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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
James 2:26

For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
New American Standard Bible

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Hypocrisy;   Justification;   Man;   Religion;   Righteousness;   Thompson Chain Reference - Man;   Spirit of Man;   The Topic Concordance - Faith/faithfulness;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Dead, the;   Faith;  
Dictionaries:
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Ethics;   Faith;   Humanity, humankind;   Spirit;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Righteousness;   Romans, Theology of;   Spirit;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Church;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Faith;   James, the General Epistle of;   Justification;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Antinomianism;   James, the Letter;   Judgment Day;   Justification;   Obedience;   Salvation;   Works;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Bible;   Canon of the New Testament;   Faith;   Games;   Idolatry;   Justification, Justify;   Text of the New Testament;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Faith;   Flesh ;   Formalism;   Galatians Epistle to the;   Gospel;   Law;   Man;   Regeneration;   Righteousness;   Soul ;   Spirit Spiritual ;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Faith,;   Works;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Regeneration;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Faith;   Justification;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Church;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Kingdom or Church of Christ, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Faith;   Justification;   Poverty;   Psychology;   Work;  
Devotionals:
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for November 28;  

Clarke's Commentary

Verse James 2:26. For as the body without the spirit is dead — There can be no more a genuine faith without good works, than there can be a living human body without a soul.

WE shall never find a series of disinterested godly living without true faith. And we shall never find true faith without such a life. We may see works of apparent benevolence without faith; their principle is ostentation; and, as long as they can have the reward (human applause) which they seek, they may be continued. And yet the experience of all mankind shows how short-lived such works are; they want both principle and spring; they endure for a time, but soon wither away. Where true faith is, there is God; his Spirit gives life, and his love affords motives to righteous actions. The use of any Divine principle leads to its increase. The more a man exercises faith in Christ, the more he is enabled to believe; the more he believes, the more he receives; and the more he receives, the more able he is to work for God. Obedience is his delight, because love to God and man is the element in which his soul lives. Reader, thou professest to believe; show thy faith, both to God and man, by a life conformed to the royal law, which ever gives liberty and confers dignity.

"Some persons, known to St. James, must have taught that men are justified by merely believing in the one true God; or he would not have taken such pains to confute it. Crediting the unity of the Godhead, and the doctrine of a future state, was that faith through which both the Jews in St. James' time and the Mohammedans of the present day expect justification. St. James, in denying this faith to be of avail, if unaccompanied with good works, has said nothing more than what St. Paul has said, in other words, Romans 2:0, where he combats the same Jewish error, and asserts that not the hearers but the doers of the law will be justified, and that a knowledge of God's will, without the performance of it, serves only to increase our condemnation."-Michaelis.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on James 2:26". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​acc/​james-2.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


Proof of genuine faith (2:14-26)

The Christian faith is not merely a mental belief, but something that is practised. Those who say they have faith must give evidence of it by their behaviour. In the case of the poor Christians just referred to, it is useless to talk sympathetically to them but not give them food and clothing. A professed faith must produce a corresponding change in behaviour, otherwise it is dead and useless (14-17).
Genuine faith will prove itself by good deeds. The simple belief that God exists is not enough. Even demons have such a belief, but it will not help them escape God’s judgment (18-19).

Abraham also had a belief in God, but it was a belief that completely changed his life and actions. True, Abraham was justified by faith when he whole-heartedly trusted God, even though he did not know how God could possibly fulfil his promise (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:1-3,Romans 4:16-25). But that is not the incident James is talking about here. He is talking about the incident thirty years later, at the time of Abraham’s offering of Isaac (20-21; cf. Genesis 22:1-18). Abraham not only said he believed in God, but he proved it by being willing to sacrifice Isaac on the altar. He believed that God could fulfil his promise of giving Abraham a multitude of descendants through Isaac, by bringing Isaac back to life (cf. Hebrews 11:17-19). Genuine faith is demonstrated not simply by the set of beliefs a person holds, but by the actions that those beliefs produce (22-24).

As with Abraham the friend of God, so with Rahab the prostitute, faith expressed itself in actions (25; cf. Joshua 2:1-21). Faith and good deeds are as inseparable as body and spirit (26).

Bibliographical Information
Fleming, Donald C. "Commentary on James 2:26". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bbc/​james-2.html. 2005.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead.

See under James 2:17, above, for elaboration of the meaning of the comparison here. Ward warned against "pressing the parallelism too far"; Ronald A. Ward, op. cit., p. 1229. but it is not apparent to this student how that would be possible. Certainly all of the faith in the world without works has exactly the same efficacy in providing salvation as a dead body.

The conclusion of this section on James’ refutation of the solifidian perversion of the apostle Paul’s teaching regarding justification by faith is very well stated by J. W. Roberts thus:

Thus the doctrine of salvation at the moment of faith — without obedience — is not a Biblical teaching …. It is rooted in the conversion experience theology of early revivalism. It sets aside the plain teaching of the Bible on the doctrine of obedience and the works of faith. J. W. Roberts, op. cit., p. 100.

James is a very practical book; and, from the very nature of its purpose, James deals with what men must do to be saved. Much of Paul’s teaching is directed to the same end (though not all of it, some of it being concerned with God’s part in redemption); therefore the "justification" in this section of James (and in much of Paul), plainly regards that lower level involving what men must do. In the ultimate and final sense of being the grounds upon which God’s justification is given to men, there is not anything that sinful men can either believe or do which finally justifies them. God indeed reckoned righteousness unto Abraham, but that did not make Abraham righteous, nor was he ever so in the absolute sense; so it is with Christians. Neither faith nor works, of whatever degree or quality, can make them righteous. The perfect faith and obedience of Jesus Christ our Lord are the unique ground of human redemption, which is achieved for them by Jesus Christ, received by men when they believe (have faith) and obey the gospel, being baptized into Christ, having renounced themselves; and thus united with Christ, identified with Christ, being actually Christ as members of the spiritual body (the church) of which Christ is head, and remaining "in Christ" throughout life; THEN they are truly justified eternally, their faith and righteousness being not theirs, but his, no longer merely reckoned unto them, but their true possession "as Christ." Both the faith and the works which justify sinful men, therefore, are related to that higher consideration of their relationship with the Lord of glory. Certainly, men must have faith and obedience before they can be incorporated "into Christ"; and in him, having been baptized unto him, they become partakers of the true righteousness (perfect faith and perfect obedience) of Christ. In Christ, therefore, the righteousness (faith and obedience) which saves and justifies them is not theirs but Christ’s. It is no mere reckoned or imputed thing, not a forensic righteousness at all, but an eternal, perfect and beautiful status of the absolute and genuine righteousness of Christ. That is what Paul referred to when he spoke of presenting every man "perfect in Christ" (Colossians 1:28).

In reality, then, the solifidian nonsense of justification "by faith alone" profoundly misses the point on two vital counts: (1) Nothing that a sinner either believes or does can save him "out of Christ" (though, of course, he must both believe and obey the gospel in order to enter Christ). (2) Even in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the true ground of all human redemption, even in his case, it was not "faith only," but a perfect faith and a perfect obedience.

How regrettable are the weary disputes of men regarding the part sinners have in their redemption; how preposterous is the notion that what a sinner "believes" could endow him with eternal life! To receive that as God’s free gift, he must qualify for entry into Christ’s spiritual body, through faith and obedience of the gospel, or as Jesus stated it, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." The function of baptism in this is that it is entering "into Christ," where all righteousness and redemption are found. How dark is that tragedy of human arrogance which would make a sinner his own saviour through claiming eternal life as a consequence of his "faith only."

EXCURSUS ON SOLIFIDIANISM

Solifidian, from which the noun Solifidianism is derived, means "one who maintains that faith alone, without works, is the one requisite to salvation (from Latin "solus", alone plus "fides", faith)." Britannica World Dictionary.

Under James 2:26 it was explained that Solifidianism is founded upon an altogether inadequate understanding of the true ground of justification, that ground being neither human faith nor obedience nor both of them together. The one and only true grounds are the perfect faith and obedience of the Son of God. In the light of this, the doctrine is a theological "faux pas" of phenomenal dimensions. It claims eternal salvation for sinners, along with eternal justification (in the highest sense), grounded upon a purely human act of obedience, that is, the subjective trust/faith of sinners. Thus it makes sinners their own saviour by grounding the hope of salvation upon what the sinners themselves do. Logically and theologically, this is an arrogant absurdity.

Even if the major thesis of solifidianism were provable (which it is not), it would still fall short of any ultimate justification. That thesis is that in some way "saving faith," as it is called, includes all necessary acts of obedience, or produces them, or issues in them, or even does them. This is considered by holders of the doctrine to be a vital element of it, as judged by so many varied and repeated assertions of it. First, we shall notice a sampling of such assertions, demonstrating their falsity; and then, it will be pointed out that even if allowed as true, the whole concept of justification as resting upon what sinners themselves either believe or do, or believe AND do, still makes man his own saviour and misses altogether the only possible justification "in Christ" our Lord.

Assertions relative to "saving faith’s" (so-called) inclusion of all necessary works:

"Faith cannot be severed from works." Walter W. Wessel, op. cit., p. 924. This cannot be true, because many of the rulers of the Jews "believed on" the Lord Jesus Christ (John 12:42); and B. F. Westcott assured us that the words there employed by the apostle John mean the completeness and fullness of faith. B. F. Westcott, The Gospel according to St. John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971), p. 186. Yet those same people were the ones who murdered the Son of God. They had every kind of faith there is; so faith can and often does exist without works, being therefore separated from works. See full comment on the text from John in my Commentary on John, pp. 305-307.

"Faith uses works as its means." R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 591. This is untrue because James represented works, not as something faith was using, but as something "working with," or "cooperating with" faith (James 2:22). Likewise, the author of Hebrews made faith and baptism (a work in the usual solifidian view) to stand as coordinates in the foundation of the first principles of the gospel (Hebrews 6:1-2).

"If faith is genuine, works will follow." Ronald A. Ward, op. cit., p. 1229. Again, John 12:42 refutes this. See above. Further, James’ challenge to errorists refuted in this chapter carried no criticism of their faith, other than the fact of its being without works. If it had been true that those workless Christians did not have the "right kind of faith," James would have dealt with that instead of the need for works. The entire last section of James 2 proves that faith can, and did, exist apart from works; and that it is not true that where faith is genuine works will follow.

"Works are an expression of faith." Ibid., p. 1228. This is false because works are something done by the believer, not by his faith. Eternal justification, as viewed by Paul, was grounded (in one sense) upon what men do (Romans 2:6-10; 2 Corinthians 5:10, etc.). In those citations from Paul, it is not deficiency of faith, but the deeds done by the believer, that is stressed.

"Works are the necessary fruits of faith." J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 1035.

"Faith bringeth forth works." T. Guthrie, Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., p. 254.

"Faith always issues in good works." Many commentators use this statement.

"Faith is bound to overflow in action." William Barclay, op. cit., p. 78.

"There is no faith that does not issue at once in loving obedience ." R. V. G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 69.

"Obedience is the inevitable and immediate issue of faith." Ibid., p. 70.

Not any of these statements is in the Bible, nor is a single one of them true. If such notions as these had been a fact, James would not have bothered to give his urgent exhortation to good works. If such statements as the above had been the truth, and there had been the "wrong kind of faith" in any of the Christians he addressed, he would have devoted his energies to correcting the deficiency of their faith, instead of ordering them to obey the precepts of the Master relative to good works.

"Not for faith plus works does James plead, but for faith at work." T. Carson, op. cit., p. 576. Like most of the samplings noted above, this also is a clever remark, but it is not true. James did plead for "faith plus works," flatly declaring that there was no profit in the faith that did not have that "plus."

"Real faith unites a man with Christ." R. V. G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 63. Significantly, this particular error is rather seldom advocated, in all probability because it is so frontally contradicted by the New Testament which nowhere carries such a statement as this, but which does categorically state no less than three times that one is "baptized into Christ," or "into his body" (Galatians 3:26-27; Romans 6:3-5 and 1 Corinthians 12:13). No amount of faith ever united a man with anything, the P.T.A., the Masonic Lodge, the Democratic Party, nor the spiritual body of Christ.

"James was pleading for the `work of faith.’" This statement found in a number of commentaries is true, the error lying in the misunderstanding of "the work of faith," which means not the work which faith does, but the work commanded by "the faith" in the objective sense. Paul mentioned "work of faith" (1 Thessalonians 1:3), but his reference carries the thought that the Thessalonians were obeying the commandments of God, not that their "faith" was doing all the work.

"The ground of justification is faith, and that only." Albert Barnes, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1953), p. 48. This type of statement is not merely untrue; it contradicts the word of God in James 2:24, which declares that a man "is justified … and not by faith alone." This kind of statement is not nearly as common as it once was, because more and more who believe it are embarrassed by James’ refutation of their theory; but instead, greater and greater reliance is rested in the type of statements examined above, where the common design is in every case that of declaring Solifidianism.

Over and beyond all of these efforts to prove the unprovable, however, there looms the cosmic fact that even if faith should be viewed as all-inclusive of everything else, the basing of justification upon it (in any final sense) would still be making man his own saviour, still predicating the reception of eternal life upon thoughts and deeds of fallible and sinful men. Who could believe it? The basis of the final and eternal justification of the redeemed has already been determined and announced by God himself, the same being the righteousness of God "in Christ," available to those and those alone who are truly "in him," and moreover are "found in him" at last (Philippians 3:9).

Nevertheless, it is still an interesting and important question of whether faith plus works (of some kind), or merely "faith alone" is required of sinners seeking justification on the secondary and lower level which must be achieved "by them" before they may even become eligible for entry "into Christ" where alone true justification is available. The whole problem then turns upon one question alone, and that is, "How are men truly united with and brought `into’ Christ?" Fortunately, the Scriptures do not leave such a question open, announcing repeatedly that men are "baptized into him." This mountain fact lies behind Jesus’ declaration in Mark 16:15-16. Thus, even upon that lower level of secondary justification regarding fulfillment of preconditions of redemption, "faith alone" is valueless, even for the initial phase of justification; and, after that, the necessity of remaining "in Christ," of being found "in him" at last, even this will be determined by one’s "deeds" (Romans 2:6-10; 2 Corinthians 5:10), which have the utility, along with faith, of keeping one "in Christ." The all-important thing that must precede final and ultimate justification is that the one to be justified must be "in Christ" and found "in him" at the end of his probation.

Therefore, the whole question of "faith plus works of obedience" or "faith only" should never have been raised. This is true because "faith only," no less than "faith plus obedience" is a "work" performed by sinners (being also, in a sense, a work performed by God, in the sense that God commanded it); and the predication of justification upon either "faith only" or "faith plus obedience" makes what the sinner does the grounds of justification; and the solifidian who bases his supposed salvation upon subjective trust/faith, rather than upon an obedient faith, does not gain the slightest advantage in such a conception, everything, in the last analysis, depending upon whether or not at last he shall be found "in Christ." The impossibility of "faith only" entering one "into Christ" is the ultimate condemnation of Solifidianism.

The concept of "saving faith" (so-called) as a religious experience: This is positively the most irrational and unbiblical idea ever to invade Christianity. The concept, variously advocated, supposes that "at some particular moment," "with emotions better felt than told," "in answer to prayer, …. under the emotional appeal of revivalism," or in some other bizarre circumstance, the sinner suddenly "experiences FAITH." Boom! All of his sins are forgiven; he is transformed spiritually, born again and saved eternally! The word of God nowhere pictures any such "spiritual orgasm" as that! This is pure voodoo-ism. No Biblical precept, no apostolic example even hints at such a thing. That is not the way Paul was converted; no member of the historical church as reviewed in Acts of the Apostles ever came "into Christ" in the manner of this false conception. Unscriptural and erroneous as such a "conversion" truly is, the mistake is compounded and multiplied by the solifidian arrogance of making that the only thing necessary for salvation and claiming eternal justification on the basis of it! There has never been a religious teaching that cried any louder to Almighty God for a drastic correction than does this one.

The satanic thrust of this evil theory also registers in its hatred of all who seek salvation and justification (even on the level of fulfilling preconditions of redemption) through faith and obedience of the gospel, and its adamant opposition to all preaching of the New Testament plan of salvation, accusing the followers of the New Testament of lacking salvation altogether and of attempting to be their own saviour. The illogical nature of this attitude appears in the fact of their denial of salvation predicated upon FAITH AND OBEDIENCE, while claiming it for themselves on the basis of FAITH WITHOUT OBEDIENCE, overlooking the fact that FAITH AND OBEDIENCE surely has everything their method has AND MORE! The only thing the true method of redemption lacks which theirs has is the alleged "faith experience," which to them is everything. The incongruous assertion that "faith only" could have anything not found in "faith and obedience" is impossible of being taken seriously.

