Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
V. THIRD ADMONITION WITH REFERENCE TO THE THIRD FORM OF TEMPTATION. EBIONITE CONDUCT
CAUTION AGAINST JUDAISTIC PARTIALITY, AGAINST FAVOURING THE RICH (THE JUDAIZING CHRISTIAN) AND DEPRECIATING THE POOR (THE GENTILE CHRISTIAN) IN THEIR CHURCH-LIFE. CONSISTENT PROOF OF FAITH DEMANDED IN THE WORK OF CHRISTIAN BROTHERLY LOVE AND IN THE ACKNOWLEDGING OF UNITY OF FAITH IN THE FAITH-WORK OF ABRAHAB THE PATRIARCH AND IN THE FAITH-WORK OF RAHAB, THE GENTILE HARLOT. DEAD AND LIVING FAITH
1MY brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2For if there come unto your assembly1 a man with a gold ring,2 in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment: 3And ye have3 respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him,4 Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here5 under my footstool:6 4Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? 5Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world,7 rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom8 which he hath promised to them that love him? 6But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you9 before the judgment seats? 7Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? 8If ye fulfil the royal law according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 10For whosoever shall10 keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11For he that said, Do not commit adultery,11 said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13For he shall have judgment without mercy,12 that 14hath shewed no mercy; and13 mercy rejoiceth against judgment. What doth it profit,14 my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?15 15If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute16 of daily food, 16And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17Even so faith,17 if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without18 19thy19 works, and I will shew thee20 my faith by my21 works. Thou believest22 that 20there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?23 21Was not Abraham our 22father justified by works, when he offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with24 his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24Ye see then25 how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers,26 and had sent them out another way? 26For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without27 works is dead also.
 James 2:1. Lange: My brethren, do not practise the faith in our lord Jesus, the Christ of glory [the Messiah in His glory exalted above Judaistic expectations] with respectings of persons [personal considerations, partialities.]
[… hold not ye the faith … [the Lord] of glory in respecting of persons.—M ]
James 2:2. εἰς τὴν. A. G. K., Tischendorf; omit τὴν B. C. Sin. al. Lachmann [Alford—M.], an important variation, showing that the reference is not to particular synagogues.
 James 2:2. [2 χρυσοδακτύλιος=golden-ringed.—M.]
Lange: For if there had entered into your common assembly (συναγωγή)a man with a gold fingerring, in a clean splendid garment, but there had also entered a poor man in an unclean garment.
[For if there come into your place of assembly a man with golden rings, etc.—M.]
James 2:3. ἐπιβλέψητε δὲ. B. C. K. Tischendorf [Alford], is more expressive than καὶ ἐπιβλέψητε A. G. Lachmann.
James 2:3. The omission of αὐτῷ A. B. C. Sinait. keeps the expression more general and gives it more dogmatical colouring [than its insertion, Rec. K. L. Vulg. and al.—M.]
 James 2:3. ὧδε inserted in C.** G. K., is omitted by A. B. C.*—The addition of τῶν ποδῶν in A. Vulg. [Syr.—M]. Lachmann, seems to be exegetical and intensive, but may have been dropped owing to a moderation in expression.
Lange: And ye were looking upon [made a looking up, a demonstration of] him who wore the clean splendid garment and should say [to him] [thou], sit thou here on the best place, but should say to the poor, [thou] keep standing here [on the standing place], or sit [here] under [down at] my footstool.
 James 2:4. καὶ omitted before οὐ by A. B. C. Sinait, may have been objected to in the apodosis as a striking form, Lange: Did ye not then separate [divide] among ourselves, and become judges according to evil considerations?
[Did ye not distinguish (invidiously) among ourselves etc.—M.]
James 2:5. Rec. reads τοῦ κόσμὀυ τούτου; [A.** C.** K. L. τοῦ κόσμου—M.]; τῷ κόσμῳ A.* B. C.* Sin. etc. The variations seem to be exegetical illustrations.
 James 2:5. For βασιλείας [A. and] Sin.; read ἐπαγγελίας.
Lange: … hath not God also chosen the poor [according to the world), who are rich in faith, heirs, of the [glorified Messiah—] kingdom …
 James 2:6. [For ὑ μῶν A. Sinait, read ὑμᾶς.—M.]
Lange: … [But] is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not just they, who drag you to the courts of judgment?
[Is it not they that drag you into courts of justice?—M.]
James 2:7. Lange: Is it not just they who blaspheme that fair [glorius] name, which hath been made to you a surname?
[ … that glorious name, which was invoked over you?—M.]
James 2:8. Lange: If indeed ye fulfil [complete under the New Testament] the royal law [the law of the kingdom] according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye act beautifully [conformable to the beautiful name of Christ as Christians].
[If, however, ye fulfil etc.—M.]
James 2:9. Lange: But if ye practise respect of persons, ye practise sin, convicted by the [very] law as transgressors.
[But if ye respect persons, ye work sin, being convicted by the law as transgressors.—M.]
 James 2:10. τηρήση and πταίσῃ, the most authentic readings. So [A. B. C. Sinait.—M.] Lachmann, Tischendorf.
Lange: For whosoever should observe … in one thing [commandment] the same hath become guilty of all.
[For whosoever shall have kept etc.—M.]
 James 2:11. A. B. C. Sin. have the Present μοιχεύεις, φονεύεις.
James 2:12. [… as those about to be judged by the law of liberty.—M.]
James 2:13. ἀνέλεος not ἀνίλεως, is the true reading. So A. B. C. [K. Alford—M.] Lach., Tisch. On the form, itself and variations of spelling it see Huther.
 James 2:13. καὶ before κατακαυχ, found only in minuscule codd; δὲ after κατακαυχ, is probably also a stylistic insertion; the variations κατακαυχάσθω in A. [Vulg.;—χασθε C.**M.];—χᾶτε are exegetical efforts to render the text more easy.—ἔλεος instead of ἔλεον supported by A. B. Tischend. [Alford.—M.]
Lange: For the judgment is merciless to him who did not practise mercy, and mercy boasteth [triumphantly] against the judgment [thus Christian mercy triumphantly excels the judging legalistic spirit of Judaism.]
[For the judgment [will be] merciless to him who wrought not mercy. Mercy boasteth [triumpheth] over judgment.—M.]
 James 2:14. Τί τὸ ὄφελος, Tischend. following the majority of Codd. Lachmann: τί ὄφελος. So also in James 2:16.
Lange: … [what profit doth it bring] if any man were to say that he hath faith, but were to have no works. Faith [in such a case] surely cannot save him?
[… can his faith [ἡ πίστις] save him ?—M.]
 [James 2:15. ἐὰν δὲ the most authentic reading; omit δὲ B. Sinait.—M.]
Lange: But if a brother or sister were naked and bare and destitute of daily food.
 James 2:16. ὦσιν after λειπόμενοι in A. G. Lachmann, is unimportant as to sense. Sin. [B. C. K. Syr. Tischend. Alford.—M.] omit it.
Lange: And one of you should say to them: Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled, but ye were not to give to them those things which are needful to the body what would that profit?
[And some one from among you say to them … but ye give them not the necessaries of the body, what is the profit ?—M.]
 James 2:17. ἔχη ἔργα [A. B. C. K. Tischend. Alf.—M.], is the most authentic and most emphatic reading.
Lange: So also faith, if it has not works, is dead for itself.
[So also faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself (καθ’ ἑαυτήν.—M.]
James 2:18. χωρὶς A. B. C. Sin. Lachmann, Tischend. [ἐκ Rec. K. L.—M.]
James 2:18. σου after ἔργων omitted by A. B. [Tischend. Alford.—M.]
James 2:18. μου after ἔργων wanting in Vulg. Syr. B. C. It seems to have originated in the parallelism of this sentence with the one preceding it according to its rejected readings.
 James 2:18. B. C. μου after πίστιν [A. K. L. insert it.—M.]
Lange: But some one will say [to a man of such faith]: thou hast faith and I have works: show me thy faith without the works [how canst thou do it?] and I will show thee my faith out of [by] the works.
[Nay, some one will say … show me thy faith without [apart from] the works, and I will show thee my faith by [out of ἐκ] my works.—M.]
 James 2:19. Different readings, Rec. with G. θεὸς εἷς ἐστι; A. Sinait. Lachmann, εἶς ἐστιν ὁ θεός; B. Tischend. [Alford]: εἷς ὁ θεός ἐστιν. The strongest emphasis of A is also the most probable.
Lange: Thou believest [the article of the law and of doctrine] that God is one: that thou doest well therein; the evil spirits [the demons] also believe that and shudder.
 James 2:20. νεκρά A. C.**G. K. [Rec. Vulg. Copt.—M.], opposed by ἀργή in B. C* etc.; the latter more probable (Lachm. and Tischend. support it) because the former seems to have been occasioned by James 2:17.
Lange: But wilt thou know it, O empty man! that faith without works is useless [inefficient]?
[… that faith without [apart from] the works is useless [bootless. Alford]?—M.]
James 2:21. Lange:… justified [proved righteous] by works [out of works] when he offered Isaac, his son, on the altar of sacrifice [Gen. 22]?
[… When he offered Isaac, his son, on the altar.—M.]
 James 2:22. [συνέργει A. Sinait.—M.]
Lange: Thou seest that his faith was energetically joined with his works [was manifested as one with his works] and that faith was completed by works [out of works].
[Thou seest that faith was working together with his works and that by [ἐκ] works faith was made complete.
James 2:23. Lange: And thus also was fulfilled … righteousness [in justification proper Gen. 15:6.]
 James 2:24. τοίνυν wanting in A. B. C. Sin. [Tisch. Alf—M.] etc.
Lange: Ye see [therefore] that by [out of] works man is justified [proved righteous as man] etc.
 James 2:25. κατασκόπους, C. G. seems to be taken from Heb. 11:31.
Lange:… and sent them forth by another way.
 James 2:26. [χωρὶς ἔργων, B. Sinait.—M.]
Lange: For as the body without spirit etc.
My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.§ 1. CHAPTER 2:1–13
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
ANALYSIS: Caution against partiality in the Christian Church-life, that is against the Ebionitizing preference of the Jewish Christian and putting back of the Gentile Christian, in connection with the demand of the proof of faith in the exhibition of brotherly love.—Leading points: Reference to the abolition of respect of persons by the Christ of glory.—Ebionite conduct in a parable, James 2:1–4.—Reference to the faith of the poor (in a symbolical sense) as well as to the unbelief of the rich (cf. Matth. 22:1–10), James 2:5–7.—True fidelity of the law or the fulfilling of the whole law in the royal commandment of love, as well as the damnable transgression of the whole law in sinning against this commandment, James 2:8–13.—The true life of faith or faith evinced by the mercy of brotherly love and dead faith illustrated by heartless demeanour, James 2:14–17.—The proof of faith by the works of faith or the believer’s justification before the consciousness of the Church; James 2:18, 19.—The two examples of the proof of faith by works as a general example of the unity of the living faith of Jews and Gentiles, James 2:20–26.
Caution against partiality in Christian Church-life, that is against Ebionitizing demeanour. The parable of such demeanour. James 2:1–4.
JAMES 2:1. My brethren, do not practise.—The Apostle does not, as is generally supposed, pass from the doctrine of charity to a particular example of charity. If this were so, the example would be ill-chosen, for respect of persons does not violate primarily the duty of charity but the law of justice and equality. He rather passes on to a new form of the temptation.
This clause is not (as Schneckenburger and Kern take it) interrogative, not because the fact in question is beyond all doubt (Huther), for the interrogative form would express this more definitely (is it not so that ye, etc.), but because the form of a warning exhortation makes it imperative. The interrogative construction is inadmissible not only because of the analogy in James 1:16 but also on account of the parable which shows the form of the temptation to which they were exposed.
Do not practise:—ἔχειν denotes not only, “do not hold your faith as if it were shut up in προσωποληψίαις” (Huther); still less, “do not detain your faith” (κατέχετε Grotius), but still stronger “do not hold, cherish it in this form.” The faith of fanaticism is not only allied with particularisms but the particularisms constitute its very glory. The Plural προσωποληψίαι points to the ever returning and diversified occurrences of this kind.
The faith in our Lord Jesus, the Christ.—Different constructions: 1. The faith in our Lord of glory, Jesus Christ (de Wette, Wiesinger, and al.; reference to 1 Cor. 2:8). This construction is inadmissible on account of the position of τῆς δόξης. 2. δόξα taken in a different sense from its ordinary signification=opinion (Calvin: the knowledge of Christ obscured by the respect paid to wealth). Wholly inadmissible, because this mode of expression would be most remarkable and because the faith of Christ itself could not be thus disfigured. 3. τοῦ κυρίου etc. Genitive of the subject: the faith, derived from our Lord Jesus Christ, on the glory (Huther). 4. Bengel: τῆς δόξης is in apposition to Christ ut ipse Christus dicatur ἡ δόξα. Gloria. Luke 2:32; Eph. 1:17 etc. Christ, the glory not sufficiently developed, although the idea that Christ is the Schechinah would otherwise be quite suitable. 5. Laurentius unites δόξης with Χριστοῦ, Christus gloriæ, but Huther objects that this construction would require the Article before Χριστοῦ. This would however occasion an error as if a twofold Christ were conceivable. In German however we have to emphasize the Article, as far as it is in τῆς δόξης. The sense is plain: faith in the Christ of glory is incompatible with estimating persons according to carnal respects. See the analogous idea 2 Cor. 5:16 and Eph. 2:16, 17. Christ in virtue of His exaltation has also acquired the κυριότης of the unbelieving Jews. See Matth. 26:64; Rom. 9:5. [But on the whole it seems best, because it is the least forced construction, to govern τῆς δόξης by κυρίου, see 1 Cor. 2:8.—M.]
