Bible Study: James 2

James 2 outline notes used for Matt Slick’s Bible Study. The chapter deals with not showing favoritism, motives, partiality, the law of liberty, along with true and false faith.

James Introduction
James 1

 

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.

Brethren – equality of Christians
Glorious Lord

1 Corinthians 2:8, “the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
Acts 7:2, “And he said, ‘Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia before he lived in Haran.’”

For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes,
and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,”
have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?

Assembly

Literally, συναγωγή sunagōgḗ, synagogue.
The word occurs 56 times in the New Testament.
James is the only one to use this term in the N.T. context of being Christian. All other references are to the Jewish synagogue and the Jewish belief system.
In synagogues, the Jews sat according to rank, with those of the same trade sitting together. James is saying, don’t do that.

Special attention

Favoritism or denigration based on possessions or appearance is condemned in Scripture.
All people who are Christians are equal in Christ. We are all bought with the same blood (Acts 20:28) and justified by the same faith – faith in Christ (John 6:29, Romans 3:28; 4:1-5; Galatians 2:16).
There are historical reports of slaves of households having higher positions in the church than their masters did at home.
Scriptures

Deuteronomy 10:17, “For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe.”
Acts 10:34, “Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality,”
Romans 2:11, “For there is no partiality with God.” God’s choices are not based on some good quality in a person.

Isn’t God’s election of certain people for salvation showing favoritism?

God elects people for salvation (Ephesians 1:4-5). But His election is not based on any quality within the person. It is based on the counsel of His sovereign will. But, He does not tell us the criteria by which He elects. Romans 9:9-23 is useful to examine regarding this.

Footstool

The poor stood or sat on the ground where the prosperous and important people would have a seat and a footstool for comfort.

Become judges

It is the sin of judging a person based on appearance and possession. This is not how God judges. He judges the heart.

Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

The Poor

Often, those who are not as well-off trust in Christ more than those who are well off. People sometimes trust their possessions and money and see little need to rely on Christ.

Rich in faith

Notice poor is contrasted with rich.
Of course, ultimately, riches are not taken to heaven with us. Real riches are the spiritual qualities that come from Christ and in which we participate as we seek to glorify him and expand his kingdom.
Scriptures

Luke 12:21, “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
1 Timothy 6:17, “Instruct those who are rich [plousios] in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches [plutos], but on God, who richly [plousios] supplies us with all things to enjoy.”
1 Corinthians 1:26, “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;”

Heirs of the kingdom

Two additional phrases: Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven

While Matthew uses the term “kingdom of heaven” almost exclusively, he occasionally uses the term “kingdom of God.” He does so in a way that shows that the two terms mean the same thing: Matt. 19:23-24, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” See also, Matt. 11:11 with Luke 7:28.

Scriptures

1 Corinthians 2:9, “but just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.’”
James 2:4, “have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil motives?”

Promised to those who love Him

We get rewards for our love for God because that properly honors Him.
We must not think that our salvation depends on our love for God.
Scripture

James 1:12, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?

Don’t dishonor those whom God is honoring in His redemptive work. God does not want anyone to judge another based on his social status, personal possessions, money, looks, etc.
The poor man, the rich

The poor were often seen as a class of people in ancient Israel – as was the rich.

Oppress

The rich would sometimes abuse their power and status and oppress the poor.
This lesson can be applied to modern times regarding political and corporate leaders who abuse their power. They need Jesus.

Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?

Blaspheme

The rich heathens blaspheme the name of Christ.
Many hypocritically invoke God’s name but speak lies. Politicians frequently do it, yet pass laws to restrict our religious freedom.

If, however, you are fulfilling the royal Law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

James quotes Leviticus 19:18, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.”

But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the Law as transgressors.

Partiality

To show partiality by favoring one person over another because of their possessions, status, skin color, gender, looks, etc., violates Leviticus 19:18 and, therefore, according to James, violates the same principle found in the New Testament.
Matthew 22:36–40, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 “This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.’”

For whoever keeps the whole Law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.

Keeps the whole Law

This is a critical verse in a lot of ways.
Cults and false religions keep the Law in order to be saved.

Catholicism:

“…so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments,” (CCC 2068).
“The Decalogue contains a privileged expression of the natural Law,” (CCC 2070)
“The authority of the Magisterium extends also to the specific precepts of the natural law, because their observance, demanded by the Creator, is necessary for salvation,” (CCC 2036)

Eastern Orthodox Church

“Orthodox Christians will not state that they have been saved, for two important reasons. The first reason is that only God can declare who is saved. Orthodox Christians indeed hope to be saved, and even work toward salvation.” (Tibbs, Eve. A Basic Guide to Eastern Orthodox Theology (p. 112). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)
“…salvation is understood as a process that continues throughout one’s life and even into the next life.” (Tibbs, Eve. A Basic Guide to Eastern Orthodox Theology (p. 112). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

Mormonism

Alma 11:37, “On the same basis men cannot be saved in their sins, (Alma 11:37).
2 Nephi 25:23, “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”
Moroni 10:32, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”
Doctrine and Covenants 82:7, “And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses

The Watchtower, Feb. 15, 1983, p. 12, there are four requirements for salvation: “Many have found the second requirement more difficult. It is to obey God’s laws, yes, to conform one’s life to the moral requirements set out in the Bible. This includes refraining from a debauched, immoral way of life. 1 Cor. 6:9,10; 1 Pet. 4:3, 4.”

Islam

Surah 23:101-103, “Then when the Trumpet is blown, there will be no more relationships between them that Day, nor will one ask after another! 102 Then those whose balance (of good deeds) is heavy, they will attain salvation: 103 But those whose balance is light, will be those who have lost their souls, in Hell will they abide.”

Scripture

Deuteronomy 27:26, “‘Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’”
Galatians 3:10, “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.’”

For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now, if you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the Law.

Remember that the Royal Law (verse 8) is from Lev. 19:18, Love your neighbor. Therefore, the Royal Law is in the requirements of the Old Testament. So, to keep one part of the Law means you must also keep the other part(s) of the Law.
Scripture

Galatians 5:2–4, “Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. 4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by Law; you have fallen from grace.”

So, speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the Law of liberty.

The Law of liberty

Be careful not to judge others since you will be judged by the Law of Liberty.
James 1:25, “But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”
John 8:32, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
Romans 7:4, “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.”
Romans 7:6, “But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.”

For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

You will be judged as you have judged.

Matthew 7:2, “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”

James seems to employ two proverbial statements which reflects what Jesus taught.

Matthew 6:14–15, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”
Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

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