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Pride and Prejudice - Part 2

Tom Pennington James 2:1-13


Well, it's our joy to return this morning to the book of James, James 2, where we left off our study a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps you read the story at the time. It was back in 1989. It made all the newspapers. A Philadelphia man was browsing a country flea market, somewhere in rural Pennsylvania. At this flea market, he found an old torn painting. And he bought it, not because he had any interest in the painting; but rather, he thought that he perhaps could use the frame. The price was $4. Once he arrived home, he took the painting apart. And he saw that the frame was unsalvageable; couldn't be used at all. So at first, he considered it $4 wasted. But, attached to the canvas was a folded document. And he recognized the document immediately. But he assumed, when he saw it that it was a simply a cheap, nineteenth century reproduction of very little value. But, still he kept the document as kind of a curiosity to show friends and others what he'd found behind this yard sale painting.

It was two years later, in 1991, that a friend persuaded him to have Sotheby's Auction House evaluate it. Sotheby's executive vice-president, David Redden, was one of two experts who traveled to Philadelphia to examine the property. Redden recalls, "It took one second to know it was right." It was one of just twenty-five original copies of the first printing of The Declaration of Independence. It sold in 1991, just a few months after it was really discovered to be the valuable artifact that it was, for $2.4 million dollars, at that time a record for printed Americana. Less than ten years later, in 2000, the document changed hands again. And it sold for more than $8 million dollars in a day-long internet auction. What price, freedom! $8 million dollars! You know, I can't read a story like that without thinking of that poor family that had that yard sale in rural Pennsylvania. They sold The Declaration of Independence for $4, what would ten years later sell for $8 million. When I think of that, I think, what a terrible, misjudgment of value!

Sadly, you and I make similar misjudgments every day, not about some historical piece of paper; but about human beings made in the image of the eternal God!

That's the very issue that James takes up, in the first 13 verses of James 2. Let me read it for you to remind you of the context,

Verse 1,

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?

If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF," you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, "DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY," also said, "DO NOT COMMIT MURDER." Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

James wants to know that, as followers of Jesus Christ, we must never tolerate the sin of partiality in any of its ungodly forms. His message in these 13 verses consists of two simple elements. The first is The Admonition, in verses 1 to 4. And the second part is The Arguments in verses 5 to 13.

You remember that, when we began, last time, to look at this passage, we saw The Admonition in the first 4 verses: The Admonition against favoritism and prejudice. He begins with a straight-forward command: "My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism."

Now, what exactly is the sin that this passage is addressing? Well, it's hard to choose an English word, because in English, we use two different words to encapsulate the sin that this single Greek word is discussing. We use the words, "favoritism," that is, unfairly showing favor to someone based solely on external factors. And the second word we use is "prejudice," showing contempt for someone based entirely on external factors, pre-judging them, based on those factors. So, in other words, the word, "partiality" that occurs in 1:3 or "personal favoritism" as it's translated has to do with both showing favor based on unfair reasons, and showing contempt based on unfair reasons. And all of that is based on some external circumstances: some external factors, such as race, or wealth, or social rank, or popularity, frankly, anything. And this sin always disregards the individual's intrinsic merit on the basis of a quick, external judgment about that person.

Now, this attitude can be blatant and obvious. When we think of how that demonstrates itself blatantly in our culture, we all refer to and see, obviously, and hate those people, I should say, hate the activity of those people who are brown-nosers. It turns our stomach, doesn't it, to see those who are obviously cow-towing to those in whom they want to please? On the other end, of course, is bigotry: those who show the extreme level of contempt for those who have different backgrounds, different desires, different interests, etc. Either one of those is a sin. And it can demonstrate itself blatantly. But it can also demonstrate itself far more subtly.

Now at the risk of leaving preaching, and going to meddling, ladies, let me just give you some examples, as it can demonstrate itself more subtly. It can be as simple as checking out the clothes of others that you meet. Are those clothes from the first floor of the Galleria, or the third floor of the Galleria? You can suddenly, and I know, I know this never happens, but you can suddenly check out the purse that another woman is carrying, and then respond differently to those who do or don't carry certain designers. And what about the coiffure? Does it look like something your stylist would do? Or is it last year's style?

