Here's what James has covered so far. He has addressed the trials that come into the lives of believers and how to respond biblically to trials. And he says we should welcome trials into our lives ... Why? Because they produce maturity. He said it is God's will for all of us to grow and mature as children of God. It is when we respond biblically to trials that growth takes place. He points out that trials, tests come to all believers, regardless of status. The poor, those who have lost everything and are having to start over, are experiencing a difficult test. The rich who are experiencing a false sense of security are experiencing a difficulty in trusting God. That too is a test. James explains that in Christ we are all rich with the riches of God and we are all poor and dependent on God, in that our earthly possessions will evaporate in a minute. James has pointed out that in the midst of difficult trials, often a variety of options come to light. He explains to us that when we find ourselves with a variety of options, ask God for wisdom to make the right choice. Wisdom is God's free gift to anyone in such a predicament. And we are to remember that, although God may have brought the trial or test into our lives, to give us an opportunity to grow, God did not put the sinful options before you as a secondary test. God never tempts people to sin. In the midst of troubles that come our way, James implies that some people don't want to listen, complain with a huge barrage of words, and get very angry. What does he say we must learn to practice? ... be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to get angry. Because some were doing quite the opposite, it was resulting in lives that James calls ... morally filthy. And so he recommends a steady diet of God's word, an internalizing of it and it's biblical principles, in order to cleanse the filth. In the last session James gave us a list of resources, in addition to the word of God, that serves to help 'de-contaminate' us. By using these resources it means we won't be all talk ... but we can actually 'Walk the Talk'. In this session James gets specific on how the teachings of Jesus span the gap between the rich and the poor in the church, between the mature and the beginners, the spiritual and carnal, and any other class distinctions that appear in our churches. He begins, James 2:1 DON’T ever attempt, my brothers, to combine snobbery with faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ! The word snobbery instantly stands out. The KJVersion uses the words 'respect of persons' 1 ¶ My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. and the NKJVersion uses the word 'partiality'. I think 'snobbery' says it very well. The second part of this verse talks about faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And James tells us that the two don't mix. Jesus says of Himself, … Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. Mt 11:29 There can be no snobbery in that. I equate the phrase 'faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ' with the word 'Christianity', but I want to zero in on the word faith. Hebrews tells us … Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Heb 11:1 Until we actually get to heaven, our getting there is based on faith. We believe. We have never visited there and come back. Well, some have claimed to have been there, but in reality we do not know whether they were there only in the sense of having had 'a vision'. The scriptures say this … And it shall be in the last days, saith God, I will pour forth of my Spirit upon all flesh: And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams: Acts 2:17 But nowhere does it say in scripture that people would actually visit heaven and come back. Even Paul recounts his divine encounter as his 'not knowing if he were there in body or in spirit'. So faith is believing, not experiencing. Paul explains it this way. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? Romans 8:24 It can be helpful at this point to make mention of the many times that the words (or phrase) ‘the faith’ shows up in scripture. 42 times. 'The faith' has a different connotation than the word faith by itself. You will notice in verse one that it simply says, 'with faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. The more literal versions do not use the word 'in'. They actually speak of not 'holding' the faith' with partiality. Having faith and Holding the Faith are two different things. I will include a few verses here to illustrate something. Acts 6:7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith. Romans 14:1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. 1Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 1Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 2Ti 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
'The Faith' of the Lord Jesus (or Faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ, as Philip's translation has rendered it) refers to the complete set of beliefs that Christianity holds and teaches. James says “Do not hold the faith …. with partiality” Let’s look at the first part of his statement. James is recognizing that “The Faith” is a set of beliefs … that is HELD. Jude says this about “The Faith”. Dear friends, -----, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. Jude 1:3 To ‘contend’ almost means ‘to fight’ … for the faith. The faith is precious and it needs to be fought for in order that it does not get corrupted, watered down, or changed to suit ourselves. James says that ‘We hold’ the faith. It is something we now possess. It is a part of us, and as a church, that we are responsible for 'keeping it'. Secondly James says that it is possible some of us are holding the faith ‘with partiality’ or favoritism, and he illustrates it by describing a sample church meeting - vs 2-7. 