Christian Basic Training
James, The Book Of

Chapter 2

Verses from the book of James and the New Testament are in " MAROON "
Scripture from the Old Testament are in " BLACK "
All the words of Jesus Christ are in " RED "
Greek words are in " PURPLE "
My highlighted text is in " DARK BLUE "

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What doth it profit, my brethren [ adelphos ], though a man say he hath faith, and have not works [ epya - Physical works ] ?   can faith save him ?

        The answer Paul was looking for to both of these questions is " No " !   Take notice that the " faith " being discussed here is a so-called or spurious " faith ".   We know this because of two things.   First, the word " though " is better translated as " if " so it should read " If a man say he hath faith ".   Second, in the last part of this verse a definate article is used with the word faith which would render a better translation that is used in the RSV as " can his faith save him ? ".

        Notice also that James doesn't say here " if a person HAS faith, " but " if a person SAYS he has faith. "   In other words, if a person says they are a Christian but doesn't have any works to validate that claim, is that person's faith real ?

        Now the " works " James is talking about here are " works of faith, i.e. physical works ", that is works because of their faith.   The " works of faith " reflects outwardly on a person and by them we know a persons true values.   We can never know what's in a persons heart, however we can see how they respond to things in their lives.   " Many people think that somehow James is saying that " WORKS " save people.   This is not the case and we will see that later on in this book. "

[ 15 ]  If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,     [ 16 ]  And 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?

        James here, of course, is proving his point of verse 14.   Notice here also that James is talking about a " brother or sister ", that is, those that are part of the Christian faith.   His point is not that we shouldn't care about the clothing and food of non-Christian but here he is saying " These are your brothers and sisters in Christ and you are still sending them away with empty words ? "

        What good does it do just to tell someone who is cold and hungry to be warm and full.   It's of no value whatsoever, and it's useless !   So then why wouldn't we think the same of someone that says they are a Christian but never shows any other proof of their faith ?   Warren W. Wiersbe once stated:

     " People with dead faith substitute words for deeds.   They know the correct vocabulary for prayer and testimony, and can even quote the right verses from the Bible;  but their walk does not measure up to their talk.   They think that their words are as good as works, and they are wrong. "

        Whoever coined the old saying, " action speaks louder than words " , must of had this verse in mind.   Charles Ryrie once noted, " Faith that is not moved to relieve the hungry man's need is nonworking faith. "

Even so faith, if it hath not works [ ean mh exh erga ], is dead [ nekra ], being alone [ kaq eauthn ].

        If someone says they have faith but doesn't have any works that accompanies it, " then their faith is fruitless. "   Here the greek for " if it hath not works " is " ean mh exh erga " which is a present active subjunctive and would be better interpretated as " if it keeps on not having works. "   That is, if we have faith but it keeps on not having works then our faith is dead.

        The Greek word for " dead " is " nekra " which basically does mean " dead, a corpse, not having any life ".

        The Greek for " being alone " is " kaq eauthn " which is better interpreted as " in itself ".  Therefore if someone's faith isn't accompanied by works, their faith is " dead in itself " ..... " that is it's not real ".

        It was said by an unknown author that " Faith and works are like the wings of a bird.  One cannot get off the ground without the other, but the two together will soar to the heavens.   Saving faith and good works are inseparable. "   The Apostles John and Paul expressed the same idea as James:

I John 3:17-18

But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him ?   My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue;  but in deed and in truth.

Ephesians 2:10

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

        Note that James is not teaching that we are saved by works,  " but that our works spring up naturally from our faith ".   William MacDonald put it this way:

Paul put it this way:

Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace are ye saved through faith;  and that not of yourselves:  it is the gift of God:  Not of works [ epya - physical works ], lest any man should boast.

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Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works [ epya - physical works ]:  shew me thy faith without thy works [ epywv - obedience ], and I will shew thee my faith by my works [ epywv - obedience ]

       Notice the change in the koine greek word " works " here in verse 18 from [ epya - physical work ] to the last part of verse 18 when he switches to [ epywv - Obedience ] ..... James is starting to change his focus from " physical work " ( helping those who are naked and destitute of daily food ) to something very different ....

