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James Chapter Two


I. Content of the Chapter


One of the Trials of Christians’ Faith: the Necessity of Having Works of Love

A.  Love does not show respect of persons (v.1-7);

1. Respect of persons is not work of faith (v.1);

2. Favouritism because of economic conditions is partiality (v.2-4);

3. Favouritism because of economic conditions goes against the principles of faith and love (v.5-7);

B.  Respect of persons is unlawful (v.8-13);

1. Respect of persons goes against the royal law of “loving one’s neighbor as oneself” (v.8-9).

2. If one stumbles in one point, he is guilty of all (v.10-11).

3. Respect of persons is unmerciful, and shall be judged without mercy (v.12-13).

C.  If one lacks love to his brethren, his faith is dead (v.14-20);

1. Faith without works cannot save men (v.14).

2. Faith without works cannot help men (v.15-16).

3. Faith without works is dead (v.17-20).

D.  True faith works together with works (v.21-26);

1. The faith of Abraham is made perfect by the works of offering Isaac (v.21-24).

2. Rahab was justified by receiving the messengers (v.25).

3. Faith and works are just like body and spirit (v.26).


II. Verse by Verse Commentary


James. 2:1 “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.”

YLT: “My brethren, hold not, in respect of persons, the faith of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,”

Meaning of Words: hold the faith”: believe in, have faith in; glory”: honor, dignity;partiality”: respect of persons, favoritism;

Literal Meaning: “my brethren, hold the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory”, “my brethren” refer to brothers and sisters in the Lord; “hold the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ”, it shows that the receiver of this book is Christians, not Jews; “Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory”, it suggests: 1) only the Lord Himself is glorious, and no one is worthy of such glory except for Him; 2) since the Lord we hold the faith of is glory, no matter rich or poor we are, we have the same honorable identity with the Lord.

  “Not…with partiality”, “not”, it shows that the partiality is not allowed, for it goes against our faith. “With partiality”: respect of persons, which means treating men differently according to their countenance and apparel.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     What Christians have faith in is the Lord of glory, not a system of theological doctrines.

2)     Believers of the Lord shall have brand new views and attitudes toward men instead of following the old views or doings.

3)     True faith will produce the corresponding works in our daily life and ways of getting along with people.

4)     In the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, there is no distinction of class, background, education or education. The Scriptures teach us not only liberty and peace and equity and cooperation but also respect for human rights (see Gal. 3:28-29; Rom. 1:14).

5)     Estrangement should not be caused because of the difference of social status. In the church, if we discern our spiritual condition and position according to appearance, we have gone against our faith. Every one shall pay attention to this point.

6)     The Bible expositor said, “Partiality goes against the nature of faith. In other words, it runs counter to the truth we believe”.


James. 2:2 “For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes,”

YLT: “for if there may come into your synagogue a man with gold ring, in gay raiment, and there may come in also a poor man in vile raiment,”

Meaning of Words: come”: enter into; “apparel”: clothing, dress; “assembly”: place for gathering; “filthy”: shabby, cheap, wicked, vile; 

The Background: “a man with gold rings”, at that time, wearing a gold ring was a kind of fashion to show off wealth. Many people wore a ring on each finger and even more than one ring on one finger to flaunt his riches. The godfather had exhorted Christians to not follow such shabby custom. If one really desired to wear a ring, he could only wear on “the little finger”.

Literal Meaning: “for if there should…a man with gold rings, in fine apparel”, “if”, it is a suppositive example to explain the respect of persons (see v.1); “with gold rings”, in the ancient times, man’s social status was often measured by the ring he wore. “Fine apparel”: the wealthy and sparking clothing. In a word, “with gold rings, in fine apparel” shows that such man was out of a rich family.

  “Come into your assembly”, “your”: that of the Jewish believers; “your assembly”: the early church often borrowed the synagogues of the Jews for gatherings (see Acts 18:26; 19:8).

  “And there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes”, “filthy clothes”, the old robes that were seldom changed; those who wore such shabby clothes were regarded as men out of poor families.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Faith does not respect persons. The door of the church opens for all. Anyone one can come in without distinction (Luke 14:23).

2)    The apparent apparel cannot represent one’s inner character. Man looks on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looks on the heart (1Sam. 16:7).

3)    We have freedom to choose our apparel in the church, but it should be neat and decent rather than “excessively” splendid or filthy to avoid unnecessary watching of others.


