THE NEW TESTAMENT
Epistle from James #2
Chapters Two and Three
Verses 1-9, show that James was writing to a general
population, as we have seen, in the first verse of chapter one,
to the twelve tribes of Israel scattered abroad. A general
population where synagogues would have been full of people from
the rich to the very poor, where many would not have a deep
profound relationship with God, and many even less with the Lord
Jesus Christ. It would vary from assembly to assembly of course.
But it would be to some extent as Paul was to write about the
"last days" - having a form of godliness but denying the power
thereof." For many in the scattered synagogues of scattered
Israel, their religion would be a "form" only - a few hours a
week only religion, after those few hours they would pretty well
do as they pleased. Which would, for the physically rich, mean
they would drag poor people before the judgment seats of the
land, if it was to their advantage.
It is a fact of recorded Jewish history that Christians did
worship in the synagogues for a number of decades after the
Christian faith was fully started in 30 A.D. And sure enough
within many of those scattered Jewish synagogues, were a large
mixture of people from the very poor to the very wealthy. In the
main the majority of Christians in those assemblies were of
the former class - relatively in the poor strata of society, as
James mentions in verse 5, and Paul also affirmed in 1
There would be in those assemblies, some class distinction
and class prejudice. Not all would be of the Christian faith, and
not all would be very godly in their basic way of living. The
rich would certainly have the power to bring people before the
courts and judgment seats of the world.
For those assemblies that were more "Christian" than Jewish,
or shall we say assemblies run by the Christians, rather than run
by the Jews (and Christians assemblies would have been "open" to
anyone wanting to worship with them on the Sabbath and Festivals,
where it was safe to be open, and many parts of the Roman Empire
were safe places for open worship, the Romans allowed the Jews
freedom of worship, as long as they were "good" citizens of
Rome), James was addressing the human problem of "respect of
There should be no respect of persons in the manner and way
you treat either the wealthy of the poor in your assembly. Rich
expensive clothes and costly jewelry or the lack of, does not
make the person. Outward dress is not a part of the real
spiritual character of a person. If we bend over backwards to be
nice to the wealthy and give them the best seats in the
assembly, and talk and act the exact opposite with the poor, then
James says we have become partial in ourselves and have also
become judges with evil thoughts (verse 4).
He goes on to say that by and large, God has called and
chosen today the poor of this world, ones rich in faith, though
relatively poor in physical wealth. Paul was inspired to say the
same thing, that not many physical wealthy people are called to
the Kingdom of God in this age. How many millionaires do you know
in your assembly, oh, there may be some, but for the most part,
most assemblies are made up of the average to lower income
bracket of the work-a-day world.
In James time, I guess from what he said in verse 6, it was
common practice for the rich to drag the poor before the
judgments seats of the land. James wanted Christians to live and
act with no respect of persons in their attitude of mind. They
were to fulfil the ROYAL LAW of God that could be often summed up
as "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." And we know from
the words of Jesus that our neighbor is ANY other fellow human
being. Jesus clearly taught that in His ministry as we have
previously seen in the four Gospels.
It is a very important point and subject is the one
regarding "respect of persons" - so much so that James said in
verse 9, "But if you have respect of persons, you commit SIN, and
are convinced of the LAW as TRANSGRESSORS!
We as Christians are to have the attitude of mind towards
any other that we wish they would have towards us, it is indeed,
"Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you."
All of what James is expressing is found in the LAW of God.
The law of God is not just a narrow 10 points, as people know as
the famous TEN COMMANDMENTS, found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy
5. The law of God is much broader than that. The Ten Commandments
are just the high-light of all that is holy and righteous - that
makes up the whole character of God, and the way of life that He
would want His children to live in this physical life on this
There is no specific point in the Ten Commandments that
says, "You shall not have respect of persons with each other."
But James has already said that living a life with respect of
persons is SIN, and you are convinced, convicted by the law as a
transgressor of that holy law of God.
This section of New Testament Scripture is one proof that
the Ten Commandments are MUCH BROADER in intent and application
than just the literal words they contain. We saw in the famous
so-called "Sermon on the Mount" of Matthew 5,6,7, that Jesus came
to MAGNIFY the law of God. He did not come to make it smaller, or
do away with one or more of the Ten Commandments. He came as
Isaiah the prophet wrote, to MAGNIFY THE LAW (see Isaiah 42: 21).
This section of James chapter 2, does just that also, it
MAGNIFIES the ROYAL law (verse 8) - the law of LIBERTY! (verse
Sin is sin, and sin is defined by the Word of the Lord. You
may not sin in a number of ways, but sin only in one sin and you
have still sinned. Or to put it the way James did, you can keep
correctly all the laws of God, but offend, or sin in just one of
those laws and you have stilled sinned, or in the long and short
of it all, you have offended in all. It only takes ONE sin or
offence in ONE point of God's law, that is not repented of, where
you will just not REPENT of breaking that point of His royal law,
and you are standing on the ground of the unpardonable sin. Remain
UN-repented towards that law of God and you will be condemned to
What James quotes in verse 11 is obviously from the Ten
Commandments - adultery - murder. It does not matter which you
sin in, he just named "respect of persons" as sin - if you are
unrepented of any sin, you are a transgressor of the royal law,
the law of liberty.