Men, we're not exempt from this either. Do you immediately notice those who don't wear a certain label, don't or do wear certain labels of clothing? Do you look for some particular animal on the man's chest? Do you especially seek out those who drive certain types of vehicles, because that puts them in a class with you? Or do you mark out those who obviously have your kind of job, whether it be white-collar or blue-collar, and associate with them and ignore those who appear to be across the aisle.

Young people, by what external factors do you determine to hang out with others? And by what factors do you choose to associate with others? Is it where and how they're schooled? Is it certain kinds of clothes they wear? I'm not talking about modesty, here. I'm assuming that they're modest. I'm talking about a simple judgment based on the social status of another person. And you arrive at that conclusion based on external factors. We're all susceptible to showing favoritism or prejudice. And James forbids all forms of it, blatant or subtle. Why? As we discovered last time, because it's a mockery of the character of God. Consistently, throughout the Old and New Testaments, we hear that God never shows partiality. God never evaluates a person on the basis of those external factors. Romans 2:11 puts it succinctly: "There is no partiality with God." He is absolutely untainted by this sin.

Now in verses 2 and 3, James gives us an illustration. He describes the church's sinful response to two men who come in to a regular worship service, like the one we're having this morning. These two men may either be unbelievers or perhaps, I think, more likely, recent converts. In those days, you would convert to Christ, become a follower of His, before you came to church. And so, at this point, they come to church. It's unfamiliar. And they need to be shown. One of these men, we're told, was a wealthy man with many rings and a brilliant white robe. The other was a poor man, shabbily dressed and in dirty clothes. That's all he had. He had one outfit. It's what he worked in during the week. And he didn't have servants to wash it. He had no exchange set of clothes. It was a rare occasion for him to be able to clean it.

And these two men are treated differently. The Christians respond by paying special attention to the wealthy men wealthy man. And offering him one of the few special seats where the church met. probably in a synagogue-type setting, at that point. And they offer the poor man the options of either standing or of sitting on the floor. Now don't miss James' point. Both responses were sinful. Showing favor to the rich man, based on how he appeared, was wrong and sinful. And showing contempt for the poor man, based on how he appeared, was also sinful. Verse 4, "Have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil motives?" James says, "When we show partiality, we are acting like God made us the judge. But we are not even judging fairly. We're not judging like God judges. We're motivated by evil motives." So that's the Admonition: James says, "STOP!" Literally, the first verse of this chapter says in the Greek text "STOP holding your faith in an attitude of personal favoritism."

Now why is it so important? Well, when we get to verse 5, and running through the end of the paragraph, verses 5 to 13, we find The Arguments against favoritism and prejudice. James here lays out four arguments. We looked at the first a couple of weeks ago. The first is found in verse 5 and the first part of verse 6. It is: We are not to show favoritism and prejudice, because it is inconsistent with God's Sovereign choice. Paul says, "Didn't God choose."(Or excuse me), James says, "Didn't God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which He promised to those who love Him?" He said, "Think for a moment about the reality that proportionately, God chooses more poor people to be a part of His kingdom than He does wealthy people." Paul made the same point in 1 Corinthians, one, you remember. "God doesn't choose many who are wise and mighty and noble." He chooses some, in His grace. He says, "It's inconsistent with God's Sovereign choice to show favoritism and prejudice."

There's a second argument. And this brings us to new ground that we want to begin to cover today. There's a second argument that James lays down here, however. And it is: we are not to show favoritism. We're not to show prejudice, because it is inconsistent with reality. Notice the second half of verse 6: "Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?" Now, remember, in his example, James uses an illustration of the tendency to show partiality toward the wealthy and the powerful, and to treat the poor with disdain. That was, apparently, a very common form this sin took, in James' readers' lives.

And so, James sets out to show how inconsistent, logically, their response to these two people was. He says, "Now think for a moment about how the powerful and the wealthy treat you." And he says, "And if you'll think about that, you'll see how terribly inconsistent your response to a person, solely based on his wealth, is. It makes no sense." Now he isn't saying, here, that this is true of all the rich. First Timothy 6:18, Paul tells Timothy to give instruction to wealthy believers. It's not that God doesn't save anyone who's wealthy. He certainly does. I personally think that this wealthy man that we meet in verse 2 of James 2 was probably a recent convert. He's come to faith in Christ. So, he's not saying that all the rich can be described this way. But as a class, the rich and the powerful were not, and still aren't, friends of the Christian faith. He says, "Look at their typical treatment of you! Is it not the rich who oppress you?"

