We begin this week by finishing off chapter 2: James 2:20-26
v20: Foolish – This word alludes to one who is empty –empty of the truth and revelation of G-d. Because of emptiness, his life is unable to produce that which is right in the eyes of G-d.
Note: As already mentioned….the purpose of work/deeds is to show genuine faith. Genuine faith (together with time and opportunity – the person who repents on their deathbed has neither time nor opportunity to prove their faith – and that’s ok! Faith, in Yeshua, Jesus Christ, is the guarantee for salvation) will produce works of righteousness/good works.
v21: Abraham our father – this is a very Jewish way of speaking about Abraham. Most (religious) Jews never speak about Abraham without backing up his name with the use of “father” (“Avraham Avinu”)
· The work Abraham performed, in this example, was the work of listening to and obeying the instructions of G-d.
· Justified – it was evident. Brought to the right conclusion/end. Because Abraham’s faith was genuine it produced obedience (even though Abraham didn’t physically offer up Isaac he is still credited with the deed, as he perfectly and completely obeyed G-d, even to the point where substitution was made – the killing of the ram in place of his son. Isaac is considered as the one that died, despite the fact that it was actually the ram…Rom 6:11)
v22: James is not looking at faith from solely a salvation point of view. His view is a lot broader –
faith is going to work and bring something to its conclusion/to its perfect end. Faith (that is genuine) changes our lives – it changes our thoughts, our actions, our words etc. This changed life will be brought under (submit to) the will of G-d.
v23: There is no mention of works in this verse. It was Abraham’s belief (faith) that was credited to him for righteousness.
· Called the friend of G-d: Where was he called this? Isaiah 41:8. A careful reading of this verse in Isaiah reveals that not only was Abraham called a friend of G-d but the seed of those born from Abraham (the children of faith – not necessarily the physical children – ie the believing community, you and me) can also be called friends (ones who are loved) of G-d. The only way to become G-d’s friend is through genuine faith in the Son whom He sent.
v24: You see then….James is starting to wrap up this thought – that genuine faith produces works/fruit. Note: If our salvation was based on works then we would never be able to have assurance of our salvation – we might not live long enough to get up enough credit, we might have had a bad day yesterday so we find ourselves starting to fall behind etc. Our lives would be a constant stress, without peace, as we tried to keep up with our “works schedule”. This was never G-d’s intention for us.
v25: Rahab (Josh 2) had heaped up the sin (harlot = prostitute, a woman of unrighteousness). No amount of good works was going to settle her “negative score”. Rahab wanted to be part of the nation (Israel) that had a relationship with the true G-d. By her actions she wisely chose to be loyal to the people of G-d rather than loyal to her own people.
What James is drumming over and over is this: When someone has an accurate Biblical faith
that faith manifests itself in measurable deeds, in evidence that can be seen and documented. We are not saved by the proof, but the proof gives evidence that we are saved.
v26: Here we see a very important definition for death – death happens when the soul, someone’s spirit, departs from their body.