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  • JAMIESON-FAUSSET-BROWN - JAMES 2
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    CHAPTER 2

    Jas 2:1-26. THE SIN OF RESPECT OF PERSONS: DEAD, UNWORKING FAITH SAVES NO MAN.

    James illustrates "the perfect law of liberty" (Jas 1:25) in one particular instance of a sin against it, concluding with a reference again to that law (Jas 2:12, 13).

    1. brethren--The equality of all Christians as "brethren," forms the groundwork of the admonition.
    - the faith of . . . Christ--that is, the Christian faith. James grounds Christian practice on Christian faith.
    - the Lord of glory--So 1Co 2:8. As all believers, alike rich and poor, derive all their glory from their union with Him, "the Lord of glory," not from external advantages of worldly fortune, the sin in question is peculiarly inconsistent with His "faith." BENGEL, making no ellipsis of "the Lord," explains "glory" as in apposition with Christ who is THE GLORY (Lu 2:32); the true Shekinah glory of the temple (Ro 9:4). English Version is simpler. The glory of Christ resting on the poor believer should make him be regarded as highly by "brethren" as his richer brother; nay, more so, if the poor believer has more of Christ's spirit than the rich brother.
    - with respect of persons--literally, "in respectings of persons"; "in" the practice of partial preferences of persons in various ways and on various occasions.

    2, 3. "If there chance to have come" [ALFORD].
    - assembly--literally, "synagogue"; this, the latest honorable use, and the only Christian use of the term in the New Testament, occurs in James's Epistle, the apostle who maintained to the latest possible moment the bonds between the Jewish synagogue and the Christian Church. Soon the continued resistance of the truth by the Jews led Christians to leave the term to them exclusively (Re 3:9). The "synagogue" implies a mere assembly or congregation not necessarily united by any common tie. "Church," a people bound together by mutual ties and laws, though often it may happen that the members are not assembled [TRENCH and VITRINGA]. Partly from James' Hebrew tendencies, partly from the Jewish Christian churches retaining most of the Jewish forms, this term "synagogue" is used here instead of the Christian term "Church" (ecclesia, derived from a root, "called out," implying the union of its members in spiritual bonds, independent of space, and called out into separation from the world); an undesigned coincidence and mark of truth. The people in the Jewish synagogue sat according to their rank, those of the same trade together. The introduction of this custom into Jewish Christian places of worship is here reprobated by James. Christian churches were built like the synagogues, the holy table in the east end of the former, as the ark was in the latter; the desk and pulpit were the chief articles of furniture in both alike. This shows the error of comparing the Church to the temple, and the ministry to the priesthood; the temple is represented by the whole body of worshippers; the church building was formed on the model of the synagogue. See VITRINGA [Synagogue and Temple].
    - goodly apparel . . . gay clothing--As the Greek, is the same in both, translate both alike, "gay," or "splendid clothing."

    3. have respect to him, &c.--though ye know not who he is, when perhaps he may be a heathen. It was the office of the deacons to direct to a seat the members of the congregation [CLEMENT OF ROME, Apostolical Constitutions, 2.57, 58].
    - unto him--not in the best manuscripts. Thus "thou" becomes more demonstratively emphatic.
    - there--at a distance from where the good seats are.
    - here--near the speaker.
    - under my footstool--not literally so; but on the ground, down by my footstool. The poor man must either stand, or if he sits, sit in a degrading position. The speaker has a footstool as well as a good seat.

    4. Are ye not . . . partial--literally, "Have ye not made distinctions" or "differences" (so as to prefer one to another)? So in Jude 22.
    - in yourselves--in your minds, that is, according to your carnal inclination [GROTIUS].
    - are become judges of evil thoughts--The Greek words for "judges" and for "partial," are akin in sound and meaning. A similar translation ought therefore to be given to both. Thus, either for "judges," &c. translate, "distinguishers of (that is, according to your) evil thoughts"; or, do ye not partially judge between men, and are become evilly-thinking judges (Mr 7:21)? The "evil thoughts" are in the judges themselves; as in Lu 18:6, the Greek, "judge of injustice," is translated, "unjust judge." ALFORD and WAHL translate, "Did ye not doubt" (respecting your faith, which is inconsistent with the distinctions made by you between rich and poor)? For the Greek constantly means "doubt" in all the New Testament. So in Jas 1:6, "wavering." Mt 21:21; Ac 10:20; Ro 4:20, "staggered not." The same play on the same kindred words occurs in the Greek of Ro 14:10, 23, "judge . . . doubteth." The same blame of being a judge, when one ought to be an obeyer, of the law is found in Jas 4:11.