No "experience" that any man ever had could rival that of Paul on the Damascus road. He actually saw the Lord! But three days later, he was still a, praying, penitent, grieving sinner; and so he remained until he heeded the command of Ananias to "Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins!" (Acts 22:16). Too bad that Paul never knew anything about being saved by "faith only."

The alleged Scriptural support of Solifidianism is extensive and will be briefly examined here. Solifidian methodology is characterized by the employment of a number of devices, as follows:

1.    There is the literalization of synecdoche. Synecdoche, a type of metonymy in which one thing stands for a group of related things, is frequently used (especially by Paul) in the New Testament; and one of his frequent uses of this figure of speech is that of making "saved by faith" a synecdoche, or short-form way of saying, "saved by faith, repentance, confession, baptism, hope, the blood of Christ, and all other great essentials of the Christian religion." In my Commentary on Romans, a large number of Pauline uses of synecdoche were pointed out, there being no doubt whatever of Paul’s "saved by faith" always being inclusive of many other things also; never did he mean "faith alone." The device of literalizing the synecdoche is a denial of the word of God. Take the synecdoche: "Philip II had 1800 sails in his navy." "Sails" actually means "fully equipped and manned warships"; the solifidian misunderstanding of it would assert the meaning to be: "Philip II had no warships at all and had gone into the cloth business!"

2.    Another popular device is that of making passages which attribute salvation to "faith without works" mean that nothing whatever is to be done by the sinner except to believe in Christ. The error of this is multiple. "Without works," in the Pauline usage, in the vast majority of instances, means "works of the Law of Moses" and faith means either (a) all the Christian requirements (synecdoche), or (b) "the whole Christian religion" (faith used objectively). Again, the solifidian misinterpretation reads "works" to include every conceivable kind of human activity, whereas the New Testament speaks of seven classes of works, including the "work of faith," i.e., deeds done in obedience to divine commandments," as necessary to salvation. It is a perversion of God’s word to apply "without works" as meaning "without obedience to Christ."

3.    The device of interpreting New Testament references to "faith" as meaning (subjectively) the unscriptural "experience of faith" in which instantaneous salvation results. Many have been deceived into thinking this meaning is in the New Testament; but it is not, the usual meaning of the word faith in the New Testament being simply that of "faithfulness" or "fidelity." See in my Commentary on Galatians (p. 44) for extended discussion regarding the error of construing New Testament references to "faith" as having the meaning of "subjective, sinner’s trust/ faith." There are more than a hundred instances in the New Testament in which the solifidian bias of reading "faith" in the subjective sense has been imported and read into the text; one notable scholar even declared that 2 Timothy 4:7 is "best understood subjectively"! In that passage, how can it be denied that Paul’s saying he had "kept the faith" means anything other than that he had been true to the holy religion of Christ?

4.    Outright mistranslation of God’s word is also used extensively to mutilate and alter passages which do not "fit" solifidian error. Thus, John 3:16 is perverted to read "SHALL have everlasting life" instead of "SHOULD have, etc." Romans 10:10, "Confession is made unto salvation," is perverted to read, "It is stating his belief by his own mouth that CONFIRMS his salvation" (Phillips). These are only two of many scores of such arrogant changes which solifidian scholars perpetrate against the sacred word. It is very difficult to believe that the consciences of those who commit this type of outrage could be easy in the doing of such things. The great plethora of "modern English" translations of the New Testament has many of them that in no sense may be legitimately called translations, being loaded with Solifidianism and other errors throughout.

5.    The device of substituting sinner’s trust/faith for "the faith of Christ (the faith Christ had) in Romans 3:22; Romans 3:26, Galatians 2:16; Galatians 2:20, and many other places, carries the effect of making the sinner his own saviour (through his providing the "saving faith"); whereas the faith that truly saves is "the faith of Christ" PLUS the perfect obedience of Christ! See extensive discussions of this subject in Romans (my Commentary on Romans) and Galatians (my Commentary on Galatians), under above references.

6.    Rejection of whole blocks of the New Testament that cannot be made to fit the solifidian straitjacket has, from time to time, been brazenly advocated. Martin Luther rejected James because he thought it contradicted Paul; whereas, it only contradicted what Luther erroneously alleged to be Paul’s teaching. There is no logic at all in the allegation that it was actually James which was misunderstood by Luther, and that James does not contradict Solifidianism. Of course it does! Then, there is the case of Arthur Cushman McGiffert, the theological "giant" who rejected the Pastorals, grounding his case on the assertion that "Nowhere in them is `faith’ used in the great Pauline sense (solifidian sense, of course)!" McGiffert was absolutely correct in seeing that Solifidianism is bluntly contradicted by the Pastoral epistles. Countless other examples of such behavior in smaller particulars could be pointed out, raising the question of what must be thought of a theory whose adherents seek to change the word of God, rather than give up their error?

7.    Another device is that of bypassing the spiritual body of Christ in their doctrine of salvation "by faith alone:" Solifidian theology pays scant attention, if any, to the overwhelmingly important Pauline teaching of "salvation in Christ." The expression "in Christ" (in him, in whom, in the Lord, etc.) is used 169 times in Paul’s writings. Forgiveness, eternal life, salvation, redemption of sins, hope, grace, love, etc. — in fact EVERYTHING is "in Christ." Therefore, when Paul speaks of "faith in Christ," what does he mean? Sinner’s subjective trust/faith? No! That is not "in Christ," it is in the sinner! A number of Pauline references to "faith in Christ" mean "faith" exercised by one "who has been baptized into Christ," thus stressing the theater of faith, not the mere subjective trust/faith of sinners. No unbaptized believer has faith "in Christ," as long as he is "out of Christ." The hard logic of this basic truth shows the fundamental error of Solifidianism.

Throughout this series of commentaries, careful attention has been paid to solifidian mistranslations, perversions and other devices used in allegations of Scriptural support of their error; and the above are only a few samplings from the wholesale outrages committed against the New Testament by unspiritual men who, under a pretense of "spirituality" are guilty of misrepresenting the word of God.

The candid manner of discussing Solifidianism, adopted here, should not be construed as a private judgment against "other Christians" (so-called). We do not maintain the position that intellectual error, even on so important a topic as this, may necessarily lead to final condemnation. In fairness, as noted earlier, it must be said that many solifidians, to the best of their ability, proceed to obey the teachings of the New Testament, in spite of their incorrect theory; and to the extent that they indeed "do believe and obey" the truth, they have exactly the same hope as all others who "believe and obey the gospel."

However, and here is tragedy, countless "professed" Christians are not in any sense obeying the gospel, walking in the teachings of the New Testament, ordering their lives by the precepts and examples of the apostles, nor in any other sense exhibiting the character and conduct of genuine followers of Christ. Their lapse in this whole area of "doing" the religion of Christ covers all phases of it; from violation of Christ’s commandment to be baptized, forsaking his word relative to the Lord’s supper, denying any appreciation for the church which is his spiritual body — from all such violations as these, all the way to a total abandonment of ethical and moral behavior by living in gross sins such as drunkenness, adultery, fornication, falsehood, stealing, idleness — put in all the lists of sins in the New Testament. Such things are openly practiced by a very large portion of those in our nation today who, according to themselves, are "saved by faith alone." It is in this frame of reference that this rather extensive discussion of the key error in modern theology is offered.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on James 2:26". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bcc/​james-2.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

For as the body without the spirit is dead - Margin, “breath.” The Greek word πνεύμα pneuma is commonly used to denote spirit or soul, as referring to the intelligent nature. The meaning here is the obvious one, that the body is animated or kept alive by the presence of the soul, and that when that is withdrawn, hope departs. The body has no life independent of the presence of the soul.

So faith without works is dead also - 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 shows that James was not arguing against real and genuine faith, nor against its importance in justification, but against the supposition that mere faith was all that was necessary to save a man, whether it was accompanied by good works or not. He maintains that if there is genuine faith it will always be accompanied by good works, and that it is only that faith which can justify and save. If it leads to no practical holiness of life, it is like the body without the soul, and is of no value whatever. James and Paul both agree in the necessity of true faith in order to salvation; they both agree that the tendency of true faith is to produce a holy life; they both agree that where there is not a holy life there is no true religion, and that a man cannot be saved. We may learn, then, from the whole doctrine of the New Testament on the subject, that unless we believe in the Lord Jesus we cannot be justified before God; and that unless our faith is of that kind which will produce holy living, it has no more of the characteristics of true religion than a dead body has of a living man.

Reconciliation of Paul and James.

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 be 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, Serm. 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:

  1. What the real difficulty is; and,
  2. 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 connection 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 diffficulty - 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 check 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 and 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 1:0, and then that the same thing is true in regard to the Jews, Rom. 2–3, 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,

(aa) 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?” James 2:14. That is, can such faith - can this faith (ἡ πίστις hē pistis) 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.

(bb) 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.

(cc) 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 the notes at those verses. 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 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.

(c) 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 unto 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.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on James 2:26". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bnb/​james-2.html. 1870.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Chapter 2

Now my brothers, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons ( James 2:1 ).

This is so difficult. It is so easy for us to fall in the trap of respecting persons. It's just I don't know a part of our whole social structure, I guess, is that of respecting certain persons above others. You've got to be careful that we don't fall into that trap.

So often a person will introduce himself, "Well I am Dr. So." Doctor, oh my, we respect the person. We shouldn't be a respecter of persons. God isn't. "God is no respecter of persons," the Bible says ( Acts 10:34 ). We shouldn't be.

If there comes into your assembly a man with a gold ring, fancy clothes, there comes also a man in with rags that smell; And you have respect to him that is wearing the fancy clothing, and you say to him, Oh, sit here in this good place; and you say to the poor man, Stand over there in the corner, or sit under my footstool: Are you not then partial in yourselves, and you've become the judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hasn't God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to them that love him? But you've despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, draw you before the courts? Don't they blaspheme that worthy name by which you are called ( James 2:1-7 )?

You've been called Christians. So be careful on this business of respecting a person just because he is rich. Or sort of snubbing a person because he is poor. Now let's be honest. We are far more apt to stop along the road and help a person with a flat tire who's driving a Mercedes than we are someone driving a Volkswagen bug. I mean, you see someone out there you know and in distress. "Oh my, you know, I'll be glad to help him because who knows, maybe they'll you know offer me five bucks you know for giving them a hand." But you've been there. That's respect of persons. Something we shouldn't be guilty of.

Interesting God has chosen the poor of this world as far as worldly good but rich in faith. God measures riches on a far different standard than do we. We're on the gold standard; used to be. We're on no standard now. Used to be gold notes. In effect, they said the government owes you twenty dollars worth of gold. Then we went to silver notes; the government owes you twenty dollars worth of silver. Now they're federal notes. They're not backed by anything so it means the government owes you nothing. It's true. They're not backed by anything. Just paper. But gold is not the standard of heaven. Asphalt up there; they pave the streets with the stuff.

God looks at the heart of a man and He sees the faith and the trust that is there in Him. And God says, Oh that's a rich man. He loves me. He trusts me. God looks at some of the named people in the world who lived in the Four Hundred Club and God says, "Oh, what poor riches. They have nothing." Now we should look at people as God. We shouldn't have respect for wealthy people but we should be just as concerned to help the poor. In fact, most concerned to help the poor. The rich don't really need help so much. It's the poor that need our help, our attention. God help us. I'm guilty here. God help me.

Now if you fulfil the royal law ( James 2:8 )

I love this, the royal law. What is the royal law?

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself ( James 2:8 ),

That's the royal law. I like the title for it. If you fulfill that royal law, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,

you do well ( James 2:8 ):

Now really, that's where that young ruler sort of failed, isn't it, who came to Jesus, fell at His feet and said, "Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus said, Keep the commandments. Which ones? Oh, thou shall not kill, thou shall not steal, thou shall not commit adultery, thou shall not bear false witness. Oh Lord, I kept all these from the time I was a kid. But what I, what do I lack yet? Well if you will be perfect, keep the royal law, go sell everything you have and distribute it to the poor. You'll have great riches in heaven." Keep the royal law; Love your neighbor as yourself; hard to do, isn't it? Awfully hard to do. Loving my neighbor as I love myself. But if you keep that, you do well.

But if you have respect of persons, you're actually committing sin, and you're convicted of the law as a transgressor. Convinced of the law ( James 2:9 ).

It is pointing its finger of accusation against you.

For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet violate in one point, you're guilty, guilty of all. For the law says, Don't commit adultery, but it also says, Do not kill. Now if you don't commit adultery, but yet you kill somebody, you're guilty of violating the law ( James 2:10-11 ).

You're a violator. Doesn't matter which one of the commandments you violated. Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not commit adultery. Oh, I've never done that. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Whoops. But you violate one point; you're guilty of all. You're guilty of breaking the law and it really doesn't matter which of the commandments you've broken. You're guilty of having broken the law. If you keep the entire law let yet you break one of the commandments, then you're just as guilty as if you've broken all of them. You are guilty of being a lawbreaker.

So speak, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that has showed no mercy ( James 2:12-13 );

Think about that for a moment. Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy" ( Matthew 5:7 ). We are also told, "And whatever measure you meted out, it's going to be measured to you in judgment. Judge not, lest you be judged. For whatever mete you measure, that's the standard by which you're going to be judged" ( Matthew 7:1 , Matthew 7:2 ). Now I don't like that. I want one standard for me and another standard for you.

But I if I stand in judgment against you, and if I begin to point a guilty finger at you and say, Boy, you're really terrible, look what you did and all. What you did you may not have known was wrong. But I do because I'm judging you for it. And that means that's the standard by which I'm going to be judged.

Interesting, all you have to do is just change the picture a little bit and put in different faces and oh, it's horrible. Terrible. "How could they do such a thing?" Wait a minute. That's me. I've done that.

David had all these beautiful wives. Walking on his roof one day, he saw a gal next door taking a bath. Lusted, desired her. Sent his servants over with a message, the king would like to see you. Committed adultery with her. A few weeks later he gets a note: Dear David, I'm pregnant. Bathsheba.

So David sends a message to his general to send her husband home on furlough. Her husband comes home. David says, "Well how's everything going? How's the battle?" "Oh fine." "Well, you know, go home and spend the night with your wife. Talk to you in the morning." He didn't go home. He slept on David's porch. In the morning the servant said, "Hey, he didn't go home last night. He slept right here on the porch." And David called him in and said, "What's the matter with you, man? Got a beautiful wife there, you ought to you know go home and spend the night with her you know. Enjoy your wife. What's your problem?" And the guy says, "Well," he said, "I was thinking of all my buddies. They're out there in the fox holes and it wouldn't be fair for me to go in and enjoy an evening with my wife while those guys are out there in the trenches. That wouldn't be very honorable."

So David got him all soused. Told the servants, Keep his wine cup full. So the guy was drunk. Figure he'd stagger home; spend the night with his wife. And instead he staggered to David's porch, went to sleep again. In the morning, the servant said, "He spent the night here." The Bible says, "He that seeks to cover his sins shall not prosper" ( Proverbs 28:13 ). David tried to cover his sins. Very dastardly way. He sent secret orders with this man back to Joab, the general. It said, "Put him in the front of the battle. When things get tough, withdraw the support from him."

And so Joab did as David commanded and he was killed in battle. Got the report. Killed in battle. David took Bathsheba as his wife. Figured he could cover his tracks. The child was born. David looked like he was a very magnanimous person. Here her husband was killed in battle and now David takes her as one of his wives to raise the child. Isn't that wonderful? No, it isn't.

Nathan the prophet came to David. David thought nobody knew. He'd covered it pretty well. Nathan came to him and said, "David, a man in your kingdom, very wealthy man; he had more than he could ever spend. Tremendous herds, sheep, he lived next door to an extremely poor man who had as his sole possession one little ewe lamb that he loved greatly. In fact, it was sort of a pet. He slept with it at night. Slept in the house and it ate at the guy's table. And the rich man had company. And he ordered his servants to go next door and by force to take the ewe lamb from this man and kill it in order that he might give it to his company. He might feed his company." And David got angry and he said to Nathan, "That man will be surely put to death." David said. Nathan said, "David, you're the man. You've had all these wives. Here's your neighbor. You take away. You're the man, David."

You see, if we show no mercy we will be shown no mercy. Whatever measure we meted out, it's going to be measured to us again. That's why it's so dangerous to put yourself in the position of a judge. Judging other people's actions. "I can't understand why they would do something like that. That's horrible for them to do that, you know." Watch out now. You're setting a standard by which you're going to be judged. "Blessed are the merciful, they shall obtain mercy"( Matthew 5:7 ). He who doesn't show mercy, he who judges without mercy will be shown no mercy.

but true mercy rejoices against judgment. Now what does it profit, my brethren, though a man says he has faith, and doesn't have works? can faith save him ( James 2:12-14 )?

