James taught us some basic fundamentals in the first chapter of James. We must have faith that endures temptations for we will be challenged in this world. We can count on God to help us. We learned that it is vital to listen and do what the Bible says. Chapter 2 continues on by adding to these fundamentals. We will see how fitting this study is for today.
James doesn’t mince words in James 2:1, “How can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” It is not good to be prejudiced.
Prejudice is a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience. (New Oxford American Dictionary)
James continues on in verses 2-4 by giving an example of how we can do such a thing. Have you experienced it yourself or have you treated someone this way? What is in our hearts because of it? We are seeing this ugly sin in our society.
The reason why it’s not good to favor people is that Jesus doesn’t show favoritism; see Romans 2:11. We learn in verse 5 that God chooses the poor, those who have surrendered their lives to Him, and He makes them rich in faith. God says those who love Him will inherit the Kingdom. Unfortunately, we don’t treat one another the same way God treats us.
What does James tell us in verse 6 and 7 that reveals our blunders? It is good to love your neighbor, as seen in verse 8, but it’s a sin to favor some people over others. We are to love unconditionally like Christ loves us.
James goes on in verses 9-13 that we are guilty of breaking the law, whether just one or all of them. God tells us that “there will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But, if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when He judges you.”13 We are called to be image bearers to the One who set us free from the bondage of sin.
We are called to follow Jesus and live as He lived.
James moves on to teaching us how to have active faith. He questions us by asking, “What good is it if you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?”14 What example does he give in verses 15-16 that shows us what he is talking about? Do you see this happening?
Notice what James says in verse 17. “Faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” Look up Matthew 7:24-27 for added insight. Faith is active. When stagnant, it loses it’s purpose. What do we learn from verse 18 that will help us to not get stagnant in faith?
James 2:19 is an important verse to understand. Many people trust that all they have to do is believe in God to get to heaven. What does James tell us that proves this is wrong? Take the time and look up the following verses: Mark 1:23-25, 34, 3:11, 5:7-13, Acts 19:15, Luke 8:27-31, 4:41, 9:20-26, 10:17, Matthew 8:16. What this means is if all we have to do is believe in God to get to heaven, then Satan and his demons will be too. We know this isn’t accurate and James makes sure we understand this. A faux pas that many make is thinking as long as they follow John 3:16 only, they are saved.
We are given an amazing example of living out active faith, see verses 21-24. How did Abraham exemplify true faith? “His faith and actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete.”22 We are called to believe and trust in God. We are made to follow after His Son and live out the way the Holy Spirit wants us living.
James ends this passage by another great example, one that offers us hope that God can use us. Rahab the prostitute was shown to be right with God. What did she do in verse 25 for this to happen? She risked herself to keep the truth moving forward. She laid down her life to help out others.
Her actions revealed her faith.
“Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.”26 Active faith is a saving faith. It is also a powerful faith. It saves lives! We are called to live actively for the Lord.