James. 2:3 “and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool,"”

YLT: “and ye may look upon him bearing the gay raiment, and may say to him, `Thou -- sit thou here well,' and to the poor man may say, `Thou -- stand thou there, or, Sit thou here under my footstool,' --”

Meaning of Words: pay attention to”: gaze at, look upon, regard; “fine”: bright, clear, goodly;

Literal Meaning: and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “pay attention to”, according to the original, it is a kind of special sight or “looking upon”; “the one wearing the find clothes”, it not only refers to the social status but is also in allusion to the spiritual status in the church: a) the acknowledged status in the church; b) the theological or biblical knowledge; c) the accomplishment and effect of service; d) gifts and performances etc.

You sit here in a good place, “good place”: the place nearest to the place where sacrifices were offered in the synagogue, which was regarded as “the best place” equal to the special box today.

“And say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool"”, “there” relates to the place far from the place where sacrifices were offered; “footstool”: a kind of low stone stool; “my footstool”, it suggested that this man had not only a seat but also a footstool, which showed that he was at least at the middle and upper class. “Sit here at my footstool”: sit on the ground; when he treated a poor man, he asked him to stand afar or sit on the floor instead of even the stool.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Those who are in charge of reception in the church have to regard the brethren who come to the church as equals.

2)    There should be of no distinction between good and bad seats in an ideal place for gathering. All the seats should be the same without any “good seat” for some special saint or guest of honor.

3)    Among the common believers, there should be of no concept of distinction between “this” and “that” or “upper” or “lower”. It is proper to sit according to the order of arrival and start from the forefront and innermost seat.


James. 2:4 “have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?”

YLT: “ye did not judge fully in yourselves, and did become ill-reasoning judges.”

Meaning of Words: partiality”: favoritism; “evil thoughts”: wicked thoughts, grievous thoughts; “judge”: the one that makes judgment;

Literal Meaning: have you not shown partiality among yourselves, “partiality”: treat believers in various classes with distinction;

“And become judges with evil thoughts?” It is out of evil thoughts of dividing believers into different classes. The reasons for the “evil” are as follows: a) discrimination against the poor, which is totally opposite to the will of God (see v.5); b) flattering the rich, which is inconsistent with the reward that the rich are worthy of (see v.6-7); c) “love your neighbor as yourself” (see v.8).

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Men before God have the only difference between “believe” and “not believe”. All believers are equal, and we shall never treat one another with partiality.

2)    The thought is “evil” if it goes against the will of God. Let the mind of Christ Jesus be in us when we treat others (Phil.2:5).


James. 2:5 “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?”

YLT: “Hearken, my brethren beloved, did not God choose the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the reign that He promised to those loving Him?”

Meaning of Words: choose”: select; faith”: belief; heir”: inheritor, successor; 

Literal Meaning:listen, my beloved brethren”, “listen”, it indicates that the following words are rather important and we have to pay attention to it.

Has God not chosen the poor of this world”, “the poor of the world”, though they have not got the pleasures of the world, God pleases to let them have opportunities of compensation in other aspects.

“To be rich in faith”, “be rich in faith”: the possessor of rich faith ---- this is God’s present compensation to the poor in this world. Though the poor lack physical enjoyment, they are able to obtain spiritual enjoyment by faith.

“And heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” “The kingdom which He promised to….”, it is the coming compensation of God to the poor; “heirs of the kingdom”: the reward of glory in the kingdom of God in coming world (see 1Thess. 2:12); “to those who love Him”: loving God is the condition of being rewarded by God.

Note that this verse does not mean that all the poor will automatically obtain the rich spiritual enjoyment in this world and the enjoyment of God’s kingdom in the coming world. The former enjoyment is obtained on the premise of “faith”, and the latter enjoyment is received on the premise of “love”. This verse shows that God especially deals abundantly with the poor to make them rely on God and love God more easily so as to let them enter into that higher realm. It is like the old Chinese saying, “what you lose on the swings you get back on the roundabouts”.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    If we have respect of persons, we just despise what God looks upon and fail to honor the will of God on men.

2)    All those who are rich in faith must love both God and men, for faith works through love (Gal. 5:6).

3)    Faith enables us to lead a life abundant in spirit. And love enables us to inherit the coming kingdom of God. 


