steaks.

A person that comes for help already has tried all of the options, most likely, and has swallowed what pride they have and comes asking for help. They are probably at about at the lowest point of their life and the person that sends them away with a blessing rather than help shoves them down a little further.

I know this to be the truth because I have been in great need and been blessed and dismissed. You are mad at yourself for opening yourself up, you are mad at yourself for looking to Christians for assistance, and you are mad at yourself for getting yourself into such a situation, even though it may not be your fault.

There is usually a long time of recrimination, then a long time of hurt, followed, all too often, by a long absence from church because of the disgust with Christians. Yes, of course these feelings and actions are incorrect responses, but they are rather natural.

As we come to a conclusion on this passage it is clear why some people speak of James as "where the rubber meets the road." He could have taken off into a long theological discussion about faith, and/or works, but he doesn’t - he just states the facts and moves on.

I trust that we will listen intently to the Spirit of God the next time we are approached by a believer in need.

Barnes states the case well: "If a brother or sister be naked, etc. The comparison in these verses is very obvious and striking. The sense is, that faith in itself, without the acts that correspond to it, and to which it would prompt, is as cold, and heartless, and unmeaning, and useless, as it would be to say to one who was destitute of the necessaries of life, "depart in peace." In itself considered, it might seem to have something that was good; but it would answer none of the purposes of faith unless it should prompt to action. In the case of one who was hungry or naked, what he wanted was not good wishes or kind words merely, but the acts to which good wishes and kind words prompt. And so in religion, what is wanted is not merely the abstract state of mind which would be indicated by faith, but the life of goodness to which it ought to lead. Good wishes and kind words, in order to make them what they should be for the welfare of the world, should be accompanied with corresponding action. So it is with faith. It is not enough for salvation without the benevolent and holy acts to which it would prompt, any more than the good wishes and kind words of the benevolent are enough to satisfy the wants of the hungry, and to clothe the naked, without correspondent action. Faith is not and cannot be shown to be genuine, unless it is accompanied with corresponding acts; as our good wishes for the poor and needy can be shown to be genuine, when we have the means of aiding them, only by actually ministering to their necessities."

Verse 16

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?

I heard a pastor in a chapel session share that one day one of his church members came to his office and told him a long story of problems, and they had increased on that day, when the family car motor failed completely. The man was in desperate need of a car to keep plugging away at his problems through his job.

The pastor was moved, and asked the man if they could pray together about the problem, fully thinking the man would then leave. As the pastor began to pray, all he could think about was the extra car his family owned. It was sitting, waiting to be used. As his prayer went on, he interrupted himself, and told the man that it was not needed that they pray for a car, because it had already been provided. The pastor gave the man the car and the pastor went back to work knowing that he had served God already that day.

This verse illustrates the faith without works. If someone has a need and you bless them and send them away without help, what profit is there? Likewise, if you have faith without works, what profit is there?

When I was in grade school, if I walked an extra four blocks, I could go to the tiny little grocery store that was in the neighborhood. At lunch when I was leaving for school I would stop at the door and ask my dad for a dime. Sometimes he would give me one, other times there was "no profit" because he would send me away with only a goodbye.

On the destitute person’s part, can you imagine the damage to that person when they would come to someone for help and be turned away with a blessing? I have been in this situation and it hurts deeply to be turned away from another believer with the ability to assist but only will send you away with a blessing. How cold those people seem, and how damaged the destitute become when faced with this in an ongoing fashion.

This is why we need to be very sensitive to people in our own time that come to us asking for assistance. When there are so many panhandlers, and scam artists, it is hard to trust anyone that comes looking with their hand out. We need to assist those in need, but we should take care, not to be scammed - a hard situation.

One Sunday morning a young couple with two children came to our church. As the pastor spoke to them, the man finally asked to talk to the pastor alone. He told the pastor that they were having a very hard time and that he would like the church to give them a hand.

The couple knew the staff at a sister church nearby and knew of other pastors in the area so the pastor and deacon opted to give them a check for fifty dollars.

That week the pastor and deacon went to visit the couple. When the man opened the door and saw the pastor and deacon he shut the door and hollered at them to go away. A fifty dollar learning lesson. There was no way that the pastor and deacon could have known this was a scammer, but God asks us to assist, we need to do that as the priority. If we are taken, God will deal with the person one day future.

Verse 17

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

The logical conclusion is that if there are no works, there may not be saving faith, even though the person proclaims it most heartily.

I became involved in a discussion on an internet board with a man that taught baptismal regeneration - that doctrine that tells the person that they must be baptized to be saved. The discussion went on for days, back and forth, and we finally arrived at a point at which I could not move him from his view. He was so close to the Biblical view, but he would not let go of his need for baptism.

A day or two went by and I thought the discussion was over. Finally I received a note from the man saying that he had come to believe that if there is saving faith, that the person will be baptized, which I would agree with, and that this baptism would be the final act of a saving faith.

The point is not that he changed his mind, it was that he clarified his belief and realized that the act of baptism was not salvific, but an act of obedience. We agreed from that point on.

What point would faith be if there was no obedience to baptism? Little, it would indicate that the faith is not of the type that leads to salvation.

This truth from James is so very important to the person that suggests that they are saved. If they are saved, then there will be good works coming from that saving faith. It is important for pastors and teachers to know this as well - now do you see the importance of getting to know your people? If you don’t know them, you will not know if they have good works or not, and if you don’t know this then you must assume their professed faith is true.

