James 2:1-13 (Section 3)

2:1-13 – Policies that Make Distinctions in the Church are EVIL

People today are a lot less familiar, perhaps willingly, with the concept of partiality in a religious sense, even though they display it constantly, ourselves included.  We even say “I am partial to [fill in the blank].”  Partiality between believers, however, is actually a sin in the church, and James commands us not to have it.

Sadly, we see that many so-called “churches” have weak (or worse no) ecclesiology when we read that they are making the “unvaccinated” sit in a different (less beneficial) section, if they are allowed to attend the “church” at all.  Beloved, I know that the reasons for wanting policies on this kind of thing are complex and complicated by family at times.  I am aware of a family that will not be allowed to attend their place of fellowship as long as there is no “vaccine” policy in place where the unvaccinated are not allowed to attend worship, on pain of not seeing their grandchildren.  My heart really goes out to those folks, the Lord has allowed this in their lives for a reason, even if we don’t understand it.

But if we practiced what I saw termed once in a news headline as “vax-partheid,” we would in fact be practicing partiality just like James says we should not do.  We are all the same before our all-powerful, and our all-knowing God.  This “pandemic” has not been as bad as we were led to believe it could have been, and for reasons that I’m sure have more to do with God’s mercy than anything else.  Martin Luther served the people during the honest-to-goodness actual Black Death, the Bubonic Plague, and he did so with the understanding that if that is the kind of death he was to honour God, there was nothing he could do to stop it, but there were people he could help–and so he did, and as many as possible.  I know he didn’t have the threat of never seeing his grandchildren over his head constantly, but there must be some way you can serve the Lord like Martin Luther did.

To make false divisions based on some kind of imaginary or even REAL status is unscriptural and sinful.  There is no longer any Jew or Greek, no Barbarian or Scythian (worse than Barbarian), no slave or free, heck, no male or female.  How can we make a division like vaccinated or unvaccinated?  And if I read this right, very dangerous to do so for those who are in church leadership, but that’s another topic.


With that understood from the overview text (available on BereanNation.com), we should see what the text has to say.  I broke that text down like this:

KV5:  Does your walk reflect artificial partiality or real freedom?

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?

1-4:  Looking on the outward appearance and nothing else reveals evil motives

5-7:  Recognize the purpose of God in everything, instead of making artificial divisions

8-13:  Stop acting like slaves of sin, and instead act like you are judged by the law of liberty

This study, I will begin with a question:  Have you ever noticed that there is a big difference between people that are walking in reality and the people that are not?  I ask it that way because it is NOT always easy to tell the difference.  False converts, as Ray Comfort has termed them, do exist, and there is a reason that they continue to exist in our midst, our discernment notwithstanding.

James in this text speaks of the real church, and how we are to be walking in unity and not artificial divisions like poor and rich, or educated and uneducated, Greek or Jew, or even male and female (from Galatians).  There are no national, ethnic, economic, social, or dare I say medical divisions in the body of Christ, because He has by His demonstrated death and resurrection made them all irrelevant.  We are all one in Him, according to Colossians 3:11 and Galatians 3:28.  Both of those verse speak of how we are to all be one in Christ, and it even says in Ephesians 2:12-16, “…remember that you were at that time separate from Christ,  excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near  by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might  make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.

That’s very deep, and if I may borrow a line from my wedding manual, “What God has joined together, let no man tear asunder.”  As if we could in this case.  Yet, schismatics of all stripes have tried since the days of Paul, right?

KV5:  Does your walk reflect artificial partiality or real freedom?

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?

James is stating a kingdom principle here.  Paul stated the same thing in 1 Cor. 1:26-29, which reads, “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.”  Beloved, this principle should humble us unbelievably.  What it is saying is that God chose foolish men, not wise ones.  Weak men, not strong ones.  Common and not noble.  Why?  So that all of the nobility and strength and wisdom would clearly be from Christ, because we really are not that smart or wise or noble, no matter how we like to think of ourselves.

