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James 2

Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5

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James 2

1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, [the Lord] of glory, with respect of persons. Lev 19:15; Deut 16:19; Prov 24:23; Matt 22:16; 2 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; 3 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: 4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? 5 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? John 7:48; 1Cor 1:26; Exod 20:6; 1Sam 2:30; Prov 8:17; Matt 5:3; 6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?

8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: Lev 19:18; Matt 22:39; Mark 12:31; Rom 13:9; Gal 5:14; Eph 5:2; 1Thess 4:9; 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one [point], he is guilty of all. Deut 27:26; Matt 5:19; Gal 3:10; 11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. Exod 20:14; Matt 5:27; 12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. Matt 6:15; Matt 18:35; Mark 11:25; Luke 16:25;

14 What [doth it] profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? Matt 7:26; Jas 1:23; 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, Luke 3:11; 1John 3:17; 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be [ye] warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what [doth it] profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. Mark 1:24; 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Gen 22:10; 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Gen 15:6; Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6; 24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent [them] out another way? Josh 2:1; Josh 6:23; Heb 11:31; 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. TOC


James 2 - We should not prefer the rich to the poor, nor show any partiality inconsistent with the Gospel of Christ, Jam. 2:1-4. God has chosen the poor, rich in faith, to be heirs of his kingdom, even those whom some among their brethren despised and oppressed, Jam. 2:5, Jam. 2:6. They should love their neighbor as themselves, and have no respect of persons, Jam. 2:7-9. He who breaks one command of God is guilty of the whole, Jam. 2:10, Jam. 2:11. They should act as those who shall be judged by the law of liberty; and he shall have judgment without mercy, who shows no mercy, Jam. 2:12, Jam. 2:13. Faith without works of charity and mercy is dead; nor can it exist where there are no good works, Jam. 2:14-20. Abraham proved his faith by his works, Jam. 2:21-24. And so did Rahab, Jam. 2:25. As the body without the soul is dead, so is faith without good works, Jam. 2:26. Clarke

James 2 - In this chapter the apostle condemns a sinful regarding of the rich, and despising the poor, which he imputes to partiality and injustice, and shows it to be an acting contrary to God, who has chosen the poor, and whose interest is often persecuted, and his name blasphemed, by the rich (Jam. 2:1-7). He shows that the whole law is to be fulfilled, and that mercy should be followed, as well as justice (Jam. 2:8-13). He exposes the error and folly of those who boast of faith without works, telling us that this is but a dead faith, and such a faith as devils have, not the faith of Abraham, or of Rahab (Jam. 2:11 to the end). — Henry


In this chapter the apostle dissuades from a respect of persons, on account of outward circumstances; shows that the law is to be fulfilled, and that mercy is to be exercised, as well as justice done; and exposes the folly of such who boast of faith without works: he dissuades the saints from all partiality to the rich and poor, from their relation to one another, as brethren, and from their common faith, of which Christ, the Lord of glory, is the object, Jam. 2:1 supposes an instance of it, either in a court of judicature, or a religious assembly, Jam. 2:2 and then makes an appeal unto them, and expostulates with them about it, Jam. 2:4 and makes use of an argument against it, taken from the divine conduct, and an instance of his grace in the choice of persons to eternal life, Jam. 2:5 a conduct very different from some persons here blamed, Jam. 2:6,

and other arguments follow, dissuading from a respect of persons, taken from the characters of rich men, as oppressors of the poor, litigious and quarrelsome with their neighbours, and blasphemers of the name of God, Jam. 2:7 and from the law of God, which requires the love of the neighbour, and which to fulfil is to do well, Jam. 2:8 and from the breach of it, by having respect to persons, whereby its penalty is incurred, Jam. 2:9 for which a reason is given; because whoever offends in one point of the law, is guilty of the whole, Jam. 2:10 as is a clear case, since the same lawgiver that forbids one sin, forbids another; so that he that is guilty of either of them is a transgressor of the law, Jam. 2:11 wherefore it is right both to speak and act according to it, since men will be judged by it, Jam. 2:12 and he will have no mercy shown him that has shown none to the poor, but merciful ones will escape damnation, Jam. 2:13

and then the apostle argues from the unprofitableness of faith itself without works, Jam. 2:14 and which he exemplifies in the case of a poor brother or sister who are wished well, but nothing given them; which good words, without deeds, are of no profit, Jam. 2:15 so in like manner, faith without works is a dead faith, Jam. 2:17 nor indeed can it be made out that a man has faith, if he has not works, Jam. 2:18 at least such a faith as has justification and salvation connected with it; his faith, at most, is no better than that of the devils, who are damned, Jam. 2:19 and that such a faith is a dead faith, Jam. 2:2 and that true faith is attended with, and evidenced by works, the apostle proves by two instances;

the one is that of Abraham, whose faith appeared to be genuine, and he to be a justified person, by the works he did; particularly by offering up his son Isaac; in which way his faith operated, and showed itself to be sincere and hearty; and the Scripture was fulfilled that Abraham was a believer; and had righteousness imputed to him, and was a friend of God, and a justified person, Jam. 2:21

and the other instance is that of Rahab, whose faith was also shown by her works, and so a justified person, by receiving the spies with peace, and dismissing them with safety, Jam. 2:25, and then the apostle explains what he means, by saying more than once, that faith without works is dead; which he illustrates by the simile of a man's body being dead, without the spirit or soul in it, Jam. 2:26. Gill

