Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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JAMES - Chapter 2

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James 2

Supplemental Commentary:

II.  LIVING AND ACTIVE FAITH  1, 19 -- 2, 26 (continued)

2, 1-13:  Impartiality.    1-3.  The connection with the preceding is not immediately evident, but the warning against partiality very likely follows the reminder to be doers of the gospel and not hearers only, because partiality manifested among Christians was a sign that they had not fully followed the principles laid down in the gospel (Acts 10, 34; Rom. 2, 11; etc.).    4-6.  St. James condemns particularly those who showed undue preference to the rich, and contempt for the poor in the synagogue (church), and courts of justice.  Judges with evil thoughts: i.e, evil-minded.  But God the just judge acts otherwise and will reward the pious poor man, for his is an heir of the kingdom of heaven (cf. Isa. 3, 15; Amos 4, 1).    7.  Good name: perhaps a reference to the name of God invoked in Baptism, or the name Christian which was fast becoming known throughout the early Church (Acts 11, 26).    8.  The royal law is that of fraternal charity which forbids hatred of one's neighbor (Lev. 19, 18; Matt. 5, 43-47; John 13, 34 f).    10-13.  The Apostle concludes by saying that the whole law and each article of it must be observed; he who despises the supreme law-giver or offends against one precept of the law, manifests his insubordination, and in a sense is deficient in regard to the whole law (cf. Matt. 5, 18 ff).    12.  The law of liberty is a law of love which man obeys freely and gladly, because to serve Christ means freedom.    13.  Mercy triumphs, etc.: i.e., God's mercy is not opposed to, but above, his justice.

2, 14-16:  Practical Faith.  Here the Apostle develops the Pauline teaching "faith working through charity" (cf. Gal. 5, 6; 1 Cor. 13, 2; 2 Thess. 2, 17).    17.  Faith devoid of the vivifying principle of charity and good works is like the body without the soul.    19.  The Greek reads: "Dost thou believe that there is one God?"  This is perhaps a continuation of an imaginary discussion or a new argument.  Faith is intellectual assent given to revealed truths, and once we admit the existence of God we should obey his commandments and love all men for His sake.  Otherwise, we should be no better than evil spirits whose faith begets profound fear (cf. Mark 1, 24; Luke 8, 28).

St. James enforces his arguments by presenting a few examples of practical faith from Sacred Scripture.    21.  Abraham's willingness to comply with God's commands was the crowning act of a life of faith.  His readiness to sacrifice his son was a proof of his faith and love of God (Gen. 22; Isa. 41, 8; Rom. 4, 2 f; Heb. 11, 7).    25.  Rahab also, by the courage of her convictions, manifested her practical faith in God (Jos. 2, 1-24; Heb. 11, 31).  As a result she was rewarded by becoming an ancestress of our divine Savior (Matt. 1, 5).

Confraternity Bible:

Impartiality  1 My brethren, do not join faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with partiality towards persons.  2 For if a man in fine apparel, having a gold ring, enters your assembly, and a poor man in mean attire enters also, 3 and you pay attention to him who is clothed in fine apparel and say, "Sit thou here in this good place"; but you say to the poor man, "Stand thou there," or, "Sit by my footstool"; 4 are you not making distinctions among yourselves, and do not you become judges with evil thoughts?  5 Listen, my beloved brethren!  Has not God chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which God has promised to those who love him?  6 But you have dishonored the poor man.  Do not the rich use their power to oppress you, and do they not drag you before judgment-seats?  7 Do they not blaspheme the good name by which you are called?

8 If, however, you fulfill the royal law, according to the Scriptures, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," you do well.  9 But if you show partiality towards persons, you commit sin, being convicted by the law as transgressors.  10 For whoever keeps the whole law, but offends in one point, has become guilty in all.  11 For he who said, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," said also, "Thou shalt not kill."  Now if thou wilt not commit adultery, yet wilt commit murder, thou hast become a transgressor of the law.  12 So speak and so act as men about to be judged by the law of liberty.  13 For judgment is without mercy to him who has not shown mercy; but mercy triumphs over judgment.

Practical Faith  14 What will it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but does not have works?  Can the faith save him?  15 And if a brother or a sister be naked and in want of daily food, 16 and one of you say to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," yet you do not give them what is necessary for the body, what does it profit?  17 So faith too, unless it has works, is dead in itself.  18 But someone will say, "Thou hast faith, and I have works."  Show me thy faith without works, and I from my works will show thee my faith.  19 Thou believest that there is one God.  Thou dost well.  The devils also believe, and tremble.

20 But dost thou want to know, O senseless man, that faith without works is useless?  21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar?  22 Dost thou see that faith worked along with his works, and by the works the faith was made perfect?  23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as justice, and he was called the friend of God."  24 You see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.  25 In like manner, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out another way?  26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith also without works is dead.