This can be incredibly hard to accept for the very intelligent or the educated.  We tend to think of how smart we are for doing what the Lord wanted and choosing Him, but really He chose us for reasons that have nothing to do with us, and everything to do with His will, and he is not under any obligation to explain this to us.  We think of ourselves as “the elect” and congratulate ourselves on ho God chose us for our intelligence, or our education, or our abilities, but God is calling out that lie right here.  He chose us because we are the OPPOSITE of smart or wise or noble and good.  He called the dirt out of the ground, Beloved–He called US.  Why?  So that He could make us who have no ability or intelligence or wisdom or nobility of our own and Give us His, so that WE might shine forth HIS glory when we exhibit those things, because the whole world KNOWS that isn’t us!  And we should make friends with that idea, because it is true.  We have no reason to be proud.  Even if we are the smartest person in the room, it is HE that made us that way, and it is our job to help the others in the room see Christ and NOT US.  That’s hard to do while you’re busy showing off that you’re the smartest person in the room, while all the while everyone knows that your personal life is a disaster.  Stop that, Beloved.  Don’t be like that.

No, instead we need to see the reality of our situations like God sees it.  We are USELESS unless He chooses to use us.  And when He does, we had better be useable, or there will be consequences in terms of burning up things like Paul talked about in 1 Cor. 3.  All of our artificial divisions and the commercials we make about ourselves (and we all do it) are pointless, because God knows the truth about us in a way that we cannot argue.  Trying to show how smart you are, or how serving, or loving, or worse, humble you are is all a form of partiality.  You are clearly preferring yourself.  No, we must not.  We must instead see how God sees us, and walk in the light of that reality, and that is the very subject of this study.

1-4:  Looking on the outward appearance and nothing else reveals evil motives

This is what we do, isn’t it?  We look and make our decisions or reach our conclusions based on what we see, often without knowing the whole story.  We think we are doing the people a favour by speaking or acting, but in reality, we’re just trying to look good at everyone else’s expense.  You know how I know?  Because *I* am like that at times, and I repent of that right here, right now.  And believe it or not, I recognize it in others as well, even when I’m not saying it.  We all say things about others that are less than flattering and we all say things that make us “better” in terms of “spin” that we put on situations and whatever.  Some of that is okay if your actual (as opposed to stated) reason is for the spiritual betterment of that person.  But let me ask–is it?  We don’t always even know ourselves. 

What this kind of thing reveals is a selfish motive, which is evil.  You want to look good, you are worried about what others think of you, you want to be in charge when that isn’t supposed to be your station according to the will of God.  I’ve seen it, and I’ve done it.  There ARE things that God has put me in charge of, and for that I will praise the Lord.  There are things that the Lord has NOT put me in charge of, and I don’t want to assert my authority over those things, or at least I shouldn’t want to.  The problem is that I do.

The specific example James applies in this part of the text has to do with how we view others with respect to their economic status, but there should be a great deal more that goes into our treatment of other people, and not all of it is based on the outward appearance of things.  A great deal of it has to do with how God sees things.  Let’s get into the text, and I will try to make it clear as we go.

1:  My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.

  • Here is the issue at hand.  We all have people we prefer to be around.  Some of this is natural, and is based on the way the Lord put us together as a person.  A mundane example of this is people that like to do archery.  We tend to congregate, we talk about equipment, we practice together, swap tricks and tips, like that.  The commonality of the love of archery binds us together.  I picked that one because I relate, and I have my own equipment, and I can still shoot, or at least could the last time I went out a couple of years ago.  My shoulder now, I don’t know, but hey.  Christians that share a common Saviour should at the very least experience the same thing.  So how is it that we don’t always? 
  • Well it seems to be that we prefer some brothers above others.  The Greek word here is prosopolempsia, meaning to have a respect of persons, or partiality.  Vine defines this as “the fault of one who, when responsible to give judgment, has respect to the position, rank, popularity, or circumstances of men, instead of their intrinsic conditions, preferring the rich and powerful to those who are not so,” in his Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.  Now what does James mean by that?