Jas 2:1-13

Those who profess faith in Christ as the Lord of glory, must not respect persons on account of mere outward circumstances and appearances, in a manner not agreeing with their profession of being disciples of the lowly Jesus. St. James does not here encourage rudeness or disorder: civil respect must be paid; but never such as to influence the proceedings of Christians in disposing of the offices of the church of Christ, or in passing the censures of the church, or in any matter of religion. Questioning ourselves is of great use in every part of the holy life. Let us be more frequent in this, and in every thing take occasion to discourse with our souls. As places of worship cannot be built or maintained without expense, it may be proper that those who contribute thereto should be accommodated accordingly; but were all persons more spiritually-minded, the poor would be treated with more attention that usually is the case in worshipping congregations. A lowly state is most favourable for inward peace and for growth in holiness. God would give to all believers riches and honours of this world, if these would do them good, seeing that he has chosen them to be rich in faith, and made them heirs of his kingdom, which he promised to bestow on all who love him. Consider how often riches lead to vice and mischief, and what great reproaches are thrown upon God and religion, by men of wealth, power, and worldly greatness; and it will make this sin appear very sinful and foolish. The Scripture gives as a law, to love our neighbour as ourselves. This law is a royal law, it comes from the King of kings; and if Christians act unjustly, they are convicted by the law as transgressors. To think that our good deeds will atone for our bad deeds, plainly puts us upon looking for another atonement. According to the covenant of works, one breach of any one command brings a man under condemnation, from which no obedience, past, present, or future, can deliver him. This shows us the happiness of those that are in Christ. We may serve him without slavish fear. God's restraints are not a bondage, but our own corruptions are so. The doom passed upon impenitent sinners at last, will be judgment without mercy. But God deems it his glory and joy, to pardon and bless those who might justly be condemned at his tribunal; and his grace teaches those who partake of his mercy, to it in their conduct.

Jas 2:14-26

Those are wrong who put a mere notional belief of the gospel for the whole of evangelical religion, as many now do. No doubt, true faith alone, whereby men have part in Christ's righteousness, atonement, and grace, saves their souls; but it produces holy fruits, and is shown to be real by its effect on their works; while mere assent to any form of doctrine, or mere historical belief of any facts, wholly differs from this saving faith. A bare profession may gain the good opinion of pious people; and it may procure, in some cases, worldly good things; but what profit will it be, for any to gain the whole world, and to lose their souls? Can this faith save him? All things should be accounted profitable or unprofitable to us, as they tend to forward or hinder the salvation of our souls. This place of Scripture plainly shows that an opinion, or assent to the gospel, without works, is not faith. There is no way to show we really believe in Christ, but by being diligent in good works, from gospel motives, and for gospel purposes. Men may boast to others, and be conceited of that which they really have not. There is not only to be assent in faith, but consent; not only an assent to the truth of the word, but a consent to take Christ. True believing is not an act of the understanding only, but a work of the whole heart. That a justifying faith cannot be without works, is shown from two examples, Abraham and Rahab. Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness. Faith, producing such works, advanced him to peculiar favours. We see then, Jam. 2:24, how that by works a man is justified, not by a bare opinion or profession, or believing without obeying; but by having such faith as produces good works. And to have to deny his own reason, affections, and interests, is an action fit to try a believer. Observe here, the wonderful power of faith in changing sinners. Rahab's conduct proved her faith to be living, or having power; it showed that she believed with her heart, not merely by an assent of the understanding. Let us then take heed, for the best works, without faith, are dead; they want root and principle. By faith any thing we do is really good; as done in obedience to God, and aiming at his acceptance: the root is as though it were dead, when there is no fruit. Faith is the root, good works are the fruits; and we must see to it that we have both. This is the grace of God wherein we stand, and we should stand to it. There is no middle state. Every one must either live God's friend, or God's enemy. Living to God, as it is the consequence of faith, which justifies and will save, obliges us to do nothing against him, but every thing for him and to him. — MHCC

Jas 2:1-7

The apostle is here reproving a very corrupt practice. He shows how much mischief there is in the sin of prosōpolēpsia - respect of persons, which seemed to be a very growing evil in the churches of Christ even in those early ages, and which, in these after-times, has sadly corrupted and divided Christian nations and societies. Here we have,

I. A caution against this sin laid down in general: My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons, Jam. 2:1. Observe here, 1. The character of Christians fully implied: they are such as have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ; they embrace it; they receive it; they govern themselves by it; they entertain the doctrine, and submit to the law and government, of Christ; they have it as a trust; they have it as a treasure. 2. How honorably James speaks of Jesus Christ; he calls him the Lord of glory; for he is the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person. 3. Christ's being the Lord of glory should teach us not to respect Christians for any thing so much as their relation and conformity to Christ. You who profess to believe the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, which the poorest Christian shall partake of equally with the rich, and to which all worldly glory is but vanity, you should not make men's outward and worldly advantages the measure of your respect. In professing the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, we should not show respect to men, so as to cloud or lessen the glory of our glorious Lord: how ever any may think of it, this is certainly a very heinous sin.

