James the Just – James 3:13-18 – Week 9 – Rob Covell

James the Just

James 3:13-18

Week 9

Rob Covell

Introduction – In this Session, we will conclude James chapter 3, and explore verses 13-18. In these verses James re-engages the Teachers or Leaders in the Church that he began to address at the beginning of James chapter 3. Like a wise Apostolic Father, James addresses the Regional Judean Church, and exhorts the leadership to evaluate the condition of their hearts, examine the fruit of their ministries and to walk in the operating system of heaven.

There are 3 movements in the text in verses 13-18.

1 – Teachers who claim to walk in God given wisdom prove it by the course of their lives.

2 – Ministers who thrive on ambition, religiosity and competition are ministering from the wrong source.

3 – James builds a contrast between the fruit of ungodly ministers and ministries and the fruit of ministers and ministries that operate in the wisdom that proceeds from God.

While the exhortation in James 3:13-18 is directed towards Teachers and Leaders in the Church, we can all benefit from living in the patterns put forth by James. Lastly, I want to mention that Jesus, regarding His humanity is the example of a life lived in God, manifesting the fullness of godliness, purity, righteousness, grace, mercy and love. As we read James 3:13-18, we should read these verses with Christ being the backdrop and source for the things that James writes the Jewish Church in Judea, Samaria and Syria.

James 3:13

a) In verse 13, James re-addresses the Teachers that he exhorted at the beginning of James 3. See James 3:1-2. We know this because of the Greek word sophos, which is a common term for describing Jewish rabbis in the First Century. The Epistle of James follows Hebrew literary style, which begins with a subject, fast forwards and then re-addresses the subject. We see this style in Genesis, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and among other books of the Old Covenant Scriptures. This would make sense since James’ audience are First Century Jewish believers in Messiah in Judea, Samaria and Syria.

b) In verse 13, James gives those who teach and lead the Church a measure by which we can evaluate ourselves to see if the wisdom we possess is from heaven or from our own understanding. Wisdom from God is not simply head knowledge or education. Wisdom from God produces a pattern of living that reimages the core values of the kingdom of God.

c) Notice that the fruit of godly wisdom is a well lived and congruent life, with an attitude of humility/gentleness (NASB), Greek – praÿtēs – mildness of disposition, gentleness of spirit, meekness. If we have wisdom we do not need to prove we are right or exert control over others because we do not have a spirit of competition or control. Jesus, our Teacher, possessed this quality, Matthew 11:29 – Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

James 3:14

a) Bitter envy (Greek – pikros zēlos – harsh, bitter, an envious and contentious rivalry, jealousy) and selfish ambition (Greek – kä-tä-kau-khä’-o-mai – to glory against, to exult over, to boast one’s self to the injury – of a person or thing) are the polar opposites of gentleness and humility. James is addressing a spirit of competition and harsh religiosity that contends with others based on their own perceived self-worth, harsh religious stances, or desire to be important. b) It is beneficial to evaluate your life in the light of 1 Corinthians 13 and Galatians 5:22-23.

James 3:15

a) James identifies the origin of ungodly wisdom, or carnal ministries and motives. Earthly – Living for this life, in the here and now, and not with an awareness of eternal life or the supernatural eternal realm of God. Unspiritual – Living from purely fleshly emotions and animalistic passions or desires. Demonic – Inspired by the thoughts and values that proceed from satan and demons, that re-image the operating system of hell.

b) Heavenly wisdom reflects its origin, the Godhead, and agrees with God’s emotions, nature, character and His Word.

James 3:16

a) James begins to build a contrast between the 3-Fold ungodly wisdom (earthly, unspiritual, demonic) and the wisdom that proceeds from God. b) Where there is envy and selfish ambition in a leader, the manifestation will be chaos/disorder, disorganization and ungodliness and an ungodly way of living (ethically bad). Paul addressed these same things in 2 Corinthians 12:20, Galatians 5:20, and Philippians 2:3.