2:  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,

  • James is specifically dealing with differences in appearance here, but this does extend out past the concept of someone who looks poor or someone that looks rich.  It can be anything at all.  I would be remiss if I didn’t give you an example or two, I think, so here we go.  How about “He’s a Calvinist?”  Gee, we’ve never heard that around here!  Or how about, “He’s Premillennial in his eschatology?”  Those are both things that people try to make separating differences over, and we have been on the wrong side of those.  These are not critical issues of the Gospel necessarily.  There is another one that I’ve had to deal with recently:  Is he vaxxed or unvaxxed?  I think a couple of weeks ago I called that “vax-partheid.” 
  • The bottom line is that James is setting up a theoretical difference to illustrate that this is not good, and it is not the will of God for the church.

3:  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,”

  • James here now talks about the primary difference between the two camps–it is preferential treatment based on your evaluation of an individual’s economic status in his example.  It isn’t the only example.  I’ll give a similar one I know about.  Back in the mid-1960s, a man I know well actually showed up at a Baptist church in Armstrong, Ontario.  He was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt because it’s all he had to wear.  It was clean, and I think he even went to the trouble of pressing the jeans, but I don’t remember that for sure.  The Deacon at the door stopped him and told him he couldn’t come into a church dressed like that.  Rather than argue, the fellow, angered by that treatment, never tried to check out a church ever again, and tried to keep his kids from doing it too, though they did anyway.  Beloved, that’s not right.  Christ calls us to come as we are.  If the best we have is just rags anyway, what good is putting on a suit to cover up the sin?  I’m pretty sure God sees through that.  For the sake of the complete story, that man was my father.  To me, this is what James is talking about.  Partiality based on perceived economic status.
  • I’m not saying we should just go any old way to worship the Lord, and most of the regulars to this study know I’m not.  God is still God, and we should wear the best we have as a way of honouring him.  But that shouldn’t be imposed on anyone but yourself.  If it is, it is because of partiality.  Or how about that “vaccination status” thing?  You’re vaccinated?  Great, you get to sit in the front row!  Not vaccinated?  You go sit in that little side room over there and make sure the door stays closed, and wipe everything down when you’re done.  Beloved, is that not partiality of a different sort?

4:  have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?

  • Now I know that what I just said comes across as me speaking my stubborn opinion, but I tell you it isn’t MY opinion, or not mine alone I should say.  It’s clearly James’ opinion too.  This is HIS question–if you make distinctions among yourselves, are you not being judges with evil motives? 
  • This distinction in James’ example is that you want something, probably the favour of the rich person, or their money to fund the church, or like that.  For My example, you want your illusion of safety so you can preserve your feeling of wellbeing.  But are you truly safe?  Well, if you don’t care, you’re as safe as Martin Luther was when he met people dying of the Black Death in the 1520s in Europe.  If you DO care, then you’re as safe as Martin Luther anyway.  Beloved, when will we realize that God is in ultimate control of everything, and no policy we can ever dictate will ever deal with His will and His sovereignty over all?
  • We have this evil desire…strong desire, even to the point of need…to be in control of everything and regulate it.  That isn’t bad as long as you are following the code of the Lord and His will, but the moment you depart from that, you must necessarily be hindering His will (as if you could).  Jesus said, He who is not against you is for you, and God forbid that we should be found standing against the will of God.  That’s an evil motive from the pit of hell, and it will center around what YOU want to be sure.  And we are REALLY good at justifying that in the context of how that will be good for everyone…just ask a “communitarian.”  There is another word for “communitarian,: by the way, and they want to differentiate themselves from this, but they cannot.  It is “Communist.”

Not to bring this to too fine a point, but “looking on the outward appearance” of things is an observable behaviour that all pastors look for.  We have specific training in it so as to read people better and at least mentally separate the facts from the fiction that most people tell us about themselves.  One of the biggest things we can do is listen to what you talk about–usually incessantly.  Your actions betray your beliefs.  How you care for your home and yourself says things about you as a person.  Your topics of conversation tell us volumes.  Your shifting patterns of distraction even tell us things.  HOW you change the subject and what subjects you talk about tell volumes.  And yet all you really hope we will hear is how you are serving the Lord.  Gee, we don’t know anyone like that, do we?  Oh you bet we do.  Some are on this call.  One is even speaking to you.