II. We have this sin described and cautioned against, by an instance or example of it (Jam. 2:2, Jam. 2:3): For if there come into your assembly a man with a gold ring, etc. Assembly here is meant of those meetings which were appointed for deciding matters of difference among the members of the church, or for determining when censures should be passed upon any, and what those censures should be; therefore the Greek word here used, sunagōgē, signifies such an assembly as that in the Jewish synagogues, when they met to do justice. Maimonides says (as I find the passage quoted by Dr. Manton) “That is was expressly provided by the Jews' constitutions that, when a poor man and a rich plead together, the rich shall not be bidden to sit down and the poor stand, or sit in a worse place, but both sit or both stand alike.” To this the phrases used by the apostle have a most plain reference, and therefore the assembly here spoken of must be some such as the synagogue-assemblies of the Jews were, when they met to hear causes and to execute justice: to these the arbitrations and censures of their Christian assemblies are compared. But we must be careful not to apply what is here said to the common assemblies for worship; for in these certainly there may be appointed different places of persons according to their rank and circumstances, without sin. Those do not understand the apostle who fix his severity here upon this practice; they do not consider the word judges (used in Jam. 2:4), nor what is said of their being convected as transgressors of the law, if they had such a respect of persons as is here spoken of, according to Jam. 2:9. Thus, now put the case: “There comes into your assembly (when of the same nature with some of those at the synagogue) a man that is distinguished by his dress, and who makes a figure, and there comes in also a poor man in vile raiment, and you act partially, and determine wrong, merely because the one makes a better appearance, or is in better circumstances, than the other.” Observe hence, 1. God has his remnant among all sorts of people, among those that wear soft and gay clothing, and among those that wear poor and vile raiment. 2. In matters of religion, rich and poor stand upon a level; no man's riches set him in the least nearer to God, nor does any man's poverty set him at a distance from God. With the Most High there is no respect of persons, and therefore in matters of conscience there should be none with us. 3. All undue honouring of worldly greatness and riches should especially be watched against in Christian societies. James does not here encourage rudeness or disorder. Civil respect must be paid, and some difference may be allowed in our carriage towards persons of different ranks; but this respect must never be such as to influence the proceedings of Christian societies in disposing of the offices of the church, or in passing the censures of the church, or in any thing that is purely a matter of religion; here we are to know no man after the flesh. It is the character of a citizen of Zion that in his eyes a vile person is contemned, but he honoureth those that fear the Lord. If a poor man be a good man, we must not value him a whit the less for his poverty; and, if a rich man be a bad man (though he may have both gay clothing and a gay profession), we must not value him any whit the more for his riches. 4. Of what importance it is to take care what rule we go by in judging of men; if we allow ourselves commonly to judge by outward appearance, this will too much influence our spirits and our conduct in religious assemblies. There is many a man, whose wickedness renders him vile and despicable, who yet makes a figure in the world; and, on the other hand, there is many a humble, heavenly, good Christian, who is clothed meanly; but neither should he nor his Christianity be thought the worse of on this account.

III. We have the greatness of this sin set forth, Jam. 2:4, Jam. 2:5. It is great partiality, it is injustice, and it is to set ourselves against God, who has chosen the poor, and will honour and advance them (if good), let who will despise them. 1. In this sin there is shameful partiality: Are you not then partial in yourselves? The question is here put, as what could not fail of being answered by every man's conscience that would put it seriously to himself. According to the strict rendering of the original, the question is, “Have you not made a difference? And, in that difference, do you not judge by a false rule, and go upon false measures? And does not the charge of a partiality condemned by the law lie fully against you? Does not your own conscience tell you that you are guilty?” Appeals to conscience are of great advantage, when we have to do with such as make a profession, even though they may have fallen into a very corrupt state. 2. This respect of persons is owing to the evil and injustice of the thoughts. As the temper, conduct, and proceedings, are partial, so the heart and thoughts, from which all flows, are evil: “You have become judges of evil thoughts; that is, you are judges according to those unjust estimations and corrupt opinions which you have formed to yourselves. Trace your partiality till you come to those hidden thoughts which accompany and support it, and you will find those to be exceedingly evil. You secretly prefer outward pomp before inward grace, and the things that are seen before those which are not seen.” The deformity of sin is never truly and fully discerned till the evil of our thoughts be disclosed: and it is this which highly aggravates the faults of our tempers and lives - that the imagination of the thoughts of the heart is evil, Gen. 6:5. 3. This respect of persons is a heinous sin, because it is to show ourselves most directly contrary to God (Jam. 2:5): “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith? etc. But you have despised them, Jam. 2:6. God has made those heirs of a kingdom whom you make of no reputation, and has given very great and glorious promises to those to whom you can hardly give a good word or a respectful look. And is not this a monstrous iniquity in you who pretend to be the children of God and conformed to him? Hearken, my beloved brethren; by all the love I have for you, and all the regards you have to me, I beg you would consider these things. Take notice that many of the poor of this world are the chosen of God. Their being God's chosen does not prevent their being poor; their being poor does not at all prejudice the evidences of their being chosen. Mat. 11:5, The poor are evangelized.God designed to recommend his holy religion to men's esteem and affection, not by the external advantages of gaiety and pomp, but by its intrinsic worth and excellency; and therefore chose the poor of this world. Again, take notice that many poor of the world are rich in faith; thus the poorest may become rich; and this is what they ought to be especially ambitious of. It is expected from those who have wealth and estates that they be rich in good works, because the more they have the more they have to do good with; but it is expected from the poor in the world that they be rich in faith, for the less they have here the more they may, and should, live in the believing expectation of better things in a better world. Take notice further, Believing Christians are rich in title, and in being heirs of a kingdom, though they may be very poor as to present possessions. What is laid out upon them is but little; what is laid up for them is unspeakably rich and great. Note again, Where any are rich in faith, there will be also divine love; faith working by love will be in all the heirs of glory. Note once more, under this head, Heaven is a kingdom, and a kingdom promised to those that love God. We read of the crown promised to those that love God, in the former chapter (Jam. 2:12); we here find there is a kingdom too. And, as the crown is a crown of life, so the kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom. All these things, laid together, show how highly the poor in this world, if rich in faith, are now honoured, and shall hereafter be advanced by God; and consequently how very sinful a thing it was for them to despise the poor. After such considerations as these, the charge is cutting indeed: But you have despised the poor, Jam. 2:6. 4. Respecting persons, in the sense of this place, on account of their riches or outward figure, is shown to be a very great sin, because of the mischiefs which are owing to worldly wealth and greatness, and the folly which there is in Christians' paying undue regards to those who had so little regard either to their God or them: “Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment-seat? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by which you are called? Jam. 2:7. Consider how commonly riches are the incentives of vice and mischief, of blasphemy and persecution: consider how many calamities you yourselves sustain, and how great reproaches are thrown upon your religion and your God by men of wealth, and power, and worldly greatness; and this will make your sin appear exceedingly sinful and foolish, in setting up that which tends to pull you down, and to destroy all that you are building up, and to dishonour that worthy name by which you are called.” The name of Christ is a worthy name; it reflects honour, and gives worth to those who wear it.

