James - Chapter 2

by Charles E. Bryce

James — Chapter 2

Hello everyone. Today we will continue our series through the book of James. This book was written by the apostle James who was the half brother of Jesus Christ Himself. It was written about 61 A.D. Martin Luther amazingly called this book an epistle of straw because it contradicted some of his teachings about law and grace, and faith and works. However, regardless of Luther’s biased opinions, the book of James is indeed inspired scripture and is filled with the truth of God.

Please go get your Bible and follow along from God’s Word and prove what it says here in the book of James and prove what we say. Don’t just take our word for it and don’t just reject our word. But follow along in God’s Word yourself and prove whether or not what we’re teaching you from His holy book and His holy scriptures, in this book of James—prove whether or not we’re teaching you the truth and prove it with your own eyes from your own Bible.

Let’s begin now in James 2:1. We’ll be reading from the Authorized King James version. Verse 1, James says under inspiration of God:

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

You know, the Bible in many places condemns racism. It condemns partiality. It condemns an attitude of superiority over other people and races. That’s not Christian and that’s not God’s way. And yet many millions of people have that approach. I hope you don’t. It cannot be reconciled with a true Christian’s responsibility. He says it right here.

1 — have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with —

Partiality or

1 — respect of persons.

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;

3 And you have respect to him that wears the gay clothing, —

You know, this is the 1611 King James language that says gay clothing. It’s simply talking about fine clothing, that’s all.

3 And you have respect to him that wears the —

Fine

3 — 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:

If you say that and if your attitude is that, and if you take that approach, James is saying this:

4 Are you not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

Or judges with evil thoughts?

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

You can be rich and still be a Christian, but you have to be careful because it’s very difficult. It’s easy to get caught up in things. You can be poor and still be a Christian, but you have to be careful because it’s easy to get wound up in the situation of poverty and not really try to better yourself, and not take the clothes you have and keep them clean, and the car you have and keep it in good working order, and the house you have and the yard you have and do the best with it you can. But nevertheless, regardless of what status in life, we’re still made in the image of God and God does not play favorites. And we better not play favorites either. And that’s exactly the message found right here in the book of James chapter 2.

Now, let’s continue in verse 6.

6 But you have despised the poor. —

Dishonored them. Why? Because they’re poor. Well, people do that and don’t even know the reason why a person might be poor. It may not be his fault or her fault. It maybe circumstances that have befallen them through no fault of their own. But regardless, the worth of an individual is not calculated and should not be valuated by their status in society and by their possessions of things and wealth, or their lack of things and wealth. Rather we should love our neighbor and love all people without partiality. This is the lesson we’re finding as we go through chapter 2 of the book of James.

Again verse 6.

6 But you have despised the poor. —

Dishonored them.

6 — Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?

Now, not all rich men do that. But he’s saying, isn’t that where you’ve come into so much trouble? Isn’t it from those that are in positions of power and have status and have wealth more than those who are poor and do not have positions of power and status?

7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which you are called?

Don’t they tend to lean upon themselves and disregard God and His Word more than someone who has to lean upon God and pay attention to His Word? Those who have nothing else except being rich in faith toward God who does take care of them, but it might be a tough road to hoe for them sometimes. This is a very important lesson for every Christian to consider in terms of how we view other people and in terms of how we treat everyone.

We are to love our neighbor as ourselves and we are to remember that everyone is made in the image of God and that everyone is God’s child. It doesn’t mean we approve evil and criminal acts, and it doesn’t mean that we are naive toward people taking advantage of us, rich or poor. That’s not what it’s saying.

It’s saying our attitude and approach toward others should not be guided by partiality and favoritism. Rather it ought to be based on love, and we ought to view them based on the fruits that they bear. And we ought to pay attention to those who are trying to obey God more than to those who do not try to obey God. But in terms of favoritism, that shouldn’t be there. It shouldn’t be there in a home among children. It shouldn’t be there at work among employees. It shouldn’t be there in any situation toward anyone. We should relate to others in a very fair and equitable manner. Otherwise we’re simply not filled with the attitude of Jesus Christ and we’re not taking the position found in God’s Word regarding Christian conduct.

Let’s continue now in James 2:8.

8 If you fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you do well:

See, that’s what we’re talking about here in context.

9 But if you have respect to persons, —

Or if you show partiality to people,

9 — you commit sin, and are convicted of the law as transgressors.

You’re not really keeping God’s commandments when you show partiality. Rather you’re breaking the law. A lot of people don’t know that or if they do know it, they don’t care. Because there is partiality at all levels of life in our society today. Politics reign supreme, and if there ever was partiality, you’ll find it in the political way of doing things. But not in the true Christian way of doing things.

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

This is a very, very important passage of scripture right here that we’re going to take a little time with. The law that James is talking about here is obviously the Ten Commandments. There are people today who think the Ten Commandments are done away with. They say they are Old Testament, harsh requirements that were done away by Jesus Christ when He was nailed to the cross. They say that’s just old covenant, Mosaic doctrine. Well, they might say it, but that doesn’t make it true. Because you see here we are right over here in the New Testament and then all the way toward the back of the New Testament in the book of James and we’re reading scripture inspired by God and recorded by the apostle James who grew up in the home that Jesus Christ grew up in and He was his brother. And here’s what he’s saying about the law.

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

Or whoever breaks one of the commandments. Now, what law is he talking about?

11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, —

That’s commandment number seven.

11 — said also, Do not kill. —

That’s commandment number six.

11 — Now if you commit no adultery, yet if you kill, you are become a transgressor of the law.

We have to keep all ten of the commandments, not just the ones we think are still binding today. All ten of them are binding today, including the one that says, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” Which day is that? Well, just take a look at your calendar and count the days. You’ll see the first day is on Sunday, the second day is on Monday and go right on through the week and you’d come to the seventh day. And you’ll see that the seventh day is on Saturday. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shall you work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. So the Sabbath day is the seventh day of the week, and the seventh day of the week is the day we call Saturday. Look for yourself. Check on your calendar right there in your home.

And so when it says that we are to keep the whole law, it means keep all ten of the commandments including the fourth one, which says keep the Sabbath day holy—and do it on the seventh day. That’s what the Bible says. And it says here that if you keep the commandments and yet you’re guilty of breaking one or two or so on, then you’re guilty of breaking the whole law.

It’s kind of like having a car pulling another car by hooking a chain on the two cars. And so now you’re going down the road, the car in front is pulling the car in back and it’s towing that car with a chain that has ten links in it. Well, if all of a sudden one of those links breaks, the whole chain drops to the ground and you can’t pull the car anymore. The chain has been broken. You’ve got to have all ten links connected to one another in order to pull the car. You’ve got to have all Ten Commandments connected to one another in order to keep the whole law. That’s what James is saying here, inspired by God.

11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if you commit no adultery, yet if you kill, you are become a transgressor of the law.

Very plain, very clear.

12 So speak you, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.

In other words, he’s saying here in verse 12, keep the law. It’s not done away. Keep the commandments. They weren’t nailed to the cross. He’s also saying in verse 8, if you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture. So he calls it a royal law there. And in verse 12 he calls it the law of liberty.

Let’s just take a little time to turn over here to the book of 1 John. We could go to so many verses to tie in with this passage of scripture. But let’s just go to one. Right over here in 1 John chapter 2. These are plain words. I hope we’ll pay attention. I hope no matter what we’ve been taught about the Ten Commandments, and that they no longer are in force, will not keep us from looking at the scripture with an open mind and really comprehending what we read. And then restudy the whole thing about “Is the law still in force? Has it been done away?” The law is still in force.

Look at what the apostle John said, under inspiration of God, right here in 1 John 2:3.

3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.

All ten of them, all ten of them.

4 He that says, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

So if you’re ever asked by someone, “Do you know the Lord?” You’re going to have to say, “I keep His commandments” if you go on and say, “Yes, I know Him.” You can’t separate the two.

Look what it says here in 1 John 2:4

4 He that says, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

Now, I didn’t say that and I didn’t inspire that and I didn’t record that. God inspired it and the apostle John recorded it. And here we have it right in the record of God’s Word.

Let’s go back now to James 2 and pick up where we left off there.

James 2:13

13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that has shown no mercy; and mercy rejoices against judgment.

Or triumphs over judgment. Now, we all must receive God’s mercy and we do receive it continually. He is a very merciful, kind, loving God. And the commandments He gives us to follow are pure and wonderful and all about love. They’re about loving the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind and soul, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. They’re not rigorous and harsh or grievous as the Bible says. They’re full of righteousness. And right along with that comes God’s mercy, and without God’s mercy, we’re all done for. But we can depend on God’s mercy if we’re trying to obey Him and serve Him and let our light shine for others to see.