But all of that is evil unless it is for the purpose of edifying the church and its individual members, Beloved.  That is supposed to be the job of the pastor, and it is one that I take seriously, and that’s why you get what sounds like ire…but is really desperation to get you to see what I’m really saying without me having to say it directly to everyone’s great public embarrassment most times.

When we give preferential treatment or design divisive policies for the house of God and enforce them, we only prove that we ourselves are unworthy of being included in that grand building of God, and that is the WHOLE point of James here.  Moving on.

5-7:  Recognize the purpose of God in everything, instead of making artificial divisions

Originally, I had this as one longer paragraph, until I realized there was a very subtle shift in topic by James.  I don’t think he thought about it, I think he just wrote out his thoughts, but for almost 2000 years now, people have been analyzing this in this way because it is useful in deriving what God meant when He inspired James to write the words that he wrote, and that’s the main point of any Bible Study, Beloved.

What James shifts focus to here is away from things we shouldn’t be doing onto what we SHOULD be doing by way of contrasts.  Instead of making the kinds of divisions that plague the church right up until present day, we should be seeing the purpose of God in any decision we make regarding behaviour in and out of the House of God.  What divisions plague the church?  Any and all of them, Beloved.  That statement can be as general or as specific as you need to make it.  Jew and Gentile, Barbarian and Scythian, Slave and Master, Rich and Poor, Male and Female, right down to Vaccinated or Unvaccinated–all of these are artificial divisions, and have NO PLACE in the house of God.  Did you hear me?  NO PLACE for these things–AT ALL.  Why is that?  Because the House He is building is His work, and He sets the rules and policy, not us.  If He says “No active car thief can lead,” we should understand that, and understand WHY moreover.  The reason in that case is pretty simple–nobody living in open sin according the Word of God should be in leadership because those in leadership are supposed to be examples of those you should follow, and the Word SAYS “Thou shalt not STEAL.”  Make sense?  Let’s see what James says about this.

5:  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?

  • James posits this as a simple statement, but it would literally take hours of time to unpack it fully, and I’m not sure that could be accomplished fully even then.  We’ve already talked about some of this.  God chose the POOR of this world to be RICH IN FAITH.  Stop there for a moment.  Why would God DO such a crazy thing?  Wouldn’t it be more efficient to save those who have some means, ways, or notoriety in the best sense so that they could either propel the message of the kingdom of Christ forward, or carry it a ways, or proclaim it powerfully?  Well, there are some…”not many” as it says in 1 Cor. 1…but there are some.  Sometimes I think this is so that God can do all the work Himself because He loves to do so.  Because, despite appearances, I cannot DO this.  I don’t WANT to do it even.  But for the love of Christ, I am compelled to do my very best for Him, because of how He bore MY penalty for sin and set me personally FREE! 
  • The POOR are uniquely positioned to recognize when someone has paid their fare, Beloved.  I know that as we approach the end of time, what the world calls “charity” but isn’t clouds this vision with state-funded enablement, but the principle is still there.  I don’t have a lot.  I never really have.  But as some of you can attest, I have difficulty asking for help.  I try to stand on my own.  And then God removed even that ability in 2014 when I had a heart attack.  What I have learned in the last 7 years or so is that I can only really depend on the Lord to meet my needs, whether God me the strength to do it or whether it comes by other means (and God does work through means).  So when someone pays my bill for dinner, I’m simply grateful.  I don’t expect it.  I don’t manipulate others into doing it for me.  I do what I can.  Why?  Because Paul said it best in his second letter to the Thessalonians:  “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” (3:10)  It isn’t my point here to exposit this, but if you aren’t willing to do what it takes to figure out what you can do to live yourself, then you have NO business asking for help.  You don’t want to get your hands dirty, then no one should help you, and you have no right to expect it.  When you have done all you can do (and I have often been surprised at just how much the Lord thinks I can do as opposed to what I think), THEN God will help.  Beloved, if your window is broken, it’s up to you to fix it.  Stop burdening us with how you don’t know how and figure it out.  Or don’t–but in either event, Paul said such a one should not receive help (“…he is not to eat, either.”).  Don’t look to me, I can’t even help myself.  Anyway, that’s all related but not my point.
  • The Lord chose the POOR of this world to be RICH!  That word for poor means “he who crouches and cowers,” ostensibly like a beggar of old.  In this passage, according to Vine, they are conspicuously poor.  It cannot escape your notice.  Like the “poor widow” that gave two mites–her entire purse–as a religious donation (Luke 21:2).  THESE ones are to be RICH!  The Greek word means what we have translated it as.  But rich how?  Rich in FAITH.  What is that?  That firm persuasion or opinion held in such a way as to move one to ACTION so that their true belief can be readily SEEN by what they DO.  Wait…am I repeating myself?  Yes, yes, I am.  You will act out on what it is you truly believe.  Your ACTIONS are a display of your motives, which arise from faith.  I’m not making this up, and apparently, we CAN be known by the kind of fruit we display.  Faith in what?  In Christ, of course.  See the rest of the verse:  “…heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?”
  • That also directly states that the poor in this world that cast their faith in Christ in a rich and living way are promised a kingdom where they will reign with Christ, Beloved.  I wish we had time to go into that here, but we do not.

