|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
2:1-13 Those who profess faith in Christ as the Lord of glory, must not respect persons on account of mere outward circumstances and appearances, in a manner not agreeing with their profession of being disciples of the lowly Jesus. St. James does not here encourage rudeness or disorder: civil respect must be paid; but never such as to influence the proceedings of Christians in disposing of the offices of the church of Christ, or in passing the censures of the church, or in any matter of religion. Questioning ourselves is of great use in every part of the holy life. Let us be more frequent in this, and in every thing take occasion to discourse with our souls. As places of worship cannot be built or maintained without expense, it may be proper that those who contribute thereto should be accommodated accordingly; but were all persons more spiritually-minded, the poor would be treated with more attention that usually is the case in worshipping congregations. A lowly state is most favourable for inward peace and for growth in holiness. God would give to all believers riches and honours of this world, if these would do them good, seeing that he has chosen them to be rich in faith, and made them heirs of his kingdom, which he promised to bestow on all who love him. Consider how often riches lead to vice and mischief, and what great reproaches are thrown upon God and religion, by men of wealth, power, and worldly greatness; and it will make this sin appear very sinful and foolish. The Scripture gives as a law, to love our neighbour as ourselves. This law is a royal law, it comes from the King of kings; and if Christians act unjustly, they are convicted by the law as transgressors. To think that our good deeds will atone for our bad deeds, plainly puts us upon looking for another atonement. According to the covenant of works, one breach of any one command brings a man under condemnation, from which no obedience, past, present, or future, can deliver him. This shows us the happiness of those that are in Christ. We may serve him without slavish fear. God's restraints are not a bondage, but our own corruptions are so. The doom passed upon impenitent sinners at last, will be judgment without mercy. But God deems it his glory and joy, to pardon and bless those who might justly be condemned at his tribunal; and his grace teaches those who partake of his mercy, to copy it in their conduct.
Verses 2-4. - Proof that they were guilty of respect of persons. Observe the insight which this passage gives us into the cha-racier of the assemblies of the early Christians, showing
(1) that the entrance of a rich man was not entirely unknown, but
(2) that it was probably exceptional, because so much was made of him. Notice
(3) συναγωγή used here, and here only in the New Testament, of a Christian assembly for worship (cf. Ignatius, 'Ad Polye.,' c. 4, Πυκνότερον συναγωγαὶ γινέσθωσαν). (On the distinction between συναγωγὴ and ἔκκλησία, and the history of the terms and their use, see an interesting section in Trench's ' Synonyms,' p. 1.) Verse 2. - A man with a gold ring (ἀνὴρ χρυσοδακτύλιος). The word is found here only. The English Versions (both A.V. and R.V.) needlessly limit its meaning. The man was probably bedecked with a number of rings, and had not one only. In goodly apparel. The same phrase is rendering "gay clothing" in ver. 3. The variation is quite unnecessary, the Greek being identical in both places, and rightly rendered by R.V. "fine clothing." It is curious to find a similar needless variation in the Vulgate, which has in veste candida in ver. 2, and veste proeclara in ver. 3.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
For if there come unto your assembly,.... The place of religious worship where saints are assembled together for that purpose; though some think a civil court of judicature is intended, and to which the context seems to incline; see James 2:6
a man with a gold ring; on his finger, which shows him to be a man of dignity and wealth; so those of the senatorian and equestrian orders among the Romans were distinguished from the common people by wearing gold rings; though in time the use of them became promiscuous (q); the ancients used to wear but one (r), as here but one is mentioned; and only freemen, not servants, might wear it: however, by this circumstance, the apostle describes a rich man, adding,
in goodly apparel; gay clothing, bright shining garments, glistering with gold and silver, very rich and costly, as well as whole, neat, and clean:
and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; mean and despicable, filthy and ragged: in the courts of judicature with the Jews, two men, who were at law with one another, might not have different apparel on while they were in court, and their cause was trying: their law runs thus (s);
"two adversaries (at law with each other), if one of them is clothed "with precious garments", (Myrqy Mydgb, "goodly apparel",) and the other is clothed with , "vile raiment", (the judge) says to the honourable person, either clothe him as thou art, while thou contendest with him, or be clothed as he is, that ye may be alike, or on an equal foot.''
(q) Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 2. c. 29. (r) Isidor. Hispal. Originum, l. 19. c. 32. p. 171. (s) Maimon. Hilchot Sanhedrin, c. 21. sect. 2.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2, 3. "If there chance to have come" [Alford].
assembly—literally, "synagogue"; this, the latest honorable use, and the only Christian use of the term in the New Testament, occurs in James's Epistle, the apostle who maintained to the latest possible moment the bonds between the Jewish synagogue and the Christian Church. Soon the continued resistance of the truth by the Jews led Christians to leave the term to them exclusively (Re 3:9). The "synagogue" implies a mere assembly or congregation not necessarily united by any common tie. "Church," a people bound together by mutual ties and laws, though often it may happen that the members are not assembled [Trench and Vitringa]. Partly from James' Hebrew tendencies, partly from the Jewish Christian churches retaining most of the Jewish forms, this term "synagogue" is used here instead of the Christian term "Church" (ecclesia, derived from a root, "called out," implying the union of its members in spiritual bonds, independent of space, and called out into separation from the world); an undesigned coincidence and mark of truth. The people in the Jewish synagogue sat according to their rank, those of the same trade together. The introduction of this custom into Jewish Christian places of worship is here reprobated by James. Christian churches were built like the synagogues, the holy table in the east end of the former, as the ark was in the latter; the desk and pulpit were the chief articles of furniture in both alike. This shows the error of comparing the Church to the temple, and the ministry to the priesthood; the temple is represented by the whole body of worshippers; the church building was formed on the model of the synagogue. See Vitringa [Synagogue and Temple].
goodly apparel … gay clothing—As the Greek, is the same in both, translate both alike, "gay," or "splendid clothing."
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