JAMES 2:2. For if there had entered; γάρ gives the reason not of the whole exhortation as such, but of the reference (connected with it) to the glory of Christ, which Luther has made prominent in his free translation; Do not suppose that faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord of glory, suffers respect of persons. The construction which makes the antecedent extend to the end of James 2:4 and then makes the consequent begin (Michaelis, Herder etc.) has been justly set aside by Huther; James 2:4 is the consequent. The reference of the following exhortation to misconduct in worship has led to the opinion that James is primarily addressing the Church-wardens (Grotius etc). We have already shown that this view over against the grand prophetico-symbolical expression of the Apostle is inadequate The misconduct to which James refers is so general and important as to preclude the literal acceptation of what follows. In the first place it cannot be assumed that such a grievance as that of assigning bad places to the poor had spread throughout the entire Jewish Christian dispersion and in the second, it is even more improbable that James should have received reliable information concerning a disorder so universally prevalent. The ἐάν also and the Aorist indicate a relation which has become historical and is still in course of development.
Into your common-assembly.—Schneckenburger and al. interpret the Jewish synagogue, Huther, the place of the Christian assembly, de Wette, with reference to Heb. 10:25, the religious assembly. But the Article indicates that the one synagogue of the entire Jewish Christian dispersion is meant, that is their religious community symbolically described by the name of the Jewish place of worship. The symbol is the more appropriate in that it characterizes the family-bias to union in Judaism. The reference to civil judicial assemblies, which Herder and al. find here, is altogether unfounded. We have endeavoured to bring out in the translation the uniting element of Christianity.
If there had entered a man.—The Aorist not only aids the imagination by its picturesque force but indicates the historical fact that believers with Judaistic pretensions had already entered the Church.
With a gold finger-ring.—The character of the parables delineating and censuring on the one hand the factious conduct of the Jewish Christians towards the Judaizers proper and on the other towards the Gentile Christians, comes out in the most decided manner. According to Wiesinger and Huther our text gives only an example instar omnium for the representation of that sinful προσωποληψία, while many older commentators see in it only a figure of the preference of the rich to the poor, and these are the common views. These views give only rise to the question whether the rich and the poor are to be considered members of the Christian commonwealth (Knapp, Theile, de Wette), or unbelievers or hospites (Pott, Kern, Schneckenburger). Wiesinger, in support of the former view, alleges that the Epistle being addressed to Christian readers, the oppressive disparities between rich and poor should be taken as introcongregational (James 4:1; James 2:13–15; 5:1); Huther, in support of the latter, that the rich are distinguished from the brethren etc.; Weiss (Deutsche Zeitschrift für Christliche Wissenschaft, 1854, No. 51) makes the rich a non-Christian, the poor a Christian. Schwegler is altogether wrong in making the rich the Gentile Christian and the poor the Jew, for it would follow from this that the Jewish Christians did exhibit partiality towards the Gentile Christians. But he is on the right track in that he sees in the Epistle a reflection of the circumstances of the time. Now we hold that the rich here and throughout the Epistle is not less symbolical than the rich in the Gospel (Matth. 19:24 etc.) and just so the poor. But the attributes of the rich indicate whereof he is proud. He is in the first place a χρυσοδακτύλιος (the word ἅπαξ λεγ.). That rings with the ancients, especially among the Jews (as a signet-ring) were highly esteemed is evident from Gen. 41:42; Esther 3:10; 8:2; Luke 15:22. Received as a gift it denotes the prerogative of representing the donor; in the parable of the prodigal doubtless the restoration to the filial state. But the man with the gold ring cannot be any other than the Judaist priding himself in and boasting of his covenant-right and sonship (which to the humble was indeed a veritable gold-ring see Rom. 9), as a χρυσοδακτύλιος, a gold-finger-ring-wearer by profession. He is further described by wearing a splendid garment (λαμπρός) which according to ReJames 2:15:6 involves in particular the idea of purity and connected therewith denotes the Jewish pretensions to purity and holiness or glory. In like manner the garment of the poor, that is, of the Gentile Christian, is not stained in the ordinary sense but from a religious point of view, as is proved by the ῥυπαρός Zech. 3:3, 4. In ReJames 2:22:11 also it denotes the opposite of the Holy in a symbolical sense. According to the Jewish conception of purity the Gentile Christians had entered the Church in such a garment; but that James notwithstanding accords to them the wedding-garment is evident from James 2:25. Raphelius on λαμπρός, “nullum certum colorem declarat, sed splendidum, clarum, nitidum, seu rubrum sit, seu alius generis.”
JAMES 2:3. And ye were looking upon.—Ἐπιβλέπειν is emphatic (Pott). Upon the ὁ φορῶν τὴν ἐσθῆτα, also very significant, he who wears that and carries himself in wearing it. Instead of experiencing disgust at the spectacle of vanity which manifestly looks out of that proud dress, they suffer themselves to be deceived by that glitter, which in their estimate should have been valueless, and to be awed by the haughty claims to it. This rich man is first looked at, contemplated in astonishment, then complimented, he also stands first; meanwhile the eye is averted from the poor man, who is furthermore despatched in a hurry. “The difference of speech to the one and to the other strongly marks the contrast; they are first distinguished by σύ—σύ, then κάθου and στῆθι, ὦδε and ἐκεῖ, καλῶς and ὑπὸ τὸ ὑπόδιόν μου are opposites” (Huther). The addition “or sit thou here, etc,” as allowing him to be seated, is intended to modify the hardness of the word “keep standing there,” but becomes a further humiliation, “sit here under my footstool.” This means certainly “down at my footstool.” but the expression involves contempt; as it were under one’s feet. Not on the footstool. The Judaist either wanted to acknowledge the Gentile Christian merely as hospes in the Church, or to concede to him at most an inferior right of communion. As the reading ἐπί [for ὑπό B**—M.] indicates a tendency to soften the harshness of the expression, a similar tendency may have omitted τῶν ποδῶν before μου.
JAMES 2:4. Did ye not then separate among yourselves.—The comments on this passage are wide apart. Some plead οὐ as a declaration, others as a question. 1. Those who take it declaratorily: then, partly ye would not have distinguished (according to sound judgment) among yourselves, partly ye would have judged after an evil manner of thinking (Grashof); or, “then ye are not any longer distinguished among yourselves, i.e., godly and ungodly” (Oeder); or, “then ye have not rightly judged among yourselves” (Oecumenius, Bengel); or, “then ye have not yet judged yourselves” (Heisen); “not yourselves but your garments” (Cajetan). But the construction is decidedly in favour of the interrogative form, particulary the hypothetical form and the brevity of the consequent. Hence 2, interrogatively: a. διακρίνεσθαι=to doubt in the sense of having scruples concerning a thing. “Ye had no scruples, etc.?” (Theile). b. to doubt in the literal sense: “have ye not become doubters in your faith? or similarly (de Wette, Wiesinger, Huther); c. the verb=to judge: do ye then not judge among yourselves?” (Augusti); or the Verb passive: “Do ye not condemn yourselves? (Paraeus). d. to make difference; did ye not make differences (in a bad sense) among yourselves?” (Grotius, Knapp and al.). This interpretation passes into e. to separate, to divide in a Passive or Middle sense. But the Middle sense lies nearest: do ye not separate, divide yourselves in or among yourselves? (Semler, Gebser, Schneckenburger). We hold with Schneckenburger that the beginning of dissension in the Church primarily takes rise in the minds of those factious Christians. They are also at schism in themselves‚ which schism although it begins with doubting (James 1:6) means more than doubting, as is the case in our time with those confessional zealots [confessional=pertaining to a confession, used in German almost as the synonyme of denomination—M.], who suspend the communion of the Lord’s Supper with other Evangelicals while they are willing otherwise to hold fraternal intercourse with them. Creating dissensions reacts on the zealots themselves so that they become divided in themselves. Wiesinger and Huther allege in favour of their exposition that διακρίνεσθαι in the New Testament constantly signifies to doubt, which it does in many passages. But the Middle of our verb occurs in our sense in Jude 5, 22 and the transition from the Active (Acts 15:9) to the Middle lay quite near, καί intensifies the question. We have endeavoured in our translation to bring out the paronomasia of κριταί and διακρίθητε [In German: zerschieden and Schiedsrichter.—M.]. From the evil schism in the heart springs evil judging in the life. Richter: after (according to) evil considerations (motives), not the evil, etc. That is, according to the motives of national preferences, claims and prejudices, outward position, etc.
Reference to the faith of the poor in a symbolical sense as well as to the faith of the sick James 2:5–7.
JAMES 2:5. Listen, my beloved brethren.—The painful earnestness of the Apostle’s mind in view of the dangerous symptoms he had described may be seen in his animated exhortation, his lively address (see James 1:16) and his questions.
Did not God choose the poor?—Cf. 1 Cor. 12:26. Huther: “poor to the world” [Germ. for the world.—M.]. Wiesinger: “poor as regards the world.” In the latter sense reference may be made to the analogous τῷ πνεύματι Matth. 5:3. But that condition of poverty as to the Spirit, simultaneously expresses a longing for the Spirit. But such an element would be out of place here, hence the sense “to the world” is more appropriate. These persons whom you call poor, because they are Gentile Christians, are rather poor to the world according to their relation to the world; but to you they ought to be rich, seeing they are rich in faith. The fact that the Ebonites afterwards called themselves poor as regards this world, presents no obstacle to this exposition. Their usus loquendi was doubtless rather formed after the pattern of James than vice versa, just as the Gnostics did probably borrow many of their expressions from Paul, not Paul from them. [But the sense “poor as regards the world” is after all at least as good as that given by Lange; it is general, and there is no reason why even Lange’s interpretation may not be included in it: the Dative of reference here simply shows that these persons were poor with reference to the world objectively or subjectively or both.—M.].
Rich in faith.—Not rich in the possession of much faith [nicht reich an Glauben. GERM.—M.], but they are rich in virtue of their faith. Still the stress lies not only on the general being rich, the result of the general condition of believing, but also on the particular measure of their being rich as contrasted with the false being rich of the Judaists. Who are rich in faith. Huther: Πλουσίους ἐν πίστει not in apposition with τοὺς πτωχούς (Erasmus, Baumgarten, etc.), but the complement of ἐξελέξατο, stating whereto God did choose the poor (Beza, Wolf, Wiesinger, etc.). But taking James’ choosing as exactly synonymous with Paul’s we consider to be not proven. Here the word evidently signifies rather calling, with reference to ethical good behaviour to the Divine revelation. That is: “the decree (more definitely the election) of God is here viewed (indicated) in respect of temporal manifestation.” Wiesinger. Still an essential element of the idea of election is held fast. The nearer definition of the election lies in καὶ κληρονόμους sc. εἶναι. That is: Did not God choose these poor according to the world (from among the Gentiles) who prove themselves rich in faith, that they also may be heirs of the kingdom? Cf. Acts 15:14, etc.; Eph. 2.—It is to be borne in mind that only the poor to the world were also the “rich” among the Jews. But this characteristic was not enough here, while the correction “poor to the world, rich in faith” was sufficiently definite. James therefore here utters the same idea, on which Paul laid peculiar stress as the characteristic of his evangelization, Eph. 3:3–6, etc.—κληρονόμους here, points not to the kingdom as future (so Huther), but as καὶ κληρονόμους to the joint participation in the true υἱοθεσία of the Jews.—
Heirs of the kingdom.—It is the kingdom of God, the real theocracy completed in the New Testament, progressing towards eschatological completion, not the latter only, as Huther maintains. James separates from this kingdom whatever is particularly Jewish, describing it as the kingdom, that peculiar kingdom which God has prepared for those who love Him. The common construction gives a proposition not limited like 1 Cor. 1:26–28, and not sufficiently proven by Matth. 19:23, 26; viz.: “chosen the poor in this sense that those whom God did choose belong to this category, while those belonging to the category of the rich have not been chosen.” (Huther). It is impracticable to take the one expression literally, the other figuratively.
JAMES 2:6. But ye dishonoured the poor (man).—δὲ denotes the antithesis of θεός, ἠτιμάσατε the antithesis of ἐξελέξατο, as Huther rightly observes. Still the Aorist is used, not only because reference is made to James 2:2 and 3, and because the case is general, but its historical force points to a historical fact, in which Judaizing Jewish Christians have already taken part with the Jews, viz.: the dishonouring of the Gentile Christians.
But is it not the rich?—These rich, who use violence towards themselves, i.e. the Christians, (cf. the expressions Matth. 20:25). The reference here is not any more to the rich in general than before to the poor (both according to Huther). The populace took as much part in the persecution of the Christians as the nobility, the former indeed were conspicuous in it. Nevertheless it was with the Judaists who fancied themselves theocratically rich, that the impulses to the persecution of the Christians did then still originate. So e.g. the first persecution of the Apostles, the execution of Stephen. καὶ αὐτοί, it is just they. All sympathizing of Christian ultras with judaistic Jews contained the germ of want of self-respect, as is the case nowadays with all sympathizing of the evangelical ultras with the ultramontanists and that of pietistic ultras with the confessionalists. Is it not just they who excommunicate you? one might ask in the latter cases.
JAMES 2:7. Is it not just they who blaspheme that fair name?—Favouring those rich ones would involve not only want of self-respect but even a participation in the guilt of their blasphemous conduct in respect of the fair name. This blaspheming cannot be taken figuratively as if it did denote insult heaped on that fair name by the evil works of the Christian rich men themselves, as Huther rightly observes in refutation of the views of several commentators (also of Wiesinger, whose citations, e.g. Jer. 52:5: δἰ ὑμᾶς τὸ ὄνομα μου βλασφημεῖται and similar ones, do not prove that βλασφημεῖν has the direct meaning “to dishonour”), nor can the reference be (according to Hensler) to the Christian name, for that is just the transfer of that name to them; the name of the poor is altogether out of the question. It is only the name of Christ to which reference is made, whether believers were already called χριστιανοί (which was the case, in part at least, Acts 11:26), or not. The name of Christ was transferred to them as a surname denoting at once their peculiarity and to whom they belonged. [They were Christ’s χριστοῦ, 1 Cor. 3:23.—M.]. The expression is formed after the Hebrew model שֵׁם נִקְרָא עַל (Deut. 28:10; 2 Chron. 7:14; cf. Is. 4:1; Gen. 48:16 and Acts 15:14, 17). In virtue of the fact that once the name of Jehovah was called over Israel, Israel was described the people of Jehovah; in like manner Christians are now the Christian people (the people of Christ—M.] in virtue of the name of Christ. His name is called fair, in opposition to the insulting blaspheming; it is the fair, the glorious name κατ’ ἐξοχήν; the name of the Lord of Glory (James 2:1), in which is all salvation (Acts 4:1; Phil. 2:10, Wiesinger). The Christian rich men could not any more be reproached with the sin of blaspheming the name of Christ (βλασφημεῖν always denotes abusive language, Huther), than the non-Christian rich men in general (the names even of Pilate, Gallio, Agrippa, Festus and al. may here be called to mind); the reproach fitted solely, if the Judaists were the rich in a figurative sense; to them it was wholly applicable.
