The 2nd Chapter of James unfolds in six basic themes:

  1. Verses 1-8 outline how believers are to behave toward others. Specifically how Messianic Jews, are to treat non-Messianic Jews inquiring about the New Covenant faith.
  2. This is subdivided into Faith without Partiality in verses 1-7
  3. and the Royal Law in verse 8.
  4. Verse 9-11 explains that on offense breaks the Law of Moses.
  5. Verses 12-13 describe the Law of Liberty
  6. and verses 14-26 describe Faith without Works.

I want to point out that I do not use the Greek substitution of the name Jesus, which in actuality means “of or to Zeus”. No offense is taken to this widely used name, but we know His name is now and was then known as Yeshua. The angels separately told his mother and her future husband what to name this miraculous child. Just as our salvation comes from Him—in Hebrew, His name comes from the word for salvation and HaMashiach means “the Messiah”.

Faith without Partiality

My brethren have not the faith of our Lord Yeshua HaMashiach, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. (v.1)

The faith of our Lord Yeshua: or the faithfulness of our Lord Yeshua. “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Yeshua HaMashiach unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” Romans3:22.

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Yeshua HaMashiach, even we have believed in Yeshua HaMashiach, that we might be justified by the faith of Mashiach, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” Galatians 2:16. For favoritism, compare Deuteronomy 1:17 Job 34:19 Acts 10:34.

  1. have: (Greek: echo) to hold
  2. glory: (Greek: doxa) dignity, glorious, honor. Which none of the princes of this world
  3. knew: “for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8).
  4. respect of persons: (Greek: prosopolepsia) partiality, i.e. favoritism. “For there is no respect of persons with God” Romans 2:11.

For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, “Sit thou here in a good place and say to the poor,” “Stand thou there or sit here under my footstool:” (v.2, v.3)

  1. assembly: (Greek: sunagoge) Synagogue. The word used in the King James is assembly and should be rendered synagogue, the word used in the Greek is “sunagoge,” and appears 57 times in the Apostolic Writings. Fifty-six times it refers to a Jewish place of congregational assembly and is translated “synagogue” in virtually all English versions. In some translations appear the word “assembly,” “church,” “meeting,” “place of worship,” or other avoidances of the word “synagogue”. This reflects the heresy of Marcion, in 138AD (see Appendix A).
  2. goodly: (Greek: lampros) bright or shining. For lampros see verse 3:
  3. gay: also Luke 23:11 Acts 10:30 Rev 15:6 Rev 18:14 Rev 19:8 Rev 22:1 & 16.
  4. apparel: (Greek esthes) In verses 2 and 3 esthes is translated by “apparel,” “raiment,” and “clothing”. See Luke 23:11 Acts 1:10 10:30 12:21.
  5. vile: (Greek: rhuparos) dirty, i.e. cheap or shabby or filthy used here and James 1:21.
  6. have respect to: (Greek: epiblepo) look upon or to gaze at with favor or partiality.
  7. unto: (Greek: epi) in regard to direction: upon, towards. in a good place: (Greek: kalos) Literally, well goodly, worthy.

This verse establishes a solid Scriptural basis for modern-day Messianic synagogues, provided that Gentile believers are not excluded. That would be a violation of Ephesians 2:11-16, “raise the middle wall of partition”. James clearly shows, as believers, we should be committed to preserving and developing a Jewish expression of Biblical worship with a gold ring: (Greek: chrusodaktulios) Literally gold ringed, i.e. wearing a golden ring.

Are ye not then partial in ourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom, which he hath promised to them that love him? (v.4, v.5)

  1. evil: (Greek: poneros) degeneracy from original virtue. Generally, a negative statement of quality or character.
  2. thoughts: (Greek: dialogimos) discussion, i.e. internal consideration, reasoning’s. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” Matthew 15:19.
  3. Hath not God chosen: (Greek: ou theos eklegomai) Didn’t God choose or select?
  4. kingdom: (Greek: basileia) properly: royalty abstractly: rule or reign or concretely: a realm Kingdom of God in which “Kingdom Torah” (v.8) prevails.

But ye (have) despised the poor (one). Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by (the name) which ye are called? (v.6, v.7)

  1. have: should be omitted, not in original text or necessary for clarification.
  2. despised: (Greek: atimazo) dishonored or shamed, see Acts 5:41.
  3. poor: (Greek: ptochos) from ptosso: to crouch. Literally, often as a noun figuratively as distressed and still singular, as in v.2
  4. one: inserted for clarification when using “poor” as a noun.
  5. oppress: (Greek: katadunasteuo) to exercise dominion against, i.e. oppress. “How God anointed Yeshua of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power, who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil for God was with him” Acts 21:30.
  6. draw: (Greek: helko) literally or figuratively to drag. “and all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut” Acts 21:30.
  7. before: (Greek: eis) to or into.
  8. worthy: (Greek: kalos) honorable see note on v.2
  9. name: (Greek: onoma) a name, i.e. what one is called. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Yeshua HaMashiach for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh” Acts 2:38.
  10. called: (Greek: epikaleomai) to entitled, by implication to invoke. “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” Acts 2:21.