6:  But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?

  • James here introduces that contrast I spoke of.  Here, in referring to his earlier description of how a rich man and a poor man are treated in your congregation, James just flat-out says it.  “You have dishonoured the poor man.”  That one that God has given heavenly riches and a kingdom where that one will reign with Christ–you have mistreated, maligned, and disrespected THAT one.  Now I ask you–would you take that kindly?  I thought not.
  • And on top of that, James makes the further point that if you did that to the rich man, he’d sue you for defamation of character, probably.  Beloved, when we are conforming ourselves to the pattern of this world, we get this backwards all the time.  We preferentially treat the rich as if to curry favour from them, in the hopes that they will give us support, particularly financial support, which is what we are always somehow after.  Even though our Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and His work done in His way will never lack His supply. 
  • The poor man on the other hand has no pretense about him.  He knows he is of humble circumstance, and he like you must depend on God to help him.  I have seen people who are rich according to the world expect certain things from the church.  If they want a position on council, or if they want a certain monument to themselves in the building, they donate a large amount of money in return for that self-glorification.  May that never again be spoken among us at least.

7:  Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?

  • And most of these so-called wealthy people actually disdain Christ.  Don’t get me wrong, there are those individuals that God blesses with wealth, and they serve Him with it.  But that isn’t who James is talking about.  James is talking about these other wealthy people that are trying to worship both God and Mammon, usually preferring Mammon.  These ones actually blaspheme Christ with their false worship, and their using of the amounts of money they are “giving” (they aren’t really giving it, are they?) to buy tributes to themselves or dictate policy or pastoral content or persons.  Such individuals, as Jesus said, have their reward in full.

And this is an EXAMPLE of the contrasts that are possible between those who are not walking in the Spirit (even though they may be a Christian) and those who are.  I get the impression from this, and this is just a handful on purpose, that one must understand their need of Christ to really see that no matter how much they have, they must still depend on Christ to supply their needs, because if they don’t they run an awful danger of becoming blasphemers of Christ and trying to run the church themselves.  It is the Lord’s Church (capital C).  Give Him His proper place at the head of it.  Our don’t let the door hit you in the personality on the way out.  James is bold, why shouldn’t I be?  And James is not finished with the bold statements.

8-13:  Stop acting like slaves of sin, and instead act like you are judged by the law of liberty

As I said, James is very bold.  And remember, he is writing to other believers!  He is telling them to stop behaving like they are still slaves of sin, JUST LIKE PAUL did in Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4, just to name a few places.  Beloved, this theme is across the New Testament!  Jesus speaks of the need to worship in Spirit and in Truth, the Book of Acts shows people actually choosing to do just that, Paul gives the theology behind it, and so does James and all of the other New Testament writers!  The phrasing I prefer here is that we are all slaves to something…choose your enslavement wisely! 

