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James 2

The Reality of Faith Proved in Works: the Care for the Poor
James 2

Subjects of ch.1 developed further: low and high degree come to the same place, and faith results in practical walk.

The Sin of Partiality (2:1-13)

v.1 Respect of Persons. Consider Who He was, the Lord of Glory, and a place He took. associated with the poor, outcast Galileans, the Nazarean, No respect of persons with Him! Not possible to rightly have the faith of Him with respect of persons. Partiality destructive to foundation; there is no difference (Rom. 3:22; 10:12).

vv.2-4 Partiality in Practice: Judges Having Evil Thoughts. A practical example of partiality, preference to wealthy. “Synagogues” here, in transition from Judaism. It exposed a worldly mind; looked on the outward appearance according to worldly standards, superficial criteria. setting up as “judges” with biased judgment.

vv.5-7 Two Arguments. Seeks to reason “beloved brethren”. The higher argument first. God’s values not man’s. He has chosen to save the poor, who are “rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom” (1 Cor. 1:26-29). By actions showed their values were not God’s. He chose the poor, but they had despised the poor. Second reason, from their experience persecution camea from the rich. They blasphemed the name of Christ – “the excellent name”. the religious and political elite in Israel were to blame. Partiality is so deeply ingrained, that we show preference to those we know have no care for our soul.

vv.8-11 The Royal Law. “the royal law” was a commandment Christ referenced numerous times (e.g. Matt. 22:39) as summary of whole law (Lev. 19:18). The law demanded a man love his neighbor as himself, yet did not give power to fulfill it. James does not say the believer is under law, Paul expressly decries (Rom. 6-7), but shows partiality is breaking the law, thus wrong before Christ. A legal man boasts in keeping external commands, but cannot separate one from another. The royal law was inseparably linked from the whole law! See Rom. 13:9. The Law is all or nothing. A chain is as strong as its weakest link. The law, weak through the flesh, breaks at the issue of love.

vv.12-13 The Law of Liberty. Called to live, not under commandments governing external behavior, but the heart. In ch.1 the perfect law of Liberty is introduced. The commandment is perfect liberty to that soul, far higher law than law of commandments, summed up in that Royal Law. Judged by a much higher standard than the law. Not putting saints under law, just showing our standard far higher, therefore partiality has no place. Our lives reviewed at judgment seat, not by external standard, but the inside. A present governmental aspect to this judgment. If we don’t show mercy, cannot expect governmental forgiveness. God delights in mercy over judgment (Mic. 7:18).

The Reality of Faith Proved By Works (2:14-26)

vv.14-17 Profession of Faith Without Works: Dead. faith, if without works, is not true. That kind of “faith” is dead, no life in a dead person. “Can faith save him?” … not speaking of reality, but of the profession. The key is “if any one say”, and “show me” (v.18). The profession of faith will not save the soul. An example in vv.16-17, of emptiness of mere words. Who is so heartless to say those words without follow through. No profit in mere words, and no profit the profession of faith (1 John 2:4-5). Justification in James: no conflict with justification in Romans.

vv.18-20 The Reality of Faith: Provable by Works Only. reality of faith can only be proved by works. A hypothetical supposition. Faith and works cannot be separated. Faith alone is invisible, but has outward manifestations. Not possible to prove one’s faith without works. In v.19 another thing. There is a kind of belief in facts about God – mere intellectual assent – that is still dead (John 2:23-25). One can believer in the unity of the godhead, and still have no more faith than the demons who believe the same, with fear and trembling (Matt. 8:29). There is no vital link with God. Faith in the sense of a natural belief, but without a relationship with God through the implanted word. Contrast this with the Divine gift (Eph. 2:8). True faith from God will manifest itself by acting.

