James Chapter Two
V1 My brothers, don’t hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory with partiality.
Those who follow the Lord Jesus Christ must not show any kind of favouritism towards any people. Regarding others as better than yourself is a requirement of the commandments. In our folly we think less educated people, or less wealthy people, are somehow “less.” It is easy to become a snob and look down on people who are different from us and who we don’t understand. We imagine our lack of understanding is a lack in the other person, and not in ourselves.
“Peter opened his mouth and said, “Truly I perceive that God doesn’t show favouritism; but in every nation he who fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.”
Acts 10: 34-35
The Apostle Peter was harbouring some big prejudices and God had to give him strong lessons in order for him to change his attitude. Peter did so and obeyed the Lord, bringing great blessing to the Christians and also those who were being saved and brought into the church of Christ.
“He (God) set judges in the land throughout all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, and said to the judges, “Consider what you do: for you don’t judge for man, but for The Lord God, and [he is] with you in the judgment. Now therefore let the fear of God be on you. Take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with The Lord our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of bribes.”
2 Chronicles 19: 5-7
God sets up Old Testament Judges to make decisions on behalf of Himself and for the people. There is no sound judgment outside of God. God will not tolerate injustice, unfair decisions nor prejudicial attitude towards any person, this ought to revolutionise our thinking.
If we have received the grace of God in the forgiveness of sins and live in the reality of faith, we have no business in judging other people. Sinful people who have been forgiven are just sinful people who have been forgiven and so they will always be. How foolish to think that your faith is your own and your grace given and shown to you is deserved.
We should not be discriminating in favour of other Christians. People who have faith don’t need preferential treatment. Whereas those who are not yet forgiven and changed, need to see the grace of God at work. If we want to show God’s grace, let it be to the unsaved, so that they will see demonstrated the mercy and generosity of God and see that He will forgive. To keep our activities within the Christian family circle, and to live lives separate from people who don’t believe, has no benefit to a lost world of people who need to see Jesus.
The Lord Jesus Christ of glory, showed His glory in giving up the rights and privileges of heaven, and coming into a sinful world. He focused His attention and love on a race of fallen beings, and showed mercy, grace, healing, help and salvation to us, so that we could know Him and seek Him. His glory was humility and grace, so should our deeds be also. We are not more than our Saviour, Jesus.
V2 For if a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, comes into your synagogue , and a poor man in filthy clothing also comes in;
Faith pays no attention to outward show. We refuse to judge people by what they wear or how they present themselves. The devil often masquerades as an angel of light. We must be very careful how we regard other people and make sure we do not assign worth to surface appearances.
James gives us a scenario to teach us these lessons. He uses wealth or lack of it, to represent an attitude which is prevalent in the human psyche.
We have a rich man, identified as wearing a gold ring. He has designer clothes which are obviously expensive. This man has social status and standing in the local community. Perhaps he has business or is involved with politics and therefore has abilities that could be useful to the church (synagogue). At least, he has money, and that is always useful to do the work and pay church staff. He would be a very useful asset to any organisation and it would be advisable to get him on board with what we are doing.
In stark contrast, a poor man also comes in. His clothes are not just out of fashion, but he is filthy dirty and in obvious need. Perhaps he is homeless and has no income at all and people spit at him in the street, because he is not able to contribute to society.
These two characters arrive at church at the same time, so that we are left in no doubt about our attitudes to both of them. We automatically find ourselves judging. We discriminate between the two and make human value judgments about worthiness and worth. We instinctively know the clean rich person will be useful and the unkempt person will be a burden on resources. Straight away we regard the rich as worth more and therefore better, and the poor as much less value and therefore no good.
“Who (the Lord) doesn’t respect the persons of princes, nor respects the rich more than the poor; for they all are the work of his hands.”
Job 34: 19
We are shown our prejudices towards the poor and our inflated regard for people with cash. Cash pays bills, buys goods and pays the minister and therefore spreads the gospel. Cash allows us to build fashionable church buildings, and expensive designer furniture, which will look impressive. If we have these things, we imagine that more people will come to our church and be saved. At least, we will get a better class of person and the destitute will stay away and go to somewhere else more suitable. So we see the depraved mindset of the ungodly church people and Christ weeps as people are turned away. Christ is also angry at the covetous nature of our fallen mind set and we will not go unpunished.
“The rich and the poor have this in common: God is the maker of them all.”
Proverbs 22: 2
God is the great leveller. We are all futile to Him and our works are all puny. If we have a right view of the Lord our God, it would fix our attitudes very quickly. It’s probably our greatest fight, because it stems from our human pride and all kinds of inadequacies we feel within ourselves. So we must also have a right attitude towards our own value before God. We are not meaningless to Him and He has given up all He has in order to save us, therefore the redeemed person has eternal worth. A human life may be next to nothing in our society, but we are made like Him and made to be with Him forever. We are like Him as we continually seek a Christ-like spirit in our lives. It is Jesus Christ who makes us significant and our value and life purposes are in Him.
To live with these two viewpoints is to live in balance with God and other people.
V3 and you pay special attention to him who wears the fine clothing, and say, “Sit here in a good place”; and you tell the poor man, “Stand there,” or “Sit by my footstool”
So the rich and poor come into our notice and into our church. The rich person with the designer clothes and important demeanour, and the dreadfully poor, who have nothing.
Our attitude is obvious straight away. We invite the rich to sit in a good seat, near the heater and at the front, so that they are seen. We let them know that we value them, so that they will be agreeable towards us. We like the other people in church to see them, so that people can see what we value and the kind of person we want in our church.
These rich, clean and organised people are the ones God most wants because they can contribute to the church, and further the church work. They might also bring others to our church who will also be well thought of and significant in the Christian community we belong to.
Rich people also have a good education and do can help with the ministries and get involved with the life of the church. They pay their way and are the kind of people we like to associate with and their children are good for our children to play with. So it goes on…
Where as, when the poor person comes in, we ignore them and hope they leave quickly, or instruct them to stands at the back, so hopefully they won’t be noticed. We know this person cannot contribute to our social group, and will need some help to get back on their feet again. We don’t recognise this as helping our cause in any way. The work of God is reduced to people in pews, and pounds in the church purse.
These poor people are not the people we want in our homes, or to be our friends. They are below us and we have nothing in common.
If this person brings others, our church will be swamped by needy people, and they will take up all the money we save up, to fix up the building. The building is regarded as God’s house so we must keep it looking good….
The poor are treated badly in church, just like anywhere else. They are a drain on resources. They can’t help themselves. If we help them, they will become dependant. So we tell them to sit under us and serve us. We give people menial jobs and pay them the bare minimum. The perception of these people is reinforced to the rest of people in church. We teach that people are poor, because they are not able to do anything else. They are not worthy of any regard and will never be anything else.
This is the world’s mindset and it does not belong among God’s people. We view the salvation of some as more valuable than the salvation of others. We become judges with evil hearts and God will not honour what we do. We forget that God loves the poor and when we serve those in need we are in reality serving Him.