Alcohol is a pleasant master to serve, but grows increasingly demanding.  Narcotics are even less forgiving and more demanding.  Other addictions are the same.  And we choose them because of how good they make us feel, as temporary as that high really is, and we become addicted trying to replicate that feeling of greatness, or benefit.  ALL sin is like that.  Moses knew that sin had a passing pleasure about it…but because it was passing he chose differently, and so must we.  Instead, we can be truly free as we “enslave” (Paul calls himself that…doulos) ourselves to the Lord Jesus.  Let me see if I can explain.

We all live life and give ourselves to things that please us.  But what is it that actually pleases us?  Is it the booze?  It was for me for a while.  Is it drugs?  I can understand that.  Is it sex?  That’s a great feeling, but it has a proper context, outside of which it is just as wrong, and that’s the kind of sex that sex addicts seem to always want.  Is it movies and television?  Some other form of distraction?  I get it!  You like it, and you serve it, but it NEVER serves you.  We used to talk about “liquid courage” a bit, but we weren’t really making the booze serve us, we were serving it as it helped us run pell-mell down a destructive path…and then at some point, it demanded obeisance from us.  You needed to KEEP doing it to have a more and more fleeting high.  And then you couldn’t stop.  And we could be talking about any of those things I mentioned and more than a few that I did not.  And then we met the Saviour, and EVERYTHING changed, maybe marginally first, after all, we’re interested in progress and not perfection, but hallelujah, it changed, and for the better for the first time.

Jesus through means of some kind (there are literally countless ways and means), broke our dependency on our sin.  He set us free from serving it, if you will.  Should we not want to serve Him as a result of that?  His yoke is easy, and His burden is light, according to Matthew 11:28-30.  As recording artist named Bob Dylan said in song, “you gotta serve SOMEbody…it might be the Devil, or it might be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody…”  And you know who gets to decide who you serve?  Oh, I know the arguments here, but ultimately, YOU do.  By your faith…that you will act out and display what you really and truly believe.  Why not then choose liberty and life?  Let’s look again at the text.

8:  If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,” you are doing well.

  • James begins with a bit of exposition on Leviticus 19!  He refers to what he calls in English, the “Royal Law.”  The Greek word here you may recognize, Basilikon.  Literally the Law of the King, or Kingdom Law.  It is certainly the Law of OUR King, and the way things will work in the coming Kingdom!  For that reason alone, and many others if that isn’t enough, it behooves us to understand it in context.  This is only the end of the statement, and that statement actually begins in Leviticus 19:17 and ends in 18 with the phrase James is quoting.  We’ll read those two verses together for context:
    • You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD. (Lev. 19:17-18)
  • You cannot hate your neighbour.  We know from the tale of the Good Samaritan as told by Jesus that our neighbour is anyone that needs help.  That literally means you cannot hate people.  Oh, you can dislike their choices, disagree with their ideas, and even reprove them about their perceived shortcomings, but hate is not ever allowed for another human being.  No matter what they have done or what they are doing.  You know, I used to hate my dad.  I had what most would consider a great reason.  I’ve told the story before, but he physically beat me badly enough to cause loss of consciousness, and on a semi-regular basis.  He drove an 18-wheeler, known as a semi-trailer unit, and semi-regular meant to me, “whenever he was home,” which was about half the time.  I got very good at hearing that Jacobs brake slowing the engine of his truck about 1000 yards out, and it meant drop whatever I was doing and grab the car keys…usually mom’s car keys, and hightail it out of the driveway before He could drive in.  I had it down to a 17-second escape.  I hated him for what he did to me, or what he made me do to defend my mom and sisters. I can talk about what he did, but I can now do it with a lot of knowledge and even compassion.  I could and DID reprove him for the things he had done, but I never retaliated.  I think the Lord honoured that because I not only did not incur sin, but he even eventually apologized for his part in it, and I will say it that way because it was a two-way street for a number of years.  He actually needed that help to see his sin and really turn from it.  That’s how you love your neighbour.  And Beloved, there was a lot more work to do, too–but he died of cancer only months after our last in-person conversation. 
  • Now let’s move out of my example to the practical examples in your life.  You know, it isn’t wrong to call a neighbour out on their sin.  Even your parents.  But it is wrong to hate them and to “get even” or ahead on points you could say.  You’ve done dumb stuff and sinned also.  Wouldn’t you prefer that be dealt with mercifully?  I know I would.  Say your piece!  But don’t try to assassinate the other’s character or anything else for that matter!  Instead, walk in Love.  THAT is Kingdom Law.  And if you can walk in that Law, James says you are doing well.

