REMEMBER THE FORMAT: James 2 has two sections, and the first doesn't seem to have anything to do with the second. Nor does James 2 seem to have anything to do with what we read yesterday in James 1. That's because each of these individual passages in James is like a stand alone mini-sermon. This letter is probably a collection of memorable lessons James had taught over the years.
LAWS DON'T NORMALLY GIVE FREEDOM: As we come to grips with the COVID-19 quarantine, laws are being enacted that haven't been enforced for decades or even centuries. It seems to us that these laws are greatly restricting our freedom, but even though these laws restrict our ability to do what we want, hopefully by following these laws we will soon have our freedom returned. But James is referring to an entirely different concept when he writes:
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom... (v12)
The 'law' James refers to here is not a written code of do's and don'ts, the 'law' is the obligation we have to believe in the name of Jesus Christ. That law has given (not will lead to) us freedom. James' point is that you have not been set free in order to wander back into the slavery of sin, rather you have been set free to live as Christ did, by showing mercy and kindness to all. V13 finishes this section with an ominous warning to those who violate this law.
WARNING - WARNING - WARNING! I hope all of your mental alarms were blaring as you read v24:
A person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
That almost sounds unbiblical to us Calvinistic Reformed folk, doesn't it! But don't twist James' words. Read them in context. James is saying that when you do genuinely good things, it's an expression of your faith. Remember what we read in Hebrews 11:6, "without faith it is impossible to please God." James is simply contrasting true faith with mere intellectual assent (as in, even the demons 'believe' in God - v19). True faith will always be accompanied by the Fruit of the Spirit we just read about in Galatians 5. Conceptually, James would certainly agree with the doctrine that you are saved through faith alone, but practically he would properly insist that true faith will always be expressed in good deeds.
THERE'S THAT VERSE AGAIN: Remember last Friday's contest we had in Digging Deeper into Galatians 3 to identify the two other New Testament quotations of one of the most important verses in the Bible, Genesis 15:6? Jessica Peterson is the lucky reader who identified Romans 4:3 along with today's passage, James 2:23, which reads,
Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: The almighty God who has chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom (v5).
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Be sure that your faith and your actions are working together (v22).
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: