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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
James 2

 

 

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Verse 1

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

Ver. 1. The Lord of glory] Or, "Have not the glorious faith of our Lord Jesus Christ," &c. Faith is a glorious grace indeed.

With respect of persons] i.e. Of their outward quality or conditions, as rich or poor, of this side or that, &c. Zanchy relates about a certain Frenchman, a friend of his, and a constant hearer of Calvin at Geneva, that being solicited by him to hear Viret, an excellent preacher, who preached at the same time that Calvin did, he answered, If St Paul himself should preach here at the same hour with Calvin, Ego, relicto Paulo, audirem Calvinum, I would not leave Calvin to hear Paul. This is not only partiality, but anthropolatry {a} or man worship, saith he. Grynaeus reports a speech of George, duke of Saxony: Although I am not ignorant, saith he, that there are various errors and abuses crept into the Church, Nolo tamen amplecti Evangelium quod Lutherus annunciat, yet I will none of that gospel reformation that Luther preacheth. (Lect. in Hag.) Compertum est, it is for certain, saith Erasmus, that many things are condemned as heretical in Luther’s writings, that in Austin’s and Bernard’s books are approved for sound and pious passages. (Erasm. Epist. ad Card. Mogunt.)

{a} Man worship; the giving of divine honours to a human being. ŒD


Verse 2

2 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;

Ver. 2. For if there come, &c.] It is probable, saith an interpreter here, that the primitive Christians, the better to ingratiate with the richer pagans, gave them very great respect, contrary to that, Psalms 15:4. But I rather think the apostle speaketh in this text of wealthier Christians, unworthily preferred before better but poorer persons.


Verse 3

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:

Ver. 3. That weareth the gay cloth] As Hospinian tells us of the dogs that kept Vulcan’s temple, and as others say of the Bohemian curs, that they will fawn upon a good suit, but fly upon one that is in ragged apparel. So is it with many; Vestis virum.


Verse 4

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

Ver. 4. Are ye not then partial] ου διακριθητε, or, "Are ye not for so doing condemned in your own consciences?" Or, "Neither have ye so much as once doubted or questioned the matter within yourselves, whether in so doing you have not done amiss?"


Verse 5

5 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?

Ver. 5. Chosen the poor] This the world wonders and stumbles at. The heathen Romans would not receive Christ (though they heard of his miracles and mighty works) into the number of their gods, because he preached poverty and made use of poor persons. Aigoland, king of Saragossa in Arragon, refused to be baptized because he saw many lazars {a} and poor people expecting alms from Charlemagne’s table; and asking what they were, was answered, that they were the messengers and servants of God. And can he keep his servants no better? said he. I will be none of his servants. (Turpine.) But what saith Christ? "I know thy poverty; but (that is nothing) thou art rich," Revelation 2:9. And the poor are gospellized, not only receive it, but are changed by it, Matthew 11:5. We usually call a poor man a poor soul: a poor soul may be a rich Christian, and a rich man may have a poor soul; as he in the Gospel that had animam triticeam, a wheaten soul, Luke 12:16-21, and as those other rich fools in David’s days, whose hearts were as fat as grease; they delighted not in God’s law, Psalms 119:70.

Heirs of the kingdom] Heads destinated to the diadem, saith Tertullian.

{a} A poor and diseased person, usually one afflicted with a loathsome disease; esp. a leper. ŒD


Verse 6

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

Ver. 6. Ye have despised the poor] Pauper ubique iacet. Zephaniah 3:12, afflicted and poor are joined together; because poverty is an affliction, and makes a man trodden upon. Men go over the hedge where it is lowest. Therefore St Paul joins them together, "I have learned to want, and to be abased;" they that want shall be abased; Luke 15:30; "This thy son." He saith not, This my brother, because in poverty; which is therefore to be deprecated and prayed against, as Proverbs 30:8; Proverbs 1:1-33. Propter inediam, on account of starvation, as Genesis 37:25; Genesis 2:1-25. Propter iniuriam, On account of wrongs, Psalms 10:9; Psalms 3:1-8. Propter infamiam, On account of disgrace, as here. Our Saviour calls that good beggar Lazarus, that is, God help me, Luke 16:29; as proper a name for a beggar as could be given.