9:  But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

  • If you had any doubt about this before, sowing preference for certain people based on their imagined status (of any kind) is SIN.  James says so here.  And if you are sinning, you are violating God’s holy standard–Kingdom Law, His highest rule for men.  Forgive me for trying to coin that as a phrase, but it was James who said it.  And as we all know, Violating God’s holy standard has one penalty–death.  Death of the body possibly, and sometimes examples are very easy.  Get drunk, get behind the wheel of the car, wrap yourself around a telephone pole or light standard, and it is easy to see that the “wages of sin is death,” as per Paul in Romans 6:23.  Sometimes the penalty for sins is harder to see at first, and some may not even be revealed until we are all called to account for our sins by a holy God who actually hates sin and will not compromise with it.  If you sin, you will die.  Have you ever thought about what that means? 
  • I don’t think James would mind me pausing to tell you here.  We talked about physical death, which is a penalty for sin in itself, but that death isn’t limited to the physical.  If you are mean-spirited, or proud, or lustful, and you never admit that to God and ask His forgiveness (for real, not just for fire insurance), then you will die in a spiritual sense.  You will be eternally separated from His love and suffer under the wrath of a loving God for the rest of eternity.  Is it a large fire pit?  I don’t know, but that is what the Scriptures seem to indicate.  Jesus talked about it with the word “Gehenna,” and that was a place outside of Jerusalem where the city residents burned all of their waste products.  It was always smoking, it always smelled bad, and it was avoided because of that.  I don’t know this for sure, but I know people that have lived near garbage dumps…it always smells, and so do they sadly.  Maybe you know or have met people like that.  You know what I say.  It is a horrible situation, and they are to be pitied.  However, when Jesus spoke about Gehenna, He was speaking of an eternal place that burned, and he intimated that people will live there because they were rejected for some reason from citizenship in the Kingdom of God, and they had done it to themselves.  Revelation 20 talks about how death and hell will be opened up and everyone there will be measured by one standard–if their name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  Those that are not, it says will be cast into a lake that burns with fire, and then death and hell will be cast into that same lake, and it will be sealed up forever.  Beloved, I don’t know what that all means, but it is in the class of information I would consider to be, “not worth finding out.”
  • If you show partiality between people that you fellowship with, you are committing sin, and all sin is worthy of death.  It is only the mercy of God that keeps us all from that place.

10:  For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.

  • And that’s the point I’ve been making.  ALL sin is a violation of God’s holy standard.  ALL sin has a death penalty associated with it.  The ONLY resolution is to repent of your sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, Beloved.  Repent–turn from, think differently about, confess–that is admit, to yourself and to God– that your behaviour is SIN!  And they believe, that is act on the information that Jesus Christ allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross in your place to pay for that sin so that you wouldn’t have to pay what you were unable to pay anyway!  It is a trustworthy statement and worthy of full acceptance that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief, said Paul (1 Tim. 1:15).  But James isn’t concluding here, this is just my commentary.  Moving on.

11:  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.

  • James is just reinforcing the idea here that the unit of rules is really just one law, or one code because it has a single source, God.  He who said is a clear reference to God.  And the Old Testament quotes are from Exodus 20, and are repeated in Deuteronomy 5.  In keeping with the apologetic that he is on, James is defining the act of what it means to break the Law.  He gives two laws, and if you break one, you are guilty of the whole law because the breaking of ANY law here has the same penalty of death attached to it.  If you don’t commit adultery, but you do murder a person, you are guilty of violation of the Law and are worthy of the punishment of death under the law.  Man likes to make conditions, and mitigations, because not all offences are the same.  And I challenge you to try to keep all 10 of those laws…the true spirit of those laws…in your heart.  You will not be able to do it, at least not without a work of regeneration by Christ being done in you.  As Romans 3:23 says, ALL have sinned and come short of the Glory of God.
  • You may wonder why I am quoting Paul so much here.  There are two reasons.  The first is most obvious, because we have just finished our study of all of the Pauline Epistles, and it is all fresh in our minds.  The second reason is because contrary to what naysayers will try to tell us, Paul and James actually are talking about the same thing.  Paul was very theological in his approach, and explained a great deal about the Spirit behind the theology we hold dear.  James is telling us instead how to take what Paul said and instructing us in how best to apply it.  He’s giving his rationale for that right here.