“He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. He who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. Whosoever gives one of these little ones just a cup of cold water to drink in the name of a disciple, most certainly I tell you he will in no way lose his reward.”
Matthew 10: 40-42
“For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich to all who call on him. For, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 10: 13-15
“So then, my beloved, even as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure.
Do all things without murmurings and disputes, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you are seen as lights in the world….”
Philippians 2: 12-15
The riches of God are the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3: 8 ESV) and are spiritual, God-orientated and eternal. It is too easy to see God’s work as progress in terms of this life. But for those who see through the empty acclaim some appear to get, there are the riches of Christ which no one can take away. The true believer seeks this above all other considerations.
V4 haven’t you shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
And so our preferential treatment of a rich person in terms of money, becomes apparent to everyone and ourselves also. We judge the outsider that comes in, and we judge each other within the fellowship. We become good at recognising who can be of help to us and who can contribute to our funds. We become overtaken by self- interest and covetousness and greed. It is too easy to allow ourselves to sway over to this way.
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, be sober and set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ— as children of obedience, not conforming yourselves according to your former lusts as in your ignorance, but just as he who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all of your behaviour; because it is written, “You shall be holy; for I am holy.”
”If you call on him as Father, who without respect of persons judges according to each man’s work, pass the time of your living as foreigners here in reverent fear…”
1 Peter 1: 13-17
Our thoughts may be hidden for a time, but eventually they come out and we accept ourselves and our sinful mindset. We stop looking at the Word, and follow church culture or church traditions. Jesus said we must not judge, especially in this craven, fleshly way. We find ourselves full of worldly thoughts and schemes about how we want things to be in church. We kid ourselves that it is for God, but really it is to show our “church/club” in a good light. We make schemes, but they are not God’s way and therefore are evil. Evil thoughts preempt evil deeds.
“For where jealousy and selfish ambition are, there is confusion and every evil deed. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
James 3: 16-18
V5 Listen, my beloved brothers. Didn’t God choose those who are poor in this world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the Kingdom which he promised to those who love him?
James is reasoning with us on this crucial issue in our personal lives, and in the life of the church. The rich are judged more worthy because they look clean and better presented. The poor appear dirty and not very well turned out in their appearance. The circumstances of their lives are not to our standards. We disapprove and regard people, who are different from us, as having “wrong” life-styles.
Yet God lifts the poor and makes them kings and priests in His kingdom. The rich are very much rejected.
The giants of faith in the past times, who are recorded for us in the Word of God, in the Old Testament, were not chosen out of palaces, or rich cultures. They were unlikely people that God lifted up to serve Him and witness for Him, because then everyone would see it was all from God. David was chosen as God’s greatest king, He was pulled out of obscurity as a sheep farmer, to become the king from who would come the King of all Kings. The exploits of David are recorded in the Old Testament. They show a man dedicated to God, obedient and full of spiritual fruit. David was a sinful man, but he was forgiven and so loved God with a heart like God’s heart.
All the people God chose as His servants, were moral failures. Their sins had to be dealt with by God, and God lifted them up to show what He can do with people who fail, admit that they fail, and deeply sorry for their disposition, and trust in Him.
To be poor in this life is to follow God’s way, and to have the riches of eternity, which God holds in heaven for all those who trust Him. There are such traps to be found in the love of riches and the striving to get them, and ultimately our earth-bound wants will keep us from seeking treasure in heaven.
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we certainly can’t carry anything out. But having food and clothing, we will be content with that. But those who are determined to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful lusts, such as drown men in ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
1 Timothy 6: 6-12
To be able to have some appreciation of the richness of the life to come, requires that our eyes are not on this world’s offerings. You will not seek the empty things of this world, but search for the treasures that never fade. The treasures that we can have in Christ, anyone can have, but being rich can blind us to their beauty.
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can’t serve both God and Mammon.”
Matthew 6: 24
God chooses the humble but resists the proud, the proud being those who trust in their wealth. There are not many great or noble chosen to be part of the kingdom. God chooses the people who contribute nothing and know they contribute nothing. Those who come to God must come in faith and knowing their deep need of God. The riches of this life tend to keep us away from that type of thinking.
Those who come to Christ, have no expectation of ever being elevated in this world’s system. Most Christians operate in a humble and unnoticed way. A few may get to high office, but they are few. It begs the question regarding Christians who get great reputations and make a big name for themselves. Is this God’s way.? It is a dangerous place to be, and so many fall. We must ensure we are seeking Christ and His will and not our own vain- glory.
V6 But you have dishonoured the poor man. Don’t the rich oppress you, and personally drag you before the courts?
The situation in church is that people with ability and resources are needed. The Scripture says that all people are made in God’s image, so it is vital that we treat each other correctly. No person is above another. However, we construct judgment models to assign people to their place in the spiritual pecking order. This is what the world does with it’s social structures, caste systems, class hierarchies, and many other ways. The societies in this world pick and choose people who are useful, and side-line the rest. The mindset that requires compliance, loves to boost people up, so that they will buy into the philosophy of the times. Each cultural group must fight for its own identity, and that involves putting other groups below in the pecking order. No matter how we try to change this mindset, we cannot. It takes a work of God in the human hearts to change that attitude.
Only the redeemed soul that has faced it’s own sin, can view others in a right way and can get a better viewpoint of the value of a soul. Even then, we must still fight our bad attitudes and prejudices.
We put people down that appear less, who have less goods and less skills, needy people, less education and so on. God sees differently. Those who have less, tend see their need of God more clearly than those who can get what they want easily. We don’t notice the people who have more godly lives and who serve quietly. We don’t really value that anyway. A great person will always get to the top, is the philosophy taught by our particular culture.
The trouble is it is the rich who will drag every bit of what they perceive to be theirs, out of other people. They are self-orientated, self-seeking and familiar with the law and how to intimidate people. If they give money, they want something else for it. They at least want recognition and their name mentioned. In church, the rich end up in charge, as they have the leverage to get where they want to go, that is, to have influence. A poor person has no real say, since they have nothing to contribute that is seemingly worthwhile.
It’s hard to be friends with the rich, as they don’t need you, but ensure you need them. When things don’t go as they would like, they will take to the secular courts to gain the upper hand. God expressly tells His people not to take each other to court. Our mindset should be giving and not taking. If we feel unable to do what we believe we should do, we take it to God in prayer and He will show us what to do.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to councils, and in their synagogues they will scourge you..”
Matthew 10: 16-17
The people in this life have many hurtful and divisive strategies, but it is God who delivers His people.
It is better to have little, rather than much. It is less dangerous to the soul.
V7 Don’t they blaspheme the honourable name by which you are called?
God is very blunt and unflattering towards people who have a lot of this world’s goods. He has shown us the effect of money and the desire for more in the verses above. Now God lays at their door the sin of blasphemy. This is not just using God’s name in an ungodly way, but people who follow this route, take on a lifestyle that is contrary to God’s ways. The way we live our lives can be blasphemy against God.