But you know something? In order to receive that mercy, we must show mercy to others. Do we do that? That doesn’t mean that we agree with what they’re doing if it’s wrong. That doesn’t mean that we are going to permit them to continue to do wrong and approve of it or anything of that kind. But it means our attitude toward others is one of mercy, and we are quick to forgive if they are sorry and if they change. And not only to forgive but to forget, especially if they’ve deeply changed and they have deeply repented.

In other words, our approach to others is one of wanting to extend mercy in every situation where it’s the right thing to do and it’ll be the right and good thing for anyone involved in whatever situation we might be involved in or we might know about.

The principle is this, James 2:13.

13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that has shown no mercy; and mercy rejoices against judgment.

What it’s saying here is if we want mercy from God, we better show mercy to others when faced with that type of situation.

Let’s continue now in verse 14.

14 What does it profit, my brethren, though a man say he has faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

Here we get to one of Martin Luther’s contentions with the book of James. His idea and the idea of so many people today in so many churches is that, “You don’t need to have works and it’s all been done for us. All you have to do is have faith, just believe—that’s all that’s necessary. Just believe and that’s it. You’re saved. You’re headed toward heaven. Well, you can’t find that anywhere in the Bible.

What do we do with these verses we’re about to read here? Just like grace without the law will not take you toward the Kingdom of God, nor will the law without grace. You have to have both. It’s not law or grace. It’s law and grace. The same is true with faith and works. You can turn out the most fantastic, impressive, good works until the day you die and they will not save you or me. You can leave that aside and just display the most astounding, amazing attitude of faith until the day you die and that will not save you either.

In order for us to be true Christians that produce fantastic fruits and that honor God and serve other people, we have to be filled with faith and works. It’s not faith or works. It’s faith AND works. Don’t take my word for it. Let’s just keep reading. That’s exactly what God’s Word says, and particularly right here in James chapter 2. It says it at other places, but just notice how succinctly it says it right here in James chapter 2. Read along with me. Take your Bible and just read along with me and see what it says.

Again, let’s read verse 14.

14 What does it profit, my brethren, though a man say he has faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

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

16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be you warmed and filled; notwithstanding you give them not those things which are needful to the body; what does it profit?

“Oh, you’re hungry, you don’t have anything to eat? Have faith and everything will be just fine.” Shouldn’t it be, “Well, let’s live by faith, let’s trust God, but here’s some food for you to take home with you and eat.”

Notice verse 17.

17 Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone.

Dead faith, not living faith. Just like works are dead works without faith. Faith without works is dead faith. We have to do our part. We have to have faith in God and then do the right thing. He helps us do the right thing. But it takes BOTH. It’s just a practical fact.

You know, if you get ready to mow your yard and you have faith that God will mow your yard for you, is the yard going to get mowed? It’s not going to get mowed. You’re going to have to go out and put some gasoline and oil in the mower, and you’re going to have to start it and you’re going to have to mow the yard. Well, where’s God come in the picture? First of all, He gave you the house, He gave you the yard, He gave you the mower, He gave you the oil, He gave you the gas, and He gave you the health to mow the yard. And then you can mow the yard. So it takes faith and works.

God is not a hip pocket God. If we need a ride to town, are we just going to simply ask God to give us a ride to town and wait out on the front porch until the ride comes? We should pray to Him and then we should call and ask if someone can give us a ride to town. What about if we need a job? Do we just simply go to God and say, “We need a job. Please send us a job,” and then a job’s just going to fall right in our lap? The phone is going to ring and somebody is going to say, “Do you need a job?” Don’t count on it.

The right approach will be this: We get on our knees and we say, “Father, we’re out of a job. Please help us find a job so we can take care of our obligations and so we can do our part in serving you.” And then we get up off our knees and we go make a job out of finding a job. We keep knocking on doors and making phone calls and approaching employers until God blesses us with a job. It’s faith and works. The same is true when it comes to Christian living and one day being in the family of God. We have total faith in Almighty God, total faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice, and then we ask for God’s Holy Spirit to give us the strength to obey Him, to have complete faith in Him and then to exercise character in making choices that are right and in making decisions that are acceptable to Him and in keeping His law, keeping His Word, and obeying Him. It takes both. That’s what this book of James is fundamentally about. It’s about faith and works. Both are needed.

Let’s read once again verse 17.

17 Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone.

18 Yea, a man may say, You have faith, and I have works: show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

They go together. That’s beautifully put. I don’t know how it could be put any better.

