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2. Favoritism Forbidden

1My brethren, hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2For if there come into your synagogue a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, and there come in also a poor man in vile clothing; 3and ye have regard to him that weareth the fine clothing, and say, Sit thou here in a good place; and ye say to the poor man, Stand thou there, or sit under my footstool; 4Do ye not make distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5Hearken, my beloved brethren; did not God choose them that are poor as to the world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to them that love him? 6But ye have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you, and themselves drag you before the judgment-seats? 7Do not they blaspheme the honorable name by which ye are called? 8Howbeit if ye fulfil the royal law, according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well: 9but if ye have respect of persons, ye commit sin, being convicted by the law as transgressors. 10For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all. 11For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou dost not commit adultery, but killest, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12So speak ye, and so do, as men that are to be judged by a law of liberty. 13For judgment is without mercy to him that hath showed no mercy: mercy glorieth against judgment. 14What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but have not works? can that faith save him? 15If a brother or sister be naked and in lack of daily food, 16and one of you say unto them, Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; and yet ye give them not the things needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself. 18Yea, a man will say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith apart from thy works, and I by my works will show thee my faith. 19Thou believest that God is one; thou doest well: the demons also believe, and shudder. 20But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith apart from works is barren? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar? 22Thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect; 23and the scripture was fulfilled which saith, And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God. 24Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith. 25And in like manner was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works, in that she received the messengers, and sent them out another way? 26For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead.

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Jas 2:1-26. The Sin of Respect of Persons: Dead, Unworking Faith Saves No Man.

James illustrates "the perfect law of liberty" (Jas 1:25) in one particular instance of a sin against it, concluding with a reference again to that law (Jas 2:12, 13).

1. brethren—The equality of all Christians as "brethren," forms the groundwork of the admonition.

the faith of … Christ—that is, the Christian faith. James grounds Christian practice on Christian faith.

the Lord of glorySo 1Co 2:8. As all believers, alike rich and poor, derive all their glory from their union with Him, "the Lord of glory," not from external advantages of worldly fortune, the sin in question is peculiarly inconsistent with His "faith." Bengel, making no ellipsis of "the Lord," explains "glory" as in apposition with Christ who is THE GLORY (Lu 2:32); the true Shekinah glory of the temple (Ro 9:4). English Version is simpler. The glory of Christ resting on the poor believer should make him be regarded as highly by "brethren" as his richer brother; nay, more so, if the poor believer has more of Christ's spirit than the rich brother.

with respect of persons—literally, "in respectings of persons"; "in" the practice of partial preferences of persons in various ways and on various occasions.

2, 3. "If there chance to have come" [Alford].

assembly—literally, "synagogue"; this, the latest honorable use, and the only Christian use of the term in the New Testament, occurs in James's Epistle, the apostle who maintained to the latest possible moment the bonds between the Jewish synagogue and the Christian Church. Soon the continued resistance of the truth by the Jews led Christians to leave the term to them exclusively (Re 3:9). The "synagogue" implies a mere assembly or congregation not necessarily united by any common tie. "Church," a people bound together by mutual ties and laws, though often it may happen that the members are not assembled [Trench and Vitringa]. Partly from James' Hebrew tendencies, partly from the Jewish Christian churches retaining most of the Jewish forms, this term "synagogue" is used here instead of the Christian term "Church" (ecclesia, derived from a root, "called out," implying the union of its members in spiritual bonds, independent of space, and called out into separation from the world); an undesigned coincidence and mark of truth. The people in the Jewish synagogue sat according to their rank, those of the same trade together. The introduction of this custom into Jewish Christian places of worship is here reprobated by James. Christian churches were built like the synagogues, the holy table in the east end of the former, as the ark was in the latter; the desk and pulpit were the chief articles of furniture in both alike. This shows the error of comparing the Church to the temple, and the ministry to the priesthood; the temple is represented by the whole body of worshippers; the church building was formed on the model of the synagogue. See Vitringa [Synagogue and Temple].

goodly apparel … gay clothing—As the Greek, is the same in both, translate both alike, "gay," or "splendid clothing."

3. have respect to him, &c.—though ye know not who he is, when perhaps he may be a heathen. It was the office of the deacons to direct to a seat the members of the congregation [Clement of Rome, Apostolical Constitutions, 2.57, 58].

unto him—not in the best manuscripts. Thus "thou" becomes more demonstratively emphatic.

there—at a distance from where the good seats are.

here—near the speaker.

under my footstool—not literally so; but on the ground, down by my footstool. The poor man must either stand, or if he sits, sit in a degrading position. The speaker has a footstool as well as a good seat.

4. Are ye not … partial—literally, "Have ye not made distinctions" or "differences" (so as to prefer one to another)? So in Jude 22.

in yourselves—in your minds, that is, according to your carnal inclination [Grotius].

are become judges of evil thoughts—The Greek words for "judges" and for "partial," are akin in sound and meaning. A similar translation ought therefore to be given to both. Thus, either for "judges," &c. translate, "distinguishers of (that is, according to your) evil thoughts"; or, do ye not partially judge between men, and are become evilly-thinking judges (Mr 7:21)? The "evil thoughts" are in the judges themselves; as in Lu 18:6, the Greek, "judge of injustice," is translated, "unjust judge." Alford and Wahl translate, "Did ye not doubt" (respecting your faith, which is inconsistent with the distinctions made by you between rich and poor)? For the Greek constantly means "doubt" in all the New Testament. So in Jas 1:6, "wavering." Mt 21:21; Ac 10:20; Ro 4:20, "staggered not." The same play on the same kindred words occurs in the Greek of Ro 14:10, 23, "judge … doubteth." The same blame of being a judge, when one ought to be an obeyer, of the law is found in Jas 4:11.