THE EPISTLE OF JAMES: Chapter 2 The Sin of Favoritism

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James 2:1 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

1My brothers, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.

My brothers, (2:1a)

Even though James was offering some strong correction concerning some very unchristian arrogance, he still referred to his readers as, “my brothers.” This evidences that he did not feel that their thinking and actions meant they had fallen away, but that they just had stumbled in their reasoning. Nevertheless, James does not parse words when it comes to those who claim to call themselves Christian, but their conduct belies that claim, as they lack brotherly love.

do not hold your faith (2:1b)

The foundation of any true Christian is an active faith in Jesus Christ. Thus, the readers of James’ letter had sidestepped or stumbled in that faith, as they ignored the life and times of Jesus Christ’s three and half year ministry. They set aside his example of being impartial, as well as his great love for those who were receptive to his message, and his sadness over those that had ignored him.

in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ (2:1c)

The Greek word (hēmōn doxēs), which is rendered “our glorious,” is in apposition[1] to Jesus Christ. In other words, Jesus Christ is the one who all Christians should praise. Jesus was “taken up in glory,” and one day ‘the Son of Man will come in his glory, and all the angels with him, and then he will sit on his glorious throne.” (Matt. 24:30; 25:31) James is making the point that Christian’s faith in their glorious Lord Jesus Christ is not accomplished by giving glory and honor to the wealthy and the powerful, victimizing the poor with disdain as though they were not there. This would actually put them at odds with Jesus Christ, the one who truly matters in the equation. It is one’s “faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ,” which truly matters, not in the wealth and power that one possesses.

with an attitude of personal favoritism. (2:1d)

Favoritism is so dangerous, as it gives a false representation of who God is. Christians, according to Matthew 5:16 are to be a light unto this world regardless of status or ethnicity or any other reason. Favoritism can be dangerous also in the fact that it defines the worth of an individual based on the externals of a person rather than on the internal heart and soul of the individual.

Favoritism most often places emphasis on the possessions, intellect, or station in life. At its core, bias is selfish because one only seeks to give attention to an individual based on what he thinks that individual can do for him. Favoritism often excludes the ones that God wants and includes the ones that God despises. In turn, favoritism does not place the value of a person in the reality of his heart or in the fact that he was made in the image of God. Instead, it sets the value of an individual based on one’s assumption of how that person to whom they show special attention can benefit him. Many of James’ readers should have known from the Mosaic Law that God forbade favoritism. In Leviticus 19:15, Moses writes, “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.”

We can look at the life of Christ and see that he did not play favorites with people. We see Jesus one moment with a high standing synagogue official (John 5), and then the next moment he is ministering to lepers (Matthew 8:3) who can do him no good. After that, we see him spending time with adulterers (John 8), which were despised. In addition, we see Jesus in one instance spending time with the religious elite Pharisees (Luke 18), then offering his love and attention to little children. (Matthew 19) Jesus does not see himself as being better than anyone else is, even though he was/is the Son of God. In fact, his core apostles were lowly fishermen. (Luke 5) Jesus never based someone’s value on what he felt they could do for him. He placed the value of people in the fact that they were created in the image of his Father.

Further evidence from Scripture that God does not show favoritism is recorded in Deuteronomy 10:17-18. It reads, “For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.” Peter in talking of the Gentiles said in Acts 10:34-35, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality,  but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.” In addition, the apostle Paul said in Romans 2:11, “For there is no partiality with God.”

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James 2:2-13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you look with favor upon the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the honorable name by which you have been called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,”[2] you are doing well. But if you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,”[3] also said, “Do not murder.”[4] If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as men who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to him who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

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For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in filthy clothes, (2:2)

The potential of any given Christian meeting is that an unbelieving rich man with gold rings and fine clothes could decide to attend, as well as a poor man in filthy clothes. This rich, well-dressed man would likely have been one of power and status within the community as well.

If the poor unbeliever were to start regularly attending the Christian meeting in his filthy clothes, the congregation should come together to aid this one with something clean and proper to wear. (Compare 1 Tim. 2:9-10; Rom. 12:13) Regardless of his little means, he should be welcomed no differently than the rich man, as there is no place for impartiality within God’s house. In reference to the poor one, Richardson writes, “Throughout Scripture, these poor are often said to fall into desperate conditions because of the injustices committed against them by wealthy and powerful oppressors.[5] Painfully, the congregation becomes a party to the oppression of the poor. The poor man is demeaned and devalued. His treatment readies him for dissociation through disgrace. ‘The poor you always have with you’ (Matt 26:11), which was the Lord’s way of telling his disciples that they would always be ministering to the poor, has been twisted around to mean that they are a hopeless case and that they should be helped only when it’s convenient. Of course, helping the poor is never convenient.” (Richardson 1997, 112)

and you look with favor upon the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” (2:3)

James highlights the fact that these believers decided that he was worthy of special attention. James says these believers look with favor upon the one who is wearing the fine clothes. The believers determined the rich man rather than the poor man to be worthy of their attention due to his external appearance. They even give the rich man special privileges in the fact that they tell him you sit here in a good place. In the synagogue in the first century, the best seats were those at the end of the room where everyone could see them and that faced Jerusalem. The seat was also next to the platform where the speaker would give his exposition of Scripture. This was a seat of honor for a special guest or speaker coming into town, and all knew that the one who sat there was a person of honor. Favoritism is always easily spotted in the fact that favors, time, and focus are given to a particular person. Here in this passage, the ones who were favorites were getting the good seats in the synagogue simply because of their wealth.

While the rich man was being treated with special honors, James presents the contrast with how the poor are treated. They are quick to notice the rich man, give him all the attention, and yet barely even recognize the poor man who came into the assembly. They treat the poor man as if he was less than human, saying; you stand over there or sit down by my footstool. Based on the externals of the poor man as having no wealth or anything valuable, they deemed him not worthy of their time or their attention. Sadly, “the situation is clear enough: Christians in positions of some authority in the community (the verb “show special attention” is in the plural) are fawning over the rich and treating the poor with disdain and contempt.” (Moo 2000, 104)

have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges of evil thoughts? (2:4)

James asks have you not then made distinctions among yourselves? The problem with judging is that it is never based on the internal nature of the heart but is always based on the external appearance an individual and James says they become judges with evil thoughts. Therefore, when people judge, assumptions about another are based on the external’s they perceive of that individual. They are discriminating among themselves as to who is worthy and who is not, based on one’s appearance. The standard by which they decide the truth about an individual is based on their personal assumption. God looks at the heart to make a decision about the status of a person. (1 Sam. 16:7)  When a mere man judges based on assumptions, it is based on externals. Whether the difference is with respect to wealth, social status, political status, education, profession, race or language, there is no reason for favoritism.