The rich persons lifestyle is all about themselves and God does not even figure. His name is nothing to those who love this world and want what they can get for themselves. We all have this tendency and we easily forget God. When all is going well for us, we don’t even try to keep up our spiritual duties. We think we are strong enough to keep sin at bay. We can not.
We quickly meld into the fabric of the church, and our sentimentality about our social group, is mistaken for faith. We imagine God can be explained by us, but His person is misrepresented and the gospel of grace is mixed with other falsehoods. Salvation becomes all about our ideas and the prevailing wind of our particular religious culture. The doctrines of the Scripture become darkened and unclear. People put their trust in the human concept of “church” and so it sinks down into a human based culture that leads many astray.
“If our Good News is veiled, it is veiled in those who perish; in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn on them.”
2 Corinthians 4: 3-4
The view of God and how he speaks to us, is crucial to how we live and speak. We can live lives that are blasphemous, but appear some how “godly.” We can speak for God, but the words we say lead people away from the truth. We loose sight of the truth, and we forget what it is. Our words become empty. No one is changed, converted to God, because our lives and words have become darkened.
As Christian people we should be concerned about how other people regard the name of God. It matters that He is number one. Anything we have that takes His place is blasphemy. Anyone not living for Christ is dishonouring His name. God assigns the rich in this place. Jesus said, we cannot serve God and money.
Too many “Christians” disagree.
V8 However, if you fulfil the royal law, according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself,” you do well.
That great and all encompassing law of love to the people around us, is to love the lives of others as we love ourselves. It is the royal law of the kingdom of heaven. To obey brings glorious reward and the words of “well done” from the lips of Christ. The royal law of love is found throughout the Scripture and is the defining mark of the person who follows Jesus and seeks to be like Him.
To fail, is to misunderstand what is important to God, and to miss the mark of faith. Jesus spoke that the truth of this reality of His love, to be a summary of the law and the prophets. He instructed us to love the Lord our God with all our hearts and to love other people as we would love ourselves.
“Know therefore that The Lord your God, he is God, the faithful God, who keeps covenant and loving kindness with them who love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations, and repays those who hate him to their face…”
Deuteronomy 7: 9-10
God’s ways are plain to every human heart. He is faithful and loving towards all He has made. Therefore His people should be like Him. We become more like Him as we keep His commandments and love Him faithfully. To those who believe, the faithfulness of God stretches through generations, but to those who insist on being an enemy, He deals with one-to-one to their face.
To love ourselves means to care for yourself and treat yourself kindly and not in a harsh way. It is easy to be harsh. Proverbs says..
“a cruel person is cruel to themselves.” Proverbs 11:17
We should not be cruel to ourselves and cause ourselves harm or harsh treatment. There is much today that leads people into hurt and pain. We should not inflict this on ourselves.
If we are harsh in judgment, it can make us harsh on others too. Our threshold of comfort goes down and we become less able to comfort other people and are less kind or sensitive.
To treat people as we would like to be treated involves self-examination and self-knowledge. We must be able to discern need from want and comfort from lazy. We need to understand what a human needs in order to function and thrive and so to minister to people at their point of need. To be sensitive to the needs of others is the way of Christ and we will receive His commendation, if we are living in that attitude.
We tend to treat ourselves too softy. Our flesh gravitates to self-preservation, self-comfort and self-righteousness. We seek the teaching of the Holy Spirit to have a right attitude in all things, and that gratitude is our chief emotion.
“For you are great, and do wondrous things. You are God alone. Teach me your way, Lord, I will walk in your truth. Make my heart undivided to fear your name. I will praise you, Lord my God, with my whole heart. I will glorify your name forevermore. For your loving kindness is great toward me. You have delivered my soul from the lowest hell.”
Psalm 86: 10-13
V9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin, being convicted by the law as transgressors.
Prejudice against other people, for any reason, is not godlike. In fact, it is rampant sin. It grows from the root of pride. Imagining ourselves better that others, more worthy, and of more worth, is pure folly. God will not bless any place or heart, that harbours any prejudice.
It does not just mean race prejudice, but any marginalising of any group of people. It includes believing less of them in a way that excludes them from the group, or makes it difficult for them to enter into fellowship. Prejudice is sinful judgment of others. The “others” are always the people not like us. This is not an accident, but a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy concerning who will get into our set. Self-fulfilling prophecy sets people up to fit in the expectations of the group, and we can set ourselves up to fulfil our own preconceived ideas. Some take this a step further and manoeuvre the culture so that some people-types do not “fit in” and will never fit in.
The attitude is insidious and wholly destructive of the church of God. God will hold back blessing where this attitude is found. God will leave gatherings to their own sinful ways, if they refuse to repent, and they will eventually cease to be. This is a very serious situation. Unless God’s people repent, they will suffer loss and outsiders will be lost. If the Christian witness goes, then there is no opportunity for people to find God and believe in Him.
This Scripture says the prejudiced Christian or organisation are convicted under God’s law as transgressors. This is no side issue. This is “criminal” and the full weight of the law of God comes down on individuals who refuse to face their sin, repent and make full restitution.
As in the people of God in the Old Testament…
“they and our fathers became arrogant and stiff-necked and did not obey Your commandments. They refused to listen and failed to remember the wonders You performed among them
They stiffened their necks and appointed a leader to return them to their bondage. But You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in loving devotion, and You did not forsake them.”
Nehemiah 9: 16-17
God rebukes His people and bears with them. He punishes and chides, but still they reject Him. Like every other human being, we seek self and earthly honour above following humbly and imitating Christ.
Those who indulge themselves in this proud activity, have no understanding of their own position before a holy God and the mercy God has shown them. Prejudice takes the sacrifice of Christ the Saviour and renders it useless to themselves. No one can truly look on Jesus and seriously imagine they had any goodness at all. The Lord of Eternity, humbled Himself and suffered extreme shame and disgrace, so that total failures could be made right with God and share in the glory of the eternal kingdom. The law of God pronounces the proud as criminal and under judgment. Since no Christian is under judgment (Romans 8:1) we then conclude that prejudiced people, who refuse to change, are outside the kingdom.
God’s attitude is shown repeatedly in the Old Testament laws concerning the care of people in the society of the Israelite nation. If a family fell into financial difficulty, they could be brought into the care of a wealthy family and provided for. They could stay there up to seven years and then, the seventh year was the year of Jubilee. The “slave/servants” would be released and the wealthy family had the obligation to set the family in need, with the means to support themselves. It is hard to imagine this happening in the local church, or mission outreach. It seems impossible and open to taking advantage of, but then, that is what God is like. He gives and gives. He loves the unlovely. He blesses those who love Him and those who hate Him.
“I am not ashamed of the Good News of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes; for the Jew first, and also for the Greek. For in it is revealed God’s righteousness from faith to faith. As it is written, “But the righteous shall live by faith.”
Romans 1: 16-17
V10 For whoever keeps the whole law, and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.