Jas 2:8-13

The apostle, having condemned the sin of those who had an undue respect of persons, and having urged what was sufficient to convict them of the greatness of this evil, now proceeds to show how the matter may be mended; it is the work of a gospel ministry, not only to reprove and warn, but to teach and direct. Col. 1:28, Warning every man, and teaching every man. And here,

I. We have the law that is to guide us in all our regards to men set down in general. If you fulfil the royal law, according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, you do well, Jam. 2:8. Lest any should think James had been pleading for the poor so as to throw contempt on the rich, he now lets them know that he did not design to encourage improper conduct towards any; they must not hate nor be rude to the rich, any more than despise the poor; but as the scripture teaches us to love all our neighbours, be they rich or poor, as ourselves, so, in our having a steady regard to this rule, we shall do well. Observe hence, 1. The rule for Christians to walk by is settled in the scriptures: If according to the scriptures, etc. It is not great men, nor worldly wealth, nor corrupt practices among professors themselves, that must guide us, but the scriptures of truth. 2. The scripture gives us this as a law, to love our neighbour as ourselves; it is what still remains in full force, and is rather carried higher and further by Christ than made less important to us. 3. This law is a royal law, it comes from the King of kings. Its own worth and dignity deserve it should be thus honoured; and the state in which all Christians now are, as it is a state of liberty, and not of bondage or oppression, makes this law, by which they are to regulate all their actions to one another, a royal law. 4. A pretence of observing this royal law, when it is interpreted with partiality, will not excuse men in any unjust proceedings. In is implied here that some were ready to flatter rich men, and be partial to them, because, if they were in the like circumstances, they should expect such regards to themselves; or they might plead that to show a distinguished respect to those whom God in his providence had distinguished by their rank and degree in the world was but doing right; therefore the apostle allows that, so far as they were concerned to observe the duties of the second table, they did well in giving honour to whom honour was due; but this fair pretence would not cover their sin in that undue respect of persons which they stood chargeable with; for,

II. This general law is to be considered together with a particular law: “If you have respect to persons, you commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors, Jam. 2:9. Notwithstanding the law of laws, to love your neighbour as yourselves, and to show that respect to them which you would be apt to look for yourselves if in their circumstances, yet this will not excuse your distributing either the favours or the censures of the church according to men's outward condition; but here you must look to a particular law, which God, who gave the other, has given you together with it, and by this you will stand fully convicted of the sin I have charged you with.” This law is in Lev. 19:15, Thou shalt do no unrighteousness in judgment; thou shalt not respect the person of the poor nor the person of the mighty; but in righteousness shalt though judge thy neighbour. Yea, the very royal law itself, rightly explained, would serve to convict them, because it teaches them to put themselves as much in the places of the poor as in those of the rich, and so to act equitably towards one as well as the other. Hence he proceeds,

III. To show the extent of the law, and how far obedience must be paid to it. They must fulfil the royal law, have a regard to one part as well as another, otherwise it would not stand them in stead, when they pretended to urge it as a reason for any particular actions: For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all, Jam. 2:10. This may be considered, 1. With reference to the case James has been upon: Do you plead for your respect to the rich, because you are to love your neighbour as yourselves? Why then show also an equitable and due regard to the poor, because you are to love your neighbour as yourself: or else your offending in one point will spoil your pretence of observing that law at all. Whosoever shall keep the whole law, if he offend in one point, wilfully, avowedly, and with continuance, and so as to think he shall be excused in some matters because of his obedience in others, he is guilty of all; that is, he incurs the same penalty, and is liable to the same punishment, by the sentence of the law, as if he had broken it in other points as well as that he stands chargeable with. Not that all sins are equal, but that all carry the same contempt of the authority of the Lawgiver, and so bind over to such punishment as is threatened on the breach of that law. This shows us what a vanity it is to think that our good deeds will atone for our bad deeds, and plainly puts us upon looking for some other atonement. 2. This is further illustrated by putting a case different from that before mentioned (Jam. 2:11): For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now, if thou commit no adultery, yet, if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. One, perhaps, is very severe in the case of adultery, or what tends to such pollutions of the flesh; but less ready to condemn murder, or what tends to ruin the health, break the hearts, and destroy the lives, of others: another has a prodigious dread of murder, but has more easy thoughts of adultery; whereas one who looks at the authority of the Lawgiver more than the matter of the command will see the same reason for condemning the one as the other. Obedience is then acceptable when all is done with an eye to the will of God; and disobedience is to be condemned, in whatever instance it be, as it is a contempt of the authority of God; and, for that reason, if we offend in one point, we contemn the authority of him who gave the whole law, and so far are guilty of all. Thus, if you look to the law of the old, you stand condemned; for cursed is every that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them, Gal. 3:10.

IV. James directs Christians to govern and conduct themselves more especially by the law of Christ. So speak and so do as those that shall be judged by the law of liberty, Jam. 2:12. This will teach us, not only to be just and impartial, but very compassionate and merciful to the poor; and it will set us perfectly free from all sordid and undue regards to the rich. Observe here, 1. The gospel is called a law. It has all the requisites of a law: precepts with rewards and punishments annexed; it prescribes duty, as well as administers comfort; and Christ is a king to rule us as well as a prophet to teach us, and a priest to sacrifice and intercede for us. We are under the law to Christ. 2. It is a law of liberty, and one that we have no reason to complain of as a yoke or burden; for the service of God, according to the gospel, is perfect freedom; it sets us at liberty from all slavish regards, either to the persons or the things of this world. 3. We must all be judged by this law of liberty. Men's eternal condition will be determined according to the gospel; this is the book that will be opened, when we shall stand before the judgment-seat; there will be no relief to those whom the gospel condemns, nor will any accusation lie against those whom the gospel justifies. 4. It concerns us therefore so to speak and act now as become those who must shortly be judged by this law of liberty; that is, that we come up to gospel terms, that we make conscience of gospel duties, that e be of a gospel temper, and that our conversation be a gospel conversation, because by this rule we must be judged. 5. The consideration of our being judged by the gospel should engage us more especially to be merciful in our regards to the poor (Jam. 2:13): For he shall have judgment without mercy that hath shown no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. Take notice here, (1.) The doom which will be passed upon impenitent sinners at last will be judgment without mercy; there will be no mixtures or allays in the cup of wrath and of trembling, the dregs of which they must drink. (2.) Such as show no mercy now shall find no mercy in the great day. But we may note, on the other hand, (3.) That there will be such as shall become instances of the triumph of mercy, in whom mercy rejoices against judgment: all the children of men, in the last day, will be either vessels of wrath or vessels of mercy. It concerns all to consider among which they shall be found; and let us remember that blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.Henry

