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On The Book of James
THEME: God tests faith by attitude and action in respect of persons; God tests faith by good works
God Tests Faith By Attitude And Action In Respect Of Persons (2:1-13)
In the first thirteen verses of this chapter, James is going to tell us how we are to treat people in the different level of society. How do you treat the rich man? What about the poor man? This section deals with God's war on poverty and, also God's war on riches. God's war on poverty is quite different from that of our government; no matter which political party is in office, neither the federal nor the state governments have been able to deal successfully with this problem.
Both poverty and riches can be a curse. Part of the curse on the human race is poverty and riches. The writer in the Book of Proverbs says, "...give me neither poverty nor riches..." (Pro.30:8). The most difficult people to reach for Jesus are those who are the most poverty-stricken AND those who are the richest. It seems almost an impossible task to reach either class with the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
There is a big problem with the imbalance of wealth in the world. Always has been! The rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer. In India where it is estimated there will soon be a population of one billion, there is great famine and starvation. Africa has been in the news as of late, with extreme drought conditions causing people to move away from their homes. Much of the food and funding meant for them is confiscated by the fat-cat rulers and terrorist gangs. There is NO love for fellow man.
We can contrast the luxury and abundance which the wealthy have today with the poor. James attacks this problem in this letter. He is on the side of the poor. And I am NOT talking about the supposed POOR on the welfare roles! There are millions of healthy, able-bodied people today sucking the government dry! Ridiculous! The SHOULD be out supporting themselves, NOT on welfare and food stamps. YES! There are many who should receive help from the government; widows, orphans, the elderly who are not able to help themselves, but NOT able-bodied people! 2 Thes. 3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. (KJV)
There are some cults today that say Jesus was rich while He was on Earth! That is an outright LIE! Matthew 8:20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. (KJV) . . . He was NOT rich! He was born in poverty. He was born in a borrowed stable (Lu.2:7). He had to borrow loaves and fishes from a little lad to feed the crowd (Mat.14:19). He spoke from a borrowed boat (Mat.13:2). He had to borrow a coin to illustrate a truth (Luke 20:24-25). He borrowed a donkey to ride into Jerusalem (Mat.21:7). He borrowed a room to celebrate the Passover (Mk.14:13-15). They put Him in a borrowed tomb (Mat.27:60).
The Lord gave me this poem about this subject. Jesus was NOT rich!
THE CROWN AND CROSS WERE HIS
They borrowed a manger, to use as a bed,
For the precious Babe Jesus, to lay His Head!
They borrowed a colt, for Christ Jesus to ride,
A colt on which no one, had e’er been astride!
Christ borrowed bread, high on the mountain side,
That the crowd’s hunger, might be satisfied!
He borrowed two little fish, from a young lad,
In all the people there, ‘twas all to be had.
Jesus borrowed a boat, in which He sat and taught,
For the great multitude, His vast wisdom sought!
He borrowed a friend’s house, that He might rest,
They lovingly obliged, to this most special Guest!
They borrowed a room, the Last Supper to eat,
An Upper Room, that was high up off the street.
From a very rich man, they borrowed a grave,
Jesus’ sepulcher was a small, lonely cave.
The crown of thorns they crushed, on His precious Head,
Was not a borrowed crown, but His own instead!
The crown of thorns He wore, was His very own,
That dreadful, horrendous crown; was His alone.
The cross that He carried, so very painfully,
Is the cross where He died, in great agony.
That old rugged cross He bore, was His very own,
The cross where He bled and died, was His alone.
By: His servant, Connie Kramer Feb.6, 2000 # 635
Riches can be a curse, as James will show in this epistle. Paul said, "For the love of money is the root of all evil ..." (1 Tim.6:10). Both Paul and James agree to this Biblical Truth! So too, should we!
Matthew 6:19-20 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: (KJV)
James will be very harsh with the rich, as we will see in chapter 5. "Give me neither poverty nor riches." (Pro.30:8). This should be the viewpoint of the Christian.