True fidelity of the law or the fulfilling of the whole law in the royal commandment of love, as well as the damnable transgression of the whole law in sinning against this commandment, James 2:8–13.
JAMES 2:8. If, indeed, ye fulfil the royal law.—The connection, by the introduction of μέντοι, is difficult, but only, if doubts remain as to what precedes. James had just now reproved his readers for being partial to Judaists, proud of the law and fancying themselves rich, i.e. because they themselves were not free from legal onesidedness. The progress of the thought fully accords therewith: “The whole consistency of true fidelity to the law, to be sure, ye ought to exhibit, according to the commandment, thou shalt love, etc.; but your partiality is a breach of the law.” According to Huther and many others (Calvin, Theile etc.) James wants to meet the excuse of his readers that their respect of the rich was the outgoing of love; but surely no Jew could have thought of representing προσωπληψία as love. Although in this case μέντοι is rendered certainly (indeed, German freilich) the sense is different: igitur (Schneckenburger) and yet (de Wette) are also, set aside by our explanation. [Whichever particle be chosen, μέντοι is clearly adversative.—M.].
The royal law.—The law denotes here not a single commandment (as Huther maintains with reference to Jer. 31:33, Heb. 8:10; 10:16), for the commandment cited immediately afterwards embraces the whole law as completed in the New Testament. It is royal not only because it is supreme and the most excellent (so Wiesinger with reference to Philo, Plato and also Theile, Schneckenburger and al.). Although Christ, placing Himself on the Jewish stand-point calls it first and great, immediately afterwards He describes it as all-embracing and principial (Matt. 22:39), and this New Testament conception of it is found also in Paul, Rom. 13:8–10; Gal. 5:14. Now if this principial [i.e. original, initial, elementary—M.] nature of the law and this its oneness, Mark 12:32, are inferred from the Oneness of God, the Giver of the Law, the explanation that it is called royal because it proceeds from God its Author, is not so far-feteched (Raphelius, Wetstein and al.), as Wiesinger supposes, who says that this is true in respect of the whole law; but this objection lacks point, inasmuch as the cited commandment is really the whole law; but it leads to the exposition that the “royal commandment is the commandment of Christ” (Grotius). Its applying to kings as well as to other men (Michaelis) its being a via regia (Calvin), are explanations which do not reach the fundamental idea; its making kings (Thomas) is less remote; but it is probably called here the law royal and the law of the kingdom, because of the authority of rich men and the contrast between rich and poor must completely vanish before the authority of the king. Before Christ, the Lord of Glory, who has comprehended all laws in this one law, the rich are low and the poor rich (James 2:1; 1:9 etc.) Negatively, the law completed in the New Testament is a principle of perfect liberty (Acts 1:35), Positively it is a royal principle exacting perfect obedience to the Lord. Hence we have here once more the word τελεῖν conformably to the previously repeated allusions to the New Testament τέλος. [But why not take νόμον βασιλικόν in its plain and obvious sense, the law royal, “the law which is the king of all laws” (Alford)? This rendering (with reference to Rom. 13:10) suits the context well.—M.]—κατὰ τὴν γραφήν refers not only to τελεῖτe but to the whole sentence νόμον βασιλικόν τελεῖτε for the νόμος Ex. 20 in its higher royal form is already traced before-hand, LeJames 2:19:18, while that discursive form of the law is referred to the ministration of angels (Gal. 3:19).
Ye do well. (German: “ye act beautifully,”) —That is: conformably to the beautiful name, which those men blaspheme. Christianly beautiful, answering to the spiritual beauty or the glory of the name of Christ. Huther’s remark that here something is to be conceded, not without irony, to the opponents, lies outside of the context.
JAMES 2:9. But if ye respect persons.—προσωποληπτεῖν is ἅπαξ λεγ. and admirably chosen by James to denote Judaizing Christianity. By such conduct they suppose to avoid sin, but he tells them: by this very thing ye are working sin (ἐργάζεσθαι is stronger than ποιεῖν, Matth. 7:23, etc.).
Convicted by the law.—The reference here is certainly to the specific prohibition of prosopolepsy [respect of persons—M.] Deut. 16:19 and similar interdictions (Huther denies it), inasmuch as it formulates the commandment of love literally and at the same time in the light of it acquires a more general sense; that is, the law of love in its oneness, as applied to the question under notice, runs into an express prohibition of prosopolepsy. The very law therefore on which the Judaist plumes himself, convicts him as a transgressor. The choice of the word παραβάτης has here, as in Rom. 2:25, and like παράβατης James 5:14, a peculiar emphasis: the Judaistico-Ebionite transgression of the law as completed in the New Testament is, as it were, a second fall. Cf. Gal. 2:18.
JAMES 2:10. For whosoever shall have kept the whole law.—Hypothetical case, put so as to apply at once to the Jewish stand-point in its full consequence and to the Christian, without being ambiguous, because the full consequence of Judaism leads to Christianity. The uniform solidarity of the law is also acknowledged by the Jews; hence Rabbi Jonathan says; “quod si faciat omnia, unum vero omittat, omnium est singulorum reus.” ἐν ἑνί is to be taken agreeably to the preceding. Not the one definite commandment of love (Oecumenius, Semler), which embraces the whole but any one point of the law. Since νόμοι is rarely used to denote the Mosaic commandments one might feel inclined to take ἑνί as a neuter (with Schneckenburger and Kern), but since the following πάντων, according to Huther and al., renders the construction difficult, it is better to assume James entering into the Jewish mode of view which he potentiates in saying that every separate ἐντολή has also the full force of a νόμος. Wiesinger says that James takes the most favourable case in order to make his statement as convincing as possible. But James is hardly willing to yield this most favourable case to the reader. The point to be made is the demonstration of the absolute inviolability of the law. The πταίειν may be understood as well of a slight offence as of a gross offence, the declaration holding good in either case; but the context seems to require the latter construction which is also favoured by the preposition ἐν. Whosoever offends in one point so as to fall, is preëminently a transgressor of all laws, i.e., he is an apostate. This sense follows more clearly from the sequel. Such an one is ἔνοχος, i.e., held fast in guilt [Germ. arrested—M.] for satisfaction by the suffering of punishment. Each separate law becomes as it were a judge who arrests him.
JAMES 2:11. For He who said.—The unity of all commandments lies primarily in the unity of the Lawgiver, Mark 12:32, This implies of course the One Spirit of all commandments according to which all commandments are included in each separate commandment and the one sense: the requirement of love and the one recompense.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.—Different explanations have been given of the selection of these two commandments. Baumgarten: Because their transgression was punished with death; Wiesinger: because the readers are nowhere charged with μοιχεύειν (see for the contrary James 4), whereas μὴ φονεύσῃς has the commandment of love as its kernel, because these are the first duties under the law of love to one’s neighbour. However we have here once more to call attention to the symbolical character of this Epistle. To the Israelite the prohibition of adultery was at once the prohibition of religious apostasy to heathenism (which probably accounts for the transpositions Mark 10:19, etc. of which Huther makes mention), and the prohibition of murder at once that of lovelessness [coined from the German Lieblosigkeit, for want of a current English equivalent—M.] towards our neighbour. The sense therefore is probably as follows: the same God to whose commandment you appeal in your fear of intermingling with heathenism, has prohibited murder, of which you may become guilty by your hatred of men. We have no doubt that also 1 John 3:15 refers primarily to Ebionite conduct towards Christian fellowship (James 2:19). The connection of the words with Matth. 5:17–19 is clear.
JAMES 2:12. So speak ye and so do ye.—Application drawn from what has gone before, but not a new section (Semler). Huther wants to connect οὕτως with what follows, not with what has gone before. But the double οὕτως as well as the anteposition of λαλεῖτε refer strongly to what has gone before. The readers of the Epistle are charged not only after the manner of laymen to judge according to the anti-judaistic conception of the law, which had been laid down, but also to assert it in their respective spheres as witnesses of the truth (see James 3). Thus they were first to speak and to testify but then of course also to act accordingly.
As those about to be judged by the law of liberty.—This is not the explication but the reason of the preceding exhortation. The question comes up why here again James calls the New Testament the law of liberty as in James 1:25 and not, as above, the royal law? The law of liberty is the New Testament principle of the new life in the Gospel of Christ, which frees us from the restraint of the law. Conscious that according to their faithful or unfaithful conduct with reference to this law they are to be judged, true Jewish Christians and Israelites must cheerfully testify against Judaism and its legalism and exhibit Christian fellowship. It is true that this νόμος, as such, admits least a non-observance of this or that commandment (Huther), but this is hardly the reason why it is called νόμος έλευθερίας.
JAMES 2:13. For the judgment is [will be] merciless.—Unmerciful is inadequate. Cf. Matth. 5:6; James 18:23; 25:35. The saying is primarily true objectively. The judgment will be rigidly enforced according to the love displayed in our life by mercy shown to the poor, the suffering and the despised. But the saying holds also good subjectively. A hard, merciless man reacts by his conduct upon his own consciousness; he makes himself a hard self-tormentor, who cannot but see the judgment in all his experience and a merciless judicial decree in all judgment.
Mercy boasteth over judgment.—The asyndeton intensifies the antithesis. Since κατακαυχᾶσθαι with the Genitive denotes boasting oneself against or over (see Rom. 11:8; Jas. 3:14), ἔλεος must not be completed by θεοῦ (so Calvin, Bengel and al.), nor interpreted as the triumphant exaltation with which mercy by its assurance of grace confounds (puts to shame) the terrors of the judgment (so Wiesinger), or transforms them into signs of redemption, as says our Lord (Luke 21:38); but it rather signifies the triumphant assurance with which the evangelizing mercy of believers, especially that of a James, a Peter or a Paul or the Gentile world excelled the judging spirit of the Judaists, the cheerful Gospel excelled the gloomy Talmud, the Church of the world the synagogue of the Jewish quarter and the evangelical confession the inquisition of the Middle Ages, to say nothing of the triumph of Christian philanthropy over modern particularism.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Against the genuineness of the Epistle of James there is probably not raised an objection apparently more just than that the person of Christ is less prominent in it than in other Epistles and that the author occupies a comparatively lower Christological standpoint than the most famous Apostles. It certainly does not contain the richly developed Christology which characterizes the writings of Paul and John. The Christology of James in general is on a level with that of his brother Jude and not essentially different from that of the synoptical Gospels. The mind of James is rather-practical and ethical than dogmatical and speculative. Even in respect of insight into the nature of Christ there was among Apostolical authors doubtless a diversity of gifts, cf. 1 Cor. 12:7. It is also very probable that James in his wisdom as a teacher deemed it more judicious to refer the readers whom he addressed, more to the moral precepts of the Gospel than chiefly to the Person of the Redeemer. On this account the comparatively few passages in which he speaks of Him with decision, as e.g. in James 2:1, deserve the greater attention. On the sense of the remarkable expression τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τῆς δόξης see under Exegetical and Critical. This single passage proves conclusively how far James was from conceiving Christ (as some maintain) according to the old-Ebionite manner to have been a ψιλὸς ἄνθρωπος. Describing himself as the servant (bondman) of Jesus Christ (James 1:1) shows unmistakably how far he places the Master above himself, and describing Him as κύριος τῆς δόξης, he not only attributes to Him a royal rank but, indirectly at least, a higher Divine nature far exalted above all creatures. Cf. Ps. 110:1; Heb. 1:13. Nor must we overlook his mentioning the Lord Jeaus Christ at the very beginning of his Epistle in immediate connection with God Himself, and his constant reference to God as the Father shows not indistinctly that in doing so he had before his mind’s eye the high and holy relation of God the Father to the Son. Of equal importance in estimating the Christology of James is the circumstance of his unequivocally calling Christ the Lord, that is transferring to Him the Old Testament name of God with which he was familiar from his earliest childhood; James 5:7, 8. Such an appellation was only possible on the conviction that He, who in the Old Testament is universally called Jehovah (Jahve), has revealed Himself in the New Testament as God (the Father) and as Christ. Cf. Wiesinger’s Commentary on James, p. 65, and Dorner’s Entwicklungsgeschichte der Christologie, 2d ed., I., p. 95.
2. We should wholly misunderstand James’ reproof of the sin of respect of persons, were we to infer from it that he was aiming at the establishment of a perfect equality in daily life or even in the assemblies of the Church. God Himself sanctions difference of rank and station, ProJames 2:22:2; Matth. 26:11. But it is contrary to the will of God, if men overstep the line of demarcation which He in wisdom has drawn, turn it into an impassable gulf and with the existing difference overlook the higher unity. The arrangement therefore, which especially in former times was so frequently prevalent in many evangelical churches, of assigning splendid seats of honour to the distinguished and of putting back the poor as much as possible, would surely be contrary to the spirit of James. It is one thing to recognize a Divinely appointed difference, but it is another to make arbitrary distinction in the public worship of God.