James. 2:6 “But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?”

YLT: “and ye did dishonour the poor one; do not the rich oppress you and themselves draw you to judgment-seats;”

Meaning of Words: dishonored”: despised, dishonored; “oppress”: exercise dominion against; “court”: tribunal, judgment seat;

Literal Meaning: “but you have dishonored the poor man”, “but”, it shows that your works are unworthy of God’s election (see v.5);

Do not the rich oppress you”, “oppress you”: take advantage of one’s power to bully people and treat them unfairly;

“And drag you into the courts?” It refers to the accusation in the court. Such lawsuit is supposed to not be done by Christians (see 1Cor. 6:1-8). However, in fact, if a Christians looks on the external more than the internal, and material more than spirit, and letter more than reality, he will accuse brothers in public with an excuse.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    God is a God who looks after and protects and provides the poor (Job 5:15-16; 69:33; 72:12-13; Ps. 113:7). Let the mind of God our Father in us so as to enable us to take care of the poor, especially, the poor believers in the Lord.

2)    He who thinks he is spiritual rich tends to despise other believers unconsciously and even deprives them of honor and right and enjoyment. This is a kind of humiliation and oppression.

3)    Anyway, Christians should not accuse other believers. Do not avenge yourselves but give place to wrath (Rom. 12:18).


James. 2:7 “Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?”

YLT: “do they not themselves speak evil of the good name that was called upon you?”

Meaning of Words: blaspheme”: malign, revile; “noble”: goodly, well;

Literal Meaning: “they”: the rich (see v.6); there are two meanings of “blaspheme”: a) blaspheme with words; 2) insult with works; here, if it speaks of the rich Christians who do not look on the poor (see v.15-16; 1:27), they have humiliated the name of the Lord.

  Note that many Bible expositors think here the rich in verses six and seven refer to “the false brothers who came in surreptitiously” (Gal. 2:4), and only they were possible to have such “non-Christian” works. However, in the present Christianity, many “real Christians” have unconsciously made such mistakes so that the name of “Christ” is criticized.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Believers who do not keep the teachings of the Lord and disobey His will deliberately have fallen short of the glory of God and humiliated the name of the Lord. Therefore, we have to be careful in dealing with things concerning other people and not do according to our own pleasures.

2)     Every time when we Christians mention the name of the Lord, we shall be sincere and fearful rather than calling Him lightly or rashly. Otherwise, we should apparently uphold the name of the Lord and yet humiliate His name in fact.


James. 2:8 “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well;”

YLT: “If, indeed, royal law ye complete, according to the Writing, `Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,' -- ye do well;”

Meaning of Words: neighbor”: fellow; fulfill”: be full, perfect, accomplish; royal”: king’s, noble, preeminent;

Literal Meaning: “according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself", “according to the Scripture”, it is quoted from the Book of Leviticus (19:18). “Neighbor” refers to fellow, namely, the people of God or believers, especially the brethren with whom we are often in contact.

  “If you really fulfill the royal lawyou do well”, “if you really keep”: “truly keep”; “the royal law”, according to the context, it apparently refers to the commandment of “loving your neighbor as yourself”, which includes all the laws (Gal. 5:14; Rom. 13:8-10).

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    To Christians, the commandment of “loving your neighbor as yourself” is “loving one another” (John 13:34-35), because brothers and sisters are our real “neighbors”.

2)    “Love your neighbor as yourself”, it is the noblest law, for it is the noblest expression out of the noblest bosom. And it is respectable in the eyes of both God and men.

3)    Everything that we have done for the sake of loving God and men are the noblest thing and the best work.


James. 2:9 “but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”

YLT: “and if ye accept persons, sin ye do work, being convicted by the law as transgressors;”

Meaning of Words: partiality”: respect of persons, favoritism; sin”: miss the mark; transgressors”: violator, breaker;

Literal Meaning: “but if you show partiality”, “but” denies the above-mentioned “do well” (see v.8). “if you show partiality”, it is the reason why it is “not done well”. Favoritism fails to “keep the royal law”, so it is not done well.

“You commit sin, and are convinced by the law as transgressors”, “sin”: depart from the will of God; “transgressors”: who overstep the realm of God and thus be judged by God as transgressors.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     If we do not love a man because he is a “man”, but are affected by his riches (see v.2-4) and appearance, we have committed sin and transgressed the law.