James 2:1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. (KJV)
Have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . James is His half brother according to the flesh, but he gives Him the full Name, "our Lord Jesus Christ." What James is telling us here is do NOT profess faith in Christ if you are a spiritual snob. James is addressing ALL believers: the rich, the poor, the common people, the high, the low, the bond and free, the Jew and the Gentile, the Greek and the barbarian, male and female. They are all one when they are in the body of Christ, no matter race, color or creed! (Gal.3:26-29). Friendship and fellowship is the idea among believers.
The Lord of glory . . . this is a strong statement of the deity of Christ. I agree 100% with James! I too believe He is the "Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory." (Lu.3:32; 1 Cor.2:8). The glory of Christ that rests on the poor believer should make him be considered as highly by "brethren" as his richer brother; possibly more so, for many poor believers are closer to Christ and have more of His Spirit than the rich brother.
With respect of persons . . . James is NOT the only writer in the Bible that tell us NOT to have respect of persons, because God does NOT! (Lev.19:15; Deut.1:17; 10:17; 2 Chron. 19:7; Ps.40:4; Pro.24:23; 28:21; Acts 10:34; Rom.2:11; Jude 16). But, how many people pay attention to the Bible? NOT many! Rich people, singers, movie stars, politicians . . . all these and many more are idolized (worshipped) by the general public. And it is NOT going to stop any time soon!
James speaks about distinctions and divisions among believers which have been brought about by money.
The following is MY humble opinion of WHY the USA is in such great trouble. Agree or disagree, your choice! I just feel I should put this here.
Consider FIVE reasons for the fall of the great Roman Empire:
- #1. Great increase of divorce, undermining of the sanctity of the home, which is the basis of society. Immorality everywhere!
- #2. Higher and higher spending. Our government spends billions stupidly. Just listen to the news and you will see.
- #3. The mad craze for pleasure, sports becoming every year more exciting and always more brutal.
- #4. The building of gigantic armaments, spending money abroad where it should be spent at home. The real enemy is within; the depravity of the people.
- #5. The decay of religion; faith fading into apostasy and hypocrisy, losing touch with the Truth, denying Christ.
James 2:2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; (KJV)
It seems that the Jewish Christians were calling the place where they met a synagogue. They had erected no buildings and frequently met in private homes, but in many places they may have rented a synagogue. They met on Sunday rather than on Saturday so it did not conflict with the meeting of the Jews.
A man with a gold ring . . . does not necessarily mean he wore a single ring, but that his fingers could have been loaded with gold rings . . . meaning wealth.
Goodly apparel . . . fancy clothes. He was a show-off. His clothing is contrasted greatly with that of the poor man's vile raiment. What about you? One person comes into your church all decked out in expensive clothes and jewelry, another comes in clean but just everyday working clothes . . . which would YOU run to first? Think about it! Be honest! My friend, the vast majority of people would run to the rich man! NO doubt in my mind.
James 2:3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: (KJV)
For if there come unto your assembly . . . we find in ALL places of worship, some who have respect of those who are rich or famous! To do this is SIN (Jam.2:9). For signs of riches: (Gen.38:18; 41:42; Lu.15:22; 16:19).
And there come in also a poor man . . . this really means one who is very poor. In vile raiment . . . filthy garments as in (Zec.3:3-4).
James 2:3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: (KJV)
And ye have respect to him that wears the gay clothing . . . if we show favor to the rich man, and neglect and have contempt for the other . . . THAT is SIN!
And say unto him, sit thou here in a good place . . . the best place in the house!
And say to the poor, stand thou there . . . meaning a lower and out of the way place.
Or sit thou here under my footstool . . . not literally . . . but on the ground, down by my footstool. The poor man must either stand, or if he sits, sit possibly on the floor, in a degrading position.
James 2:4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? (KJV)
Are ye not then partial in yourselves? . . . after James has put these two men in direct contrast, he asks, "Aren't you actually being partial? Aren't you making decisions you have no right to make? Aren't you becoming judges with evil motives?" He says to do so was corrupting their affections! He's speaking to US too!
James 2:5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? (KJV)
Hearken, my beloved brethren . . . James is talking to believers, and he calls them "brethren."