3. James also teaches the doctrine of God’s eternal election of grace irrespective of wealth or poverty or any outward prerogatives whatsoever. Although it is true that poverty per se is no recommendation and wealth per se presents no insuperable obstacle (cf. Matth. 19:25, 26; John 19:38, 39), it is on the other hand not less indubitable (and also a real compensation for so many things of which the poor are deprived in this world), that comparatively by far the greatest number of those who are rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom are found among the poor.
4. The idea of Christian Church-life involves among other things the non-existence of lawsuits among believers, or at least the settling of their differences among themselves. Cf. 1 Cor. 6:1–4. The readers of the Epistle of James appear however to have been far from realizing this ideal, and as a rule it was just the rich who in this respect most oppressed their poor brethren. This is therefore an additional reason for not showing them any greater honour than that to which they were legitimately entitled.
5. David was held guilty of having caused the enemies of God to blaspheme in consequence of his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah, 2 Sam. 12:14. Equally guilty are in James’ eyes those who by their oppressive conduct cause the goodly name of the Lord to be blasphemed to the Church, the name which in Baptism was invoked over His people. This is again an indirect proof that he ascribes to the Lord Jesus Christ a really Divine dignity.—
6. “The giving of the law on Mount Sinai took place mainly by the Son of God, who as the Angel of the Lord had led the children of Israel through the wilderness and is on that account called by the prophets King of Israel (Jer. 23:5, 6; Numb. 24:17; Jer. 30:21; John 1:49; ReJames 2:17:14; 19:16), and King of all kings; hence the words royal law refer particularly to Christ, who in His sayings and sermons did so strongly inculcate the duty of love (Matth. 22:38, 39; John 25:12, 17; 1 John 2:5; 4:20, 21). To love oneself, that is in a well-ordered manner, is nothing else than taking care of one’s temporal, spiritual and eternal welfare, so that one’s spiritual welfare may also promote one’s temporal prosperity. This is done, if we are truly the servants of God, believe on Him and love Him. Now where this love of oneself is well-ordered, it is also a rule of a well-ordered love of one’s neighbour; see Matth. 7:12.” Starke.
7. “A single sin against the commandment of God (though he have kept all others) condemns the sinner and burdens him with the curse. If it is presumptuous and intentional, it deprives him of spiritual life, destroys faith, etc., as in the case of David by adultery, in that of Peter by denial and in that of Adam by eating the forbidden fruit. If it is committed through infirmity and haste, sin as sin carries within itself the venom of damnableness, although preserving grace and forgiveness prevent its execution. The law is, as it were, a garment, which is torn altogether, although you only take away a piece thereof; it is like harmony in music which is wholly spoiled if only one voice is out of tune.” Starke.
8. “If a man transgress only one commandment and, if it were possible, should keep all the other commandments of the law, he would still be guilty of the whole law, because he has offended the same God who gave the whole law and insists upon its being kept not according to one commandment only, but wholly according to all its parts; whence every man may abundantly know that there is not any single sin so trifling and bad as not to be liable to damnation, since also the most trivial offence against the law is a transgression of the whole law. But God forgiving the penitent even the grossest offences in their justification, is done for Christ’s sake, just as in the case of the converted their daily sins of infirmity, although damnable in themselves, for Christ’s sake are not imputed unto damnation.” Starke.
9. The moral life of the Church of Christ was at all times exposed to the peril of two opposite rocks; moral rigorism on the one hand and antinomian latitudinarianism on the other. The doctrine of James (James 2:10–12) concerning the indivisible unity of the Divine Law is admirably adapted powerfully to counteract both maladies. In no event does he favour ascetical rigorism which only too frequently degenerates into soul-killing formalism. The law for which he is zealous, is a law of liberty in the loftiest acceptance of the term, yea the entire antithesis of authority and liberty is converted on his standpoint into a higher unity. The Divine law by no means opposes the Christian as heteronomy, but if he has received it through faith and love into his inmost consciousness, it becomes to him daily more and more an autonomy [heteronomy literally another law, then, living according to another law; autonomy literally one’s own law, then, living according to one’s own law, self-goverment.—M.]. But if on the other hand latitudinarianism arrives only too soon at being rigid in some points and yielding and lenient in others James stands up with inexorable severity and administers the unity of the Divine law as that of an indivisible whole. even the best Christian involuntarily is easily inclined pharisaically to overrate some commandments and to underrate others (cf. Matth. 22:36; 23:23). many a man, e.g. who would fear and tremble at the thought of murder would little hesitate in bearing false witness against his neighbour. Here comes in the admonition, “Whosoever shall have kept the whole law yet offend in one point, has become guilty of all.” It is self-evident that James here does not speak of sins of haste, ignorance or infirmity but of intentional, presumptuous or principled transgressions (transgressing on principle) of one of the commandments. Whosoever has thus become guilty, has disturbed the harmony of the Divine law. Of course not in the sense that a murderer is therefore also a thief, an adulterer or a defamer, but because the transgressor of any one commandment disgraces love, which is the key-note and sum-total of all the commandments. The favourite notion of many people that the province of morals recognizes a greater or a smaller number of adiaphora therefore is here emphatically denied. He who obstinately transgresses one commandment without actually violating the others, omits doing so only because at that instant he does not feel himself incited to a definite act of disobedience. For did he feel it, he would doubtless withdraw himself with equal swiftness from the restraint of any other commandment. But where is then his respect of the Divine law in its totality? Whichever commandment be transgressed, such transgression always reveals selfishness opposing on principle the chief requirement of love.
10. The passage, “Mercy boasteth over (against) judgment” (James 2:13) is not any more isolated than that it contradicts the evangelical doctrine of free grace. In the Old Testament also the idea is repeatedly expressed that love and mercy disarm to a certain degree the severity of that Divine judgment. See e.g., Is. 1:17, 18; Dan. 4:27. John the Baptist described and insisted upon actual exhibitions of love as one of the marks of a repentance by which men might flee from the wrath to come, Luke 3:8–11. Our Lord described the blessedness of the merciful (Matth. 5:7) and set forth love as the standard in the last judgment, Matth. 25:34–40. This is also the spirit in which James thinks and speaks and no further intimation is needed to show that he refers to no other Christian mercy than to that which is the fruit of living faith and genuine renovation of the heart. Not only he, who loved much, may therefore hope for forgiveness but also he who asked for much forgiveness, will now also love much, and may look forward to the judgment with greater calmness because this love of faith supplies to him and to others unequivocal proof that he has passed from death unto life. Cf. 1 John 3:14.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The glorified Christ, the Lord of the Church, the object of faith. Sincere faith may still be very imperfect. Love and faith are indissolubly united, but love is irreconcilable with partial respectings of persons.—Agreement of the love insisted upon by James and that described by Paul, 1 Cor. 13.—Rich and poor should appear in the house of prayer at unity among themselves.—Christian liberty, equality and fraternity.—The catchwords of the revolution only caricatures of a Gospel watchword.—The communion of saints is disgraced by lovelessness and party-spirit.—Loveless judging of others ill-becoming to one who will be judged himself.—The prerogatives of the believing poor! 1, They are the elect of God; 2, they are rich in faith; 3, they are heirs of the kindom of heaven which god has promised both to mobocracy [German ‘Proletariat,’ a word always used in a bad sense; this must be my apology for the hybrid mobocracy.—M] and despotism.—“He that oppresseth the poor, reproacheth his maker, etc.” proJames 2:14:33—poverty evangelically considered.—It is, 1, a great sin, 2, a great shame, 3, a great harm, that the goodly name of Christ, which was invoked over us in Baptism, is dishonoured for our sake; cf. Rom. 2:23, 24.—Love the foremost requirement made by the royal law of Christianity, John 13:34, 35.—The inviolable unity of the Christian code of morality.—“Whosever shall have kept the whole law, but have offended in one point, etc.” This saying 1, is apparently strange 2, but nevertheless perfectly true and therefore 3, calculated to solemnize our minds in the judgment we pass on ourselves and to render us careful in that which we pass on others.—The Christian must not consider the commandments of the second table to be less holy than those of the first.—We shall be judged by the law of liberty; the meaning, the truth, the solemnity and consolation of this thought.—The connection between faith, love, judgment and acquittal.—The thought of the impending judgment—1, wherein it may alarm the Christian and 2, wherein it may again calm his fears.
On the whole pericope, James 2:1–13.—Of respect of persons. 1. The character it discloses: it manifests itself a. among Christians (James 2:1), b. in religious intercourse (James 2:2, 3) and c. it springs from impure foundations (James 2:4). 2. The wrong it inflicts: a. on the poor (James 2:5), b. on the rich (James 2:6, 7), c. on ourselves (James 2:8, 9). The judgment it deserves; this is a. terrible (James 2:10), b. just (James 2:11, 12), c. inevitable (James 2:13).—
STARKE:—The Jews had the regulation that if the rich and the poor had a cause before a tribunal, both had either to stand or to be seated.
QUESNEL:—Godliness forbids not the difference of posts of honour but simply disapproves of the rich only being respected and the poor despised, 1 Cor. 11:22.—Whoso on account of his occupation has outwardly to wear a vile garment, let him so much the more wear the beautiful garment of Christ’s righteousness. Is. 61:10.
STARKE:—The masses always look more at these who are splendidly attired before the world than at those who are gloriously attired before Christ.
LUTHER:—The rich enjoy greater privileges than others in things temporal, but not in things spiritual, Luke 6:24.
LANGII OP.:—There are rich in the world who are also rich in God, but there are also poor in the world who are likewise poor in God and these are most miserable for time and for eternity, Gen. 13:2.
HEDINGER:—To be a beggar but a true Christian is more than being emperor or king without it.
CRAMER:—Bodily poverty should not hinder but promote one’s salvation Luke 16:22.—Those who do not honour Christ in His members are not worthy to be honoured themselves, Luke 10:16; 1 sam. 2:30.
QUESNEL:—There is nothing greater than the name of Christ, but nothing more to be feared than to bear it unworthily.
STARKE:—The royal law of love makes all to be kings, who are however the subjects of the king of kings, 1 pet. 2:9; ReJames 2:18:6.
CRAMER:—By seeming trifles also the law may be transgressed, Numb. 15:32, etc.
NOVA BIBL. TUB.:—The law exacts perfect obedience.
HEDINGER:—Like as the believer fulfils all the commandments of the law, so the ungodly transgresses all the commandments, 1 John 3:22.—If any man will allow only one sin to have dominion over him, he cannot receive forgiveness of sins, Ps. 32:2.
STARKE:—It is as culpable to be silent when we ought to speak as to speak when we ought to be silent, Is. 56:10.
LUTHER:—The Divine law is the only rule of conduct in whatsoever we do in word or deed, Ps. 119:9, 15, 22.
QUESNEL:—To be unmerciful, especially towards the innocent and believers, is a sign of men being merely natural and consequently exposed to the wrath of God, Ps. 37:26.
LUTHER:—The unmerciful will be damned without mercy and the merciful will be saved of mercy, Jer. 15:6; Hos. 1:6.
LISCO (James 2:1–9):—True faith is remote from all sinful partiality.—(James 2:10–13). Of disobedience to the Divine law.—Christianity aims at equalizing the differences among men.
HEUBNER:—All haughtiness is a denial of faith. Unchristian distinguishing between sins.—What a contradiction! to see Christians dishonour the poor whom God honours.—Without esteeming and keeping all the commandments alike the keeping of this or that is worthless in the sight of God.—The assurance which love gives in the judgment.
VON GERLACH:—The Apostle calls Christ the Lord of glory in order to show the nothingness of all human distinctions in His sight.—The law of liberty has freed us from the bondage of sin, from mercenary work-holiness; we should consider therefore what a testimony there will arise against us in the judgment if we make exceptions and do not keep it in voluntary and childlike love.
STIER:—The Christianity of the rich is more frequently ungenuine and not proof than that of the poor.—If a father setting out on a journey lays down ten commandments to be observed by his child during his absence, and the child reserves one to be transgressed by him—dares such a child appear before his father and say: Father I have obeyed thee, nine of the ten commandments I have well kept! Every sin, thus reserved and remaining, every continuing transgression of one commandment given by the same God cancels our righteousness before the law, so that all its fair numbers turn into so many ciphers.
NEANDER:—Diversities and inequalities founded on the natural relations and organizations of society were not to be abrogated by Christianity but rendered less burdensome, they were to be equalized by the common bond of love and to become matter for the exercise of that Christian love.
VIEDEBANDT:—The devil has well succeeded in a double trick: 1. In making the rich think that faith is the disturber of all enjoyment and pleasure, 2. In convincing the poor that faith brings no help.
G. NITZSCH:—We do not call a a white man because his teeth are white; so none may be called righteous, who only speaks of righteousness or otherwise puts into practice some other part thereof. David says: “I keep all thy commandments.”
PORUBSZKY:—Faith in Jesus Christ tolerates no respect of persons.—The moral harmony in the kingdom of God (James 2:10–12).—The taking to heart of Christian mercy (James 2:13).
JACOBY (James 2:12):—Speaking also is subjected to the royal law of love.—It amounts to the same whether our judgment be bribed by riches in money, in intellect or worldly education.
James 2:8–13—Pericope on the 21st Sunday after Trinity in the Grand Duchy of Hesse and elsewhere.
BAUR:—Love as to its being and working.
J. MÜLLER:—Love the being of the Christian life.
R. KROMM:—The Christian is able and bound to keep all the commandments of his God.—Of the riches of Christian love.
[James 2:1. Social differences are allowed among Christians, Rom. 13:7; but invidious distinctions and partiality in spiritual matters are disallowed and unchristian. In the use of the Sacraments, in prayer and praise, in the hearing of God’s Word Christians are on a level. The pew-system is unprimitive and unchristian. The Church is the Lord’s house, as its name implies (κυριακόν), and in the Lord’s house the rich and poor alike ought to be provided with equal accommodation for worship without any invidious, unchristian and worldly reference to their pecuniary ability.—Ecclesiastical preferment of personal friends and relatives, as such, is another form of respectings of persons.—M.].