James 3:17

a) James gives us a precise description of what heavenly wisdom looks when someone is wearing it like Joseph’s coat of many colors. James takes away all the ethereal mystery of wisdom and the theoretical concepts of wisdom and gives us a very practical guide to evaluate our lives to see if we are producing the fruit of godly wisdom.

b) Pure – exciting reverence for God, sacred, venerable, and pure. This is not addressing sexual purity per se, but is addressing having a pure heart, true motives and having consecrated hearts towards God.

c) Peace-loving – Being at peace, manifesting peace, and desiring peace. This is an allusion to the Hebrew concept of shalom, which is peace with God, peace within ourselves and peace that surrounds us.

d) Considerate – Greek – epieikēs – e-pē-ā-kā’s – equitable, fair, mild, patient, and tolerant of others. The great Scottish theologian William Barklay points out there is not a corresponding English word that properly describes the concept of this Greek word.

e) Submissive – obeys easily to authority, and willing to listen to another person’s heart.

f) Full of mercy – the ability to re-image God’s clemency toward the sins of men.

g) Good Fruit – the measurable benefit of one’s life or ministry.

h) Impartial/Unwavering – without dubiousness, ambiguity or uncertainty – Yes be yes – No be no.

i) Sincere – without hypocrisy, or undisguised motives of the heart.

James 3:18

a) NASB – And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. I believe the NASB is the better translation of verse 18. Since God is at perfect peace within Himself, then peace of the descriptive of heaven’s atmosphere. When we partner with the peace that emanates from God, and allow it to abide in us, that seed of peace within us bears the fruit of righteousness.

b) The ability to re-image Jesus proceeds from relationship and experiential knowledge of God.

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James the Just – James 3:1-13 – Week 8 – Rob Covell

James the Just

James 3:1-12

Week 8

Rob Covell

Introduction – In this Session, we will begin James chapter 3 and explore verses 1-13. In James chapter 3, we enter into the deep territory of the condition of hearts, and the course of lives that proceeds from the way we speak. James, being the Apostolic father of the Judean Church that has struggled with divisions, judgment and discrimination between themselves now exhorts them in regard to their speech and invites them to evaluate themselves and consider their ways. Like much of the Epistle of James, we can say that it preaches easy and lives harder. This necessitates the need for us to stay in step with the Spirit and yield to His leading in our lives so that Christlike character is developed in each one us.

In James 3:1-13, we have 2 movements in our text.

1 – James exhorts teachers in the Church, that their position of responsibility demands greater accountability to God than others in the Body of Christ.

2 – Our speech reveals the true conditions of our hearts and we should consider our words in light of the faith in Christ that we confess.

James 3:1-2

a) James is very implicit that teachers that serve the Church/ekklesia are held to a more stringent degree of judgment by God because of the position that they hold.

b) Greek – judged more strictly – megas krima – to receive intense scrutiny and judgment.

c) The Lord holds teachers – didaskalos – those who speak and teach for God, one who by their great spiritual power can draw a crowd, those who teach the Church by the special assistance of the Holy Spirit, are held to the strictest degree of judgment because of the very definition of the Greek word. Teachers are responsible for revealing God’s nature and character in the Scriptures, they are defenders and teachers of truth about God, they must have a thorough knowledge of Church history and World History, they must understand the original languages of the Scriptures, they are charged with equipping God’s people for the work of the ministry, they must be faithful to their people, they are examples of discipleship, they represent God to unbelievers, they are responsible for their own spiritual health, and they are accountable for the resources of the Church. There many other things we can say about the sobriety of Church leadership responsibilities and the seriousness of being judged by God for our conduct among His people, His Bride. Luke 12:48 – But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

d) Notice that James includes himself among those who stumble in many ways. The Greek word means to err to sin, or to stumble in the way. Every person has the need to confess their sin, receive forgiveness from God, and trust in the grace
and mercy of Jesus Christ. James is contrasting God’s demand on Church leaders and their weaknesses. The standard is set very high for leaders, and the willingness to develop Christlike character is demanded of leaders.

e) Jesus teaches us that our speech reveals our hearts. Matthew 12:34 – You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

f) Notice that self-control is listed as a measure by which we can judge our own character. See 1 Timothy 3:1-13 for the requirements and rewards of being a successful Church leader.

