James 2

2:1 My brothers [James was addressing a family matter], as believers [we are bound together as believers in the family of faith] in our [personal ownership and relationship] glorious [cf. Jn. 1:14] Lord [Gr. “kurios”] Jesus [name means “Yahweh is Savior”] Christ [Gr. word used to translate messiah (anointed one)], don’t [stop something in progress] show favoritism [partiality].

Note: Impartiality is an attribute of God. Read Deut. 10:17; Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; Gal. 2:6; Eph. 6:9; Col. 3:25. Impartiality is an attitude Jesus practiced. Read Matt. 22:16; Mk. 12:14; Lk. 20:21.

2:2 Suppose [a hypothetical case study] a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring [quality of the ring indicated social status] and fine [either elegant and luxurious or fresh and clean] clothes, and a poor [one in abject poverty; possibly a beggar; cf. Zech. 7:9-10] man in shabby [filthy, dirty] clothes also comes in.

2:3 If you show special attention [to look with favor on] to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good [comfortable and favored; preferred seating] seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there [standing room only]” or “Sit on the floor by my feet, [poor man given neither dignity or comfort]

Note: List ways in which churches today favor the rich and discriminate against the poor. Are you sometimes uncomfortable in the presence of certain people?

2:4 have you not discriminated [to make a distinction] among yourselves [between church members or within oneself] and become judges with evil thoughts [obvious answer is “yes”]?

Note: How do other people influence the prejudices we have?

2:5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor [those who have little money; the poor are more apt to be aware of their powerlessness; riches can keep people from recognizing their need for God (cf. Mk. 10:23; Lk. 12:34)] in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom [cf. Lk. 6:20] he promised those who love him?

2:6 But you have insulted [to dishonor; by not treating them as God treats them; cf. Rom. 12:10] the poor. [note James’ three questions] [1] Is it not the rich who are exploiting [to oppress; to use someone for profit] you? [2] Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court [cf. Matt. 18:23-35]?

2:7 [3] Are they not the ones who are slandering [speaking evil of Christ and His followers; to blaspheme; cf. 1 Pet. 4:13-14] the noble name of him [Christ] to whom you belong?

2:8 If you really keep the royal [from the King of kings] law found in Scripture [cf. Matt. 22:37-40], “Love your neighbor [included enemies (Matt. 5:44); cf. parable of the good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25-37)] as yourself,” you are doing right.

2:9 But if [word assumes the reality of the condition] you show favoritism, you sin [prejudice is sin] and are convicted [to convince with overwhelming evidence] by the law as lawbreakers [transgressor: one who steps across a boundary].

2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles [to go astray; to sin] at just one point is guilty of breaking all [because the law is a unity rather than a series of unrelated requirements] of it.

2:11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery [Seventh Commandment],” also said, “Do not murder [Sixth Commandment].” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

2:12 Speak and act [these words cover all human behavior] as those who are going to be judged [refers to believers being judged for the kind of lives they have lived (cf. 1 Cor. 3:12-15)] by the law that gives freedom [phrase used in 1:25; God’s moral law, God’s Word, the gospel],

2:13 because judgment without mercy [merciful actions are evidence that we have a personal relationship with Christ; cf. Matt. 5:7] will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims [talk is cheap; easy to say] to have faith but has no deeds [actions done in obedience to God]? [the next question is constructed to expect a negative answer…] Can such faith save him?

2:15 Suppose a brother or sister [those within reach; cf. Gal. 6:10] is without clothes [or poorly clad] and daily food.

2:16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well [standard farewell blessing]; keep warm and well fed [or, “God help you with your needs because I certainly do not have the time to do so.”],” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it [cf. 1 Jn. 3:17-18]?

2:17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action [the fruit of faith], is dead [faith that has no works does not work].

2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds [as if the two are separate expressions of Christianity].” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

2:19 You believe that there is one God [cf. Deut. 6:4; one of the foundational doctrines of Christianity]. Good! Even the demons [evil spiritual beings opposed to God] believe [intellectual belief alone is not life-changing faith; belief in a doctrine alone has no saving power] that—and shudder [to tremble with fear].

2:20 You foolish [empty or senseless; a hollow man; one lacking intellectual understanding and moral and spiritual insight] man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?

2:21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered [declared] righteous [to vindicate or to show to be righteous] for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar [recorded in Genesis 22:1-19]? [the answer to this question is “yes”]

2:22 You see that his faith and his actions were working [suggests a continuous, habitual activity] together [complementing one another], and his faith was made complete [perfected or brought to maturity; brought to its goal] by what he did.

2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says [cf. Gen. 15:6], “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend [cf. 2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8].

2:24 You see that a person is justified by what he does [in the sense that what they do demonstrates that their hearts are right with God; important to understand that they are not declared righteous because of their works; God requires good deeds from those who are members of His family] and not by faith alone.

2:25 In the same way, was not even Rahab [lived in Jericho (the first city the Israelites conquered as they entered Canaan); cf. Josh. 2; Heb. 11:31; Rahab confessed her belief in the one true God (Josh. 2:11)] the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? [the answer to this question is “yes”]

2:26 As the body without the spirit [refers to the breath of life] is dead, so faith without deeds is dead [useless].

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