We need to know a persons’ status with God to minister to them properly - know their works! Not only should we know if there are works, we need to know if they are works for good or evil. Faith with evil works is not the desired outcome either.

Verse 18

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.

Simple straightforward statement of fact. If you say you have faith, then show it to me by your works. Works are the proof of a persons’ faith. No works and the truth of faith should be suspect.

The idea of works is rather general but seems to dwell on the doing of something. If the person is not in the business of doing, then the faith is suspect. What does, "doing" mean in the Christian life?

I am not sure I can describe it since it is so general. It is the doing of anything that furthers the cause of Christ. Today, we have a lot of doing that I wonder at times if it is really doing for Christ. We’ve seen athletes doing their prayers and kneeling on the field - is that doing? I don’t really know what is in their heart, but at times it seems quite ritualistic and a bit of grandstanding. "Okay, here I am Lord, I’m praying in front of these people, now give me another touchdown!"

I don’t wish to detract from some honest expressions of faith, but the verse speaks to the doing of things, rather than the showing of things. Doing good works in the neighborhood would be much more appropriate in my mind. The teaching of Sunday school, the ushering, the cleaning at the church, the witnessing etc. would be more appropriate in my mind.

The proof isn’t in the pudding, but in the doing when it comes to faith.

Verse 19

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

A standard verse to those today that state that they believe in God. The detractor will obviously say that even the devils believe. This is a truth that we need to deal with. Satan and his workers believe in God, for they have seen Him and know Him, but they do not follow Him. They have rejected His authority over them.

They even fear and tremble at His presence, but they do not submit.

Just as belief in God is not sufficient, neither is faith alone. The two are the same. Belief in God without submission to His gospel is just as dead as faith without works and is about the same thing.

"Believe" in this verse is a close relative of "faith" in the passage. Both have the similar thought. Faith is actually to believe in something. If I have faith in the dollar, I believe that it is sound in the economic market.

The word "tremble" is the only use of the word in the New Testament. It can relate to bristled hair, or great fear. The interesting part of the word usage is that this is a present tense. The fallen angels are in a constant state of trembling, of being uneasy, of being ragged, of being off center. Why? Because they know their end and have no idea when that end will come. Can you imagine being in such a state now for six thousand or so years? They must have a miserable existence while they wait for the hammer to fall and be cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:10 shows the Devil being cast into the lake of fire, and Judges 1:6 states some of the fallen angels are being kept until the judgment - I assume they will be cast into the lake of fire along with the Devil and the lost of all generations.)

The word "devils" speaks of evil spirits, or spirits that are lesser than God and more powerful than man. These would be the fallen angels that know full well what God is and that He does exist. No question in their mind that He exists, and there can be not question in their mind that they are in trouble with the one they have rejected.

Verse 20

But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

Another statement of clear fact. Faith without works is dead. Not partially alive, not kind of alive, but dead - no life. The term "dead" is just that - dead, it is the word used of a person dropping dead. The lexicon states it is "one that has breathed their last."

So, we might want to assure that the works are present in our lives. Not that we have to worry about enough works, but that we have the motivation of love for our Lord that moves us to do good things for Him.

Barnes tends to use plain words in relation to "vain man" when he says, "O vain man. The reference by this language is to a man who held an opinion that could not be defended. The word “vain” used here, (kenov,) means properly empty, as opposed to full--as empty hands, having nothing in them; then fruitless, or without utility or success; then false, fallacious. The meaning here, properly, would be "empty," in the sense of being void of understanding; and this would be a mild and gentle way of saying of one that he was foolish, or that he to maintained an argument that was without sense."

The implication is that if you think faith without works is dead you are empty - in our society might I suggest that they are empty headed? Seems a good translation.

Recently there was a man on television that was justifying his affair as being an old relationship concept that has been around for centuries. It is called poly-fidelity. It is being with only two women at once and being committed to only them. As he talked, he was appearing to be empty-headed and arrogant. Arrogant because he was the superior intellect and all that were listening were a little retarded because they weren’t grasping and embracing his line of baloney. He was empty of understanding for his wife, he was empty of truth and he was empty in his rhetoric.

Verse 21

Mr. D’s Notes on James

James 2:21-26

Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

"Abraham our Father" is proof that the epistle is written to Jewish believers, at least primarily Jewish. He would not have mentioned "our father" if it weren’t for his Jewish readers.

The term "justified" deserves some study at this point. Romans 3:24 uses the same term in relation to salvation. "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:" We can draw from this that the word in James cannot be twisted into something other than its normal easy meaning. It can’t be made to mean something different than usual so it is clear we don’t have a problem in this text.

It seems that James is saying that Abraham was justified by works. We will see in our application later that Ephesians 2:9 tells us, salvation is not of works, thus some would suggest we must have a contradiction in the Word. Not so. We will see the truth of the matter shortly.

Actually, we need to read the context for the full effect. Verses twenty-one through twenty-three state, "21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 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."

Here we see the total package of what James is saying. You must not take verse twenty one and build doctrine upon that limited portion of Scripture. You need the context which gives understanding to the verse.

By works, in twenty-one, he means the package of faith plus works which he has been talking about in the previous context. The two go together, the two are inseparable, and one is not valid without the other.

