James 2

These verses warn against “respect of persons” Ch 2

Commentaries divided: believers – unbelievers

James in the role of a “prophet of social justice:

v. 1 Quote – The miseries were to come upon them when they met God They were guilty of various sins. Regarding Riches – garments – gold –silver:

Riches = grain & oil – wormy, rancid

Garments = too many – moth eaten

Gold-silver = becoming tarnished

James says you have accumulated all this wealth at the expense of your workmen.

Characteristics displayed – injustice – greed –dishonesty – lack of love.

v. 4 The protests of the workers, relative to withheld wages, had fallen on deaf ears, but says James; their cries have been heard by the “lord of hosts.”

v. 5-6 James continues his tirade against the rich accusing them of luxurious living – immorality. Finally he accuses them of being inhuman. Running roughshod over the innocent and helpless. Killing them with overwork and underpaying them. The righteous man does not mean Christ.

Leaving the rich to their folly, James now turns to the believers who were being appeased. V. 7

“Be patient brethren until”, etc. “Tribulation worketh patience”

Example of patience – the farmer. Once the seed is planted he has no control – but waits patiently for the ripening and harvest. Early – later rains.

v. 8 “be patient” syas James, all the wrongs of the earth will be put right at Lord’s coming.

v. 10-11 James now cites some examples of those who were patient. See Heb 11

They endured as seeing Him who was invisible. Heb 11-27

Job is specifically mentioned as an example of endurance (patience), fortitude.

“Curse God and die” “Though he slay me”, etc. Ended up with twice as much.

v. 12 “Do not swear”. Sermon on the Mount – Matt 5:24

This does not seem to be a question of profanity or cursing.

Neither a matter of taking an oath in a court of law.

It refers to the thoughtless we of the Lord’s name, in any shape or form, to authenticate the truthfulness of our statements. Yes, yes! No, no!

Expressions to avoid, “For heaven’s sake”; “As God is my judge”; “By Jove”; “Gee” (contraction of Jesus); “I swear before God”.

Proverbs 25:11 “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”

v. 3 Easy to understand.

v. 14, 15 Probably one of the most disputed portions of the N. T. – healing – sickness – from Adam – from personal sin – Satan activity.

God can and does heal today. Through doctors/medicine – miraculously – yet Traphinius and Paul were never healed.

This is a special kind of sickness – brought about by sin.

“And if he was committed sins they shall be forgiven him”

What we can claim here is healing of body after the confessing and forsaking of sin.

The oil may only be part of a ritual from the ceremonies of the O.T.

v. 15 says, “The prayer of faith will save the sick”

The wind is “restore” this would be of body and spiritual restoration.

V. 16-18 These verses do not teach that we have to go around confessing our secret sins to everyone. If we have sinned against someone we should confess to that person. Physical healing and spiritual restoration is linked again in this verse.

The power of prayer. Effectual –fervent; earnest-effective.

Elijah was a normal man – his prayers brought drought for 3 ½ years.

He prayed again. The rain came. We too can pray like Elijah.

V. 19 The picture is of one that has strayed away in some form.

Now says James, if one can t urn this one to Christ he will save him from premature death – and his sin will be forgiven.

1 John 5:16 – Quote regarding prayer.

James 2:1-13

The title of our subject tonight is, “The practice of respect of persons”.

The teaching of the lesson is “Do not practice partiality”

V. 4-13 denounces the practice of showing respect of persons.

Showing favoritism in any form is utterly foreign to the example of the Lord or to the teaching of the N.T. There is no place in true Christianity for snobbishness or discrimination.

v. 1 The practices of partiality is distinctly forbidden. “My brethren” James is addressing believers in Christ.

The meaning of v. 1

“My brethren, in your practice of the Christian faith, do not show respect of persons.”

Snobbery and race distinctions are inconsistent with true Christianity.

The shunning of some because of birth, race, sex or poverty is a practical denial of “the faith”.

In this context James says – if you practice partiality “you commit sin.” V. 9

Having said this, may I remind you of the other portions of the N.T. which teach that we ought to pay proper respect to rulers, masters, elders and parents. There are divinely ordained relationships which must be recognized.

Romans 13:7

“Render, therefore, to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due: custom to whom custom: fear (respect) to whom fear: honor to whom honor.”

In our present passage the teaching is that no favoritism should practiced because of worldly prestige or expensive clothing.

The practice illustrated – vs 2-4

Describe the rich man and his entrance.

Describe the poor man and his treatment (vile/shabby clothes)

Stand here – or sit on the floor.

It seems incredible that this could happen in a Christian gathering.

