James 2 Bible Commentary

The Geneva Study Bible

(Read all of James 2)
2:1 My 1 brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, [the Lord] of a glory, with respect of persons.

(1) The first: charity which proceeds from a true faith, cannot exist with the respecting of people: which he proves plainly by using the example of those who, while having reproach or disdain for the poor, honour the rich.
(a) For if we knew what Christ's glory is, and esteemed it as we should, there would not be the respecting of people that there is.

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

(b) In a worshipful and honourable place.

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

(c) Have you not within yourselves judged one man to be preferred over another (which you should not do) by means of this?

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

(2) He shows that those who prefer the rich over the poor are wicked and disobedient judges, since God on the other hand prefers the poor (whom he has enriched with true riches) over the rich.
(d) The needy and wretched, and (if we measure it after the opinion of the world) the most degraded of all men.

2:6 But ye have despised the poor. 3 Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?

(3) Secondly, he proves them to be fools: since the rich men are rather to be held detestable and cursed, considering that they persecute the church, and blaspheme Christ: for he speaks of wicked and profane rich men, as most of them have always been, beside whom he contrasts the poor and degraded.

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

(e) Literally, "which is called upon of you".

2:8 4 If ye fulfil the f royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:

(4) The conclusion: charity which God prescribes cannot agree with the respecting of people, seeing that we must walk in the king's highway.
(f) The law is said to be royal and like the king's highway, in that it is simple and without changes, and that the law calls everyone our neighbour without respect, whom we may help by any kind of duty.

2:10 5 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one [point], he is guilty of g all.

(5) A new argument to prove the same conclusion: Those who neglect some and ambitiously honour others do not love their neighbours. For they do not obey God if they remove from the commandments of God those things that are not convenient for them. Rather they are guilty of breaking the whole law, even though they observe part of it.
(g) Not that all sins are equal, but because he who breaks one small part of the law, offends the majority of the given law.

2:11 6 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.

(6) A proof: because the Lawmaker is always one and the same, and the contents of the law cannot be divided.

2:12 7 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.

(7) The conclusion of the whole treatise: we are upon this condition delivered from the curse of the law by the mercy of God, that in the same way we should maintain and cherish charity and good will towards one another, and whoever does not do so, shall not taste of the grace of God.

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

(h) He that is harsh and short with his neighbour, or else does not help him, he shall find God a hard and rough judge to him.

2:14 8 What [doth it] profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

(8) The fifth place which follows very well with the former treatise, concerning a true and living faith. The proposition of the place is this: Faith which does not bring forth works is not that faith by means of which we are justified, but an false image of that faith, or else this: they who do not show the effects of faith are not justified by faith.

2:15 9 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

(9) The first reason taken from a comparison: if a man says to one who is hungry "Fill your belly" and yet gives him nothing, this is not true charity. If a man says he believes and does not bring forth works of his faith, this is not true faith, but truly a dead thing called with the name of faith, of which no man has room to brag, unless he will openly incur reprehension, since the cause is understood by the effects.

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

(i) No, by this every man will be eaten up with pride.

2:19 10 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

(10) Another reason taken from an absurdity: if such a faith were the true faith by means of which we are justified, the demons would be justified, for they have that, but nonetheless they tremble and are not justified, therefore neither is that faith a true faith.

2:20 11 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

(11) The third reason from the example of Abraham, who no doubt had a true faith: but he in offering his son, showed himself to have that faith which was not without works, and therefore he received a true testimony when it was laid, that faith was imputed to him for righteousness.

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

(k) Was he not by his works known and found to be justified? For he speaks not here of the causes of justification, but by what effects we may know that a man is justified.

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

(l) Was effectual and fruitful with good works.
(m) That the faith was declared to be a true faith, through works.

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

n Then the Scripture was fulfilled, when it appeared plainly how truly it was written about Abraham.

2:24 12 Ye see then how that by works a man is o justified, and not by p faith only.

(12) The conclusion: Only he who has faith that has works following it is justified.
(o) Is proved to be just.
(p) Of that dead and fruitless faith which you boast of.

2:25 13 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent [them] out another way?

(13) A forth reason taken from a similar example of Rahab the harlot, who was proved by her works that she was justified by a true faith.

2:26 14 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

(14) The conclusion repeated again: faith does not bring forth fruits and works is not faith, but a dead carcass.