True Faith Shows Through Works: A Look at James 2

Awhile ago I wrote a post called “Count it All Joy: A Look at James 1.” You can find that here. Today, I’d like to continue that little Bible study. Please open your Bible to James 2 and read along as I talk about each part.

Partiality

Here is a summer-upper of this paragraph on partiality:

Don’t show any partiality. If you see two people, and one looks better dressed, it’s not right to treat the better looking one better. God uses all people in His kingdom, not just the rich, the good-looking, or the “perfect.” I mean, don’t the rich treat you as less than them? Don’t they talk about God like He is less than them?

So, the main idea in this paragraph is “don’t show partiality.” It’s very likely that the people James were writing to (the “twelve tribes in the dispersion”) had a problem with treating people differently based on the person’s social status. I don’t think we have as much of an issue with that now. At least, not one that is initially obvious. There are problems of racism in the world, and often that gets into the church. And often, we do pay more attention to people who look like they are from a higher class. So maybe we do have a problem with this. Please comment and share what you think about the current issue with partiality in the church.

Every Sin a Condemnation

This paragraph continues to talk about partiality, then it says something interesting. “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” What does that mean? I think it means that every sin is crossing the line. Every sin is against God’s holiness. Every sin is against God Himself. But, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that every sin is equal. All sins have different consequences, as we humans are familiar with, and we naturally know that stealing a piece of gum isn’t as bad as killing your neighbor. Are they both sins? Yes. Will they both condemn you to Hell if you do not have the covering of Jesus? Yes. But do they both have the same consequences? No. For one, you receive a scolding, for the other, you may end up dead. Another passage that talks about this is 1 Corinthians 6:18. That concept is something I’ve thought about a lot. On another note, it says “judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.” That kind of echos Jesus’ teachings on forgiving others, and not expecting God to forgive us if we won’t forgive others. It also says “mercy triumphs over judgment.” What are your thoughts on that?

What’s the use of faith if it doesn’t make you do anything different?

James kind of gets fired up here (at least, I think of it that way). He asks a quick, rhetorical question, and then continues with his thought line. He shows that just saying “I’m a Christian,” without growing, evangelizing, and serving, is pretty fruitless. And, while his point is not to say that salvation is by works, he points out that our faith is a lot more believable if it comes with works. This is a huge doctrine of the Christian faith. What do you think about it?

Faith Apart From Works is Dead

And, continuing with his theme of faith and works, he just comes right out and says “faith without works is dead.” He offers the stories of two amazing people in history, Abraham and Rahab, and points out that their faith was show by their works. To be honest, I don’t really understand the first part of this paragraph. I just… yeah. I don’t get it. I have a faint idea of what it means, but the way he says it just doesn’t make any sense to me. Take a look:

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? (ESV)

Please comment and share what you think it means. What will probably happen is one of you will say something and it will just make perfect sense and I’ll be like “why was I so stupid?!” So please do.

If you feel like I said something that wasn’t scriptural, please email me or comment. I would really appreciate it.

Thanks for reading, I hope you benefited from it. Try to meditate on these truths throughout the day.

-LeviGrant

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6 thoughts on “True Faith Shows Through Works: A Look at James 2

  1. “You have faith, I have works. Show me your faith by your works.” Another way of saying that is, “You claim you have faith, but my works prove I have faith. If you really have faith, prove it to me by your good works!”

    There are many ways we can show partiality in church. One way is by talking to those we naturally are friends with and have lots in common with versus making an effort to greet visitors or to talk to others who are not in our close circle of friends. This is a good reminder to me. Thanks, Levi!

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    1. Isn’t the placing of the quotation marks against that? My translation says “you have faith, and I have works” (quoting the man) and then James says show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. Of course, there aren’t quotation marks in Greek :/ Thank you for your thoughts on the partiality thing. That’s something I need to work on.
      -Levi

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  2. I think he’s talking ‘tongue and cheek’ here. You can’t prove faith without works. The way we would say it today it would sound something like, ” you say you have faith, My works prove I have faith…show me your faith without doing works…I dare you.. You can’t do it.”

    He pretty much spelled it out in verse 15-17. In verses 21-22 he will explain why works are an important part of faith.

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    1. Hmm… That makes sense. Thank you for explaining it that way! I get it now. I like James’ writing style here. It gives some interpretation challenges, but it’s also easier to relate to and kind of… fun. 🙂 Have a great Sunday!
      -Levi

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  3. The Unity of God was a foundational teaching in Judaism at the time…and still is. James took advantage of that fact and uses it to make the point that even the demons believe that God is One. Their belief doesn’t allow them to escape the judgment God has prepared for them. The Unity of God is spelled out in Deut. 6:4 and following. Verse 6 was, and still is ritualistically quoted in the Jewish cultural ceremonies. I will point out that God makes a promise to the children of Isreal here and that is why it is so important to them. I will also point out that that promise comes with a requirement that must be kept. James makes Abraham the example to follow largely because he if their Father figure but more Importantly, I think, because he falls into the time period before the law was given. Making the point that works has nothing to do with the law but has everything to do with faith. If you have faith your actions with show it. Believe that God is One but prove it by obedience. Us Abraham, your Father, as the example.

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    1. Thank you for responding! So, I think I understand that part. Lissy and I talked about that one time, kind of thinking out the way that James seems to say it. He’s kind of like “hello, even the demons believe!” The part I don’t quite get is “”you have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works and I will show you my faith by my works.” The wording just confuses me.

      I didn’t know you read my blog posts! Thank you!

      -Levi

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