12:  So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.

  • And here is the crux of what James is saying.  If it is true that we will only act out what we really believe, and we will be known by our fruit that we display, and if anyone who violates the law is really guilty and that can only be resolved by the Saviour’s death on the cross, then we need to live like all of this actually makes a difference to us.  Because a difference that doesn’t make a difference isn’t really a difference.  Beloved, you can claim to be a Christian, and you can even spout theology, and it can even be correct theology, but if you aren’t living like Jesus’ death. Burial, and resurrection makes a difference to you, then all you really are is a clever devil, you aren’t a saint of the most high God.
  • I need to be careful here, though.  You see, the only one I am truly fit to judge according to the Scripture as a person is myself on whether I am in the faith.  At different times, I have been accused of going easy on people when they are displaying that they aren’t Christians with their behaviour.  Beloved, that isn’t my job as a Christian.  My JOB as a Christian is to do the very best I can to glorify God in my thoughts, words, and deeds.  I am not everyone’s pastor.  But if I am YOUR pastor, I have a much different job.  I am charged with the care of your soul, and that means that I must gauge your need in terms of the gospel!  Do you need to receive the gospel and become a member of His fold of sheep?  Then I must share the gospel, the Word of God with you, and God help me to handle it accurately, that is a sincere request.  Do you have a specific need in your walk with Christ?  It is my job then…get this…to preach the gospel to you!  Jesus died so you could be set free from being a slave to your sin!  WALK LIKE THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE!!!
  • The reality here is that we will all be judged, and here is the criterion:  What did you do with Jesus’ indescribable gift of liberty for your soul?  Did you reject it?  Well then, you deserve what is coming, and you may even want it, as strange as that sounds to some.  Did you accept that He died for you?  Then, “welcome to a brave new world,” as the song goes.  Did you then walk like you were ACTUALLY free, and not a slave to sin?  Food for thought, isn’t it.  No, that isn’t a question.

13:  For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

  • I know what this verse says.  It says that if you will not walk in faith and do what the Lord commands, then your judgement will be merciless.  That’s a pretty unpopular message, especially to the world of snowflakes that seem to run cancel culture today.  But I must humbly add a commentary here–just because you do not like what I am saying does not mean it is not true.  Contrary to contemporary wisdom, truth is NOT relative, and is actually exclusive.  Two contradictory views cannot both be true.  Jesus is either God or He is not.  If He is God as I contend, I didn’t make Him God.  And just because you say there is no God, that doesn’t mean it is true.  The truth is the truth, regardless of what you may want or perceive to be “true” for you.  Truth is objective, not subjective.  It’s our spin that gives us versions of truth.  And truth, regardless of what people think is ABSOLUTE.  How’s that old saying go?  “There are no absolutes.”  Except that one, apparently!
  • But for those that will reckon that payment of Jesus on the cross to their own sin, those whom God regenerates, they shall receive mercy.  And it is the mercy of God Himself, and THAT is the ONLY mercy that can triumph over God’s judgement.  That judgement is coming for everyone on earth.  You have the opportunity now to find that mercy.  Find it for yourself instead of facing the judgement of God and His wrath against sin.

As I started to say at the beginning of this paragraph, everyone has to serve someone.  You might even try to serve yourself, and it might even look like you’re succeeding.  But you are not really serving yourself or your own agenda.  You’re serving the devil, who is your powerful enemy, and his plans and agenda.  But you can urn from that.  Repent and believe the gospel.

That’s what I saw in this text this evening.

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