Two Examples of Faith. Two examples show faith will always be accompanied by works as the outward proof. Both found in Heb 11.

vv.21-24 Faith Perfected By Works: The Example of Abraham. Same verse that Paul quotes in Romans  and Galatians different purpose. Abraham did no works Rom. 4:1-4, and God reckoned him righteous. Years later God tested his faith. James switches the order. Offering Isaac was outward manifestation that Abraham believed God. The faith God saw in Gen. 15 was seen visibly in Gen. 22. An extreme test: only-begotten, heir of promises, concentrated affection. Trust is the foundation of relationship; called “the Friend of God”. Abraham’s work “derived all its virtue from absolute trust in God” (W. Kelly, adapted). Not that God looks for works in exchange for justification in judicial sense; but an outward demonstration of righteousness before man made when faith works in a believer’s life.

v.25 The Example of Rahab. Total contrast to Abraham in terms of background; “the harlot”. Inhabitants heard the report. Two men “spies” in Jos. 2, called “messengers”. In contrast to countrymen, Rahab believed these were messengers, the Lord would give Israel the land (Jos. 2:9-11). Turned against her own people and king, not world’s definition of “good works”. Murder and treason apart from faith; faith-works. Justify, in this outward, moral sense.

v.26 Conclusion. Another illustration. A dead body is not only useless, a mere outward form; it is revolting to natural sensibilities. So with the profession of faith without reality.

2 Thessalonians 1

Bk Sec Outline Sec Bk   Perseverance through Persecution 2 Thessalonians 1   2 Thessalonians 1. Before Paul gets into the doctrinal issue of the epistle, he seeks to strengthen the hearts of the saints. Although the technical problem was false eschatological teaching, there was a deeper result of this false teaching the needed to be addressed first. The […]

Genesis 48

Bk Sec Outline Sec Bk   Jacob Blesses the Sons of Joseph Genesis 48   Genesis 48. In this chapter we have the event that is perhaps the highlight of Jacob’s life. In blessing the sons of Joseph, Jacob demonstrates once and for all that he has learned the lesson God was seeking to teach him throughout his lifetime. It […]

Hebrews 3 – 4

Christ is Superior to Israel’s Leaders: Moses and Joshua
Hebrews 3 – 4
Ch.3-4. Asks to consider Jesus in contrast with Israel’s leaders. Christ is faithful as Son over house of God in contrast with Moses a servant. Digresses thru end of ch.3 warning against unbelief. Superior to Joshua, will bring children into His rest! God’s rest still future, meanwhile a difficult wilderness, some will apostatize. Not left alone. Three great provisions.

Moses and the House of God (3:1-6)

v.1 Apostle and High Priest. Two titles correlate to previous chapters. Apostle, Christ as Son of God, coming from God to man. As  High Priest, Christ as Son of man, from man to God. In rest of epistle, compares apostleship with Moses, priesthood with Aaron. Two resources: Word of God (brought by Moses), and intercession (Aaron). The writer writes as teacher, expertly opening up typical teaching. Only room for One Apostle! “Our confession” used to allow professors, but addresses the believers. Not “natural brethren, partakers of an earthly calling”, but believing Jews (and all Christians) are “holy brethren” and partake of a “heavenly calling”. The Principle of Calling, earthly not confused with heavenly. Earthly not stolen from Israel (Rom. 11:29).
v.2 Faithful. Christ compared to Moses as sent to Israel with authority from God. A parallel: both were faithful in their sphere (Num. 12:7). Moses in a general sense, Christ perfectly so. Something more than faithfulness: the glory of His Person (vv.3-4). “His” at the end of v.2 is God, not Moses, as Num. 12:7 shows.
vv.3-4 Builder and Building. Moses didn’t build the house (i.e. tabernacle). He followed the pattern. The builder was Jehovah, now manifest in flesh! The builder has more honor because a work emanates from a person. A person is superior to his creation. Christ built the universe is His house! The tabernacle a type of the heavens. Connects with ch.1, Son is creator and sustainer. In v.4 the argument from design. Observation of the universe, scope, variety, balance, fine-tuning for life, etc. gives overwhelming evidence. Every house has a builder. It requires faith to see that the builder is God.
vv.5-6 Son vs. Servant. Relative position of Christ and Moses. Moses “a ministering servant”, Christ is “Son over his house”. Christ over the house of God because of who He is, the Son. Universe is the house of God, but saints collectively are His house in a higher sense (1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 2:7; Eph. 2:22). A condition: will the house be faithful to Him? Many “ifs” in Hebrews: a danger of apostasy, genuine faith will hold fast. The “ifs” and “whens” show the wilderness pathway manifests reality, or apostasy. No “ifs” in Ephesians.