The standard of holiness is perfection. Without holiness no one will see the Lord. Perfection is to keep the moral law of God in every regard and never sin in thought, word or deed. Perfection is to have perfect motives and attitudes that are completely loving towards other people. Perfection is to give your life over to service in every moment and reacting perfectly to the will of God. The perfect life will not be acclaimed in this world. The person will suffer loss and shame and rejection. If our hearts are set on this state of being, we will have it. The fact that we even want it, is a gift from God and not from ourselves.
Human holiness does not exist. Even if we could keep the whole law of God, one resentful thought would render us sinners in the sight of God. That is all it takes to break the perfect code. To break the moral law in one way and commit one sin, makes the sinner guilty of the whole law.
“Everyone who practices sin practices lawlessness as well. Indeed, sin is lawlessness. But you know that Christ appeared to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin. No one who remains in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has seen Him or known Him.”
1 John 3: 4-6
This seems extreme to us, and it is. God is extreme holiness and that holiness upholds all things by the word of His power. Without the reality of a holy God, there would be no salvation, no creation order, no victory for righteousness or justice. It is unthinkable that that situation should be, or that sin would be forever running through this world. Even the idea that there is no ultimate justice leads to apathy and an terrible hopelessness. It offends our sense of justice and fair-play, that wrong would go unpunished and the victim be forever without recompense.
Without holiness we are helpless, hopeless and without a God at all.
“Therefore, lift up the hands that hang down and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that which is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man will see the Lord…”
Hebrews 12: 12-14
We must seek holiness. It is imperative. The Christian is redeemed by Christ, and His holiness is given to us, and is a gift from God and undeserved. The daily walk of the Christian life, is the pursuit of God and seeking after the life of holiness. This is why James is setting out the principles for holy living. To live for money or to judge others by how they look or are, to speak without right motives, is not walking in the way of holiness.
We can walk confidently on the way to God, because we know He will bring us safely through our faulty lives and teach us and cleanse us as we reach towards heaven. The confidence of a Christians is in God and in Christ the Saviour, since He has forgiven us and given a new life of righteousness.
“Having then a great high priest, who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold tightly to our confession. For we don’t have a high priest who can’t be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but one who has been in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace for help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4: 14-16
We must hold tightly and daily fight to enter in. Our faith must persevere and endure to the end of our lives, when we will finally enter into all God has purposed for us.
V11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
The bedrock of sin is the sinful tendency we all have, to want things. We can want things so much that the power of the temptation draws us into other sins. These sins can seem big or small. God does not see sin in terms of grades, or levels of seriousness. All sin is sin. One “small” lie will keep us out of heaven forever.
The sins mentioned here are regarded as “big” sins. Adultery and murder. Sins often relate to each other, and sins can grow out of other sins. Adultery can lead to murder and both are the desire for something a person has not got. The wrong desire for another person, who is not morally right for us, leads to others sins, that make that situation possible. The crime thrillers are full of this kind of idea.
God has instructed us not to commit adultery, and he also will not tolerate murder, or any other perceived “lesser” sin. If you commit these sins, you are a law breaker and therefore under condemnation. Even if you commit one, you are still a lawbreaker. The principle is set. When we break one commandment, we are guilty of breaking them all. The Scripture says…
“As it is written, “There is no one righteous; no, not one. There is no one who understands. There is no one who seeks after God.”
Romans 3: 10-11
“They have all gone aside.
They have together become corrupt.
There is none who does good, no, not one.”
We are law breakers because we are incapable of keeping the commandments. We have lost the ability to keep the law, even when we have a new life in Christ. We are contaminated by our wrong deeds, and they will keep us out of heaven. It is only the love of Christ and the sacrifice He made to rescue us from sins clutches, which can make us good. Our Christian lives will be taken up with fighting sins and overcoming the power of temptations in our daily lives.
So, don’t tell lies. We have all done this.
Don’t take things that are not yours. We have all done this.
Don’t want stuff… an ongoing state of mind…
Don’t hate other people, or harbour prejudices…
We all find this easy.
We could go on, but we need to know there is a remedy and our Saviour, Jesus, can wipe us clean because of who He is and what He has done. Jesus, the Almighty God, has become a man, like us, and has humbled Himself to pay the penalty for our sin. He suffered such agony on the cruel cross, and took the punishment that we deserve, so that we could be free, and become His people. When we believe in Him, we get a new life, and the Holy Spirit comes to live in our lives that we will have power to be over-comers. We can have God living in us and teaching us and giving us understanding so we can read the Scriptures. The Christian has the power to obey God’s Word and not automatically fall into temptation’s trap. We are free from the consequences of sin, and death has no hold over us. Heaven is our inheritance, and the glorious future with Christ.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who don’t walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death. For what the law couldn’t do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God did, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh; that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
Romans 8: 1-4
V12 So speak, and so do, as men who are to be judged by a law of freedom.
Our deeds and our words should meet up and agree. They spring from the well of our inner being. As we speak and act, so we are. Our words do define us and also betray us. The question then is, how should we be, speak and act?
The short answer is, that we should be holy. Our person is judged by the mighty God and He looks for holiness in all, throughout all of our being. Holiness does not come from us, but the righteousness of Christ is imputed to those who repent and believe.
As new creations, we are free to speak and do what is pleasing to God. The Christian is no longer a slave to sin, but has the power of the Spirit in their life that breaks the chains of the sinful nature. We are judged by this perfect law of freedom. Because it is there on offer to us, we must accept it. Forgiveness is a free gift offered to anyone who comes to Jesus.
The law we live under will ultimately judge us and either condemn or exonerate us. Those who have no knowledge of God will be judged by natural law. Those who cling to the Old Testament law, will be condemned by it. That law, though from God, can never justify the sinner. Those who have believed and received the gospel of Christ are redeemed and justified by the death of Christ, which He bought for all who believe. The law of freedom is truly free, since it shatters the bonds of sin.
“I urged you on my departure to Macedonia, you should stay on at Ephesus to instruct certain men not to teach false doctrines or devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculation rather than the stewardship of God’s work, which is by faith. The goal of our instruction is the love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a sincere faith. Some have strayed from these ways and turned aside to empty talk.”
1 Timothy 1: 3-6
Since James is speaking to Christians, they are judged by this law of freedom. Endless debate about issues and minutia of the ceremonial law from the Old Testament, is to keep our minds and lives in chains. We are set free by Christ in a very real sense, and have choice and taste in cultural etiquettes in all areas of life. We are commanded not to judge people who make different choices from us, but keep our lives free from sin and holy to God. We must speak and act appropriately as those who have entered into this freedom, and not use it in an ungodly way to justify wrong doing. The Christian believer has been set free to live a holy life and bring glory to the Lord their God.
We are not free to choose whatever our sinful natures would require, since the Christian is now dead to sin and alive to righteousness.
So the upright life that chooses without fear or judgment, is a life walking in the perfect law of freedom.
“If therefore the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
John 8: 36
The Christian is free, really free, and does not have to give in to temptation, follow sinful ways or people, and can choose freely the situation of their lives, in the confidence that they are forgiven and have this freedom.