2)     Any reason ---- physical relations, apparel, nations, races, languages, regions or social statuses etc. ---- in the church can not make us show partiality to one side and despise the other, because such actions are “sins” and “transgressions”.


James. 2:10 “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”

YLT: “for whoever the whole law shall keep, and shall stumble in one , he hath become guilty of all;”

Meaning of Words: keep”: hold fast, preserve, watch; whole”: all, altogether; stumble”: offend, fall, trip; guilty”: in danger of, subject to, liable to; 

Literal Meaning: “for whoever shall keep the whole law, “for”, it indicates that the following words are the reasons why “men are convicted by the law as transgressors” (see v.9).

“And yet stumble in one point, “one point”, here it especially refers to the royal law of “loving one’s neighbor as himself” (see v.8); “stumble”: offense against the laws; if we show partiality (see v.9), we have transgressed the law of “loving one’s neighbor as himself”.

“He is guilty of all”, here it emphasizes the “integrity” of law. Once one has offended a topical point, he has transgressed the whole law. The law is like an interlocked iron chain. If any ring therein is destroyed, the whole chain is destroyed. Another example is that if any member of a man is destroyed, the whole body of him is destroyed.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     In fact, the laws of the Old Scriptures cannot be all “kept”. Therefore, anyone who claims that believers in the New Testament should also keep the laws in the Old Scriptures (e.g. “the Sabbath”) are throwing themselves into snares and are debtors to do the whole law (Gal. 6:15).

2)     Believers in the New Testament fulfill the requirements of the law in Christ. When the life of Christ is manifested through us, the law of Christ is fulfilled (Gal. 6:2). Therefore, neither is keeping the external law anything, nor not keeping it, but new creation (Gal. 6:15).

3)     Some preachers who think they are superior to others divide the biblical teachings into two sorts: “superior teachings” and “inferior teachings”. However, they have unconsciously encouraged their followers to pay attention to the so-called “superior” teachings and yet despise the “inferior teachings” without knowing that they have been against God.


James. 2:11 “For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.”

YLT: “for He who is saying, `Thou mayest not commit adultery,' said also, `Thou mayest do no murder;' and if thou shalt not commit adultery, and shalt commit murder, thou hast become a transgressor of law;”

Meaning of Words: adultery”: unlawful sexual activity; 

Literal Meaning: “for He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder."” “He who said … also said” refers to God. Here it means that God gives the law and the whole law belongs to Him. Anyone who goes against the law of God goes against God. And man who offends any law of God has offended God ---- who is the creator of the law.

  Do not commit adultery”, this is the seventh commandment among the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament (Ex. 20:14; Deut. 5:18). “Adultery”: sexual activity outside of marriage; “Do not murder”: it is the sixth commandment (Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17).

Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law”, both the commandments of “adultery” and “murder” are mentioned together. If either is offended, the whole law is offended.

Some Bible expositors believe it is of deep meaning that James here especially mentions “murdering”, for the Lord Jesus had said “every one that is lightly angry with his brother shall  be subject to the judgment” (see Matt. 5:21-22). Though there is no the fact of murdering, there is the reality of hatred. Likewise, if we are partial to brothers, we have also offended the command of “not murdering”.


James. 2:12 “So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.”

YLT: “so speak ye and so do, as about by a law of liberty to be judged,”

Meaning of Words: liberty”: freedom; 

Literal Meaning: as those who will be judged by the law of liberty”, “the law of liberty”, the main purpose of the law is leading men to Christ (Gal. 3:24). However, Christ has set men free in liberty (Gal. 5:1). Therefore, the purpose of the law was not bondage, but freedom (see 1:25), so it is called “the law of liberty”. “Be judged”: the judgment of us before judgment-seat of Christ (2Cor. 5:10).

  “So speak and so do”, it indicates that Christians shall speak and walk according to “the law of Christ” (1Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2).

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Believers in the New Testament enjoy the liberty in Christ (see Luke 4:18; John 8:32, 36; Rom. 8:21; 2Cor. 3:17). However, the liberty is not for an occasion to the flesh (Gal. 5:13), but for the free manifestation of Christ’s life in our daily life through the Spirit (Rom. 8:2-4; Gal. 5:22-23).

2)     Christians shall also be manifested before the judgment-seat of the Christ according to what we have done (2Cor. 5:10; 1Pet. 4:17). Therefore, let us beware of our words and works today.