Throughout the Old Testament, you see this as a pattern. God is forever telling His people not to exact high interests from the poor. You see, the rich often oppressed and took advantage of the poverty of the poor. Amos 5:11, the rich would impose heavy rent on the poor, so that they really couldn't make ends meet. And they put themselves in a position of servitude, eventually becoming indentured servants. He says, "Is it not the rich who often oppress you, and personally drag you into court?" This probably isn't a reference to persecution, although it could be. More likely, it's a reference to the fact that the rich have consistently used the courts to exploit and take advantage of the poor, particularly in cultures where there isn't a high degree of integrity in the judicial system. That's why, throughout the Old Testament, God is saying, over and over again, "Don't take bribes, you judges, because you'll pervert justice. You'll favor the wealthy. They will use the system to get their way." Often the widow and the orphan find their rights and property being abused in the courts by the power, the influence, and the bribes of the rich. James goes on. He says, "Do they not blaspheme the fair, that is, the noble, or excellent name by which you've been called?" He says, "They blaspheme the name of Christ!" James is saying, "Your response to a man based solely on his wealth is inconsistent with reality.

And listen, folks, that's always the way it is with favoritism and prejudice.

When we demonstrate this sin, we are out of touch with reality as God sees it. When I was in California, it was not uncommon to hear prejudicial comments, aimed at the poor Hispanics who are so much a part of the culture there. One common complaint you would hear people speak is that, "They're just lazy." The truth is, there were few people in California who worked as hard as they work. The day laborer, standing on the street corner, waiting from early morning to get a job, to go do the hardest manual labor in the worst of circumstances, for the least amount of pay. It was ironic. The very ones who often criticized these people as lazy would never have been willing to work like these people work. It's inconsistent with reality.

Think of one example of Christian favoritism. In Christian circles, unfortunately, it is typical for people to have a special deference toward the world's rich and powerful and influential. Let somebody who's got a name come around, and it's sad to see Christians, sort of cater to that person, as if they were really significant and important. Now think about that, for a moment. The culturally influential in our culture that Christians sometimes bow down to, and I saw this in California, particularly, you know you, occasionally you'd see this desire to have someone from the from the entertainment crowd come and do something in your event, because they had a big name, and they were powerful and influential. Think about the inconsistency of that; makes no sense. They are often the very ones who are most opposed to our faith. That what James is saying.

Think about prejudice, for a moment. Many Christians because of their politics, have nothing but disdain for the inner-city poor. Now, don't misunderstand me. Certainly, it is right to condemn the clearly sinful acts and character of criminals and thugs, who loot stores, who rebel against authority, who live flagrantly immoral lives. That's right. We should do that. But there are many, who live in such conditions, who are not criminals and thugs and adulterers. They are simply referred to in Scripture as "the poor." And when we treat the poor and disadvantaged with an attitude of contempt, solely because of their poverty, we are sinning against God. And we are sinning against the very ones that God says He takes a special interest in. Favoritism and prejudice are inconsistent with reality.

That brings us to James' third argument. He says, "Not only is the sin of partiality inconsistent with reality. Not only is it inconsistent with God's Sovereign choice. But it is inconsistent with God's law." Look at verse 8. "If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law." Now what is this royal law? Literally translated, "royal law" is "The Law of our King; our King's Law." And it's the one, notice, he says, "according to the Scripture", the one found in Scripture. What exactly is this "Law from our King?" Well, he quotes Leviticus 19:18, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." He says, "There's the royal law. There's the King's Law." Now why does James single out this one commandment from the book of Leviticus and call it "The King's Law?" Well, undoubtedly, on many occasions, he had heard his older half-brother, Jesus, explain to him and to his siblings, in their home, about how this command was the second greatest commandment in the entire Old Testament, just as Jesus would later do in His public ministry, in Matthew 22. Undoubtedly, James has been exposed to this. He had heard Jesus teach about the great summary of the Law, of every responsibility to man. It was to love your neighbor as yourself.

The apostles got this same message. They stressed this same point. Paul, in fact, quotes Leviticus 19:18 on several occasions, as a summary of the Christian's entire responsibility to others. Turn to Romans 13, Romans 13:8, Paul writes, "Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another. For he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law. For this, you shall not commit adultery. You shall not murder. You shall not steal. You shall not covet. And if there's any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the Law." Paul says, "You want a summary of your entire duty to other Christians and to other human beings? Here it is: love them as you love yourself." Galatians 5, Paul makes the same point. Galatians 5:14, "For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" You see, every command that God has given us about how we're to think about other people; about how we're to speak to one another; about how we are to treat one another; every one of those commands can be summarized by this one commandment. That's why James calls it "the King's Law."