V13 For judgment is without mercy to him who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
The consequence of judging people wrongly or harshly is that God will judge you on the same scale.. the punishment you meet out, whether actual or in thought, will find you out.
“Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you.”
The only righteous one is the Lord of all things. Only He is able to judge rightly with full knowledge of the case. Our judgments are always faulty. They lead us to self-righteousness and pride. Our faculties for knowing motives and desires of the heart are flawed, so we are wise to leave the outcomes of events and life work, to God.
We judge harshly and show no mercy towards people who we perceive as doing wrong. We perceive wrongly. Yet, our default position is often harsh judgment and showing no mercy to people who fall and fail. If there is no forgiveness from the people in church, why would God forgive the sinner? The misrepresentation of God’s character, keeps many people away from church, and away from Jesus Christ. We fail the gospel and the people who are facing the judgment of a holy God.
People are all different and we are given wide choices in the aspects of life here on earth. As people, we tend to judge others according to our choices, and stereotypes and prejudices grow from that. We forget that the day will come when it will be us who fall, and there will be no mercy for us either. A merciless heart breeds more merciless hearts. We affect the people around us and our families also. We end up only helping those we approve of, or who please us by their attitudes similar to our own.
What we fail to realise is that mercy is the high ground. Mercy is the place of power. It is Godlike and majestic. A critical spirit is just grovelling in the dirt of life and never seeing beyond the here and now. Mercy takes us to heaven and mercy will sustain us ever step of the way. Only those who truly know God finds this idea attractive. It involves putting self on the cross, and giving value to people, as God does. It is sacrifice and humility, which we are not good at, but at the same time want it to happen towards ourselves.
“The Lord, our Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness and truth, keeping loving kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and disobedience and sin; and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the children’s children, on the third and on the fourth generation.” Moses hurried and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.”
Exodus 34: 6-8
We are safe under the judgment of God, and He will deliver all who bow and repent and discover His abundant lovingkindness. There is no one like Him and His mercy reaches out to every soul.
“Who is a God like you, who pardons iniquity, and passes over the disobedience of the remnant of his heritage? He doesn’t retain his anger forever, because he delights in loving kindness. He will again have compassion on us. He will tread our iniquities under foot; and you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”
Micah 7: 18-19
V14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can faith save him?
This has a superficial interpretation, that seems to say, faith is not enough for a person to be saved, but they must show the works of righteousness, as well. The Scripture clearly teaches in the Old and New Testaments, that the only way to please God is through faith alone. We cannot be saved by works, because all our works are sin and death. We are unworthy and totally unable to save ourselves. Nothing we do can counteract the effects of indwelling sin, and we can never repay to God, what we owe.
“Jesus answered them, “Most certainly I tell you, if you have faith, and don’t doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you told this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it would be done. All things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
Matthew 21: 21-22
It is easy to say we have faith and have nothing but our own verbal testimony to vouch for it. Real faith asks big requests, and expects big things to happen. True faith is seen, in the Christian’s life, and we can see the outworking of this gift on a day to day basis. Faith produces outward works, as a fruit of its presence in the life of a believer.
We can talk all we like about our faith, but if there is no outward proof, then it is fake faith. So the reasoning is, that if there is no outward evidence in the form of good works, then the faith is suspect. In fact it is not there at all. So we could say, that faith as a concept, on its own, as a hidden entity, cannot save. There must be true and living faith in a persons life. The presence of that living faith will produce the good works as fruit.
“He believed in God; and he reckoned it to him for righteousness.”
Genesis 15: 6
“For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not toward God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
Romans 4: 2-3
Practical faith is true faith. Abraham had this true faith in God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. His faith started in God and showed itself in works that showed his faith. Faith that has no actual and spiritual fruit, is no faith. Faith is not a concept to comfort our sinful consciences, but a living entity in the life of the Christian. It produces much fruit. In the increasing exercise of it’s power it will bear more and more fruit in godly living and reaching souls for God. The fruit is the good works that are seen, and the faith itself is the righteousness that God requires. He is looking for people who trust Him so sincerely, that they will completely look to Him, and desire what He Himself desires.
“After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”
Genesis 15: 1
The person who believes theoretically and gives a positive response to the truth of God does not necessarily have faith. Faith is a gift from God to those who believe to the saving of their souls. Faith starts with God. God gives the gift of faith to those who seek Him with a true heart.
It is not just a mental assent, for even the devils of hell, possess that… Faith is the deep spiritual work of the heart. We could say it is hidden, until the work becomes visible in the good works that God sets out for us to do. We can profess faith, but unless the works of righteousness are seen, there is no evidence for its existence.
A Christian’s faith is alive to God and will serve Him. True faith, saving faith, will see God as the great reward, and the good works will flow easily with the power of God in the Christian’s life.
“Without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing to him, for he who comes to God must believe that he exists, and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him.”
The Scripture holds faith up as the ultimate prize. The fact that it exists is in itself the proof that God is real and faith is real. Our hope of eternal life is the possession of this faith, and the assurance in our souls that we know God and love Him. It is not an intellectual reckoning nor is it feeling. It is faith, belief, and a certain holding on to God.
So, self-motivated, conceptual faith does not save, since it produces nothing for God, and so, conceptual faith is false. Only true faith will be satisfied with God, and be motivated to do what He asks.
V15 And if a brother or sister is naked and in lack of daily food,
This situation gives us cause to wonder why these Christians do not have the basic needs of life. If the teaching that has infiltrated every area of church life concerning God’s will for His people is true, then there should be no Christians in any kind of trouble or want. If God guaranties prosperity in this life, why do Christians find themselves lacking daily food? If we are supposed to have it easy so that we can experience God’s temporal blessings as a “right” then why are these Christians in danger of no food or clothes? Why does this example exist, if God intends us to be in plenty?
The cruelty of telling people they should have everything they desire, brings discouragement and disillusionment to God’s people. The Word of God teaches differently than the modern day preachers. God tells us that we will suffer all kinds of troubles and experience pain and suffering as the people of God. We must count the cost of following Jesus and be prepared to give up all for Him and we should be certain that we will have many difficulties.
One of the reasons God permits His people to be in need, is so that we can serve each other and live sacrificial lives as we meet each other’s needs. God does not make mistakes and all the hurts we experience are for our good and His glory. We might not agree with it at the time, but the Christian looks back and sees the purposes of God in many ways. The things we cannot understand we entrust to God’s loving care and His eternal will, and we trust Him in all His purposes. Our mindset is giving and not taking.
When we look at our sister or brother in need, we must judge correctly, as our Father in heaven would. We should set aside any worldly outlook that is false and ungodly. Let us love as Christ our Saviour loves. Perhaps our sister or brother are waiting on God’s provision, from you. Perhaps God is searching you to see if your faith is practical.
“He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. He who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. Whoever gives one of these little ones just a cup of cold water to drink in the name of a disciple, most certainly I tell you he will in no way lose his reward.”
Matthew 10: 40-42
If the outworking of our faith is not practical, it is no faith.
V16 and one of you tells them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled”; and yet you didn’t give them the things the body needs, what good is it?