How could such a sin be perpetrated today?

Discriminating against black brethren – hippies – long hair – different dress.

Brethren, we are dealing here with a divine principle, we must obey the written Word. God looks at the heart, heart condition more important than outward appearance.

The evils of partiality exposed – v. 5-11

In these verses James gives four reasons why we should not favor the rich and despise (neglect) the poor.

1. We dishonor a man whom God has chosen to honor – See v.5-6a. God has a special place in His heart for the poor. If we treat them wrongly we sin against God’s law.

2. v. 6—It is foolish to show deference to the rich, because they are the ones who oppress you and drag you into court. These referred to here are unbelievers. Calvin says about this verse, “Why honor your persecutors/executioners?”

3. v. 7—Why be partial toward the rich – they blaspheme the name of Christ. T his sin, unfortunately, is not limited to the upper class.

4. v 8—James’ fourth argument is that showing favoritism to the rich violates the law of love. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Love your neighbor as yourself” is probably one of the most revolutionary teachings in the Scriptures. Think on the implications of this. Who is my neighbor? Luke 10:29.

The Story of the Good Samaritan.

Our neighbor is any person who has a need which we can help to meet. Dangers – do not allow the pendulum to swing the other way.

“The royal law” = the law of love. The law of the King.

If we fulfill this law, James says, that, “We do well”

Mark 12:37 “The common people heard Him gladly” – not the wealthy or aristocratic.

1 Cor 26:29 Not many noble are called, but the poor – weak – base – the despised – the insignificant.

He has chosen the weak of this world to confound the mighty.

He has chosen the foolish of this world to confound the wise.

Most of our Lord’s followers were from the poorer classes.

God has chosen these dear ones, should we for any reason be disrespectful of them, while at the same time, showing undue respect to some prestigious person we disobey God’s Word.

v. 9 If we show respect of persons we violate the “royal law”

This is both sin and transgression.

Sin is a lack of conformity to the will of God, a failure to meet His standards.

Transgression is the breaking of a known law.

So then, failure on our part to keep the divine principle of not showing respect of persons makes us transgressors in His sight.

v. 10 According to this verse, if we break the law in one place we are guilty of all. The law is like a chain of 10 links. Break one link and the chain is broken.

God does not allow us to keep the laws we like, and break others. The same God who forbade adultery also forbade murder. V. 11.

So, in the context, murder and adultery is breaking the law, but so is snobbishness and discrimination. Failing to love one’s neighbor.

There is a basic problem that arises at this point in James’ argument.

The question is:

Are Christians under the law or are they not?

James has been enforcing the law upon Christians, or so it seems.

There has caused many theologians to question the right of the epistle to be included in the cannon of Scripture. (Luther). This argument, that it belongs to the Jewish era, becomes more convincing when you read the words written by the great proponent of the doctrine of the grace of God, Paul himself.

Rom 6:14 “You are not under law, but under grace.”

Rom 7:6 “We are delivered from the law.”

First of all it should be realized that Christians are not under the law as a rule of life. Christ, not the law, is the believer’s pattern.

But certain principles of the law are of abiding value. In the Epistles nine commandments are repeated, not given as law but as instruction in righteousness for the child of God.

What James is saying here is, As believers you are not under the law – you have liberty in Christ to do what is right.

Therefore, love your neighbor as yourself, not as a matter of life or death, but that you will be rewarded for it at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

v. 12-13

“So speak ye, and so do” refers to words and deeds. Our whole life should be in our words – not partiality – favoritism – should be shown by us.

Such violations will be judged by the Word at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

v. 13

There is no question of eternal punishment here.

This penalty was paid once for all at Calvary’s cross. In this verse it is a question of God dealing with an erring child in this world.

If we do not show mercy in our dealings with others, we are not walking in fellowship with God, and can expect to suffer the consequences of a backslidden condition.

1 Cor 11 – Some weak – sickly – some fallen asleep.

The expression “and mercy rejoiceth against judgment” may mean that if we show mercy to others, the judgment which might otherwise fall on us will be replaced by mercy.

To sum up the lesson: We should test ourselves on the subject of “respect of persons”.

1. Are we more kindly to the young than the old?

2. Do we befriend prominent people rather than the comparatively unknown? Do we neglect the more prominent for the sake of befriending the inconspicuous?

3. Do we favor the rich over the poor?

4. Would we receive a person of a different race as much as we would receive one of our own race?

James 2:14-26

Real faith – spurious faith

Faith and works

These verses are the most controversial in James.

Luther could not reconcile James’ teaching on justification by works and Paul’s insistence on justification by faith.