Now at this point many people see James and Paul in conflict in teaching. I don't. Paul teaches that salvation is through faith, faith alone. "By grace are you saved through faith; not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship" ( Ephesians 2:8-10 ).

Then what does James say, Can faith save him? The answer is yes, faith can save him. A true faith. But make sure you have a true faith. For if you have a true faith, it will be manifested by the works. In other words, to just say you have faith doesn't cut it. Saying it isn't enough.

I've had people come to me and say, "Oh, I have all the faith in the world." Baloney! Nobody has all the faith in the world. And saying it doesn't make it so. If you believe certain things to be so, then your life is going to be lived accordingly. And so your life testifies of your faith or your beliefs. And to say that you believe in God and that God is supreme and that God is first in your life, then it will follow that there will be certain evidence that will verify that fact that you have declared to be so. And by the works that you do your faith will be proved or proclaimed. And to say that you have faith and not have any works that correspond is totally wrong. You've deceived yourself. You aren't really walking in faith. If you are truly walking in faith, your works are going to be manifesting that truth.

So "what does it profit if a man says he has faith, and he doesn't have works? can that kind of faith save him?" No, it can't.

If a brother or sister is naked, or is destitute of daily food, And you say to them, [Oh] Depart in peace, be warmed and filled; but yet you don't give them any clothes or any food; what good are your words ( James 2:15-16 )?

They can't make him warm. They can't fill his stomach.

Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, if you try to stand alone. Yes, a man may say, You have faith, and I have works: but you show me your faith without your works, I will show you my faith by my works ( James 2:17-18 ).

So it isn't just the declaration. It's the declaration that has something behind it. The proof behind it is the works that I do. Now the works don't save me. They only prove that I have saving faith. And if I don't have works that are corresponding to what I am declaring, then I do not have saving faith, just the declaration, the verbal affirmation isn't enough and it won't do it.

Now a lot of people made mistakes; going forward and saying the sinner's prayer and then going away and living the same kind of life doing the same kind of thing. They say, "Oh yeah, I was saved. I went forward and I said the sinner's prayer." No, no, the sinner's prayer isn't going to save you. It is a living faith in Jesus Christ that brings about actual changes in your life and the proof is in the works; the proof of your faith. Your works have to be in accordance, in harmony with what you are declaring to be true.

You believe that there is one God; [Ah] you do well: the devils believe the same thing, and they tremble ( James 2:19 ).

"Oh, I believe in God." Big deal. Who doesn't, except some fool? The Bible says the fool is the one that says there is no God. So you say you believe in God, it only proves one thing, you're not a fool. But it doesn't save you. The devils believe in God, they probably believe more firmly in Him than you do. They said to Jesus, "We know who you are, you're the Holy One of God" ( Mark 1:24 ). So you say, "Oh I believe Jesus is the holy One of God." So what? Have you submitted your life to His lordship? Are you doing His works? Are you obeying His commands?

You see, not all who say, Lord, Lord, are going to enter the kingdom of heaven. So you say, "Oh Lord, Oh the Lord, Oh the Lord," yea, yea, but saying is not going to do it. Jesus said, "not all who say, Lord, Lord, are going to enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of the Father" ( Matthew 7:21 ). James is telling you the very same thing. It isn't saying I have faith, it is demonstrating the faith because of the works of my life are in harmony with what I am declaring that I believe.

If I believe that there was a bomb planted in this room, set to detonate in two minutes, and I'd stand up here and calmly proclaim to you, "You know, huge bomb in this room going to detonate in two minutes and blow this whole place to smithereens." Terrible of people to do that, isn't it? Can't imagine the mind of a person that would plant such a bomb. Why would they want to destroy us? You'd say, "Ah, you don't really believe there's a bomb here." Why? Because my works don't correspond with what I'm declaring that I believe. But if I go running out of the door and say, "Get out of there, you know. Bomb's going to blow up in two minutes," you know, then you're more apt to believe that at least I believe what I'm telling you because now my actions are corresponding with what I am declaring that I believe to be so.

Now the same is true. You say, "Well I believe in God and I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and all." Well, do your actions correspond? Do your actions really show that Jesus is the Lord of your life? Is that demonstrated by the works that you do? That's what James is saying. Don't just say it. Don't rest in just words, beautiful words. But let's see the actions that demonstrate that you truly believe what you're saying.

Will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead ( James 2:20 )?

It isn't really alive. It isn't a living faith. It isn't a saving faith.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar ( James 2:21 )?

You see, his works corresponded with his faith. He believed God. He believed that through Isaac God was going to raise up a nation because God has promised that. Through Isaac shall thy seed be called. Now his very offering up of Isaac was proof of his strong belief in the word of God. Believing that God would if necessary raise Isaac from the dead to keep His promise. And so his faith was in keeping or his works were in keeping with his faith.

Seest thou how faith wrought with his works ( James 2:22 ),

They were working together. His faith produced the works as faith will also produce the corresponding works in our life.

and by works was faith made perfect ( James 2:22 )?

Not a question mark. In the Greek there is no question mark there. It's just the declaration, "by works his faith was made complete." His faith was proved.

And the scripture was fulfilled which said, Abraham believed God, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only ( James 2:23-24 ).

The works being the proof of the faith.

Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also ( James 2:25-26 ).

When your spirit leaves your body, your body is dead. The body without the spirit, dead. So faith, if it doesn't have corresponding works, is not a true faith. It's dead. It does nothing for you. It cannot save you. Dead faith can save no one. It's a living faith and a living Lord and that living faith can be demonstrated by the actions of my life that are in harmony and corresponding with what I declare to be true and what I declare I believe to be true. There has to be the corresponding works for faith to be alive.

Therefore, let us examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith, the true faith that saves. Not just the verbalizing of the Apostle's Creed. I believe but the actions of my life being in harmony with it.

Father, help us that we might indeed be doers of the word and not hearers only. That we might not just affirm a belief but may we demonstrate that belief by the attitudes and actions of our lives. Lord, help us not to be deceived. In Jesus' name, Amen.

May the Lord bless you and guide you as you go this week. As you face the many temptations, may the Lord give you strength and may you walk and live after the Spirit. And may you respond after the Spirit. In the temptation may you not yield to the flesh and react after the flesh. May your life be pleasing unto God, as our actions come into harmony with our declarations of what we believe. May we show it in the works that we do. In Jesus' name. "



Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on James 2:26". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​csc/​james-2.html. 2014.

Contending for the Faith

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

For as the body without the spirit is dead: James ends his discussion on faith and works with an analogy between the human body and faith. Death occurs to man when his spirit departs from his body.

So death is not annihilation but rather separation. The raising of those individuals who were dead was merely bringing the spirit back to the body (2 Kings 4:32-35; John 11:43-44). When the spirit is with the body there is life; when the spirit is separated from the body there is death.

so faith without works is dead also: What is true of the body can also be true of faith. When faith has works to accompany it, it is a living faith. However, when faith is not accompanied by works, it becomes dead faith. And James has convincingly pointed out that dead faith is unprofitable. Woods adds,

these words were penned especially to Christians; and are designed to impress believers with the fact that their faith must evidence itself in action to be a blessing to them. Members of the church whose faith does not prompt them to faithfulness in the Lord’s work, and to regular Christian activity such as consistent church attendance, liberality in giving, and personal work, are spiritual corpses, possessed of a faith which is destitute of all life (153).

Our success or failure in successfully developing as a Christian depends, to a large degree, upon our application of James’ words to our lives. The Christian who fails to possess a working faith invites spiritual disaster into his life. If our faith is without works, we will find ourselves growing weaker spiritually and more attracted to the world. The church that is composed of members who possess faith without works will find its light growing dimmer. On the other hand, when our faith is active and alive, we will find ourselves growing spiritually. This growth, in turn, helps the church to be stronger.

James concludes his teaching on the great doctrine of faith and works emphatically: "so faith without works is dead also." His teaching on this subject is in complete harmony with all other Bible writers. Through the examples of Rahab and Abraham, the Christians who read James’s words had to understand that the doctrine of salvation by "faith only" is false and that a working faith is necessary to please God. Contemporary Christians who ponder these words must make sure their faith is a "working" faith. They must strive for consistency in their service to Christ and make sure they "practice what they preach."

James poses seven questions in this chapter that, when considered logically, will lead one to the truth of his teaching:

1.    What is the profit of faith without works (verse 14)?

2.    Can faith without works save (verse 14)?

3.    What is the profit in wishing the poor well but not helping them (verse 16)?

4.    Do you want evidence that faith without works is useless (verse 20)?

5.    Wasn’t Abraham justified by works when he offered Isaac (verse 21)?

6.    Do you see that his faith was made perfect by works (verse 22)?

7.    Wasn’t Rahab justified by works when she protected the spies (verse 25)?

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on James 2:26". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​ctf/​james-2.html. 1993-2022.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

B. The Importance of Vital Faith 2:14-26

Some have seen this section as dealing with a new subject, the relationship of faith and works, whereas the previous one dealt with partiality (James 2:1-13). It seems to me and to others, however, that this section relates to the preceding one in the same way James 1:19-27 relates to James 1:2-18. It deals with a larger, more basic issue that connects with and underlies the practical problem just discussed.

"In this section St. James proceeds to enlarge on the meaning and nature of that faith in Jesus Christ which was spoken of in James 2:1 as inconsistent with prosopolempsia [respect of persons]." [Note: Mayor, p. 95.]

In his discussion of favoritism James argued for genuineness and warned of superficial self-deception. The larger issue is the whole matter of faith in God. James wrote this section to challenge his readers to examine the vitality of their faith in God. Were they really putting their faith into practice, applying their beliefs to their behavior? Their preferential treatment of some people raised this question in James’ mind.

"Not only is the mature Christian patient in testing (James 1), but he also practices the truth. This is the theme of James 2. Immature people talk about their beliefs, but the mature person lives his faith. Hearing God’s Word (James 1:22-25) and talking about God’s Word can never substitute for doing God’s Word." [Note: Wiersbe, p. 63.]

There have been three primary interpretations of this passage of Scripture. The first view is that it refers to a person who was a believer but has lost his salvation. He used to have saving faith but does not have it any longer. This is the view of most Arminians. The second view is that it refers to an unbeliever who professes to be a Christian but has never really exercised saving faith in Christ. His faith is only intellectual assent to gospel truth, not saving faith. [Note: E.g., Burdick; Tasker; Motyer; Fanning, pp. 424-27; and John F. MacArthur, Faith Works, pp. 139-55.] One advocate of this interpretation wrote, "His [James’] contrast is between two kinds of faith: one that saves and one that doesn’t." [Note: Ibid., p. 152.] The third view is that it refers to a believer who is not living by faith. He is not behaving consistently with what he believes. [Note: E.g., Hodges; Wiersbe; Dillow; and R. T. Kendall, Once Saved, Always Saved.] The first two views say this passage describes unbelievers whereas the third view says it describes believers. By examining the passage we should be able to decide which view is correct.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on James 2:26". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/​james-2.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

6. James’ final argument 2:24-26

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on James 2:26". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/​james-2.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Faith without works is as dead as a body without a human spirit. It is of no practical value. This is James’ final illustration and affirmation on the subject. Our faith becomes only dead orthodoxy when we stop obeying God. Vital faith then becomes dead faith. Both a dead body and dead faith were alive at one time.

"Does James then contradict Paul’s doctrine of full grace, or John’s insistence on faith as the single condition for eternal life? Far from it. But neither does he offer support to the widespread notion that a ’dead faith’ cannot exist in the life of a Christian. Ironically, that is exactly what he is warning against. Thus the misconstruction of his words has not only bred unnecessary confusion about the terms for eternal life, but it has also deprived the church of a much needed and salutary warning.

"The dangers of a dying faith are real. But they do not include hell, and nothing James writes suggests this. Nevertheless, sin remains a deadly nemesis to Christian experience which can end our physical lives themselves. To that, the wisdom of the Old Testament adds its witness to the warnings of James. And if a man is to be saved from such a consequence, he must have works." [Note: Hodges, The Gospel . . ., p. 33.]

"Never once does James question whether the rich-or poor-have been saved. Neither does he admonish them in such a way that should cause them to question whether they have been saved. He never says, for example, ’The trouble with you people is that you are not saved.’ He does not come forward with a plan of salvation; he does not warn them of a false assurance; he does not go over the basis of saving faith." [Note: Kendall, Once Saved . . ., p. 208. Cf. Chitwood, Salvation of . . ., pp. 45-54.]

The key to understanding this passage is a correct understanding of what dead faith is. James used "dead" (James 2:17; James 2:26) as a synonym for "useless" (James 2:14; James 2:16; James 2:20). He was not saying the person with dead faith has no faith, that he is unsaved. He meant that the person with dead faith has saving faith, but he is not living by faith now. His faith has no vital effect on the way he presently lives. He is not trusting and obeying God day by day.

"The faith which is mentioned in this section [James 2:14-26] can be presupposed in every Christian . . . [James’] intention is not dogmatically oriented, but practically oriented: he wishes to admonish the Christians to practice their faith, i.e. their Christianity, by works." [Note: Dibelius, p. 178. The italics are his.]

To summarize, I believe what James wrote in James 2:14-26 means this. Good works are not necessary to keep us from going to hell. However they are necessary to keep us from falling under God’s disciplinary punishment that may even result in premature physical death. It is possible for a Christian not to use his or her faith, to stop "walking by faith." In such a case his or her faith is of no practical use here and now. Therefore we who are Christians should be careful to continue to keep trusting and obeying God day by day. It is possible for a Christian to exercise "saving faith" and then to stop "walking by faith." That is what James is warning us to avoid. He is dealing with sanctification primarily, not justification, here and throughout this epistle. This is Christian life teaching, not teaching on how to become a Christian.

"James’ emphasis on faith alone shows that he affirms the necessity of faith; what he is opposing is a faith that denies the obligation to obey Christ as Lord." [Note: Stulac, p. 116. See also Robert N. Wilkin, "Another View of Faith and Works in James 2," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 15:29 (Autumn 2002):3-21.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on James 2:26". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/​james-2.html. 2012.

Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Chapter 2

RESPECT OF PERSONS ( James 2:1 )

2:1 My brothers, you cannot really believe that you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, and yet continue to have respect of persons.

Respect of persons is the New Testament phrase for undue and unfair partiality; it means pandering to someone, because he is rich or influential or popular. It is a fault which the New Testament consistently condemns. It is a fault of which the orthodox Jewish leaders completely acquitted Jesus. Even they were bound to admit that there was no respect of persons with him ( Luke 20:21; Mark 12:14; Matthew 22:16). After his vision of the sheet with the clean and unclean animals upon it, the lesson that Peter learned was that with God there is no respect of persons ( Acts 10:34). It was Paul's conviction that Gentile and Jew stand under a like judgment in the sight of God, for with God there is no favouritism ( Romans 2:11). This is a truth which Paul urges on his people again and again ( Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25).

The word itself is curious--prosopolempsia ( G4382) . The noun comes from the expression prosopon ( G4383) lambanein ( G2983) . Prosopon ( G4383) is the "face"; and lambanein ( G2983) here means "to lift up." The expression in Greek is a literal translation of a Hebrew phrase. To lift up a person's countenance was to regard him with favour, in contradistinction perhaps to casting down his countenance.

Originally it was not a bad word at all; it simply meant to accept a person with favour. Malachi asks if the governor will be pleased with the people and will accept their persons, if they bring him blemished offerings ( Malachi 1:8-9). But the word rapidly acquired a bad sense. It soon began to mean, not so much to favour a person, as to show favouritism, to allow oneself to be unduly influenced by a person's social status or prestige or power or wealth. Malachi goes on to condemn that very sin when God accuses the people of not keeping his ways and of being partial in their judgments ( Malachi 2:9). The great characteristic of God is his complete impartiality. In the Law it was written, "You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbour" ( Leviticus 19:15). There is a necessary emphasis here. A person may be unjust because of the snobbery which truckles to the rich; and may be equally unjust because of the inverted snobbery which glorifies the poor. "The Lord," said Ben Sirach, "is judge and with him is no respect of persons" ( Sir_35:12 ).

The Old and New Testaments unite in condemning that partiality of judgment and favouritism of treatment which comes of giving undue weight to a man's social standing, wealth or worldly influence. And it is a fault to which every one is more or less liable. "The rich and the poor meet together," says Proverbs, "the Lord is the maker of them all" ( Proverbs 22:2). "It is not meet," says Ben Sirach, "to despise the poor man that hath understanding; neither is it fitting to magnify a sinful man that is rich" ( Sir_10:23 ). We do well to remember that it is just as much respect of persons to truckle to the mob as it is to pander to a tyrant.

