Summary: Faith and works

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James 2:1-26

January 22, 2012

God condemns favoritism (:1-11)

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

The King James seems unclear here, but it’s a commandment: “Don’t have faith that favors one person over another.”

2For 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; 3And 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: 4Are ye not then partial in yourselves,

He’s speaking of the Christian assembly, the church service; a rich man walks in and he’s treated well. A poor man walks in and he’s treated poorly. The Greek word for “partial” means to be at variance or to make a distinction, and it’s translated in many other places as doubt or waver. If you make a distinction between the rich and the poor in the assembly, you divide the body.

Now think about that in connection with Ephesians 4:5-6: There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

Unity isn’t something we practice for the sake of peace—it is the reality of who we are in Christ. And this goes much further than rich and poor. This is the reason Christ humbled Himself, and the reason elders don’t lord over God’s heritage, and the reason husbands give deference to their wives and wives submit to their husbands. We are one body without distinction.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28).

And so we realize that making these kinds of distinctions is sinful:

and are become judges of evil thoughts?

In other words, “You’ve set yourself up as a judge who thinks wickedly.” Now we’re coming back to the thought on wicked judges in a minute, so mark it in your mind.

5Hearken, 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? 6But ye have despised the poor.

“Listen, hasn’t God chosen the poor to be heirs?” What a contradiction! These people favored the rich over the poor, but God chose the poor. It makes me think of Jacob when he chose Rachel over Leah (Gen. 29:17). He didn’t love Leah, but she’s the one God used in the genealogy of Christ (Gen. 29:35). Or you might also think of Saul and David as kings (I Sam. 16:7)—what men valued and what God valued were completely opposite.

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29That no flesh should glory in his presence (I Cor. 1:26-29).

God’s choice in calling is for His own glory, and this church totally missed that point. They were judges with wicked thoughts because they rejected God’s choice in preference for their own. And James says, “Guys, you’re out of line. You’re showing favor to people because they have money, but God has chosen those who are without.”

Not only that,

Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 7Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?

Now, I don’t see this as condemnation on wealth. I think the point is that the people at this assembly were so impressed by wealth that they were willing to divide the body over it. And James reminds them that “wealth” is nothing. “You’re not getting a lot of oppression and judgment from the poor—it’s the rich who strive with you. So get your minds off wealth. Don’t be impressed by it.”

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

The Law is a royal law; it was given to us by the King of heaven who owns everything. Rich or poor we love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and that’s pleasing to God.

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