3)     He who honors the rich and yet despises the poor speaks and acts according to the judgment of the law in their heart. However, in what way we judge others now, in the same way will we be judged in the future.

4)     All Christians shall yield fruit of love in thoughts and words and life and walking, for we are in Christ and have received the fruit borne by his law of liberty.


James. 2:13 “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

YLT: “for the judgment without kindness to him not having done kindness, and exult doth kindness over judgment.”

Meaning of Words: mercy”: be merciful; “triumph”: boast against, rejoice against, exalt against; 

Literal Meaning: “for judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy”, it is the precondition for us to obtain the mercy of God is to show mercy to others (see Matt. 5:7; 6:14-15; 7:1-2; Mark 11:25; Luke 6:37-38). To those who are unwilling to show mercy to others, God will not be merciful to them (see Matt. 18:32-34).

  Mercy triumphs over judgment”, “mercy”, it is a state of mind of showing sympathy for those who are unworthy. “Triumph over judgment”, a kind of bold confidence and attitude in the face of judgment;

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Since we have obtained mercy from God, we have to reveal such mercy to those who are around us so that the mercy of God is manifested.

2)    If we desire our gracious Lord to forgive all our transgressions and faults in the past in mercy, we have to treat our brothers and sisters with mercy.


James. 2:14 “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?”

YLT: “What the profit, my brethren, if faith, any one may speak of having, and works he may not have? is that faith able to save him?”

Meaning of Words: profit”: good, gain; 

Literal Meaning: “my brethren, if someone says he has faith”, “someone”: those who think they are believers of Christ; “if someone says”: it imitates the dispute of the opponents; “he has faith”, who thinks he believes the only true God (see v.19);

  “What does it profit?...But does not have works? Can faith save him?” “Works” here refer to the works worthy of faith; “what does it profit? Can faith save him?” ---- In the original, it is obviously not asking a question, but suggesting that “there is definitely no profit” and “such faith can save him in no wise”.

  “Can faith save him?” There are at least two meanings of the word “save” here: a) judgment without mercy (see v.13); 2) justification by God and salvation of soul (see v.21-26). Both of them need the faith with works.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     If our faith is without works, it is unprofitable to us and others. True faith will be manifested in works. And faith without works is merely nominal faith.

2)     It is indeed recorded in the Scripture that “for with heart is believed to righteousness, and with mouth confession made to salvation” (Rom. 10:10). However, the real faith that justifies and saves us will yield the works of faith and obedience.

3)     There are three kinds of faith that cannot save us: a) the faith of the demons (see v.19); b) the faith that has not root in man’s heart (Matt. 13:20-21); c) the faith of adoring miracles (John 2:23-25).


James. 2:15 “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,”

YLT: “and if a brother or sister may be naked, and may be destitute of the daily food,”

Meaning of Words: naked”: nude; “destitute”: lacking; “daily”: diurnal, for a day;

Literal Meaning: “if a brother or sister is naked”, “brother or sister” refers to believers in the Lord around us, namely, the “neighbor” whom we shall love; “naked”, it is not in the nude physically, but describes the one who is too impoverished to have enough clothes to defend against the cold.

  “And destitute of daily food”: live beyond one’s income and even have problem in the three meals;

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     True faith will produce love (Gal. 5:6). True love will love brothers and sisters begotten by God (1John 5:1).

2)     Whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? (1John 3:17)?

3)     Apparently, some Christians have great love and generously support the distant poor men whom they do not know, but they are indifferent to brothers and sisters who are destitute. Such love runs counter to the order in the Scriptures that from near to afar.


James. 2:16 “and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?”

YLT: “and any one of you may say to them, `Depart ye in peace, be warmed, and be filled,' and may not give to them the things needful for the body, what the profit?”

Meaning of Words: depart”: leave, go away;

Literal Meaning: “and one of you says to them”, “of you”: of the church;

  “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled”, “depart in peace”: it is an idiom used among the Jews in farewell. And it is profitable in a true heart (see Mark 5:34; Luke 7:50). “Be warmed and filled”, it is a word of blessing, which suggests that the speaker does not intend to help and yet shuffles off responsibility onto others and thus the needy one has to still seek provision by himself. In a word, this verse means that such “solicitude” is merely a vain word by mouth.

