Saturday, December 13, 2014

Discussing James 2 in context

I keep seeing Christians make this comment:  “Unless you're keeping the Law 100%, 100% of the time, you condemn yourself. Repent (change your mind) and believe the Gospel (Good News - the finished Work of Christ).”   They chide those of us who are Torah observant for our obedience, they throw into our faces that “no one can keep the law perfectly” and constantly attempt to use James 2:9 as proof that God’s people don’t have to do anything besides “believe in Jesus.”

Well, we discover in Luke 1 that some HAVE kept “the law” perfectly”, which knocks the Christian argument out of the water!

Luke 1:5 In the days of Herod, King of Y'hudah, there was a cohen named Z'kharyah who belonged to the Aviyah division. His wife was a descendant of Aharon, and her name was Elisheva. 6 Both of them were righteous before God, observing all the mitzvot and ordinances of ADONAI blamelessly.

Luke didn't make fun of Z'kharyah and Elisheva, but yet many Christians today believe they have the right to!

Truth be told, YHWH doesn’t expect us to “keep the law perfectly.”  If we did, our name would be Y’shua!  Christians have totally misunderstood  the meaning behind James 2, so let's read it in context:

James 2: 1. My Brothers, do not hold to the faith of the glory of our Master Y'shua the Mashiyach with double-minded hypocrisy. 2. For if there come into your assembly a man with rings of gold or splendid garments and there come in a poor man in ragged and stained garments; 3. and respect is shown to him who is clothed in splendid garments, and you say to him, Be honorably seated; while to the poor man, say, Stand way over there, or sit here (in low prostration) before my footstool; 4. are you not showing double mindedness among yourselves and becoming advocates of evil thoughts? 5. Hear, my beloved Brothers; has not Elohim chosen the poor of the world, the rich in faith, to be heirs in the Kingdom which Elohim has promised to them that love him? 6. But you have despised the poor man. Do not rich men exalt themselves over you and drag you before the tribunals?

7. Do they not hate that worthy Name, [1] which is invoked upon you? 8. And if in this you fulfill the Torah of Elohim, as it is written, You will love your neighbor as yourself, you will do well: 9. but if you have partiality towards persons, you commit sin; and you are convicted by Torah as breakers of Torah. 10. For he that will keep the whole Torah and yet fail in one aspect of it, is an enemy to the whole Torah. 11. For he who said, "You will not commit adultery," said also, "You will not kill." If then you commit no adultery, but you do murder, you have become a defiler of Torah. 12. So speak and so act as persons that are to be judged by the Torah of perfect freedom. 13. For judgment without mercy will be on him who has practiced no mercy: by mercy, you will be raised above judgment. 14. What is the use, my Brothers, if a man say, I have faith; and he has no works? Can his faith resurrect him? [2] 15. Or if a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16. and one of you say to them, "Go in peace, warm yourselves, and be full;" and you do not give them the necessities of the body, what is the use?

17. So also faith alone, without works, is dead. 18. For a man may say, you have faith and I have works; show to me your faith that is without works and I will show to you my faith by my works. 19. You believe that there is one Elohim; you do well; the demons also believe and tremble. 20. Would you know, O weak man, that faith without works is dead? 21. Awraham our father, was not he justified by works[3] in offering his son Yitz'chak upon the altar? 22. Do you realize that his faith aided his works, and that by the works his faith was rendered complete? 23. And the Scripture was fulfilled which says: Awraham believed in Elohim, and it was credited to him for righteousness and he was called the Friend of Elohim. 24. You see that by works a man is justified[4] and not by faith alone. 25. So also Rahab the harlot, was she not justified by works when she entertained the spies and sent them forth by another way? 26. As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.


[1] The Name invoked upon you is YHWH.

[2] Literally "restore life", not "save" as often translated.

[3] Some theologians allege this teaching to be opposite of the Pauline Epistles, such as Galatians. The reality is that Paul was grossly misquoted whereas Ya'akov was not. Rav Shaul did not accept empty ritual devoid of proper spiritual focus. He was Torah Observant; he kept the Moedim (feast days), the Shabbat, and took one or more Nazirite vows; he fasted on Yom Kippur, ate "clean" food and lived a Set Apart life in Mashiyach Y'shua. The fact is that Romans 7:12 totally harmonizes Galatians with, and complements, Galatians and Ya'akov.

[4] The Hebrew word for a righteous soul = tsadiq; righteousness = tsedeq; justified = tsadaq; notice they are the same word. A soul without righteousness can never be "justified" regardless of what theologians claim. The original root word for justified relates to righteous action. However, mainstream Christianity teaches that a person is "justified" solely on the merits of belief in Y'shua, and that observing Torah is impossible.

Even in Ya'akov's (James) day, some individuals wanted cerebral belief to "justify" themselves, which is impossible. Y'shua's person (example) and Spirit is meant to literally be imparted into us; this must be evidenced by our actions, otherwise we do not belong to him. Theological, or cerebral "belief" without works, is dead religion; but active literal Faith comes to life in Mashiyach. Torah Observance/obedience is clear evidence that we have passed from death to life. See John 5:29, Matthew 7:23.

Unfortunately, the arguments are endless.  Many Christians refuse to acknowledge there's more to God and the Bible than just "believing in Jesus" and they are willing to resort to vicious behavior and even character assassination to prove their point.  Traditional Jews and their converts are resorting to the same thing, so it's a never-ending battle.  Messianic believers are caught in the middle and all we can do is make sure we constantly cling to the WHOLE Truth.  Fortunately Scripture tells us that those who hang on to the end will be saved....