THE PERIL OF SNOBBERY WITHIN THE CHURCH ( James 2:2-4 )

2:2-4 For, if a man comes into your assembly with his fingers covered with gold rings and dressed in elegant clothes and a poor man comes in dressed in shabby clothes, and you pay special attention to the man who is dressed in elegant clothes and you say to him: "Will you sit here, please?" and you say to the poor man, "You stand there!" or, "Squat on the floor beside my footstool!" have you not drawn distinctions within your minds, and have you not become judges whose thoughts are evil?

It is James' fear that snobbery may invade the Church. He draws a picture of two men entering the Christian assembly. The one is well-dressed and his fingers are covered with gold rings. The more ostentatious of the ancients wore rings on every finger except the middle one, and wore far more than one on each finger. They even hired rings to wear when they wished to give an impression of special wealth. "We adorn our fingers with rings," said Seneca, "and we distribute gems over every joint." Clement of Alexandria recommends that a Christian should wear only one ring, and that he should wear it on his little finger. It ought to have on it a religious emblem, such as a dove, a fish or an anchor; and the justification for wearing it is that it might be used as a seal.

So, then, into the Christian assembly comes an elegantly dressed and much beringed man. The other is a poor man, dressed in poor clothes because he has no others to wear and unadorned by any jewels. The rich man is ushered to a special seat with all ceremony and respect; while the poor man is bidden to stand, or to squat on the floor, beside the footstool of the well-to-do.

That the picture is not overdrawn is seen from certain instructions in some early service order books. Ropes quotes a typical passage from the Ethiopia Statutes of the Apostles: "If any other man or woman enters in fine clothes, either a man of the district or from other districts, being brethren, thou, presbyter, while thou speakest the word which is concerning God, or while thou hearest or readest, thou shalt not respect persons, nor leave thy ministering to command places for them, but remain quiet, for the brethren shall receive them, and if they have no place for them, the lover of brothers and sisters, will rise, and leave a place for them ... And if a poor man or woman of the district or of other districts should come in and there is no place for them, thou, presbyter, make place for such with all thy heart, even if thou wilt sit on the ground, that there should not be the respecting of the person of man but of God." Here is the same picture. It is even suggested that the leader of the service might be liable, when a rich man entered, to stop the service and to conduct him to a special seat.

There is no doubt that there must have been social problems in the early church. The Church was the only place in the ancient world where social distinctions did not exist. There must have been a certain initial awkwardness when a master found himself sitting next his slave or when a master arrived at a service in which his slave was actually the leader and the dispenser of the Sacrament. The gap between the slave, who in law was nothing more than a living tool, and the master was so wide as to cause problems of approach on either side. Further, in its early days the Church was predominantly poor and humble; and therefore if a rich man was converted and came to the Christian fellowship, there must have been a very real temptation to make a fuss of him and treat him as a special trophy for Christ.

The Church must be the one place where all distinctions are wiped out. There can be no distinctions of rank and prestige when men meet in the presence of the King of glory. There can be no distinctions of merit when men meet in the presence of the supreme holiness of God. In his presence all earthly distinctions are less than the dust and all earthly righteousness is as filthy rags. In the presence of God all men are one.

In James 2:4 there is a problem of translation. The word diekrithete ( G1252) can have two meanings: (i) It can mean, "You are wavering in your judgments, if you act like that." That is to say, "If you pay special honour to the rich, you are torn between the standards of the world and the standards of God and you can't make up your mind which you are going to apply." (ii) It may mean, "You are guilty of making class distinctions which in the Christian fellowship should not exist." We prefer the second meaning, because James goes on to say, "If you do that, you are judges whose thoughts are evil." That is to say, "You are breaking the commandment of him who said, 'Judge not that you be not judged'" ( Matthew 7:1).

THE RICHES OF POVERTY AND THE POVERTY OF RICHES ( James 2:5-7 )

2:5-7 Listen, my dear brothers. Did God not choose those who are poor by the world's valuation to be rich because of their faith and to be heirs of the Kingdom which he has promised to those who love him? But you dishonour the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you, and is it not they who drag you to the law-courts? And is it not they who abuse the fair name by which you have been called?

"God," said Abraham Lincoln, "must love the common people because he made so many of them." Christianity has always had a special message for the poor. In Jesus' first sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth his claim was: "He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor" ( Luke 4:18). His answer to John's puzzled inquiries as to whether or not he was God's Chosen One culminated in the claim: "The poor have good news preached to them" ( Matthew 11:5). The first of the Beatitudes was "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven" ( Matthew 5:3). And Luke is even more definite: "Blessed are you poor; for yours is the Kingdom of God ( Luke 6:20). During the ministry of Jesus, when he was banished from the synagogues and took to the open road and the hillside and the seaside, it was the crowds of common men and women to whom his message came. In the days of the early church it was to the crowds that the street preachers preached. In fact the message of Christianity was that those who mattered to no one else mattered intensely to God. "For consider your call, brethren," wrote Paul to the Corinthians, "not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth" ( 1 Corinthians 1:26).

It is not that Christ and the Church do not want the great and the rich and the wise and the mighty; we must beware of an inverted snobbery, as we have already seen. But it was the simple fact that the gospel offered so much to the poor and demanded so much from the rich, that it was the poor who were swept into the Church. It was, in fact, the common people who heard Jesus gladly and the rich young ruler who went sorrowfully away because he had great possessions. James is not shutting the door on the rich--far from that. He is saying that the gospel of Christ is specially dear to the poor and that in it there is a welcome for the man who has none to welcome him, and that through it there is a value set on the man whom the world regards as valueless.

In the society which James inhabited the rich oppressed the poor. They dragged them to the law-courts. No doubt this was for debt. At the bottom end of the social scale men were so poor that they could hardly live and moneylenders were plentiful and extortionate. In the ancient world there was a custom of summary arrest. If a creditor met a debtor on the street, he could seize him by the neck of his robe, nearly throttling him, and literally drag him to the law-courts. That is what the rich did to the poor. They had no sympathy; all they wanted was the uttermost farthing. It is not riches that James is condemning; it is the conduct of riches without sympathy.

It is the rich who abuse the name by which the Christians are called. It may be the name Christian by which the heathen first called the followers of Christ at Antioch and which was given at first as a jest. It may be the name of Christ, which was pronounced over a Christian on the day of his baptism. The word James uses for called (epikaleisthai, G1941) is the word used for a wife taking her husband's name in marriage or for a child being called after his father. The Christian takes the name of Christ; he is called after Christ. It is as if he was married to Christ, or born and christened into the family of Christ.

The rich and the masters would have many a reason for insulting the name Christian. A slave who became a Christian would have a new independence; he would no longer cringe at his master's power, punishment would cease to terrorize him and he would meet his master clad in a new manhood. He would have a new honesty. That would make him a better slave, but it would also mean he could no longer be his master's instrument in sharp practice and petty dishonesty as once he might have been. He would have a new sense of worship; and on the Lord's Day he would insist on leaving work aside in order that he might worship with the people of God. There would be ample opportunity for a master to find reasons for insulting the name of Christian and cursing the name of Christ.

THE ROYAL LAW ( James 2:8-11 )

2:8-11 If you perfectly keep the royal law, as the Scripture has it: "You must love your neighbour as yourself," you do well. But if you treat people with respect of persons, such conduct is sin and you stand convicted by the law as transgressors. For, if a man keeps the whole law and yet fails to keep it in one point, he becomes guilty of transgressing the law as a whole. For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not kill." If you do not commit adultery but kill, you become a transgressor of the law.

The connection of thought with the previous passage is this. James has been condemning those who pay special attention to the rich man who enters the Church. "But," they might answer, "the law tells me to love my neighbour as myself. Therefore we are under duty to welcome the man when he comes to Church." "Very well," answers James, "If you are really welcoming the man because you love him as you do yourself, and you wish to give him the welcome you yourself would wish to receive, that is fine. But, if you are giving him this special welcome because he is a rich man, that is respect of persons and that is wrong--and so far from keeping the law, you are in fact breaking it. You don't love your neighbour, or you would not neglect the poor man. What you love is wealth--and that is not what the law commands."

James calls the great injunction to love our neighbour as ourselves the royal law. There can be various meanings of the phrase. It may mean the law which is of supreme excellence; it may mean the law which is given by the King of the kings; it may mean the king of all laws; it may mean the law that makes men kings and is fit for kings. To keep that greatest law is to become king of oneself and a king among men. It is a law fit for those who are royal, and able to make men royal.

James goes on to lay down a great principle about the law of God. To break any part of it is to become a transgressor. The Jew was very apt to regard the law as a series of detached injunctions. To keep one was to gain credit; to break one was to incur debt. A man could add up the ones he kept and subtract the ones he broke and so emerge with a credit or a debit balance. There was a Rabbinic saying, "Whoever fulfils only one law, good is appointed to him; his days are prolonged and he will inherit the land." Again many of the Rabbis held that "the Sabbath weighs against all precepts," and to keep it was to keep the law.

As James saw it, the whole law was the will of God; to break any part of it was to infringe that will and therefore to be guilty of sin. That is perfectly true. To break any part of the law is to become a transgressor in principle. Even under human justice a man becomes a criminal when he has broken one law. So James argues: "No matter how good you may be in other directions, if you treat people with respect of persons, you have acted against the will of God and you are a transgressor."

There is a great truth here which is both relevant and practical. We may put it much more simply. A man may be in nearly all respects a good man; and yet he may spoil himself by one fault. He may be moral in his action, pure in his speech, meticulous in his devotion. But he may be hard and self-righteous; rigid and unsympathetic; and, if so, his goodness is spoiled.

We do well to remember that, though we may claim to have done many a good thing and to have resisted many an evil thing, there may be something in us by which everything is spoiled.

THE LAW OF LIBERTY AND THE LIFE OF MERCY ( James 2:12-13 )

2:12-13 So speak and so act as those who are going to be judged under the law of liberty. For he who acts without mercy will have judgment without mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

As he comes to the end of a section, James reminds his readers of two great facts of the Christian life.

(i) The Christian lives under the law of liberty, and it is by the law of liberty he will be judged. What he means is this. Unlike the Pharisee and the orthodox Jew, the Christian is not a man whose life is governed by the external pressure of a whole series of rules and regulations imposed on him from without. He is governed by the inner compulsion of love. He follows the right way, the way of love to God and love to men, not because any external law compels him to do so nor because any threat of punishment frightens him into doing so, but because the love of Christ within his heart makes him desire to do so.

(ii) The Christian must ever remember that only he who shows mercy will find mercy. This is a principle which runs through all Scripture. Ben Sirach wrote, "Forgive thy neighbour the hurt that he hath done thee, so shall thy sins also be forgiven. One man beareth hatred against another, and doth he seek pardon from the Lord? He showeth no mercy to a man who is like himself; and doth he ask forgiveness for his own sins?" ( Sir_28:2-5 ). Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy" ( Matthew 5:7). "If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" ( Matthew 6:14-15). "Judge not that you be not judged, for with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged" ( Matthew 7:1-2). He tells of the condemnation which fell upon the unforgiving servant and ends the parable by saving, "So, also, my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart" ( Matthew 18:22-35).

Scripture teaching is agreed that he who would find mercy must himself be merciful. And James goes even further, for in the end he says that mercy triumphs over judgment; by which he means that in the day of judgment the man who has shown mercy will find that his mercy has even blotted out his own sin.

FAITH AND WORKS ( James 2:14-26 )

2:14-26 My brothers, what use is it if a man claims to have faith and has no deeds to show? Are you going to claim that his faith is able to save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear, and if they have not enough for their daily food, and if one of you says to them, "Go in peace! Be warmed and fed!" and yet does not give them the essentials of bodily existence, what use is that? So, if faith too has no deeds to show, by itself it is dead.

But someone may well say, "Have you faith?" My answer is, "I have deeds. Show me your faith apart from your deeds, and I will show you my faith by means of my deeds." You say that you believe that there is one God. Excellent! The demons also believe the same thing--and shudder in terror.

Do you wish for proof, you empty creature, that faith without deeds is ineffective? Was not our father Abraham proved righteous in virtue of deeds when he was ready to offer Isaac his own son upon the altar? You see how his faith co-operated with his deeds and how his faith was completed by his deeds, and so there was fulfilled the passage of Scripture which says, "Abraham believed in God, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness, for he was the friend of God." You see that it is by deeds that a man is proved righteous, and not only by faith.

In the same way was Rahab the harlot not also proved righteous by deeds, when she received the messengers and sent them away by another way? For just as the body without breath is dead, so faith without works is dead.

This is a passage which we must take as a whole before we look at it in parts, for it is so often used in an attempt to show that James and Paul were completely at variance. It is apparently Paul's emphasis that a man is saved by faith alone and that deeds do not come into the process at all. "For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law" ( Romans 3:28). "A man is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ...because by works of the law shall no one be justified" ( Galatians 2:16). It is often argued that James is not simply differing from Paul but is flatly contradicting him. This is a matter we must investigate.

(i) We begin by noting that James' emphasis is in fact a universal New Testament emphasis. It was the preaching of John the Baptist that men should prove the reality of their repentance by the excellence of their deeds ( Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8). It was Jesus' preaching that men should so live that the world might see their good works and give the glory to God ( Matthew 5:16). He insisted that it was by their fruits that men must be known and that a faith which expressed itself in words only could never take the place of one which expressed itself in the doing of the will of God ( Matthew 7:15-21).

Nor is this emphasis missing from Paul himself. Apart from anything else, there can be few teachers who have ever stressed the ethical effect of Christianity as Paul does. However doctrinal and theological his letters may be, they never fail to end with a section in which the expression of Christianity in deeds is insisted upon. Apart from that general custom Paul repeatedly makes clear the importance he attaches to deeds as part of the Christian life. He speaks of God who will render to every man according to his works ( Romans 2:6). He insists that every one of us shall give account of himself to God ( Romans 14:12). He urges men to put off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light ( Romans 13:12). Every man shall receive his own reward according to his labour ( 1 Corinthians 3:8). We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ so that every one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body ( 2 Corinthians 5:10). The Christian has to put off the old nature and all its deeds ( Colossians 3:9).

The fact that Christianity must be ethically demonstrated is an essential part of the Christian faith throughout the New Testament.

(ii) The fact remains that James reads as if he were at variance with Paul; for in spite of all that we have said Paul's main emphasis is upon grace and faith and James' upon action and works. But this must be said--what James is condemning is not Paulinism but a perversion of it. The essential Pauline position in one sentence was: "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved" ( Acts 16:31). But clearly the significance we attach to this demand will entirely depend on the meaning we attach to believe. There are two kinds of belief.

There is belief which is purely intellectual. For instance, I believe that the square on the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle equals the sum of the squares on the other two sides; and if I had to, I could prove it--but it makes no difference to my life and living. I accept it, but it has no effect upon me.

There is another kind of belief. I believe that five and five make ten, and, therefore, I will resolutely refuse to pay more than ten pence for two fivepenny bars of chocolate. I take that fact, not only into my mind, but into my life and action.

What James is arguing against is the first kind of belief, the acceptance of a fact without allowing it to have any influence upon life. The devils are intellectually convinced of the existence of God; they, in fact, tremble before him; but their belief does not alter them in the slightest. What Paul held was the second kind of belief For him to believe in Jesus meant to take that belief into every section of life and to live by it.

It is easy to pervert Paulinism and to emasculate believe of all effective meaning; and it is not really Paulinism but a misunderstood form of it that James condemns. He is condemning profession without practice and with that condemnation Paul would have entirely agreed.

(iii) Even allowing for that, there is still a difference between James and Paul--they begin at different times in the Christian life. Paul begins at the very beginning. He insists that no man can ever earn the forgiveness of God. The initial step must come from the free grace of God; a man can only accept the forgiveness which God offers him in Jesus Christ.

James begins much later with the professing Christian, the man who claims to be already forgiven and in a new relationship with God. Such a man, James rightly says, must live a new life for he is a new creature. He has been justified; he must now show that he is sanctified With that Paul would have entirely agreed.

The fact is that no man can be saved by works; but equally no man can be saved without producing works. By far the best analogy is that of a great human love. He who is loved is certain that he does not deserve to be loved; but he is also certain that he must spend his life trying to be worthy of that love.

The difference between James and Paul is a difference of starting-point. Paul starts with the great basic fact of the forgiveness of God which no man can earn or deserve; James starts with the professing Christian and insists that a man must prove his Christianity by his deeds. We are not saved by deeds; we are saved for deeds; these are the twin truths of the Christian life. Paul's emphasis is on the first and James' is on the second. In fact they do not contradict but complement each other; and the message of both is essential to the Christian faith in its fullest form. As the paraphrase has it:

Let all who hold this faith and hope

In holy deeds abound;

Thus faith approves itself sincere,

By active virtue crown'd.