Listen, my beloved brothers: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith (2:5a)

James is calling these believers to take special heed and pay close attention to what he is about to say in writing when he says, Listen, my beloved brothers.  He is going to use a play on words to get his point across about this poor man. In this context, when he describes the man as being poor, he is saying that this one is poor because of what he does not have. It is the poor, who have nothing materially, who are usually rich spiritually, as they have circumstances, which move them to listen receptively to the Good News.

James asks these believers to consider the reality that God chooses the poor of this world to be rich in faith. The poor due to their status in life are more often prone, to want to seek after a God who does care for them. Because of their being poor, they are humble and receptive to the good news. One major purpose for Christ coming was for people who are poor in spirit to realize their sin and need for repentance. The poor man is more aware of his need for help and struggles with sin while the rich are often blinded by their wealth. Therefore, James says that the first reason that these believers should stop showing favoritism to the poor man is that they were the very ones that God chose.

This does not mean that all that are poor are going to receive eternal life just because they are poor. In addition, it is not saying that we cannot be rich and receive eternal life. Rather James is trying to get his readers to understand that so often due to the status of one’s life, i.e., living in poverty; they are more willing to listen to the message of Christ. The faith that the poor man has cannot be bought with the expensive clothes of the rich man and his jewelry. The faith of the poor man can only be attained by that which has already been done in Christ. The man who has faith in Christ is rich because not only does he have the fullness of life within this imperfect age of Satan’s rule, but also he will have eternal life when Jesus returns. Paul tells those in Corinth that often God chooses the things that this world so often considers worthless. – 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.

BIBLE DIFFICULTIES

 and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. (2:5b-6a)

James says the poor that he has chosen are heirs of the kingdom promised to those who love him. The Greek word kleronomos, rendered heir, means, “obtain a lot.” (Vine 1996, 300) An heir is like a son who would receive his father’s property or possessions because of his blood relation to his father. Whether one is rich or poor to repent unto Christ means that you come into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. As a result, one becomes an heir unto God and a child of God. Paul wrote,

Galatians 4:3-7 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things[6] of the world. But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem those under the law, that we might receive the adoption[7] as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

 It is only those, who are in a relationship with Christ that become heirs to God’s kingdom. A child of God gains their father’s property, which is an eternal relationship with the Son and his Father. For this reason, God is saying that the poor man who is rich in faith and rejected by most is just as much a part of God’s family and Kingdom as anyone else. This would also include the rich with the right heart attitude. The interesting thing that James makes clear here is that the very people that God would honor were the very ones who were being dishonored. James states that by these believers showing favoritism to the rich and excluding the poor, they have dishonored the poor man. They were dishonoring the poor man by saying that based on his external appearances he was not worthy enough to worship God in the synagogue. As a result, they were making it difficult for the poor man to worship by giving him the worst seat in the assembly, as well as giving him the disheartening feeling that he deserved that place.

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Are not the rich the ones who oppress you and the ones who drag you into court?  Do they not blaspheme the honorable name by which you have been called? (2:6b-7)

In the days of James, there was a significant issue with the rich taking individuals to court. Their financial resources allowed them to do so whenever they liked. It is interesting how these rich people to whom they were showing favoritism, were the very ones taking them to court. For this reason, James asks a rhetorical question, are not the rich the ones who oppress you and the ones who drag you into court? If the Christians were thinking that by showing favoritism to the rich man that they were going to gain something from him, they were wrong. If the rich took them to court to oppress them, then what would make them think that the rich would give them anything by showing favoritism? James also says that the rich are the very ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you have been called. These rich were speaking against the name of Christ whom these Christians were worshipping in their assemblies.

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. (2:8)

This law is called the “royal law.” Although the definite article is absent, this in no way obscures the meaning of the term as being the law of God or of Christ (cf. 4:11). This is the chief command that entails all of God’s other commands (cf. Lev 19:18, quoted by Jesus in Matt 22:39; Rom 13:8; Gal 5:14). A vast literature throughout the history of theology reflects on this love command. For example, Justin[8] associates it with the ascribing of the people of God as a “kingdom of priests.” (Ex. 19:6; 1 Pet 2:9)[9] (Richardson 1997, 120) Jesus said,

Matthew 22:37-40 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

37 And he said to him: “‘You must love the Lord[10] your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.’[11] 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 The second, like it, is this: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’[12] 40 On these two commandments the whole Law hangs, and the Prophets.”

On this, the apostle Paul wrote, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Gal. 5:14) He also wrote, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; for this reason love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Rom. 13:10) The apostle John wrote, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20) This “royal law” was clearly stated in Leviticus 19:18, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

James says to his readers that if they were to live by the “royal law according to scripture;” then, “you are doing well.” James is penning his letter from the mindset of his readers, as though he were thinking what they were thinking, and he covers one subject after another, which had and has a tremendous impact on the readers then and now. (See James 1:13, 26; 2:14; 3:13; 4:13) If these ones were trying to rationalize that their favoritism of the rich was merely their showing ‘love of neighbor,’ they missed the mark. Their love of God and neighbor was to be according to Scripture, and Scripture does not suggest that they express their love by their being hospitable to the rich yet showing disdain for the poor. Thus, from the beginning, love of neighbor was applicable to all regardless of one’s means or station in life. This will be made all too clear below in verses 10-11.

If any in the congregation felt that James’ comments on the rich were over the top, he is setting them straight here, as Scripture is the final authority on all matters. The rich are among those that are to receive love of neighbor but not as though they should be loved in some favored, privileged, exceptional way, as the “royal law” makes clear. Jesus helped his disciples to appreciate that we not only love those who are friendly toward us, but also even our enemies. We need to be impartial and practical in our love of others, just as was true of Jesus himself. (Matt. 5:43-48) If the congregation that James wrote to was carrying out the “royal law” in harmony with what Scripture meant, not what they felt it meant, they ‘were doing well.’ James was saying that Christians are obligated to show loving kindness to anyone, anytime. Both rich and poor were to be treated equally, as both are neighbors in the eyes of God.