You say you have faith without works, that’s dead faith. What God says is: Show your faith by your works. Put them both together. And we need help from God for both. Faith is a gift from God. Therefore without God we can’t have faith, but with God we can. Works are required of God. Therefore without God’s help we can’t produce the right works. But with God’s help we can. It comes through the power of His Holy Spirit, which emanates from Him and permeates the whole universe and comes into our lives and into our minds—that spirit of power and love and a sound mind that flows from God into us, and that gives us the strength to produce righteous works before God. Not self–righteous works, but righteous works that will come from God through His spirit. And we put faith and works together and that’s when we are living true Christian lives and we’re loving our neighbor as ourselves. That’s when we’re headed toward eternal life and salvation in the Kingdom of God. That’s what the Bible says.

Let’s notice verse 19.

19 You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

People say, “Just believe, just believe.” No it takes more than just believing. It takes obedience. The demons know that God exists, and they believe He exists. And they believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Oh yeah, they do believe that, but they do not obey Him, they do not submit to Him, they do not follow Him, they do not surrender to Almighty God. They’re demons, foul evil spirits. It takes more than just believing. That’s the point here.

19 You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also —

Or the demons also

19 — believe, and tremble.

20 But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

Do we believe that statement? Is that clear? Is that the attitude we have? Can we rethink what we might have believed for quite sometime or even all of our lives? And can we bring our attitude and belief in line with what God’s Word clearly says right here? This is God’s Word after all. It is inspired of God. It is true. It is right. It will produce tremendous happiness and joy if we follow it and if we obey it.

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

Now, he didn’t have just works. He had faith as well, which we will see. But when God gave him the order to do this, he had to go do it. That’s works. But he had to do it based on faith that he had that God would work it all out. And He did and He spared his son, Isaac. He blessed Abraham because Abraham obeyed God in faith combined with works.

22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, —

Combined with his works.

22 — and by works was faith made perfect?

Or complete. See, faith without works is incomplete. Works without faith is incomplete. Faith with works, now both are complete, perfect. That’s just what it says here.

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

Very clear.

23 And the scripture was fulfilled which says, Abraham believed God, —

Do we? Or do we doubt God? Or do we worry and fret and stew and stumble and come under stress and pressure because we simply don’t believe God? You know, you can get to where you really believe God, you really trust Him, you have absolute faith in Him. And not only that, you have relaxed faith. And then through the power and strength He gives you, you can proceed to develop good works, righteous works that come through Him and by His strength and by His guidance. And when you put those good works together with that living faith, you are pleasing in God’s sight. And He will work with you and through you and bear tremendous fruit in your life. Fruit that He’ll be pleased with and fruit that will help everyone you come in contact with to one degree or the other.

Notice verse 23.

23 And the scripture was fulfilled which says, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be called the friend of God? Well, you know what, we can be. Remember He’s not a respecter of persons. If Abraham was His friend because God took him as a friend, we can be God’s friend as well. And He will take us as a friend—and what a tremendous blessing that is.

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

It takes both faith and works.

25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, —

And, of course, she repented of being a harlot. She changed. She was forgiven. All of that was washed away through the sacrifice and blood and atonement of Jesus Christ, her Savior and ours. And yet for that to happen, she had to have works as well as faith, and she had to have faith as well as works.

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

Took faith for her to do that. She put her life on the line. But it also took works. She had to take action.

And now, verse 26, the last verse of James chapter 2.

26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, —

Look at the analogy here and look at how clear it is. Here we are alive and we can move and walk and run and lift and sit and talk and cook and chop wood and drive cars and mow yards and operate phones and computers and do all kinds of things because we’re alive and we have a body that has the capability of doing these things and many, many more. But yet without breath and without air, we couldn’t do it.

26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, —

Meaning without breath, without air, without oxygen.

26 — so faith without works is dead also.

Now, air and breath and oxygen can be everywhere, but if you don’t have a human being, that human being is not going to be able to do anything. And you can have a human being lying out in the yard or sitting in the chair or reclining on the bed, and if that human being doesn’t have oxygen and air and breath, they’re not going to be able to do anything because they’re dead.

In order for a human being to really be vibrant and productive and accomplishing wonderful things, it takes a human body with oxygen, with air, with breath. Then wonderful things can be accomplished by that human being. But you take that air away, and it’s a dead body. You take works away, and it’s dead faith. You take faith away, and it’s dead works. It takes a human being with oxygen or breath or air, and it also takes faith with works in order for the equation to be complete. That’s what verse James 2:26.

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

Until next time, this is Charles Bryce with the Enduring Church of God.

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