No, works cannot save, but faith producing works certainly does.

We might give a little thought to what justification is. I will include a more detailed study at the end of this section if you want further information.

Verses 21-26


1. We have spoken of works. Just what constitutes a work? Probably, that is a dumb question to many, but there is good reason for the question. In Christianity today "work" has many thoughts. To some it is action, to others it is thought. Now, if indeed it is a thought then I can think of good things to do and I have done good works - no that is not logical but that is the end result of what some teach. There are some that suggest that belief is a work. If I have belief/faith in Christ then I have done a work and it is not really salvation because salvation is not of "works lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:9)

They believe that God does it all within you and you have nothing to do with it. You see, if anything is a work on man’s part it detracts from the sovereignty of God - or so they believe. They are so intent that man is not going to have anything to do with salvation that they loose sight of logic.

The idea of work in the Bible seems to be action, rather than thought. Thought is an action of the mind while work is an action of the body. This is a clear distinction you must retain when dealing with the strong Calvinist.

2. Romans 6:6-7 might be of interest. "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with [him], that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7 For he that is dead is freed from sin." The term "freed" is the same word that is translated "justify" in our context and in other passages on justification.

The term has the thought of being freed. This passage tells us we are freed from sin - we don’t have to sin, any sin in our life is because we want to do it and make the decision to do so. This passage really puts a rest to the thought of "the Devil made me do it" as well as the thought that we have a battle that rages within - that battle that often defeats us in our battle for purity - that battle between the old nature and the new nature.

We sin because we decide to turn against God and no other reason. Our own fault, our own decision, our own rebellion. That puts a much different light on our sin and should make us want to clean up our lives and keep them that way.

3. Barnes is quite specific about faith and works and so he should be. He mentions, "There is as much necessity that faith and works should be united to constitute true religion, as there is that the body and soul should be united to constitute a living man. If good works do not follow, it is clear that there is no true and proper faith; none that justifies and saves. If faith produces no fruit of good living, that fact proves that it is dead, that it has no power, and that it is of no value."

This is a very clear teaching of Scripture, and we need to use it in our lives. That person at work that claims to be a believer, that is involved in cheating, in all sorts of wrong acts, the one that is far from living a Christian life - they probably are living that way because they are lost.

How do we use that knowledge? Do we condemn them at every turn? No, we treat them like any other lost person and do what we can to bring them to the Lord.

This knowledge should never be a negative to the person that is under consideration, but a positive, in that we know how to deal with them, and pray for their salvation. It should concern us that they believe they are saved, yet having no works to indicate it, and thus prove they are not. That one has been duped into false security and it should move us to clarify their situation as lovingly as we can.

4. Constable makes a correct distinction when he mentions that "justify" means to "declare righteous," not "make righteous." To declare someone righteous the first time is speaking of salvation, while in Abraham’s case in James there was a second declaration of some sort.

He continues that salvation justification is a spiritual experience viewed only by God, but that when one is justified by works he is viewed by man as being righteous. This is true, but I am not totally convinced that is what James was thinking about.

He does make a good observation in the problem between Paul and James when he states that Paul was writing people that were in danger of relying on works for their salvation and James is dealing with people that have excused themselves from works as they relate to Christian living.

5. If, this passage speaks to Abraham being justified by works and since Rahab was justified by works, then might we assume that there is some justification by works? Yes, and we must understand it in the light that Rahab’s works justified her unto the saving of her physical life, not her spiritual life, though that followed.

Might James be speaking of a similar physical saving of Abraham’s life through his works? Might James be saying something like this? You might be saved in the spiritual realm before God, but you will not be considered saved in the physical world, before men, unless you have works.

I think this might be exactly what he is saying.

6. Constable notes the many dissimilarities between James two illustrations. Here are his and some others.


Man Woman

Leader of nations Prostitute

Top dog Lowest of low

Man of means Woman of poverty

Follower of God Observer of God

Major Bible character Minor Bible character

Pleaser of God Pleaser of men

Man of faith Woman of profit

Fearful of God Fearful of man

Rich Poor

This contrast may revert back to the original thoughts of James that you should not show favor one over the other - this contrast is the favored versus the favored over, in picture form.

7. There are two items that we need to mention. Just because there are works, does not mean that there is spiritual life. The lost, at times, can do works in abundance. The second item is related to the first. Works are not always good works. They may be good in nature, but may not be good by motivation. Works motivated by fear or works motivated by a hope of eternal gain are not good works in reality, but good in nature only.

8. Gill mentions: "Was not Abraham our father justified by works,.... Not as the causes of his justification, that is denied, Romans 4:2 but as effects of it, showing the truth of his faith, and the reality of his justification: he had both faith and works, and the former were known by the latter; and even the faith which he had expressed years ago was manifested, demonstrated, and confirmed to be true and genuine, by the instance of his obedience to God, here produced; by which it appeared he was a true believer, a justified person, approved of God, and loved by him. Now if this was the case of Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, yea, the father of the faithful, of all that believe, he is, and must be a vain man, that talks of faith without works; and his faith must be a dead one, and he be very unlike the father of them that believe:"

How vain and arrogant are we to say we are saved and not have works, if Abraham the father of all Jews and the benefactor of all that believe, followed salvation with works? We are an affront, not only to Abraham, but to God Himself if we profess salvation without works to demonstrate such. Not that we are to go out daily to prove to man we are saved, but that we go forth daily living as we ought as a child of God.