But if you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (2:9)

While these brothers were no longer under the Mosaic Law, this “royal Law” was carried over by Jesus’ statements, as well as Paul’s, being now a part of the law of Christ. In fact, the whole of the Old Testament is encompassed in this law. The principles of the law did not allow for any injustice, whether one was rich or poor. (Lev. 19:15) For this reason, a Christian does well if he shows loving kindness to a rich man, as long as he would have done the same if the person had been poor. Impartiality is sinning. If one is truly obedient to the “royal law,” he will love all of his neighbors. If he fails to do so, he is a sinner in the eyes of God. The primary meaning of hamartia (sin) is missing the mark of perfection. In other words, an impartial person is missing the mark of dealing with someone fairly, lovingly, and justly. This very sin or missing the mark of partiality is condemned in Leviticus 19:15 and Deuteronomy 1:17 and 16:19.

It is God’s standard to be impartial in expressions of love. This means the one playing favorites, while claiming to walk rightly with God as to the “royal law” has stepped over the line, transgressing against God. Like the original readers of James’ letter, Christians today need to have an evident demonstration that they are genuine Christians, setting aside all partiality toward any class of people.

THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.  For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. (2:10-11)

Here James continues the point of not showing favoritism by stating for whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point; he has become guilty of all. When one breaks the commands of God, it does not matter how big or small the sin is, it is wrong in God’s sight. (See Biblical Insight Below) James is saying that even if one broke even the least of God’s commandments, it was as if he broke the greatest of the commandments. James emphasizes the two laws that most deem the worst of all the laws to be broken in stating for he who said do not commit adultery also said do not murder. James appeals to the Ten Commandments to make his point. James emphasizes the seventh commandment found in (Exodus 20:14) which says, “Do not commit adultery.” James also uses the sixth commandment found in (Exodus 20:13) which says, “Do not commit murder.” James is making the case that “to resist one requirement of the Law is to resist God, the authority beneath its requirements.” (Lea 1999, 285)

James wants the people to understand that in the same way when they show favoritism then they are breaking the law of God. Though they may never have committed adultery or ever have committed murder, they still broke the command to love your neighbor as yourself. As a result, the person who practices the sin of favoritism is just as guilty before God as a murderer and adulterer. The man who plays favorites is in violation of God’s law just the same as the murderer and adulterer and is no different from any other sinner. For this reason, if one breaks God’s law by showing favoritism, then he is just as guilty of breaking all the other commandments.

Biblical Insight: The Bible is quite clear that some sins are more serious than others are. Certainly, stealing is not as bad as murder. While sin is sin, it is also shown in Scripture to be of a comparative gravity of wrongdoing. In other words, serious sin is qualified as “gross,” “exceedingly grave,” “great sin,” and the like. If God just viewed any sin as being exactly equal in all ways, he would not need to qualify serious sins out of the 1083 times sin is addressed. Moreover, if sin is sin were absolute, there would not have been different penalties for the sin. If an Israelite was caught stealing an Ox, he would be required to return what he stole, plus extra. If he murdered, he would have received the death penalty, but if it were unintentional, he would have received manslaughter, being required to live out his life in a city of refuge.

It is true, to some degree, sin is sin, and any sin could justly make the guilty one worthy of sin’s “wages” (i.e., death). Scriptures show that God views humankind’s wrongdoing as varying degrees of seriousness. Thus, the men of Sodom were “were extremely wicked sinners (LEB),” and their ‘sin was exceedingly grave.” (Gen 13:13; 18:20; compare 2 Tim 3:6-7, NASB) The Israelites’ making a golden calf was also called “a great sin.” (Ex 32:30-31, ESV) In addition, Jeroboam’s calf worship similarly caused those of the northern kingdom “to sin with a great sin.” (2 Ki 17:16, 21, LEB) Judah’s sin became “like Sodom,” making the kingdom of Judah abhorrent in God’s eyes, as they “sinned grievously.”–Isaiah 1:4, 10; 3:9; Lamentations. 1:8; 4:6.

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So speak and so act as men who are to be judged by the law of liberty. (2:12)

James tells his readers that they need to speak and act like men who are to be judged by the law of liberty. We are told to speak and act, because it is with our words and our actions, that favoritism is shown. James wants his readers to understand that the very law of God, which they were breaking, was the very same law that was going to judge them when God judges them. These needed to understand, comprehend, and accept responsibility for their impartiality before they would ever make the needed changes to their Christian self. They needed to speak and act as Christ would expect them to do; i.e., setting aside favoritism and replacing it with loving kindness for all. They would be judged by God’s law of liberty. If God’s law was meant to set individuals free, then these believers were not to judge by their laws that restricted people with favoritism.

REASONING FROM THE SCRIPTURES APOLOGETICS CONVERSATION EVANGELISM

For judgment is without mercy to him who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (2:13)

James awakens his readers to just how dangerous a judgmental attitude is, as he shows them the peril in which they are placing themselves by showing favoritism. (Rom. 2:6, 16; 14:12; Matt. 12:36) Reasonably and logically, how could these believers expect that God would show them mercy when they were guilty of withholding mercy on those who were ‘poor in filthy clothing’? (Jam. 2:2) What a conflict that contradicts all reason, for here is James writing to a group of Christians encompassing the lowly ones, as well as those who were discriminating against such ones! Can we imagine the emotional turmoil of a poor believer who was visiting another congregation and was treated as if he were inconsequential? Wise King Solomon was inspired to write, “Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.” Jesus gave a convincing illustration that made just this point in Matthew 18:23-35. Jesus explicitly said,

Matthew 7:1-2 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For with the judgment you are judging you will be judged, and by what measure you are measuring, it will be measured to you.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt. 5:7) Imagine a young man, who went on robbing the elderly. Now picture him mercilessly beating them first before taking their money, when they never posed any threat to him. If we were in a human courtroom with a judge of perfect justice, we would see him never hand out mercy to a defendant who failed to show mercy to his victims. However, we must keep in mind although our analogy helps us see the point; James is not talking about someone breaking the Mosaic Law or the law of any land. James is speaking about judging by “the law of liberty.” A born-again Christian should possess a mind and heart of mercy by the Spirit of God, by his faith life, and thus would naturally show mercy to others. Because of his showing others mercy, he will be shown mercy by God when he is judged. For this reason, this merciful Christian, he does not live his life in fear of how God is going to view him in the end. He knows that God is the epitome of mercy and it will be reciprocated. We have an excellent example of this in Scripture, where God had shown mercy to King David, who had been merciful in his past dealings with others. – 2 Samuel 12:13, 14; 22:24-27; Psalm 18:23-26

AN ENCOURAGING THOUGHT_01

Faith Without Works is Dead

James 2:14-20 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

14 What use is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what good is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is useless?