James 3:3-6

a) Now James shifts his exhortation to the general body of believers and draws a metaphor between bits of animals, rudders on ships, and small sparks that start great fires. All these metaphors require someone to hold the reigns, steer the ship or strike the spark. The question begs to be asked; “who or what is guiding your speech?” Jesus has already identified that our speech proceeds from our hearts and reveals the condition of our hearts.

b) If we step back and evaluate the course of our lives, we can see that the things we have said to others have either burned friendships and interpersonal relationships down or built them up. Proverbs 18:21 – The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 10:19-21 – Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value. The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of sense.

c) Most of the sin that plagues humanity involves speech of one kind or another.

James 3:7-8

a) James draws another metaphor as he continues to highlight the importance of possessing good character and a healed, pure heart by using the example of taming wild animals.

b) James mentions that no human can tame their tongue. This highlights our need to rely on the Holy Spirit and draw from the new life/resurrection life that He imparts to us. Galatians 5:22-25 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Without the Spirit of God, we cannot possibly walk and talk in a way that honors Christ and honors others. John Wesley quotes a woman who told him that “her talent was to speak her mind.” John Wesley answered her, “God won’t object if you bury that talent. And do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

James 3:9-12

a) In verses 9-12, James continues to teach his Apostolic children using Hebrew parallelism to draw out the truth that our speech should be consistent with our confession of faith. One of the most painful forms of hypocrisy is praising God in worship and then curse (kataraomai – curse, doom, imprecate evil upon) those who are made in His image. To love God, also includes loving people. 1 John 4:20 – Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

b) Just as it is unnatural for a fresh water spring to produce salt water, or a fig tree to bear olives or a grapevine to bear figs, it should be unnatural and out of character for Christians to speak condemnation, judgment and evil of others.

c) Although these words of James are not easy, they are an invitation to receive grace, ask for forgiveness, repent in our ways and empower the Holy Spirit in us to help us, comfort us, teach us, and advocate for us so that we may grow more in Christ and live in a way that agrees with God.

James the Just – James 2:14-26 – Week 7 – Rob Covell

James the Just

James 2:14-26

Week 7

Rob Covell

Introduction – In this Session we will complete James 2 in our verse by verse study through this wonderful Apostolic letter to the Judean church scattered throughout Judea, Samaria, and Syria because of the persecution from the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem. See Acts 8. It is at this point where James begins to build the theology that our faith is proved by our personal responsibility and by our faith actions that proceed from believing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Many theologians in the past have sought to frame James 2:14-26 in a strictly Soteriological/salvation sense. However, if we look at the context of the times and culture that James is writing to, we begin to see that James is addressing the condition of his readers hearts, and thereby giving them a metron by which to evaluate their confession of faith. We could say that although salvation is addressed is these verses; the requirements of eternal salvation are not the focus, but the backdrop by which I evaluate my heart condition towards other people, and a baseline by which I can measure my response to God’s grace towards me.

In James 2:14-26, we see movements in the text that highlight these 2 concepts; that James is speaking to the heart conditions of his readers and giving them a measure by which they can evaluate their confession of faith.
These 2 movements in the text are as follows:

1 – My faith in Jesus Christ should compel me to have compassionate love for others that causes me to care for them in a tangible way.

2 – My faith in Jesus Christ, opens up relationship to the Godhead in such a way that my faith is expressed through the course of my life as I obey God, cooperate with Him as He leads me, and maintain love with God by purposefully engaging Him daily.

James 2:14

a) The previous section of James 2 dealt with James correcting the Judean Church’s discrimination of the poor, mild racism against the Gentiles, and the injustice of judging people by their appearance. James authoritatively made the case for the acceptance of all people in our worship gatherings. As we have said before, that faith is the great equalizer. I mention this, so that we approach verse 14-26 with the proper context.

b) The Greek word for “deeds or work” in the various English translations is ergon – business, employment, that which any one is occupied, that which one undertakes to do, enterprise, undertaking – James is presenting the position that our faith should compel us to acting on behalf of others in compassionate love that is expressed in tangible ways.

c) The Greek word, “saved” in the text is sōzō – to save, keep safe and sound, to
rescue from danger or destruction, to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health, to deliver from the penalties of the Messianic judgment, to save from the evils which obstruct the reception of the Messianic deliverance.

d) The theological implications in these verses begins by James presenting an argument that faith action proceeds from saving faith. Our salvation is freely given to us from God and received without works that make us acceptable God, because Jesus fulfilled and completed the work of atoning for the sins of humanity. However, after we have experienced saving grace, that experience compels us to begin to live a transforming life as we grow in grace, faith and walk with God in the everyday. James is addressing the issue of what true discipleship should look like in the lives of God’s people.