James 2:14-26: James states that “faith without works is dead,” that Abraham was justified by works, in that by works his faith made complete, fulfilling Gn. 15:6 which declares his faith was counted for righteousness, and that “by works a man is justified, and not by faith only,” that “as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Some of this is seen as contradicting Rm. 3:8-5:21; Eph. 2:8,9; Titus 3:5; 2Tim. 1:9, as well as Gn. 15:6 and other texts, and for good reason. However, in such texts and in referencing Gn. 15:6, Paul is dealing with what exactly instrumentally appropriates justification, that of obedience to the Law or faith in Christ and His work.

Other contrasts can be seen between Paul and James. In Paul's soteriology Christ as the atonement and scapegoat is central, and he sets works-righteousness in opposition to faith which is counted for righteousness, and is lived out, and invokes Gn. 15:6 in support of that claim. And both Paul and Peter exhort faith and practical righteousness in response to the atoning sacrifice of Christ.

In contrast, James only mentions “Jesus” or “Christ” twice, these words being together, once (James 1:1) in reference to him being His servant, and the second (James 2:1) as regards “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and which type of faith as regards practice is his focus, not the theology behind it.

James uses “Lord” 13 times, but never mentions His death and resurrection, or otherwise the atonement, and which is one of the reasons Luther rejected this letter, once calling it an “epistle of straw,” though he did include it in his translation. While James calls one to abasement and repentance, (James 4) there is no reference to anyone having trusted Christ to save or exhortations to live holy due to it, as is seen with Peter and Paul and in Hebrews. James is addressed to the “ twelve tribes which are scattered abroad,” and if the two references to Jesus Christ were removed, and his instructions on praying for the sick (James 5:13-15) and the “worthy name by the which ye are called,” (James 3:7) then it could be read by a Jew as an exhortation to pious faith, and even as a polemic against the Christian doctrine of salvation by faith. And while there is a reference to the “perfect law of liberty,” there is none of the explicit Pauline contrast between law and grace.

However, the “twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” is spiritually applicable to Christians, and his practical aspects of faith, in heart and deed, which apply to Jews and Gentiles.

If the author of this epistle is the same as the pastor of the Jerusalem church, as it appears he is, and who (later?) gave the definitive sentence in the ecumenical council in Jerusalem, and who along with the elders — in an early attempt to affirm that Christians kept the law — exhorted Paul to take part in a Jewish ritual (and which apparently involved a sacrifice (Num. 6) and which almost resulted in the death of Paul: Acts 21:20ff), then we can see a consistency with James focusing on the conformable aspects of Christianity with Judaism, in practically obeying the applicable aspects of the law in contrast to a vain faith, although the ceremonial law was not part of it. (Gal. 4:10; Col. 2:14-17; Heb. 9:10)

As regards James words in 2:14-26, these cannot define with what appropriates imputed righteousness in conversion, for if righteousness were gained on the basis of moral merit one would need to be Godly to be accepted in the Beloved, as under the Law. Yet the faith by which the unGodly are counted righteous (Rm. 4:5) is one that effects practical righteousness, and God justifies the Godly due to their works in the sense that they confirm that such have true faith. God justifies the unGodly by faith, but their lives justify that they are of faith, and so it can be said that one is justified by faith alone, as that alone appropriates justification, not by any moral worthiness, but also that they are justified by faith and works, as by a kind of faith that effects obedience toward the Lord Jesus.. And thus according to this understanding James would be dealing with what manner of faith justifies.

Superficially, it would appear that James is contradicting both Moses and Paul in pointing to Abraham as being justified in being willing to offer up Issac (Gn. 22) as fulfilling Gn. 15:6, but the fact is that Abraham was declared justified by faith in Gn. 15:6, while i see Abraham in Gn. 22 “fulfilling” this declaration by manifesting him as having a confirmed salvation. Rm. 10:9,10 also teaches both the inward and the outward aspect of justifying faith. This cannot mean that one is not justified before any outward confession, as that would deny death bed conversions, and even Rome assents to “baptism by desire,” though it also holds that while initial justification is pure grace, apart from any merit, later on eternal life is merited by works of faith.

While this “meriting” of salvation is understood by Romes theologians as recompensing saving faith by rewarding works, which God does, this does not constitute gaining salvation because one morally has earned it, which is what is too easily inferred in Rome's soteriology. We see in Scripture that God draws souls to Him, (Jn. 6:44; 12:32) opens hearts, (Acts 16:14) and grants repentance, (Acts 11:18) and gives faith, (Eph. 2:8; James 1:17) which is counted for righteousness when one believes. (Rm. 4) But which manner of faith is one that will have works of faith which correspond to the will of its object, (1Thes. 1) and which works justify one as having saving faith, (1Thes. 1:4-10; Heb. 6:9,10; James 2:14-26) and which faith is rewarded, (Heb. 6:10-12; 10:36) by rewarding works done by faith; (Mt. 25:31-40) all by and to the glory of God.