Hath not God chosen the poor of this world . . . those poor in respect to the world . . . in contrast to "the rich in this world" (1 Tim.6:17). Not all the poor; but the poor, as a class, have many more believers than the rich as Christians. The rich (Lu.12:21; 1 Tim.6:6,17-18; Heb.11:26), if a TRUE believer, does NOT worship riches but does good with them . . . while the poor, if an unbeliever, sadly neglects the Godly advantage of poverty (Ps.1:1; 34:18; 51:17; 66:2; Mat.5:3; 25:43; 1 Cor.1:26-28). Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (KJV) Any person, wealthy or far from wealthy, who is poor in spirit is extremely blessed by God! See our commentary on the Sermon on the Mount: http://www.hisservants.org/sermon_on%20_the_mount_h_s.htm
And heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? . . . in James 1:12, the same words occur, but here it is a kingdom, there is there a crown. Always remember: God CANNOT lie! (Tit.1:2). When He makes a Promise. . . He keeps it! (Lu;12:32; 1 Cor.2:9; 2 Tim.4:8).
James 2:6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? (KJV)
It does NOT matter if it is at the hands of a rich corporation or of a rich labor union, the powerful are NOT giving the poor an honest deal. Every year the politicians come out to us when they are running for office and say that they are going to work for and help all of us poor people. It does NOT matter which political party is in power, they SHALL take advantage of us. I am an old woman and I have seen the way the government works! They are a bunch of liars. Politicians make "promises" to get elected, but you tell me . . . how many of those "promises" are kept? Ye have despised the poor . . . the rich and powerful want their vote, but friend, their interest in them ENDS there!
Don't they draw you before the judgment seats? . . . isn't it the rich and powerful that drag you into court . . . bringing persecutions for religion, as well as other oppressive lawsuits against you? I am not a prophet, but I DO see big trouble ahead for TRUE believers in Christ who witness for Him as He commands (Mat.28:19-20). Many satanic rules are already set! Check it out, don't believe me! The military chaplains are NOT allowed to say the Name of Jesus, because it might offend a Muslim or one of another faith. RIDICULOUS! If the person does not want to hear the Name of Jesus . . . there is the door, use it! They do NOT have to stay! ALL people, including the military, NEED to hear about Jesus! They NEED to hear that He is the only Way to Heaven! What is wrong with our government? WHY does the government forbid the military chaplains to speak Jesus' Name? GOD is angry!!!
James 2:7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? (KJV)
Is it not the rich and famous that blaspheme God's Holy Name? Rich heathens must be meant by James here. But, in today's 'modern' world, it is not only the rich, it is many others as well. To find a movie today WITHOUT blasphemy is next to impossible. There are those who dishonor God's Holy and worthy Name by wilful and habitual sin (Pro.30:9; Ex.20:7).
That worthy name . . . which is "good before the Lord's saints" (Ps.52:9; 54:6; 69:16; 99:3; Lu.1:49). His Name is "hallowed" (Mat.6:9), and because of His worthy Name, we are called God's people (1 Cor.3:23; 2 Cor.5:17; 1 Pet.1:3,18-19; 1 Jn.2:29; 5:1).
When you mistreat the poor, you are blaspheming the Name of Christ.
James 2:8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: (KJV)
Check out the following:
Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. (KJV)
Leviticus 19:18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD. (KJV)
Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. (KJV)
Galatians 5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (KJV)
FOUR Laws of LOVE!
Luke 6:27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. (KJV)
Mat.22:36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.(KJV)
Our Lord Jesus sums up the whole of the Mosaic Law above; boils it down to one word: LOVE!
James 2:9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. (KJV)
Respect of persons . . . is a sin because it violates the command to love thy neighbour as thyself. If you say you are a "Christian" and you have respect to persons, one day our Lord Jesus will have some words of sorrow for you. Mat. 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (KJV)
The Mosiac Law condemns discriminating between the rich and poor, and so does the "royal law" above (Golden Rule). I know what someone will say, "I did not murder, and I have not committed adultery." Maybe not, but let's go on.
James 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (KJV)
James is not saying that if you break one commandment, you have broken them all. What he is saying is, that IF you break just one, you are guilty of breaking the commandments NO matter which one you broke. The best way I can explain this is, the law is like a chain. Each law is a link in that chain. If one link of the chain is broken, the whole chain is broken.