The LAWS of God are classified as LIBERTY, not bondage! And
it is that law of liberty (just think what liberty from evil it
would bring this world if all nations and people lived by the Ten
Commandments, and the magnifying of them through the teachings of
the whole Bible) that we shall be judged by.
If we are a person filled with MERCY - compassion -
forgiveness towards others, when others fail to live up to the
perfection of God, as they interact with us. Then God can have
mercy upon us when we fail to live up to His perfection towards
Him and towards others. It is as Jesus said, "If you have mercy
upon others, God will have mercy upon you." It is indeed, "For-
give us our sins Father, as we forgive those who sin against us."
We need to be of a tender merciful attitude. All sins can be
forgiven by the Father, if we have an attitude of repentance, if
we accept the work of Jesus today as our High Priest, interceding
for us. If we are showing mercy towards others, when we have the
opportunity to be merciful, if we are humble, lowly in attitude
of mind, if we admit we do sin, that we are still sinners (see 1
John 1) ............ then MERCY from God rejoices against
justice. We may deserve death, but MERCY will be shown. Justice
will not play itself out in our life, mercy will triumph and
rejoice over justice. By GRACE (mercy) through FAITH we shall be
saved (Ephesians 2:8) to eternal life in the very family of God.
You need to read carefully the study on this Website called
"Saved by Grace." It will show you the true and only way to
We now come to the verses (14-26) that many think are a
complete contradiction to the argument of Paul. Many think that
James and Paul are NOT agreeing. The famous Martin Luther of the
Protestant Revolution called the epistle of James, "an epistle of
straw" - probably because he could not reconcile the teaching
here of James with the teaching of Paul.
The answer can be found in looking at this saving by grace
through faith as a two sided coin. You cannot try to chalk up
more "good points" than "bad points" and turn to God and say,
"Okay, because of my more good points you have to give me eternal
life, I have earned it." Many Jews had a religion of just that -
working at collecting more good marks than bad marks, so getting
saved by works. Paul argued that just was not the way to eternal
life. You could only be saved by being forgiven your sins, and
that only through the life and blood of Jesus Christ.
On the other side, to accept Jesus as Savior, but to say
that faith in Him then made it possible to continue to sin at
will, just live any kind of life style, including having a
respect of persons attitude (first part of James 2), was not the
true faith of God at all. And God would not accept that kind of
faith. The true faith in God and Christ, as Abraham had, LED to a
CHANGE in living, led to a change in mind and attitude, of
wanting to do the will and works of God. Believing in God is not
just a mental throwing of the switch in the mind that says, "Yes,
I believe the creation around proves there is a God." The demons
and the Devil himself, KNOW there is a God in heaven, and Jesus
is at His right hand. But their minds are not changed to DO THE
WILL AND WORKS OF GOD! Such a faith in God is a DEAD faith. A
technicality of the mind, admitting there is a God, but not
willing to go any further, is NOT a faith that God will recognize
and honor and show mercy to.
You are not saved by collecting more good works than bad
works, earning your salvation. You are saved by God forgiving you
your sins through Christ Jesus' sacrifice and work as High
Priest, but your faith in that only way to be saved, must have an
attitude of mind with it that WANTS, DESIRES, is WILLING to WALK
in the ways of the Lord. It is a FAITH that produces works, the
works of God. It is an attitude of mind that is HUMBLE,
SUBMISSIVE, to God, an attitude of mind that is willing to be LED
by the Spirit of God, willing to be CORRECTED, and just wanting
to live as God wants all of His children to live.
Works cannot save you. Grace through faith saves you, but
faith must go FORWARD from there and produce the works of Jesus.
We must live by the faith OF Jesus (Galatians 2:20), we must have
the MIND of Christ in us (Philippians 2:5). Faith in God
AUTOMATICALLY brings with it the righteous works of God. The
faith of Christ in us, cannot be any other way than living
as Christ lived while walking this earth for 33 years. Jesus said
it was His will to do the Father's will.
God will not JUSTIFY any person - God will not FORGIVE, show
mercy to anyone, who will not REPENT and BE WILLING to live His
holy and righteous way of life. That in a nut-shell is what James
is teaching here in verses 14-26. To believe God exists but to
go no further in living God's way of life, as amplified in His
holy Word the Bible, will not justify your position with Him, for
you to be granted forgiveness and be given eternal life.
Once more I ask the reader to study and mediate on my
article "Saved by Grace."