WORDSWORTH:—Contemplate the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8), who humbled Himself, and took the poor man’s nature, and joined all in Himself, and promises glory to humility (Luke 14:11; Jas. 4:10). This consideration is the groundwork of the Apostle’s argument and exhortation. This is the glory which Christ Himself offers to you—not the vain glory of this world, which ye seek by preferring the rich to the poor, and by having men’s persons in admiration for the sake of advantage to yourselves (Jude 16).
[James 2:2. Christian places of worship true synagogues (cf. συναγωγὴ and ἐπισυναγωγὴ Heb. 10:25).—M.].
[James 2:4. WORDSWORTH:—There are two distinct grounds of censure—
1. That by this partiality they become like disputants in a law-suit (cf. 1 Cor. 6:6), instead of being brethren: this is the rebuke in this clause.
2. That they thus constitute themselves into judges; this is developed in what follows.
James 2:7. The name invoked over Christians in Baptism and in the Benedictions (Matth. 28:19; Acts 9:14, 21; Rom. 10:12; 1 Cor. 1:2; 1 Pet. 1:17).—In the Jewish synagogue that godly name was blasphemed (1 Cor. 12:3); in the Christian synogogue it was invoked. ἐπίκλησις in the language of the Church denotes the act of solemn invocation. See Bingham, Eccl. Ant. 15, 1.—M.].
[James 2:13. CHRYSOSTOM:—“Mercy is dear to God, and intercedes for the sinner, and breaks his chains, and dissipates the darkness, and quenches the fire of hell, and destroys the worm and rescues from the gnashing of teeth. To her the gates of heaven are opened. She is the queen of virtues, and makes man like to God, for it is written, Be ye merciful as your Father who is in heaven is merciful. She has silver wings like the dove, and feathers of gold, and soars aloft, and is clothed with divine glory, and stands by the throne of God; when we are in danger of being condemned, she rises up and pleads for us, and covers us with her defence and enfolds us in her wings. God loves mercy more than sacrifice.”—M.].
[SHAKSPEARE, Merchant of Venice, Act 4. Scene 1.
The quality of mercy is not strain’d;
It droppeth, as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice bless’d;
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes: etc.—M.].
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?§ 2. CHAPTER 2:14–26
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
The true life of faith or faith evinced by the mercy of brotherly love and dead faith illustrated by heartless demeanour. James 2:14–17.
JAMES 2:14. What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man were to say etc.?—James, having illuminated outward legality as lacking the principle of love, now takes it up as outward faith (Gläubigkeit) lacking both love and the energy of practical demonstration (Thatbeweis). The sequel shows what he means by practical demonstration; it is the full communion with believing brethren in love and life. The following section (James 2:14–26) supports his demand by examples from the Old Testament. Here it is to be remembered “that with James πίστς is the necessary ground of σωτηρία, which is evident from James 1:18–21, but of course that πίστις which is not without Works. In disputing the former delusion, James adopts his characteristic mode of first stating in clear and well-defined language the fundamental thought on which all the rest depends and he does it by the introduction of brief interrogative sentences, which reject that false opinion.” Huther.
What doth it profit? The Article makes ὅφελος emphatic; what is the use, what profit does it bring? That is, all the blessing of the theocratic faith, ultimately also in Jesus as the Messiah, is lost if this faith does not lead to vital fruit. That faith itself is then not true: hence: “IF A MAN WERE TO SAY, THAT HE HATH FAITH. λέγη is emphatic, so also Gataker, Stier, de Wette and al. Although de Wette’s rendering “IF A MAN PRETENDS,” be probably too strong, the assertion of Huther, that the sequel does not give the lie to λέγειν, is incorrect. This is certainly done conditionally in James 2:18 where it is maintained that the existence of faith cannot be proved without works. Only thus much may be admitted, that James allows the faith which is merely outward and traditional to pass as a kind of faith, on account of its objective truth he cannot call it false, but on account of its subjective untruth he calls it dead and the contrast of dead and living shows that he distinguishes faith from faith. Now the faith which he calls living needs no further complement; it is a unit as to its living energy, while the faith without works, lacks owing to the absence of works the demonstration of energy of life. If we say “the dead body is without the soul,” it does not follow that we think also: “The living man consists of body and soul.” Schneckenburger with reason sees something significant in the absence of the Article (ἐὰν πίστιν). Huther rightly asserts that πίστις does not denote here nuda notitia or professio, because this idea is identical with real faith in the opinion of the speaker; but he is wrong in supposing that πίστις always denotes the same thing in the mind of James. For saying, that πίστις in one is different from πίστις in another, amounts to nothing and it is false to affirm that fiducia cannot be denied even to dead faith. Why then is the subject of this faith uniformly the δίψυχος? [The distinction is manifestly between theoretic belief unaccompanied by the practice of good works and vital faith abounding in good works. Faith is the inward, works the outward. Works are the outward sign and pledge, the demonstration of faith within. The man dramatically introduced in the text has faith (James 2:19), but his faith is theoretic belief. There seems to be no necessity for making λέγῃ emphatic.—M.].
But were to have no works—That is, the works specifically belonging to and characteristic of faith. That James particularly refers to the works of brotherly love, is manifest from the sequel.
Faith surely cannot.—The remarkable character of this proposition as contrasted with the doctrine that faith does save is variously gotten over. Some commentators emphasize the artice ἡ before πίστις: that faith, such a faith [Bede, “fides illa, quam vos habere dicitis”—M.]. In reply, Wiesinger and Huther observe that the Article is used, because there is a resumption of the previous idea, as James 1:3 with reference to ὑπομονή, and James 1:15 with reference to ἁμαρτία. But the resumption of the previous idea is sufficient to settle the point that the reference is here to such a faith which has no works. The demonstrative therefore is not contained in ἡ only, but in ἡ πίστις and one might translate, “thus faith surely cannot save him.” Huther thinks that αὐτόν is emphatic, “him who thus conducts himself, faith cannot save;” but this would make faith an abstract objectivity. The reference therefore is simply to the faith in question, and the explanations of Theile (false faith), Pott (faith only) and similar ones are epexegetical. Huther in his explication of αύτόν returns to the definition “the faith which has no works,” whereas, in order to be consistent, he ought to say, “the man who has no works.”
Save him.—σῶσι relates not to the attainment of future salvation, as Huther maintains, but denotes, according to the idea of the New Testament σωτηρία the present, principial salvation of the redemption already experienced and passing through progressive stages of completion to ultimate salvation.
JAMES 2:15, 16. But if a brother or a sister.—The following example in the opinion of Huther (and Wiesinger) explains the preceding proposition by explaining that compassion also without corresponding works is dead and useless. But the reference to dead love or even to dead compassion would be unheard of. The question in one example also is dead faith, which under certain circumstances hypocritically affects the appearance of love without however evincing the reality of its existence. The absence of the work is just the absence of love or compassion. The brother and the sister are as such fellow-believers (companions of the same faith). And this leads to take these personages also in a symbolical sense. For the duty of relieving the literally needy with food and raiment was already recognized in the Old Testament as a duty of man to man; how much more then under the sense of duty acknowledged in the Christian Church. James doubtless needed not to inculcate this duty on the believing dispersion, and if it was his intention, he could not limit its exercise to Christian brethren. But the case stood differently with regard to the relation of the Jewish Christian to his Gentile-Christian coreligionist or also to the Gentile-Christian Church. That they were not literally poor and naked does not affect the question, for on the one hand they were indebted to the Apostles, who were more merciful than the Judaists, for their spiritual prosperity, and on the other hand they would still appear as very poor to the Judaists; γύμνοι, as those wholly stripped of proper and respectable apparel, after having laid aside their vile raiment (see James 2:2; Huther’s pressing of γύμνοι yields no gain), and destitute of daily food (the different senses in which ἐφήμερος is construed, amount to the same thing), i.e., destitute of positive familiarity with the word of God according to Judaistic ideas. The Jewish Christians, to be sure, had progressed so far as not to damn the poor believers (even as the Jews already affected friendliness towards the proselytes of the gate); they acknowledged the brotherhood in a general way and perchance would unctuously express that acknowledgment in the words “Go in peace,” wished them perhaps also all manner of good in the self-satisfying of their (the poor brethren’s) Christian wants, but having gone to that stretch of liberality, would also dismiss them, without having any other dealings with them or entering with them into the communion of devoted care and love (just as nowadays the Confessionalists dismiss the Evangelicals with unctuous sour-sweet words). Be warmed! be filled! These words are surely not uttered optatively in the sense, “May some one else help you” (Hottinger, Grotius and al.), nor imperatively in a liberal sense (Huther), but connected with the valedictory salutation of peace they denote a cant-wish of blessing, “may you succeed in getting warmed etc.” The reproach of pauperism is at the same time clothed in hypocritically sparing terms, hence “be ye warmed” not at once “be ye clothed” (Laurentius and al.), but alluding to it and in like manner “be ye filled” in allusion to their hunger.—The one who thus speaks represents the general tendency but points to the unctuous speakers who understand to couch the unsparing dismissal as much as possible in fair and sparing language. Instead of such conduct they were one and altogether to show love to the poor. But our example presupposes the case that they did not even give them necessaries.
What would that profit?—See James 2:14. Such a benediction (wish-of-blessing) would purely have no value and the acknowledgment of brotherhood on which it is founded would accordingly be equally void, just as the faith on which it is founded. The whole demeanour would be unprofitable egentibus (Hottinger) and dicentibus (Semler); in general to the kingdom of God.
JAMES 2:17. So also faith, if it have not.—If it does not show the life-sign of animating works, which are intrinsically its property.
For itself. [i.e. in itself.—M.]—As it is dead as regards the brethren, so it is dead as regards itself. Καθ’ ἑαυτήν not pleonastic (Grotius), not “fides sola” (Knapp), but joined with νεκρά indicative of being dead or rather of having died, whereby the life of faith and consequently the life of the believer himself is denied. And this being dead is not only the cause of this want of works (Olshausen) but also the consequence of the reaction of that want. It dies ever more and more of not being energizing. See Matth. 18:23 etc.
The proof of faith by the works of faith or the believer’s justification before the consciousness of the Church, James 2:18, 19.
JAMES 2:18. But some one will say.—Different explanations are given for the introduction of an objection by ἀλλ’ ἐρεῖ τις, although the sense of the passage especially with the reading χωρὶς τῶν ἔργων is abundantly clear. The possession of faith without works may be asserted but not be proved, since the corresponding works constitute the proof of faith, while the faith may be proved by the right works. The works therefore are the exhibition, the evidence of faith. Difficulties have been found 1. In James’ introducing this proposition as the expression of another person and not as his own; 2. in his introducing it by ἀλλά. The second difficulty disappears with the first. James could not well take the place of the objector because it was remote from the mind of his readers to deny the genuineness of his faith; but many among them were inclined to deny it in the case of the Gentile Christians. Hence the sense is as follows: but some one will rise up against this dead faith and with it enter the lists in proving the genuineness of his faith by his works of faith. In this sense the passage has a grand prophetical character. The Gentile Christian world has proved by its works of faith that it had the true faith, but Ebionism with its want of consistency in Christian works of love that its orthodoxism was not a living faith. ἀλλά therefore is here not the formula of a dialectical objection, as in Rom. 9:19; 1 Cor. 15:35, but the introduction of an actual historical antithesis, That the speaker’s faith (James 2:14) is dead is primarily a mystery of an inward state of death, but there will come one who by the exhibition of the contrary will make manifest that death. James makes him express in a definite antithesis what he actually shall do, in order to elucidate the law of life that invisible faith cannot be seen without visible works, while the visible works enable us to see the invisible faith. Wiesinger therefore rightly maintains that the speaker sides with James. On the other hand the artificial explanation of Huther can only be accounted for by the embarrassment he experienced with respect to ἀλλά. “But some might say in answer to what I have just stated, defending himself: thou (who hast not the works) hast faith and I, on the other hand (who affirm that faith without works is dead), have works; my one-sided insisting upon works is not any more right than thy one-sided insisting upon faith.” This, in the first place, would be no defence of the speaker (James 2:14), and secondly it is nowhere said that the speaker (James 2:18) has no faith; he rather wants to prove his faith by his works. Stier even maintains that the ἔργα ἔχων, who has the word, is a man of pharisaic tendencies who in the interest of work-righteousness impugns faith; but this is altogether beside the connection, for there is no reference whatsoever to pharisaic works. On the other wide-differing but otherwise unimportant explanations given of this passage compare Huther especially with reference to those of Pott, Kern, de Wette and Schneckenburger. It is proper to add that Huther himself farther on gives a tolerably correct paraphrase of this passage and is equally right in remarking that with the reading ἐκ τῶν ἔργων in Text. Rec. these words should be taken ironically.
JAMES 2:19. Thou believest that God is one.—The Apostle having shown in what precedes that the existence of faith cannot be proved without works, now proceeds to the proof that faith, even if granted in such a form, has a damnable effect, that is one issuing in fear and terror of God. Huther does not justly state the force of the Apostle’s thought in saying that James here shows the inadequateness of faith without works to salvation. For the example of the devils who tremble just in consequence of their manner of believing, not only along with their faith, nor even notwithstanding their faith, is not simply designed to intensify the negation that such a faith is without salvation. The condition of not being saved is connected with the state of being damned. The Apostle does not start with the concession that the objector has faith (Huther), but that his faith is worthless. Huther thinks it strange that James does not name that which is specifically Christian as the object of faith. On this account Calvin supposed that this whole section treats not of Christian faith (de fide) but only de vulgari dei notitia. De Wette holds that ὅτι characterizes the faith as being merely theoretical, in which Wiesinger agrees with him and to which Huther objects without sufficient reason. Huther and al. consider that this article of faith is simply introduced by way of example and that just this article was selected because it distinguishes revealed religion from heathenism (Deut. 6:4; Neh. 9:6 etc.). But this suggests the additional remark that it was selected because the Jewish Christians and the Jews not only were particularly proud of this first article of their faith (Schneckenburger), but also were wont to contrast it with the distinctly Christian dogma of the Triune God and the Son of God.—This discloses moreover the further consideration that it was their pride in this increasingly misunderstood article which kept them back as Jews from fully surrendering to Christ and as Jewish Christians from fully surrendering themselves to the Christian faith. The monarchism of the Jews which was opposed to the incarnation of the Son of God continued in the germinating monarchism of the Jewish Christians. In the judgment of James therefore the fruitlessness or worthlessness of that faith is connected with the fact that in the shape of orthodoxism it obstinately remains at a stand-still on a stage of faith which has been laid aside and that in this respect it is a heterodoxy which may become a heresy and ultimately even a devilish antichristianity. It was just by remaining at a standstill and by resistance offered to the completed revelation that monotheism originally so rich in vitality became dead deism. In a similar way the Greek article of faith has been established in opposition to Roman Catholic development, and the Roman Catholic article in opposition to evangelical faith.28 Where vital development is abhorred (perhorrescirt?) faith becomes false confidence in the abstract article. Wiesinger justly calls attention to the circumstance that this passage shows that this Epistle is far from being Judaizing and anti-Pauline.