What was happening here is that the rich non-believing Jews were being treated in some special way, when in fact they were the ones who oppressed the believers and dragged them possibly in a “beit-din”, a Jewish religious court, and they would insult the good name of Him to whom the believer belongs. Alternatively, these verses speak of any rich person Jew or Gentile, and any court.

The Royal Law?

If (indeed though) ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:” (v.8)

(Greek: ei mentoi nomos teleo basilikos kata ho graphe agapao ho plesion sou hos seautou kalos poieo). For some reason, KJV has omitted “indeed though”. Literally translated: According to the scripture, if you indeed yet fulfill a royal law, you must love your neighbor as yourself—you would do well.

  1. If (indeed though) ye fulfill: (Greek: ei mentoi nomos teleo) if indeed you complete, accomplish, conclude or attain the goal of Kingdom Torah (see royal law, below). This is usually understood to mean, “If you fulfill it, if you observe it and obey it,” but the Greek, “teleite,” also allows the translation to read, “if you complete Kingdom Torah,” if you bring it to its goal (see Romans 10:4, Hebrews 7:11). This would mean that the believer is to accomplish the purpose of Kingdom Torah by obeying the Torah of Moses, with its recurring theme. To come to this conclusion is to understand the passage, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This reflects the same basic teachings as central to Torah as understood by the Rabbis throughout history.
  2. royal: (Greek: basilikos) regal (in relation), i.e. literally belonging to (or befitting) the sovereign (as land, dress or aristocrat) or figuratively preeminent. The Greek, “basilikos” like the English “royal” means “of or pertaining to the king”. “So Yeshua came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman [basilikos], whose son was sick at Capernaum” (John 4:46).
  3. law: (Greek: nomos) literally the law of Moses, which is the Torah. This verse specifically combines royal and law to transition to “Kingdom Torah” which is also translated as “law of the Kingdom” in Today’s English Version. No where has the Mosaic Law been made obsolete, in contrast, as Galatians 5:14 puts it (compare Romans 13:8-10), “the whole of the Torah is summed up in this one sentence: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Yeshua pointed out, “this is one of the two mitzvoth (commandments or principles) on which all of the Torah and the Prophets depend” Matthew 22:35-40. The teaching says that the poor, including the widows and orphans of James 1:26, as well as the rich are counted as neighbors and are to be loved as oneself.
  4. Thou shalt love: (Greek: agapao) to love in a social or moral sense. “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord” Leviticus 19:18.

Offense breaks the Law of Moses

But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. (v. 9)

  1. If you show favoritism, then, no matter how much faith you claim to have, your actions constitute sin! It is these types of actions, which must accompany genuine faith, which is given detailed treatment in vv. 14-26.
  2. The Torah condemns favoritism in another context with these words: “Do not respect persons in judgment, but hear the small as well as the great do not be afraid of the face of any man, for the judgment is God’s” Deuteronomy 1:17.
  3. Sha’ul (Paul) also relates sin to transgression of the Torah (see Romans 4:15 7:7-12). “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” 1 John 3:4.

For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For He that said, “do not commit adultery,” said also, “do not kill.” Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. (v. 10, v. 11)

  1. offend: stumble (Greek: ptaio). See Romans 11:11.
  2. is: has been
  3. guilty: “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say Amen” Deuteronomy 26:26. See also Galatians 3:10

A person who keeps the whole Torah, yet stumbles at one point, has become guilty of breaking them all, that is of breaking all the points of Torah, thus breaking all of the Torah… as illustrated by verse 11. This verse are sometimes taken as proof that if a person violates a single commandment of the Torah, even once, he has placed himself permanently in the category of sinner and therefore has no hope of a restored relationship with God except by throwing himself on the grace of Yeshua.

Moreover, it is sometimes inferred further that since everyone sins (Isaiah 53:5 Romans 3:23) and sooner or later must violate at least one commandment of Torah, it was inherently impossible under the Mosaic Law for anyone to be in a right relationship with God. This inference is wrong it contradicts several passage including Luke 1:6.

These verses agree with the normal Jewish understanding, found in the writings of the Rabbis, that if one withholds one’s willingness to accept the authority of any part of Torah, one has abrogated the authority of the whole Torah. It is useful to quote here from the commentary of Yechiel Lichtenstien on verse 10:

This refers to that which is called by the Jews and the sages of Israel as an avaryan (“transgressor, criminal, literally one who has passed beyond”). It is as if he has offended in all points and is guilty of all. The opinion of James is the same as that of Resh Lakish, a fourth century Rabbi often quoted in the Talmud, who said in Sanhedrin 11a, Sh’eol… has opened her mouth without measure” (referencing Isaiah 5:14) for him who leaves undone even one statute.”