  “But you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it priofit”? ---- It indicates that such gracious words without practice profit nothing for the needy one and also displease the Lord.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Real solicitude shall be proved by practical activities. If we really care for others, we will try to stretch out our hands to help them resolve the difficulty.

2)     The words of Christians ---- oral confessions, prayers and testimonies and mutual exhortations ---- are indeed important. However, if the actions are not in keeping with our words, it will be under the judgment of the Lord (Matt. 23:3).


James. 2:17 “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

YLT: “so also the faith, if it may not have works, is dead by itself.”

Literal Meaning: “thus”, it is after the example of verse 15 and 16. If there are only oral words without any actions of help, it profits nothing. Likewise, faith without any works is also vain.

  “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead”, “have”, it is a powerful word in the original which means “holding the right of possession”. Works belong to faith and are possessed by faith. It is in no wise a dispensable adjunct.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Faith is living and will be manifested in works. Otherwise, it is dead faith, not real.

2)     Dead faith is no vain faith. No one can be saved (see v.14) by faith mere in word and tongue without deed and truth (see v.15-16; 1John 3:18).

3)     Faith and works are the both sides of one coin ---- works are the proof of faith as well as the fruit of faith. 


James. 2:18 “But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

YLT: “But say may some one, Thou hast faith, and I have works, shew me thy faith out of thy works, and I will shew thee out of my works my faith:”

Meaning of Words: show”: prove, point out; 

Literal Meaning: “someone will say”, this was a term that the ancient Jews and Greeks often used in the simulated debate to raise a contrast view of a suppositional opponent.

  “You have faith, and I have works”, here faith is separated from works. “You” focuses on faith, and “I” focuses on works. It points that both of them have their merits and are not contradictory, so faith does not need works and works either. Such theory that faith can be separated from works seems to be in keeping with the apostle Paul’s teaching that “there are distinctions of gifts” (1Cor. 12:4, 9) ---- and to a different one faith, in the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healing in the same Spirit ---- actually, it misunderstands faith. True faith cannot leave works and works either.

  “Show me your faith without your works”, “your”: that of those who think faith does not need works; “faith without … works”: the faith that cannot be proved by works; “show me”, this is James’ challenge to those who maintain faith can be separated from works ---- since there are no works to show faith, such faith is vain.  

  “And I will show you my faith by my works”, “I” here refers to James who have the works of faith; “my works”: the works of faith; “show you”, the works of faith do manifest the faith.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Works and faith are the two sides of one coin that cannot be separated. The works of Christians must be done by faith. And true faith will also yield works.

2)     Someone pays attentions to the appearances and ceremonies and shows off his works before men. Therefore, it is sound faith, but false and unsound.


James. 2:19 “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble!”

YLT: “thou -- thou dost believe that God is one; thou dost well, and the demons believe, and they shudder!”

Meaning of Words: well”: god, honest; demon”: devil;tremble”: shudder, chill, bristle;

Literal Meaning: “you believe that there is one God. You do well”, “there is one God”, this is sound faith; “you do well”, it is right to believe in the only true God. Besides Christianity, Catholicism Judaism, Islam, there are some other unknown religions that believe that there is one true God. But such faith is imperfect, for man has to know and believe God’s salvation in His Son Jesus Christ.

Even the demons believe--and tremble!” “Demons”: the evil and unclean devils under the hand of Satan; “the demons believe”, it indicates that the demons also believe the only true God in the universe, but do not obey the authority of God (see Matt. 8:29; Mark 1:24; 5:7; Luke 8:28). “And tremble”, the fear of God, because the demons know the omnipotence of God and God will execute judgment upon them, but they are still disobedient to God.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Faith is not intellectual recognition, nor emotional identification, but spiritual conversion accompanied by works worthy of such faith, namely, the trust in and devote to and obedience to God.

2)     Our true faith is not only fear of God but also works of our obedience to God.


James. 2:20 “But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?”

YLT: “And dost thou wish to know, O vain man, that the faith apart from the works is dead?”

Meaning of Words: foolish”: vain, empty; “dead”: inoperative;

Literal Meaning: “o foolish man”, the fool who is arrogant and stubborn with merely a sketchy knowledge.

  “Do you want to know that faith without works is dead?” “Do you want to know”? “Faith without works is dead”, faith without works is inoperative.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     He who confesses he has faith but manifests no works of faith is a foolish Christian, just like a walking corpse without life.

