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James Two

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

James 2:1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

James 2:2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;

assembly. “Assembly” here is actually the same word translated as “synagogue” (in fact, transliterated from the Greek). This is further indication of the very early date of James' epistle. The Jewish Christians evidently continued to call their assemblies by the same name they had known before, even though now they were Christian “synagogues.” Eventually, with increasing hostility by non-Christian Jews, along with more Gentiles coming into the assemblies, the “church” name became adopted everywhere.

James 2:3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:

James 2:4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

James 2:5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?

James 2:6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?

James 2:7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?

James 2:8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:

according to the scripture. This law was first set forth in Scripture in Leviticus 19:18. It was cited by Christ as a parallel law to that of loving God (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27). It is also quoted in Matthew 5:43; 19:19; and Galatians 5:14 (where Paul says it sums up the whole body of the Mosaic laws as they deal with human behavior and relationships). Thus the Bible cites it specifically eight times. No wonder it is called the royal law.

James 2:9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

James 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

offend in one point. James no doubt realized that his Jewish readers, accustomed as they had been to trusting in the law for salvation, needed to realize fully that they could never be justified before God by keeping the law, since no one could ever keep it perfectly. Not only Jews, however, but all men need to realize that they can never be saved by their good works (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 4:5; Galatians 2:16). One unforgiven sin is enough for condemnation.

James 2:11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.

James 2:12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.

law of liberty. This felicitous phrase is used only by James (see also James 1:25). Liberty is not license, but is freedom in Christ, under grace and the law of Christian love.

James 2:13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

James 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

can faith save him. Every one has faith of some kind—even atheists. However, the object of faith, and the results of that faith, measure its validity.

James 2:15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

James 2:16 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?

James 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

James 2:18 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.

faith by my works. Genuine faith in Christ for salvation inevitably produces works that demonstrate its reality (note Ephesians 2:8-10). James never says that works produce salvation, nor even that faith plus works can save, but that good works always accompany true saving faith.

James 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

there is one God. James is writing primarily to Jews, whose main religious distinctive was monotheism, as opposed to the pantheistic polytheism that characterized all the pagan religions of the day. Even now, there are only three monotheistic religions (orthodox Judaism, orthodox Islam and orthodox Christianity); all others are, to one degree or another, structured around evolutionary pantheism, and nowhere in Scripture is such pagan belief commended, or even condoned. In this verse, monotheism is commended by James, but even that is not sufficient to save. Only true Christianity acknowledges that the Creator must also be the Redeemer.

James 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

faith without works is dead. Many people have alleged that James was arguing here against Paul's doctrine of salvation strictly by grace through faith. This idea is clearly wrong, however, because James wrote his epistle before any of Paul's were written. Actually, there is no conflict between the two. James certainly taught that the works of the law could not save (note James 2:10; 4:17), and Paul taught clearly that genuine faith would produce good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). It is simply a semantic matter of emphasis. Salvation must be of grace, accepted by faith, since no one can earn it, but only God can know the heart and the reality of a profession of faith. But the reality of that faith can only be demonstrated to others by good works.

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

justified by works. At first glance, this statement does seem to be contradicted by Paul in Romans 4:2, when he denied that Abraham was justified by works. The point is that Abraham was justified by faith in the sight of God, as testified in Genesis 15:6, but he was justified in the sight of men (even in his own estimation) when he demonstrated the reality of his faith (Genesis 22:18) in his obedience to God's command to offer up Isaac.

James 2:22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

James 2:23 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.

fulfilled which saith. This testimony in Genesis 15:6 was a prophecy until its fulfillment in Abraham's obedience.

Friend of God. See 2 Chronicles 20:7 and Isaiah 41:8. Probably both were referring to God's testimony in Genesis 18:17-19.

James 2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

James 2:25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?

Rahab the harlot. It is interesting that such a woman as “Rahab the harlot” is cited in Hebrews 11:31 as an illustration of true faith and by James as evidence of justifying works. Her inclusion in the human genealogy of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 1:5) is evidence of God's grace.

James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.