The Wilderness: Warning Against Unbelief (3:7-19)

vv.7-11 Warning Against Unbelief. Quotes Psa. 95:7-11 warn against unbelief. Israel’s old besetting sin. Ten temptations. Saw His deliverance, erred in there hearts. Three phases. (1) The “day of provocation” at the beginning in Meribah (Ex. 17:7). (2) Journey for 40 years. (3) Last temptation at Kadesh. Jehovah angry, swore in wrath. Psalm prophetic of Jehovah inviting Israel to enter kingdom. A new day, His old anger now gone. The cross opened a way. Old sins will not bar them; but a fresh repetition will. Unbelief must be avoided. Application to the Jews professing Christianity. 
vv.12-13 Carefulness and Encouragement. Not doubt, or weakness of faith, but a heart that ultimately refuses to take God at His word. Turning away from God for a professor is apostasy. Influenced by the spirit of apostasy. Need to “encourage” ourselves, remind that God is to be trusted and obeyed. Still called “today”, God’s grace and patience continue. If give into sin of unbelief once, effect of hardening us to Word of God. Ultimate sense, completely “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin”, only possible for an unconverted.
vv.14-19 Reality Proved By Steadfastness. In Hebrews salvation proved out by steadfast devotion to Christ through life. Asks important questions to highlight difficulty of maintaining confidence. Who provoked? Not just part of Israel, but the whole congregation. Who was Jehovah angry with? Those who refused to believe (Deut. 2:14-15). Sin emphasized: not a mistake, but positive willful sin. Caleb and Joshua the exceptions. Who did He promise not enter His rest? Those who heard and refused to believe. Common theme: sin of not believing. A progression: provoked at beginning, then angry forty years, finally swore in His anger. No one can argue, they deserved judgment. Rest only shared with believers. Unbelief the root of sin. Death a type of apostasy, only possible for unsaved. A parallel condition is apathy.

The Rest of God & Need of Faith (4:1-11)

vv.1-2 Application to Christianity. Now begins apply lessons of Israel to professing Jews in Christianity. We too have a promise. “Rest” viewed as future. Have “rest” in our conscience, a future rest when God Himself rest, we with Him. Not looking for rest in this world; become a wilderness to us. Will fail to enter it if not receive glad tidings, just as Israel.
vv.3-5 A Future Rest for the People of God. A second application. Point in vv.1-2 that faith is required to enter rest, point in vv.3-10 that true rest is future. Two facts brought together. God rested once (Gen. 2:2), but speaks of His rest as future (Psa. 95:11). For Israel, God’s rest still future at time of David. Unbelief of Israel barred them, but in grace the “today” of David is still open. Joshua (called Jesus, Greek) not able to bring them in. Christ’s superiority to Joshua. The great point: rest is future. Must refer to the Millennium, when Israel enters, and heavenly saints enter, Christ vindicated. The “rest” begins in the Millennium will fade into eternal state. It is “his rest”, therefore perfect, God finds His satisfaction. No work, no conflict. Very nature of God satisfied… we look forward to it.
v.11 Exhortation. Applies “same example” to the Hebrews, a powerful exhortation. Same refusal to listen caused Hebrews’ ancestors to fall could now cause some to apostatize from the profession of Christian faith. “Use diligence” by believing the Word of God.

Three Provisions to Help Us Reach the Rest (4:12-16)

