Living for the Glory of God ~ Vivir para la Gloria de Dios

Show no Partiality (James 2:1) ~ A Daily Devotion for January 15, 2014

“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” ~ James 2:1

Explanation of the Text: As is typical with James when he begins a rebuke, he starts out this section with the phrase ‘my brothers.’ Once again, he uses this to refer to fellow slaves to Jesus Christ. James writes in a way to challenge believers about their faith and he definitely does not hold back in calling attention to believers need to change from their sinful ways, so the term is not used simply just to soften the tone of his teachings. Instead, James is using this term of endearment to show his concern. For Him, it is a way of saying, “I challenge you because I care about you, our Lord Jesus, and your relationship with Him, therefore, live your lives as a testimony to others.”

The command to show no partiality found in verse 1 is the central theme of this section. It is quite simply that believers are to show no partiality to anyone. Evidence of genuine faith is shown in the person who treats others as equals. Having been under the influence of the rich, it may have been difficult for the believers to implement this command, but James outlines a very compelling argument as to why this is a necessary component to a living faith. The word for partiality used in this verse ‘literally means to receive someone according to their face.”[1] Humans have a tendency to look at the outward appearance, judging based on external presence, rather than looking at the inward heart attitude.  James is reiterating the Old Testament teaching that it is not the outward appearance to be concerned about, but rather the inward heart attitude that is important (1 Samuel 16:7; Proverbs 27:19).

After establishing the standard that partiality should not occur, James outlines the highest priority of why one should not go outside of that standard. It is because of faith. The structure and wording of this verse in the original Greek can make this verse somewhat challenging for interpretation. William Varner points to two different aspects that one must consider when interpreting this verse:

1)       The word for partiality, προσωποληψία (prosōpolēpsía) is not only a noun, but it is in plural form.

2)        The phrase translated as ‘the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ’ can actually be interpreted either as ‘faith in Jesus Christ’ or as ‘faith of Jesus Christ.’[2] Because of the definite article (the) before the word faith, it makes more sense for the verse to be translated as ‘faith of Jesus Christ.’

Based on these two points, the verse can then be rendered as ‘do not with partialities have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ James is not simply referring to one’s personal faith, but is referring to something greater, which is the faith that Jesus Christ brought to the world.[3] By this phrasing though, James goes beyond saying that a believer is not to show partiality because of their own testimony of faith, but even more because it is a testimony of the faith of Jesus Christ.

The verse closes with one of only two direct references to Jesus Christ in the Epistle, referring to Him as the Lord of Glory. This distinction is unique because James is ascribing to Jesus something that was normally only used in reference to God. It does seem fitting that James would reference Jesus as the Lord of Glory here as a way to emphasize that the only one worthy of glory is Jesus Christ. With that concept in mind, it makes even more sense that partiality is not to be shown amongst humans.

Examination & Application of the Text: The faith of Jesus would not show partiality, and neither should a believer. Romans 2:11 says, “For God shows no partiality.” Because of God’s character, He is impartial in both the judgment and redemption of man. In fact, in the New Testament, the concept of equality between believers is often revealed. In Paul’s writings to the Corinthians, Paul likens the church to the body of Christ, with Christ being the head of the body (1 Corinthians 12). Paul does not declare that any member of the body is greater than another, but points to the fact that they are equals performing different functions of the body. Therefore, each part should function together as a seamless unit, because without each, the body does not function the same. Likewise, as one reads Ephesians 2:1-10, three important points come to light. First comes in verse 8 in which one reads that faith is not the result of a person’s doing, but rather is a gift of God. The second and third points come in verse 10 in which every person is the workmanship of God, and that each person has had works prepared beforehand for them by God. While individuals may have been made differently with different works prepared beforehand, each was created for a specific purpose according to His will. There is nothing in Scripture to indicate that any is greater than the other. Furthermore, how can man boast in something that was not of his own doing? A person’s faith, a person’s works, and a person’s very existence is not contingent on one’s own work, but rather is contingent on the work of God. Therefore, no individual has anything to boast in except to boast in the work of God. Based on the understanding that everything a person is comes from God, there can be no grounds to show partiality among human beings. Partiality should not be allowed to pervert the faith of Christ.[4]

Therefore, as you are a doer of the word, do so without showing partiality to others. Who you associate with, who you share Christ with, who you help, and whatever else you do on behalf of God cannot be done in partiality. Therefore, when exercising your spiritual gifts to build up others, do so regardless of your thoughts about that person. In fact, completely get rid of your thoughts about that person based on appearance. I suspect, that as you choose to serve someone, setting aside your initial judgments, you will find those initial thoughts of partiality will end up being unfounded, and you will have made a difference in that person’s life. Is there someone that you have come in contact with, or continue to come in contact with but don’t serve or share with because of partiality? Take the next couple of days and commit your time to serve them, and as you get in this habit, see how easy it is to get rid of the sin of partiality.

[1] Craig L. Blomberg and Mariam J. Kamell, James, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Ed. Clinton E. Arnold (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 106.

[2] William Varner, The Book of James – A New Perspective (Woodlands: Kress Biblical Resources, 2010), 86-87.

[3] J. Harold Greenlee, An Exegetical Summary of James (Dallas: SIL International, 2008), 66/

[4] J. Harold Greenlee, An Exegetical Summary of James (Dallas: SIL International, 2008), 66.

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