And yet offend in one point . . . sin is what offends! Sin is a transgression of the law. It is an offense to God the Father, who is SO pure that He cannot look on it. It is a transgression to Jesus Christ, who loves righteousness and hates iniquity. It is a transgression to the Holy Spirit who is displeased and grieved by it (Eph.4:30). It is a transgression to the justice of God, which being injured by it, demands satisfaction. And it is a transgression to the law of God, which accuses, rebukes and condemns it.
He is guilty of all . . . WHY? Because just one sin is enough to damn the soul (Gen.2:17; Rom.5:12-21). The obligation to the law is total (Deut.27:26; Gal.3:10). This applies to all laws that have the death penalty (Rom.1:32; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gal.5:19-21). One is guilty of law breaking whether he breaks one or many laws (vs.11). Almighty God, which gave one commandment gave them all, and anyone who resists Him by breaking one law is guilty of the whole. . . . We all stand before God as lawbreakers. (Rom.3:10,23).
James 2:11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. (KJV)
These commandments are in BOTH covenants, the old and the new (Ex.20:13-14; Mat.5:21:32; Rom.13:9). Today, we are not now under obligation to obey the old Mosiac Law which is abolished by Christ (Mat.5:17; Eph.2:15; Rom.6:14), but because they are part of the new (Mat.22:36-40). To break one law, any law, makes us a lawbreaker to God!
James 2:12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. (KJV)
The "law of liberty" is the Gospel. It is the law of Christ. See what He says!
John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments. (KJV)
John 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. (KJV)
Matthew 22:36-40 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (KJV)
Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. (KJV) . . . IF you really love someone, you will NOT hurt them in any way! When you sin you hurt someone, plus God!
James 2:13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. (KJV)
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" Mat.5:7). The judgment which is coming on ALL of us, shall be without mercy to him who hath showed no mercy. It shall be such toward every one, as every one shall have been. "Mercy" = "love" (Jam.2:8).
And mercy rejoiceth against judgment . . . meaning that merciful men, who have shown mercy to the poor saints, need not be afraid of the awful judgment that shall come to the unmerciful. They shall be able to rejoice since they will obtain mercy at that day, and hear, Come, ye blessed of my Father (Mat.25:34).
We need to remember that it is sinful to think that we are better than someone else and to look down on others. It does not matter who the person is, because before God, that man is on the same plane as you are on. We ALL are sinners and need to come poor sinners. We ALL need to come to the foot of the Cross and accept Christ as our Saviour.
God Tests Faith By Good Works (2:14-26)
James shows us that God tests our faith by good works. There are those who say that there is a contradiction to the writings of Paul, because Paul made it abundantly clear that faith alone could save you. Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (KJV) . . . Personally, I do not see a contradiction in the writings of James to those of Paul, as I hope to show you.
I have divided this section as follows: #1. The interpretation of faith (vs.14). #2. The identification of faith (vs.15-20); and #3. The illustration of faith (vs.21-26).
First we have James' interpretation of faith. When we understand the definition of faith as it is used by Paul AND James in the context of their writings, we can see that Paul and James are in perfect agreement, that they are simply discussing the same subject from different viewpoints.
Paul says that a man is NOT saved by the works or the deeds of the Law. Romans 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. (KJV)
In Galatians, above, Paul says that a man is justified not by works but by faith in Christ Jesus. So, how do we reconcile Paul and James? Someone once wisely said, "Paul and James do not stand face to face, fighting against each other, but they stand back to back, fighting opposite foes."
In that day there were those who were saying that you had to perform the works of the Law (the Mosaic Law), that you had to come by the Law, in order to be saved. Paul answered that by saying that the works of the Law will NOT save you and that only faith in Christ can save you. Both Paul and James are defending the stronghold of faith. To see that, we need to understand the use of their terminology. Paul says that saving faith is a faith which is genuine and real, and will transform a person's life. Phil. 3:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. (KJV) 1 Cor. 15:1-2 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. (KJV)
Let's see what James has to say.
