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Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

James 2

Verse 1

Jas 2:1. Have is from ECHO which requires two full pages in Thayer's lexicon for definitions. The specific meaning of it in any given passage must therefore be determined by the way it is used. In this verse the writer discusses the subject of proper treatment for others and hence it means they are not to hold or exercise the faith as stated. Respect of persons comes from one Greek word that means "partiality." The faith is used as a term for the whole system of religious practice under Christ. Therefore the verse means they should not show partiality in the exercises that pertain to the public assembly. (See verse 4.)

Verse 2

Jas 2:2. This verse merely describes two men in different classes as to their possessions and personal appearance. Nothing is said of character or anything that pertains to actual merit.

Verse 3

Jas 2:3. This verse indicates they had the services of ushers, and they would seat the audience as they were coming in, showing a preference for the "well-dressed" ones by giving them the most desirable places.

Verse 4

Jas 2:4. Here the writer uses the very word of our definition by saying they are partial. Judges of is rendered "judges having" by The Englishman's Greek New Testament. The passage means those people had evil thoughts when they were judging or deciding on who should sit where.

Verse 5

Jas 2:5. A man will not be given any special credit in the kingdom of heaven by virtue of his being poor. The conditions of salvation are such that the poor have the same chance as the rich. Moreover, since the conditions require a great deal of humility and sacrifice, the poor generally are the more ready to accept it. In that sense the poor are chosen to be rich in faith. Such richness in faith is what makes them heirs or entitles them to the advantage of the kingdom. This is also according to the promise that has been made by Christ and the apostles.

Verse 6

Jas 2:6. To despise means to belittle or look down upon, and some of the disciples had been guilty of such an attitude toward people who were poor. It is usually the rich people who resort to the courts in suits of oppression in order to squeeze a little more money out of unfortunate debtors.

Verse 7

Jas 2:7. Thayer defines the original for blaspheme as follows: "To speak reproachfully, rail at, calumniate [accuse falsely]." The worthy name is Christ whom oppressors would be inclined to belittle because His teaching condemns their practices.

Verse 8

Jas 2:8. Royal means kingly and the greatest laws ever given to men have come from the King of heaven. Among those laws is the one which commands to "love thy neighbor as thyself." James says if we obey this we will do well.

Verse 9

Jas 2:9. No man who loves his neighbor as himself will mistreat him because he is poor. Hence he will not show respect to persons which we have seen is defined as "partiality." Convinced of the law denotes that the one who shows partiality is guilty under the law of being a transgressor of that law.

Verse 10

Jas 2:10. Whole law as James is using it refers to the ten commandments. Not that the decalogue is still the law of God as it once was, for it has been replaced by the law of Christ. But it is used to illustrate the point which the writer has under consideration, because it is formed into a certain number of separate commandments each of which is a complete unit of law. Thus if a man rejects a single one of these ten commands he is guilty of all because they all were given by one authority.

Verse 11

Jas 2:11. The command at the end of verse 8 is not in that exact form in the first account of the decalogue but it is so worded in Lev 19:18. It is also virtually included in the last six of the ten, for if a man loves his neighbor as himself he will observe all those six. In our verse the writer mentions two of the original ten commandments. The point he is making is that since the same God who gave one of them gave the other also, therefore no matter which a person rejects he is rejecting God. So the verse has no application to the mistakes that all people are liable to make through forgetfulness or other weaknesses of the flesh. In other words, the whole matter that James is considering pertains to the question of the Lord's authority.

Verse 12

Jas 2:12. Law of liberty is the one named in chapter 1:25 and refers to the New Testament. So speak ye and so do. Since that law is the one by which we will be judged, our lives should be regulated by it now.

Verse 13

Jas 2:13. Mat 5:7 says the merciful shall obtain merey, which is the affirmative side. The present verse deals with the negative and teaches that if a man shows no mercy to others, he likewise shall have no mercy given him at the day of judgment. Mercy rejoices against judgment. If a man is merciful to others he will not have any fears of the judgment day as far as this subject is concerned.

Verse 14

Jas 2:14. The writer is still treating the subject introduced in the early verses of the chapter which concerns the proper conduct toward the poor. This verse states a principle that has general application in the Christian life, but it will be used for a specific purpose at present with reference to those in need.

Verse 15

Jas 2:15. The conditions mentioned designate needs that are actual and not merely some imaginary ones, so that the persons deserve assistance of their brethren.

Verse 16

Jas 2:16. It is well to have sympathy for those in need if the expressed wishes are supplemented with actions. But the most touching sentiments that can be spoken will not put any clothing upon a naked body.

Verse 17

Jas 2:17. Faith is a grand principle and no man can be a Christian without it. Neither will he be regarded by the Lord as one unless he makes his faith a living one by good works, such as supplying the comforts of life to those in need and worthy.

Verse 18

Jas 2:18. The first sentence represents a man who seems to think that faith and works are two distinct virtues of equal worth, and that a person is at liberty to make his own choice of them and the reward from the Lord will be the same in either case. James replies with a remark that shows he will not endorse either without the other. Show me thy faith without thy works only states what the pretender claims to show, not that James is admitting that the claim is true. He does not ask anyone to take his word but proposes to prove his faith by actions.

Verse 19

Jas 2:19. It is well to believe there is one God if a man does not stop there; if he does he is no better than the devils (or demons). Mat 8:29 gives one account of the trembling of these beings. But while they trembled their expressions of terror did not bring them any benefit, which shows that trembling or belief is not enough.

Verse 20

Jas 2:20. Vain means empty or useless, and James so considers a man who makes a profession of faith but does not back it up with something helpful.

Verse 21

Jas 2:21. Heb 11:17 says Abraham's faith was tried by the event. about his son. The present verse says it was works that did it or that justified him. There is no disagreement between the passages. It was his faith that caused him to offer up his son; his works put his faith into a practical proof.

Verse 22

Jas 2:22. The word perfect means complete, and thus the works of Abraham completed or rounded out the character which was founded upon his faith.

Verse 23

Jas 2:23. Scripture was fulfilled or made good. This refers to Gen 15:6 where God had just assured Abraham that he would have a great many descendants. He knew that Abraham would finally prove his faith by his works, and hence he was regarded as a righteous man. Abraham is called the friend of God in 2Ch 20:7 and it is repeated by James. This is on the same principle that Jesus uses the word "friend" in Joh 15:14. He says they are His friends "if ye do whatsoever I command you." There are people today who glory in calling themselves "friends," yet they stoutly disobey and even resist many of the commands of Christ. According to Jesus they are not His friends; if not friends then they must be considered enemies.

Verse 24

Jas 2:24. The works that James means consist of doing what the Lord commands. He is not considering the works of the law of Moses, for at the time of this epistle those were termed "dead works" (Heb 6:1 Heb 9:14).

Verse 25

Jas 2:25. Rahab was justified by works in the same sense as that of Abraham. (See the comments at verse 21.)

Verse 26

Jas 2:26. The spirit or soul of a man does not operate in this world separate from his body. Neither can the body act without the spirit and hence when alone the body is dead. The circumstance is used to illustrate the difference between faith and works.
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on James 2". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/james-2.html. 1952.