James 2:1-9 – Respect of Persons
In our passage James is dealing with showing respect or partiality of persons. He equates partiality with evil thoughts and calls it sin (James 2:4 and 2:9). We humans often show partiality. God, on the other hand, does not. “For there is no respect of persons with God” (Romans 2:11).
James 2:1-9 – “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 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: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, 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? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.”
Who James is Addressing
“My brethern” refers to his fellow believers as brothers, fellow members of the body of Christ and family of God. This is an expression of endearment and love. We must love one another as endeared family members (John 13:34-35; Romans 5:5; 1 John 4:11).
However, here James is giving these believers a loving rebuke. “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:6). Every good minister and pastor will at times see the necessity to lovingly chastise his people for the greater good.
The Faith of Our Lord Jesus Christ
- Jesus Christ. Jesus was our Lord’s earthly name and Christ is who He was or is. Christ means messiah or anointed one, savior, “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). He is the savior of the world.
- Lord Jesus Christ. It’s important to note that, though he had been Jesus’ half brother according to the flesh, he addresses Him as “the Lord Jesus Christ.” We must take care not to get caught up in using His name flippantly. There must be a reverence and respect when referring to Jesus our Lord. Jesus desires to be our Lord and not simply our savior. Peter said, “God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). He desires to be “both Lord and Christ,” of our lives, not just savior but Lord as well.
- The faith of. It’s the faith of Jesus that we possess. It’s not our own faith but His that we are stewards over. We have nothing of our own. All we have is from Him and is a work of His grace in and upon our life. This should strip us of all glorying and boast of anything in ourselves and cause all glory to go to Him.
- Faith for salvation. “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” (Romans 3:22).
- Faith for service. “And His name through faith in His name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by Him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all” (Acts 3:16).
The Lord of Glory
What a beautiful description of our Lord. He was the Lord of glory prior to His incarnation, He was so while He walked on earth, and His full glory was restored after His ascension to the right hand of the Father.
Hebrews 1:3 – “Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the Word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
John 1:1-2, 14 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
John 17:5 – “And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.”
Revelation 1:10-18 – “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; And His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters. And He had in his right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”
With Respect of Persons
We should not have personal preferences of one person above another and particularly in the church. We must not favor one over another for any reason. “For there is no respect of persons with God” (Romans 2:11).
- Partiality in judgment. We must never pervert justice and judgment. We must not show partiality, giving favor to the mighty or great. Our judgment should be the same to all without respect of persons. Any and all forms of bribery shall never be considered to blind our eyes and pervert justice.
Leviticus 19:15 – “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.”
Deuteronomy 1:17 – “Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it.”
Deuteronomy 16:19 – “Thou shalt not wrest (pervert) judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.”
Proverbs 24:23 – “These things also belong to the wise. It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment.”
Proverbs 28:21 – “To have respect of persons is not good: for for a piece of bread that man will transgress.”
- Religious partiality. How often is religious partiality shown today? If people are part of our religious group that are favored more than those outside of our group. This is not a reference to those who are embracing and propagating false doctrine and heresies. All heretics must be rejected (2 John 7-9).
Acts 10:34 – “Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.”
Peter who was still holding onto his Jewish traditions not to have anything to do with Gentiles. God gives him a vision and shows him not to call anything or anyone unclean who God has cleansed. This is verified to him by the Holy Spirit being poured out on Cornelius’ household (Acts 10).
Galatians 2:6, 11-12 – “God accepteth no man’s person. But When Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.”
Peter didn’t learn his lesson but he pulled away from the Antioch believers when the Jewish believers arrived from Jerusalem. Prior to their arrival he ate and drank with the Gentile believers. Afterwards, he separated himself, fearing the Jewish believers. After which time Paul rebuked him to his face for his hypocrisy.
1 Corinthians 1:10-17 – “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel.”
The Corinthians were also having trouble falling into sectarianism. They were making a distinction as to what group they were part of and who had baptized them. How often do we do the same in our denominational sects? I’m Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, non-denominational, so forth and son on, as if one were better than the other. If we are all saved and blood washed, we should be united in Christ and not what group we’re associated with.
- Racial partiality. Racial partiality and discrimination of any kind should not be tolerated. We are all humans beings and part of the same biological family Adam and Eve. We must all be viewed the same. None of us should be looked down on as a lower class of person that the other.
Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because he was married to an Ethiopian woman. Their claim was, does the Lord speak through Moses only? Does He not also speak through us. This angered the Lord to the extent He departed from them and Miriam was left leprous, white as snow. She apparently was the one who instigated it all. In essence God said, you like white, have at it.
Numbers 12:1, 8-11 – “And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman. Wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them; and He departed. And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous.
- Cliques in church. The Corinthians were having love feasts. They probably began well but as time went on those who could afford to bring a good meal ate and drank while leaving those didn’t have the means to bring their own food and drink were left out. They had formed cliques within the church.
1 Corinthians 11:20-22 – “When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.”
There are many such cliques in the church today which God loathes. We are to leaves such cliques outside His church. It may be social status, those who dress different than others, women and men, white collar workers and blue collar workers, those who have different likes, etc., but it must not be tolerated in God’s house. When we gather together we should do so as one body, made up of those who are all in need of a savior, around the foot of the cross.
- Affluent and influential. There must not be a distinction between those who have and those who have, the affluent and influential and those who may not have a lot and may be seemingly insignificant. Sadly, those who are affluent and influential are too frequently treated different in our churches.
We think the influential may be able to propel our church to the next level and help us meet all the right people. When someone comes through the doors of our church who appears to be a person of means, our immediate thought is, they would be a good tither and we treat these different. These things ought not so to be.
James 2:2-4 – “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: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?”
“Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?” This reveal our true heart. It shows:
- Impure motives – Our heart is not right before God.
- Double mindedness – Matthew 6:22 and 24, 1 Kings 18:21.
- Desire to impress – Look at who I’m with, who’s coming to our church. Look who I’m with.
James 2:5-7 – “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? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?”
God wants all men to come to Himself but the ones He has normally chosen and used have been those who were outcast, rough and those the world typically doesn’t want that He might receive the glory. This does not mean we should shut the others out or shun them. However, God does have a special place in His heart toward outcast.
Isaiah 16:4 – “Let My outcasts dwell with you… Be a shelter to them from the face of the spoiler.”
1 Samuel 22:2 – “Every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them.”
James 1:9-11 – “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.”
1 Corinthians 1:26-29 – “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in His presence.”
James 2:8-9 – “If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.”
Here James put a balance on it all. If our heart is pure and our motive is right, we will love and treat everyone equally.
Matthew 22:39 – “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
John 13:34-35 – “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
John 17:21 – “That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me.”
Romans 13:8 – “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.”
1 John 2:10 – “He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.”
1 John 4:11-12 – “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.”