Sad to say, but far too many people of themselves, decide to
be a teacher of God's word. They sit down at some point in their
lives, and say, "I think I will go to Theological School and
become a minster." Or they may not go that far, but simply say,
"I will teach the word of God. I will set myself up as a
Theological teacher of the Bible."
Sorry to say, way too many people do exactly that. They may
have a "knack" to converse with people, to "lead" people, to
"sermonize" - they may have the "gift of the gab" as they say,
and yes, they are able to get people flocking to hear them. Many
are paid for their efforts, groups here and there bringing them
in to speak to them. People praise them, give them applause,
stand in awe of them, and sometimes even the world at large, will
praise them for their religious preaching and teaching, giving
them an "honourary" this or "honourary" that.
The chilling words of Jesus are still recorded in the
Gospels. Talking to His followers, He said, "Beware when men
speak well of you, for so they did unto the false prophets of
Frankly, the person who stands on the very truth of God's
word, who is not afraid to tell it as it is, to call a spade a
spade, who will at times cry aloud and spare not, and tell my
people their sins, who will openly teach and preach ALL that is
written in the word of the Lord, that person, OFTEN, will
not be liked by the masses, not be liked by the majority of the
Christian world, and will certainly not be endorsed by the world
James in the opening verse of chapter three, pointedly and
bluntly says, "My brethren, do not many of you become teachers,
knowing that we shall receive the greater judgment."
It is a SERIOUS MATTER to decide you will teach the WORD of
God. You better know what you are doing, and what judgment you
will be under. You better be a serious student all of your life,
in the word of God, you better be willing to be CORRECTED, to
GROW IN GRACE AND KNOWLEDGE!
I personally, in my many years with the Lord, and rubbing
sleeves with other religious teachers, and those who would be
teachers, have found very few who are willing to stand alone,
willing to be corrected, who love to grow in grace and knowledge.
Very few will step away from their "organization" and from the
praise of men.
And in all of this is the MOUTH! Some people love to talk,
love to stand and talk to others, love the up-front-ism of it
all, love the praise of men. A little member of the body is the
tongue, but as James points out, what a FIRE it can kindle. It
can indeed be a world of iniquity. Oh, it does not have to be an
out right plain diatribe of evil words. It can be sweet, and
have pleasant phrases, eloquence of the English language (or any
other language). We can bless the heavenly Father, with our
words, sound real good to the ears of people listening, but then
teach false lies of theology and bring deception and evil to
James says the tongue can be an unruly evil, full of deadly
poison, that mankind of themselves cannot tame. It takes the
power and Spirit of God to tame and control the tongue and words
that come from us.
Also, you need to remember, that words you read in a book or
article, are really the words of the tongue of that individual.
Again, some words can be very sweet as you read. The person
writing can have a way with words that would get them an award
for English literature. If it's in the religious world they can
sooth or transport you into warm sunny sand beach resorts
I have nothing per se against the use of English prose, but
overall, as one writer did note, Jesus' words were uncomplicated
and down to earth clear. As Paul told the church at Corinth,
"And brethren, when I came to you, I came not with excellency of
speech .... my speech and my preaching, was not with enticing
words of man's wisdom...." ( 1 Corinthians 2:1,4).
So, we must evaluate the words of men, by not only their
actions, the follow-up on their words, but what they say and what
they write, if on theological matters, must be according to the
law and the testimony - God's word (see Isaiah 8:20).
You are never off the hook, as to the correctness, good or
evil, that comes from the mouth and tongue of people. You are
never off the hook as to the good or evil that comes from your
mouth or your pen (verses 2-12).
James ends his thought in this chapter, by taking us to what
is the wisdom in it all, the end of it all is having the correct
and right wisdom, that will show forth a good conduct in life,
which will be coupled with meekness. If there is bitter envyings
and strife in your hearts, you better not glory, for you will
only continue to deceive yourselves about the truth. That kind of
wisdom is only from the world, even could be from the demons
James adds. Where there is envy and strife, there is confusion
and all kinds of evil work.
True wisdom James says, is from ABOVE, it is PURE,
PEACEABLE, GENTLE, EASY TO BE ENTREATED, FULL OF MERCY AND GOOD
FRUITS. It is without WRANGLING, and without any HYPOCRISY - play
Over it all as like a roof over a house or building, is
righteousness, but the fruit of righteousness is sown in PEACE of
them that make peace (verses 13-18).
Jesus said, "Blessed are the PEACEMAKERS, for they shall be
called the CHILDREN OF GOD" (Matthew 5:9).
Jesus was in the main a loving, PEACEFUL man. He got tough
at times to those He needed to get tough with. But He was a man
of Peace - He was living in peace and harmony with the Father, He
wanted people to have peace, to feel peace in their heart and
mind. His whole life was about PEACE, the peace of knowing the
true God, finding salvation, and living then for eternity in the
PEACEFUL family of God.
I have a full in-depth study for you called "BEING A
PEACEMAKER." Look it up and see how important it is for your
Written April 2007