2)     There is operative and inoperative faith. The former is accompanied by works, and yet the latter has no works.


James. 2:21 “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?”

YLT: “Abraham our father -- was not he declared righteous out of works, having brought up Isaac his son upon the altar?”

Meaning of Words: altar”: the place where the sacrifices are offered; “justified”: justification, count as sinless;  

Literal Meaning: “Abraham our Father …when he offered Isaac his son on the altar”, “Abraham our Father”: the father of the Jews; the Jews were proud to be the descendants of Abraham (Matt. 3:9; John 8:33); “Abraham offered Isaac his son on the altar”, such work was because of the faith that God would raise Isaac up again (see Heb. 11:19; Rom. 4:17).

“Justified by works”, Abraham was approved and justified by God because of his offering Isaac (Gen. 22:16); “justified”: be counted as sinless and righteous by God;

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Our faith toward God is not oral word only, but the reality of believing in Him to a degree of sacrificing at all costs in order to keep His word.

2)     Everything we have done to God by faith is recorded to His account. And God respects such men.


James. 2:22 “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?”

YLT: “dost thou see that the faith was working with his works, and out of the works the faith was perfected?”

Meaning of Words: working together”: cooperating, help with; “be made perfect”: complete, consummate, finish, accomplish; 

Literal Meaning: “see that faith was working together with his works”, “working together”: supplement each other; faith and works cannot exist independently, but shall cooperate with one another.

  “And by works faith was made perfect”, “made perfect”: faith shall be made perfect by its works and thus fulfill its purpose.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Faith without works is dead (see v.17, 20), and works without faith are also dead (see Heb. 6:1). Faith and works exist simultaneously.

2)     True faith will yield the fruit of good works, and good works should be out of true faith. Faith cannot be separated from works and even runs parallel to works.

3)     Faith is the motive power of works, and works are the product of faith. Faith accompanied by works is true and perfect faith.

4)     He who has faith must manifest the effect of his faith in his works. Faith lacking in works cannot be regarded as perfect faith.


James. 2:23 “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God.”

YLT: “and fulfilled was the Writing that is saying, `And Abraham did believe God, and it was reckoned to him -- to righteousness;' and, `Friend of God' he was called.”

Meaning of Words: fulfilled”: be filled, be complete; “was accounted”: be reckoned, take an inventory;

Literal Meaning: the Scripture was fulfilled which says”, the following words are quoted from the Book of Genesis (15:6).

  Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."” God records the faith of Abraham to His account and regards it as his righteousness. 

 And he was called the friend of God”, “friend”: friends are able to have deep communication with one another. God does not hide from Abraham what He is doing (Gen. 18:17-19), so Abraham is also called “the friend of God” (see 2Chr. 20:7; Is. 41:8).

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Faith toward God is respect for God. He who honors God will also be honored by God.

2)     The faith and obedience once make man justified by God. And the continual faith with works makes man become the friend of God.


James. 2:24 “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.”

YLT: “Ye see, then, that out of works is man declared righteous, and not out of faith only;”

Meaning of Words: see then”: see therefore, accordingly; “only”: merely;

Literal Meaning: “see then that”, enable you mind to gain new knowledge, indicating understanding;

  “A man is justified by works”, “works” done by faith;

  “And not by faith only”, here it shows that James does not oppose “justification by faith”. In his point of view, faith is still the main reason for justification and this justified faith shall then produce works.

Controversial Clarification:a man is justified by works”, it is not contradictory to Paul’s word ---- “man is justified by faith, not works” (Rom. 3:28; 4:2-4) ---- for the reasons as below:

1)     Paul emphasizes the positional justification that saves man, and James emphasizes the justification in experience that makes man overcome.

2)     Paul speaks of the faith when one is saved, and James speaks of the faith after one is saved.

3)     Paul deals with the works with no faith, and James deals with the faith without works.

4)     Though Paul emphasizes that we are saved by faith instead of works, he still confesses that the purpose of salvation is “doing good works which God has prepared that we should walk in them” (see Eph. 2:8-10). Therefore, he still believes that believers shall have good works after they are saved (see Phil. 2:13-14).

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Clear understanding of the truth in the Scriptures ---- justification and salvation ---- is on account of faith.