James 2:15-17

a) James is not presenting that deeds/works save, but that caring for others and meeting their needs flow from a heart that has experienced the goodness of God and desires to extend that same goodness to others. 1 John 4:12 – No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

b) Using the backdrop of the earlier verses in James 2, we can see that James is exhorting his readers that our faith has a very practical application in caring for others needs. James 4:17 – If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

James 2:18-19

a) Many theologians believe that James is addressing the “libertine” or early gnostic/antinomian movement that some of the Hellenized Jews were advocating. This is the position that basically that God’s grace continues to release favor into one’s life, even as one lives as one pleases, without morality, or responsibility towards God’s grace. Today it exists in the form of the radical grace movement.

b) Let’s look at the words of Jesus, so that we understand His concept of discipleship. Matthew 16:24 – Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. See Luke 28:33, Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:16-17.

c) James is providing His readers a measure by which they can evaluate their faith. Notice that James gives the example that the demons believe in the One True God and shudder. The deeds by which demons demonstrate is rebellion, killing, stealing and destruction which is not congruent with true knowledge of God. They believe God exists, but their deeds do not prove relationship with God. The course of everyone’s life reveals what they believe to be true about God.

James 2:20

a) As James continues challenging this ancient libertine heresy, he will present his Apostolic correction by using examples in Scripture. It is always wise to evaluate our lives based what Scripture communicates says to us. Paul made a very
similar case in 1 Corinthians 10:11 – These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.

b) Faith is not faith without some type of faith action that proceeds from that faith. The Reformers said, “while faith alone justifies, the faith that justifies is never alone.”

James 2:21-24

a) James uses the example of Abraham as a model for what a life lived in faith looks like. As we consider Abraham’s journey with God, we can easily observe that Abraham first responded to God’s invitation to sojourn with Him, and as Abraham continued to trust and respond to God’s overtures, Abraham continued to build trust and friendship with God to the point where his relationship with God was so developed that Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac. In Genesis 22 we see an amazing proto-evangelium that prophesied God the Father giving His Son as sacrifice to the world.

James 2:25-26

a) James uses the example of Rahab for the express purpose of highlighting the grace and love of God towards even the most broken of us. That the Lord extended salvation to the most undeserving of us in the human family.

b) Rahab was included in the genealogy of Jesus Christ to showcase God’s goodness and grace. See Matthew 1:5. Rahab was the grandmother of Boaz who was an example of covenant fidelity and a proto-Christ as the kinsman redeemer.

c) Rahab’s knowledge of God’s intentions for His people Israel and the city of Jericho caused her to partner with that knowledge and act in a way that was congruent to that knowledge. Essentially, from her limited knowledge of God proceeded faith actions that delivered her and her family from God’s judgment on Jericho.

d) James gives us the clearest measure by which to evaluate our faith in God. If we are not actively engaged in the journey of faith, then we may not actually be in the faith. 2 Corinthians 13:5 – Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?

e) Church History from the Early-Post Apostolic period shows us that the local body of believers would receive a person as a brother or sister in Christ, after having observed the fruit of discipleship in their lives, and witnessed their pursuit of God first-hand. While I am not advocating this arrangement, it is interesting to consider that the Early Church had no paradigm for modern altar call Christianity. See the Parable of the Sower, Mark 4:3-23.

James the Just – James 2:8-13 – Week 6 – Rob Covell

James the Just

James 2:8-13

Week 6

Rob Covell

Introduction – In this Session, we will continue in James chapter 2 and explore verses 8-13. In the last Session, we learned that James chapter 2 was divided into 2 movements in the text.