The New Testament was written, as you may or may not know, in what was known as:

       In the mid-1970's I attended, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, a bible study with a group of men who, for the most part, were all old enough to be my dad.   The group included about ten men:  a Catholic, a Methodist, three preachers ( one Pentecostal, one Baptist, and the other from an indepentant fundamentalist church ), but one in particular was a member of the Greek Orthodox church named " Lou ".   I learned more about Christianity from this group of men then I have anywhere else in my lifetime ..... " this group, you could say, were the foundation of my christianity ! "

       Now " Lou " became a very trusted christian friend and we always sat next to each other during these bible studies.   He was from Greece and he read and spoke not only " Greek " but also " Koine Greek " fluently.   When I first asked him, in the mid-1970's, to read James 2:2-26 in " Koine Greek " but to read them very slowly translating them into english for me ... he basically said " I've read them before and they are basically what is shown in the King James Bible. "

       He humored me and read them again ...   When he got to " James 2:18 " he paused after reading it and said, " Something is different here . The first word for " works " denote physical labor but the second and third " works " actually is different and it seems as if he is talking about working through a thought ..... using his mind to work on or at something ..... or working mentally at something instead of purely physical labor.   That is he's thinking through something.   He then said, " Let me read all of James Chapter 2 again ..... "

       After him reading it all very slowly .... and then, as we started discussing it together, we came to the same conclusion that the second and third word " works " that was conveyed in " James 2:18 " was actually the word:

       We both were " extremely excited " about it and went on a further study to make sure that if he was talking about " obedience " that it would match up with other scriptures here in the Book of James and also throughout the rest of the New Testament scriptures.

       We worked together seeking out this new definition for this word for " works " and where it could be found through out the Bible.   And yes we found it in other places within the Bible.   But since that was in the mid-1970's there wasn't an internet to use as a resource ... but we started talking to many local pastor's and started looking in every commentary and study books we could find ... without any results.   But we knew this word " works " in James had to mean " obedience ".

       Now years have gone by since my old friend has passed away and the internet is available .... and yes " we weren't the only ones to discover and find this answers ".   These two different words, that were both originally translated into English as " works ", actually have two " very different meanings " and it changes " everything and makes it much clearer ! "

And with this change in definition we saw the point that James was trying to get across:

        " If you say you have faith but you don't have any works then do you really have faith?  Show me how I can know that you have faith since I can't see anything in your life that can prove it to me.  If you look at my life you will see that I have faith because I put my faith into action by my obedience to God. "

" That is .... "

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well [ kalwv poieiv ]:  the devils also believe, and tremble.

        James tells us that a theological or orthodox belief in God by itself isn't proof of saving faith.   The Greek for " thou doest well " is " kalwv poieiv " which basically means " That is good as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far enough ".   And the reason it doesn't go far enough ?   " the devils also believe " in God.   And what is the response of the devils belief: They tremble or shudder at that knowledge.   That is ... " They fear God ".

As Pastor David Buffaloe noted:

J. Vernon McGee sums this verse very simply:

But wilt thou know, O vain [ kenos ] man, that faith without works [ epywv - obedience ] is dead ?

        James tells us here that if a man's faith doesn't produce " works " ( obedience ) it is " dead. "

        The Greek word used here for " vain " is " kenos { ken-os' } " which means "empty, vain, devoid of truth, without spiritual life".   Their faith is worthless, it doesn't work at all !   " Is your faith working for you ? "

        Again, as in verse 18, we see the Greek word used here for " works " is " epywv - obedience " which basically means " to work something out mentally, in this case obedience ".

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Now we come to a point that is " so very clear " in the bible and it concerns being:

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And this verse from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is " Crystal Clear ! "

What did " Jesus " have to say about " Obedience ? "

Matthew 7:21-23

  [ 21 ] Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord,  [ faith only ]  shall enter into the kingdom of heaven;  but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven  [ obedience ].       [ 22 ] Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name ?  and in thy name have cast out devils ?  and in thy name done many wonderful works ?     [ 23 ] And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you:   depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

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          In John Chapter 5 we have the story of Jesus healing a man that was waiting by the pool of Bethesda.   Our Lord, after the healing, found the man once again in the temple in Jerusalem and said to him:

John 5:14

Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him,  Behold, thou art made whole:  sin no more,  [ obedience ] lest a worse thing come unto thee.

