Welcome to the second of five studies of the Book of James.
Before we begin this study of James Chapter 2, please allow me to tell a few stories.
Many years ago, a man came into my church and he was obviously a poor
and destitute man. He was unkempt, his clothes were dirty, and he was
scruffy looking with tangled, uncombed hair and an unshaven, scraggly
beard. His hands were dirty, he smelled bad, and apparently everything
he owned was on his back. Our pastor took him and welcomed him into our
church with loving kindness. I must admit, at the time I did not know
what to do and was uncomfortable. Some simply stared while a few
In another church on a Sunday morning back in the 1960’s, there was an elderly deacon at the rear of the church greeting folks as they arrived. It was very crowded that day and the deacon noticed that there were very few seats left. He was just about to go to his own seat and join the service when a young man entered the church. He was unlike anybody that had arrived that day. He had long flowing hair, wore beads around his neck, sandals without socks, and dirty jeans with patches and holes.
While looking around to find him a seat, the deacon was surprised when the young man simply walked down the aisle and sat on the floor cross-legged squarely in front of the altar. The deacon soon followed him down the aisle. The congregation thought he would ask him to take a seat or perhaps show him to a seat. However, all were amazed when the elderly man sat, with some degree of difficulty, on the floor right next to him.
In another church a man I would describe as “down and out” or destitute, similar to the man in the above story entered the church. Nobody greeted him when he entered. He sat down in the middle of the church where all could see him, and when he did, others near him moved away to other seats. No one offered him anything but curious or distrustful looks. Many wondered where the pastor was and why he did not confront the man and ask him to “clean himself up” before he entered the church.
However, all were amazed when this man began walking to the front of the church. He reached the front pew and all wondered where he was going, several deacons began moving forward hurriedly when he started to ascend the podium. When he reached the pulpit and removed his wig and false beard the congregation let out a collective gasp as they recognized their pastor. He began his sermon in the Book of James, Chapter 2, verse 1.
That is where this Bible study begins as well - James Chapter 2.
James Chapter 2 - from the King James Version
1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? 6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?
8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Choose Another Translation If You Wish
1. What is it about man that makes us uncomfortable with situations such as this? Why do we show partiality based on outward appearances? Why do we make assumptions and judge people by what we see? Read Luke 18:10-14.
Does the story Jesus tells in this scripture provide an idea or clue as to the reason that we might not treat others the same? What is it?
2. Do you wear your best available clothing for church services? Do you pay more attention to what you wear to church compared to other events? Why or why not?
1. For the following verses from James Chapter 2, what are the arguments James provides for not showing partiality:
2. In James Chapter 2 the author reminds his readers who were typically
poor, that the rich are exploiting them, dragging them to court, and
slandering the noble name of Jesus Christ. Is James encouraging his
poor brethren to disrespect the rich members of the assembly? Why or
1. How can you be guilty of the whole law when you only break one point of the law? Why does it say in James Chapter 2 verse 10 that if you offend in one point or you break just one law you are guilty of the entire law? What is the point of James Chapter 2 verses 10 through 13?
2. Was there ever a time in your life where you were loved by someone that would demonstrate the idea of “love your neighbor as yourself”?
How can we love your neighbors as ourselves? (Remember as Jesus pointed out in Luke 10 that our neighbor is anyone who needs our help.)
1. Does the second half of James Chapter 2 say that one is saved by works or good deeds and not by faith? What is the main point of the second half of James Chapter 2?
2. Considering the main point, if you were to choose the main verse or phrase of James Chapter 2 verses 14 through 26, what would it be?
1. What did Jesus Christ teach us about the concept of faith and works? Please cite a Scriptural example.
2. Besides Abraham and Rahab, who from Scripture best illustrates this concept of faith with works, i.e. works in the sense of good deeds? How or why did you choose this person’s life as your citation?
Does James' statement in James Chapter 2 verse 18 that one can demonstrate his faith by his works contradict Paul’s statement in Romans 3:28 that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law?
For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. Romans 1:16 NLT
James and Jude Bible Commentaries
We offer a free commentary on the Books of James and Jude. This 123 page free resource is a great Bible Study aid for the Books of James and Jude. It is authored by Dr. Bob Utley and offered to you through our partnership with Bible Lessons International.