    5. Hearken--James brings to trial the self-constituted "judges" (Jas 2:4).
    - poor of this world--The best manuscripts read, "those poor in respect to the world." In contrast to "the rich in this world" (1Ti 6:17). Not of course all the poor; but the poor, as a class, furnish more believers than the rich as a class. The rich, if a believer, renounces riches as his portion; the poor, if an unbeliever, neglects that which is the peculiar advantage of poverty (Mt 5:3; 1Co 1:26, 27, 28).
    - rich in faith--Their riches consist in faith. Lu 12:21, "rich toward God." 1Ti 6:18, "rich in good works" (Re 2:9; compare 2Co 8:9). Christ's poverty is the source of the believer's riches.
    - kingdom . . . promised-- (Lu 12:32; 1Co 2:9; 2Ti 4:8).

    6. The world's judgment of the poor contrasted with God's.
    - ye--Christians, from whom better things might have been expected; there is no marvel that men of the world do so.
    - despised--literally, "dishonored." To dishonor the poor is to dishonor those whom God honors, and so to invert the order of God [CALVIN].
    - rich--as a class.
    - oppress--literally, "abuse their power against" you.
    - draw you--Translate, "is it not they (those very persons whom ye partially prefer, Jas 2:1-4) that drag you (namely, with violence)" [ALFORD].
    - before . . . judgment seats--instituting persecutions for religion, as well as oppressive lawsuits, against you.

    7. "Is it not they that blaspheme?" &c. as in Jas 2:6 [ALFORD]. Rich heathen must here chiefly be meant; for none others would directly blaspheme the name of Christ. Only indirectly rich Christians can be meant, who, by their inconsistency, caused His name to be blasphemed; so Eze 36:21, 22; Ro 2:24. Besides, there were few rich Jewish Christians at Jerusalem (Ro 15:26). They who dishonor God's name by wilful and habitual sin, "take (or bear) the Lord's name in vain" (compare Pr 30:9, with Ex 20:7).
    - that worthy name--which is "good before the Lord's saints" (Ps 52:9; 54:6); which ye pray may be "hallowed" (Mt 6:9), and "by which ye are called," literally, "which was invoked" or, "called upon by you" (compare Ge 48:16; Isa 4:1, Margin; Ac 15:17), so that at your baptism "into the name" (so the Greek, Mt 28:19) of Christ, ye became Christ's people (1Co 3:23).

    8. The Greek may be translated, "If, however, ye fulfil," &c., that is, as ALFORD, after ESTIUS, explains, "Still I do not say, hate the rich (for their oppressions) and drive them from your assemblies; if you choose to observe the royal law . . . well and good; but respect of persons is a breach of that law." I think the translation is, "If in very deed (or 'indeed on the one hand') ye fulfil the royal law . . . ye do well, but if (on the other hand) ye respect persons, ye practice sin." The Jewish Christians boasted of, and rested in, the "law" (Ac 15:1; 21:18-24; Ro 2:17; Ga 2:12). To this the "indeed" alludes. "(Ye rest in the law): If indeed (then) ye fulfil it, ye do well; but if," &c.
    - royal--the law that is king of all laws, being the sum and essence of the ten commandments. The great King, God, is love; His law is the royal law of love, and that law, like Himself, reigns supreme. He "is no respecter of persons"; therefore to respect persons is at variance with Him and His royal law, which is at once a law of love and of liberty (Jas 2:12). The law is the "whole"; "the (particular) Scripture" (Le 19:18) quoted is a part. To break a part is to break the whole (Jas 2:10).
    - ye do well--being "blessed in your deed" ("doing," Margin) as a doer, not a forgetful hearer of the law (Jas 1:25).

    9. Respect of persons violates the command to love all alike "as thyself."
    - ye commit sin--literally, "ye work sin," Mt 7:23, to which the reference here is probably, as in Jas 1:22. Your works are sin, whatever boast of the law ye make in words (see on Jas 2:8).
    - convinced--Old English for "convicted."
    - as transgressors--not merely of this or that particular command, but of the whole absolutely.

    10. The best manuscripts read, "Whosoever shall have kept the whole law, and yet shall have offended (literally, 'stumbled'; not so strong as 'fall,' Ro 11:11) in one (point; here, the respecting of persons), is (hereby) become guilty of all." The law is one seamless garment which is rent if you but rend a part; or a musical harmony which is spoiled if there be one discordant note [TIRINUS]; or a golden chain whose completeness is broken if you break one link [GATAKER]. You thus break the whole law, though not the whole of the law, because you offend against love, which is the fulfilling of the law. If any part of a man be leprous, the whole man is judged to be a leper. God requires perfect, not partial, obedience. We are not to choose out parts of the law to keep, which suit our whim, while we neglect others.

    11. He is One who gave the whole law; therefore, they who violate His will in one point, violate it all [BENGEL]. The law and its Author alike have a complete unity.
    - adultery . . . kill--selected as being the most glarin

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