By the way, let me just say, that contrary to sort of pop Christian psychology, this is not a command to love yourself. That is assumed, here and throughout Scripture. It's assumed that we already do love ourselves. It is absolutely natural to our fallen heart. Even those people who do harm to themselves really do love themselves, because they want their way, even if it means ending their life. They are so self-consumed and so self-absorbed that they can think of no one but themselves. They love themselves. We all do! And in fact, in 2 Timothy 3:2, "lovers of self" is identified as a sin, along with being lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, brutal, haters of good." Just comes natural. This comes with the territory of being a fallen human being, to be a "lover of yourself." But because it's absolutely natural to love ourselves and to care for ourselves, that becomes the standard for our response to others. We are to be as concerned for others and their needs as we are for our own.

Here is the Royal Law, the King's Law," a great summary of everything we are to do to one another. And James says, back in James 2, James says, "If you keep this commandment, you are doing well." It's an understatement, really. I want you to turn to another passage, over to Luke 10; because in Luke 10, there's a fascinating interchange between Jesus and one of the lawyers on this very point, one of the scribes. Luke 10:25, "And a lawyer" [that is an expert in the Mosaic Law] "stood up and put Jesus to the test, saying, 'Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?'"

Now here's a straight-forward question: "How do I gain eternal life?" If you were Jesus, what would you have said? It probably wouldn't have been what He says. Notice how He responds, verse 26: … Jesus said to … [this man], "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" [In other words, He's saying, "What do you think you have to do to gain eternal life? What do you think is written in the Law of Moses?" Now watch the man's response] Verse 27, … he answered [Jesus and said,] "[Well,] YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. AND YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."

He says, "Here's what the Law teaches as to how a man can earn eternal life. It's to love God perfectly and to love others perfectly." He said, "Wait a minute. Wait, wait, wait, wait. Is that right?" Well, notice the next verse, verse 28. Jesus replies to this lawyer, and He says, "You have answered correctly." [And then He quotes another verse from the Law,] Leviticus 18:5: "DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE." Jesus says, "You're right. You want to earn eternal life? Here's the standard: Love God with your whole being, perfectly, every moment of your life; and love your neighbor with every fiber of your being as you love yourself, throughout your entire existence. And you'll earn eternal life." That's correct. Jesus lays out these two commands. He agrees with this lawyer, that if you can do those perfectly, you can earn eternal life.

But you know what? The minute that that standard is laid out and understood, we all start running for cover, just like this man does. Look at his response, verse 29: "But wishing to justify himself." Listen, this man knew his heart. He knew he had never loved his neighbor as himself. He knew this was not the consistent pattern of his life. And so, looking for an excuse looking for a way out, still wanting to earn eternal life, while not living up to the standard, he says to Jesus, "Well, exactly how would you define neighbor?" He says, "You know, if you're talking about those people that are like me, that I enjoy, maybe we could say 'I've done that.'"

So, Jesus then tells the story of the Good Samaritan. And you know how Jesus defines "neighbor?" It is anyone that God Sovereignly brings into your life and across your path. In other words, there's never a person that you have contact with that you aren't commanded to love as you love yourself. That is an impossible standard. We know that none of us has, or can, perfectly keep those two great summaries of God's Law. If your hope of heaven, if my hope of heaven rests on keeping those commands, all hope is lost! But that's where the Good News of the Gospel comes in.

You see, Jesus not only died on the cross in our place, as if He were a transgressor like we are, but He also lived a perfect life. You ever wondered why Jesus didn't just come down for the weekend? I mean, it could've all been wrapped up in three days. Why did He come for thirty-three years? Why did he live here, among us? Because for thirty-three years, He perfectly loved God. For thirty-three years He perfectly loved everyone that ever came into contact with Him. And God, in an amazing act of grace, takes that perfect love for God and that perfect for others, and the moment you and I will repent and believe the Gospel, He takes that record of Christ; and He puts it in our account. And for all eternity, for those who have repented and believed, He will treat each of us as if we had lived that perfect life. That's the Gospel! That's our only Hope!