What use is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? (2:14)

James uses the term what use is it, my brothers, to ask a rhetorical question to highlight or emphasize his point. James asks if someone says he has faith, but he has no works, can that faith save him? Faith is an assurance and confidence in what is believed in based on the knowledge of that particular object. Faith is not blindly hoping for something or someone, but rather knowing and trusting with complete certainty. Rather faith is based on knowledge of something that can be known. It is putting faith into something or someone. The Christian faith it is not blind at all since it is in an all-powerful and holy God. Instead, Christianity is built upon the knowledge of God who is the creator of the universe and all of humanity itself.

The major issue here is in the fact that one is merely claiming to have faith. They are giving nothing more than a verbal affirmation of a belief that consists only of the framework of their mind but has not yet affected the nature of their will and produced proper actions. James makes it clear that faith is not just some head knowledge alone, but true faith is manifested in the fact that it produces appropriate actions consistent with what one claims to profess. James here asks the question for his audience to ponder and think about to come to their conclusion as he states can such faith save him?

Faith does not just begin and end at a mere profession of Christ. Good works in one’s life then must evidence it. These works are not done as a way to earn salvation, but rather out of gratitude of a heart that has been changed by the power of Christ that made one a new creation in Christ. Good works are to be done out of the overflow of the heart that has been redeemed by the power of God through Christ. The answer to James question, as he will explain in the following verses, is faith without works is not true saving faith.

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If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet do not give them what is necessary for their body, what good is that? (2:15-16)

James has just got through asking the question as to whether or not faith that has no works is a saving faith or not. James now is going to give an example to answer his question as to whether saving faith is one that produces no good works. James gives them a hypothetical situation of a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food. It is clear that the individual is without clothing and daily food, in other words, the individual did not have the essentials of life. The Jews would have known from the Old Testament about the importance and the necessity of showing hospitality. It was written in Leviticus 19:9-10, “Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest.  Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the Lord your God.” James does not describe how this brother or sister got into the condition in which they found themselves but merely gives the reality of the condition.

James unfolds the progression of the situation and says one of you says to them, go in peace. Now the problem with what is happening here is that the Christians who were saying go in peace, be warmed, and filled, was content with just lip service. The problem is that what they were saying to the individual needed to be supported by actions. True faith would not just have said go in peace, because how could this person honestly go in peace when they were daily worrying about how to keep warm and be fed. There would have been daily anxiety and fear of not knowing where the next meal would come from or how to keep warm. Real faith not only expresses kind wishes to the individual in need but takes action to see those needs come true.

These believers saying be warmed were telling the individual to do something that they were unable to do on their own. This individual they told to keep warm would benefit nothing from their merely good wishes. Real faith would not just make good wishes to keep warm but seek the resources to help the individual to keep warm. The whole point in the person coming to these believers was to try to get warm, and mere lip service does nothing without being accompanied by actions that would have enabled the individual to be warm and fed.

One more time we see that simple words are meaningless in this situation, for how can one be filled if he has no means of which to be filled. You will note that the word “be” is used twice in this passage when James says to be warmed and be filled. The emphasis on the word is put on the one coming to them to be fed and clothed. This was suggesting that it was in power of the one who was hungry and needed clothes to be able to do these things. However, they cannot live in their current situation because they have no means by which to do so. Here again, real saving faith in this context would seek to get the individual the food that they needed or try to get them filled in some way.

It is for this reason that James says and yet do not give them what is necessary for their body, what good is that? James has given his readers a compelling example. Kind words and best wishes ring hollow when they are not supplemented by physical aid when he is capable of helping materially. In fact, this is ridiculously inadequate and does nothing but generate more heartache and pain for the one suffering. (See Proverbs 3:27-28) The result is, one with this so-called faith which does nothing to bring any kind of a relief to those in need, nor at least moves others to demonstrate their faith, is worthless. Anyone, who says, “go in peace,” while offering nothing to this destitute one, leaving the helping to others, would be known as one who has no love or kindness about him. In addition, this faithless one would bring reproach on God and Christianity. Those from outside of Christianity looking in, would ask themselves, “Who would want to be a part of such a religion?”

INVESTIGATING JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES REVIEWING 2013 New World Translation INVESTIGATING JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES

Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself. (2:17)

James is now connecting his example of what he has just said on how it relates to faith. It is pointless to say peace and keep warm and well fed when one takes no action to help alleviate the situation. The fact that one does not act in accordance with his words, therefore, proves his words to be dead and false. To just claim to have faith but has no works, is dead in itself. The word that James uses for dead is nekros that means “inactive, inoperative.” (Vine 1996, 148) This believer’s mere lip service to faith without the outward expression of faith through works is inactive. James is making it clear that without works, his faith is dormant and dead and, therefore, proves that he truly does not have faith. Jesus himself said that many would be judged for the supposed claim of faith without works on judgment day with the parable of the sheep and the goats. – Matthew 25:31-46.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (2:18a)

James now is going to deal with a statement that he foresees being raised because he said faith without works is dead. James makes the statement, will say you have faith, and I have works. Some may claim that they do not need any faith to do good works. This was the issue with the Pharisees of Jesus’ day: it was all about knowing the law of God and interpreting it, but they never applied it to their lives. In fact, Jesus said to them in John 5:39-40, “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that witness of me, and you are unwilling to come to me, that you may have life.”

James twice uses the word show, signifying the fact that the only way true faith is authenticated is by works. James says show me your faith apart from your works, in other words, faith without works is impossible because faith is only known through works. Faith is not divided separately between works and faith, but rather they are inseparably linked together. James asks the reader here to show them faith without works because he knows that it is impossible to do. Anybody could claim that he believes in God and yet have a wicked and evil heart and still be able to affirm verbally that he loves God. That is as far as it goes with just a verbal affirmation that produces no evidence of faith being true although they can deceive themselves into thinking they do have faith. It is for this reason that James says I will show you my faith by my works because works are the only way to evidence the authentication of faith. Good works cannot save you; one does good works because it is an evident demonstration of who he is, a truly born-again Christian, with a genuine faith.