Profession And Practice ( James 2:14-17)

2:14-17 My brothers, what use is it, if a man claims to have faith and has no deeds to show? Are you going to claim that his faith is able to save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and if they have not enough for their daily food, and if one of you says to them, "Go in peace! Be warmed and fed!" and yet does not give them the essentials of bodily existence, what use is that? So, if faith too has no deeds to show, by itself it is dead.

The one thing that James cannot stand is profession without practice, words without deeds. He chooses a vivid illustration of what he means. Suppose a man to have neither clothes to protect him nor food to feed him; and suppose his so-called friend to express the sincerest sympathy for his sad plight; and suppose that sympathy stops with words and no effort is made to alleviate the plight of the unfortunate man, what use is that? What use is sympathy without some attempt to turn that sympathy into practical effect? Faith without deeds is dead. This is a passage which would appeal specially to a Jew.

(i) To a Jew almsgiving was of paramount importance. So much so that righteousness and almsgiving mean one and the same thing. Almsgiving was considered to be a man's one defence when he was judged by God. "Water will quench a flaming fire," writes Ben Sirach, "and alms maketh an atonement for sin" ( Sir_3:30 ). In Tobit it is written, "Everyone who occupieth himself in alms shall behold the face of God, as it is written, I will behold thy face by almsgiving" ( Tob_4:8-10 ). When the leaders of the Jerusalem Church agreed that Paul should go to the Gentiles the one injunction laid upon him was not to forget the poor ( Galatians 2:10). This stress on practical help was one of the great and lovely marks of Jewish piety.

(ii) There was a strain of Greek religion to which this stress on sympathy and almsgiving was quite alien. The Stoics aimed at apatheia, the complete absence of feeling. The aim of life was serenity. Emotion disturbs serenity. The way to perfect calm was to annihilate all emotion. Pity was a mere disturbance of the detached philosophic calm in which a man should aim to live. So Epictetus lays it down that only he who disobeys the divine command will ever feel grief or pity (Discourses 3: 24, 43). When Virgil in the Georgics (2: 498) draws the picture of the perfectly happy man, he has no pity for the poor and no grief for the sorrowing, for such emotions would only upset his own serenity. This is the very opposite of the Jewish point of view. For the Stoic blessedness meant being wrapped up in his own philosophic detachment and calm; for the Jew it meant actively sharing in the misfortunes of others.

(iii) In his approach to this subject James is profoundly right. There is nothing more dangerous than the repeated experiencing of a fine emotion with no attempt to put it into action. It is a fact that every time a man feels a noble impulse without taking action, he becomes less likely ever to take action. In a sense it is true to say that a man has no right to feel sympathy unless he at least tries to put that sympathy into action. An emotion is not something in which to luxuriate; it is something which at the cost of effort and of toil and of discipline and of sacrifice must be turned into the stuff of life.

Not "either Or", But "both And" ( James 2:18-19)

2:18-19 But some one may well say, "Have you faith?" My answer is, "I have deeds. Show me your faith apart from your deeds and I will show you my faith by means of my deeds." You say that you believe there is one God. Excellent! The demons also believe the same thing--and shudder in terror.

James is thinking of a possible objector who says, "Faith is a fine thing; and works are fine things. They are both perfectly genuine manifestations of real religion. But the one man does not necessarily possess both. One man will have faith and another will have works. Well, then, you carry on with your works and I will carry on with my faith; and we are both being truly religious in our own way." The objector's view is that faith and works are alternative expressions of the Christian religion. James will have none of it. It is not a case of either faith or works; it is necessarily a case of both faith and works.

In many ways Christianity is falsely represented as an "either or" when it must properly be a "both and".

(i) In the well-proportioned life there must be thought and action. It is tempting and it is common to think that one may be either a man of thought or a man of action. The man of thought will sit in his study thinking great thoughts; the man of action will be out in the world doing great deeds. But that is wrong. The thinker is only half a man unless he turns his thoughts into deeds. He will scarcely even inspire men to action unless he comes down into the battle and shares the arena with them. As Kipling had it:

O England is a garden and such gardens are not made

By saying, "O how beautiful," and sitting in the shade;

While better men than we began their working lives

By digging weeds from garden paths with broken dinner knives.

Nor can anyone be a real man of action unless he has thought out the great principles on which his deeds are founded.

(ii) In the well-proportioned life there must be prayer and effort. Again it is tempting to divide men into two classes--the saints who spend life secluded on their knees in constant devotion and the toilers who labour in the dust and the heat of the day. But it will not do. It is said that Martin Luther was close friends with another monk. The other was as fully persuaded of the necessity of the Reformation as Luther was. So they made an arrangement. Luther would go down into the world and fight the battle there; the other would remain in his cell praying for the success of Luther's labours. But one night the monk had a dream. In it he saw a single reaper engaged on the impossible task of reaping an immense field by himself The lonely reaper turned his head and the monk saw his face was the face of Martin Luther; and he knew that he must leave his cell and his prayers and go to help. It is, of course, true that there are some who, because of age or bodily weakness, can do nothing other than pray; and their prayers are indeed a strength and a support. But if any normal person thinks that prayer can be a substitute for effort, his prayers are merely a way of escape. Prayer and effort must go hand in hand.

(iii) In any well-proportioned life there must be faith and deeds. It is only through deeds that faith can prove and demonstrate itself; and it is only through faith that deeds will be attempted and done. Faith is bound to overflow into action; and action begins only when a man has faith in some great cause or principle which God has presented to him.

The Proof Of Faith ( James 2:20-26)

2:20-26 Do you wish for proof, you empty creature, that faith without deeds is ineffective? Our father Abraham was proved righteous in consequence of deeds, when he was ready to offer Isaac his son upon the altar. You see how his faith co-operated with his deeds and how his faith was completed by his deeds, and so there was fulfilled the passage of Scripture which says, "Abraham believed in God, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness and he was called the friend of God." You see that it is by deeds that a man is proved righteous and not only by faith. In the same way was Rahab the harlot not also proved righteous by deeds, when she received the messengers and sent them away by another way? For just as the body without the breath is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

James offers two illustrations of the point of view on which he is insisting. Abraham is the great example of faith; but Abraham's faith was proved by his willingness to sacrifice Isaac at the apparent demand of God. Rahab was a famous figure in Jewish legend. She had sheltered the spies sent to spy out the Promised Land ( Joshua 2:1-21). Later legend said that she became a proselyte to the Jewish faith, that she married Joshua and that she was a direct ancestress of many priests and prophets, including Ezekiel and Jeremiah. It was her treatment of the spies which proved that she had faith.

Paul and James are both right here. Unless Abraham had had faith he would never have answered the summons of God. Unless Rahab had had faith, she would never have taken the risk of identifying her future with the fortunes of Israel. And yet, unless Abraham had been prepared to obey God to the uttermost, his faith would have been unreal; and unless Rahab had been prepared to risk all to help the spies, her faith would have been useless.

These two examples show that faith and deeds are not opposites; they are, in fact, inseparables. No man will ever be moved to action without faith; and no man's faith is genuine unless it moves him to action. Faith and deeds are opposite sides of a man's experience of God.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

Bibliographical Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on James 2:26". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dsb/​james-2.html. 1956-1959.

Gann's Commentary on the Bible

James 2:26

body ..

body without the spirit -- "without breath" "without spirit"

     “Apart from breath” (the breath of life). It is not easy to tell when one is dead, but the absence of a sign of breath on a glass before the mouth and nose is proof of death. Startling picture of dead faith in our churches and church members with only a name to live (Revelation 3:2). RWP

dead -- Genesis 35:18

faith without works --     Good works are as necessary to faith as breath is to a physical body (Genesis 2:7). We cannot have one without the other. - NLTSB

dead also -- Faith without works is as dead as a body without a human spirit. It is of no practical value. This is James’ final illustration and affirmation on the subject. Our faith becomes only dead orthodoxy when we stop obeying God. Vital faith then becomes dead faith. Both a dead body and dead faith were alive at one time. - Constable

    James ends the passage with the statement, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Here the matter is summarized very beautifully. James compares faith to the human body. He likens works to the spirit. The body without the spirit is lifeless, useless, valueless. So faith without works is dead, ineffective, worthless. Obviously it is a spurious faith, not genuine saving faith. - BBC

    To summarize, then, James tests our faith by our answers to the following questions. Am I willing like Abraham to offer the dearest thing in my life to God? Am I willing like Rahab to turn traitor to the world in order to be loyal to Christ? - BBC

[ Amazing: 1) Faithlife Study Bible; 2) MacArthur Study Bible; 3) ESV Study Bible; and 4) the NIV Zondervan Study Bible; ALL skip giving a comment on this verse!!! WG]

- - - - - - - - -

WORKS - James 2:24, James 2:26, John 12:42, Galatians 5:6, Acts 10:34-35, Matthew 7:21, Hebrews 5:9.

Kinds of Works

    1. Works of the flesh- Galatians 5:19-21

    2. Our own works- Acts 7:41, 2 Timothy 1:9

    3. Works of the law of Moses Galatians 2:16

    4. Works of obedience- Acts 10:34-35, Luke 6:46, John 6:29.

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on James 2:26". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​gbc/​james-2.html. 2021.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

For as the body without the spirit is dead,.... This simile is made use of to illustrate what the apostle had asserted in James 2:17 that as a body, when the spirit or soul is departed from it, or the breath is gone out of it, is dead, and without motion, and useless; which the Jews d express in like manner,

פגר גוף בלא רוח, "the body without the spirit", or "breath, is a carcass".

So faith without works is dead also: a vain thing, useless and unprofitable, can neither justify, nor save, nor prove that a man is justified, or will be saved.

d Ohel. Moed, fol. 15. 1.

Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on James 2:26". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​geb/​james-2.html. 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Faith and Works. A. D. 61.

      14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?   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: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.   19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.   20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?   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.   24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.   25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?   26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

      In this latter part of the chapter, the apostle shows the error of those who rested in a bare profession of the Christian faith, as if that would save them, while the temper of their minds and the tenour of their lives were altogether disagreeable to that holy religion which they professed. To let them see, therefore, what a wretched foundation they built their hopes upon, it is here proved at large that a man is justified, not by faith only, but by works. Now,

      I. Upon this arises a very great question, namely, how to reconcile Paul and James. Paul, in his epistles to the Romans and Galatians, seems to assert the directly contrary thing to what James here lays down, saying if often, and with a great deal of emphasis, that we are justified by faith only and not by the works of the law. Amicæ scripturarum lites, utinam et nostræ--There is a very happy agreement between one part of scripture and another, notwithstanding seeming differences: it were well if the differences among Christians were as easily reconciled. "Nothing," says Mr. Baxter, "but men's misunderstanding the plain drift and sense of Paul's epistles, could make so many take it for a matter of great difficulty to reconcile Paul and James." A general view of those things which are insisted on by the Antinomians may be seen in Mr. Baxter's Paraphrase: and many ways might be mentioned which have been invented among learned men to make the apostles agree; but it may be sufficient only to observe these few things following:-- 1. When Paul says that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law (Romans 3:28), he plainly speaks of another sort of work than James does, but not of another sort of faith. Paul speaks of works wrought in obedience to the law of Moses, and before men's embracing the faith of the gospel; and he had to deal with those who valued themselves so highly upon those works that they rejected the gospel (as Romans 10:1-21, at the beginning most expressly declares); but James speaks of works done in obedience to the gospel, and as the proper and necessary effects and fruits of sound believing in Christ Jesus. Both are concerned to magnify the faith of the gospel, as that which alone could save us and justify us; but Paul magnifies it by showing the insufficiency of any works of the law before faith, or in opposition to the doctrine of justification by Jesus Christ; James magnifies the same faith, by showing what are the genuine and necessary products and operations of it. 2. Paul not only speaks of different works from those insisted on by James, but he speaks of a quite different use that was made of good works from what is here urged and intended. Paul had to do with those who depended on the merit of their works in the sight of God, and thus he might well make them of no manner of account. James had to do with those who cried up faith, but would not allow works to be used even as evidence; they depended upon a bare profession, as sufficient to justify them; and with these he might well urge the necessity and vast importance of good works. As we must not break one table of the law, by dashing it against the other, so neither must we break in pieces the law and the gospel, by making them clash with one another: those who cry up the gospel so as to set aside the law, and those who cry up the law so as to set aside the gospel, are both in the wrong; for we must take our work before us; there must be both faith in Jesus Christ and good works the fruit of faith. 3. The justification of which Paul speaks is different from that spoken of by James; the one speaks of our persons being justified before God, the other speaks of our faith being justified before men: "Show me thy faith by thy works," says James, "let thy faith be justified in the eyes of those that behold thee by thy works;" but Paul speaks of justification in the sight of God, who justifies those only that believe in Jesus, and purely on account of the redemption that is in him. Thus we see that our persons are justified before God by faith, but our faith is justified before men by works. This is so plainly the scope and design of the apostle James that he is but confirming what Paul, in other places, says of his faith, that it is a laborious faith, and a faith working by love, Galatians 5:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; Titus 3:8; and many other places. 4. Paul may be understood as speaking of that justification which is inchoate, James of that which is complete; it is by faith only that we are put into a justified state, but then good works come in for the completing of our justification at the last great day; then, Come you children of my Father--for I was hungry, and you gave me meat, c.

      II. Having thus cleared this part of scripture from every thing of a contradiction to other parts of it, let us see what is more particularly to be learnt from this excellent passage of James we are taught,

      1. That faith without works will not profit, and cannot save us. What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? Observe here, (1.) That faith which does not save will not really profit us; a bare profession may sometimes seem to be profitable, to gain the good opinion of those who are truly good, and it may procure in some cases worldly good things; but what profit will this be, for any to gain the world and to lose their souls? What doth it profit?--Can faith save him? All things should be accounted profitable or unprofitable to us as they tend to forward or hinder the salvation of our souls. And, above all other things, we should take care thus to make account of faith, as that which does not profit, if it do not save, but will aggravate our condemnation and destruction at last. (2.) For a man to have faith, and to say he has faith, are two different things; the apostle does not say, If a man have faith without works, for that is not a supposable case; the drift of this place of scripture is plainly to show that an opinion, or speculation, or assent, without works, is not faith; but the case is put thus, If a man say he hath faith, c. Men may boast of that to others, and be conceited of that in themselves, of which they are really destitute.

      2. We are taught that, as love or charity is an operative principle, so is faith, and that neither of them would otherwise be good for any thing and, by trying how it looks for a person to pretend he is very charitable who yet never does any works of charity, you may judge what sense there is in pretending to have faith without the proper and necessary fruits of it: "If a brother or a sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be you warmed and filled, notwithstanding you give them not those things which are needful to the body, what doth it profit?James 2:15-17; James 2:15-17. What will such a charity as this, that consists in bare words, avail either you or the poor? Will you come before God with such empty shows of charity as these? You might as well pretend that your love and charity will stand the test without acts of mercy as think that a profession of faith will bear you out before God without works of piety and obedience. Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being along," James 2:17; James 2:17. We are too apt to rest in a bare profession of faith, and to think that this will save us; it is a cheap and easy religion to say, "We believe the articles of the Christian faith;" but it is a great delusion to imagine that this is enough to bring us to heaven. Those who argue thus wrong God, and put a cheat upon their own souls; a mock-faith is as hateful as mock-charity, and both show a heart dead to all real godliness. You may as soon take pleasure in a dead body, void of soul, or sense, or action, as God take pleasure in a dead faith, where there are no works.

      3. We are taught to compare a faith boasting of itself without works and a faith evidenced by works, by looking on both together, to try how this comparison will work upon our minds. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works. Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works,James 2:18; James 2:18. Suppose a true believer thus pleading with a boasting hypocrite, "Thou makest a profession, and sayest thou hast faith; I make no such boasts, but leave my works to speak for me. Now give any evidence of having the faith thou professest without works if thou canst, and I will soon let thee see how my works flow from faith and are the undoubted evidences of its existence." This is the evidence by which the scriptures all along teach men to judge both of themselves and others. And this is the evidence according to which Christ will proceed at the day of judgment. The dead were judged according to their works,Revelation 20:12. How will those be exposed then who boast of that which they cannot evidence, or who go about to evidence their faith by any thing but works of piety and mercy!

      4. We are taught to look upon a faith of bare speculation and knowledge as the faith of devils: Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well; the devils also believe, and tremble,James 2:19; James 2:19. That instance of faith which the apostle here chooses to mention is the first principle of all religion. "Thou believest that there is a God, against the atheists; and that there is but one God, against the idolaters; thou doest well: so far all is right. But to rest here, and take up a good opinion of thyself, or of thy state towards God, merely on account of thy believing in him, this will render thee miserable: The devils also believe, and tremble. If thou contentest thyself with a bare assent to articles of faith, and some speculations upon them, thus far the devils go. And as their faith and knowledge only serve to excite horror, so in a little time will thine." The word tremble is commonly looked upon as denoting a good effect of faith; but here it may rather be taken as a bad effect, when applied to the faith of devils. They tremble, not out of reverence, but hatred and opposition to that one God on whom they believe. To rehearse that article of our creed, therefore, I believe in God the Father Almighty, will not distinguish us from devils at last, unless we now give up ourselves to God as the gospel directs, and love him, and delight ourselves in him, and serve him, which the devils do not, cannot do.