9. "Friend of God" is the statement that James made of Abraham (Verse twenty-three). How about you? He was willing to give all to God, are you? Give your house, your car, your many toys, and your all?

Doesn’t John 15:13 give the similar thought? Lay down your life for a friend - the no greater love idea. The same word is used in 15:14 of our relationship to Christ if we keep His commandments. Simple enough follow what He tells you to do and you are His friend. The opposite seems to be true, if you don’t do His bidding, you are not His friend. The options are clear and only one seems to be a good one to follow. (This is mentioned of Abraham in the Old Testament as well. 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8)

That truth should relate to how you pray. You are talking with your friend if you are walking with Him. He will respond as such if we approach Him as such.

The same truth should convict us greatly when we are not walking with Him. We ought to feel terrible about the way we are treating our friend. Especially in light of the fact that He will never treat you with such disrespect.

What are some characteristics of a friend?


Can talk to them

Can rely on them

Can lean on them

Can trust them

Can tell them anything

Can get to know them



Always there

We have all that with God and we thumb our nose at Him and His friendship for a closer walk with the world that certainly is not our friend. Consider a list of the characteristics of an enemy when you have a moment or two. Which is the logical choice for fellowship?

10. Gill brings up the point that Rahab believed when her countrymen did not. This, in my mind is an incorrect observation. Indeed, it illustrates perfectly what was stated earlier. James mentioned that the devils believe, but it takes the action of faith to bring about salvation. Rahab told the spies that the countrymen knew of the exploits of Israel and feared them (Joshua 2:10 ff), but Rahab took action to save herself from physical destruction.

This is not to say that the devils could save themselves by acting toward God, their judgment is set, just waiting to be carried out in the end time.

11. Life Application Bible suggests the believer ask themselves two questions as they consider their spiritual life. " Who am I trusting? and Why am I working?"

If you trust anyone or any thing for your salvation other than God Himself, you trust in the wrong thing. If you aren’t working out of love for Christ, then you are working for the wrong reason. This simplifies trying to figure out if you are spiritual or not. If you serve God and work out of your love for Him, then you are doing all that you can toward your own spiritual satisfaction.

Barnes has a lengthy comment that is worthy of quoting to close out our discussion of this section. After this there is a section from my theology on justification that might be of interest to you.

"Justified by works. That is, in the sense in which James is maintaining that a man professing religion is to be justified by his works. He does not affirm that the ground of acceptance with God is that we keep the law, or are perfect; or that our good works make an atonement for our sins, and that it is on their account that we are pardoned; nor does he deny that it is necessary that a man should believe in order to be saved. In this sense he does not deny that men are justified by faith; and thus he does not contradict the doctrine of the apostle Paul. But he does teach that where there are no good works, or where there is not a holy life, there is no true religion; that that faith which is not productive of good works is of no value; that if a man has that faith only, it would be impossible that he could be regarded as justified, or could be saved; and that consequently, in that large sense, a man is justified by his works; that is, they are the evidence that he is a justified man, or is regarded and treated as righteous by his Maker. The point on which the apostle has his eye is the nature of saving faith; and his design is to show that a mere faith which would produce no more effect than that of the demons did, could not save. In this he states no doctrine which contradicts that of Paul."

That concludes this section, but I have included a large quote from Barnes that details his thinking on the faith/works issue as it relates to the seeming differences between James and Paul. It might be useful for you in the future if you want to do a more detailed study.


"At the close of the exposition of this chapter, it may be proper to make a few additional remarks on the question in what way the statements of James can be reconciled with those of Paul, on the subject of justification. A difficulty has always been felt to exist on the subject; and there are, perhaps, no readers of the New Testament who are not perplexed with it. Infidels, and particularly Voltaire, have seized the occasion which they supposed they found here to sneer against the Scriptures, and to pronounce them to be contradictory. Luther felt the difficulty to be so great that, in the early part of his career, he regarded it as insuperable, and denied the inspiration of James, though he afterwards changed his opinion, and believed that his epistle was a part of the inspired canon; and one of Luther’s followers was so displeased with the statements of James, as to charge him with willful falsehood.--Dr. Dwight’s Theology, Serra. lxviii. The question is, whether their statements can be so reconciled, or can be shown to be so consistent with each other, that it is proper to regard them both as inspired men? Or, are their statements so opposite and contradictory, that it cannot be believed that both were under the influences of an infallible Spirit? In order to answer these questions, there are two points to be considered: first, what the real difficulty is; and, secondly, how the statements of the two writers can be reconciled, or whether there is any way of explanation which will remove the difficulty.

"I. What the difficulty is. This relates to two points--that James Seems to contradict Paul in express terms, and that both writers make use of the same case to illustrate their opposite sentiments.

"(1.) That James seems to contradict Paul in express terms. The doctrine of Paul on the subject of justification is stated in such language as the following: "By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight," Romans 3:20. "We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law," Romans 3:28. "Being justified by faith," Romans 5:1. "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ," Galatians 2:16. Compare Romans 3:24-26; Galatians 3:11; Titus 3:5-6.

"On the other hand, the statement of James seems to be equally explicit that a man is not justified by faith only, but that good works come in for an important share in the matter. "Was not Abraham our father justified by works?" James 2:21. "Seest thou how faith wrought with his works?" James 2:22. "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only," James 2:24.

