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The Objectionable "Mr. Tis" (James 2:18-20)
Sermon Notes
Sunday, 13 April 2014 00:00

My hope is that you can think this through and not be confused when you hear such teaching from this passage.  This is written to Christians, to people who have exercised faith in the saving message of life.  Now James urges them to apply the truth they have believed so that their Christian lives may be saved from damage and loss of blessing, fellowship and ultimately eternal rewards.  It is amazing that this kind of doctrine that confuses dead faith with fake faith is so prevalent today even though it is actually built upon the words of an objector to the biblical author!  The objector is objecting to James who has said that faith without works is dead.  So even if one does not accept that “by” (rather than “without”) is the correct reading in James 2:18, the bottom line is that whatever the speaker is saying, it should reflect an objection to James’ clear teaching that a believer’s faith is dead if it is not being applied to one’s life in obedience to God’s Word.  James is saying the same things here that he said in chapter one – that we need to receive with meekness the inborn Word of God and continuing (abiding) in it, be a work-doer (that is, be obedient to the Word of God) because it is only this “which is able to save your souls” and by which “this one will blessed in what he does (James 1:21-25).”

I don’t want your confidence to be at all shaken in the dependability and accuracy of the Word of God.  Many have an undue loyalty to certain English translations.  I certainly have preferences, but blind loyalty to the work of men (translators) is not the wisest course because God’s Word is inerrant, every word of it without error, in the original manuscripts.  This is one of a very few passages where there is variation between the existing Greek manuscripts and texts.  But this is why we study to show ourselves diligent students of the Word of God.  This is why the Bereans were more noble – because they checked out what Paul was saying with the Scriptures.

James is simply teaching us that it matters how we live as Christians.  But not because our failure to be doers of the Word means that we actually had a false faith and therefore we are not really born again after all!  A bike is still a bike; it just needs a rider.

James 2:16-17 review -- If we don’t apply the truth we have believed, our faith can become as useless as a dead battery.  A dead battery is a useless battery just as a dead faith is useless to help a needy brother.

Now we come to James 2:18-20.  As we read from the NKJV, there are two issues that we need to resolve if we are to gain a proper understanding of James’ text here in James chapter 2.

18 But someone will say, You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? (NKJV)

Two issues to resolve include the correct wording and the correct punctuation of these verses:

(1)  Correct Wording & (2) Correct Punctuation

*(1)  Correct Wording: Three Competing Printed Greek Texts (as pointed out by John Niemela):

Greek Text 1 – Textus Receptus (T.R.) 1516.

Erasmus, “The text received by all”  Why?  Only one!  So was stating a fact.  It stuck!
New King James and King James Bible based on this text.

Greek Text 2 – Westcott-Hort, 1881.

Modern version – Nestle-Aland 27, 1993. (NASV, NIV are Modern Translations)

Greek Text 3 – Majority Text, 1982.


Nestle-Aland (NU)                                                                            Majority                           TR


The line at the bottom of the slide shows that the MT is closer to the TR than to the NU text.

What is the correct reading in James 2:18?

Both the Majority Text & T.R. read “by” or “from” [ek] in 2:18.

The Nestle-Aland reads “without [choris].”

Oddly enough, this is a verse where the King James Version did not follow the T.R., but translated from the Latin.  

As the next slide shows the 1516 T.R., you can see highlighted that it really reads ek from/by.

Internet source for slide of TR text: [http://www.e-rara.ch/bau_1/content/pageview/1061822 pp. 157-158 of 1516 T.R.by Erasmus]

Note the date was 1516.  Do you know what took place in 1517?  Luther nailed the 95 theses on the Wittenberg Door.  The Reformation received much impetus from the printing of the T.R. Greek text.

Now there were other translations done from the Textus Receptus (T.R.) that translate from the Greek and prove that “ek,” (translated “by” or “from” or “out of,” with the sense of “by means of”) is what should be translated, not the word “without” (Greek choris).