Martin Luther, who experienced salvation by faith in Christ based upon Romans, (Rm. 1:7) out of a poor and contrite heart, after years of attempting to find acceptance with God by striving to make himself worthy in Rome's system, defined true faith in his Introduction to Romans as being,

a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever...Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire! (Luther, "An Introduction to St. Paul's Letter to the Romans," http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/luther/luther-faith.txt) See below for more from the Reformers on this.

If God moves and enables one to exercise his will because of God-given repentance and faith to do what he otherwise would not, that is saving grace, even if man's will is involved in assent, and it not “of works” done by grace, and even works of the law can be said to have been done by God's grace. Justification and eternal life are not given because one morally earns it, but it is a gift, (Rm. 6:23) as if that were the case Christ would simply be a better means of working ones way to acceptance with God and eternal life. God justifies the UnGodly, not the Godly. (Rm. 4:5) Yet having been justified and accounted Godly, judgment between sheep and goats is based upon evidence, as faith, like love, is manifested by what it does, and one is accounted “worthy” — that is, having qualities that testify to faith — of eternal life due to his works, and is rewarded accordingly. A faith that does not positively, if not perfectly, respond to the will of its object is not true faith. One cannot profess faith in the Lord Jesus without his life manifesting overall obedience to the Object of his faith, including repentance when convicted of not doing so. “Faith worketh by love,” (Gal. 5:6) and to love the Lord Jesus is to keep His commandments. (Jn. 14:15) Thus Paul states that is “the doers of the law shall be justified,” (Rm. 2:13) as works testify to what every man truly believes, and which corresponds to what James overall states here.

This being said, I am not dogmatic in all my understanding of this, and here is a rather extensive and objective analysis of the latter, but which does not affirm my total agreement. I affirm that God justifies the unGodly by God-given faith, not justifying them because of moral merit. Yet it must be a kind of faith that is not inert, but will confess Christ — if anyways able — if it is salvific faith, and which confession certainly goes beyond words, and God rewards us for what we did by His Spirit and because of faith.

Errors of Rome

It can be said here that the error of Rome is not that of officially emphasizing that works must accompany faith, and that faith is recompensed, but first, it is by its lack of effectual emphasis (not simply by theological documents) upon the damnable state of man, as one condemned because of his sinful works and is utterly destitute of any merit whereby he may escape eternal punishment in the lake of fire and gain eternal life, and thus cast all his faith in the risen Christ to save Him by His sinless shed blood. Instead, souls are typically held to have been justified by infant baptism (meaning sprinkling), through proxy faith, and then it is not by imputed, declarative justification as per Rm. 4, but by an actual inward righteousness by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit.

From the beginning this points toward souls more to the church then directly to Christ, and is followed by an emphasis upon the Roman system as a unique dispenser of grace by which one does works, by which those who are justified by baptism are accounted to have truly merited eternal life by their works of faith in God; (Trent, Chapter XVI; The Sixth Session Decree on justification, 1547) so that the good works that the Catholic performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ merits the attainment of eternal life itself. (Trent, Canons Concerning Justification, Canon 32.)

While Roman theologians do attempt to define merit” as not gaining something by earning it, but rewards given on account of God's grace and faithfulness, and as works testify to faith, so God does recompense them, but this distinction from actually gaining eternal life due to actually being morally worthy is largely lost due to Rome's emphasis upon merit, and a general lack of real emphasis upon the depravity of man, conveying instead that one morally earns eternal life, albeit with some mercy being expected, all the while pointing souls to the Roman institution and conveying confidence in her to finally gain eternal life for her own due to her unique powers.

As Alister McGrath points out, “It can be shown that a distinction came to be drawn between the concepts of merit and congruity; while man cannot be said to merit justification by any of his actions, his preparation for justification could be said to make his subsequent justification 'congruous' or 'appropriate.'”7 Unfortunately, as with the sacraments, this distinction did not always filter down to the common folk.- Alister E. McGrath, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, vol. l (Cambridge: Cambridge Press, 1986), 10.

This entails a system of salvation in which Rome provides a place called ''Purgatory,'' where the departed faithful (except for “canonized saints) are said to suffer to various degrees for an indeterminate time, before being granted entrance into the abode of God. This is based upon the belief that certain sins of believers “must expiated [atoned, be compensated] either on this earth through the sorrows, miseries and calamities of this life and above all through death, or else in the life beyond through fire and torments or 'purifying' punishments.” (Indulgentiarum Doctrina; cp. 1. 1967)

This begats another unBiblical practice, that of “indulgences,” these being prayers, sufferings, or offerings, which, through the power of Rome and its “Treasury of Merit” makes one's stay in purgatory shorter, but which can be transferred to another person now in purgatory. An indulgence is held to offer the penitent sinner the means of clearing the debt he must pay during his life on earth, for sins which he/she has been forgiven of: “An indulgence is the remission before God of the temporal punishment due sins already forgiven as far as their guilt is concerned, which the follower of Christ with the proper dispositions and under certain determined conditions acquires through the intervention of the Church which, as minister of the Redemption, authoritatively dispenses and applies the treasury of the satisfaction won by Christ and the saints. through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.”

Partial as well as plenary indulgences can always be applied to the dead by way of suffrage. (Indulgentiarum Doctrina; Norms, n. 1;3; cf. Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, Normae de indulgentiis, Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1999, p. 21; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1471)

However, in Scripture, while God chastens those He loves to bring them to repentance, lest they be condemned with the rest of the world, (1Cor. 11:32) and though one will grievously suffer loss of rewards to the degree that he has failed to build His church lawfully, (1Cor. 3:10-15; cf. 2Tim. 2:5) and even if 2Cor. 5:10 infers some sort of punishment, yet Scriptures regarding the afterlife of believers always places them to as being with the Lord. (Luke 23:43; Acts 7:59; 2 Cor 5:8; 1 Th 4:17; 1Jn. 3:2) And which texts shows that believers such as the Corinthians (who were not perfected) and Thessalonians, would yet be raptured and be forever with the Lord. (1Thes. 4:17) In addition, there is nothing in the 66 books of the Bible that teaches intercession for departed souls (nor does 2Mac. 12 actually teach purgatory), or undergoing further purification.