"(2.) Both writers refer to the same case to illustrate their views-- the case of Abraham. Thus Paul (Romans 4:1-3) refers to it to prove that justification is wholly by faith. "For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness." And thus James (James 2:21-22) refers to it to prove that justification is by works: "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?"

"The difficulty of reconciling these statements would be more clearly seen if they occurred in the writings of the same author; by supposing, for example, that the statements of James were appended to the fourth chapter of the epistle to the Romans, and were to be read in connexion with that chapter. Who, the infidel would ask, would not be struck with the contradiction? Who would undertake to harmonize statements so contradictory? Yet the statements are equally contradictory, though they occur in different writers, and especially when it is claimed for both that they wrote under the influence of inspiration.

"II. The inquiry then is, how these apparently contradictory statements may be reconciled, or whether there is any way of explanation that will remove the difficulty. This inquiry resolves itself into two --whether there is any theory that can be proposed that would relieve the difficulty, and whether that theory can be shown to be well founded.

"(1.) Is there any theory which would remove the difficulty--any explanation which can be given on this point which, if true, would show that the two statements may be in accordance with each other and with truth?

"Before suggesting such an explanation, it may be further observed, that, as all history has shown, the statements of Paul on the subject of justification are liable to great abuse. All the forms of Antinomianism have grown out of such abuse, and are only perverted statements of his doctrine. It has been said, that if Christ has freed us from the necessity of obeying the law in order to justification; if he has fulfilled it in our stead, and borne its penalty, then the law is no longer binding on those who are justified, and they are at liberty to live as they please. It has been further said, that if we are saved by faith alone, a man is safe the moment he believes, and good works are therefore not necessary. It is possible that such views as these began to prevail as early as the time of James, and, if so, it was proper that there should be an authoritative apostolic statement to correct them, and to cheek these growing abuses. If, therefore, James had, as it has been supposed he had, any reference to the sentiments of Paul, it was not to correct his sentiments, or to controvert them, but it was to correct the abuses which began already to flow from his doctrines, and to show that the alleged inferences did not properly follow from the opinions which he held; or, in other words, to show that the Christian religion required men to lead holy lives, and that the faith by which it was acknowledged that the sinner must be justified, was a faith which was productive of good works.

"Now, all that is necessary to reconcile the statements of Paul sad James, is to suppose that they contemplate the subject of justification from different points of view, and with reference to different inquiries. Paul looks at it before a man is converted, with reference to the question how a sinner may be justified before God; James after a man is converted, with reference to the question how he may show that he has the genuine faith which justifies. Paul affirms that the sinner is justified before God only by faith in the Lord Jesus, and not by his own works; James affirms that it is not a mere speculative or dead faith which justifies, but only a faith that is productive of good works, and that its genuineness is seen only by good works. Paul affirms that whatever else a man has, if he have not faith in the Lord Jesus, he cannot be justified; James affirms that no matter what pretended faith a man has, if it is not a faith which is adapted to produce good works, it is of no value in the matter of justification. Supposing this to be the true explanation, and that these are the "stand-points" from which they view the subject, the reconciliation of these two writers is easy: for it was and is still true, that if the question is asked how a sinner is to be justified before God, the answer is to be that of Paul, that it is by faith alone, "without the works of the law;" if the question be asked, how it can be shown what is the kind of faith that justifies, the answer is that of James, that it is only that which is productive of holy living and practical obedience.

"(2.) Is this a true theory? Can it be shown to be in accordance with the statements of the two writers? Would it be a proper explanation if the same statements had been made by the same writer? That it is a correct theory, or that it is an explanation founded in truth, will be apparent, if

"(a) the language used by the two writers will warrant it;

"(b) if it accords with a fair interpretation of the declarations of both writers; and

"(c) if, in fact, each of the two writers held respectively the same doctrine on the subject.

"(a) Will the language bear this explanation? That is, will the word justify, as used by the two writers, admit of this explanation? That it will, there need be no reasonable doubt; for both are speaking of the way in which man, who is a sinner, may be regarded and treated by God as if he were righteous--the true notion of justification. It is not of justification in the sight of men that they speak, but of justification in the sight of God. Both use the word justify in this sense---Paul as affirming that it is only by faith that it can be done; James as affirming, in addition, not in contradiction, that it is by a faith that produces holiness, and no other.

"(b) Does this view accord with the fair interpretation of the declarations of both writers?

"In regard to Paul, there can be no doubt that this is the point from which he contemplates the subject, to wit, with reference to the question how a sinner may be justified. Thus, in the epistle to the Romans, where his principal statements on the subject occur, he shows, first, that the Gentiles cannot be justified by the works of the Law, (Romans 1:1-32) and then that the same thing is true in regard to the Jews, (Romans 2:1-29; Romans 3:1-31) by demonstrating that both had violated the law given them, and were transgressors, and then (Romans 3:20) draws his conclusion "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight"--the whole argument showing conclusively that he is contemplating the subject before a man is justified, and with reference to the question how he may be.