2)    “Not faith only”, our faith should be true, and then right works shall prove its power and effect.


James. 2:25 “Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?”

YLT: “and in like manner also Rahab the harlot -- was she not out of works declared righteous, having received the messengers, and by another way having sent forth?”

Meaning of Words: receive”: admit under one’s roof, entertain hospitably; 

Literal Meaning: “Rahab the harlot … received the messengers”, the harlot Rahab in Jericho hid the two spies (Jos. 2:1-4; Heb. 11:31).

  “And sent them out another way”, she let them down by a cord through the window and asked them to hide themselves three days (Jos. 2:15-16).

  “Was not … also justified by works?” She and her father’s household were saved (Jos. 6:25), which proved that her good works to the Israel spies were done by faith. That was why she was justified.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Abraham (see v.21-23) was a noble prince (see Gen. 17:5-6; 23:6), and Rahab was a low harlot. And both of them were justified by works. Therefore, no matter of noble birth or of humble birth, all men are equal to obtain faith, and God’s requirement for justification is fair.

2)     Abraham is a Jew (see v.21a), and Rahab was a gentile. Therefore, God does not respect persons, but sees that whether we have faith.


James. 2:26 “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

YLT: “for as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also the faith apart from the works is dead.”

Meaning of Words: spirit”: breath; 

Literal Meaning: “as the body without the spirit is dead”, once the spirit leaves one’s body, he has become a dead person, and the body has thus become corpse.

  “So faith without works is dead also”, faith without works is dead faith. Such faith is of no value before God.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Just like the body cannot be separated from the spirit. If they are forced to be separated, the body is a dead corpse. Likewise, faith and works are indivisible. Faith without works is dead faith.

2)    Spirit gives life to men (see Gen. 2:7). Works makes the living life in faith manifest.

3)    Christians who cannot manifest the works of faith have a name that they live, and are dead (see Rev. 3:1).


III. Outlines of the Spiritual Lessons


Three Criteria that Try Faith

A.  Do not judge with partiality (v.1-8);

B.  Keep the whole of the royal law (v.9-13);

C.  Make the faith manifest by works (v.14-26);


Do not Show Partiality.

A.  Partiality is not in keeping with the identity of believers (v.1);

B.  The example of partiality ---- respect the rich and despise the poor (v.2-3);

C.  Partiality is out of evil thoughts (v.4);

D.  Partiality does not conform to the will of God (v.5);

E.  Partiality is against normal politeness (v.6-7);

F.  Partiality is evil and unlawful (v.8-11);

G.  Partiality shall be under judgment without mercy (v.12-13);

H.  Partiality is done by faith (v.14-17);


Faults of Partiality

A.   Regard oneself as a judge (v.4);

B.   Manifest one’s inner partiality and evil thoughts (v.4);

C.   Partiality to the poor is not in keeping with the will of God’s election (v.5);

D.   This is an attitude to humiliate others (v.6a);

E.   Honoring the rich is a foolish action (v.6b-7);


The Nature of the Law

A.  The royal law (v.8);

B.  The perfect law (v.9-11);

C.  The law of liberty (v.12a);

D.  The law of judgment (v.12b-13);


True Faith

A.  True faith should profit men (v.14-16).

B.  True faith should be faith of life and peace (v.17-20).

C.  True faith should justify men (v.21-25).

D.  True faith should work together with works (v.22, 26).


Faith without Works

A.  It is the faith with “words” but no works (v.14).

B.  It is the faith that produces no works (v.17).

C.  It is the “dead” faith (v.17, 26).

D.  It is the faith that cannot be manifested (v.18).

E.  It is the inoperative faith (v.20).


Three Different Kinds of Faith

A.  Faith without works (v.14, 17) ---- dead faith;

B.  Works without faith (v.18a) ---- unbelief or false faith;

C.  Faith with works (v.22) ---- living faith or perfect faith;


What is the Profitable Faith?

A.  The faith that is able to provide men (v.14-16);

B.  The faith that is able to bear fruit (v.19-20);

C.  The faith that is able to justify men (v.22-25);


Dialectic of Faith

A.  One declaration: faith without works is dead (v.20);

B.  Two examples: Abraham and Rahab the harlot (v.21-25);

C.  One conclusion: living faith should be accompanied with works (v.26).


── Caleb HuangChristian Digest Bible Commentary Series

   Translated by Mary Zhou