  1. You have made an excellent point, Shali. Indeed we hear this silly argument all the time! There are so many who fail to see these scriptures in James do not negate our responsibility to obedience, rather, James explains that your "reliance" on "behaving to win righteousness" is not what Torah is for. One "obeys" because it pleases the one who asked for the obedience! So one's obedience is to show love - not for favor or to "win righteousness"!

    When asked which was the "greatest commandment", Yeshua answered: "You should love Master YHWH your Elohim with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might and with all your mind." But to someone who says "You can't keep 100% of the Torah, so you don't have to keep any of it" is simply denying that they have to "love Master YHWH their Elohim with all their heart and with all their soul and with all their might and with all their mind"! To which I have to ask them: "If you love God (Master YHWH), and you don't keep His Torah, then exactly HOW do you show that love of Him?" Think about that before you answer, because Yeshua did not die so you could just "keep on sinning".

    1. Thank you and AMEIN to your comments! Yes ... HOW do you show that you love Him? And also, WHOM are you worshiping if you can't even obey the simplest of the "forever" commands, such as the Seventh Day Sabbath which is a SIGN between YHWH and His people?

      Exodus 31:16 The people of Isra'el are to keep the Shabbat, to observe Shabbat through all their generations as a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between me and the people of Isra'el forever; for in six days ADONAI made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day he stopped working and rested.'"

      Ezekiel 20: 11 I gave them my laws and showed them my rulings; if a person obeys them, he will have life through them. 12 I gave them my shabbats as a sign between me and them, so that they would know that I, ADONAI, am the one who makes them holy.

  2. I like what John has to says in I John 2:3-6 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says," I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whosoever keeps His word, truly the love of Yahweh is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

    People will only make it if they OBEY and endure til the end. Obedience is better than sacrifice!!!! Wake UP world Listen & obey YHWH's WHOLE WORD not just what you want to believe. Thanks Liam & Shali right on for your words of Truth.

  3. Perfectly said. Liam and Shali. I just wish my sister could "get" that.

  4. Hi. I've encountered such an argument, but the person is asserting that because she lied and was called righteous, that it PROVES that nobody can keep the law and is using Rahab's story to prove that it is impossible to obey Torah.

    I'm sort of confused on how to approach this. I know it is wrong to lie. But, I also know He uses everything and looks on the hearts of men. David lied, but Abba called him a man of Elohim. Because He saw David's heart.


    So, too, did the midwives, to save lives and Abba used that too.

    So, how do we reconcile this?

    Thank you for your time. I know this is an old post, and I do hope you see it!

    BJ Leonard

    1. While we can appreciate the confusion, it is important to keep in perspective what Torah is and HOW we live it - not to the letter, but to its impact on us as humans, trying to "be holy" because that is what we are commanded to do (Leviticus 20:26). For example, we are commanded to not "work" on the Shabbat, it is a day of rest (Exodus 35:2). But we get out of bed on the morning of the Shabbat, and that is work, and we cook our breakfast and that is work, and we go to Sabbath services and that is work, etc., etc. Or, am I too narrowly defining "work"?

      Is flipping a switch to start a gas stove to cook some oatmeal against the scripture which says "You are not to kindle a fire in any of your homes on Shabbat" (Exodus 35:3)? We think not. The Exodus 35:3 prohibition is not against "having a fire" in your home on Shabbat, rather, it is against working on the Shabbat to gather all the elements needed for a fire, and doing so on the Shabbat, when you should have done so on the 6th day so you could rest on and honor the Shabbat! Today, we would be breaking the commandment if we got up on Shabbat morning and then had to drive to the hardware store, purchase and lay the gas line, connect it to our stove, and do all the work needed to get the gas stove working when we could have, and should have done all that the days before the Shabbat!

      Similarly, we arrive at a conundrum about lying. The concept of "lying" is not so clear. It's not! While many say "thou shalt not lie" is a commandment in the Bible, you actually will not find that! One of the 10 Commandments is "Do not give false evidence against your neighbor" (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:20). And Leviticus 9:11 says: "Do not steal from, defraud or lie to each other." But nowhere do you find a commandment prohibiting ANY and ALL lies. Though not an absolute interpretation, we can see, in the commandment cited, that it prohibits the presentation of false information for personal gain. Indeed, in most situations, the only reason to lie to or about your neighbor (friend, acquaintance, relative) would be because the person committing the lie expected to gain from the lie!

      Scripture is replete with examples, just like the example of Rahab in Joshua 2 where some "lies" are necessary for the protection of others or to uphold one's faith. In the case of Rahab, we really need to read and understand the context of what happened. Rahab was a harlot, a prostitute! In that she had some power of "gain". But she saw in the Hebrew men who hid in her house, a truth she desired. (See Joshua 2:9-11). So she actually did an honorable thing! She accepted their God as her God and she protected them from harm by, yes, lying. But this does not make "Torah impossible to keep"! It illustrates that sometimes we must make decisions on faith and not on personal need or gain. Rahab could have chosen to turn-in the men to the King and she would likely have been rewarded. But was that what her heart saw? No. Her heart saw that the men were righteous and were acting with honor and that she, too, desired their God. So the "lie" she told was not so "wrong"! She saved the lives of her family by her faith in the God of the men who hid in her house.

      Proverbs 12:22 says: "Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight." The proverb does not define what it means to "act faithfully", nor does it define what it means to "lie"! But clearly one could connect "lying" to "personal gain" while some "lies" to protect those of faith might be overlooked and are justified. We would encourage you to read: "Lies by Prophets and Other Lies in the Hebrew Bible" at for more thought on this very good and difficult subject.

    2. Thank you for your explanation. That's something I had wondered about for a long time.


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