"In regard to James, there can be as little doubt that the point of view from which he contemplates the subject, is after a man professes to have been justified by faith, with reference to the question what kind of faith justifies, or how it may be shown that faith is genuine. This is clear,

"(a)? ? ? ? because the whole question is introduced by him with almost express reference to that inquiry: "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? " Romans 2:14. That is, can such faith-- can this faith (h pistiv) save him? In other words, he must have a different kind of faith in order to save him. The point of James’ denial is not that faith, if genuine, would save; but it is, that such a faith, or a faith without works, would save.

"(b)? ? ? ? That this is the very point which he discusses, is further shown by his illustrations, James 2:15-16; James 2:19. He shows (James 2:15-16) that mere faith in religion would be of no more value in regard to salvation, than if one were naked and destitute of food, it would meet his wants to say, "Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled;" and then, (James 2:19,) that even the demons had a certain kind of faith in one of the cardinal doctrines of religion, but that it was a faith which was valueless--thus showing that his mind was on the question what is true and genuine faith.

"(c) Then he shows by the case to which he refers, (James 2:21-23,) the case of Abraham, that this was the question before his mind. He refers not to the act when Abraham first believed --the act by which as a sinner he was justified before God; but to an act that occurred twenty years after--the offering up of his son Isaac. See Barnes on "James 2:21" and through verse 23. He affirms that the faith of Abraham was of such a kind that it led him to obey the will of God; that is, to good works. Though, as is implied in the objection referred to above, he does not refer to the same case to which Paul referred-- the case of Abraham--yet it is not to the same act in Abraham. Paul (Romans 4:1-3) refers to him when he first believed, affirming that he was then justified by faith; James refers indeed to an act of the same man, but occurring twenty years after, showing that the faith by which he had been justified was genuine. Abraham was, in fact, according to Paul, justified when he believed, and, had he died then, he would have been saved; but according to James, the faith which justified him was not a dead faith, but was living and operative, as was shown by his readiness to offer his son on the altar.

"(d)? ? ? ? Did each of these two writers in reality hold the same doctrine on the subject? This will be seen, if it can be shown that James held to the doctrine of justification by faith, as really as Paul did; and that Paul held that good works were necessary to show the genuineness of faith, as really as James did.

"(1.) They both agreed in holding the doctrine of justification by faith. Of Paul’s belief there can be no doubt. That James held the doctrine is apparent from the fact that he quotes the very passage in Genesis, (Genesis 15:6,) and the one on which Paul relies, (Romans 4:1-3,) as expressing his own views--"Abraham believed God, and it was imputed auto him for righteousness." The truth of this James does not deny, but affirms that the Scripture which made this declaration was fulfilled or confirmed by the act to which he refers.

"(2.) They both agreed in holding that good works are necessary to show the genuineness of faith. Of James’ views on that point there can be no doubt. That Paul held the same opinion is clear

"(a) from his own life, no man ever having been more solicitous to keep the whole law of God than he was.

"(b) From his constant exhortations and declarations, such as these: "Created in Christ Jesus unto good works," Ephesians 2:10; "Charge them that are rich that they be rich in good works," 1 Timothy 6:17-18; "In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works," Titus 2:7; "Who gave himself for us, that he might purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works," Titus 2:14; "These things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works," Titus 3:8.

"(c) It appears from the fact that Paul believed that the rewards of heaven are to be apportioned according to our good works, or according to our character and our attainments in the divine life. The title indeed to eternal life is, according to him, in consequence of faith; the measure of the reward is to be our holiness, or what we do. Thus he says, (2 Corinthians 5:10,) "For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body." Thus also he says, (2 Corinthians 9:6,) "He which soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully." And thus also he says, (Romans 2:6,) that God "will render to every man according to his deeds." See also the influence which faith had on Paul personally, as described in the third chapter of his epistle to the Philippians. If these things are so, then these two writers have not contradicted each other, but, viewing the subject from different points, they have together stated important truths which might have been made by any one writer without contradiction; first, that it is only by faith that a sinner can be justified--and second, that the faith which justifies is that only which leads to a holy life, and that no other is of value in saving the soul. Thus, on the one hand, men would be guarded from depending on their own righteousness for eternal life; and, on the other, from all the evils of Antinomianism. The great object of religion would be secured--the sinner would be justified, and would become personally holy."



Copyright Rev. Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. 1992

"Justification may be defined as that judicial act of God by which, on account of Christ, to whom the sinner is united by faith, He declares that sinner to be no longer exposed to the penalty of the law but restored to divine favor." (Pardington, Rev. George P. Ph.D.; "OUTLINE STUDIES IN CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE"; Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1926, pp 316-317)

Pardington continues in a note, "In the New Testament, the word "justify" means not to make righteous, but to declare righteous. And justification is the state of one who is thus declared righteous"

Let’s look at the terms used in the New Testament.


"dikaiosis" "denote the act of pronouncing righteous, justification, acquittal; its precise meaning is determined by that of the verb "dikaioo", to justify" (Vine, W. E.; "AN EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF NEW TESTAMENT WORDS"; Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co.)

Romans 4:25 "Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification." (Scofield mentions "for" in both cases can be translated "on account of.") Romans 5:18 "...by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life."

"dikaioma" "has three distinct meanings, and seems best described comprehensively as "a concrete expression of righteousness;" it is a declaration that a person or thing is righteous, and hence, broadly speaking, it represents the expression and effect of "dikaiosis"" (Vine) This word is translated ordinances, judgment, righteousness and justification.


"dikaioo" "primarily, to deem to be right" (Vine) These terms are very closely related to the terms translated righteousness.