Jesus Paul THE EVANGELISM HANDBOOK

You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. (2:19)

James here exposes the reality that having no works is, in fact, a pseudo-faith. James is going to compare the so-called believer, who allegedly has faith as he is without works to nothing more than the faith of a demon. This would have been a strike at the heart of those, who would have been reading his letter, comparing their faith without works to that of a demon. James says you believe that God is one. James then tells these believers if they believe that God is one, then they do well. However, James is going to make it clear that just merely to believe that God is one is not enough if good works do not accompany it because demons also believe and shudder.

 Demons are Satan’s fallen angels who serve as his agents against humanity to seduce, tempt, and destroy mankind. James tells his audience how the demons are just like them concerning their belief in God in the fact that the demons just like them, believe that God is one. Every Jew in the days of James would have had the word of Moses as recorded in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 embedded in their hearts. This passage was referred to as the Grand Shema and would have been quoted on a daily basis through prayer and petitions by all Jews living in the days of James. It reads in Deuteronomy 6:4-6 “Hear, O Israel! Jehovah, our God, is one Jehovah! You shall love Jehovah your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.” This was perhaps the essence of all the spiritual life of every Jew to love God, who had chosen them as his people. He was to be praised and honored in this way because he was the one and only true God, the Creator of heaven and earth and all humanity.

REASONABLE FAITH Why Me_ FEARLESS-1

James states that the demons also believe that God is one and is no different from any believer that claims the same thing. However, what the demons lack is actionable evidence that there is something beyond their belief, i.e., a genuine faith. We know from several other parts of scriptures that the demons know and believe in God. In fact, they knew that Jesus Christ himself was the Son of the highest God. The demons clearly evidence their understanding of who Jesus is in the Gospels. – Mark 5:6-7Mark 1:23-24Luke 4:40-41.

It is interesting to note that here in his passage James uses the word shudder, which is the only time that this word is used in the entire New Testament. James is making it clear that not only do the demons believe in God, but also it causes a great disturbance and fear among them because they know his power and authority that he has over them.  The problem with the demons is that their belief in God consists of just an awareness of his existence and his great power, never drawing close to him. They shudder out of fear because of the authority that they know God has over them, but that is as far as it goes for them. Even though they know God’s great power, they continue to serve Satan.

But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is useless? (2:20)

The man spoken of here in verse 20 of chapter 2 applies to any Christian, male or female. This man has not taken in “the knowledge of God” by way of his Word. (Jam. 1:18, 21) Both his mind and heart are empty because no genuine faith exists there. The demons even fared better than this man did because the “faith” or belief that they possess at least generated the emotion of fear, which caused them to shudder, tremble uncontrollably at the thought of God’s great power and authority. However, those demons and Christians such as this man, lack genuine faith that would move them toward salvation, it was categorically having no action, i.e., unproductive.

James 2:21-26 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working together with his works, and by the works the faith was perfected;[13] 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness,”[14] and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit[15] is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Was not Abraham our father (2:21a)

James here now does something very significant to argue his point about faith and works by stating was not Abraham, our father. James makes his argument from the Old Testament Scriptures using Abraham, whom the Jews considered the father of their nation and perhaps the most respected man in all Old Testament history. The Jews took pride in their ancestry and could trace their lineage back to Abraham as the Father of the Jewish nation, which is why James says “Abraham, our father.” The Jewish nation of Israel was God’s chosen people, and that nation stemmed from the seed of Abraham, which God promised would happen.

The Jews highly esteemed their ethnicity and the father of their nation because they were God’s chosen that came through the lineage of Abraham. For this reason, the Jews looked at Abraham as the most prominent figure in their history, since he was the father of their nation. It is because of this that James would select Abraham to make his point that faith and works must exist together for it to be true saving faith. James purposely used one of the most significant men in Jewish history to make his point. This way, the Jewish audience he was writing to would be more apt to listen and take heed to what he was saying.

is-the-quran-the-word-of-god UNDERSTANDING ISLAM AND TERRORISM THE GUIDE TO ANSWERING ISLAM.png

justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? (2:21b)

Here James says that Abraham our father was justified by works. However, Paul wrote, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified.” (Rom 3:20) How is it that these two were not contradicting one another? In Romans 4:2-3 Paul writes, “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’” Paul is here quoting that same exact verse from Genesis 15:6 that James refers to in verse 23 of chapter 2. This verse that both are using was about Abraham’s faith some 35 years before he ever attempted to offer up his son Isaac. This is the same event that James is referring to here in verse 21 of chapter 22. Thus, how are these two inspired New Testament authors in harmony?

If we look at the context of Genesis 15:1-6, we find that Abraham was declared righteous because of his trust in God’s promise to make his offspring number like the stars of the heaven, even though Sarah was decades past being able to have a child. Therefore, how is it that James can say that Abraham was justified by works? Abraham’s actions confirmed what God already knew was true of him. By Abraham’s action, he proved, confirmed, demonstrated, beyond question that his faith in God for decades had been and was still real, i.e., genuine. Abraham evidenced that he had a living faith, not a dead one. It was not Abraham’s works in and of themselves that made Abraham righteous, but rather his works were a result of his genuine faith, which God confirmed by declaring him righteous by way of this pronouncement or verdict.[16]

You see that faith was working together with his works, and by the works the faith was perfected; (2:22)

James is calling his believer’s attention to Abraham’s faith stating you see that faith was working together with his works. Abraham’s faith was authenticated not because he believed intellectually but was authenticated in the fact that he was willing to follow through with the act of sacrificing his son. It for this reason that James says by the works the faith was perfected. God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, and yet it was the very son, which God promised would bring him his descendants. Therefore, if Abraham was to offer up his son then how could he bring about descendants if he was dead?

Abraham would not have been sure how this would happen either, but he truly trusted God enough to follow through with the act of killing his son. Abraham believed that God would somehow allow descendants to come despite whether or not he sacrificed his son, and he was willing to trust God at all costs. Abraham’s act of attempting to offer up his son authenticated his faith in God, which was evidenced by his actions of obedience. The word for perfection means complete or finished. Abraham’s faith was complete in the fact that works, which made his trust in God complete by his actions of obedience, accompanied his faith.[17]

and the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness,” and he was called a friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. (2:23-24)

James says, and the scripture was fulfilled that says Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Here James is referring to Genesis 15:6 about Abraham. In Genesis 15:4, God had told Abraham that he would provide an heir and many descendants from his seed. Then in Genesis 15:5, to confirm his promise, God asked Abraham to go out and count the stars. In the same way, the stars were too numerous to count so would Abraham’s descendants be through the promised child. Despite being old and against all the odds, it says in Genesis 15:6, “Then he believed in the Lord, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Abraham had not seen his son, and the child was not even conceived in the womb at this point. However, Abraham still believed God would carry out his promises. Since Abraham believed, what God said was firm and trustworthy, he was willing to kill his son, and as a result, be declared righteous in God’s sight. The word righteousness here, as stated before, carries with it the idea of being right, moral, and just.