1 – James addresses discrimination, favoritism and division along social lines – James 2:1-13

2 – James builds the theology that faith is proved by personal responsibility and faith action to the Word of God – James 2:14-26

We will complete the first division of the text and we will see James personalizing our responsibility to love each other, respect each other and to show each other mercy in the light of the commands of Scripture. James continues with our personal responsibility to walk in obedience to God’s Law in the context of God’s mercy in forgiving us and not judging our sin.

James 2:8

a) James calls the commands of God found in the Scriptures, royal law. The Scriptures reveal the nature and character of God, and invite us into the reality of a life aligned with His heart, that releases His goodness, blessing and love in our lives. The law of God is royal because it proceeds from the only Potentate and Sovereign, who is Lord of lords and King of kings.

b) Notice that James relates the law, or commands of Scripture in the context of love. Greek – agapaō – To love dearly, without demands, the type of love that will contend for the highest purposes of the object of this love.

c) James quotes Leviticus 19:18, and Jesus answered a challenge from a Teacher of the Law, who was questioning Jesus about who is his neighbor in Luke 10. Jesus quoted this same verse and told him the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Loving your neighbor is not practiced only when it is expedient or convenient. Loving our neighbor causes us to invest in people, respect them and re-image Jesus to them. Romans 13:10 – Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

James 2:9

a) James is speaking to his culture, Messianic Jews who had a high regard for the Law, and James exhorts them to abandon their tendency to prefer some in their assemblies over others, in the context of breaking the law by not loving their neighbors; i.e. their fellow Christian brothers and sisters who were from the lower social classes. The Greek word for favoritism in the text literally means to discriminate against. As we mentioned in the last session, all people are created in the image of God and all believers are equal in worth on the basis of faith.

James 2:10-11
a) James reinforces First Century rabbinic teaching that held the position that if one broke any part of the Law, then they were guilty of sinning against all the Law. Jesus taught this same position in Matthew 5:17-19 – “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Notice that we can’t choose which laws we like and which ones we will disregard. The whole Law is to be obeyed.

b) When we consider the Law and the demand of the Law for perfection, it is best understood by considering the purpose for the Law. Galatians 3:23-24 – But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. Romans 3:20 – Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

c) The Law of God is intended to lead us to God’s mercy and grace in Jesus Christ. In Christ, we receive forgiveness of sin, the promise of eternal life, and the promise of the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to obey God and helps us spiritually mature as children of God.

James 2:12

a) James exhorts his hearers to regard the gravity of the Law and consider the kindness of God and the fullness of His mercy that extends to each one of us. When we consider that areas that we have failed in the Law, then it is easy to extend forgiveness, grace, and mercy to the people around us.

b) Notice that James says the Law brings freedom. To walk out our lives with the awareness of God’s Law provides us boundaries in life that maximize our ability to relate to Him, receive favor from God, blessings from God and ultimately protect us from the devastating damage of sin and the affliction of the enemy. Though none of us are perfect, we can lean on the guidance of the Holy Spirit and grow in our faith and walk in increasing alignment with God’s heart in our lives. The freedom God offers us is not the freedom to do as we please, but the freedom from being controlled by our sins and the influence of the demonic, and the freedom to choose His ways. 1 Peter 2:16 – Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.

James 2:13

a) James parallels Jesus words in Matthew 7:1-2 – “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

b) Those who trust in the mercy of God, receive His mercy and extend that same mercy to the others around them. In Matthew 18, Jesus gave the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant to illustrate the power of forgiveness and mercy in our lives.

James the Just – James 2:1-7 – Week 5 – Rob Covell

James the Just

James 2:1-7

Week 5

Rob Covell

Introduction – In this Session, we will begin to explore James, Chapter 2, verse by verse. James Chapter 2 is divided into 2 main sections with movements in the text that support these thoughts. The 2 main divisions of the text in this chapter is as follows:

1 – James addresses discrimination, favoritism and division along social lines

2 – James builds the theology that faith is proved by personal responsibility and faith action to the Word of God

In this Session, we will exegete James 2:1-7.