Christian sisters and brothers are in physical need. They do not have enough food or clothing and are cold and hungry. Their children also suffer and they lack what they need in life. Many do not have the necessities of life, never mind good things to do or learn. Life is a struggle for many Christian families in our world, but they are hidden from view. When we find out about them, we become responsible for them, and we must decide what we are going to do.
How evil is the heart that turns them away? How the mindset of premeditated neglect comes from keeping people at arms length, since they are always needy. We pronounce a benediction on them and pray for them that God will supply their need. We are hypocrites, because we already have the remedy, but have ear-marked it for new cushions on the church pews, plants for the garden or a family holiday in the sun. These things may not necessarily be wrong, but we must judge wisely and with compassion.
We don’t want to help because they might become part of us, and we would have to do it all the time. We need the money for “church” workers and people who benefit us in some way. People with no funds cannot benefit church so it is best not to involve them with our “club.” As long as they feel they have been blessed by us, the religious classes, then God will step in and deliver them. This is as close as many Christians get to involvement in people’s lives. We do not understand the concept of sacrifice or the outworking of the life of faith.
It really doesn’t matter what a persons particular need is, no one wants to make any sacrifice for the sake of another person at all. This is far away from the pattern of the New Testament church as we can get. We do not teach the whole council of God, as The Apostle Paul did. The Christians had everything common, but everyone had to be in some kind of work to earn their living.
“Don’t be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. He who doesn’t love his brother remains in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him. By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and closes his heart of compassion against him, how does the love of God remain in him? My little children, let’s not love in word only, neither with the tongue only, but in deed and truth.”
1 John 3: 13-18
There was no rancour between the Christians, and it was recognised that what they had was God’s provision for all, not just for themselves and their family. Every Christian in the churches in New Testament times, had to fight selfishness, pride and jealousies, and the same sinful mindset that we fight today.
Faith that blesses the hungry but gives no real or effective help, is pointless. It is no faith or anti-faith. It keeps enough for ourselves, because we do not believe God will supply our need also. Perhaps we are right in this regard, because we allow sin into our lives and attitudes and behaviours, and we instinctively know God will not hear us. We know that if we are living lives that are fully leaning on God, He requires total surrender and absolute faith. There are no half measures. Best not to give away your resources, because you might need them tomorrow. And so our lack of faith perpetuates itself and contaminates the other people around us.
V17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself.
So it follows on from that reasoning, that if you are not practicing giving in a sacrificial way, you have no faith. You are not a Christian.
If you have no good work and are only concerned about yourself and your own family, you are still dead in your sins. You can pronounce as many blessings as you like on needy people or hurting people, but you have no living faith. Your prayers are dead, your soul is still in the grave, and all you do, does not benefit you or anyone else.
If your life has no fruit for God, the tree of your life is still withered. The fig tree had no fruit when Jesus looked for it, so He cursed the tree and it withered and died. God looks for fruit where He doesn’t even plant seeds! How will you measure up?
Every Christian life must have the fruit of the Spirit blossoming out from the soul. This fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, righteousness, will be seen and will show itself in action. We cannot say we love someone and do nothing to meet their need. “I’ll pray for you brother…” doesn’t wash. To speak loving words with no love, is clanging cymbals. To have no love in your life renders that life pointless.
“We give no occasion of stumbling in anything, that our service may not be blamed, but in everything commending ourselves, as servants of God, in great endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; in pureness, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in sincere love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by glory and dishonour, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”
2 Corinthians 6: 3-10
The life of our Saviour, Jesus was full of sorrow and heartache, along with the Apostles and early Christians. Why should we be granted an easy life and have all things around us for comfort and enjoyment? The greatest stories of sacrificial Christian living, are full of suffering and deliberate denial of the desires of the body and mind and emotion. How can modern Christians be different?
There must be living and obvious fruit. Sprouting only leaves might look good to other people, but when the Lord Jesus looks and finds no good thing for His glory or good of His kingdom, your tree of life will wither and die. Faith is not a hidden quality, but must be seen and produce a crop for the harvest. We encourage each other in righteousness as we look ahead to the heavenly kingdom where we will enjoy the glory of God and be made perfect in the righteousness that we love.
Let us love in deed….
V18 Yes, a man will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith.
A person comes to God and says they carry out good works that they do to benefit other people. Another person says they have faith, and a God will save them according to the faith they have.
So one person is known for faith and the other person has good works.
Real faith has works as an outward demonstration of its presence in the heart and life. It is possible to have outward works, but no living faith. It is impossible to have living faith without the outward manifestation of its presence in the heart.
To the person with faith, God asks them to show their faith to other people. Maybe they wear certain clothes, carry a Bible, etc. This is the outward show of their “faith.” But the fruit if faith is not the outward show of trivial signs, as too many think it is. Faith has no root in human pride, but carries out works of sacrifice and patience.
Faith is a powerful and servant-orientated life. It is an attitude of mind and heart.
The person with good deeds, thinks they have good standing because of the good things they do. They think the deeds are of prime importance and these are better than faith. This thinking does not acknowledge God, or realise that without faith it is impossible to please God. This self-motivated “faith” is not faith at all and does not change the heart or sanctify the person.
The tension is only relieved when we realise that true faith manifests itself in godly works for the praise of God. We must have the “hidden” jewel of faith, so that we will display the glory of God in our lives. If there is no service and sacrificial living for God, there is no faith. We cannot pretend. Orthodoxy is dead without the Spirit, because the Spirit produces fruit in the life of the Christian believer, and fruit to God that lasts.
So, we can process a kind of faith, but it is dead because it does not give itself for the sake of other people. It is motivated by an outward show of “righteousness.”
We can do good deeds to please God, but they are worthless because they are done for the wrong reasons.
Only a living faith, which is the gift of God, will produce fruit suitable for His glory. Our righteousness starts with God. The redeemed soul will search for this right way of living. The person with no faith and dead works, will eventually be angry and reject God, but the one who is truly changed and has faith in God, will exhibit peace and love flowing from their redeemed souls.
V19 You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe, and shudder.
In every generation there are plenty of people who name the name of Christ as their God, but without any change of life, or revolution in mind and heart. People give a mental acknowledgment that there is a God and that He might be in charge. That’s as far as their “faith” goes. The point that is made here, is that Satan believes in God. He knows God and knows what He is like. He knows God is all powerful, omnipotent, sovereign, and Lord over all. They are plenty who call themselves “Christian” who do not realise these attributes belong to God!
The Devil knows about the persons in the trinity and who they are. He recognises God’s work in a human life and he recognised who is a Christian and who is not. He recognises how God works and what His purposes are for time and eternity. How foolish we are. How duped and blind. How the enemy of human souls laughs and how he keeps us tied to this world, lest we should look higher and understand too, so that our souls will be saved.
“Even if our Good News is veiled, it is veiled in those who perish; in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn on them. For we don’t preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake; seeing it is God who said, “Light will shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
2 Corinthians 4: 3-6
People say they believe in this God, or a vague idea of Him. At least it’s something. At least it’s a good thing, rather than atheism, which is a hopeless position to be in.