Rather than coming to Christ as one damned for his works of sin and destitute of any merit whereby he may escape his just punishment in Hell-Fire and gain eternal life with God, and thus looking to God for mercy and trusting the risen Lord Jesus to save him by His sinless shed blood, resulting in works of faith and religion that is first centered in that relationship and His Scriptures, no matter what church of the body of Christ he may go to and submit to, the culmination of Rome's systemic salvation, versus the “simplicity that is in Christ”, (2Cor. 11:3) is that of promoting confidence in one's own merit and the proclaimed power of the Roman institution for salvation, conveying all those who die in her arms — in modern times meaning no matter how nominal — will gain glory due her unique “in” with God, typically resulting in religion that is manifestly effectively governed more by a relationship with a particular church, claiming infallibility and supremacy over Scripture and all else on earth, than with a direct personal relationship with the Lord and then with a body of believers, as possible, in accordance to the infallible Scriptures.

Therefore, while multitudes of Catholics leave Rome, multitudes also remain despite holding many views on doctrine and morality that are contrary to Scripture and even their church, as they look to and have hope in the church they were raised in to see them to heaven, due to its unique powers with God. In contrast, those whose spiritual life began with a transformative encounter with Christ, through direct faith in the Lord Jesus who saves repentant sinners, thus look directly to Him, and find “fellowship of the Spirit, “(Phil. 2:1) with those who likewise have been born again, and which transcends church affiliation among those who rely upon such regeneration for their members, and yet results in more manifest works of faith than its institutionalized counterpart. To the glory of the living God. Yet increasingly this faith is among a smaller remnant. May its tribe increase, and may I and we all be “followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (Hebrews 6:12)

The Reformers on “Sola Fide” (“faith alone”) and works.

As concerns this issue in the light of historical Protestantism, which is often charged with promoting faith without works, Martin Luther is recorded as stating, “Works are necessary for salvation but they do not cause salvation; for faith alone gives life.”[Ewald M. Plass, “What Luther says,” page 1509]

In his Introduction to Romans, Luther stated that saving faith is,

a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever...Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire! [http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/luther/luther-faith.txt]

Scottish theologian John Murray of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, asserted, “Faith alone justifies but a justified person with faith alone would be a monstrosity which never exists in the kingdom of grace. Faith works itself out through love (Gal. 5:6). And Faith without works is dead (James 2:17-20).” “It is living faith that justifies and living faith unites to Christ both in the virtue of his death and in the power of his resurrection. No one has entrusted himself to Christ for deliverance from the guilt of sin who has not also entrusted himself to him for deliverance from the power of sin.”[Redemption Accomplished and Applied] [http://defendingcontending.com/2011/05/18/the-monstrosity-of-a-faith-that-is-alone]

Contemporary evangelical theologian R. C. Sproul writes,

The relationship of faith and good works is one that may be distinguished but never separated...if good works do not follow from our profession of faith, it is a clear indication that we do not possess justifying faith. The Reformed formula is, “We are justified by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone.” [“Essential Truths of the Christian Faith,” Google books]

Dr. Michael Horton (theologian) concurs by saying,

This debate, therefore, is not over the question of whether God renews us and initiates a process of gradual growth in holiness throughout the course of our lives. ‘We are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone,’ Luther stated, and this recurring affirmation of the new birth and sanctification as necessarily linked to justification leads one to wonder how the caricatures continue to be perpetuated without foundation. [Are we justified by faith alone?" http://www.mountainretreatorg.net/articles/are_we_justified_by_faith_alone.shtml]

In addition, upon hearing that he was being charged with rejection of the Old Testament moral law, Luther responded,

And truly, I wonder exceedingly, how it came to be imputed to me, that I should reject the Law or ten Commandments, there being extant so many of my own expositions (and those of several sorts) upon the Commandments, which also are daily expounded, and used in our Churches, to say nothing of the Confession and Apology, and other books of ours. [Martin Luther, ["A Treatise against Antinomians, written in an Epistolary way"] More by Luther on works of faith.

The Westminster Confession of Faith states:

Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet it is not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love. [Westminster Confession of Faith, CHAPTER XI. Of Justification. http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/creeds/wcf.htm]

The classic Methodist commentator Adam Clarke held,

The Gospel proclaims liberty from the ceremonial law: but binds you still faster under the moral law. To be freed from the ceremonial law is the Gospel liberty; to pretend freedom from the moral law is Antinomianism. [Adam Clarke Commentary, Gal. 5:13]

Likewise on on Titus 1:16 ("They profess that they know God; but in works they deny, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate." KJV):

Full of a pretended faith, while utterly destitute of those works by which a genuine faith is accredited and proved. [Adam Clarke Commentary, Titus 1]

To which the Presbyterian commentator Mathew Henry concurs: "There are many who in word and tongue profess to know God, and yet in their lives and conversations deny and reject him; their practice is a contradiction to their profession." [Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible, Titus 1]

Also, rather than the easy believism Rome associates with sola fide, there was often a tendency to make the way to the cross too narrow, perhaps in reaction against the Antinomian controversy as described in an account (http://www.the-highway.com/Early_American_Bauckham.html) of Purtians during the early American period that notes,

They had, like most preachers of the Gospel, a certain difficulty in determining what we might call the ‘conversion level’, the level of difficulty above which the preacher may be said to be erecting barriers to the Gospel and below which he may be said to be encouraging men to enter too easily into a mere delusion of salvation. Contemporary critics, however, agree that the New England pastors set the level high. Nathaniel Ward, who was step-son to Richard Rogers and a distinguished Puritan preacher himself, is recorded as responding to Thomas Hooker’s sermons on preparation for receiving Christ in conversion with, ‘Mr. Hooker, you make as good Christians before men are in Christ as ever they are after’, and wishing, ‘Would I were but as good a Christian now as you make men while they are preparing for Christ.’”