Now notice James' contrast, back in James 2:8. He says, "If you keep this command, you're doing well!" But if you," as a pattern of life, are showing partiality, he begins, verse 9. Now as we've already seen in verse 1, he's telling them to STOP doing this. So, this was a pattern of life, already for them. This already is a reality. And he's saying, "I'm going to tell you how important this is. You're doing this. And if you're doing this, there's some pretty negative consequences of this."

You and I don't tend to think about partiality this way, do we? I mean, it's such a common sin. And in comparison to many sins we often commit, it seems relatively harmless and insignificant. I mean, after all, how many of you have struggled with God because your conscience has been regularly smitten because you show partiality? And yet, we all do. So why don't we feel the weight of conscience because of it? Cause it just doesn't seem that important to us.

So why does James, our Lord's half-brother, the pastor of the Jerusalem church, take up so much space in his letter on this issue? Why is it so important? Well, the rest of verse 9, down through verse 13, he explains. Notice verse 9. "If you are showing partiality, (and you are!) Then you are committing sin!" You see, showing favoritism and prejudice is not a harmless, peccadillo! It is a serious sin in the sight of God. Moreover, he goes on, "You are being convicted by the Law as transgressors." Now that word doesn't sound too bad in English. But it's an ugly word. The word "transgressors" means "rebel, lawbreaker". Listen, for a moment to what James is really saying. Let me paraphrase it for you. See if this hits home in the way that James would have wanted it to hit home with us. If you treat others differently because of external factors, like the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, the neighborhoods they live in, the schools they attend, the color of their skin, or the level of their education, and on and on it goes; (and we all have); if you treat others differently on those bases, that ALONE makes you a rebel against God! That's what James says. It's such a radical statement, isn't it?

Because of that, James sets out to prove it to us. Notice verse 10. Let me tell you why I say that. "For, because, for this reason." And then he makes a statement that, frankly, deserves a special message, all of its own, and probably will get it at some point in the future. "For whoever (without exception) keeps the whole Law [if that were possible], and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all." That means that we are guilty or liable to punishment in the same way, as if we had broken all of God's Law, if we only break it one time, on one issue, including the issue of partiality.

Now look at the word "guilty" for a moment. It's an interesting word. It's commonly used in the Old Testament, in the Septuagint. And it's often translated, most commonly translated: "He shall surely be put to death." It literally means "deserving of death." It's used in all of those passages where it talks about the death penalty. Or many, I should say, of those passages where it talks about the death penalty in Ancient Israel. "He is deserving of death" if he breaks one. Now of course, the Old Testament Law had the reference to capital punishment, to physical death. But this same expression is used in the New Testament to refer to spiritual death, or eternal punishment. You can see that in Matthew 5:22. So what James is saying, here, is if you commit just the sin of favoritism, if you only break the Law of God one time, then you are deserving of death! You say, "How can it be that only one sin, and such a seemingly insignificant sin makes us deserving of eternal punishment? Well, notice verse 11. Here's why. "For He who said, 'DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY,' also said, 'DO NOT COMMIT MURDER.'" Now you know if you do not commit adultery, but you do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. You see, the same God that gave us the seventh commandment, 'DON'T COMMIT ADULTERY,' also gave us the sixth commandment, 'YOU SHALL NOT MURDER.' So, if you keep the seventh, but break the sixth, you're still a transgressor of the Law of God.

When I was growing up in Mobile, we would often go over on Mobile Bay to where sits the U.S.S. Alabama, that old World War II battleship. We loved, as children, to sort of run around the decks, and examine everything that was there. I'll never forget, though, the first time I saw and was struck with the massive size of the chain to which the anchor was attached. The chain had a number of links, of course. And each link, the metal in each link, I think, was close to six or seven inches in diameter: massive chain that supported the anchor. Now you tell me, how many links of that chain would have to be broken for the ship to be set adrift? Only one, because it's a unit! It forms a single, unitary link. And if one of those links is lost, the chain and its effectiveness is gone. The same is true with God's Law.

Let's take another example. Many of us have in our homes a large plate-glass window. How many times would you have to burst a hole in that window with a hammer to ruin the window? Only once! Only one time, and it has ceased as a single unit as, as a single entity to exist. You shattered it with one blow.