James 2:1

a) James addresses the social issues of discrimination, judgment toward others and class warfare as they apply to the Church. It is important for us to understand the context of the culture that James was speaking to. At this time, James was addressing the Jewish believers in Messiah that were dispersed throughout Judea and Syria. First Century Jewish culture was an honor versus shame based culture. One’s acceptance/honor depended on social status, wealth, religious affiliation, i.e. Pharisee, Sadducee, Essene, Teacher of the Law, Levite, Priest, etc. We also need to consider the Roman occupation of Judea and its influence of being an empire that had a 35-40% slave demographic in the First Century.

b) In verse 1, James makes an incredible statement that would be shocking to the common culture he is addressing. 1 – Everyone is equal through faith in Jesus Christ. NASB – My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. “Personal favoritism” – Greek – prosōpolēmpsia – pro-sō-po-lām-psē’-ä – the fault of one who when called on to give judgment has respect of the outward circumstances of man and not to their intrinsic merits, and so prefers, as the more worthy, one who is rich, high born, or powerful, to another who does not have these qualities. Galatians 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

c) We should also point that the sentence structure of verse one in the Greek text, that James takes for granted the divinity of Jesus Christ. See Greek – doxa kyrios Iēsous Christos. NKJV – My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. The NKJV translates the thought more accurately compared to NIV or NASB regarding the divinity and presence of Jesus Christ. A First Century Jewish believer would immediately have thought of Jesus as the manifestation of shekinah.

James 2:2-4

a) As James attacks the judgment and discrimination of his culture as it has carried over into culture in the church, he pulls out the truth that faith in God is always
the great equalizer that brings justice to the world. Though the Church often resembles the cultural norms in which it exists, that is an indicator that we are living below our calling to be one with Christ and one in the faith. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:5 – “one Lord, one faith, one baptism”.

b) As we consider the Church in Judea in the First Century, the Church would have met in either Messianic Synagogues or in the homes of wealthy believing benefactors. The word in the Greek for “meetings”, is synagogue. This is the only verse in the New Testament where the assembly of Christian believers is called a synagogue. In this context, it would have been culturally acceptable to discriminate between the rich and the poor, as the poor where judged as less than and not having favor with God because poverty in the context of Jewish culture was curse in the Law. See Deuteronomy 28.

c) James mentions, “a man wearing a gold ring”, which is a reference to the Roman culture, where the rich would wear very gaudy gold rings on the left hand to distinguish them from others. In the Roman empire, one could rent a gold ring for a special occasion, like we rent fine suits and tuxedos.

d) Jesus addressed this same thing in Matthew 7:2 – For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

e) James is addressing the temptation that exists in ministry environments, where people of means are pursued for gain. Not only does this dishonor the poor, it also dishonors the wealthy and treats them like resources and dehumanizes them.

James 2:5

a) Notice the term of endearment that James uses as he corrects the Church. Good spiritual fathers and mothers always season their corrections with grace filled words, and reminders of their identities in Christ. To do otherwise, robs hope, releases discouragement, and builds offense.

b) “Has not God chosen those who are poor” – In the First Century, many poor, and many who were part of the Roman slave class came streaming into the Church. Jesus declared in Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,” and Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:26, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.”

c) James is not preaching that poverty is holiness, he simply making a contrast that the poor often rely on faith for provision and inherit the same kingdom as anyone does. Through the cross, all the benefits are the same for everyone. God chose all people.

James 2:6-7

a) James mentions the unbelieving Jewish persecution that the Judean Church endured in the First Century. In Acts we see the Sanhedrin, mostly made up of Sadducees, who were the wealthy political class persecute, arrest and condemn Messianic Jewish believers in the court. In Acts, we see the Pharisees persecuting the Messianic Church based on religious blasphemy. It was those people, who had wealth and influence that could finance these types of attacks on Messianic believers in Judea.

b) James identifies these persecutor groups in Judea by referring to them as the “ones who blaspheming the noble name of Him to whom you belong”. One only needs to read through Acts to prove this point.

c) One the positive side, James brings out the truth that we belong to Jesus. In the midst of spiritual trial, attacks and persecution for our faith, we can find comfort that we belong to Christ and He will always love us and be with us. To belong to Him, is to be joined to our Creator in experiential love that gives us courage to persevere.