I. Verses 1-5
A. Verses 1-4.
1. What is this “faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory? We read literally: the faith of our Lord, Jesus Christ, of glory, or, if you will, the faith of our Lord of glory, Jesus Christ.
a. We must notice the names: Jesus Christ. What is the meaning of Jesus, of Christ?
b. This Jesus Christ is called the Lord of glory. Why is He called the “Lord of glory’? This glory refers to His wonderful exaltation, deliverance out of His state of humiliation and above all the earthly, and clothed with heavenly majesty. Besides, He is Lord of glory. This means that He was exalted not merely personally, Himself (as, e.g., all the saints before Him), but as the Lord over all, Lord over all and also the King of His Church, the perfect Servant of Jehovah, completely consecrated to the will of His God, able to lead and protect and save His Church.
c. And He is called: our Lord of glory. Thus the text must be read. That He is our Lord means that He bought us, that we serve Him, and that He is responsible for our welfare (as a master was responsible for his slave and that slave had to serve him). This is implied in His Lordship. Why does James call Him “our Lord of glory”? Read the verses 2-4. How incongruous for a church to believe in such a Lord and then cater to things earthly, to men only because of the ring on their finger and the clothes upon their back!
d. What is this faith of Jesus Christ, our Lord of glory What is faith? A condition for salvation? My hand reaching out to accept God’s offer of salvation? Faith is God’s gift, God’s power in me, uniting me with Christ. This faith of our Lord, Jesus Christ, takes hold of Him, embraces Him. Christ is the object and content of our faith.
2. What is respect of persons? What do we read in verses 2-4? In some churches parishioners can buy their seats, pay an annual price for them. The expression means: to accept the face of one. It means that we respect, honor him for his outward appearance.
3. How can we believe on Jesus Christ, our Lord of glory, with, or (literally) in respect of persons?
a. Do not these two thoughts exclude each other? Do they ever really occur together? Is it not really either-or?
b. However, James is speaking to the church. In the church, as in the midst of the world, are carnal, wicked members who appear as and profess to be Christians. In the church are also imperfect saints.
c. These two, of course, really never mix, to believe in the Lord of glory and to have respect of persons. But we often try to maintain both. The result will always be disastrous.
B. Verse 5.
1. Notice how James characterizes God’s people here.
a. What does he mean when he speaks of the “poor of this world”? –see verses 2-3. Must we spiritualize this expression or explain ion the natural sense of the world?
b. What does he mean when he speaks of the “rich in faith”? Does he mean a rich, strong faith, as over against a weak faith? Or does he mean a richness in faith, a wonderful wealth, riches that is ours in the faith? And, what a riches! The forgiveness of sin, the consciousness of the love of God, our love of God but, more importantly, God’s love of us. Besides, to this richness in faith belongs also that we are heirs of the kingdom.
c. What does it mean to be “heirs of the kingdom”? What is this kingdom? What is an heir, in the natural sense of the word, and spiritually as in this text?
2. James speaks here of God’s election.
a. What is the doctrine of election?
b. Did God elect the poor of this world in the sense that of all people He selected them who are poor? Or does it mean that He sovereignly elected a poor people, willed His people to be poor? –see I Cor. 1:25-29. Does this mean that all the people of God are poor and that all the others are rich? Why, then, does Scripture generally picture the people of God as poor, as also in this text? Is this a general description of the people of God, also of the fact that the rich of this world are rich?
c. Did God elect them who are rich in faith? This is Arminianism. Or, did He elect them to be rich in faith, so that faith is the fruit of election? –see Canons I, 9, 10; also Eph. 1:4. We may also look up other passages in the Word of God that shed light on this.
3. Notice: “Hearken, my beloved brethren.”
a. We read in verse 4: Judging as in verses 1-3, we become partial in ourselves, make our distinctions, set ourselves up as judges, judge according to our standard.
b. And we become judges of evil thoughts. That which is earthy and carnal prompts us.
c. “Hearken, my beloved brethren.” Attend very closely to this. What a strange conception of values you have! You condemn the people of God who are poor in the earthy sense? Do you completely fail to see how really rich they are?! What strange evaluations you make!
II. Verses 6-7
A. Notice what we read of these rich here.
1. They oppress the poor.
a. The poor and rich are meant here as a class. The poor were oppressed because they were poor. And rich men oppress them. Of course, there are exceptions. All rich men do not oppress. Some of these rich are sincere people of God. Think of Boaz. But this is generally true. Not only in the world, but also in the church. To “oppress” the poor means: to use one’s power down upon them. They use their power to “keep them down.”
2. They draw them before the judgment seats, drag them into court. Notice: they draw you before the judgment seats. So this happened to the poor people of God. The Scriptures do not proclaim a social gospel, are not interested merely in social reform. How often this happens in the world, when the rich will drag the poor in to court to exact from them their last penny! It should not be difficult to quote several examples of this. But this also happens in the sphere of the church.
3. They blaspheme that worthy (beautiful) Name by which ye are called, or which has been called upon you. What is this Name? Is it “Christian” of “Christ Jesus”? Fundamentally, no difference. We are Christians because Christ’s Name has been called upon us, into us. We prefer to view this name as the name of Jesus. To blaspheme means to speak contemptuously. Why do they blaspheme this worthy name? When the people of the world are oppressed, they curse and try to retaliate. Think of our wicked labor unions today! But when God’s people are oppressed they bless them curse them, etc., trust in the Lord and in His Christ, appeal to Jesus to vindicate them. After all, vengeance belongs to God. Then these wicked oppressors will therefore blaspheme the name of Jesus, revile Him and speak contemptuously, reproachfully of Him, mock Him to Whom the people of God appeal.
B. The terribly sin of the church
1. They have despised the poor. The poor were despised because they were poor. This happened in the church.—see verses 1-4. A child of God was condemned because he was poor, regardless of his riches (verse 5).
2. And, of course, they catered to the rich. Fact is, they exercised respect of persons. They condoned the rich, only because he was rich. They gave him a place of honor. They probably elected them elders and deacons. They ignored their wickedness, winked at it. They respected him, only because of his wealth and influence. They could not very well afford to lose such influential members!
3. What a terrible situation in the Church of God! How often this happens in the nominal church of today! Are we also guilty of this? Must and do we have the courage to discipline members even though they are rich? May we ever condone their evil? Should we not always be true in our evaluations? Should we not always exercise our faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord of glory?
(To be continued)