      5. We are taught that he who boasts of faith without works is to be looked upon at present as a foolish condemned person. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?James 2:20; James 2:20. The words translated vain man--anthrope kene, are observed to have the same signification with the word Raca, which must never be used to private persons, or as an effect of anger (Matthew 5:22), but may be used as here, to denote a just detestation of such a sort of men as are empty of good works, and yet boasters of their faith. And it plainly declares them fools and abjects in the sight of God. Faith without works is said to be dead, not only as void of all those operations which are the proofs of spiritual life, but as unavailable to eternal life: such believers as rest in a bare profession of faith are dead while they live.

      6. We are taught that a justifying faith cannot be without works, from two examples, Abraham and Rahab.

      (1.) The first instance is that of Abraham, the father of the faithful, and the prime example of justification, to whom the Jews had a special regard (James 2:21; James 2:21): Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Paul, on the other hand, says (in Romans 4:3; Romans 4:3) that Abraham believed, and it was counted to him for righteousness. But these are well reconciled, by observing what is said in Hebrews 11:1-40, which shows that the faith both of Abraham and Rahab was such as to produce those good works of which James speaks, and which are not to be separated from faith as justifying and saving. By what Abraham did, it appeared that he truly believed. Upon this footing, the words of God himself plainly put this matter. Genesis 22:16; Genesis 22:17, Because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son; therefore in blessing I will bless thee. Thus the faith of Abraham was a working faith (James 2:22; James 2:22), it wrought with his works, and by works was made perfect. And by this means you come to the true sense of that scripture which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness,James 2:23; James 2:23. And thus he became the friend of God. Faith, producing such works, endeared him to the divine Being, and advanced him to very peculiar favours and intimacies with God. It is a great honour done to Abraham that he is called and counted the friend of God. You see then (James 2:24; James 2:24) how that by works a man is justified (comes into such a state of favour and friendship with God), and not by faith only; not by a bare opinion, or profession, or believing without obeying, but by having such a faith as is productive of good works. Now besides the explication of this passage and example, as thus illustrating and supporting the argument James is upon, many other useful lessons may be learned by us from what is here said concerning Abraham. [1.] Those who would have Abraham's blessings must be careful to copy after his faith: to boast of being Abraham's seed will not avail any, if they do not believe as he did. [2.] Those works which evidence true faith must to works of self-denial, and such as God himself commands (as Abraham's offering up his son, his only son, was), and not such works as are pleasing to flesh and blood and may serve our interest, or are the mere fruits of our own imagination and devising. [3.] What we piously purpose and sincerely resolve to do for God is accepted as if actually performed. Thus Abraham is regarded as offering up his son, though he did not actually proceed to make a sacrifice of him. It was a done thing in the mind, and spirit, and resolution of Abraham, and God accepts it as if fully performed and accomplished. [4.] The actings of faith make it grow perfect, as the truth of faith makes it act. [5.] Such an acting faith will make others, as well as Abraham, friends of God. Thus Christ says to his disciples, I have called you friends,John 15:15. All transactions between God and the truly believing soul are easy, pleasant, and delightful. There is one will and one heart, and there is a mutual complacency. God rejoiceth over those who truly believe, to do them good; and they delight themselves in him.

      (2.) The second example of faith's justifying itself and us with and by works is Rahab: Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?James 2:25; James 2:25. The former instance was of one renowned for his faith all his life long, This is of one noted for sin, whose faith was meaner and of a much lower degree; so that the strongest faith will not do, nor the meanest be allowed to go without works. Some say that the word here rendered harlot was the proper name of Rahab. Others tell us that it signifies no more than a hostess, or one who keeps a public house, with whom therefore the spies lodged. But it is very probable that her character was infamous; and such an instance is mentioned to show that faith will save the worst, when evidenced by proper works; and it will not save the best without such works as God requires. This Rahab believed the report she had heard of God's powerful presence with Israel; but that which proved her faith sincere was, that, to the hazard of her life, she received the messengers, and sent them out another way. Observe here, [1.] The wonderful power of faith in transforming and changing sinners. [2.] The regard which an operative faith meets with from God, to obtain his mercy and favour. [3.] Where great sins are pardoned, there must prefer the honour of God and the good of his people before the preservation of her own country. Her former acquaintance must be discarded, her former course of life entirely abandoned, and she must give signal proof and evidence of this before she can be in a justified state; and even after she is justified, yet her former character must be remembered; not so much to her dishonour as to glorify the rich grace and mercy of God. Though justified, she is called Rahab the harlot.

      7. And now, upon the whole matter, the apostle draws this conclusion, As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also,James 2:26; James 2:26. These words are read differently; some reading them, As the body without the breath is dead, so is faith without works: and then they show that works are the companions of faith, as breathing is of life. Others read them, As the body without the soul is dead, so faith without works is dead also: and then they show that as the body has no action, nor beauty, but becomes a loathsome carcass, when the soul is gone, so a bare profession without works is useless, yea, loathsome and offensive. Let us then take head of running into extremes in this case. For, (1.) The best works, without faith, are dead; they want their root and principle. It is by faith that any thing we do is really good, as done with an eye to God, in obedience to him, and so as to aim principally at his acceptance. (2.) The most plausible profession of faith, without works, is dead: as the root is dead when it produces nothing green, nothing of fruit. Faith is the root, good works are the fruits, and we must see to it that we have both. We must not think that either, without the other, will justify and save us. This is the grace of God wherein we stand, and we should stand to it.

Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on James 2:26". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​mhm/​james-2.html. 1706.

Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible

To the reader who enters on the consideration of the epistle of James from the epistles of Paul, the change is great and sudden, and by no means least of all from the epistle to the Hebrews, which, in the arrangement of the English Bible, immediately precedes James. The main object of that epistle was to consummate the breach of the old relationships of such Christians as were Jews in times past, and to lead them out definitively from all earthly connection into their heavenly association with Christ.

It is not so when we enter from the Acts of the Apostles; as in truth it is so arranged in the great mass of ancient authorities, and some versions which follow them. These "general epistles," as they are called, are placed not after the Pauline but before them. Thus the break is by no means so marked, but on the contrary natural and easily understood; for, in point of fact, James coalesces with the state of things that we find in the churches of Judea, and notably in the church at Jerusalem. They were zealous of the law; they went up to the temple at the hour of prayer, not only Israelites, but even priests, a great company, we hear at one time were obedient to the faith. We have no ground whatever to suppose that these left off either sacrifices or the functions properly sacerdotal. This sounds strange now as men constantly look and judge out of their own present state; but it is impossible to understand the scriptures thus. You must take what the Bible gives, and thus seek to form a just judgment according to God.

It is perfectly plain from the early portion of the Acts of the Apostles, and confirmed too by the latest glimpses which the Holy Ghost gives us of the church in Jerusalem, that there was still a great and decided cleaving to that which was properly Jewish on the part of the early Christians there. They used the faith of Christ rather for conscientious, godly, thorough carrying out of their Jewish thoughts. Whatever people may say or think about it, there is no denying this. Whatever they may know to be their own proper place as Christians who never were in such a position, and, so far from being led into it, guarded from it. Strenuously by the Holy Ghost, there is no question that the facts which scripture presents to us regarding the church in Jerusalem are as I have endeavoured to state them.

Again, the epistle of James was written not merely to the church in Jerusalem, but to the twelve tribes that were scattered abroad. This prepares us for something even larger, not merely for Christian Jews, but for Israelites, for such wherever they may be not merely in the land but out of it "scattered abroad;" as it is said, "the twelve tribes that were scattered abroad." In short it is evident that, among inspired epistles, James's address has a special and an exceptional place. Where this has not been taken into account, there need be no surprise that men have misunderstood the epistle of James. We all know that the great Reformer, Luther, treated this portion of the word of God with the most undeserved distrust and even contempt. But I am persuaded that no man, I will not say despises, but even attempts to dispense with, the epistle of James except to his own exceeding loss. Luther would have been none the worse, but all the stronger, for a real understanding of this writing of James. He needed it in many ways; and so do we. It is, therefore, a miserable cheat where any souls allow their own subjective thoughts to govern them in giving up this or any portion of the word of God; for all have an important place, each for its own object. Is it too much to ask that a document be judged by its express and manifest design? Surely we are not to take Paul's object in order to interpret James by. What can be conceived more contrary, I will not say to reverence for what claims to be inspired, but even to all sense and discrimination, than such a thought? And it is thus that men have stumbled and fallen over this it is little to say precious and profitable, and above all, practically profitable portion of the word of God.

At the same time we must read it as it is, or rather as God wrote it; and God has addressed it, beyond controversy, not merely to Christian Jews, nor even to Jews, but to the twelve tribes that were scattered abroad. Thus it embraces such of them as were Christians; and it gives a very true and just place to those who had the faith of the Lord Jesus. Only it is a mistake to suppose that it contemplates nobody else. People may come to it with the thought that all the epistles were addressed to Christians, but this is simply wrong. If you bring this or any other preconception to the word of God, no wonder His word leaves you outside its divine and holy scope. For He is ever above us and infinitely wise. Our business is to gather what He has to teach us. There is no more fruitful source of error than such a course. No wonder, therefore, when persons approach scripture with preconceived thoughts, hoping to find confirmation there instead of gathering God's mind from what He has revealed, no wonder that they find disappointment. The mischief evidently is in themselves and not in the divine word. Let us prayerfully seek to avoid the snare.

James writes then after this double manner. He says "a servant of God." Clearly there we have a broad ground which even a Jew would respect. On the other hand, to "a servant of God" he adds, "and of the Lord Jesus Christ." Here at once would spring up a divergence of feeling among them. The mass of Israelites would of course altogether repudiate such a service; but James writes of both. Observe he does not speak of himself as the brother of the Lord, although he was, and is so styled "the Lord's brother" in the epistle to the Galatians. It seems needless to explain that the James who wrote this epistle was not the son of Zebedee; for he had fallen under the violence of Herod Agrippa long before this epistle was written at a comparatively early date. I do not doubt that the writer is the one called "James the just," and "the Lord's brother;" but with all propriety, and with a beauty that we should do well to ponder and learn from, he here avoids calling himself the Lord's brother. It was quite right that others should so designate him; but he calls himself "the servant," not merely "of God," but "of the Lord Jesus Christ."

He writes, as seen, to the twelve tribes scattered abroad, and sends them greeting. It is not the salutation that the Epistles of Paul and the other apostles have made so familiar to us, but exactly the form of salutation that was used in the famous epistle of Acts 15:1-41 from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, who wrote to the Gentile assemblies to guard them from yielding to legalism. And as he was the person who gave the sentence, it is not without interest to see the link between what was written on that day, and what James writes here.

The object of the Spirit of God was to give a final summons by him who held a pre-eminent place in Jerusalem to the entire body of Israelites, wherever they might be. This is evident on the face of it. Nor is this an opinion, but what God says. We are so told expressly. Controversy here is, or ought to be, entirely out of the question. The apostle James it is who lets us know that such was his object in writing. Accordingly the epistle savours of this. No doubt it is peculiar, but not more so in the New Testament than Jonah is in the Old. As a whole, you are aware that the prophets addressed themselves to the people of Israel. Jonah's special mission was to Nineveh, to the most famous Gentile city of that day. Just as the Hebrew scriptures are not without this exception, so in the New Testament you have another exception. What could better convict the narrowness of man's mind, who would like to have it all thoroughly square according to his notions. As a whole, the New Testament addresses itself to the Christian body; but James does not. That is to say, in the Old Testament we have an exceptional address to the Gentiles; in the New Testament we have an exceptional address to the Jews. Is not all this quite right? One sees thoroughly, in the midst of the utmost difference otherwise, how it is the same divine mind a mind above the contractedness of man. Let us hold this fast! We shall find it profitable in everything, as well as in the word that we are now reading.

"My brethren," says he, "count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trial of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." (James 1:2-3) Thus it is at once apparent that we are on practical ground the manifestation of godliness toward both man and God, that here the Holy Ghost is pressing this as the very first injunction of the epistle. "Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations." Temptations, trials (for clearly he refers to outward trials), are in no way the dreadful ogres that unbelief makes them to be. "We are appointed thereunto," says the apostle Paul. The Israelites no doubt found it hard, but the Spirit of God deigns here to instruct them. They were not to reckon trial a grievance. "Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations." The reason is that God uses it for moral purposes; He deals with the nature which opposes itself to His will. "Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience" (or endurance). "But let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."

And how is this then to be effected? Here is brought in another essential point of the epistle. It is not only a question of trials that come upon the believer when he is here below. Clearly he is in this place addressing his brethren in Christ. He does not simply look at the whole twelve tribes, but at the faithful; as we find in the beginning of the next chapter, "My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons." So I think it is clearly here men capable of understanding what was spiritual. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God."

These are the two most important points pressed practically throughout the epistle. One is the profit of not enjoying the pleasant only, but the rough and hard that God sends for our good. Blessing now is not in ease and honour, but, contrariwise, counting joy in trial, accepting what is painful from God, certain that He never mistakes, and that all is ordered of Him for the perfect blessing of His own people. But then this leads the way, and makes one feel the need of wisdom from God in order intelligently and happily to profit by the trial; for, as we know, the blessing of all trial is "to them that are exercised thereby." In order to discern we need wisdom. This he brings in: "If any of you lack wisdom." There is thus the need of dependence on God, the spirit of habitual waiting on Him of bowing to Him, and, in short, of obedience. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not." We shall see by and by whence this flows, but we have merely now a general exhortation. "Let him ask in faith," says he, "nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." Thus he shows that faith supposes confidence in God, and that this doubtful mind, this hesitancy about God, is in point of fact nothing but unbelief. Accordingly it is a practical denial of the very attitude you take in asking God. It is blowing hot and blowing cold; it is appearing to ask God, when in point of fact you have no confidence in Him. Let not such a one, therefore, expect anything of the Lord.

In the next place he proceeds to show too how this works practically: "Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: but the rich in that he is made low:" such are the ways of God "because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away." All that is founded on a mere temporary set of circumstances is doomed, and in no way belongs to the nature of God as revealed in truth and grace by the Son of God. Hence, therefore, God reverses the judgment of the world in all these matters, "Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted. but the rich, in that he is made low." The reason also is given: "For as the flower of the grass" (which is mere nature) "he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways."

On the other hand, one may and should be "blessed." Here we have the full contrast, and the reason why all this is brought in; for there is a perfect chain of connection between these verses, little as it may appear at first sight. "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation," instead of being exposed either to the instability of unbelief which we saw, or to the mere dependence on natural resources which was next proved. The man that endures temptation, that accepts it and counts it joy, blessed is he; "for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him."

This leads to another character of trial in inward evil, not in outward. There is a temptation which comes from the devil as truly as there is a temptation that comes from God, and is good for man. That is, there is a trial of faith, and there is a temptation of flesh.

Now it is clear that the trial of faith is as precious as it is profitable; and of this exclusively he has been speaking up to this point. Now he just turns aside to notice the other; and it is the more important to weigh it well because, as far as I know, it is the only place in scripture where it is definitely presented. Temptations elsewhere mean trials, not inward solicitations of evil; they have no bearing upon, nor connection with, the evil nature, but on the contrary are the ways in which the Lord out of His love tries those in whom He has confidence, and works for the greater blessing of those whom He has already blessed. Here, on the other hand, we find the common sense of temptation. Alas! the very fact of its being common proves where people are, how little they have to do with God, how much in common with the world. "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God." Now he is touching upon another character; "for God cannot be tempted by evils," you must read it as it is in the margin, "neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed."

Thus it is not only that God is inaccessible to evil Himself, but He also never tempts to evil at any one time whatsoever. There is no such thought that enters the mind of God. He moves supremely above evil: this is the ground of the blessing of every child of God, which he will show presently, when he has finished the subject of evil that comes through man's nature. Evil is from himself; for, as he says, "Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." This is not the way in which the apostle Paul handles the matter. It is not that there is the very smallest contradiction between the two. They are perfectly harmonious; but then it is a different way of looking at the matter; and the reason is obvious, because what Paul treats of in Romans 7:1-25, which is the scripture I refer to, is not the conduct but the nature. Now, if you look at nature, it is plain that sin is there first, and in consequence of the sin that dwells in the nature, there are lusts as the effects of it. Here he looks at sin in the conduct, and accordingly there are evil workings within, and then the outward act of sin. Thus we see it is only, to say the least of it, a very great want of perception, and a dulness that certainly is unworthy nay, worthy of any person that sets up to judge the word of God a shameful position for a creature for a man above all for a Christian to take. But it is here, as is the case everywhere, blindness and ignorance in those that set one part of scripture against another.

To this, perhaps, it may be said, "Do you never find a difficulty?" To be sure, but what is the place of any one who finds a difficulty in the word of God? Wait upon God. Do not you try to settle difficulties, but put yourself in the attitude of dependence. Ask wisdom, and ask it all of God, who gives liberally and upbraids not. He will surely clear up whatever is for His own glory. There is not a man of exercised soul in this building, or any other, who has not proved the truth of what I am now saying. There is not a man who has been led in any measure to the understanding of the ways of God that has not proved the very passages, which he once found so difficult when they were not understood, to be the means of exceeding light to his soul when they were. And therefore, haste to solve difficulties is really and practically a finding fault either with God or with His word;-with His word, because it is deeper than we are; with Himself, because He does not give the babe the knowledge that would be proper to the grown man. Now it is evident that this is only foolishness. It is just the haste that hinders blessing and progress. However, nothing can be simpler than that which the apostle here describes and recommends to us, and nothing more certain.

Now we come to the other side. "Do not err, beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above." We have had the evil traced to its source, which is the fallen nature of man, no doubt wrought on by Satan, but without here bringing the enemy before us. We shall find this by and by, inJames 4:1-17; James 4:1-17; but here he simply looks on man's nature, and then he raises his eyes to God. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." The first point therefore in the mind of the Holy Ghost here is to vindicate God. at all cost, and this entirely apart from us. As evil comes from us, so all that is good comes from God; and not only is God the spring of every good every good giving and every perfect gift being all from God (the manner of it as well as the thing itself that is given); but, besides, there is no change in God, the creature in its best estate is nothing but change.

Thus there is a most complete vindication of God's moral glory in this verse, contrasted with man in his weakness, and ruin, and evil. But he goes farther, and asserts and asserting, too, in the most admirable manner the truth of the sovereign action of grace. He has claimed this for God already; but now we come to see the application to us. It is not only, therefore, that God is good, but that He is a giver, and this of nothing that is not good, and of all that is good. Stainless in His holiness, and invariable in His light, God is active in His love; and as the fruit of this energetic sovereign love He does not bless merely, sweet as it is from Him. Blessing is altogether short of that which we know now in Christianity-of that which even James treats of, according to his very broad and comprehensive epistle. In the bright day that is coming God will bless the creature. In the dark day that man calls "now," God more than blesses far more than blesses those who believe. We are ourselves born of Him: He communicates His nature to the believer. He does so unsought, and surely undeserved. Undeserved! Why there was nothing but evil: he had shown this immediately before. There was nothing good from man's nature as a fallen creature,-nothing but good from God.

Then, let it be repeated, it is not merely good we see here, but a communication of His own spiritual nature; and this He is doing by the word of truth. Scripture is the medium. The revelation of Himself by which He acts on souls is accordingly here brought before us, no less than His own sovereign will as the source of it. "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures." He means to bring in fulness of blessing by and by. This will be, as far as government is concerned, in the millennium; but, being only government, evil will remain to be controlled and kept down to His own glory. This could in no wise satisfy God's nature, and so scripture reveals a time coming when all will be according to God. Then will be in the fullest sense His rest, when all question of His working and of man's responsibility will be over, when He, entering into the result, will grant us to enter into His rest. Then shall we be not merely first-fruits of His creatures, but all in rest and glory according to the new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

Meanwhile we who are thus begotten, the firstfruits, have the wondrous blessing here set forth. It is not merely that we are objects of this blessing. Alas! how often a blessing has been given, and as often lost, being turned to His shame and men's corruption. God blessed, as we know, at the very beginning blessed everything that He had made; but there was no stability in a blessing itself. To ensure stability, all must rest on one who is God as well as man, giving us a nature according to God. In those that are fallen there must be the communication of the divine nature; and this there is in Christ, and so there always has been. It may not be always consciously known, and it was not in Old Testament times; but in order that there should be a basis of immutable blessing, and of communion in any measure between God and the creature, there must be the communication of the divine nature. Of this, accordingly, James here speaks. How it links itself with Peter, and John, and Paul, we need not stop now to enquire. We see at once that he who could despise such an epistle as this is a man not to be despised indeed, for God would not have us despise any as He despises none Himself; but certainly to call forth pain and sorrow that such thoughts should ever have been allowed in a soul born of God and withal a servant of Jesus Christ.

Founded, then, on this, the communication of His own nature, with its moral judgment, we. have the practical exhortation: "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear." Hearing is exactly the attitude of dependence. Now one who is the servant of God looks up to God, confides in God, and expects from God. This is the place which becomes him that is born of God. "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak." Speech is apt to be the expression of our nature of ourselves. Be slow then to speak, swift to hear. Clearly he has God in view, and has His word before him, and that which would make His word understood. Let us, too, be "swift to hear, slow to speak."

But another thing is to be heeded. It is not only that the nature of man expresses itself in the tongue, but in the feelings of the heart; and alas! in the wrath of a fallen creature. Let us be, then, not only slow to speak, but "slow to wrath." You see at once that we have an exhortation founded on, first, the spiritual anatomy, if I may so say, of our nature, and then we are given to know the wondrous character of the new life that we have received by faith of Jesus Christ, and know to be ours, because we are "begotten by the word of truth." Next, he gives the reason; "for," says he, "the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God."

It need scarcely be remarked that it is no question here of the righteousness of God in a doctrinal sense. James does not deal with such matters; he never takes up the question how a sinner is to be justified. Therefore, certainly, he in no way contradicts Paul, any more than in what is said of faith, or justification; indeed he does not at all treat of the same question that Paul has before him. Where two persons really take up the same matter, and then give us contrary expressions, they of course contradict each other; but if they deal with two totally different points, although they may be ever so closely connected, contradiction there is none: and such precisely is the fact as to Paul and James in the matter before us, without saying a word of the inspiration which makes it impossible. They both employ the words, "faith," "works," and "justify," but they are not settling the same question, but two different ones. We shall find the reason of this by and by, but I the more willingly make this remark in passing, in order to help any souls who find a difficulty; because it often proves a snare, particularly to those who rest over-much on verbal analogies.

Let us look to the grace of the Lord to understand the scripture. It is the habit of many, if they find the same expression, to give it always the same meaning. This is true neither in every-day language nor in God's word. Here, for instance, we have the righteousness of God clearly in a different sense from that so familiar to us in the Pauline epistles. He is speaking of what is not pleasing to, because, inconsistent with, His nature; and clearly the wrath of man is offensive to Him. It works nothing suitable to His moral nature. The passage speaks of practice, not of doctrine.

"Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls." It will be observed how far it is from being an imposed law. Particular pains are taken to guard from this prevalent idea. A Jew would have been likely to have thought of it thus; for he naturally turned to the law as the one and only standard. But, on the other hand, James is far from leaving out the use of the law: we shall find it in this very epistle. Still he is careful in this place to show that the word deals inwardly with the man, that it is this implanted word, as he calls it, and not an external law, that is able to save the soul. The word enters by faith, or, as the apostle has it in Hebrews, is "mixed with faith in them that hear it." "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." It is plain that we find ourselves throughout on the practical side of the manifestation by life. This is the governing thought and aim of the epistle.

"For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass." He may have ever so clear a view of himself; he sees clearly what he is like for a moment; but he as soon forgets all. "He beholdeth himself, and goeth his way." The image is faded and gone. He "straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was." Oh, how true is this, and how admirably drawn to the life! It is that glimpse of conviction by the truth that comes before souls when they are forced to discern what the spring of their thoughts is, what their feelings are when the light of God flashes over and through a man; but how soon it passes away, instead of entering in and abiding within the soul! It is the power of the Spirit of God alone that can grave these things on the heart. But here the apostle is exposing the absence of an internal work where intelligence is severed from conscience, and this he illustrates, as we have seen, by the man that gets a glance in a glass, and then all is gone directly his back is turned. Whereas there is power and permanence with him who fixes his view on "the perfect law of liberty."

And here it seems seasonable to say that, so far from James being legal in the evil sense of the word, he is the inspired man who, at least as much as any other, slays legality by this very expression. For this end there is not a more precious thought nor a mightier word in all the New Testament. In its own province there is nothing better, plainer, or more striking. The reason why people often find legality in James is because they themselves bring it. They are under that influence in their souls, and accordingly they cloud the light of James with that which was meant to veil the guilty in darkness.

What then is the law of liberty? It is the word of God which directs a man begotten by the word of truth, urging and cheering and strengthening him in the very things that the new life delights in. Consequently it has an action exactly the opposite of that exercised by the law of Moses on the Israelite. This is evident from the bare terms: "Thou shalt not do" this, "thou shalt not do" that.* Why? Because they wanted to do what God prohibited. The desire of man as he is being after evil, the law put a veto on the indulgence of the will. It was necessarily negative, not positive, in character. The law forbad the very things to which man's own impulses and desires would have prompted him, and is the solemn means of detecting rebellious fallen nature. But this is not the law of liberty in any wise, but the law of bondage, condemnation, and death.

*If my memory serve me, a celebrated man of the day wrote an essay on liberty, in which he observes that Christians are thrown on the law of Moses in default of positive morality in the New Testament. Can anything be conceived more superficial than such a remark? or a more evident token of the blindness of unbelief in him who made it? But it must really be so where Christ is not known. Is it not also striking as a proof that superstition is at bottom infidel as truly as free-thinking. In this the theologian and the sceptic come to the same conclusion, and from the same source a lack of seeing and appreciating Jesus. Life in Christ is positive; the law was essentially negative. The word of God expresses that life, and the Spirit gives it power; but this needs faith which all have not.

The law of liberty brings in the positive for those who love it not the negation of what the will and lust of man desires, so much as the exercise of the new life in what is according to its own nature. Thus it has been often and very aptly described as a loving parent who tells his child that he must go here or there; that is, the very places which he knows perfectly the child would be most gratified to visit. Such is the law of liberty: as if one said to the child, "Now, my child, you must go and do such or such a thing," all the while knowing that you can confer no greater favour on the child. It has not at all the character of resisting the will of the child, but rather of directing his affections in the will of the object dearest to him. The child is regarded and led according to the love of the parent, who knows what the desire of the child is a desire that has been in virtue of a new nature implanted by God Himself in the child. He has given him a life that loves His ways and word, that hates and revolts from evil, and is pained most of all by falling through unwatchfulness under sin, if it seemed ever so little. The law of liberty therefore consists not so much in a restraint on gratifying the old man, as in guiding and guarding the new; for the heart's delight is in what is good and holy and true; and the word of our God on the one hand exercises us in cleaving to that which is the joy of the Christian's heart, and strengthens us in our detestation of all that we know to be offensive to the Lord.

Such is the law of liberty. Accordingly "whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed" (or rather "doing"). There is, however, the need of attending to the other side of the picture: "If any man seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain."

Then the chapter closes with giving us a sample of what pure and undefiled religion is, but chiefly as we observe in a practical way the main object and never lost sight of. There is, first, the "visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction," persons from whom one could gather nothing flattering to the flesh, or in any way calculated to minister to self; there is, on the other hand, the keeping one's self unspotted from the world. How often one hears people in the habit of quoting from this verse for what they call practice, who dwell on the first part to the exclusion of the last. How comes it that the last clause is forgotten? Is it not precisely what those who quote would find the greatest difficulty in honestly proving that they value? Let us then endeavour to profit by the warning, and above all by the precious lesson in the word of our God.

In all that we have had the question naturally arises, Wherein lies the special propriety of such exhortations or why are they addressed to the twelve tribes? Surely we may ask this; for those who value the word of God are not precluded from enquiring what the object is. Rather are we encouraged to ask why it was according to the wisdom of God that such words as these should be presented to Israel, and especially to such of the twelve tribes as had the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. James enters upon this expressly in the next chapter.

James 2:1-26 "My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 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; 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 here, or sit here under my footstool; are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? 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? But ye have despised them." Here, it would seem, we begin to learn more definitely the reason. We can see the need, value, and wisdom of what has been said, but we may find here the occasion of it: with Israel there was peculiar danger of taking up the doctrines of Christianity as a system. As a people who had an exceptionally religious standing, they were yet more exposed to this than the Gentiles. The Jewish mind on its own side was just as prone to make a code of Christianity as the Gentiles were to couple it with philosophy. The Greek mind might speculate and theorize about it, but the Jew would make a quasi-Talmud of it in its way. His tendency would be to reduce it merely to a number of thoughts, and thus an outward system.

At this precisely is the epistle levelled, namely, the severing faith from practice. Against this the Holy Ghost launches His solemn and searching words in the rest of the chapter. This brings in the allusion to the law: "If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: but if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors." Then follows a grave and searching consideration for those who talk about the law, "for whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 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." From this use of these two things, that is, the royal law which thus goes forth towards one's neighbour, and again the law in general, he turns to take up the law of liberty which has been explained before. "For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment."

This introduces then the famous passage which has been the perplexity of so many minds: "What should it profit, my brethren, though a man may say that he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save?" It is evident that it cannot. A faith that is unproductive has no living link with God. What is the good of a faith that consists in mere assent to so many dogmas, and thus proves its human source? The faith that is given us of God saves, not that which is the fruit of man's nature. We have seen this already, and so therefore, the grand principle of the first chapter leads as simply as possible into the application of it in the second. Here all is exemplified in a plain but striking way. "If a brother or a sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 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?" Evidently nothing. "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe and tremble." If there is any difference, the advantage is really on the side of those misleaders of poor ruined men. At least they do feel; and so far there is a greater effect produced than on these reasoning Jews. "But wilt thou know, O vain man?" says he. It is not all that the Corinthian was vain in his speculations, but the Jew not less, who thus spoke and acted. "Wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead."

Yet the remarkable feature we have also to weigh here is that when works are thus introduced, attention is directed to what would be perfectly valueless if they were not the result of faith, nay, worse than valueless, positively evil, and entailing the severest punishment. For if we merely look at Abraham, or at Rahab, apart from God, apart from faith, if we regard their ways here cited as a question of human good works who in the world would ever so style that which Abraham or Rahab did? It is perfectly plain that according to man Abraham would have been in danger of losing his liberty, if not his head, for intent to kill Isaac; and unquestionably, judged by her country's law, the conduct of Rahab must have exposed her to the worst punishment of the worst political crime. But this would be judging their actions apart from God, because of whose will they were done, and apart from faith, which alone gave these works their life and character. Otherwise Abraham in man's eye was a father ready to murder his own son: what could be worse than this? In short, if we regard his work apart from faith, it is perhaps the darkest evil conceivable. And what was Rahab's act but treason against her country and her king? Was she not willing, so to speak, to hand over the possession of the city in which she had been born and bred to those who were going to raze it to the foundations?

The moment we bring into view God and His will and His purposes, it is needless to say that these two memorable acts stand out clothed with the light of heaven. The one was the most admirable submission to God with unqualified confidence in Himself, even when one could not see how His sure promise could stand, but sure it would. A man that did look straight up to God, swift to hear and slow to speak, was Abraham; a man in whom the loud voice of nature was utterly silenced, that God's will and word might alone govern his soul. So, if it were his only son that came of Sarah, so much the more bound to his heart because so singularly given in the pure favour of God, yet he would give him up, and be prepared with his own hand to do the dreadful deed. Oh, if ever there was a work of faith since the world began, it was that work for which Abraham was ready yea, did put his hand to. So on Rahab's story I need not dwell, except just to show how remarkably guided of divine wisdom was James's allusion. How truly it bears the very stamp of inspiration, and the more so because we know the apostle Paul refers to Abraham at least for a totally different purpose! But not more certainly was Paul inspired to present Abraham's faith and Abraham's act too in this closing circumstance of his life (we may say, the great and final test of his faith), not more was Paul guided in his application, than James was in that which has been just now before us.

The great point of all seems this: that there were works, but the works that James insists on are works where faith constitutes their special excellence, and indeed alone could be their justification. Is this then in any way allowing the value of works without faith? The very reverse is true. He does call for works, and is not content simply with faith, but the works he produces are works that owe all their value to faith.

Thus, therefore, the indissoluble union between faith and works never was more blessedly maintained than in the very circumstances that James thus brings before us. So far is he from shaking faith that he supposes it, and the works which he commends are stamped with it in the most definite and striking manner.

