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James 2and3 - Considerations Of Faith

INTRODUCTION: How many ways should a Christian develop and display their faith in the Lord? There are basic principals in the law given through Moses that a Christian can follow in a manner to show the mercy and grace received by the perfect sacrifice of Christ, which established the new law of liberty. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to resist the many temptations of sin as long as we are still in our mortal body.

NOTE: Bible passages are from the New Heart English Bible (NHEB).

A - PARTIALITY SHOULD NOT BE PART OF OUR FAITH IN THE LORD

James 2 "1 My brothers, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory with partiality. 2 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; 3 and you pay special attention to him who wears the fine clothing, and say, "Sit here in a good place"; but you tell the poor man, "Stand there," or "Sit by my footstool"; 4 haven't you shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers. Did not 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? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you, and personally drag you before the courts? 7 Do not they blaspheme the honorable name by which you are called?"

COMMENTS: James wrote that believers should not give favored courtesy to wealthy or aristocratic people who come into the congregation, to the point of showing little regard for poor or unrefined people. James had already written the following in chapter 1, "1:9 But let the brother in humble circumstances glory in his high position; 10 and the rich, in that he is made humble, because like the flower in the grass, he will pass away." The grace of God makes believers brothers and sisters in Christ, and this should remind us to treat each other as chosen members of the family of God, and joint heirs of the Kingdom which He promised to those who love him. If you give favor to a rich man in your congregation, and clearly show less courtesy to a poor man, you are following the ways of the world. James made a general degrading comment about the way people who pridefully flaunt their worldly riches, may also have no hesitation to put stressful burdens on those of lower social class who have obligations to them. Jesus indicated that even when a wealthy person really tries to observe the commandments to be acceptable to God, holding the worldly wealth above all else, will be a roadblock to complete faith.

Mark 10 "17 As he was going out into the way, one ran to him, knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" 18 Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except one�-�God. 19 You know the commandments: 'Do not murder,' 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not give false testimony,' 'Do not defraud,' 'Honor your father and mother.'" 20 And he said to him, "Teacher, I have observed all these things from my youth." 21 Jesus looking at him loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, taking up the cross." 22 But his face fell at that saying, and he went away sorrowful, for he was one who had great possessions. 23 Jesus looked around, and said to his disciples, "How difficult it is for those who have riches to enter into the Kingdom of God!" 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus answered again, "Children, how hard is it to enter into the Kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.""


B - STRIVE TO FULFILL THE ROYAL LAW GIVEN IN SCRIPTURE

James 2 "8 However, if you fulfill the royal law, according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well. 9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin, being convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law, and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. 11 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. 12 So speak, and so do, as men who are to be judged by a law of freedom. 13 For judgment is without mercy to him who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment."

COMMENTS: James wrote that his readers would be doing well if they kept the royal law according to Scripture, to love your neighbor as yourself. The phrase "royal Law" is only found here in this letter, so apparently James wanted to emphasize that loving our neighbor can cover the last six of the Ten Commandments. Among so many other commands, the following passage does include "love your neighbor." Leviticus 19 "18 you shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people; but you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD." James further wrote that to show partiality (such as in his example above in verses 2 through 4) would be committing a sin. And, to fail in one point of the law makes a person guilty of the whole law. James referred to some of the Ten Commandments to support his statement. In the gospel record, Jesus had a wonderful exchange with a man who displayed wisdom about true obedience to the word of God.

Mark 12 "28 And one of the scribes came, and heard them questioning together. Seeing that he had answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the greatest of all?" 29 Jesus answered, "The first is, 'Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one: 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." 32 The scribe said to him, "Truly, Teacher, you have said well that he is one, and there is none other but he, 33 and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." 34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God." No one dared ask him any question after that."

James advised that believers should speak and act as those who will be judged by the law of freedom (which could also be called the "law of liberty in Christ"). Judgement is without mercy to those who have shown no mercy: but mercy triumphs over judgement! Those who have accepted the righteousness of Christ to cover their sin, have the promise that the Lord will forgive sin that is sincerely confessed.

1 John 1 "6 If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not tell the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."


C - CAN FAITH WITHOUT WORKS SAVE ANYONE?

James 2 "14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can faith save him? 15 And if a brother or sister is naked and in lack of daily food, 16 and one of you tells them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled"; and yet you did not give them the things the body needs, what good is it? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself. 18 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. 19 You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But do you want to know, foolish man, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Wasn't Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith worked with his works, and by works faith was perfected; 23 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. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In like manner was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works, in that she received the messengers, and sent them out another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead."

COMMENTS: The below passage from Proverbs would likely have been known by many with a background in teaching at synagogues. The apostle John also wrote about not withholding from others who have needs.

Proverbs 3 "27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do it. 28 Do not say to your neighbor, "Go, and come again; tomorrow I will give it to you," when you have it by you."

1 John 3 "16 By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 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? 18 Little children, let us not love in word only, neither with the tongue only, but in deed and truth."

James wrote that even the demons know the true identity of Jesus, but they have great fear of his power and authority. This is verified in the gospel accounts about Jesus in more than one example.

Luke 4 "33 In the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon, and he shouted with a loud voice, 34 saying, "Ah! what have we to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know you who you are: the Holy One of God!" 35 Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" When the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm."

The wording in the passage from Genesis about Abraham and his son Isaac has two very special elements symbolically pertaining to Christ the Son of God: "God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering," and "you have not withheld your son, your only son." The LORD God did these two things to provide the grace gift of salvation to eternal life for those who believe in the atoning sacrifice of Christ Jesus.