Thou doest well.—It is questionable whether we are to take these words ironically (Calvin, Theile, Wiesinger and many others), or literally (Grotius, de Wette and al). They cannot be purely ironical, because the article is truth; they cannot be purely laudatory, because the true article is falsely held; Huther therefore rightly observes that the ironical lies in the whole expression; that is, in the momentary appearance as if James in conceding to the objector to believe in such a manner were therewith also conceding to him the true faith. “This irony” says Wiesinger “rises into sarcasm in the combination of πιστεύουσι και φρίσσουσι.” It may be doubted whether this conclusion is formally sarcastic. The sarcasm lies here in the naked fact itself. Formally it only flashes out in the splendid καὶ which connects the greatest seeming contradiction and which Huther rightly does not like to see wiped off (Theile: atqui etc.).
The devils.—Although we must not think of demoniacs (Wetstein), nor of the demons in the demoniacs (Schneckenburger) they furnish the most intelligible historical proof of the otherwise more transcendental declaration. Huther thinks that the reference is to the demons or apostate spirits according to the view which makes the heathen deities demons (LXX. Deut. 32:17 etc.; 1 Cor. 10:20). But the Apostle’s saying is perfectly intelligible without such reference, which may easily lead here to confusion. For as far as the demons are the occasion of polytheism they impugn the Unity of God but as far as they are conscious that they are lying and that the One God will visit them in judgment, they just appear to acknowledge the pride of Judaism and the defeat of heathenism. Holding fast to this reference we ought to pass on to the thought that heathenism also in its deepest demon-background is not without a monotheistic consciousness, and it is just this which constitutes its misery. To give to this idea a more popular shape it would run thus: the demons which as you hold inhabit and constitute the heathen world, are all monotheists but for that very reason they shudder. But if we emphasize the heathen element, we weaken the marked emphasis of the demon element, and this is the reason why we have doubts concerning said reference. Nor do they shudder only, because they expect the judgment, their judgment is already involved in their relation to God. This shuddering φρίσσειν. (ἅπαξ λεγ.) is more than trembling (Job 4:15), a horror with the hair standing on end.—
The two examples of the proof of faith by works as a general example of the unity of living faith of Jews and Gentiles, James 2:20–26.
JAMES 2:20. But wiliest thou to know (it)?—These words denote the certainty with which the Apostle announces the convincing proof of the uselessness of faith without works from the Holy Scriptures, the source of all certainty.—The ὦ before ἄνθρωπε intensifies the censure conveyed in the address, “thou empty (not as Baumgarten has it, simply unwise and shortsighted [stupid], but empty as to faith and spirtual strength) man,” and which “as applied to persons occurs only here in the New Testament” (Huther). It is not perchance the fiction of an objector but the personification of a mode of thinking which is introduced as an actor, James 2:1 etc. and as a speaker in James 2:15. The spiritual emptiness of such a man corresponds to the spiritual emptiness or impotence and unproductiveness of his faith. The reading ἀρχή (advocated by Wiesinger against Huther) certainly deserves the preference also in respect of the sense because the Apostle passes from the idea of dead faith through the idea of unproductive faith to the idea of a faith lacking the specific effect of faith (δικαιοῦσθαι). [Oecumenius: κενὸν ἐκάλεσεν ἄνθρωπον τὸν ψιλῇ τῇ πίστει αὐχοῦντα, μηδὲν τῆς διὰ τῶν ἔργων ὑποστάσεως κεκτημένον εῖς πλήρωσιν.—M.].
JAMES 2:21. Was not Abraham our father.—The first example contrasts the father of faith himself with the false orthodoxy-righteousness of Judaism, just as Paul in Rom. 4 contrasts him with their work-righteousness, or more accurately with their pride in circumcision. Abraham, the highest theocratical authority, which they share with him.
When he offered Isaac, his son.—In explaining this difficult passage we have to start with the preliminary statement that δικαιοῦν (הִצְדִּיק Sept. δικαιοῦν, δίκαιον κρίνειν) generally denotes in both Testaments: to pronounce, declare, set one forth as, righteous in any forum of justice or judgment, whether in consequence of proved innocence or surrender at discretion, expiation or pardon; although there are passαges in the Old Testament in which the sense to lead to righteousness, to make righteous predominates, Dan. 12:3; Is. 53:11. The most important instances of the former kind of declaring righteous are the following passages: Luke 7:29: ἐδικαίωσαν τὸν θεόν and 1 Tim. 3:16; ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι (cf. Ex. 23:7; Deut. 25:1; ProJames 2:17:15; Is. 5:23; Matth. 12:37; Rom. 2:13); instances of the latter kind occur in Rom. 4:5; 3:26 etc. The comparison of these different passages shows that to the Old Testament with reference to man belongs especially the idea of pronouncing the innocent righteous conformably to his innocence, while to the New Testament belongs that of pronouncing the sinner righteous conformably to his faith. Matth. 12:37 must be carefully distinguished because the last judgment shall be a judgment of the works of faith. But even the Old Testament knew already the imputation of the faith as righteousness, Gen. 15:16. We may say therefore that James for the benefit of his readers adopts the language of the Old Testament in allotting to true faith the imputation of righteousness by the λογίζεσθαι εἰζ δικαιοσύνην, but to the proof of true faith the δικαιοῦσθαι. St. Paul, on the other hand, employs the two terms as identical (Rom 4:6 etc.; James 5:1), although he is well acquainted with the Old Testament meaning of δικαιοῦσθαι as applied to a human forum or even to the last judgment (see 1 Cor. 4:4, 5). Huther, after enumerating the different interpretations of this passage (Calvin: proved righteous before men; Baumgarten: his justification has been ratified before men; Grotius: he was loved as a righteous man etc.), adds “he has been declared righteous;” but this is really saying nothing concerning our passage, for the question is, in which sense? The difference in the report is noteworthy. Gen. 15:6 we read: Abram “believed in the Lord and He counted it to him for righteousness,” without any further mention of an outward declaration of God concerning it. Both to him and to the Scripture the thing is sure in virtue of the testimony of the Spirit. Very different is Gen. 22:16, where the proof of Abraham’s faith is followed by the the solemn declaration of the angel from heaven, “By myself have I sworn etc.” Has not this declaration become a manifest deposit to the house of Abraham and the theocratic posterity? And that this is a decisive element is also evident from the other proof. So also righteousness was imputed to Rahab, the harlot also, not only in the depth of her heart but along with the proof of her faith. She did also experience a δικαιοῦσθαι in the congregation of God, Josh. 6:25; Matth. 1:5. The term δικαιοῦν consequently is used by James according to the Old Testament mode of expression in a New Testament deeper sense and denotes that God declares righteous in the theocratical forum before the theocratical congregation conceived as permanent. It is the Divine declaration of the proof of faith in and for the kingdom of God, while the λογίζεσθαι εἰς δικαιοσύνην of James or the δικαιοῦν of Paul describes an act, which transpires solely between God and the sinner in the forum of his consciousness.
Justified by works: ἐξ ἔργων.—Although this Plural is selected with reference to the category in question, yet it must also be remembered that the singular work “when he offered his son” was the culminating point which comprehended all the trials of his faith. Huther justly finds this pronouncing righteous in Gen. 22:16; but it was not solely contained in the giving of the promise on the ground of that which he had done; he had previously received less developed promises and moreover in connection with acts of well-doing. It was rather contained in the solemn declaration with which God in consequence of Abraham’s proof of his faith now sealed to him His promise with an oath, whereby at the same time a seal was set to the consciousness of Abraham. If the distinction which Holy Scripture draws between the degree of justification and that of sealing, had been better observed, the key to the doctrine of James in its agreement with that of Paul would thereby have also been better preserved (see Jesus Sir. 44:20).—
On the altar.—Offering is sacrificing as to its essential element; hence Luther’s version “when he sacrificed” is not as wrong as Huther thinks; but the explanation “when he was going to sacrifice” is tautological, unless the term receive the doubtful interpretation of positive slaughtering.
Isaac, his son.—Emphatically describing the greatness of the offering as in Gen. 22:16.—The example of Abraham, however, has a peculiar significance to the Jewish Christian readers of the Epistle. As Abraham obediently offered to the God of revelation his theocratic offspring with whom the promise seemed to be indissolubly connected, so were they also to learn to distinguish their natural national feelings from the promise of God and offer them for their entrance into the New Covenant.
JAMES 2:22. Thou seest.—We read the verse with the majority of commentators as an assertion and not as a question (de Wette, Lachmann and al.). And what then? Not, perchance, that the works were added to his faith, but that faith and works flow forth in one gush of the Spirit and doubly cover each other; faith was actively joined with his works as the foundation, the works were reactively the completion of his faith.
That faith was working together with Ms works.—Most commentators perceive here the antithesis, “neither faith was wanting nor the works” (Bengel: quid utravis pars alteri conferat; similarly Erasmus etc. Wiesinger.). According to the opposite view the propositions are designed to demonstrate the necessity of works. Thou seest that faith was active in works and had to be completed by works (Estius: operosa fuit, non otiosa. Calvin). Huther, “The second hemistich is not in antithesis with the former, but constitutes its complement: faith being active with its works, itself reached its completion.” But James evidently does not wish to lay so one-sided an emphasis on the necessity of works; his object is rather to vindicate the unity of both, as is manifest from James 2:18 and 23. Primarily he demanded works as the proof of faith, he now demands them also with reference to the ἐδικαιώθη James 2:22 as the completion of faith. The first proposition therefore stands for the proof of faith, although not as demanding the necessity of faith which was self-evident to him and to his readers. συνήργει certainly cannot mean “faith was auxiliary in his doing” as Huther rightly observes against Hofmann and Wiesinger; nor hardly, “it was the συνεργός of his works, it operated not by itself but with his works” (Huther), which gives not a clear idea. Kern sought to avoid this dualism by taking τοῖς ἔργοις as Dat. commod., “it operated to the production of his works.” σύν joined with the verb may be construed as having additional force, i.e. along with, but also intensivo-synthetically, i.e. united to, joined with (not to mention that it may mean: quite, thoroughly, συντέμνω etc.) Mark 16:20 etc. We take the passage in the latter sense thus: “Faith manifested itself operatively at one with the works.” Faith aided in the completion of the work and the work aided in the completion of faith.—
Faith was made complete.—ἐτελειώθη is taken by many as completed proof, that is declaratively (Calvin, Bengel etc.), against which rendering Huther with reason insists upon the expression, “it was completed,” not in the sense it had been imperfect but that it was consummated in the exercise. But here again we have to remind the reader of the significance of the term τελείωσις in this Epistle (cf. James 1:4, 25; 3:2; 5:11). Abraham by his faith-offering attained typically and ideally the τελείωσις, which the Jewish Christians were to attain by the full proof of Christian love out of [as the ground and source of—M.] faith and with them all Israel was to attain it.
JAMES 2:23. And [thus] the Scripture was fulfilled.—That is the passage Gen. 15:6 here cited from the Sept. (with the exception of δὲ for καί) which gives a passive rendering to the active language of the original. So Paul quotes the LXX. Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6. James, it is evident from this declaration, was fully cognizant of the predication of that passage concerning Abraham’s righteousness of faith and was far from disputing it. But on that account, as Huther rightly maintains, we are unable to adopt the definition of ἐπληρώθη which is given by the majority of commentators, viz.: then was confirmed, or that of Hofmann: then was proved that God had rightly estimated the faith of Abraham (Wiesinger, “then it was shown (erwiesen) that the Scripture was right”). The meaning of πληροῦν forbids such definitions. Moreover, strictly speaking this saying cannot be referred to the written declaration of Holy Scripture but to the Divine act on which that declaration is founded, i.e. the λογίζεσθαι, or to the prophetical sense of believing Abraham himself. But, on the other hand, we cannot adopt the exposition of de Wette and Huther, “then was realized,” for that righteousness of faith was a reality from the very first. The fulfilling denotes throughout the completed, decided and manifested development of a seed of faith which until then was germ-like concealed, whether it be a prophecy or a type (cf. Matth. 2:15; 5:23 etc.; 1 Kings 2:27 etc.). That righteousness of faith of Abraham reached its πλήρωσις or τελείωσις in its proof and verification, as it was sealed by the now openly stated Divine testimony. The act of faith itself and the subsequent sealing in the life of individual believers answer to the Old Testament Abrahamic foundation and the New Testament completion. That proof and verification of faith was on its real side τελείωσις, while, on its ideal side viewed as the completion of the prophetical word of the Spirit on which the written word is founded, it was πλήρωσις. And this πλήρωσις was manifested in his being called the friend of God. Not literally but substantially he was honoured with that appellation from the beginning Gen. 22:16, and afterwards also was referred to in the Old Testament as the beloved of God 1 Chron. 20:7; Is. 41:8. This honourable appellation has developed the epithet “the friend of God” among the Jews and the Mohammedans (Wolf’s curæ, and Theile.) [“El-Khalil-Allah” or, as he is more usually called, “El-Khalil,” simply “the friend,” “is a title which has in Mussulman countries superseded altogether his own proper name.” Stanley’s Jewish Church p. 14. “Abraham is the Zoroaster of the Semitic race; but he is more than Zoroaster, in proportion as his sense of the Divine was more spiritual, and more free from the philosophy of nature and the adoration of the visible world.” Bunsen, Bibelwerk, II., 88. See also Max Müller’s Essay on Semitic Monotheism in the London Times of April 14 and 15, 1860.—M.]. “In Gen. 18:17 the 70 add the words τοῦ παίδος μου to ἀπὸ Ἀβραάη, for which Philo substitutes τοῦ φίλου μου.” Huther. Hofmann defines the expression “the friend of God,” by “who loved God,” while Huther disputes that definition and gives the opposite one “whom God loved.” But both entangle themselves in a false antithesis. The friend is at once loving and loved and indissolubly so. And although it remains a fixed fact that Abraham’s love was the consequence of God’s love to him, it is also evident that Abraham’s good conduct, that is his self-sacrificing love, is intended to be brought out. But he was not only made “the friend of God” (Grotius ἐκλήθη=factus est), but he was called and honoured as such. And this was the way in which he was ἐδικαιώθη for the kingdom of God. Wiesinger’s assertion is therefore incorrect that δικαιοῦσθαι refers to righteousness before God and not (as Calov and al.) to righteousness before men. But this “righteousness before men” requires to be defined in the manner indicated above.