The same is true with the Law of God. Even though it appears to be made up of in a number of individual Laws, (and it is), it is, in fact, one great unit, that expresses the will and purpose of God. It is made up of two great, indivisible commands: Love God perfectly every moment of your life, and love everyone in your life like you love yourself. Now you tell, me. How many times do you have to act in selfishness and self-love to fail to love God perfectly and to fail to love others perfectly? Only once! If you fail for only one moment in your entire life, you shattered the commands to love God and to love others perfectly. And, according to James, we immediately become deserving of death.

Now this is a profound teaching about the Law of God, but don't forget the context. James is talking here, about showing favoritism and prejudice. And he says, "Either of those committed one time is sin. They are sufficient to make you a transgressor of God's Law, and they are sufficient to make you liable to eternal punishment. In God's economy, this sin in enough to put each one of us on death row. This is why God gave us the Law. You remember in Romans 3 Paul says, "It's through the Law that comes the knowledge of sin." It shows us we can never measure up! It's impossible to love God perfectly! It's impossible to love others as we love ourselves; everyone that comes into our lives, every moment of our life! That's why Paul, in Galatians 3 says, "The Law serves as" what? "A tutor to point us to Christ." The Law brings us to our knees and causes us to cry out with the tax gatherer, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" He says, "Listen! Partiality is inconsistent with God's Law."

One final argument: we'll just take a moment to look at it. He says it's inconsistent with true faith. It's inconsistent with true faith. These two verses are a kind of hinge in the middle of chapter 2. James argues that the consistent practice of partiality is inconsistent with genuine faith. And that prompts him, beginning in verse 14 through the end of the chapter, to launch into a discussion of the difference between spurious, non-saving faith and true, genuine, saving faith. But that discussion, that profound theological discussion that we'll get to shortly (not today), shortly, has its roots in these two verses, dealing with partiality.

Notice how James wraps up his argument: "So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the Law of Liberty." In other words, live in the light of the coming judgment. All men are going to be judged by this Law of Liberty, he says. What's the Law of Liberty? Go back to 1:25. There it's clear. The Law of Liberty is the Scripture. All men are going to be judged against the Scripture, God's Revelation! God will judge the reality of our faith by whether or not we have obeyed the Word of God! I wish we had time to go to Romans 2. I would show you the principles of God's judgment that are outlined in Romans 2. And one of those is: we'll be judged on the basis of our works compared to God's Revelation.

Don't misunderstand. The works are not the cause of salvation. They are the evidence of it. And they form the basis of God's judgment. Now notice what James says in verse 13. Here he explains more specifically what he means. He says, "Because judgment will be merciless to the one who has shown no mercy." In other words, to the one whose life has NOT been characterized, I should say, by mercy toward others. "Mercy triumphs over judgment, or condemnation."

Now what's he saying, here? Well, the commentator, Vaughn puts it this way: "The meaning is NOT that by showing mercy to man, we procure mercy from God. That would make salvation a matter of human merit, and would contradict the whole tenor of Scripture." Instead, James Hebert says, "The practice of mercy toward others is the evidence that God's grace has produced a transformation in a person. The merciless man reveals that he has never vitally apprehended God's mercy, himself. Reminds me of our Lord's words in Matthew 5:7, "Blessed are the merciful" what? "For they shall receive mercy." If you show mercy, it's because you have experienced mercy, yourself.

And one way that we demonstrate mercy is by not showing favoritism or prejudice. What seems so insignificant to us is so important to God. "My brethren," James says, "Do not hold your faith in our Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism or prejudice." Why? Because it's inconsistent with God's Sovereign choice. Because it's inconsistent with reality. Because it's inconsistent with God's Law, the Law of Love. And because it's inconsistent with true, genuine saving faith. If we have experienced mercy, we show mercy to all, without partiality.

Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for this Word to us. Our consciences are rebuked, because, Father, we all too often act in this very way. Lord, forgive us. Cleanse our hearts. Help us to be like You in not showing partiality. Help us to love others, because it's right, because they're made in Your image, regardless of external appearances.

Father, I pray, as well, for whoever may be here, today, man or woman who has seen himself or self-exposed before your Law. Lord, they've realized that they have no hope of ever earning their way into heaven, because the standard is so impossibly high. Perfect love for You and perfect love for others. Lord, I pray that today you would bring them to the end of themselves, that they would turn in faith and repentance toward Christ, and cry out, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner, seeking Your pardon, seeking Your grace." And may Your Son receive the glory.

For it's in His name, we pray,



Pride and Prejudice - Part 1

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Pride and Prejudice - Part 2

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Your Faith: Dead or Alive? - Part 1

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