Oppress you] καταδυναστευουσιν, subjugate you, and bring your heads under their belts; trample upon you with the feet of pride and cruelty; yea, devour you, as the greater fish do the lesser. Ferae parcunt, aves pascunt, homines saeviunt, saith Cyprian. The wild beasts spare Daniel, the ravenous ravens feed Elias; only men rage and ravage, they tyranically oppress God’s poor people (as the word here imports), acting therein the devil’s part. See Acts 10:38; (where the same word is used); there is neither equity nor mercy to be had at their hands. Hence they are called men eaters, cannibals, Psalms 14:4, and charged with beating God’s people to pieces, and grinding the faces of the poor, Isaiah 3:15; with eating their very flesh and flaying their skins from off them, and breaking off their bones, and chopping them in pieces as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron, Micah 3:3. This is a sin against race, grace, and place.

Draw you before the judgment seats] Vex you with lawsuits, and by might rob you of your right. Cedit viribus aequum.


Verse 7

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

Ver. 7. Do not they blaspheme] That is, cause to be blasphemed, as Romans 2:24; 1 Timothy 1:20. Marcellinus, a heathen historian, taxeth the Christians of his times for their dissensions, biting and devouring one another, till they were even consumed one of another. {Am. Mar. ii. 2.} A sad thing that a heathen should see such hellish miscarriages among Christ’s followers.


Verse 8

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

Ver. 8. If ye fulfil the royal law] Acknowledging God’s sovereignty, and sending a lamb to the ruler of the earth, Isaiah 16:1, seeking the help of that free or noble spirit of his, Psalms 51:13, that royal, ruling spirit, as the Greek version there hath it.


Verse 9

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

Ver. 9. Ye commit sin] That is flat; though ye have thought otherwise. {See Trapp on "James 2:4"}

And are convinced of the law as transgressors] This they held either no sin or a small one, a peccadillo. The Civilian indeed saith, De minutis non curat lex, the law makes no matter of small matters. But God’s law condemneth small faults: as the sunshine showeth us atoms, moths.


Verse 10

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

Ver. 10. He is guilty of all] The whole law is but one copulative, Exodus 16:18; Ezekiel 18:10-13. He that breaketh one commandment habitually breaketh all; not so actually. The godly keep those commandments that actually they break; but a dispensatory conscience keeps not any commandment. Deus non vult cum exceptione coli, God will not be served with an exception, saith a learned interpreter here. He that repents with a contradiction (saith Tertullian) God will pardon him with contradiction. A man must not be funambulus virtutum (saith the same author), going in a narrow track of obedience; but must do everything as well as anything, or all is lost; his obedience must be universal, extending to the compass of the whole law.


Verse 11

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.

Ver. 11. For he that said] "God spake all those words, and said;" there is the same divine authority for one commandment as another, Exodus 20:1. The Pharisees had their minutula legis, insignificant laws, but Christ cries them down, Matthew 5:20. The Jews to this day senselessly argue, "Cursed is he that abides not in all things," therefore he is not cursed that abides in some things only.

Thou art become a transgressor of the law] Now every transgression and disobedience receiveth a just recompence of reward, Hebrews 2:2.


Verse 12

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

Ver. 12. As they that shall be judged] Or, as they that should judge by the law of liberty; which is so called, because it doth freely and fully discover unto every man, without respect of persons, the errors and evils of his life. And we should walk as patterns of the rule. {See Trapp on "Matthew 11:19"} It is also called a law of liberty, because it is freely and willingly kept of the regenerate, to whom it is no burden or bondage.


Verse 13

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

Ver. 13. For he shall have mercy] {See Trapp on "Matthew 5:7"}

And mercy rejoiceth against judgment] κατακαυχαται, {a} that is, the merciful man glorieth, as one that hath received mercy, and shall not come into condemnation; for God’s mercy rejoiceth against such a man’s sins, as against an adversary which he hath subdued and trampled on.

{a} from αυχην, cervus: treadeth on the neck of judgment.