Then we come to some fresh practical exhortations. As we have found, he particularly warns against the tongue as the expression of the heart's excitement if not of malice. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." Here we open with its application in another and, if possible, still more important province; that is, in the matter of speaking to public edification. We have to remember that the danger is not only in what may be breathed in private; but, adds he, James 3:1-18; James 3:1-18 "Be not many masters," that is, in the sense of teachers "knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation." For surely that which a man says publicly will be used to measure himself; and it is well to be prepared for it. If we ought as a rule to be slow to speak, there is no exception in setting up to teach others; for thus we certainly incur severer judgment. It is an exhortation that shows on the one hand the danger and wrong of being over ready to seize an open door through anxiety to display one's self; on the other hand, it supposes the perfect liberty that reigned among believers. Impossible that such an exhortation could apply where there exists the régime of an exclusive ministry.

Thus evidently not only does James's doctrine set forth clearly the blessed truth of a new nature, as already shown, but his exhortation supposes just the same openness among Christians in the exercise of ministerial gift as was found, e.g. in 1 Corinthians 14:1-40, and in practice throughout the church of God. So far from there being any contradiction of others in the epistle of James, although there is not a little which in form is new (for the twelve tribes) both in its breadth and in its speciality, the mind of God is one. The inspiring Spirit, even in the most peculiar production of the New Testament epistles, gives us what harmonizes with every other part, and cements the whole fabric of divine truth.

There is a moral reason added: "For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body." He does not, I apprehend, restrict himself to public speaking, though opening with it, as we have seen. "Behold we put bits into horses' mouths." He shows that it may seem a little thing to man, but we must not excuse what is wrong because it may appear to have a little source. He proves that the least things are often those which govern other bodies incomparably larger. "Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm." This is applied to the subject in hand. "The tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter" (or wood, as it is given in the margin) "a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell." In all the Bible we meet no more energetic and truthful picture of the desperate evil to which men are exposed by that little active member. "For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: but the tongue can no man tame." The comfort is that God can deal with it God who gives the believer His own nature, and knows how to bring down the old nature so that there may be scope for the manifestation of what is of Himself.

Nor does James spare the gross inconsistency too often experienced. "Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be." This is fortified by various illustrations, and followed up by the picture of the wise man, who is proved to be such, not by famous knowledge, but practically. It is always the every-day application that is in the mind of James. It is ever the right thing, as it was exactly what was most called for then and there. Had he in this epistle launched out into the vast expanse of the truth, he would only have given an impulse to the heaping up of more dogmas. Such a course would only have aggravated the evil instead of uprooting it. Himself a wise man in his ordinary ways, there was divine wisdom given him by the Holy Ghost in thus dealing so directly with the snares of the twelve tribes, and even of that portion which professed the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hence, if a man be wise, the question arises, how is it to be proved? Assuredly not in talking much, which usually tends to talking ill. "Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom." If on the contrary there were bitter envy and strife in their hearts, how could they boast against the truth, or he against it? How cuttingly severe, and this simply from laying bare things as they were! Yet, what an exposure! Think of people glorying in their shame! "And lie not against the truth." It was a practical incongruity and contradiction of the mind of God.

Then we are shown two kinds of wisdom, just as with regard to temptations there were two sorts of them one blessed from God, and a real glory to the man that endures; and the other a shame, because it springs from his own fallen nature. No otherwise is it with wisdom. "This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work." Its works prove its nature and its source. There is confusion in every evil way, "but the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable." Never reverse this order; it is not only that this wisdom is pure and peaceable, but it is first pure, then peaceable. It first maintains the character and glory of God, and then seeks the fruits of peace among men. But this is not all. It is gentle, and easy to be entreated, or yielding. Instead of ever giving battle for its rights supposed or real, there is clearly the yieldingness of grace about it. It is not the stubbornness of self-assertion or opinionativeness. This, on the contrary, stamps the sensual aspiring wisdom of man; but what comes down from above is gentle, yielding, full of mercy and good fruits, uncontentious, and unfeigned. When a man is conscious that his wisdom is of a suspicious kind, one can understand him unwilling to have his mind or will disputed; but the truth is, that there is nothing which so much marks the superiority of grace and truth and wisdom that God gives as patience, and the absence of anxiety to push what one knows is right and true. It is an inherent and sure sign of weakness somewhere, when a man is ever urgent in pressing the value of his own words and way, or cavilling habitually at others. "The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated:" it is also "full of mercy and good fruits, without contention, and without hypocrisy." It is characterised by the self-judgment which delights in and displays the ways of God. "And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace." Thus if there is peace in the way, righteousness is alike the seed and the fruit. The seed, as ever, must produce its own proper fruit. "The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace." What an honour to be sons of peace in a world ever at war with God and those who are His!

Alas! we find in James 4:1-17 the contrary of this wars and fightings, "whence come they?" Not from the new nature of which God is the blessed source, but from the old. "Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?" I hope it will not be contended that these were persons born of God. It seems to me that what was stated at the beginning of the present discourse is an important key for interpreting expressions. On the other hand, the effect of forgetting to whom the words are addressed, and of assuming that the epistle contemplates none but such as are born of God, is that you are obliged to explain away the strength of the divine word. Receive its address in simplicity of faith, and every word of God is intelligently found to tell. You do not require to enfeeble a single phrase. James does contemplate Christians, but not Christians only. He is writing as he says himself, to the Israelitish stock, and not merely to those of Israel that believe. Expressly he addresses the whole twelve tribes of Israel. Whether they believe or not, they are all addressed in this epistle. Consequently there is a word for those of them that were clearly not born of God, as well as for those who were.

Under this impression I read, "Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?" Need it be told you that this verse has been a matter of much difficulty to many minds? Although I am not at all prepared to dogmatize about its force, it appears to me a harsh expression to suppose that the spirit here described means no more than man's spirit. I do not know how a man's spirit can with propriety be said to dwell in a man. One can understand "the spirit of a man that is in him;" as the apostle Paul, when describing the human spirit, does put it in1 Corinthians 2:1-16; 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, but hardly the spirit that dwelleth in a man. But if here it be not the spirit of man, the only spirit elsewhere said to dwell in man ( i.e., the believer) is the Spirit of God. But herein is just what causes the difficulty. How, if it be the Spirit of God, can He be put in such a connection here? Must we translate and punctuate as in the common Greek Testament and English Bible?

Hence many are of opinion (and to this I am rather disposed, though I would not venture to say more) that the verse ought to be thus divided: "Do ye think that the scripture speaketh in vain? Does the Spirit that dwelleth in us lust unto envy?" Clearly both the word condemns and the Holy Spirit leads in a wholly different direction. (Compare Galatians 5:1-26) The natural spirit of man does lust to envy, no doubt; but the Spirit that dwells in us opposes the flesh at all points, as we know scripture does.

And this connects itself, as it seems to me, with what follows: "But he giveth more grace." That is, so far from lusting to envy, God is acting in goodness. It is grace alone that has communicated the nature of God; it is grace alone that strengthens the new nature by the gift of the Holy Ghost who dwells in us; and yet more than this, "He giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." He who realises with God what this world is, and what man's nature is, is humble before Him; as also more grace is given to such. The sense of all around and within leads him out in self-judgment before God.

This, then, I suppose though not venturing to speak with more decision is the practical result. "Submit yourselves therefore to God. But resist the devil, and he will flee from you." How much is covered by these two exhortations! One is the source of all that is good, and the other the guard against all that is evil. "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners." Will it be contended that sinners means saints? They are utterly different. There prevails among too many evangelical persons a mischievous habit of talking about "saved sinners." To my mind it is not only inexact but misleading and dangerous. Scripture knows no such being as a "saved sinner." We may well rejoice over a "sinner saved" if we know the mercy of it in our souls; but if we license the phrase a "saved sinner," the moral effect is, that, when and though saved, he is still free to sin. Not that any one acquainted with the truth denies that a saved soul has still the flesh in him, and is liable to sin if unwatchful. Still he who is saved has a new life and the Holy Ghost, and to sin is not natural for him: he is bound to walk in the Spirit as he lives in it. Evidently, if he sin, he must go athwart his new nature and position, and the blessed deliverance which God has given him in Christ.

Thus there is often a great deal of importance even in the way in which a truth is stated. The manner of stating a truth, however well-meant, may sometimes stumble souls, through our own want of subjection to the precious truth and the wonderful wisdom of God in His word. Instead of helping on holiness, one may on the contrary, by an unguarded word, give somewhat of a loose rein to the old nature. This no part of scripture does. It is perfectly true that, when God begins to deal with a soul, He certainly begins with him as a sinner; but He never ends there. I am not aware of any part of the word of God in which a believer, save perhaps in a transitional state, is ever referred to as a sinner. No doubt that he who was in the front rank of all the saints and servants of God, when he looked at what he was in himself glorying in the law and nature, could and did characterize himself as a chief of sinners, especially when he thought of the immeasurable riches of God's race of which he was so favoured a communicator to souls. In this we do and must all join in our measure. At the same time it is evident that to be a saint and a sinner at the same time is simply a flat contradiction.

In short, holy scripture does not sanction such a combination, and the sooner we get rid of phrases, which deserve no better name than religious cant, the better for all parties. It would be waste of time to speak of such a thing now, if it were not of practical moment; but I am convinced that it is' and that this and other stereotyped phrases of the religious world gravely need and will not bear an examination in the light of scripture. The traditions of Protestants and Evangelicals are no better than those of Roman Catholics, any more than of Jews who were before them all. Our wisest course is to discard every unscriptural phrase which we find current and influential.

I press, then, that the word "sinners" here clearly to my mind shows that the Spirit of God in this epistle takes in a larger range than most allow. Also it is no mean confirmation of what has been already advanced as to James. "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother" is really speaking evil of God's own law and judging it.

But he presses also the necessity of dependence on God in another form in the end of our chapter. That is, we are warned against forming resolutions, plans of our future doings and the like. This too is a practical subject. We ought all to know how much we need to watch against such an ignoring of God above us, and the coming of the Lord. As he says here, "Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow" not even on the morrow. "For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away, instead of your saying, If the Lord will, and we live, we will also do this, or that. But now ye glory in your boastings: all such glorying is evil." He does not conclude, however, without another appeal to conscience. "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." It is the law of liberty, and of infinite purity and power. It is not only that sin consists in doing evil, but in not doing the good that we know. May we never forget what the new nature loves and feels to be true and holy according to Christ.

Then in James 5:1-20 we have a solemn word for rich men, to weep and howl for their miseries that shall come upon them. Will any man argue still that this means the saints of God? Are they the persons called to weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon them? Are they told to weep and howl? "Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together "not exactly "for the last days." This would be hardly intelligible. What there can be little doubt the Holy Ghost meant us to gather is, "Ye have heaped together riches in the last days." This aggravated the selfishness of their ways and their indifference to others. It is bad enough to heap treasure at any time; but to heap it up in the last days was to add not a little to the evil in the Lord's eyes. "Is it a time," said the indignant prophet, to his covetous and deceitful attendant, "to receive money, and to receive garments, and olive-yards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and men-servants, and maid-servants?" Was it a time, when God was dealing with unwonted power and grace even for Gentiles? Was this the time for an Israelite to lie for profit and get gain by it? And so here; when the last days were proclaimed by God's word in solemn warning, the heaping up of treasure in such days as these was indeed most offensive to Him.

"Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just." What an unexpected moral link! The apostle shows that the spirit of heaping up riches in the last days is the same that in other circumstances slew Jesus Christ the righteous. It is not a connection that we could have anticipated, but it is just such an one as would be discerned by the Holy Ghost ever sensitive to the Lord's glory; and so in fact it is as we may feel on reflection. It was this selfishness that came into direct personal collision with the Lord of glory, "who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich." We can understand that those whose one object was their own importance, glory, and ease in this world, necessarily felt that such an one was a living witness against them, and convicted them of flagrant opposition to the grace of God, who taught by Jesus in word and deed that it is more blessed to give than to receive. For this doctrine and practice the Pharisees were quite unprepared. (See Luke 16:1-31) Accordingly their hatred grew until it resulted in the cross of the Lord; and hence this is one of the elements, though of course not the only one, which calls down the judgment of God; and the Spirit of God so treats it here: "Ye have killed the just." The allusion is to the Lord, not the just in general, but the Just One, even Christ, "and he doth not resist you."

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. "Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and the latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh."

Then he calls them again so much the more to avoid a murmuring spirit against one and another, because the judge stood at the door. He exhorts them to endurance and to patience. This reappears as a final appeal. We had it at the commencement of the chapter; we have it again here that it should by all means be remembered. "Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy."

Then another snare is connected with this for avoidance: "Above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation." What has the apostle in view here? The oath before a magistrate? In no wise does scripture slight that solemn obligation. The Lord Himself respected the adjuration of the high-priest; and in no passage whatever do we see a depreciatory allusion to a judicial oath in the sermon on the mount, or, in what James says here, or in any other part of the Bible, but the contrary, The Lord was addressing Jewish disciples, James writes to the twelve tribes of Israel who are in the dispersion; but what they both set their faces against was the habit of bringing in religious asseverations for the purpose of confirming their word every day, besides the profaning of the Lord's name in matters of this life. This in point of fact weakens instead of establishing what is said; for it is evident that whatever is uncalled for gives no strength to an assertion, but is just a fruit and proof of weakness. Where there is simple truth, nothing is needed but the quiet statement of the fact.

There were no people so prone to ordinary swearing as the Jews. Accordingly, I have not the slightest doubt that what our Lord and His servants reprobated was the introduction of an oath in common conversation; and this, it is plain, does not apply to an oath administered by a magistrate. Indeed, it seems to me in itself sinful for a man to refuse an oath (supposing its form otherwise unobjectionable) if required to do so by proper authority. It would be to me a virtual denial of God's authority in civil government here below. I believe, therefore, that it is the bounden duty of every man to whom an oath is put, to take it in the fear of the Lord. I admit it must be put by competent authority. Therefore we are not to assume that the passage in Matthew 5:1-48, or this portion of James, has the smallest reference to judicial swearing. How could one think that those who indulge in such thoughts show any real intelligence as to the word of God? They certainly exhibit a certain care for conscientiousness. This is not in the least denied. But we have to take care that we are guided of God in this, which is important in the present day when we know that the spirit of the age is endeavouring to blot out God in all that touches man here below. The Lord was silent till adjured by the high-priest: was not His conduct thus perfectly consistent with His own teaching? An oath, therefore, should not be refused when put by a magistrate. I am supposing, of course, that there is nothing in the terms of the oath that would involve false doctrine or countenance a superstition. For instance, in a Roman Catholic country there might be reference to the virgin, or angels, or saints. Such an oath I do not think that a Christian man would he at liberty to take. But I am supposing now that a person is required in the name of God to declare what he believes to be the truth in a matter of which he is a witness, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It appears to me that so far from his being at liberty to refuse this, he is on the contrary guilty, through ignorance, of no small sin in cavilling about the matter.

The rest of the chapter takes up another subject the case of God's discipline. It is governmental. "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms." This does not mean expressly the inspired psalms. Persons are apt to think of the psalms of David whenever there is the introduction of the word. Doubtless old habits and associations lead to this; but there is no ground for it in the Bible. No more is meant here than that, being happy, he is to give vent to his joy in the praise of the Lord. It is nothing more. "Is any among you sick? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord." This we know was an old custom. It was used even by those who were clothed with miraculous power. When the apostles were sent forth of our Lord, they were directed by Him to anoint the sick with oil. (Mark 6:1-56) And so here the elders were to act in the same remarkable style. Nor do I deny that there are answers to prayer of a very striking kind. I do not call these answers miraculous powers, because the true power of this kind is that exercised by a person raised up of the Lord for the purpose, and who knows that he can count upon it in the case where He pleases to show it; whereas in an answer to prayer there is a trial and exercise of faith about it, just as with those who were praying for Peter when he was in prison. There was no miracle in their part of the business, as far as they were concerned. There was a remarkably direct intervention of God, but it was in no way connected with any gift of miracles committed to the people who were praying. "And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up." Here it is a question of God's judgment. The person is chastened in sickness for some evil; it is now judged; grace intervenes, and God heals.

Then comes the general spirit of confession. "Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another, that ye may be healed." It is the true love that interests itself, not only in that which is good, but even in what is, alas! the fruit of unjudged evil. But there is a careful abstinence from urging confession to the elders, I cannot doubt, in the far-seeing wisdom of God, who loves souls and hates superstition. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Elias is cited in support of this. Finally we have, "Brethren. if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." It is doubtless put in a general form. At the same time it only confirms, as it appears to me, what has already been shown to be the comprehensive character of the epistle.

In the next lecture we shall enter, if the Lord will, on what belongs more to the ordinary train of our Christian associations.

Bibliographical Information
Kelly, William. "Commentary on James 2:26". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​wkc/​james-2.html. 1860-1890.
 
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