Tyndale New Testament (1594) – Ye (Yea) and a man myght saye: (Note the unusual and various spellings of words) Thou hast fayth and I have dedes:  Shewe me thy fayth by thy dedes:  and I will shewe thee my fayth by my dedes.

Bishop’s New Testament (1595) – But some man wyll say, thou hast the fayth, and I haue deedes:  shewe my thy fayth by thy deedes, and I wyll shewe thee my fayth by my deedes.

Geneva Bible (1599) – But some man might say, Thou hast the faith, and I haue woorkes:  shewe my thy faith out of {ek) thy woorkes, and I will shewe thee my faith by my woorkes.

Young’s Literal Translation (1898) – But say may some one, Thou has faith, and I have works, shew me thy faith out of {ek)thy works, and I will shew thee out of my works my faith:

The text should read “by your works” in James 2:18.  We will treat (ek) “by, from” as the correct reading.

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.”  Show me your faith by your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.”  Show me your faith by (means of) your works, and I will show you, by (means of) my works, my faith.

Another good translation of “[ek]” instead of “without” in James 2:18 is on the screen as translated from the Majority Text by Zane C. Hodges (in The Epistle of James, p. 65 – ) --

But someone will say:  “You have faith and I have works.  Show me your faith from [ek] your works, and I will show you, from [ek] my works, my faith.

This resolves the issue of the correct wording for James 2:18 – it should read “by” not “without.”

The second of the two issues has to do with –
*(2) Correct Punctuation, specifically where the “quotation marks” belong in James 2:18-19.

James 2:18-19 is an example of the common literary device known as --

Diatribe: by which an author inserts an Imaginary Objector into his argument.

If you were to check various translations, you will notice that the quotation marks vary from one translation to another but most do not consider that James is using the literary device called an “objection/reply format” of diatribe, in which the author inserts the anticipated words of an objector.

WHY would James do this?  The short answer is – in order to save time.  (Letters traveled slower – no Facebook)  Say it would take a couple of months for James’ letter to arrive and be read to the churches, and then if there was a question or objection, another two months to get back to James, and another couple of months before he could address their concern.  So James anticipates an objection.  This is a literary way to deal with an objection that James anticipated.

There are some Common Features of Diatribe as it relates to James 2:18-19:

1.   Introduce an Objector: But someone will say (James hands him the microphone)

2.  The Words of the Objector:  “Verses 18-19” (The objector now has the floor)

3.  Address to the Objector: But do you want to know, O foolish man …? (Takes back microphone)

4.  The author then moves on to drive his point home:  (Verses 20-26.)

It is KEY to understand that the words of James 2:18-19 in their entirety are the words of an objector, of an opponent of what James is teaching.

The NKJV understands he is an Objector, but they silence him too soon!  They put the ending quote marks in the wrong location.

18a But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.”

The NASV does some better on the quote marks, but they don’t understand that he is an Objector!

18 But someone may well say, {they make the mistake of viewing the objector as an ally of James} “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. {So, why, if this guy is making a great theological point, does James now call him a fool?!} 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? (NASV)

The (Richard F.) Weymouth N.T. (1903) gets the quotation marks correct!

18 Nay, someone will say, You have faith, I have actions; prove to me your faith from corresponding actions and I will prove mine to you by my actions.  19 You believe that God is one, and you are quite right:  evil spirits also believe this, and shudder. 20 But, idle boaster, are you willing to be taught how it is that faith apart from obedience is worthless?

James 2:18-20 with corrected words and punctuation: 18But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.   Show me your faith by your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19You believe that there is one God.  You do well.  Even the demons believe – and tremble!” 20But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

Who is whom in James 2:18-20?

18 But someone [tis] will say, {“Mr. Tis” also appeared in 2:14 (someone) and in 2:16 (one of you), and never is Mr Tis set forth as a good example to follow!} Mr. Tis is the objector.

18 But someone [tis] will say, “You (James) have faith, and I have works. [You] (James) Show me your faith by your (James) works, and I will show you (James) my faith by my works. 19 You (James) believe that there is one God.  You (James) do well.  Even the demons believe – and tremble!”