Genesis 22 "6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. He took in his hand the fire and the knife. They both went together. 7 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father, and said, "My father?" He said, "Here I am, my son." He said, "Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" 8 Abraham said, "God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they both went together. 9 They came to the place which God had told him of. Abraham built the altar there, and laid the wood in order, bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, on the wood. 10 Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to kill his son. 11 The angel of the LORD called to him out of the sky, and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" He said, "Here I am." 12 He said, "Do not lay your hand on the boy, neither do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." 13 Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and saw that behind him was a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering instead of his son."

Joshua chapter 2 provides the details of the two spies sent out by Joshua who were taken in by Rahab the harlot. Rahab believed that the spies from the children of Israel had the blessing of the only true God, and she risked her life by first hiding them, and then she covered their escape. She trusted their agreement when she marked her house on the town wall with the scarlet cord. That portion of the wall did not fall later when the city was destroyed, and Rahab was justified by her works of faith.

Joshua 6 "21 They utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, both young and old, and ox, and sheep, and donkey, with the edge of the sword. 22 Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, "Go into the prostitute's house, and bring out from there the woman and all that she has, as you swore to her." 23 The young men who were spies went in, and brought out Rahab with her father, her mother, her brothers, and all that she had. They also brought out all her relatives, and they set them outside of the camp of Israel. 24 They burnt the city with fire, and all that was in it. Only they put the silver, the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron into the treasury of the LORD's house. 25 But Rahab the prostitute, her father's household, and all that she had, Joshua saved alive. She lived in the midst of Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers, whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho."


D - CONTROLING THE WORDS FROM OUR OWN TONGUE IS VERY IMPORTANT

James 3 "1 Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment. 2 For in many things we all stumble. If anyone does not stumble in word, the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also. 3 Now if we put bits into the horses' mouths so that they may obey us, we guide their whole body. 4 Behold, the ships also, though they are so big and are driven by fierce winds, are yet guided by a very small rudder, wherever the pilot desires. 5 So the tongue is also a little member, and boasts great things. See how a small fire can spread to a large forest! 6 And the tongue is a fire. The world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire by hell. 7 For all kinds of animals, and birds, of reptiles and sea creatures, are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind. 8 But nobody can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the image of God. 10 Out of the same mouth comes forth blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring send out from the same opening fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, yield olives, or a vine figs? Nor is salt water able to produce sweet."

COMMENTS: Being a teacher of the Word of God has an inherent responsibility to have careful control over the manner and content of what is given before those being taught. James warned that teachers will be seriously judged. We all have a tendency to stumble with the way we control the words we speak, because we would need to be perfect if that was not the case. James used the bit for a horse and the rudder for a ship as examples of comparatively small items designed for control. He then reversed the comparison of the tongue to a small thing that can lead to a large disaster such as a small fire spreading to an entire forest. James warned that the tongue has the greatest potential of the members of our body for creating and spreading so many types of evil and sin.

The next comparison from James is that many kinds of animals can be tamed with success, but the tongue of man cannot be fully tamed. If we are submitting our will to our God, we should not praise him, and then turn around to curse men who are made in the image of God. Though James had said the tongue cannot be tamed, he gave examples of God's design in nature that demonstrate consistency; and this implies that if we allow the control of the Holy Spirit, we can have the ability to overcome the inconsistency of our fallen Adamic nature.


E - WISDOM FROM ABOVE IS PURE, GENTLE, AND MERCIFUL

James 3 "13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by his good conduct that his deeds are done in gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not boast and do not lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, sensual, and demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition are, there is confusion and every evil deed. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."

COMMENTS: In chapter 1 James had already written: "5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach; and it will be given to him." Two Old Testament prophets wrote about the following: 1) humbly praise the LORD for understanding from Him; and 2) the LORD provides wisdom to the righteous, while the rebellious stumble at His word.

Jeremiah 9 "24 but let him who glories glory in this, that he has understanding, and knows me, that I am the LORD who exercises loving kindness, justice, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, says the LORD."

Hosea 14 "9 Who is wise, that he may understand these things? Who is prudent, that he may know them? For the ways of the LORD are right, and the righteous walk in them; But the rebellious stumble in them."

Those who have wisdom from the Lord should have a gentle manner, with no selfish ambitions or bitter jealousy toward others, which would otherwise result in confusion and evil deeds. James wrote that Boasting and turning the truth into lies by wrongful actions, is not a gift from God; as she emphatically called it earthly, sensual, and demonic. Believers should desire to have the wisdom from above which is of pure content, with qualities of peacefulness, gentleness, reasonableness, abundant mercy, and being fruitful for God. There should be no characteristics of partiality or hypocrisy held by those who have the wisdom from above. James summarized those thoughts by saying that the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace, and That concept is expressed in other Scripture as well.

Isaiah 32 "17 The work of righteousness will be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever."

Proverbs 16 "7 When a man's ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him."

Psalms 85 "9 Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. 10 Mercy and truth meet together. Righteousness and peace have kissed each other. 11 Truth springs out of the earth. Righteousness has looked down from heaven."

John 14 "25 All this I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, remind me often to love each of my neighbors as myself, and to avoid partiality that is not to be part of my faith in a gracious and merciful God. Though my works of faith may not be as dramatic as the examples of Abraham and of Rahab, I want to serve others as I serve my Lord and Savior Christ Jesus in ways that will bring praise and honor to your name. May I look to the Holy Spirit to help me bridle my tongue. Though it is a small member of the body, it can have very powerful negative effects. As one who has true citizenship in heaven, guide me Lord, to have the wisdom from above that is gentle and pure and merciful. Amen.

Published 11 April 2020