More ancient sources


Now the apostle could not mean to contradict himself in saying, "the doers of the law shall be justified," as if their justification came through the law, and not through grace, when he declares that a man is justified freely by his grace without the works of the law, intending by the term "freely" nothing more than that works do not precede justification. For in another passage, he expressly says "if by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace." But the statement that "the doers of the law shall be justified" must be so understood, that we may know how unable men are to become doers of the law unless they be justified, so that justification does not subsequently accrue to them as doers of the law, but precedes them in that character. For what else does the phrase "being justified" signify than "being made righteous, " - by Him, of course, who justifies the ungodly man, that he may become a godly man instead? "On the Spirit and the letter," Page 201,02 The works of Aurelius Augustine: A new translation, Volume 4 By Saint Augustine (Bishop of Hippo.)


Clement of Rome: “We also, being called through God's will in Christ Jesus, are not justified through ourselves, neither through our own wisdom or understanding, or piety, or works which we have done in holiness or heart, but through faith." Epistle to the Corinthians.

Augustine (354-430): “But what about the person who does no work (Rom 4:5)? Think here of some godless sinner, who has no good works to show. What of him or her? What if such a person comes to believe in God who justifies the impious? People like that are impious because they accomplish nothing good; they may seem to do good things, but their actions cannot truly be called good, because performed without faith. But when someone believes in him who justifies the impious, that faith is reckoned as justice to the believer, as David too declares that person blessed whom God has accepted and endowed with righteousness, independently of any righteous actions (Rom 4:5-6). What righteousness is this? The righteousness of faith, preceded by no good works, but with good works as its consequence.” — John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., WSA, Part 1, Vol. 11, trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B., Expositions of the Psalms 1-32, Exposition 2 of Psalm 31, ¡±7 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2000), p. 370.

Augustine: So if Abraham was not justified by works, how was he justified?” The apostle goes on to tell us how: What does scripture say? (that is, about how Abraham was justified). Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (Rom. 4:3; Gen. 15:6). Abraham, then, was justified by faith. Paul and James do not contradict each other: good works follow justification.

James in his letter opposed those who would not act rightly but relied on faith alone; and so he reminded them of the good works of this same Abraham whose faith was commended by Paul. The two apostles are not contradicting each other. James dwells on an action performed by Abraham that we all know about: he offered his son to God as a sacrifice. That is a great work, but it proceeded from faith. I have nothing but praise for the superstructure of action, but I see the foundation of faith; I admire the good work as a fruit, but I recognize that it springs from the root of faith;

I admire the good work as a fruit, but I recognize that it springs from the root of faith. If Abraham had done it without right faith it would have profited him nothing, however noble the work was. On the other hand, if Abraham had been so complacent in his faith that, on hearing God's command to offer his son as a sacrificial victim, he had said to himself, “No, I won't. But I believe that God will set me free, even if I ignore his orders,” his faith would have been a dead faith because it did not issue in right action, and it would have remained a barren, dried-up root that never produced fruit.” — John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., WSA, Part 3, Vol. 15, trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B., Expositions of the Psalms 1-32, Exposition 2 of Psalm 31, 2-4 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2000), pp. 364-365.

Clement of Rome: And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. — ANF: Vol. I, The Apostolic Fathers, First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, Chapter 32.

Andreas (c. 7th century): “Now someone might object to this and say: “Did Paul not use Abraham as an example of someone who was justified by faith, without works. And here James is using the very same Abraham as an example of someone who was justified not by faith alone, but also by works which confirm that faith?” How can we answer this? And how can Abraham be an example of faith without works, as well as of faith with works, at the same time? But the solution is ready to hand from the Scriptures. For the same Abraham is at different times an example of both kinds of faith. The first is prebaptismal faith, which does not require works but only confession and the word of salvation, by which those who believe in Christ are justified. The second is postbaptismal faith, which is combined with works. Understood in this way, the two apostles do not contradict one another, but one and the same Spirit is speaking through both of them.” Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 32. See J. A. Cramer, ed., Catena in Epistolas Catholicas (Oxford: Clarendon, 1840), 16, where he is commenting on James 2:21.

Mathetes to Diognetus: “He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange (substitution)! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors! — Ante-Nicene Fathers: Volume I, Mathetes to Diognetus, Chapter 9.

Chrysostom (349-407): The patriarch Abraham himself before receiving circumcision had been declared righteous on the score of faith alone: before circumcision, the text says, “Abraham believed God, and credit for it brought him to righteousness.” — Fathers of the Church, Vol. 82, Homilies on Genesis 18-45, 27.7 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1990), p. 167.

Chrysostom (349-407): “For a person who had no works, to be justified by faith, was nothing unlikely. But for a person richly adorned with good deeds, not to be made just from hence, but from faith, this is the thing to cause wonder, and to set the power of faith in a strong light.” NPNF1: Vol. XI, Homilies on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, Homily 8, Rom. 4:1, 2.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384) commenting upon 1 Cor. 1:4b: “God has decreed that a person who believes in Christ can be saved without works. By faith alone he receives the forgiveness of sins.” Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VII: 1-2 Corinthians (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 6.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 3:24: “They are justified freely because they have not done anything nor given anything in return, but by faith alone they have been made holy by the gift of God.” Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 101

What Paul meant was that no one obtains the gift of justification on the basis of merits derived from works performed beforehand, because the gift of justification comes only from faith.” — Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament XI: James, 1-2Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 31.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67) on Matthew 20:7: “Wages cannot be considered as a gift, because they are due to work, but God has given free grace to all men by the justification of faith.” — George Finch, A Sketch of the Romish Controversy (London: G. Norman, 1831), p. 230.

Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5

See New Testament Table of Contents, and please read the Introductory Notes here