20 But do you (refers to “Mr. Tis) want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

The Objectionable “Mr. Tis” (The idea for title of message from John Niemela calling him this)

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone (tis) says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one (tis) of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Then here in verse 18 --

18 But someone (tis) will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” …

To what is “Mr. Tis” objecting?

(He objects to his unapplied faith being considered dead/profitless)

His argument appears to be a reductio ad absurdum (tries to reduce James’ claims to absurdity).

“It is absurd,” says the objecting Mr. Tis, “to see a close connection between faith and works.”

This is the kind of defensive argument James would expect to hear from someone whose orthodoxy was not supported by good works.  That “someone (tis)” would object:  “Faith and works are not really related to each other in the way you say they are, James.  So don’t criticize the vitality of my faith because I don’t do such and such a thing.”

Here is a word for word translation of the Majority Text of Jas 2:18-19 – But someone will say:

“You have faith and I have works.  Show me your faith from your works, and I will show you, from my works, my faith.  You believe that there is one God; you do well.  The demons also believe, and tremble.”

What then is the meaning of this objection?  Zane Hodges explains this way.  In modern terms, the objector may have said something like this:

“James, you start with a doctrinal point, and then show me what good work proves that you believe this.  If you can do that, then I’ll do the reverse.  I will name a good work and show what doctrine must be behind it.  Why, it’s impossible!  For example, James, you believe that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  And you have a monogamous marriage.  But the Mormons believe that too, and some of them are polygamous.  So works can’t show us anything about a person’s faith.  No one can see faith.”

How about a sports illustration?  Verse 18 --

18 “James, you’re a Beaver Believer … So à you wear Orange and Black!                                                                                                                                                                               This is a good work for a Beaver Believer to do!

If you can do that, I’ll do the reverse.  I’ll name a good work, such as wearing Orange and Black, and show you from my good work (of wearing Orange and Black), what it is I believe.

Come on now James, I say that is IMPOSSIBLE!

After all, I may actually be an Okie State fan!  (OSU/Orange & Black)

Verse 19 ~ 19 You believe the Beavers

will win the Civil War game this year à ….. so you tell everybody your opinion and get into                                                                                 the grill of every Duck fan you see.

But, other Beaver Believers

believe that the Beavs will win

the Civil War game ………… à ….. but, they keep it to themselves.

They keep quiet around Duck fans.


Therefore, James, you can’t tell anything about my faith by what I do or don’t do (from my works), so lay off already, about all these actions you say I should be doing if my faith is vital and active.  It’s absurd to think there’s a connection between my faith and my works.

Mr. Tis says, “James, You can’t tell anything about my faith from what I do or don’t do!”

Mr. Tis objects:  “How dare you say my faith is dead?  James, you can’t tell by/from my works about my faith.  So just lay off me about work-doing (ch 1), favoritism (ch 2), my tongue (ch 3), jealousy (ch 4), and any grumbling or sin you perceive in my life (ch 5).”

Yes!  There are times you can tell believers are applying their faith by observing what they do!

Abraham’s sacrifice (2:21-24) is an example of seeing a believer’s faith being applied to his life.

I have suggested two solutions to the two issues in James 2:18-20. 
With regard to the issue of correct wording, I suggested that the Majority Text and the T.R. as correctly translated by a few translations.

The second issue was the correct placement of the quotation marks.  This is really quite straightforward once we recognize that James is engaging in diatribe to make his point to an objector he inserts into the argument of his letter. 

If this is so, then it is easy to see that the objector (“Mr. Tis”) is objecting to what?

He is objecting to James saying that if we do not apply the truth of God’s Word that we have believed, then our faith is dead = not useful = not profitable = not beneficial to other believers who are needing our help, nor to ourselves in saving our lives from harm and loss.

Yes!  There are times you can tell believers are applying their faith by observing what they do!

I want to say two things in conclusion and they could be summed up with this statement:

Always be learning;

Be prayerfully discerning;


Cling tight to God’s Word – it’s the Truth!





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