 Abraham not only believed in God but was also willing to put that into practice by killing his son; he was declared right in God’s sight. God declared him right in the fact that Abraham acted on his faith through his actions. As a result, he was also called a friend of God, which is the only time in the Bible where someone is called a friend of God. Abraham was first called a friend of God in Jehoshaphat’s prayer in 2 Chronicles 20:7, “Did you not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel and give it to the descendants of Abraham, thy friend forever?” Isaiah also makes mention of Abraham as a friend of God in Isaiah 41:8, “But you Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, descendant of Abraham my friend.”

Abraham’s belief and actions were working together in a real, genuine faith and Abraham became a friend of God. James reaffirms the argument that he has been making by saying you see. James wants his readers to have a focused view of what he has been talking about in regards to faith and action. He has just offered Abraham as his example that faith is justified when accompanied by works. As a result, these Jews would have a hard time arguing against their forefather. Faith and works must go together, they are inseparably linked, and we cannot have one without the other. For this reason, as James says a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

DEFENDING OLD TESTAMENT AUTHORSHIP Agabus Cover BIBLICAL CRITICISM

And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? (2:25)

In the same manner that Abraham’s faith was evidenced by his actions, was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works? The story of Rahab is found in the Old Testament book of Joshua chapter 2, shortly after Moses died, and Joshua took over in leading the nation of Israel. It would be Joshua, who would guide the nation of Israel into the promised land of Canaan. However, to get there, many obstacles would be in their way and that through the power of God they would have to overcome. One of these major obstacles would be conquering the city of Jericho.

The problem is that Jericho had very thick and high walls that surrounded their city, and it was nearly impossible to penetrate. Joshua summoned two men who were to go and spy out the city and come to report to Joshua what they had seen and learned. When the spies got into the city, they went to the home of a prostitute whose name was Rahab. The king of the town somehow caught wind that the spies had come into town and were at Rahab’s home, and he sent to have them killed. Rahab knew that the king wanted to kill the spies and so decided to hide them on the roof of her home under stalks of flax. The king’s officials arrived at the house, but Rahab told them that the spies had already left. The king’s officials went off trying to find the direction of the men to kill them.

When the king’s officials had left, Rahab asked a favor of the spies found in Joshua 2:8-14, “Now therefore, please swear to me by the Lord, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth, and spare my father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters, with all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.”  Therefore, the men said to her, “Our life for yours if you do not tell this business of ours; and it shall come about when the Lord gives us the land that we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.”

The spies told Rahab that they would indeed spare her life if she tied a scarlet cord in her window. The scarlet cord was what Rahab used to let the spies down out of the city to spare their lives. Rahab could have just told the spies to get out of her house and never have let them in. Because she feared God and believed in the God of the spies, she took the risk of letting the men stay in her home. Rahab’s belief in God was authenticated in that she received the messengers and sent them out by another way. It would be a direct result of the action of Rahab saving the spies that would help in giving Joshua the victory over the city of Jericho.

For the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (2:26)

When a person (a soul) dies (beyond clinical death), there is no longer any animating force or “spirit” within any single cell out of the body’s one hundred trillion cells. Many of us have seen the animation video in science classes at school, where the cell is shown to be like a microscopic factory with an enormous amount of work taking place. Therefore, no work is taking place within the lifeless body, as all of the cells that were animated by the spirit are dead. The body is not good for anything. This is the similarity that James is trying to draw as a faith that lacks works is just as lifeless, producing no results and of no use as a corpse. The literal eye cannot see faith; however, works is an evident demonstration that faith can be seen. When one is not moved to good works, it is all too clear that this one has no real faith. Alternatively, any Christian that is motivated to good works, he possesses a genuine faith.

Mosaic Authorship HOW RELIABLE ARE THE GOSPELS

BIBLE DIFFICULTIES Chapter 2

James 2:12 Does the law bring liberty or bondage?

James 2:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

12 So speak and so act as men who are to be judged by the law of liberty.

The Bible difficulty is this: James is saying that the law of God brings liberty into the Christian life, while the apostle Paul says that the Law of Moses is “bearing children into slavery.: (Gal. 4:24) Thus, James’ words seem to be at odds with the apostle Paul. We should take a moment and unpack James’ words.

The Mosaic law code was not “the law of liberty,” or, literally, a law of freedom. (Gal. 4:24-26) This level of freedom did not belong to the Israelite people but rather to the “Israel of God,” namely, the spiritual Israel, that is genuine Christians within true Christianity. If Christians were judged by the Mosaic Law, it would be a condemnation to death as lawbreakers, receiving no declaration of innocence, with no hope of a resurrection. Therefore, Christians are not judged by the Mosaic law but rather by another law, by “the law of liberty,” literally, that is, a “law of freedom.”[18] In other words, Christians are no longer enslaved to sin and the condemnation of death that is the sin that the Mosaic Law highlighted. (Rom. 7:8, 10) The Israel of God, namely, “the twelve tribes” of spiritual Israel are not under the Mosaic law but rather, they are under the “law” of the new covenant. (Jer. 31:31-33) Christians, the Israel of God will be judged based on the new covenant. – 1 Peter 2:16.

This law of liberty or law of freedom does not mean that Christians are free to do as they please and need not be obedient to God, as the law has been written on their heart. Through a genuine faith in Jessi Christ, Christians are confident that they will be found favorable on judgment day. They will have shown an evident demonstration of their faith. Jesus Christ is the mediator of this new covenant, and it is based on his propitiatory sacrifice that the new covenant is established and that God may complete the words of that covenant, that is: “I will forgive their error, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer. 31:34) Therefore, the ones living under the law of liberty (a law of freedom), they carry themselves, not as though God is seeking them out, to find fault with them, but rather as ones who continue in their walk with God, jealously guarding their covenant relationship with him. – Psalm 130:3-4; Micah 6:8.