The remark of Resh Lakish gains significance from a wordplay: the Hebrew words meaning without measure in Isaiah are “b’li chok”, which would normally be translated “lacking a statute”.

See also Makkot 24a. The passage, quoted at Galatians 5:14, tells how in Psalm 15 King David reduced the 613 commandments of the Torah to eleven and concluded, “He who does these things shall never be moved.” The Talmud comments, “Whenever Rabban Gamil’el (see Acts 5:34 22:3) came to this passage he used to weep, saying, ‘only someone who practices all these (11 virtues of Psalm 15) shall not be moved but anyone falling short in any of them will be moved.”

See also Yalkut Shim’oni on Leviticus 4:2… if a soul shall sin by ignorance against any of the commandments…

See also Gates of Repentance, Rabbi Yonah of Georna also found a representative, although non-Messianic Jewish teaching on this subject in this medieval work.

The teachings in verses 10 – 11 are along similar lines, as is clear from the Greek verb tenses: If you don’t commit adultery, but do murder, making it your ongoing practice and continuing mindset to disobey this command, then you have become (notice the perfect tense), you have once and for all put yourself in the category of being a transgressor of the Torah. This is exactly what Lichentenstein in his commentary referred to as an avaryan and the Talmud as “an apostate in respect to one thing.” The Tanakh calls such rejection of its authority of the Torah “sinning with a high hand.”

Moreover, any society regards acceptance of some of its laws and rejection of whether the Mosaic Law can be fulfilled, note that the Torah itself prescribed sacrifices coupled with repentance as the means whereby sinners could be reconciled with God. Such reconciliation was not “permanent” (this is the point of the entire book of Messianic Jews… “Hebrews”) see especially chapters 9 and 10 but was effectual “temporarily”. It is not just true that under the Mosaic Law a person who failed to obey a single commandment had destroyed any possibility of getting right with God—as some Christian theologies teach. See Romans 9:30 through 10:10.

The Law of Liberty

So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. (v. 12, v. 13)

  1. shall: are about to.
  2. he shall have judgment: there shall be judgment to him.
  3. without mercy: (Greek: anileos) inexorable, unavoidable, unchangeable, and unstoppable
  4. rejoiceth against: (Greek: katakauchaomai) gloats, takes pride, revels or boasts over

When one affirms in one’s mind, certain facts or ideas about Yeshua, or through merely feeling good in one’s heart toward God, without doing good deeds, it offers what we call “cheap grace” teaching that robs man of God’s perfect Word. Its context is verses 1-13.

The topic of faith (the faith of our Lord Yeshua) is introduced in v. 1 and mentioned again in v. 5. The first nine verses show that genuine faith proves itself by being expressed in good works.

Therefore, mental or emotional faith by itself in v.17 or faith alone in v.24, unaccompanied by the right kind of actions, is dead (verses 17-26), barren (v. 20), no better that the so-called “faith” demons have (v.19), because they know the reality of the spirit world. Faith is made complete by actions only in v.22 and by this, God gives ground to declare a person righteous in v. 24.

Faith without Works

What doth it profit, by brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have no works? Can faith save him? (v. 14)

  1. What doth it profit: (Greek: ophelos) accumulate or gain advantage profit. What is gained? The question assumes a negative answer.
  2. though: if, as in v.2.
  3. works: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” Matthew 5:16.

If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 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? (v. 15-16)

  1. be: (Greek: huparcho) “And he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great” Luke 9:48.
  2. destitute: (Greek: Leipo) lacking or wanting as in chapter 1:4-5.
  3. and: (Greek: de) could just as well be: but, moreover, or now
  4. one: the reflexive pronoun “self”
  5. Even to pray, “God, bless so and so” without adding, “Speak the word, I’m ready for you to use me to bless so and so” often profits nothing.

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, thou has faith, and I have work: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
(v. 17-18)

  1. alone: by itself
  2. without: (Greek: choris) apart from.

Don’t let anyone say to you that you are saved by faith only and you don’t have action and are still saved. Intellectual faith without action cannot save you! I would say show me this faith of yours without the actions! You won’t be able to do so, since genuine faith is perceived not through talk, but through the deeds that issue from it. James puts it as, “ I will show you my faith by my actions, not being saved by the actions, but rather, by works grow out of my faith and prove that it is genuine faith.” This is the type of imagery that is common to the Talmud.

Thou believest that there 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? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 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. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab, the harlot, justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (v. 19 through v. 26)