Our mental assent that there is a God, can lead us further into blindness, and stops us seeing the reality of where we stand in reference to God. If we see our sinfulness, then we might see our need of God, and then seek Him and His forgiveness. Complacency about our relationship with God is spiritually destructive.
The devils believe in more eternal truths, than some Christians. In fact the devils take in the truth about God and it makes them shudder. They feel a momentary fear about who God is. Oh that humans would feel it too and it would lead them to seek God, repent and believe. They would then have true faith, which devils can never have.
“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are dying, but to us who are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, I will bring the discernment of the discerning to nothing.”
1 Corinthians 1: 18-19
V20 But do you want to know, vain man, that faith apart from works is dead?
The truth statement is that faith without works is dead. If we think we have faith, but there is no works coming from us as evidence, then the faith is a dead idea in our minds. A theoretical concept of faith cannot exist. It is an empty precept that doesn’t exist in the real world of people and God. Faith that produces no change in the human character is futile. Faith that speaks incantations and produces vain words, is only vapour. It is the result of our own vanity, and the deluded thought that we can please God with the things that we do, and a faulty understanding of just how evil sin is. A barren faith is only the outworking of our spiritual deadness.
“Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, proof of things not seen. For by this, the elders obtained testimony.”
Hebrews 11: 1
“By faith, Rahab the prostitute, didn’t perish with those who were disobedient, having received the spies in peace.
What more shall I say? For the time would fail me if I told of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets; who, through faith subdued kingdoms, worked out righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, grew mighty in war, and caused foreign armies to flee. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, not accepting their deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Others were tried by mocking and scourging, yes, moreover by bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned. They were sawn apart. They were tempted. They were slain with the sword. They went around in sheep skins and in goat skins; being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts, mountains, caves, and the holes of the earth.
“These all, having had testimony given to them through their faith, didn’t receive the promise, God having provided some better thing concerning us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”
Hebrews 11: 31-40
Whatever a person might say about their personal faith, if it has no concrete evidence in time and space, it is just another sinful theory.
Does this fact interest us?
Does it concern me that my faith might be false?
Is it a concern that my religious thoughts and feelings might be empty?
Maybe there is something missing that needs to be addressed and put right…
The writer refers to the reader as a “vain man.” It is not flattering, but God speaks to us in a way that lets us know where we stand before Him. God is not impressed with our performances, nor is He interested in how we put ourselves forward. Our words and deeds are vain, futile, earthly, selfish, proud and will not last the test of the refining fire of God.
“But who can endure the day of his coming? And who will stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like launderer’s soap; and he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, and refine them as gold and silver; and they shall offer to God offerings in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasant to The Lord, as in the days of old, and as in ancient years.
I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against the perjurers, and against those who oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and who deprive the foreigner of justice, and don’t fear me,” says The Lord of Armies.”
Malachi 3: 2-5
As futile beings, God challenges us to listen, examine and analyse our inner mind and heart to see if our faith is genuine and is evidenced by our works of kindness and love. The heart that seeks faith will want to know the truth about faith. The Christian will want that faith to grow and attempt great things for the Lord and Saviour. Faith that remains small, will reap a small harvest.
“Remember this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly. He who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Let each man give according as he has determined in his heart; not grudgingly, or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that you, always having all sufficiency in everything, may abound to every good work.
As it is written, “He has scattered abroad, he has given to the poor. His righteousness remains forever.”
Now may he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, supply and multiply your seed for sowing, and increase the fruits of your righteousness; you being enriched in everything to all liberality, which works through us thanksgiving to God.”
2 Corinthians 9: 6-11
These deeds of faith are contrary to the natural character and attitude of the person performing them. They are deeds of great courage, sacrifice and even personal loss. Deeds of faith are victorious, and powerful.
Rehab was an immoral woman, but she identified herself with the people of God, and cast her own safety and the safety of her family, into the hands of the living God. This is not a normal human act… Rahab overcame all the things that held her back from believing, and she was set apart for glory and a life of blessing. She became an ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ.. Her deeds saved her, as she believed in the on the true God.
“For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich to all who call on him. For, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 10: 11-13
Faith is actually very straightforward. We simply put our trust, our faith in Christ and what He did for us. Anyone who calls on Him, will be saved. There is no other way, and no other Saviour. This is the starting point and this truth will lead us safely to heaven and to have the company of our Lord and God, as we walk through this vain world.
Those who remain faithful to the end of their lives, will enter heaven and gain their eternal reward.
V21 Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?
The writer now calls in the evidence of the people of God in the past. He specifies Abraham, who was the Father of the Israelite nation and known as the “friend of God.” (James 2: 23) Abraham had little or no Scripture, and yet he knew the truth and believed in the living God. He obeyed God from the start of his spiritual journey, even as he left Ur of the Chaldees to go to a place unknown to him, but known to God.
Abraham’s faith was severely tested when God commands him to offer his only son, Isaac, on the altar to this same God. Isaac is the son of promise and Abraham believes that, so he figures that God will raise Isaac from the dead. Abraham has total faith and confidence in God. That faith causes him to obey and sacrifice Isaac on the altar.
Isaac was not killed because the angel of the Lord stops the final act of the sacrifice. Abraham has passed the test, and has demonstrated that his faith is genuine by the willing sacrifice of his only son on the altar of God. His “works” justified him by showing that the inner faith has a real and outward action. The deep commitment to following God and obeying, was tested to the limits, by this seemingly unnecessary killing of Isaac.
God examined Abraham’s heart by putting His finger on the one thing that Abraham loved. Isaac was the gift of God to Abraham in his old age and therefore was the subject of this deep trial. Abraham had many reasons to disbelieve what God was asking, but he did not allow any of his own considerations to interfere with his devotion to God. So, his faith prevailed and Isaac remained the “son of promise.” (Genesis 17: 19)
Every Christian is tested, not to inform God, but to show us our own heart set and motivations. As the Christian prevails in faith, so others see it and are encouraged. When God shows us His work in our lives, we learn to trust more and more.
“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. Whoever loves the Father also loves the child who is born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. His commandments are not grievous. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world: your faith.”
1 John 5: 1-4
V22 You see that faith worked with his works, and by works faith was perfected;
This verse continues to speak about the faith of Abraham and how it was and is seen, and is recorded for us by God, in His Word. As Abraham sacrifices his son in response to God’s command, so his dependency on God was clearly seen. The fact that Abraham carried out a command, not knowing the written Word, or the knowledge of how God’s promise to him would be fulfilled, is astounding faith. Still, in faith he obeyed and was willing to give the son of promise into death, as God commanded him.
The faith in Abraham’s heart and soul is clearly seen, because of what he did. His faith in God worked alongside his works of faith to show his obedience. It is easy to speak obedience and not act upon it. Abraham heard the Word of God, and acted upon it so that his faith in that Word was revealed.