The law of the Christ is continually connected with freedom. (John 8:31-32) Of course, there has never been nor will ever be absolute freedom for humankind; it is relative to their position under God’s sovereignty. Nevertheless, the law of liberty or law of freedom offers us far more freedom than its predecessor, the Mosaic Law. Unlike the Mosaic law, no one is born under the law of Christ. Factors such as race and place of birth are immaterial. True, genuine Christians freely choose in their hearts to accept to live under and be obedient to the law of Christ, that is “the law of liberty” or the law of freedom. They do not find the law of Christ to be a burden. (Matt. 11:28-30) We have to remember that the Mosaic Law was a part of the object lesson that God has been teaching mankind since he expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, and it was designed to teach man that he is a sinner worthy of death, who is in dire need of a ransom sacrifice that will redeem him. (Gal. 3:19) The law of Christ, on the other hand, teaches us that the long-awaited Messiah came, paid the ransom sacrifice with his perfect life, freeing us from the terrible oppression of sin and death! – Romans 5:20-21; John 3:16.

Our trusting in Jesus Christ involves our living by the law of liberty, that is, the law of Christ. This would mean obeying all of Christ’s commands, which does not require that we memorize hundreds of laws and statutes. Moses, the mediator of the old covenant, was inspired to pen about 613 laws and statutes, the Mosaic Law for the Israelites, Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, never wrote down a single law. Rather, he perfectly lived this new covenant, this new law, setting the example for us. We have a pattern to follow by walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, as we take in knowledge of his life and ministry. (1 Pet. 2:21) If we recall, we would note that the first-century Christian’s worship was called “The Way.” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:22) To those early Christians, the law of the Christ was represented in the life of the Christ. For them and us, to imitate Jesus was to obey the law of Christ. Their intense love for Jesus Christ showed that this law was, in fact, written on their hearts. (Jer. 31:33; 1 Pet. 4:8) If we are obedient because of our great love, we will never feel as though we are being oppressed, but rather, we will feel liberated, set free from sin and death.

Love was a central part of the Mosaic Law. Moreover, love is the very essence of the law of Christ. Christian law would include the new command to have a self-sacrificing love for one another. In other words, Christians are to love as Jesus loved, being willing to offer their lives on behalf of their brothers and sisters bit figuratively and literally if need be. (John 13:34-35; 15:13) The law of the Christ is an even higher expression of theocracy, that is, rule by God under his sovereignty, than the Law of Moses was.

James 2:13 In what way does ‘mercy triumph triumphantly over judgment’?

James 2:13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

13 For judgment is without mercy to him who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

When it comes to us providing or giving an account for ourselves to God, he considers the mercy that we have shown toward others and forgives us based on the ransom sacrifice of his Son. (Matt. 20:28; Rom. 14:12) This just adds to the reason we should make mercy a foremost quality in our lives?

James 2:19 If the demons believe in God, then why are they not saved?

James 2:19 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.

The Bible difficulty here is that the Bible says that for one to receive salvation, they must “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” (Ac 16:31) Also, John3:16 says, “everyone trusting in him [Jesus] will not be destroyed but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). Other translations read, “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (ESV, NASB, LEB, CSB, et.) The apostle Paul says salvation comes “to the one who does not work, but believes in him.” (Rom. 4:5) If these verses are the case, all that one must do is believe in Jesus; this one will receive salvation, why not the demons, James said, “the demons also believe”?

The answer lies within the word “believe.”  Believe, faith, Trust in: (Gr. pisteuo) If pisteuo is followed by the Greek preposition eis, (“into, in, among,” accusative case), it is generally rendered “trusting in” or “trust in.” (John 3:16, 36; 12:36; 14:1) The grammatical construction of the Greek verb pisteuo “believe” followed by the Greek preposition eis “into” in the accusative gives us the sense of having faith into Jesus, putting faith in, trusting in Jesus.

Why Is the Greek verb pisteuo (faith, Believe, trust in) rendered differently at times?

John 3:16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone trusting in him will not be destroyed but have eternal life.

John 3:36 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

36 The one trusting in the Son has eternal life, but the one who disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

A Grammar of New Testament Greek series, by James Moulton, says, “The importance of the difference between mere belief … and personal trust.”[19] Both these senses can be conveyed using the Greek word pisteuo. The context helps us to identify the different senses of the meaning of pisteuo. Then again, we also have the different grammatical constructions that also convey what the Bible author had meant by his use of the word. When pisteuo is simply followed by a noun in the dative case, it is merely rendered as “believe,” such as the chief priest and elders response to Jesus at Matthew 21:25, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ However, in Romans 4:3 we have pisteuo follow by a noun in the dative in the Updated American Standard Version, yet it is rendered “For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham put faith in God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (The ASV, RSV, ESV, NASB, and others have “Abraham believed God”)

If pisteuo is followed by the Greek preposition epi, “on,” it can be rendered “believe in” or believe on.” At Matthew 27:42, it reads, “we will believe in him [i.e., Jesus].” At Acts 16:31, it reads “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved …” (KJV, UASV similarly) What is the difference between “believing in Jesus” and “believing on Jesus”? Believing in Jesus is a merely acknowledging that he exists while believing on Jesus is to accept absolutely, having no doubt or uncertainty, trusting in, putting faith in or trust in, exercising faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

If pisteuo is followed by the Greek preposition eis, (“into, in, among,” accusative case), it is generally rendered “trusting in” or “trust in.” (John 3:16, 36; 12:36; 14:1) The grammatical construction of the Greek verb pisteuo “believe” followed by the Greek preposition eis “into” in the accusative gives us the sense of having faith into Jesus, putting faith in, trusting in Jesus.

You see, we are not talking about a simple belief in but rather exercise a saving kind of faith. Therefore, James is showing his readers that a mere belief in and of itself is not truly a genuine faith, even though it might impact one emotionally. Only genuine faith the produces good works can save. (Jam. 2:17) Yes, it is faith alone that saves us, this kind of faith will produce good works. We are not saved by works (Eph. 2:8-9), but genuine faith will produce good works, or it is not genuine faith. The demons are spirit persons, who have actually seen God and know very well that he exists, and that he is the Creator of all things, including them. Because they know and believe this to be true, it does impact them. Namely, they shudder, as they know that their end is destruction. (Mark 1:24; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6) Therefore, the demons will not be saved because they do not have saving kind of faith, which leads to good works. Rather, they are in opposition to God. Think of this interesting point, though, none of the demons are atheists or agnostics. These positions are only found among skeptical, doubting humans that say they must see God in order to accept or believe that he is real.

James 2:21 – If Abraham was saved by works, why does the Bible say he was justified by faith?