Now, that we have seen the terms, we need to draw some conclusions from their usage in the Scriptures.

JUSTIFICATION IS DEPENDENT ON THE RESURRECTION: Romans 4:25, "Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification." It would seem that the resurrection was a prerequisite for our justification. This would relate to the fact that if there were no resurrection, Christ could not enter the heavenly tabernacle to offer His blood. Without the offering of His blood there could be no justification.

JUSTIFICATION IS A FREE GIFT FROM CHRIST: Romans 5:18, "Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life." Christ provided, in His death, the justification of all that come to Him for salvation.

JUSTIFICATION IS DEPENDANT ON BELIEF: Acts 13:39, "And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." (See also, Romans 3:26)

JUSTIFICATION IS NOT BASED ON WORKS: Romans 3:20, "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law [is] the knowledge of sin." (See also Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16) There is nothing that we can do to secure justification. We cannot gain it by keeping the law, we cannot gain it by keeping a list of do’s and don’ts, and we can’t gain it by giving up material items.

We might just insert a brief commentary on the thought of legalism. Legalism in the Bible is the attempt to keep the law to gain salvation. There are those today that relate legalism to many other thoughts.

BIBLICALLY, legalism is keeping the law for salvation.

Some charge that anyone that keeps a list of do’s and don’ts is a legalist. NOT SO! God keeps a list of do’s and don’ts in the Word, and He is not a legalist. Lists are not wrong! If a person is attempting to gain salvation by keeping those lists, then they are legalistic.

Don’t allow someone to condemn you because God has burdened your heart to not do something. It is between you and God, and it is not legalism. If your convictions are based on the Word, then you are responsible before God to follow them. Do it.

JUSTIFICATION CORRECTS THE PROBLEMS OF THE FLESH: Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16. The natural position of man is one which will result in the lake of fire. That position is changed by the work of justification. Justification corrects all that Adam brought upon mankind.

JUSTIFICATION IS RELATED TO REDEMPTION: We cannot be justified, until we are redeemed. Yes, the two occur in an instant, yet justification cannot occur until we are redeemed. Romans 3:24

JUSTIFICATION COMES VIA THE GRACE OF GOD: Romans 3:24, "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:" (Also Titus 3:7) We fell with Adam, and God was not responsible. He had no obligation to do anything, yet because He was gracious, He extended salvation as a remedy to our problem.

JUSTIFICATION BRINGS SONSHIP: "That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:7 Again, we see the sequence of the salvation event. We are justified, and then we have sonship available. Sonship then is dependent upon justification. This is only logical. God is not going to share His Son’s kingdom with children of Satan.

JUSTIFICATION IS BY FAITH: Justification cannot be worked for, bought, or stolen. It is dependent on the faith of the individual that comes to Christ for salvation. (Romans 3:28; Romans 3:30; Romans 5:1; Galatians 3:24)

JUSTIFICATION IS PROVIDED BY GOD: "Seeing [it is] one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith." Romans 3:30 (It comes by belief; Romans 4:5. It frees us from all charges; Romans 8:33.)

JUSTIFICATION IS ACCOMPLISHED BY CHRIST’S BLOOD: "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him." Romans 5:9 His blood being offered in the heavenly tabernacle opened the way for justification to become a reality. With no blood, there would be no justification. We were fully dependent upon Christ and His provision.

JUSTIFICATION IS A RESULT OF PREDESTINATION: "Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." (Romans 8:30) Again, we see the sequence aspect of salvation. In this text justification is preceded by our calling, and followed by glorification.

JUSTIFICATION IS CARRIED OUT BY THE HOLY SPIRIT: "And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:11) As in most of the great doctrines of salvation, God the Father enacted the program, God the Son made provision for the program, and God the Holy Spirit brings the program to pass in the individuals life.

JUSTIFICATION IS FOR ALL PEOPLES: "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, [saying], In thee shall all nations be blessed." (Galatians 3:8) God provided salvation to all peoples in the beginning, but in Abraham narrowed His focus for a time. This is not to say that only Jews could be saved, but that the Jews were the messengers. In Abraham, all nations were to be blessed.

JUSTIFICATION SHOULD RESULT IN A CHANGED WALK: "the just shall live by faith." Our walk should be based completely on faith in God. Our lives should be planned by faith, our years should be planned by faith, and our every minute should be planned by faith.

This is not a request, but a command. God expects us to live by faith, no matter what situation we find ourselves in. It has always interested me to notice that our Christian colleges and seminaries attempt to teach their students to live by faith. They expect their faculty to live by faith. Yet, the organization is somehow magically exempt from this concept. The School must survive, so the students WILL have money for school before they arrive. Many students have been turned away at registration because they do not have a specific amount of money.

If the student is to walk by faith, and the faculty is to walk by faith, then how can they learn this concept if the institution is not operating by faith? Seems somewhat illogical to me.

I would like to list some quotations which will further define the thought of justification.

Chafer mentions, "Imputed righteousness is the ground of justification. According to the New Testament usage, the words "righteousness" and "justify" are from the same root. God declares the one justified forever whom He sees in Christ. It is an equitable decree since the justified one is clothed in the righteousness of God. Justification is not a fiction or a state of feeling; it is rather an immutable reckoning in the mind of God. Like imputed righteousness, justification is by faith (Romans 5:1), through grace (Titus 3:4-7), and made possible through the death and resurrection of Christ (Romans 3:24; Romans 4:25). It is abiding and unchangeable since it rests only on the merit of the eternal son of God.

