Notes on James 2 from the Infamous VERY Early Men’s Bible Study

Posted: March 7, 2009 in Uncategorized

2:1, now we come to what many consider the heart of the whole letter. James argues against combining faith with favoritism.

2:1b, not “our glorious Lord Jesus Christ” (NIV) but “our Lord Jesus Christ, the Glory” for James is equating Jesus with the Shekinah (or the “localized presence of God”)of the OT.

Thus, Jesus is our divine guide. How did he treat the rich and poor?

2:2, the Greek literally speaks of one who is “gold fingered”, thus covered in bling!

2:2, In the mid-first century, the Roman philosopher Seneca mocked the fashion of rich Roman men: “We go on stifling whatever is left of morality. By the smoothness and polish of our bodies we men have surpassed a women’s refinements. We men have taken over the cosmetics of whores, which would not indeed be worn by decent women. With a delicate soft gait we swing our steps high—we do not walk, we strut. We adorn our fingers with rings; a gem is arranged on every joint.” (Natural Questions 7.31.2).

2:3-4, “the problem of discrimination is a perennial one for Christians because it is a tendency of basic human nature to favor those we serve to profit from the most.” John Polhill.

2:5, may be translated “Listen up! (akousate)

It is not that the early church did not contain people of wealth, but it is likely that the overwhelming majority of early Christians were poor. Intertestamental and rabbinic literature used “poor” as a synonym for pious.

“God is on the side of the poor, not because they are poor but because they are responsive to him and are near to the Kingdom.” Solomon Andria.

These passages can (and are) abused. Some argue that “God elects all poor people, merely on the basis of their socioeconomic status. By this logic, we should never help anyone escape poverty, lest they lose their salvation! If poverty were inherently salvific, Scripture would never have commanded us to help alleviate it…” Craig Blomberg.

Thus, James is speaking in generalizations to be sure but, following his Lord (and brother), he teaches that, generally, those who have all they desire now rarely look beyond it for anything else! See Luke 6:24.

2:6, “dishonored” (ESV) or “shamed” or “humiliated” in a culture of honor/shame.

The irony is that they try to please those who are oppressing them even “dragging” (elkousin, which “denotes violence, whether physical or legal.” (Luke Timothy Johnson)

2:7, “blaspheme” carries “the basic concept of violating the power and majesty of God” (Nancy Vyhmeister). The “name” is the very essence or reputation or even plan or will of the entity behind the name. Thus, they have demonstrated they are enemies of the one true King.

2:8, what is the “royal law”? Matt. 22:34-40; Mk 12:28-34; Lk 10:25-37. This is key to understanding what follows.

2:9, showing favoritism therefore violates the double-love command.

2:10-11, and to violate one law is to violate the whole Torah. Condemnation is condemnation.

2:13, “the law is for the self-righteous, to humble their pride, the gospel is for the lost to remove their despair.” Charles Spurgeon.

What is the effect of this when truly grasped? How do you define yourself?

2:14, James is not at odds with Paul. see 1 Cor. 13:3; Eph. 2:8; Gal. 2:15; 5:6, etc. Although, it may be better to translate erga as “actions” rather than “works.”

It is not at all a problem when one considers what Paul means when he says, “works” and that faith (or pistis) can mean much more than just intellectual affirmation. It can also mean “trust” or “confidence” or even “allegiance.”

2:15-16, “go in peace” was a way of saying “good-bye.”

“It is not the form of the statement that is reprehensible, but its functioning as a religious cover for the failure to act.” (L.T. Johnson).

2:17, James assumes that “faith” includes action!

“This is a saving faith of a life lived in sanctification.” (Craig Blomberg)

“A ‘faith’ which is purely doctrinal and does not result in pious action (i.e., charity) is a dead sham, totally useless for salvation.” Peter Davids.

2:18, no faith without repentance (see Luke 3:7-14).

2:19, even the demons affirm AND TREMBLE but they remain condemened.

2:21, here “justified” really means “vindicated” or shown to be righteous (Ralph Martin).

2:22, here “faith” is better translated “belief.”

2:23, “accounted him” or “credited him” or “imparted to him.” So that he is called a “friend of God,” which contrasts with 4:4. 2:24, “Paul said that a man is justified through faith without the works of the law, but not without those works of which James speaks” (Augustine).

“Salvation is by faith alone but by a faith that is not alone.” (Kent Hughes).

2:25, James shows that one’s societal status has nothing to do with how one is truly “judged.”

“James would most assuredly insist that it counts for nothing to claim to accept a free gift of salvation without transferring one’s allegiance to Jesus as the ultimate master of one’s life and possessions.” (Craig Blomberg).

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