vv.12-13 The Word of God: It’s Effectual Penetrating Power. A number of attributes of the Word make it a vital instrument to bring us into presence of God. An invaluable resource.
  • An Active Agent. “Living”, never becomes dead or outdated, carries means of giving spiritual life, adapts to different needs and situations (John 6:63). “Operative”, works (by Holy Spirit), accomplishes God’s purpose (Isa. 55:11).
  • A Discerning Agent. Compared to a sword (Eph. 6:17), pierces, also cuts or makes divisions. Word of God is “sharper”. Two edges: works on the external level (actions), and on the internal level (motives). Division of soul and spirit takes supernatural discernment. Soul: seat of consciousness, identity, responsibility, and desire (Rom. 7:15). Spirit: above the soul, capacity to reflect on his soul, gives God-consciousness. Animals have no spirit (Psa. 49:20; Isa. 31:3). True worship (John 4:24). Humanly impossible to discern, by scripture can. Illustrates with a physical image: “of joints and marrow”, intricate parts of the skeletal system, difficult to locate from periphery, hard to distinguish where one ends, other begins. Only the Word of God can penetrate and separate. Motives and intentions are often disguised (Jer. 17:9; 1 Cor. 4:5). The Word through Holy Spirit identifies the activity of the flesh with conviction.
  • A Revealing Agent. Brings us into the presence of God, our soul is laid bare (1 John 3:20; Jer. 17:9; 1 Sam. 2:3). We are fully known of God. Nothing of the flesh is allowed to pass unnoticed, new nature rejoices, any sin we tolerate spoils communion (Psa. 139:23-24). Puts us into responsibility, “with whom we have to do”.
The proper response is self-judgment, vital to maintaining communion.
vv.14-15 The Priesthood of Christ: Our Sympathetic High Priest. Pick up from end of ch.2, also introduction to next section (Heb. 5-7). The comparison here, as with Heb. 2:17-18, is with the high priest in the Old Testament. Ch.2 focused on day of atonement, here on normal function as intercessor. No OT priest called great. Tabernacle a type of “the heavens” passed through, just as Aaron through tabernacle into sanctuary. Two things required: (1) to be in heaven, and (2) to first tread the earth, with trials and temptations (both Moses on mountain and Joshua in valley, Ex. 17). Majestic Son of God, no mere transient visitor or associate. Always tendency of priests to elevate into privileged upper class. Not so; “able to sympathise”. Tested beyond us. Deity did not shield from suffering. Important qualification: “sin apart”, not “without sinning”. Sinless perfection. Temptations never from within (Jam. 1:14). A “holy thing” (Luke 1:35). Peter says He “did no sin” (1 Pet. 2:22), Paul says He “knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21), deepest John says “in him” is no sin (1 John 3:5). Nature holy. “He was not alone perfectly man but the perfect man” – W. Kelly. Sin within blinds and dulls. Christ’s sinlessness meant a better sympathizer! Experiences and sufferings coupled with glory qualify only Him to be our sympathetic High Priest. Intercedes for us (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25), brings down grace and mercy, gives us endurance, preserves us from falling. His advocacy different from intercession (1 Jn. 2). Can’t take one successful step apart from Christ’s continued intercession (“Aaron’s rod that budded”, Num. 17:8). Exhortation, “let us hold fast”. Why turn back to Judaism with such a resource? Every reason to press on. How awful to take other men as priests!
v.16 Prayer: the Ever-Approachable Throne of Grace. Privilege of prayer. Not confused with Christ’s prayer or intercession. He prays continually (Heb. 7:25), we do not. His presence there makes the throne available to us, approachable continually. Without fear, “with boldness”, we should approach throne of God of the universe, of a holy God “with whom we have to do”, but cross has made it “the throne of grace”. How precious! At any season, find help “seasonable”, or suited to needs. Two forms: (1) “mercy” or deliverance from a trial, or (2) “grace”, strength to pass through the trial in communion (2 Cor. 12:8-9). Always help available!

Hebrews 11

Bk Sec Outline Sec Bk   The Life of Faith: A Great Cloud of Witnesses Hebrews 11   Hebrews 11. Having brought out the principle of Hab. 2:4 that “the just shall live by faith”, the writer enters into a digression on the subject of the life of faith. The principle that a believer can only continue for God’s […]

Galatians 3 – 4

eBk Sec Outline Sec Bk   Doctrinal: Defense of the Gospel Galatians 3 – 4   Galatians 3-4. The general subject of ch.3-4 is defense of the gospel, showing that justification is not by the law. Chapter 3 lays out the doctrinal side of things (our standing), and it presents the Christian’s connection with Abraham and his seed. This […]