Verse 14

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

Ver. 14. Though a man say he hath faith] Saying serves not the turn. Livy telleth us of the Athenians (Dec. iv.) that they waged a word war against Philip, king of Macedon; Quibus solis valebant, and that was all they could do. Men may word it with God and yet miscarry, Isaiah 58:2-3; he is too wise to be put off with words; he turns up our leaves, and looks what fruit; whereof if he miss, he lays down his basket, and takes up his axe, Luke 13:7. Christianity is not a talking, but a walking with God; and at the last day it shall be required of men, non quid legerint, sed quid egerint, non quid dixerint, sed quomodo vixerint, not what they have said, but how they have acted.

Can faith save him?] That is, an ineffectual faith, that worketh not by love, such as is the faith of the Solifidians, a faith in profession only; if a man say he hath faith, and no more, as good he might say nothing. Quid verba quaero, &c.? That faith is easily wrought, which teacheth men to believe well of themselves, though their lives be evil.


Verse 15

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

Ver. 15. If a brother or a sister] As it may befall the best to be, and they are not of the chameleon kind, to live (with Ephraim) upon wind, Hosea 12:1, to be fed with fair words, or to be clothed with a suit of compliments. Sion should be taken by the hand, Isaiah 51:18. And Tyre converted, leaves hoarding and heaping up wealth, and falls to feeding and clothing God’s poor people, Isaiah 23:18.


Verse 16

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?

Ver. 16. And one of you say] This age aboundeth with mouth mercy, which is good cheap. But a little handful were better than a great many such mouthfuls.

Be ye warmed] But with what? with a fire of words. Be filled; but with what? with a mess of words. Away with those airy courtesies. How many have we today that will be but as friends at a sneeze! the most you can get of these benefactors is, "God bless you, Christ help you."


Verse 17

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

Ver. 17. Is dead, being alone] That is, being workless; for life discovers itself by action; so doth true faith by trust in God and love to men. A tree that is not for fruit, is for the fire.


Verse 18

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.

Ver. 18. My faith by my works] It appeared by the fruits it was a good land, Numbers 13:23. It appeared that Dorcas was a true believer by the coats she had made: so here.


Verse 19

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

Ver. 19. Believe and tremble] Gr. φρισσουσι, roar as the sea, and shriek horribly, Acts 19:29; Mark 6:49. Their hearts ache and quake within them; and shall any man mock at God’s menaces? Shall not the devils keep holiday in hell, in respect of such atheists?


Verse 20

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

Ver. 20. But wilt thou know] Interrogatio doeturientis, saith Piscator. A question made by one that is desirous to teach.

Thou vain man] Gr. Thou empty man; for works without faith are nothing else but a nutshell without a kernel, grapes without juice, chaff without grain, saith Mercer in Jonah 3:8.


Verse 21

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

Ver. 21. Justified by works] sc. Declarative et in fore humano, but not before God, Romans 3:2. It is faith that justifieth the man; but they are works that justify faith to be right and real, saving and justifying.


Verse 22

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

Ver. 22. Wrought with his works] Or, was a help to his works, and was her own midwife to bring them forth of herself into the open light, Hebrews 11:17.

Was faith made perfect] That is, declared to be operative and effectual.


Verse 23

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.

Ver. 23. And it was imputed] {See Trapp on "Genesis 15:6"} {See Trapp on "Romans 4:3"} {See Trapp on "Galatians 3:6"}

The friend of God] A very high style. If Eusebius held it such an honour to be the friend of Pamphilus, and Sir Fulk Greville, Lord Brook, to be friend to Sir Philip Sidney, causing it to be so engraven upon his tomb; what is it to be the friend of God? And yet such honour have all the saints.


Verse 24

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

Ver. 24. By works a man is justified] Declaratively, as by faith apprehensively, by God effectively.


Verse 25

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

Ver. 25. The messengers] Gr. The angels, so Luke 7:24; Acts 12:15. {See Trapp on "Acts 12:15"}


Verse 26

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

Ver. 26. As the body, &c.] Yet is not charity the soul of faith, but the vital spirit only.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on James 2:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/james-2.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 24th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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