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James Chapter 02

Memory verses for this week:  Isa 9:6  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 

Introduction:  In chapter 1 of James, we discussed some of the purposes of testings that God puts us through.   We found these are different than the temptations that we face, and that God is not the one who tempts man.  At the end of the chapter, the teaching was to be a doer of the word, and not a hearer only.  Those that do God’s Word are the ones who are blessed.  We get into a discussion on Faith this week in lesson 2.


I.  Our Attitude toward the Rich and Poor

James 2:1  My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

We found the definition of faith in our recent study of Hebrews, and today we are taught that we are to have true faith by treating all men equally.   If we show partiality to one group and despise another, we are not pleasing to the Lord.   I’m certainly not saying that we should not have discretion against those who sin against God, but we are to still show respect and love to those who have not yet found Christ as Lord and Savior.  Except for the grace of God, the roles might be reversed, and they might be saved and needing to reach us for Christ.

Heb 11:1  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.


Phil 2:12  Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

Phil 2:13  For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Phil 2:14  Do all things without murmurings and disputings:

Phil 2:15  That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;

Phil 2:16  Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.

James 2:2  For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;

James 2:3  And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:

James 2:4  Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

Both poverty and riches can be a curse. The writer in the Book of Proverbs says, “… give me neither poverty nor riches …” (Prov. 30:8). It seems that the two most difficult categories of people to reach are those who are the most poverty-stricken and those who are the richest.  I truly have had more success with the poor than the rich, but whatever a person’s condition, they must know they are in need of a Savior.   The rich many times feel self sufficient, when in reality without God, we are spiritual paupers.

We know that Jesus was a friend to all men.   He came unto the poor, the broken, those who were religious leaders, and also the rich.    Zacchaeus was a small man in stature, but he was a tax collector and appeared to have a substantial amount of worldly riches.   We know Jesus dealt with the rich young ruler who loved his money more than Christ.   Verse 2 warns that if someone comes in and has a gold ring and pretty clothes, we are not to treat the rich man better than the poor.  Many churches have little cliques, and if you don’t meet the criteria, you are not part of the group.   God is against this, and says that if we are partial, we have evil thoughts.  God loves all men, all women, all boys and all girls.   We may not understand the person who comes in our doors, and they may be very offensive to us in their looks.  But we should do everything in our power to make that person feel comfortable and try to reach them with the saving message of Jesus Christ.   When Jesus changes the heart, the appearance takes care of itself.   Paul was a man who tried to come unto all men at their level and to find common ground on which to build.   People have to know we love them before we can really be effective in telling about God’s love for the sinner, and what it takes to be born again.

1 Cor 9:19  For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.

1 Cor 9:20  And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;

1 Cor 9:21  To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.

1 Cor 9:22  To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

James 2:5  Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?

James 2:6  But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?

James 2:7  Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?

In verse 5, we see that the poor have been chosen by God to be rich in faith and to become heirs of the kingdom.   Are they righteous because they are poor?  No… just as man’s money does not automatically make us evil.  But the poor have little of this world’s goods, and they can see that they need help.  And there is only one who can give the drink of living water that satisfies the soul forever.  All must come through Jesus to come unto God.   James reminds them that the rich were the ones who had oppressed these early Christians.   The rich are quick many times to condemn the Lord and blaspheme, and this is not pleasing in God’s sight.   We are not to take the Lord’s name in vain.

Rev 2:8  And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;

Rev 2:9  I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

Remember that it says that the first test of our faith is that we are not to show respect to persons.   So we sure need to be careful to treat everyone fairly.

II.  The Royal Law

James 2:8  If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:

James 2:9  But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

If we want to demonstrate true faith, we need to fulfil the royal law which means to treat others the way we want to be treated.   When Jesus was asked what the great commandment of the law was, He told them to put God first, and then to treat your neighbor as you would want to be treated.

Mat 22:36  Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

Mat 22:37  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

Mat 22:38  This is the first and great commandment.

Mat 22:39  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Mat 22:40  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

When Jesus says that on these 2 commandments hang all the law and prophets, we should pay attention.  Notice that if you do those two, you won’t break any of the ten commandments.   If my memory does not fail me, the first 4 commandments speak of our relationship from man to God, whereas the last six speak of how we should treat one another, man to man.   We need to do these two, and we will be pleasing to God in a great way.  Notice how valuable Paul said charity was in I Corinthians 13.  Charity and love mean the same thing.

1 Cor 13:1  Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

1 Cor 13:2  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

1 Cor 13:3  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

1 Cor 13:4  Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

1 Cor 13:5  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

1 Cor 13:6  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

1 Cor 13:7  Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

1 Cor 13:8  Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

III.  To Break Any Part of the Law is Sin

James 2:10  For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

James 2:11  For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.