JAMES 2:24. Ye see that by works a man is justified. Out of (ἐξ ἔργων) works.—The preposition is not interrogative (Griesbach), nor imperative (Erasmus), but indicative (Luther). Recollecting that δικαιοῦται here as in James 2:21 does not refer to justification by faith before God, but to the proof of faith before the congregation or the forum of the kingdom of God (in the sense of being declared righteous to the world, cf. 1 Tim. 3:16), the seeming opposition of this passage to Rom. 3:28 and al. is set aside. Per se therefore μόνον might be connected with δικαιοῦται thus “not only by faith but by works a man is justified,” but firstly this would not give a pure antithesis as in James 2:18, and secondly, the preposition James 2:26 could then not follow, μόνον therefore must be joined adjectively with πίστεως in the sense of bare faith, faith without works (so Theophylact, Grotius, Wiesinger, Huther and al. cf. 1 Cor. 12:31; 2 Cor. 11:23 and other passages).
JAMES 2:25. But likewise, Rahab, the harlot.—δέ indicates the contrast between the two examples, ὁμοίως their similarity. The contrast comes out strongly in the fact that Rahab was a harlot. The Article denotes that she was the historically known personage without intensifying the idea which however must not be weakened by the exposition “hospita” (Lyranus) or “idolatra” although she was both in reality (Rosenmüller). But the circumstance that she was a Gentile is implied. The supposition of de Wette and al. that this example was chosen with polemical reference to Heb. 11:31, because there she is praised on account of her faith, Wiesinger rejects with the appropriate observation that there as here it is the work-proof of her faith which is rendered prominent, as indeed the whole chapter (Heb. 11) lauds faith as the power of conduct well pleasing to God. Wiesinger (following Calvin) also brings out the real motive for the selection of this example. To the example of Abraham, who was the prototype of all true faith, is now added another as remote from it as possible, “that of a woman, a Canaanite, a harlot.” The Apostle’s motive, however, must be taken even more concretely. Doubtless Rahab stands here as the representative of Gentile Christians in their works of faith. Just as Abraham by the sacrifice of Isaac, from being a Jew, hedged in by his nationality, became the patriarch of the spiritual Israel, a pattern to the Jewish Christian readers of this Epistle, so the case of Rahab is an example drawn from the Old Testament of the ability of Gentiles becoming by means of their work of faith the spiritual companions of Abraham and his children. Now she was justified not only in that her life was spared (Josh. 22:6, 22 etc.) but in that she became a highly honoured mother in Israel, as tradition informs us (Matth. 1:5).
When she received the messengers.—One might always think that James selected the word ἄγγελοι instead of κατάσκοποι (Heb. 11:31) in allusion to the circumstance that the Gentiles of his time were so ready to receive the messengers of the Gospel. Although the ὑπό of the verb may not have the secondary meaning “clam excipere,” (Theile) still it suitably intensifies the idea. She hospitably received the messengers and sheltered them, she received them forthwith, as the Gentiles received the messengers of the Gospel rejected and persecuted by the Jews.
And sent them forth by another way.—Cf. Josh. 2:15. It is not simply that she let them go, but that she thrust them off with saving haste and effort, as it were by force. So Festus the Gentile sent Paul to Rome in order to deliver him from the persecutions of the Jews and so for a time the Roman rulers in general, but especially believing Gentiles protected the messengers of the Gospel from the fanaticism of the Jews. The way of the deliverance of the messengers, however, was not only another way, but an uncommon one (ἑτέρᾳ ὁδῷ [i.e. διὰ τῆς θυρίδος.—M.]).
JAMES 2:26. For as the body without spirit.—The spirit can only describe the constant, inward vital principle (and in its actuality), which gives motion to the living body. Consequently not the soul as a quiescent substance, nor that which animates (Wiesinger), and still less the πνεῦμα as “halitus” (Piscator and al.). The spirit in its actuality is the ἐνέργεια of the body, without which it is dead. By comparison therefore faith is dead without (corresponding) works. It is an unnatural condition for the body to exist without spirit; consequently the reference here is to a faith which has passed into an unnatural condition. James, therefore, cannot mean that works must be added to faith; he rather sees in the works (with the Article), the collective phenomenon, that form of life which renders visible the vitality of faith, its animating energy (although not absolutely love, as Theile maintains) or entelechy. The seeming inconcinnity of the figure, to which Huther calls attention, that while on the one hand, the body is visible and the spirit invisible, faith on the other is invisible and the works visible, disappears if it is remembered that the spirit also in virtue of its actuality effects the higher visibility of the body. Being dead and being alive is the decisive antithesis, in which, however, the separate members also are brought into comparison. James is therefore far from forming a dualistic conception of real faith, he rather takes it really as a productive power much as Aristotle does the idea, and with reference to public proof he will recognize it only in its expression by works which almost recalls Hegel’s idea that the true in the individual authenticates itself in its process of development as fact.
James’s doctrine of faith in this chapter in relation to the doctrine in Rom. 3:28; Gal. 2:16, and al.—We refer in the first place to the Introduction, to the foregoing exegesis, to our exposition in the History of the Apostolic Age, I., p. 171; and in the next place to Huther, p. 126, and the Supplement to his Commentary, p. 208. Huther, with reason enumerates three views. 1. James and Paul agree in thought but differ in expression. This was the prevalent view before the Reformation, and in modern times the view of Neander, Thiersch, Wiesinger, Huther, etc. 2. The doctrine of James contradicts that of Paul. So Luther, de Wette, Kern, Baur, Schwegler. 3. There is certainly a difference in doctrine of subordinate importance yet without prejudicing their higher unity. So Schmid (Bibl. Theol.), Lechler, Weizsäcker (see the last supplement in Huther, also the controversy with Weiss and Weizsäcker, p. 130, 131). Ad 1. Theophylact and others. The ἔργα are different in both instances, Paul mentions the opera legis, James the “opera fidei.” “This is also right,” as Huther correctly observes. Paul deals with the ergism of the Jews, James with their orthodoxism. Huther moreover urges with reason that Paul does not attribute justifying power to the opera fidei. A second distinction in the idea of πίστις was therefore necessary. This has been pointed out by Oecumenius, Neander and al.; viz. “that James takes faith per se simply as the mere notitia, the considering things as true etc.” It is evident that he knows such a kind of faith but it is equally certain that he does not acknowledge it as living faith; not any more than Paul, who was equally familiar with Jewish orthodoxy according to Rom. 10, but insisted with equal firmness, that faith must work by love or authenticate itself by works (Gal. 5:6). Wiesinger (with whom Huther agrees), however, is right in maintaining against Schmid, Olshausen, Neander and al., that it is one thing to say “to become righteous by (out of) faith authenticated (proved) in works,” and another “to become righteous by works in which faith authenticates, itself.” This brings us to the third and most important distinction, the different senses of δικαιοῦσθαι. Here Wiesinger and Huther also go asunder. Wiesinger (in connection with Hofmann) maintains that man, having been justified by faith, becomes personally righteous by his works in which faith authenticates itself: that justification in relation to God becomes a justification according to a man’s behaviour towards God. Huther, on the other hand, holds that by δικαιοῦν Paul describes that declaring righteous or free [i.e. from guilt and punishment, German Freisprechen—M.] on the part of God which puts the believer into the new filial relation to God, whereas James understands by it that declaring righteous or free on the part of God in virtue of which the man regenerated into a child of God receives in the judgment σωτηρία. But the two views are not quite clear. In the first the idea of the forum is wanting, where the δικαιοῦσθαι is to take place, in the second the forum of the last judgment is improperly anticipated. It is of course understood, that according to Paul also, men will be judged in the last day with reference to their fruits of faith (2 Cor. 5:10), but in that judgment Abraham also has not yet stood, whereas on the other hand righteousness of faith and σωτηρία along with it, are acquired only in an ideal judgment. But between the first Divine forum in a repenting conscience and the last forum in the judgment of the world there lies as a middle forum the public attestation of the believer in the consciousness of the theocratic congregation; outwardly to the Church an authentication, inwardly to believers a sealing. By the selection of the term, therefore, James wished the Jewish Christians to understand that with the Church he could not acknowledge them as believers, if they were lacking the full consistency of Christian deeds.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Both according to James and Paul (Rom. 1:16, 17) the doctrine of the sinner’s justification before God is one of the principal doctrines of the Gospel. The question of the true Israelite “What shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (Matth. 19:16; Mark 10:17; Luke 10:25), rightly considered, is the most vital question for every sinner desirous of salvation. It is so much the more melancholy that the dispute concerning the doctrine of justification by faith (out of faith), or of justification by (out of) works has in every century of the Christian era given rise to so much misunderstanding and called forth so many attempts to show that James and Paul are irreconcilably contradicting one another. How little the doctrine of the one differs from that of the other, if we understand the meaning which each attaches to the terms faith, works and justify, has been sufficiently illustrated in the exegesis of this passage. See “Exegetical and Critical.”—Considering this, we cannot but regard the well-known opinion of Luther on the epistola straminea, which is partly based on James’ doctrine of justification, as the fruit of an unfortunate misunderstanding. Nor do we find in these propositions of James any positive opposition to the doctrine of the great Apostle of the Gentiles. But we hold it to be very conceivable that Paul’s doctrine of justification was either involuntarily misunderstood or designedly perverted into an excuse for the flesh by the readers of the Epistle of James and that he was on that account constrained powerfully to oppose those who degraded the doctrine of grace into a cloak of sin. He therefore contends not against Paul but against a one-sided Paulinism, which in some hands might easily turn into unchristian Antinomianism and an unholy spirit of emancipation. Both James and Paul are well entitled to a hearing and every view or consideration of the way of salvation, which silences the one at the expense of the other, is decidedly unfair. Paul’s preaching is glad tidings to all who are conscious of the absolute impossibility of being saved by their own virtue and strength, and the exhortation of James is a wholesome corrective for all who are apt to forget what Paul himself did teach that true faith must work by love (Gal. 5:6). Paul sets into prominent relief the great antithesis of grace and sin, James (as well as our Lord, John 13:17) that of knowing and doing.
2. It is of the utmost importance that while, on the one hand, justification and sanctification must be distinguished the one from the other, on the other hand the one must never be separated from the other. The true preaching of the Gospel involves the necessity of Christ in all His fulness being set forth both in us and for us. If justification and sanctification are confounded, or if the latter is made the foundation of the former we open the door to self-righteousness; if justification and sanctification are separated, we deliver an open passport to injustice. The true union of the “for us” and the “in us” requires that justification be put first, but that sanctification be neither put in the background nor in the foreground.
3. What James says concerning the faith of the devils (James 2:19) is important on several considerations 1. As affording proof of the existence of personal, self-conscious evil spirits. 2. As affording proof of their original goodness and communion with God, which consequently shuts out indirectly all reference to dualism in the question of the origin of moral evil. 3. As affording proof of the infinite misery of the fallen angels; to have a faith which yields no consolation but only excites terror and shuddering, must probably be the highest degree of misery. 4. As indicating the low and sad standpoint occupied by one who confesses the Gospel without the exhibition of love-working Christianity; his standpoint is not Christian but devilish.
The way of acquiring the favour and friendship of God in all great essential features was virtually the same under the Old Covenant as under the New. The example of Abraham, in particular (Gen. 15:1–6), which is also used by Paul (Rom. 4.) exhibits this unity of the way of salvation under both Testaments in the clearest manner.
5. The case of Rahab, the harlot, who is introduced as a pattern to the believers in Christ Jesus (cf. also Heb. 11:31), affords a striking proof that God exalts the mean and regards the miserable and exhibits a lofty memorial of the spiritual emancipation and exaltation of woman by Christianity. It is wonderful that just the most fallen and disgraced women of the Old Testament are preferred to honour in the New. Do not even Thamar and Bathsheba shine in the genealogy of our Lord? Matth. 1.
6. “Whatever is transitory is only a similitude.” Nature the symbol of grace, the body permeated by the spirit the figure of living and active faith, but the cold corpse also is the representative of a merely outward form of spiritual life, from which life itself has vanished.
7. “If James calls faith without works a dead faith, he surely cannot mean that the works, the outward and the visible render faith living and that they constitute the life of faith but he had to presume that true faith includes [carries within itself] life, the animating principle, from which the works must emanate, and that this must make itself known in the works. He considers the want of works as proof of the want of vital faith and therefore he calls such faith a dead faith.” Neander.