James 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? (KJV)
This verse is the interpretation of faith. James is NOT talking about the works of the Law. He is simply saying that the faith which saves you will produce works, works of faith. The faith that James is talking about here is professing faith of a hypocrite, that which is phony and counterfeit. Paul refers to the same idea when he says in 1 Cor.15:2, above. Paul also wrote: 2 Cor. 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (KJV)
Can faith save him? . . . a faith without good works, or a mere profession of faith, which lies only in words, and has NO deeds to show the genuineness of it . . . CANNOT save! TRUE faith can have NO causal influence on a person's salvation. TRUE faith has as its object, Christ. He is the only cause and author of salvation. Faith is only channel from us to God, where the grace which receives a justifying righteousness, the pardon of sin, adoption, and a right to the heavenly inheritance. BUT faith does NOT justify, does NOT pardon, does NOT adopt us into God's family, does NOT give us the right to the inheritance . . . BUT . . . lays hold on, and claims all these, by virtue of the gift of grace (Eph.2:8-9)! TRUE faith does have spiritual and eternal salvation inseparably connected with it; but as for hypocritical faith, it has nothing! Professing faith is NOT possessing faith! When a person has TRUE faith, their life will reveal a transformation in their character, works! SO . . . saving faith is alive and active; professing faith is dead in its tracks. We have many so-called professing "Christians" today who are members of churches. They are nothing in the world but zombies. They are walking around as if they are alive, but they are dead. This is why I always state TRUE believers, TRUE Christians . . . because there are not many TRUE "Christians" out there. SO many hypocrites!
When we understand how Paul and James use the words faith and works, we can see that they are in total agreement in their teaching.
Now James deals with the identification of faith. Saving faith can be recognized and identified. Genuine faith can be verified. James gives us this practical illustration.
James 2:15-16 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? (KJV)
James stays with the argument against those who "said he had faith, and yet had not works." He is referring to those who SAY that they have faith and that works are NOT necessary in Christian living. It does NOT say they have alive and active faith, but they SAY they have it. Can faith alone save? (vs.17-18, 20-26). James is NOT referring to justifying faith but to the demonstration of Christian faith before men . . . their works coming from their faith. Christianity demands its followers to DO good works to all men (Mat.5:16; 16:27; Eph.2:10; 1 Tim.6:18; 2 Tim.3:17; Tit.1:16; 2:7,14; 3:8). We are NOT justified by works (Rom.3:25-31; 4:1-6; 9:11; 11:6; Gal.2:16; Eph.2:8-9; Tit.3:5). All those justified must do good works, thus proving their Christian commitment (Jam.2:14-18, 20-26).
John 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (KJV)
Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. (KJV)
I think what James is trying to tell us is that we cannot say we are a child of God and live like a selfish, greedy, lawless individual. If we see someone truly in need and do nothing, we have no mercy! And we shall be judged accordingly some day (vs.13). I do not think that you should believe every individual who professes to be a Christian. There are a lot of lazy, no-account bums out there. We need to test them to see whether they really need help or are just trying to make a fast buck off those "stupid Christians." It will NOT take long! (Mat.7:17-18; Luke 6:43). May I say that you are telling by your life whether your faith is genuine or not.
James 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. (KJV)
Faith, if it hath not works, is dead . . . faith without works is dead! WHY? Because active, living faith, saving faith, produces works. Faith, if it does NOT have works, is dead . . . it is like a lifeless carcass, a body without a soul (Jam.2:26). And as for works, works without faith, are dead works, in God's eyes. So faith, without works, is a DEAD faith, and not like the lively hope and faith of regenerated "born again" persons. And those who have just a professed hypocritical faith are dead in trespasses and sins, bound for the Lake of Fire (Rev.20:15).