James 2:12  So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.

James 2:13  For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

We won’t go over and read them all, but you can find the ten commandments in Exodus Chapter 20.  James mentions two of them in verse 11 when he speaks of adultery and murder.   We are to keep the whole law, and the reality is that no man except Jesus himself ever kept all of the commandments.  If we kept all but one, we would still be guilty of all it says in verse 10.

Eccl 7:20  For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.


1 John 1:8  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

1 John 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Over in Matthew Chapter 5, Jesus warns that if a man is angry with his brother without a cause, he shall be in danger of the judgment.  Further down in verse 27 he speaks of the sin of adultery.

Mat 5:21  Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:

Mat 5:22  But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Mat 5:23  Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;

Mat 5:24  Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.


Mat 5:27  Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

Mat 5:28  But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Mat 5:29  And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Mat 5:30  And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Mat 5:31  It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:

Mat 5:32  But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

IV.  Test of Good Works

James 2:14  What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

James 2:15  If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

James 2:16  And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

James 2:17  Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 

James uses the example of a sister who is naked and destitute of daily food to show how faith must have works to be effective and to have influence on others.  If we say that a person should go to church, and we never go, that faith is not going to be very effective.

James is not teaching works for salvation.   What he is teaching is that if we have faith, we will have works.  They prove the salvation that we have.   The bible is clear about what makes up salvation (and what does not).

Titus 3:5  Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Titus 3:6  Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;

Titus 3:7  That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.


Eph 2:8  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Eph 2:9  Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Eph 2:10  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. 


Rom 3:28  Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

Rom 3:29  Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:

Rom 3:30  Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

Rom 3:31  Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

James 2:18  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.

James 2:19  Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

James 2:20  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

Lots of people are lacking works for one important reason.  They have never met the Savior in the power of Salvation.   Verse 10 says that even the devils believe and tremble.  When we are saved, there will be fruits to prove we are saved.

I liked what J. Vernon McGee said about these verses.


In verses 14–26 James shows that God tests faith by good works. There are those who say that we have in this section a contradiction to the writings of Paul, because Paul made it abundantly clear that faith alone could save you. We have his clear statement in Galatians 2:16—“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (italics mine).

I have divided this section up as follows: (1) The interpretation of faith (v. 14); (2) the identification of faith (vv. 15–20); and (3) the illustration of faith (vv. 21–26).

First we have the interpretation of faith. When we understand the definition of faith as it is used by Paul and James in the context of their writings, we can see that Paul and James are in perfect agreement, that they are discussing the same subject from different viewpoints.

Paul says that a man is not saved by the works or the deeds of the Law. In Romans 3:28 he writes, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” In Galatians, as we have noted, Paul says that a man is justified not by works but by faith in Christ Jesus. How then are we going to reconcile Paul and James? As someone has said, “Paul and James do not stand face to face, fighting against each other, but they stand back to back, fighting opposite foes.” In that day there were those who were saying that you had to perform the works of the Law (the Mosaic Law), that you had to come by the Law, in order to be saved. Paul answered that by saying that the works of the Law will not save you and that only faith in Christ can save you. Both Paul and James, therefore, are defending the citadel of faith. To see that, we need to understand the use of their terminology. Paul says that saving faith—a faith which is genuine and real—will transform a person’s life. Paul said of himself, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ” (Phil. 3:7). A real revolution took place in his life when he came to Christ. In 1 Corinthians 15:1–2 Paul wrote, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain;” that is, unless it was just an empty faith.  [1]

V.  Abraham Justified by Works

James 2:21  Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

James 2:22  Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

James 2:23  And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

These verses have been misunderstood by many, and been used to show that the works that Abraham did justified him before God.   But guess what?  Abraham was justified 40 years prior to offering Isaac on the altar.   The scriptures are clear on this.  We must be always clear to rightly divide the word of truth.

Rom 4:1  What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?

Rom 4:2  For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

Rom 4:3  For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

Rom 4:4  Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

The works Abraham did prove his salvation, and this is what Abraham was doing, working out his salvation.   Abraham was not justified in this act in order to obtain salvation, he had been saved for over 40 years.  God called Abraham the friend of God.  To be called a friend or a servant of God (as Moses was called), is a great, great honor.  This means our minds and bodies are in touch with God and doing His will in our lives.

John 15:14  Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

James 2:24  Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

James 2:25  Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?

James 2:26  For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Verse 25 speaks of Rahab being justified by her works, not when she was saved, but when she hid the messengers of God.  Hiding those messengers did not save Rahab, nor anything that Rahab could do save her.  It takes God to save the lost soul.


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Prov 4:18  But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.


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