8. Luther (in his Exposition of 2 Pet. Ed. Irmischer, Vol. LXX., p. 223 sq.) excellently says concerning the fruits of faith: “although they belong to our neighbour, in order that they may redound to his benefit, yet does that fruit not fail because it makes faith stronger.—It is therefore altogether a very different strength than bodily strength for it decreases and is consumed; but this spiritual strength, the more we exercise and practise it, the stronger it grows, and it decreases if it is not practised.”
[James 2:14. On the error which James combats, compare the following passage from Tertullian (‘de Poenit’ 100:5): “Some persons imagine that they have God if they receive Him in their heart and mind and do little for Him in act; and that therefore they may commit sin, without doing violence to faith and fear; or in other words that they may commit adulteries, and yet be chaste, and may poison their parents, and yet be pious! At the the same rate they who commit sin and yet are godly, may also be cast into hell and yet be pardoned! But such minds as these are offshoots from the root of hypocrisy and sworn friends of the evil one.”
James 2:16. There is opus fidei, the work of faith; fides quæ operatur, faith that worketh; that is St. Paul’s faith (1 Thess. 1:3; Gal. 5:6), and faith that can show itself by working, that is St. James’s faith (2:18). And without works it is but a dead faith, the carcase of faith; there is no spirit in it. No spirit, if no work; spectrum est, non spiritus: a flying shadow it is, a spirit it is not, if work it do not. Having wherewith to do good, if you do it not, talk not of faith, for you have not faith in you, if you have wherewith to show it and show it not. Andrewes.
James 2:20. Beveridge (on Art. 12 “of good works”): “Though it be for our faith only, and not for our works that God accepts us, yet our works as well as faith are acceptable unto God, yea, and they necessarily spring out from a true and lively faith, so that it is as impossible there should be true faith without good works, as that there should be good works without true faith; for as without faith our works are bad, so without works our faith is dead. And therefore a true faith may be as evidently known by its works, as a tree is clearly discerned by its fruit [Article 12 of the Articles of Religion established in the Church of England and Prot. Episc. Church in the United States reads as follows: “Albeit that good works, which are the fruits of faith and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins and endure the severity of God’s judgment: yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith; insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known, as a tree discerned by the fruit.”—M.]. If I see fruit growing upon a tree, I know what tree it is, upon which such fruit grows. And so if I see how a man lives, I know how he believes. If his faith be good, his works cannot but be good too; and if his works be bad, his faith cannot but be bad too; for wheresoever there is a justifying faith there are also good works, and wheresoever there are no good works there is no justifying faith.” To this last statement Wordsworth adds the following judicious modification. “Suppose the case of a person who has been baptized, and has a lively faith and earnest resolve to serve God, and that he is suddenly taken away from this life, without having time to show his faith by his works. Or suppose the case of an infant dying after baptism. Then Faith saves. No man can do good works without Faith; but faith without works saves a man, if God thinks it fit to remove him out of this life, without giving him time for working, and if God knows that he would have worked, if he had had time for working. Indeed in such a case Faith itself is work; according to our Lord’s saying, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him, whom He sent” (John 6:28, 29).
James 2:25. Wordsworth. “Rahab received the spies, who were sent before Joshua, the type of Jesus, and who were types of the Apostles of Christ, and hearkened to their message and sent them forth in speed (ἐκβαλοῦσα) by a cord, by another way (other than that by which they had come), viz. by the window, from which she tied the scarlet cord by which they were let down (Josh. 2:15–18), and thus obtained deliverance for herself and family by her faith, when her city was destroyed. Thus she was an example very applicable to those whom St. James addressed, who, by receiving the Gospel preached by the Apostles, might escape the woes impending on Jerusalem, as she escaped those which fell upon Jericho (cf. Heb. 11:31), and who would be overwhelmed in that destruction, if they neglected so great salvation.”—M.].
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The Christian utility-principle.—Faith without works.—A faith that cannot save us, cannot possibly be the true faith.—Love the touchstone of faith.—Pious works behind which lurks not Seldom hardness of heart.—Those who unwittingly communicate to other their temporal goods prove thereby that they received of their God only little or nothing of spiritual goods.—The contention of dead and living faith.—Unfruitful monotheism.—The faith of devils in its infinite diversity 1, from the faith of good angels and 2, from the faith of believing Christians.—Abraham the true friend of God: 1. God calls and Abraham obeys, 2. God promises and Abraham confides, 3. God tries and Abraham stands fast.—The friendship of God compared with the friendship of the world. What the friend of God shuns, enjoys and expects. Why is it just faith, provided it be living and active, which makes the sinner so well-pleasing to God? Answer: 1. Because of the honour it gives to God, 2. because of the struggle it costs us, 3. because of the fruit it bears for the benefit of others.—Rahab, the harlot of Jericho a guide to the heavenly Jerusalem.—What the sight of a corpse suggests to a believer of the Gospel.—According to James also the sinner is justified not propter, sed per fidem.
On the Pericope. Commendation of a living faith; 1. The sense in which James exhorts us thereto, 2. The connection of his doctrine with the doctrine of the Gospel, and in particular with that of Paul. 3. The importance it will always have and has now. a. There are men who have neither faith nor works; b. others who have works without faith; c. others again who have faith without works; and d. many whose faith and works leave much to be wished for. For each one of these diseases and one-sidednesses the ever-repeated consideration of James’ doctrine is wholesome medicine.
STARKE:—To boast of faith without having it, is very common, Tit. 1:16.—Neither true faith nor true love consists in bare words, 1 John 3:17, 18.—We usually refer the poor to the Providence of God and it is just this Providence that refers them to us, 1 Tim. 6:18.—A rich man ought to rejoice in being God’s hand, whereby to do good to the poor;—ProJames 2:3:27, 28.—Saving faith is not either dead or living, but it is only and always living and this is properly true faith; whereas dead faith is properly not true but false faith. But apart from the article of justification both agree in this respect, that just as true and living faith consists of three parts, viz. knowledge, assent and trust, so false and dead faith consists of these three parts but its knowledge is only historical, its assent only human and its trust only carnal or a conceit of God’s grace drawn in carnal assurance, Matth. 7:21, 22; Luke 13:25.—Works are not the life or soul of faith but only an infallible mark of the same, Heb. 11:8, 17.—The devils believe and know in particular four articles of our faith, Matth. 8:2, 9. They know 1. that there is a God, 2. that there is a Christ, 3. that there will be a final judgment, 4. that they will then be tortured. But this knowledge does not minister to their peace and salvation, but to their alarm and damnation.
HEDINGER:—If true faith consists only in knowledge and outward assent, the devil also is a believer and consequently blessed, 1 John 2:3, 4.
LUTHER:—Not fear and terror, but joy, peace and consolation in the conscience work true faith, Rom. 5:1.
QUESNEL:—Even the devil is not an atheist; what then are we to think of those who boast that they believe nothing and are not afraid of anything? Ps. 14:1.—Some hope to be saved by a faith which does less to them than the faith of devils, Job 21:12, 13.
LANGII OP.:—The emptier a vessel, the more does it sound and resound; just so the hypocrite who lacks faith, Ps. 94:4.
QUESNEL:—Works live by faith as by the spirit which animates them, Rom. 14:23.
LUTHER:—Works do not make us righteous but cause us to be declared righteous, Luke 17:9, 10.—All the world has admired the offering of Abraham; what may not come to pass, since God has offered His own Son? Rom. 5:8; 8:32.—Faith is the mother who gives birth to the virtues, as her children.
STARKE:—All true believers are the friends of God and this is the peculiar prerogative of believers of the New Testament, John 15:14, 15.—The faith of converted Jews and Gentiles is uniform, Acts 15:19.—The grace of God does not charge us with past transgressions, if we are converted, 1 Tim. 1:13.—The weak faith of a Rahab must be as active as the most perfect faith of Abraham, Rom. 4:19, 20.
LANGII OP.:—This is the only right and safe way to seek righteousness, which enables us to stand before God, solely by faith in Christ out of His merit so that that faith be also actively shown by love, Phil. 3:9; Gal. 5:6.
HEUBNER:—Unfruitfulness betrays the ungenuineness of faith.—Love never complains of want of ability; the stronger love, the greater the ability.—Dead faith is no faith.
AUGUSTINE:—Such faith is a palsied hand.—The faith of Abraham was imputed to him for righteousness, before it had brought forth works, but it was a living faith, in which the works lay as to the germ.—Works per se are not the spirit, but the faith moving in the works, is spirit.
VON GERLACH:—What James calls faith without works is properly speaking no faith at all; not any more than a love which deals only in pleasant words, is love (James 2:15).—Paul opposes the antithesis of dead work-holiness, James the antithesis of a pharasaic pride in empty intellectual knowledge.—Paul met the Pharisees with precisely the same argument, cf. Rom. 2:6–11; 13:27.—Man is not justified by (out of) faith separable from works, not any more than fire (e. g. painted fire) separable from heat and light is able to warm and light us.
LUTHER:—O, faith is a lively, busy active thing, so that it is impossible for it not to be ceaselessly working good! It does not ask either if good works are to be done, but before it asks, it has done them and is ever doing. But whoso doeth not such works, is an unbelieving man, gropes and looks out for faith and good works, and neither knows what is faith nor what are good works, but for all chatters and talks much of faith and good works. Faith is a living, well-weighed assurance of the grace of God, so sure, that he would a thousand times die for it, and such assurance and knowledge of Divine grace renders men glad, daring and merry before God and all creatures, which is the work of the Holy Ghost in faith. Hence man becomes without constraint ready and glad to serve everybody, to suffer many things to the praise of God and from love of God who has been so gracious to him, so that it is impossible to separate works from faith, yea as impossible as it is to separate burning and shining from fire.
STIER:—James by no means affirms that works give life to, produce or create faith; for faith comes by the power of the word, entering into and received by us and by nothing else. But faith grows complete in works, that is the same as Paul’s saying or rather the Lord’s saying to Paul, that the strength of God may be completed in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). The strength of faith, indwelling from the beginning and already received along with the first seizing of grace, becomes fully proved, verified and its operation completed. Thus our calling and election are made sure in the diligence of living and doing (2 Pet. 1:10). Thus Abraham’s first call was made sure in his last works and the word concerning justification by (out of) faith already before accorded to him, was lawfully and actually confirmed as a truth.
VIEDEBANDT:—A faith which helps not our neighbour, neither helps ourselves, for it has not helped us to love.—Before faith are the tears of Peter and after faith the following after of Paul.
JAKOBI:—A sacred author tells us of true faith that it is the firm confidence of things hoped for. But the faith of the devils is an assurance not of what they hope for, but of what they fear.
PORUBSZKY:—Dead faith cannot save. This is evident 1. from the being of blessedness, 2. from the nature of dead, 3. from the experience of daily life.—Living faith justifies and saves (Reformation-Sermon). Cf. art. 20 of the Augsburg Confession.
LISCO:—Faith and works.—Operative faith justifies us before God.—True Christian faith a sanctifying power of life.
[James 2:17. HALL:—As that is a vain and idle charity, which bids a man be warm and filled, yet gives him nothing to feed or warm him with, so is that a vain and dead faith, which, professing an adherence to God, yet is severed from all good works and is void of charity.—M.].
[James 2:21. HAMMOND:—Abraham was the father of the faithful, the great example of faith and justification; but it was not upon his bare belief of God’s promise that he was justified, but upon that high act of obedience to God, in being ready to offer up his only son, in whom the promises were made to him.—M.].
[James 2:23. ADAM CLARKE:—As among friends everything is common, so God took Abraham into intimate communion with Himself, and poured out upon Him the choicest of His blessings; for as God can never be in want, because He possesses all things, so Abraham, His friend, could never be destitute, because God was his friend.—M.].
[James 2:24. HORNE:—In this instance of the father of the faithful, as in a common centre, are the doctrines of both Apostles met: one says a man is justified by faith working; the other by working faith; and this is really and truly all the difference between them.—M.].
[James 2:26. BRIGHT:—Justification then by faith, or according to the Christian doctrine as opposed to the law, must be that all men being sinners are justified, and particularly receive remission of sins, the Holy Spirit, and everlasting salvation, from the free and undeserved goodness of God; upon the consideration of the perfect righteousness and the meritorious sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and upon the condition or qualification of a pious temper of heart for the future, to obey the will of God, and consequently to do what is right and just in whatsoever way He is pleased to declare it, but particularly as it is declared by the Lord Jesus Christ; which same condition too we had never been able to perform without the assistance of the grace of God.—M.].
[TAYLOR:—Let a man believe all the revelations of God; if that belief ends in itself and goes no further, it is like physic taken to purge the stomach; if it do not work, it is so far from bringing health, that itself is a new sickness.—M.].
[EPIPHANIUS:—Faith hath in it the image of godliness engraven and infidelity hath the character of wickedness and prevarication.—M.].
[SALVIANUS:—Hominem fideliter Christo credere est fidelem Deo esse, h. e. fideliter in Dei mandata servare.”—M.].
[LACTANTIUS:—“Christianorum omnis religio sine scelere et macula vivere.”—M.].
[TAYLOR:—There are but three things that make the integrity of Christian faith; believing the words of God, confidence in His goodness, and keeping His commandments.—Believing is the least thing in a justifying faith; for faith is a conjugation of many ingredients, and faith is a covenant, and faith is a law, and faith is obedience, and faith is a work, and indeed it is a sincere cleaving to and closing with the terms of the Gospel in every instance, in every particular.—M.].
[Compare also on James 2:23. JOHN HOWE, Friendship with God, 10 Sermons. Works, 8, 376.—James 2:24. TAYLOR, Faith working by love. Sermons.—BULL, Doctrina D. Jacobi de justification ex operibus explanatur et defenditur, Works, 3, 1.—M.].
If Lange alludes to the filioque in the Nicene Creed it is only proper to remark that the position of the Greek Church is sustained by Oecumenical consent, while the insertion of the filioque in the Nicene Creed has never received the sanction of an Oecumenical Council.—M.
Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
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