by Pastor Mark Hudson
James 2:1-13 is relatively easy to understand and, because of that, easy to disregard. James addresses a real problem. We can’t help but make judgements about people. We see a nice home, nice car, or a good-looking person and we make assumptions. We see an average home, an older car and someone who we deem less than good looking and make assumptions. The second thing we do is what is important. You can’t say you don’t see color because you do. But do you treat people differently based on their outward appearances or on things they cannot change?
James is telling us that if we treat the well-to-do better than the poorly dressed person, we are not loving as Christ loves. Ironically, God has “chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom” while the “rich ones . . . oppress you and . . . drag you into court.”
If we do this, we violate the greatest commandment or “the royal law” For James and the other Biblical writers, love is the fulfillment of the law of God. Love is the greatest even over faith and hope. We do a grave injustice to our faith and to the Lord when we treat others based on their outward appearance.
Now to the passage that Roman Catholics claims Protestants are clearly wrong. Protestants say that we are saved by faith alone yet James 2:24 says, You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” The only time we see the words ‘faith alone’ the Bible says we are saved by works and not by faith alone, says the Roman church. Case closed for the Roman Catholic church
But is James dealing with the same problem Paul is? Paul’s major enemies are saying that faith in Christ is necessary but so are works. You need faith and you must follow the law. Paul stresses that faith alone saves. We are justified by works but the perfect work of Christ. Faith + nothing = salvation. Paul’s example is Abraham in Gen 15.
James is not dealing with that same problem. What if person A claims they have faith, but person B couldn’t tell it by observing person A? Is that genuine faith? James teaches that while we are saved by faith alone it is not a faith that is alone. Faith always produces love. Faith always produces works. How does James know this? He uses the same person Paul does but almost 30 years later in Abraham’s life in Gen 22. James uses the word justify but not in the same sense as Paul does in Romans. James’s use is not in a judicial sense but to demonstrate the reality of something.
Abraham shows the genuineness of his faith in Gen 22. But the same faith that believes God in Gen 15 is the same faith that believed God could raise his son, Isaac. In Genesis 22 Abraham was ready to slay his son. God knew in eternity that Abraham would believe since God, in His grace, gave Abraham that faith. God knew in eternity that Abraham would be willing to sacrifice Isaac.
Rahab believed God in Joshua 2. She demonstrates that faith by all she did in Joshua 2. Her belief would not be valid if she did not tie that scarlet cord (Joshua 2:19) but she did in 2:21. These people serve as example because they show, by their actions (or works) that their faith is genuine.
James would agree with Paul in Romans when Paul says in Rom 3:28, “for we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” And Paul would agree with James when James says in James 2:24, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”
James would agree with Paul by saying, “Of course we come into the Kingdom by grace alone through faith alone, believing in Christ which we read about in Scripture alone. And we live our lives for the glory of God alone.
Paul would agree with James by saying, Faith always produces love. Faith always works. Faith is always obedient to God. We can tell when a person is born again because they are a new creation. When I find churches in disarray, Paul might say, I go straight to the gospel first. Real faith will not long tolerate sin. I know that faith always produces more love in a person. Real faith is active and evident. Real faith loves God with all our heart and we love our neighbor as ourselves. It is always that way and always will be. So I love what my brother James is teaching. His teaching is my teaching and my teaching is his teaching.
Dear Lord, we pray for Christians in this country and around the world. May they understand Your call on their lives. We pray that all believers would give their all to growing to be more like Christ. May we see a hunger for God’s Word. May we see the Holy Spirit breaking the power of sin in our lives. Oh Lord, stir up Your people in these evil, deceptive, godless, and rebellious days. We are in a struggle that may last for many, many decades in the U.S. We need a revival. We beg You for the transforming work of Your Spirit in us. Do not let us get lulled to sleep as this nation runs toward hell with the worst speech, behavior, attitude, and actions all around us. Only You can change hearts. Begin with us for the glory of Christ. We pray in His name so His kingdom will come. Amen.