Verse 1 – My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.
Verse 2 – For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes,
Verse 3 – and you pay attention to the one wearing fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or “Sit here at my footstool,”
Verse 4 – have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
James is drawing attention to playing favoritism because of appearance. I’ve been in churches like that. The wealthy can financially help a church, but the poor suffer need. When we show partiality because of someone’s status, we disgrace the Lord of glory.
Verse 5 – Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?
This verse does not mean that the poor automatically go to heaven and the rich go to hell. James is telling us that the poor are more likely to listen and believe the gospel because of a humble state of mind. Have you ever tried to convince a wealthy person their need for Christ? It’s hard! I have and they see no need for a Savior, because their money buys everything they need or want. If they are never in any kind of lack, they see no need to trust in the One which can supply all things pertaining to life.
Verse 6 – But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?
This might be referring to something in their conduct which existed particularly back then. Those to whom James was speaking were Christians, and most likely poor.
Verse 7 – Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?
That noble name is Jesus Christ. Blaspheme means that the wealthy were speaking against Christ or directly through their actions toward the members of the assembly.
Verse 8 – If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well;
Verse 9 – but if you show partiality you commit sin, and are convicted by law as transgressors.
Attitudes among Christians should be based on the royal law which says love your neighbor as yourself. We are to treat all people the same, whether rich or poor, the way we want to be treated. We don’t favor those that can return favors or can do something for us better than the ones which can do nothing for us.
Verse 10 – For whoever shall keep the whole law and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
Simply put: There is no one who can keep all of God’s law perfectly. There was only One who did and that was Jesus. However, that is no excuse to not try. That is why we all need Christ. He paid for our sin of breaking the law because we couldn’t keep it. But if you live strictly by the law, and refuse God’s Son, you will be required to keep all the law. That is, you choose to go it your own way based only on your works and not by what Christ has done for you.
Verse 11 – For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
Verse 12 – So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.
As Christians we are saved by God’s gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ – the law of liberty. But as Christians we are required to obey Christ. God’s grace does not cancel our duty to obey Him.
Verse 13 – For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy trumps over judgment.
When we withhold forgiveness from others after having received it for ourselves, we show that we don’t understand or appreciate God’s mercy toward us.
Verse 14 – What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
Can a faith that does not express itself in good works be a saving faith? No.
Verse 15 – If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,
Verse 16 – and one says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?
Faith that does not produce good works is dead! It does no good to tell a person that is hungry that you wish them well, or hope everything works out, all the while we sit there with a refrigerator full of food. Faith has to have the evidence of good works.
Howe many times did Jesus feed the multitudes before He taught? Our influence on the lost is useless if we never produce any fruit from our faith!
Verse 17 – Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead.
This action we take to care for those in need is no different from the faith we express when we pray. There is usually something that God will tell us to do in order to put that faith in motion. We don’t just sit back and wait for things to happen on their own. “Put legs on them prayers!”
Verse 18 – But someone will 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.
While it is true that our good deeds can never earn salvation, true faith always results in a changed life and good deeds. True faith involves a commitment of our whole self in God.
Verse 19 – You believer that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble!
However, demons do not intend to obey Christ. As Christians we receive, love, and obey our Savior. Big difference.
Verse 20 – But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
Verse 21 – Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?
Verse 22 – Do you see that faith was working together with his works and by works faith was made perfect?
Active obedience demonstrates that our faith is genuine.
Verse 23 – And the Scripture was fulfilled which says. “Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.
Abraham’s act showed that his faith was genuine, and that the declaration that he believed in God was true; for what could do more to confirm that than a readiness to offer his own son at the command of God?
Verse 24 – You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
It must be a faith that produces good works, and whose existence will be shown to others by those good works.
Verse 25 – Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
Remember Rahab from Joshua, chapter 2? When Joshua sent spies into Jericho, she hid them and helped them escape without detection. In doing this she demonstrated faith in God’s purpose for Israel. As a result, she and her family were saved when the city was destroyed.
Verse 26 – For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
So, now do you understand how our Christian faith works? A lot of Christians are never taught this. If good works do not follow faith, that faith is useless!