2 Suppose one man comes into your meeting well-dressed and with a gold ring on his finger, and another man, obviously poor, arrives in shabby clothes. 3 If you pay special attention to the well-dressed man by saying, "Please sit here — it’s an excellent seat," and say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or if you must sit, sit on the floor by my feet," 4 doesn’t that prove that you are making class-distinctions in your mind, and setting yourselves up to assess a man’s quality from wrong motives? 5 For do notice, my dear brothers, that God chose poor men, whose only wealth was their faith, and made them heirs to the kingdom promised to those who love him. 6 And if you behave as I have suggested, it is the poor man that you are insulting. Look around you. Isn’t it the rich who are always trying to rule your lives, isn’t it the rich who drag you into litigation? 7 Isn’t it usually the rich who blaspheme the glorious name by which you are known? Present day seating arrangements in church buildings are different enough that we may have a little trouble picking up on this illustration. Maybe this will help: In James’ time, none of the churches had buildings. They all met in house churches. The average house is not set up with rows of benches or pews. Even the number and type of chairs and other seats are quite varied. We might have six dining room chairs, a couple of sofas, and easy chair or two and an ottoman. In such a house church arrangement … where would you sit? First-come-first-served? Just pick your own spot? Perhaps the host would direct people to a seat? At any rate, favoritism is the issue. In the scenario given by James this shows up between the rich and the poor and although we don’t have priority seating arrangements in our church meetings (no First Class as in some airlines) we can notice in our after church ‘linger-longer’ sessions that it is possible to gravitate to our small groups with whom we are most familiar. I suppose that is quite normal in and of itself, but it if we are not careful we may find that those of ‘lower degree’ (James 1:9 KJV) find themselves thinking they are being shunned. Favoritism can take place for a number of other reasons. In an historically ethnic group (i.e. Mennonites, Amish, Hutterites, Jews etc.) a person, an outsider, would always feel second or third class if you were not of their race. In our churches it would show up more if we had reasonably larger circles of various races, say, Hispanic, British, Dutch, German or whatever. Several times I have heard individuals say, ‘If your not Dutch your not much’. (I can say that because I am Dutch) James is talking about inclusion and respect. Do we have a problem including and respecting certain ‘sorts’ of people? If that's the case, we may have a problem with God. The question really is, has God accepted them? I like how Paul put this in Romans 14:4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. It’s time to read verses 8 – 13. 8 ¶ If you obey the royal Law, expressed by the scripture, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," all is well.9 But once you allow any invidious distinctions (shows of partiality) to creep in, you are sinning, you stand condemned by that Law.10 Remember that a man who keeps the whole Law but for a single exception is none the less a law-breaker.11 The one who said, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" also said, "Thou shalt do no murder". If you were to keep clear of adultery but were to murder a man you would have become a breaker of the whole Law.12 Anyway, you should speak and act as men who will be judged by the law of freedom.13 The man who makes no allowances for others will find none made for him. Mercy may laugh in the face of judgment.(or Mercy triumphs over judgment) ESV. Judgment is mentioned in verses 12 and 13. It is certainly not a popular subject to talk about the judgment of believers. Consider what Paul says in II Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Heb 9:27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, For some, they see judgment as more of an awards banquet. That is, a time to receive rewards or suffer the lack of rewards that could have been received, had we paid a little closer attention to hearing and obeying God's voice. However, I don't think that James is even thinking about the future judgment. He is more concerned about the judging that can take place between believers. James began this section talking about the Royal law, which is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Neighbor, in this case, is talking about a fellow christian in the church. James has told us of two categories of people … those in the church who he called 'rich' and those in the church who were very poor. Every church congregation has people who fall into a different category than the next person. James is saying that judging and infighting (perhaps based on status) seems to have been going on and it must stop. James concludes this part by saying ‘Mercy triumphs over judgment’. What is his point? Is he trying to get us to be more merciful toward those we consider of ‘lower degree’? Possibly he is. Rather than discriminate, which is a form of judging, instead show mercy. Or is he saying … if you, a believer, break God’s law (by showing favoritism) you are in trouble. However if you repent and show mercy … you have just called off the judgment of God on your life. This makes mercy quite a powerful thing … strong enough to stop the judgment of God! Wow! Mercy triumphs over judgment. A large part of 'keeping the Faith' is showing mercy rather than being judgmental. Keeping the faith includes holding to the right set of beliefs and standing up for them, but it also means living out what is right. And, yes, it includes showing mercy to those who differ on non-essential doctrines. All of this together is keeping the faith of the Lord Jesus.