James 2:21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?

Here James says that Abraham our father was justified by works. However, Paul wrote, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified.” (Rom 3:20) How is it that these two were not contradicting one another? In Romans 4:2-3 Paul writes, “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’” Paul is here quoting that same exact verse from Genesis 15:6 that James refers to in verse 23 of chapter 2. This verse that both are using was about Abraham’s faith some 35 years before he ever attempted to offer up his son Isaac. This is the same event that James is referring to here in verse 21 of chapter 22. Thus, how are these two inspired New Testament authors in harmony?

If we look at the context of Genesis 15:1-6, we find that Abraham was declared righteous because of his trust in God’s promise to make his offspring number like the stars of the heaven, even though Sarah was decades past being able to have a child. Therefore, how is it that James can say that Abraham was justified by works? Abraham’s actions confirmed what God already knew was true of him. By Abraham’s action, he proved, confirmed, demonstrated, beyond question that his faith in God for decades had been and was still real, i.e., genuine. Abraham evidenced that he had a living faith, not a dead one. It was not Abraham’s works in and of themselves that made Abraham righteous, but rather his works were a result of his genuine faith, which God confirmed by declaring him righteous by way of this pronouncement or verdict.

Was God tempting or testing Abraham? God does not tempt us, but he does allow us to go through temptations. As we know from Abraham, God can test us, but never tempt us with sin … The Greek word (Peirazo) can be rendered either as ‘tempted’ or ‘tested,’ and it is the context that determines which word should be chosen. In the case of Satan with Jesus in the wilderness, it should be rendered ‘tempt.’ However, in reference to God, in some very limited cases in history, he has put some to the test, i.e., Abraham, even his Son.” – Hebrews 2:18.

THE CREATION DAYS OF GENESIS gift of prophecy

Review Question

  • [1] How is it that James could call his readers “brothers” when they were exhibiting some incorrect attitudes?
  • [1] Why is it a noteworthy sin to show favoritism?
  • [2] Who was the man that James was speaking of here?
  • [2] Who was the poor man?
  • [3] How was the congregation treating this poor man?
  • [4] What serious failings did James’ readers have in their faith?
  • [5] Does God select people simply because they are poor?
  • [6] Are we to assume from verse 6 that the poor never oppose Christians?
  • [7] What is blasphemy and how were the rich oppressors blaspheming the honorable name by which they had been called?
  • [vs 8] Why is it that we can say the law at Leviticus 19:18 is the “royal law”?
  • [9] How does the “royal law” admonish the person showing favoritism as a transgressor?
  • [10] How is it that if one keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all?
  • [11] Why might James have chosen to cite the laws on adultery and murder here?
  • [12] Does the law of liberty give us the freedom to act according to our own desires, i.e., absolute freedom?
  • [13] How does mercy triumph over judgment?
  • [14] Do the faith/works that Paul was talking about contradict the faith/works that James discusses? How did Jesus touch on faith and works?
  • [15-16] What point is James making here in verses 15-16?
  • [17] Why is faith if it has no works, dead in itself?
  • [18] How can we know that a person has genuine faith?
  • [19] Why do the demons believe and shudder over belief in God and how should that impact us?
  • [20] Why are we foolish if we do not believe that faith without works is useless?
  • [21] What does Paul say about Abraham being declared righteous?
  • [22] How was faith working together with Abraham’s works? How did the works of Abraham perfect his faith?
  • [ 23] How do we know that Abraham had faith in God all along? How did Abraham become God’s friend?
  • [ 24] Why is it that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone?
  • [ 25] How does the account about Rahab add to the conversation of faith and works?
  • [ 26] Why is a dead body a good analogy of faith without works? How do the works of Christians evidence that they have a genuine faith?

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[1] Grammar: relationship between noun phrases: the relationship between two usually consecutive nouns or noun phrases that refer to the same person or thing and have the same relationship to other sentence elements. In the sentence “My son, an actor, lives with me,” the phrase “My son, an actor” is an example of apposition.

[2] Quote from Lev. 19:18

[3] Quote from Ex. 20:14; Deut. 5:18

[4] Quote from Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17

[5] Cf. Pss 9:18; 10:1–18; 35:10; 37:14; 40:16–17; 109:16; Isa 3:14–15; 10:1–2; Amos 4:1; 8:4; also Matt 26:11.

[6] Basic principles, elementary teachings

[7] Adoption: (Gr. huiothesia) The Greek noun is a legal term that literally means “adoption as son,” which means to take or accept a son or daughter who is not naturally such by relationship, including complete inheritance rights. The apostle Paul mentions adoption several times in reference to those with a new status as called and chosen by God. These ones were born as offspring of the imperfect Adam, were formerly in slavery to sin. Through purchase by means of Jesus’ life as a ransom, many have received the adoption as sons and daughters becoming heirs with the only-begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ.–Rom. 8:15, 23; 9:4; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5.

[8] Apol. I.12; Cl. Al. Strom. 6.164; 7.73

[9] cf. F. E. Vokes, “The Ten Commandments in the New Testament and in First Century Judaism,” SE 5 (1968): 145–54.

[10] This is a reference to the Father, I.e., Jehovah of the Old Testament

[11] A quotation from Deuteronomy 6:5

[12] A quotation from Leviticus 19:18

[13] Or completed

[14] Quoted from Gen. 15:6

[15] Or breath

[16] Was God tempting or testing Abraham? God does not tempt us, but he does allow us to go through temptations. As we know from Abraham, God can test us, but never tempt us with sin … The Greek word (Peirazo) can be rendered either as ‘tempted’ or ‘tested,’ and it is the context that determines which word should be chosen. In the case of Satan with Jesus in the wilderness, it should be rendered ‘tempt.’ However, in reference to God, in some very limited cases in history, he has put some to the test, i.e., Abraham, even his Son.” – Hebrews 2:18.

[17] An analogous situation might be a wealthy father testing his daughter’s fiancé. The father offers the fiancé $50,000 to leave his daughter. This test will tell the father whether the poor fiancé is in love with his daughter, or after the father’s money. Keep in mind, God never intended for Abraham to offer his son up, as he foreknew what Abraham would do in such a situation decades before even. Let us adapt apologist William Lane Craig’s words to this situation. ‘God had morally sufficient reasons for permitting the test, which he placed on Abraham.’

[18]Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Jas 2:12.

[19] James Moulton, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, Vol. 1: Prolegomena (London, England: T & T Clark International, 2006), 68.

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