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Faith and Works (James 2)

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James Chapter 2





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James 2

Surface level judgment
My brothers, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. 2 For if there come into your synagogue a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, and there come in also a poor man in vile clothing; 3 and you have regard to him that wears the fine clothing, and say: Sit here in a good place; and you say to the poor man: Stand there, or, Sit under my footstool; 4 do you not make distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
   5 Listen, my beloved brothers. Did not God choose those that are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to those that love him? 6 But you have dishonoured the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you, and themselves drag you before the courts? 7 Do not they blaspheme the honourable Name by which you are called?
   8 However, if you fulfil the royal law, according to the scripture: You shall love your neighbour as yourself, you do well! 9 But if you show favouritism, you commit sin, being convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever shall keep the whole law and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For He that said: Do not commit adultery, also said: Do not kill. So if you do not commit adultery but if you kill, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and act as men that are to be judged by a law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to whomsoever has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Faith and works
14 My brothers, what good is it if a man claims to have faith but has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and in lack of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them: Go in peace, be warmed and filled! And yet you do not give them the things needful to the body- what does it profit? 17 Even so, faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself.
   18 Yes, a man will say, you have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works and I, by my works, will show you my faith. 19 You believe that God is one! You do well. The demons also believe and shudder. 20 But, O vain man, do you need evidence that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 You saw that faith worked together with his works, and so by works was faith perfected. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which said: And Abraham believed God and it was accredited to him as righteousness; and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that by works a man is justified and not only by faith. 25 And in like manner was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works, in that she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead.


2:5 If we are “heirs of the Kingdom”, then God has promised it to us. We haven’t yet fully received it. Gal. 3:27-29 says that we are heirs of the promises made to Abraham if we are baptized into Christ.

2:6 The Christians whom James was writing to were being abused by those richer than them; and they were taking out their hurt on those who were poorer than them. This is a psychological classic; but in Christ we are to break the cycle of abuse by not taking out our hurt on those over whom we in our turn have some advantage and human superiority.

2:7 The Name of God and Jesus is called upon us by our baptism into the Name.

2:10 This is the fallacy of keeping just part of the Mosaic Law, e.g. the feasts or Sabbaths.

2:25 In this unusual case, telling a lie was actually an act of faith.

2:26 There is no contradiction here with Paul’s teaching of justification by faith without works. If we really believe that by God’s grace we shall surely be saved, on the basis of His grace alone, then we cannot be passive to this; if we really believe this, we will concretely do something in response to such total grace.