In John Chapter 8 we have Jesus talking with the woman caught in adultery:

John 8:10 - 11

      [ 10 ]  When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her,  Woman, where are those thine accusers ?  hath no man condemned thee ?         [ 11 ]  She said, No man, Lord.  And Jesus said unto her,  Neither do I condemn thee:  go, and sin no more.  [ obedience ]

In John Chapter 8 we have Jesus talking to a group of non-believing Jews:

John 8:51

Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man keep my saying,  [ obedience ]  he shall never see death.

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[ 21 ]  Was not Abraham our father justified [ edikaiothe ] by works [ epywv - obedience ], when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?    [ 22 ]  Seest thou how faith wrought with his works [ epya - Physical Labor ], and by works [ epywv - Obedience ] was faith made perfect ?
The actual greek to english wording of verse 22 is clearer:

        [ 22 ] Can you see how his faith along with his physical labor, together with his obedience made his faith perfect ?

        The Greek word used here and below for " justified " is " edikaiothe { dik-ah-yo'-o } " which means "to declare righteous or innocent, justify".  Our faith is justified in the sight of men when it operates together with " Obedience ".

        Now many people believe that James here is disagreeing with Paul's statement in Romans 4:1-5.  Paul, pointedly says that it was the faith of Abraham that was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness, not his works.  Where here James is saying that Abraham's righteousness was from his works.

        However, James points to the offering of Isaac on the altar ( Genesis 22:16 ) as proof of the faith that Abraham already had.  Paul is talking about Abraham's faith as the basis of his justification.  There is no contradiction at all between James and Paul.

[ 23 ]  And 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.    [ 24 ]  Ye see then how that by works [ epywv - Obedience ] a man is justified [ edikaiothe ], and not by faith only."

In verse 23 James is quoting Genesis to prove his point that Abraham had works with his faith:

Genesis 15:6  And he ( Abraham ) believed in the LORD;  and he counted ( imputed ) it to him for righteousness.

        James uses an example of Abraham to show us that anyone can have faith ..... but faith without actions ( works, obedience ) is just that " faith alone which becomes nothing more than words ".   Abraham was saved by faith, but proved that faith by obeying God and offering his son ( Gen:22 ).

        " True saving faith is seen in us by what we do daily and it's not something we just talk about ".   It includes action on our part.   Could you imagine Abraham running around telling everyone how he was going to offer Isaac up as a sacrifice and never doing it !   His faith would have been meaningless.

This is James point:
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Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified [ edikaiothe ] by works [ epywv - Obedience ], when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way.

        James provides us with another example of faith in action with Rahab the Harlot.   According to Joshua 2:9-11, Joshua sent two spies into the city of Jericho where they found the home of Rahab.   She hid the spies at the risk to her own life and helped them to escape by lowering them from her window with a cord.   Though Rahab knew little about God, her faith was revealed in her actions.

        Rahab became the wife of Salmon and by doing so became the ancestress of Boaz, Jesse's grandfather.   She became the mother of the line of David and of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we can see in Matthew's genealogy of our Lord, in which only four women are named.

        A point we as Christians must notice, concerning Rahab, is this: "Even though she was a harlot ... she was still a distant grandparent of our Lord."   How would today's church, or you yourself, treat a harlot who has excepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior ?   Way to many of us today wouldn't even want her in our church .....

Matthew 7:1

Judge not, that ye be not judged.

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works [ epywv - obedience ] is dead also.

        James wraps up his discusion here by giving us a third and final example.   He gives us an example that we can all easily understand.   If a human body doesn't have a spirit it is dead.   Likewise, faith is like a human body, and its spirit is revealed by its actions or works:

        As we look back on verses 14 through 26 we see that "true regeneration, or salvation, is demonstrated by its fruit."   If we want to know if we truly are saved ..... then listen to the words of James explaining how he knew we was saved:

James 2:18b   ... I will shew thee my faith by my works [ epywv - Obedience ] .....

May God Bless You


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Last modified: Sunday, December 18, 2021

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