"Justification is more than forgiveness, since forgiveness is the cancellation of sin while justification is the imputing of righteousness. Forgiveness is negative (the removal of condemnation), while justification is positive (the bestowing of the merit and standing of Christ)." (Chafer, Lewis Sperry/Revised by Walvoord, John F.; "MAJOR BIBLE THEMES"; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974, p 200)

Chafer in his systematic theology: "Theologically considered, the term justification means to be declared righteous. It is true that, being in Christ, the believer is righteous; but justification is the divine acknowledgment and declaration that the one who is in Christ is righteous. That which God thus publishes He defends. Justification is immutable." (Chafer, Lewis Sperry; "SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY"; Dallas, TX: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947, Vol. III, p 128)

The Westminster Shorter Catechism states, "Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone."

The opposite of justification seems to be condemnation. We were condemned to the lake of fire, and now we are justified.


I would like to share some thoughts from Best Sermon Pictures by Lawson; Moody Press. They were quoting The Sunday School Times. "An instrument used for weighing gold in the assay office is balanced so delicately that, when two pieces of paper, of exactly the same size and weight, are placed on the balances, it still retains the same poise. But if a name be written on one of the papers, it will turn the scale. The name of Jesus on the heart turns the scale into peace and presence of God. It is the possession of His name thus written that spells "saved." It is the lack of it that spells "lost."

Justification has been defined as "just as if I had never sinned." Indeed, it is more than that. It is as if I were Christ, in which there is no sin. I have the same standing before God that Christ has. Ponder that point for awhile.

Verse 22

Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

This seems to support that which has been said, that works do not complete salvation, but rather complete the faith that provides salvation.

This, by the way gives a wrinkle for the Calvinist. They state that faith is the gift of God that allows us salvation. If that were true why would faith, given by God, need perfecting by works - couldn’t God give a perfect faith - certainly He could and would have if that were the way of things.

Verse 23

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.

"And the scripture was fulfulled" refers to Genesis 15:2 ff "And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house [is] this Eliezer of Damascus? 3 And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. 4 And, behold, the word of the LORD [came] unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. 5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. 6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness."

This sets Abram’s salvation as a done deal, long before he offered Isaac, thus proving that his offer of Isaac was a work unrelated to salvation, but a work proving his salvations existence. (Genesis 22:9 ff is the account of Isaac being offered.) One might also call to attention that he was saved before he was circumcised. This might give the infant baptizers a slight problem because most of them relate baptism to circumcision in one way or another. Abraham was saved before his circumcision, thus anyone baptized should be saved before they get wet.

There seems to be a back side to this passage - it seems, that had Abraham not done works there would not have been that perfecting, and that Scripture would not have been fulfilled, and further that righteousness would not have been imputed, and he would not have been a friend of God.

If this be true, would not it also be true that he was not saved, because "imputed unto him for righteousness" is salvation according to many. Either we have a works salvation for Old Testament saints or we have to understand "imputed unto him for righteousness" in another way than salvation.

Romans 4:16 ff makes it clear that the righteousness was due to the faith/belief rather than any work. "Therefore [it is] of faith, that [it might be] by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, 17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, [even] God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. 18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. 19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: 20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness."

Given the Romans passage, we must understand the James’ text in its light. The James passage cannot contradict the Romans so they must be reconciled. Verse twenty three seems to be a separate thought from twenty-two. This would make it consistent with the Roman’s text. Faith is perfected or made complete by works, but works does not bring the faith, nor does it supplement faith in the area of salvation. Faith is sufficient to the salvation of man, but works are that completed picture of the faith that is present within.

Verse 24

Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

Okay, now, who put that verse in my finely appointed commentary? This nearly requires works to be part of justification, and justification is a part of the salvation process - and the verse is clear that it is not by faith only! So, what goes with this passage? And what is with the next verse - it is just as bad.

Verse 25

Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent [them] out another way?

Certainly these picture works as a part of justification. However we need the following verse to qualify how we understand the rest of the context.

Verse 26

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Again, the thought of real faith producing works as being the key, rather than faith plus works producing salvation.

Acts 13:39 requires our interpretation. It states clearly that belief is the basis of justification, and belief only. "And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the Law of Moses."

Consider also Romans 3:24 "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:" Romans 3:30 "Seeing [it is] one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith." Romans 4:2 "For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath [whereof] to glory; but not before God. 3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." Romans 4:5 "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. 6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works," Romans 5:1 "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:" Romans 8:30 "Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." Romans 8:33 "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? [It is] God that justifieth." Galatians 2:16 "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." Galatians 3:8 "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, [saying], In thee shall all nations be blessed." Galatians 3:24 "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith."

These verses make it clear that justification is from faith/belief, and not works. The James’ text must be understood within this context and not seen as a "contradiction" in Scripture as some suggest.

Joshua 6:25 gives some insight into the James’ text. "And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father’s household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel [even] unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho." (See Joshua 2:13 ff as well) The salvation given Rahab in this context is physical not spiritual. Reread the passage with this understanding.

Bibliographical Information
Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on James 2". "Derickson's Notes on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sdn/james-2.html.
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