Faith and Works.
SUMMARY.--Respect of Persons.
The Royal Law.
He Who Keeps the Law Must Offend in Nothing.
Faith not a Living Faith if Alone.
Its Life Must Be Shown by its Fruits.
It is Perfected by Obedience.
The Lesson of Abraham's Faith.
1-4. Have not the faith of our Lord. The Gospel, the Christian
With respect to persons. God is no respecter of persons
nor should Christians be. God respects character, not dress, or wealth,
or earthly rank.
2. Come into your synagogue. See Revision. The place of worship,
whether Jewish or Christian. James, a Jewish Christian of the strictest
sort, uses the Jewish term.
With a gold ring. An indication of wealth in that age,
especially in connection with the fine clothing.
A poor man, as shown by his mean clothing.
3. And have respect. Show respect not to the character but to
the clothes, by giving one a welcome and a good seat, while the other
is treated contemptuously, allowed to
stand or to sit in a very uncomfortable place. Does not this
describe the spirit of half the churches of our time?
4. Are ye not then partial? Show partiality from outward
Judges of evil thoughts. Judge between the two men under the
influence of evil thoughts.
5-9. Hath not God chosen the poor, etc.? Ye choose out the rich
for favor, but God hath chosen in most part the poor to be
rich in faith, etc. See
1 Cor. 1:16, 17.
God has made poor men heirs of the eternal inheritance.
6. But ye have despised the poor. Those whom God accepts you
Do not rich men oppress you? The oppressors of the poor are
usually the rich. They are the money lenders, those who bring suit for
debt, and hence draw the poor before the
judgment seats. Perhaps also there is an allusion to the fact
that they were the persecutors.
7. Do not they blaspheme that worthy name, etc. The name of
Christ. There is an allusion either to the fact that they were already
called Christians, or that they were baptized in his name.
8. The royal law according to the scripture. The law of love for
which is the fulfillment of the law. See
9. But if
ye have respect to persons. Such partiality as that described in
would break this law, and hence would be a sin, and the sinner would be
convicted as a transgressor.
10-13. Whosoever shall keep the whole law. If the law is broken
by "respect of persons," the whole law is broken. He who willfully
breaks one command is a law breaker and is guilty before the law.
11. He that said, etc. He that gave one command, gave the other
commands. If you break any one of them, you sin against the Divine
12. So speak ye. So act as one judged by
the law of liberty. The Gospel, which is not a law of outward
compulsion, but of a new and willing spirit. See
Rom. 8:2, 15.
13. He shall have judgment without mercy. We must show mercy if
we expect mercy. Our own spirit determines our manner of judgment. See
If we love our neighbor, God will love us.
14-18. What doth it profit. Professions are nothing unless their
fruit is deeds. Even faith is of no avail unless it demonstrates its
life by works.
15. If a brother. A practical application is now made of the
Be naked. Insufficiently clothed.
16. Depart in peace. Express to the needy only kind wishes; that
he be warmed by receiving good clothing and fed by food being provided.
Such good wishes are worthless unless followed up by active help to the
17. Even so faith. Faith that has no power to bring one to
obedience and to sway the life is as worthless as good wishes which end
Being alone. It cannot stand alone and be of any avail. Only
when it shows its power in works is it of the slightest value.
18. A man may say. One may claim works, another faith. They must
go hand in hand. One cannot show faith without works. The life lived is
the proof of the faith held. If a man lives in obedience to Christ that
is proof that he has faith in Christ.
19. Thou believest that there is one God. That is very well, but
can that alone save you? Even the demons believe that also. See
Evil spirits confessed Christ, but this confession of faith did not
20-24. But wilt thou know, etc. "I will show by proof that the
faith that justifies produces works by the case of Abraham, the great
father of the faithful."
Faith without works is dead. It has no power to make alive
unless it has power over the life.
21. Was not Abraham our father. The father of the Jewish race;
also the father of all his children by faith. See
Justified by works. By a faith which showed itself in works.
This is the argument of James, that faith is of no avail unless
accompanied by works. Of this all Abraham's life was a demonstration.
He was told when in Mesopotamia to go forth into the land God would
show him, and "he went forth, not knowing whither;"
an act of faith
"By faith he sojourned in the land of promise"
Each of these acts of faith secured Divine approval, but the supremest
trial was when he offered Isaac. See notes on
This victory of faith was followed by crowning approval and glorious
22. Seest thou how faith wrought. Abraham's faith was a working
By works was faith made perfect. The element of works is
essential to make it complete. Without works it is an imperfect, "a
It must have energy to avail. Abraham's faith "wrought."
23. And the scripture was fulfilled. The scripture quoted is
The case of the offering of Isaac was a complete outward demonstration
that Abraham believed God, as the Scripture said.
"He was called the friend of God." Honored as no other mortal had
Isa. 41:8, and 2 Chron. 20:7.
The Mohammedans still call Abraham El Khalil, "The Friend."
24. Ye see then, etc. The case of Abraham proves that the
justifying faith is a working faith.
25, 26. Rahab the harlot. See notes on
This is one of the long roll of examples of faith shown by works given
26. For as the body without the spirit. The body is a lifeless,
dead thing, without the spirit. So lifeless is faith it shows an energy
NOTE.--Some have thought, among these Luther, that
Paul and James were not in agreement on the subject of faith. Those who
thus conclude mistake both these inspired men of God. Paul shows that
works without faith will not justify, and hence lays the emphasis on
faith; James shows that faith without works will not justify,
and lays the emphasis on works. Neither teaches that faith
alone, or works alone will justify. Paul, indeed, shows that faith
alone is worthless
(1 Cor. 13:2),
Hebrews, chapter 11,
he emphasizes works as the demonstration of faith. The two writers are
in agreement, and all seeming disagreement is due to the fact that they
are seeking to correct different errors, and hence look at the matter
from different points of view.