And more. Abraham’s act of faith perfected his faith. The works were not a separate act, but moved in Abraham to strengthen his faith and make it move towards perfection. In this life we are not yet made perfect, but we will be. As we live for God and obey Him, so our faith changes and grows and we become more like Christ. Faith is not a static state of being, but forged in trials and testing as, and moves us forward into the holiness of God.
“Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been put to grief in various trials, that the proof of your faith, which is more precious than gold that perishes even though it is tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ— whom not having known you love; in whom, though now you don’t see him, yet believing, you rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory— receiving the result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
1 Peter 1: 6-9
Faith and works are the perfect marriage between God and the redeemed person. There can be no divorce process. If we have saving faith and sanctifying faith, we will show it in increasing works of faith, obedience and love.
The good works we do for God, will enlarge and strengthen faith. These same works will lead us on with God into a greater and deeper perfection, which will be completed when we step out of this life and into eternity.
V23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness” and he was called the friend of God.
All of Abraham’s ways in his life were ordained by God. God is sovereign and sets out our pathway as we walk on into eternity. Abraham believed God, since he was a chosen child of God and heir to the promises of God. Abraham was called “the friend of God.” What a privilege and what a life he led, upheld by the living God. Is any child of God the less?
God’s friendship with Abraham was anchored in His grace. God loved Abraham and highly favoured him in every way. God drew Abraham close and kept him close in a godly life and holiness of communion with Himself. God marked his life as precious and imputed deep spiritual blessings on His friend. God counted Abraham’s friends and enemies, His also.
Abraham loved God in return. He believed His Word and trusted in God always. He cheerfully obeyed, even to the sacrifice of his own dear son.
Here was see the very heart of God in Abraham. God’s heart of love gave up His only Son, to redeem fallen humanity. Abraham is being shown this love in his own heart, and the depths of the love of God who gave all as a sacrifice for sin. This is the well-spring of faith. Faith comes from God and not from ourselves.
We see in Abraham the mirror image of the holy, all-knowing and living God. Abraham believed that God would keep His Word, even if he did not understand how. This is the faith that made him the “friend of God.” Abraham walked so closely that God trusted him to obey and to commune with Him, as a person would, speak to their friend.
“For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the reward is not counted as grace, but as something owed. But to him who doesn’t work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.”
Romans 4: 3-5
This faith made Abraham righteous. The faith was given by God and the righteousness comes from that faith also. There is no faith without the imputed righteousness of God, bought for us by the death of Christ, God’s Son at Calvary.
There is certainly no righteousness in any human soul, without the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit. Faith and righteousness are the grounds for our salvation, since both go hand-in-hand. Both are from the Lord, and are the blessing the Christians enjoys, through Christ alone.
V24 You see then that by works, a man is justified, and not only by faith.
James is making a clear point here. If there is no outwardly seen works of mercy in a persons life, then there is no faith. If we cannot see works, there is no faith. To the onlooker, looking at a person’s life, it is the works that save, since the works are the visible manifestation of the work of faith in the inner life of the person. The Christian is justified to God by their works.
This seems to go against the truth of Scripture that we are made right with God, only through faith.
“For I, through the law, died to the law, that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me. That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.”
Galatians 2: 19-20
Our works do not save us, as they are works of sin and death. The unsaved and un-cleansed heart can never provide or produce works of righteousness. Our works are dead. We are rescued from our dead works, by the death of Jesus on the cross. Even our “good” works are “sin and death.” God cannot tolerate even the good that we do, because it is so contaminated. We find it very hard to see, indeed we cannot, unless God in His kindness shows us our state before Him.
“I will sacrifice to you with the voice of thanksgiving. I will pay that which I have vowed. Salvation belongs to The Lord.”
Jonah 2: 9
Jonah was dying in the great fish and his life was almost over. But God heard his prayer and rescued him. When we reach that lowest of ebbs in our own perceived abilities, we call out to God, and He saves us. We have to see that our rescue, deliverance, salvation, is from the Lord. Only then can we see our true situation and our great need of God.
For the Christian, only good can come from the deepest trials, since all things are working for our good. The Christian understands this and can see our own inability to do anything, never mind to save our eternal soul. Faith rest here, and the perspective of our lives are different from those who do not believe.
Salvation is of the Lord, and only He is able to procure forgiveness and impute righteousness into the sinful human heart. Abraham’s faith came first and the righteousness that came out from it, was the work of God’s Spirit in Abraham’s soul. The works came from a justified heart and a soul made right with God through faith. So, Abraham’s works were prepared in advance for him to do.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them.”
Ephesians 2: 8-10
An academic faith will never save. The faith that saves will also, and alongside, produce a crop of good works for the glory of God. No faith, no works. No works, no faith…
V25 In the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works, in that she received the messengers, and sent them out another way?
Here we have another lesson from a hero of the faith, also mentioned in Hebrews chapter eleven. Although a sinful woman and living a sinful lifestyle, she exercised faith in God, by protecting the spies from Israel. She welcomed the spies into her house and identified herself with their God – the Living God. Rahab recognised that this God was true and would defeat the ungodly authorities of Jericho. She knew these spies were godly men and she believed in their God.
Rahab showed her faith by hiding the spies in the roof and protecting them from the authorities. Risking her own life and the life of her family, by entrusting them to the care of God, she saved her life through the faith that led her to act. God is no respecter of persons but saves all who call to Him. Rahab was saved because of what she did and became a descendant of the Saviour Jesus Christ.
Her living faith was made clear by the actions that she took. It was not a theoretical mindset, but her faith produced a crop of practical help to God’s people and paved the way for her direct entrance into the family line of Christ.
God is no respecter of persons. He does not see or regard what we would choose as important. He is looking for those who will be saved and they will come to Him. Our views about people are not His views, and so we can be sure He will do all things well.
V26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead.
The Spirit equates with faith. The body aligns with practical works. Our works are dead without the enlivening work of the Holy Spirit. A dead body has no Spirit. A dead faith has no works.
If we would try to separate the physical body from the spirit within, it provokes the power and presence of death. The body without the spirit is dead and cannot grown or produce a rich crop.
So also faith without the outward acts of kindness and love, is not real but only a temporary facade for the congregation of hypocrites. As we sow, we also reap. Let us never be wary of true hearts , but let us be on our guard at all times, against those who sow ill will and ungodly ideas around us.
Do you have living faith?
Would anyone know?
Our faith is the emblem we wear before a crooked and sinful world. People should see it. It should challenge people.
You cannot hide from the reality of the truth spoken here, by James.
Our faith is seen in the amazing things we do that others do not know or have the power to perform.
Our deeds are outrageously generous, and impossible to do without the living faith within.
“Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Be it done to you even as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.”
Matthew 15: 28
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various temptations, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let endurance have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
James 1: 2-4
As Christians, we embrace troubles and trials, because they only do us good. As we live and grow we move towards perfection and the completion of our salvation, that of body and mind and soul. God is doing His perfect work is us and He will not fail concerning all his promises. In all circumstances, we lack nothing.
“But the path of the righteous is like the dawning light, that shines more and more until the perfect day.”
Proverbs 4 :18