James 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. (KJV)
Paul talks about the ROOT of faith. James talks about the FRUIT of faith. That is what each man emphasizes. Both Paul and James say that faith alone saves. But, Paul also says that faith is going to produce fruit. Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, (KJV) And the Lord Jesus said: John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (KJV)
Show me thy faith without thy works . . . faith is unseen, except by God. To show faith to man, works in some form or other are needed! The question here is NOT the ground on which believers are justified, but about the demonstration of their faith. God put Abraham to the test of demonstrating the reality of his faith (Gen.22:1). NOT for the satisfaction of God, who already knew it was true, but to demonstrate it before men. The offering of Isaac at that time, had absolutely NO part of the ground of Abraham's justification, for he was justified previously on his simply believing God (Gal.3:6). Abraham was already justified: that justification was showed or proven by his offering Isaac forty years later. Abraham's work of faith demonstrated, but did NOT contribute to his justification. Trees show their life by their fruit, but they were alive before either leaves or fruit appeared.
James 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. (KJV)
Lip service (professing) is NOT the evidence of a live and active saving faith . . . even the devils believe the same Truth. They know and believe there is just one God, and not many; and they know that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are ONE God (Deut.6:4); and they know and believe that Jesus is the Holy One of God, the Son of God, and the Messiah (Acts 16:17).
And tremble . . . at the wrath of God, which they now feel at the thought of future torments, which they expect (Mark 5:7), which is more than most men do . . . yet these shall NOT be saved, their damnation is certain and inevitable (2 Pet.2:4).
James 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (KJV)
Vain men are NOT willing to know, since they have no wish to "do" the will of God. Vain is one who deceives themselves with a false hope that rests on a dead faith. James 3:11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? (KJV) Faith without the fruit of faith is empty and useless as far as God is concerned.
James 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? (KJV)
James, like Paul, recognizes the Scripture Truth, that it was Abraham's faith that was counted to Abraham for righteousness in his justification before God. (Gal.3:6). Romans 4:2-3 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. 3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. (KJV) . . . His offering Isaac was proof of his faith.
James 2:22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? (KJV)
Faith wrought with his works . . . for it was by faith he offered his son. Literally, his faith brought about his works.
By works was faith made perfect . . . his works showed that his faith was real. His faith was not idle, but effective in producing good works, for it is faith, in respect to Christ for sanctification as well as righteousness (1 Cor.1:30; Acts 26:18).
James 2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. (KJV)
Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness . . . quoted from (Gen.15:6), which was many years before offering Isaac (Gen.22). This very act of obedience to God (Gen.22:2) is an act of faith and works combined before God.
He was called the Friend of God . . . (2 Chron.20:7). The greatest blessing possible is to be a friend of God.
James 2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. (KJV)
Ye see then how that by works a man is justified . . . works is NOT the cause of obtaining justification (Rom.5:1), but works effectively declares faith to be real. James says it takes good works to prove your faith.
The best works we could ever do are imperfect and impure, and CANNOT be righteousness, to justify us in the sight of God. Works are totally unprofitable in our obtaining eternal salvation. Eph. 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. (KJV)
Romans 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: (KJV) . . . FREELY . . . we do NOT have to work to be justified!
What does Jesus say about works? John 6:28-29 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. (KJV) . . . BELIEVE in faith!
James also uses a second illustration.
James 2:25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? (KJV)
How was Rahab justified by works? She received the Israelite spies, hid them from her own people, then told them how to escape without being found out (Josh.2). She jeopardized her life by turning her back on her own people, and on her old life. What was gain to her became loss (Phil.3:7-8). She believed God, and she became involved. She was justified before God by her faith. Heb. 11:31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace. (KJV) Before her own people and the Israelites, she was justified by works.
Rahab was an instance of the grace of God in calling of sinners. She believed, and what she did, she did in faith. Her faith was shown by her works to be true and genuine; and the Bible says that she was justified in the eyes of God. The Gentile harlot Rahab, is entered into the genealogy of Christ, because of her faith (Mat.1:5).
Abraham and Rahab show us, that wherever there is TRUE faith, whether in Jew or Gentile, in man or woman, in greater or lesser believers, or in such who have been greater or lesser sinners, there WILL be good works!
James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (KJV)
Faith without works is like a dead body in a grave. James said that; Paul said that, and I believe both of them. Just as the inner man leaves the body at physical death (separated) and is no longer with the body, so too, faith without works is dead.
Book of James
Ch.1 . Ch.2 . Ch.3 . Ch.4 . Ch.5