James 2:1 (ESV) … “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.”
What is that thing which Christians prize? James makes this point at the very beginning of this section. It is ‘the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory’ (v. 1).
Some fuss with James because he only names the Lord Jesus twice in this letter (1:1; 2:1). But the issue is not the number of times James mentions Jesus, but rather the way in which he mentions him. There is in 2:1 a depth of feeling and spirit of worship that tell us all we need to know. James truly gave Jesus pre-eminence.
Why do Christians so value and esteem the Lord Jesus? It is all here in James’s words.
We prize Jesus because he is Lord—the sovereign, exalted ruler of the universe.
We prize Jesus because he is Jesus. This is his human name. Wonder of wonders! The sovereign Lord took our humanity and dwelt among us.
We prize Jesus because he is Christ. This name refers to his office or function. It means ‘anointed one’, and the Lord Jesus was anointed by God to discharge a threefold office—prophet, priest and king. As prophet, he faithfully declares the truth of God. As priest, he offered himself as the sacrifice for sinners. As king, he rules over his people.
We prize Jesus because he is the Lord of glory. He is the Lord from glory who perfectly reflects the glory of God and will eventually take his people to share in his glory.
We prize Jesus because we, by the grace of God, ‘hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ’.
Faith is the means God gives by which we apprehend or appropriate who Christ is and what he has done. We know Christ by faith.
These things make it easy for each Christian to identify with the Roman emperor Theodosius, who said he would rather be a Christian clown than a pagan emperor!
Every Christian prizes Christ, but the Christian who is poor in the things of this world often prizes him more. James asks, ‘Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith …?’
Let us not misunderstand what James is saying. A person is not automatically saved because he or she is poor materially. All who are saved—poor or rich—are saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ. But God has generally saved more poor people than rich (Luke 18:24–25; 1 Cor. 1:26–29). And poor people are generally richer in faith. Why? Because, since they have no other wealth, they prize more the wealth they have in Christ.
So James argues that favouritism is wrong because it belittles the very one they should prize, the one who is most likely to prize his or her faith.