These verses are also used to support the heresy that we are saved by faith, plus works.

This section could be titled “Justification by Works”, because there is a sense in which we are justified by works.

Explain the doctrine of Justification.

To grasp the full truth of justification we should understand that:

1. We are justified by grace – Rom 3:24. This means that we did not deserve to be justified.

2. Justified by faith – Romans 5:1. Faith appropriates what God has done for us.

3. Justified by blood – Rom 5:9. This is the price of our justification.

4. Justified by God – Rom 8:33. God is the person who justifies.

5. Justified by works – James 2:24. This is the outward reality and proof of our faith.

v. 14 James insists here that a faith that does not result in good works cannot save.

There are two keys that will help us to understand this verse.

1. … though a man say he has faith. This man is not a real child of God – he is a professor – he only says he has faith.

2. The second key is brought out in some of the more recent translations. The last question in the verse should read, Can that kind of faith save him? No!

A false faith does not produce good works.

A true faith does. We know a tree by its fruit. “By their fruit you shall know them.”

v. 15-16 Faith without works illustrated

We are introduced to two people here.

One man has neither adequate food nor clothing. The other (the man who says he has faith) has both – but he is not willing to share them. He says, “Go and put on some clothing, and eat a good meal.” But he doesn’t raise a finger to make this possible. What good is that? This action does not provide good or warmth for the body.

v. 17 Faith without works is dead

A faith without works is not real faith at all. It is dead – it does not exist.

We are not saved by faith plus good works. We are saved by faith and genuine faith produces “good works”.

Works is the fruit of salvation not the root.

If this should apply to a Christian – obviously a backslider – John 15:2 – should be remembered. “Every branch which beareth not fruit He taketh away.”

v. 18 True faith and works are inseparable.

Visualize this verse as a conversation between two men.

The speaker who is saved and possesses real faith, says to the other who professes says he has to have faith, but does not demonstrate it by good works.

“You say you have faith, but you do not have works to demonstrate/prove it. This is an impossible situation, for faith is invisible, the only way that others can know you have faith is by a life that demonstrates it.”

“On the other hand, I will show you my faith by my works.”

Col 1:6 – faith-hope-love brings forth fruit.

1 Thess 1:3 – work of faith; the mark of true genuine faith in Christ is good works.

v. 19-20 If this man was seen (?) works have testified that he belongs to God.

Saving faith is not a mere mental assent to a well known fact. Believing on God, for instance. James says, that the demons believe in the existence of God, and they shudder at the thought of their eventual punishment by Him.

Mental assent – intellectual agreement is not rooted in true faith and does not produce good works.

On the other hand, when a person really believes on the Lord it involves a complete commitment of spirit-soul-body and results in a life of good works. A transformed life.

In v. 20 James appeals to the professor – “foolish fellow” to recognize that faith as head belief which does not produce good works is useless.

v. 21-25 Two examples to illustrate that faith produces works.

Abraham, a Jew

Rahab, a Gentile

1. Abraham – Quote v 21-26

To see this truth in proper perspective See Gen 15:6. Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness”. V 23

Abraham was considered righteous by God by believing – in other words by faith.

40 years later he offered his son Isaac to God and was justified by this action or his work. He gave proof of his faith. This proved the genuineness of his faith. His good works identified him as a friend of God. Man said, “show me the reality of your faith”. The only way this can be done is by good works.

2. Rahab was justified by works also.

v. 25 tells us what she did.

Joshua 2:8-11 – Rahab’s conversion

She concluded that the God of the Hebrews was the true God and decided to identify herself with this God whatever the cost.

When the spies came into the city, she befriended them, in doing so she showed the genuineness of her faith in the living God.

She was not saved by hiding the spies, but this action or work proved that she was a genuine believer.

v. 26 Faith is inanimate without works.

Quote – “The body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.”

James compares faith to the human body.

James compares works to the spirit.

The body without the spirit is lifeless.

So faith without works is dead.

This kind of faith is spurious – not genuine, saving faith.

True faith produces good works

Faith is towards God – Works is toward man.


Do I share my possession with those in need?

Do I live sacrificially in order to be able to send the Gospel to those starving for the Bread of life?

Am I willing to offer the dearest things in my life to God?

Am I willing to turn traitor to the world in order to be loyal to Christ?

Good works

1 Tim 6:8 – that they be rich in good works.

Titus 2:7 – show yourself a pattern of good works

Titus 2:14 – a peculiar people, zealous of good works

Titus 3:8 – be careful to maintain good works

Matt 5:16 – “Let your light so shine before man, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father, who is in heaven.”