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James #7 - chapter 2, verses 8-13
Authentic Faith
The Test of Impartial Love
James 2:8-13
 
We’ll take our third (and hopefully final) shot at the first 13 verses of James 2 this evening as we think about the test of impartial love. 
 
In these verses, James lays out this expectation of showing no partiality in the church.  God is no respecter of persons and neither are we to be. 
And so James is instructing us regarding loving people equally with no regard for their status in life. 
 
Not only is that expected behavior on the part of God’s people, it is actually a test of whether or not our faith is authentic faith. 
 
Just as true believers respond properly to trials and  temptations, and to the Word of God, as we saw in chapter I, they also respond to each other with partiality. 
 
And just to review a little bit, James begins with the principle.
 
Verse 1
 
You cannot, on the one hand be a Christian, and on the other hand hold on to partiality and favoritism. The two are mutually exclusive. Being partial to people because of their social status, because of their economics or their looks or whatever is inconsistent with the Christian faith which brings everyone to the same level. We are all sinners before God, we are all in need of mercy and grace.
To illustrate the principle, he provides an example. 
 
verses 2 to 4
 
This is a very practical example of how violating the principle could play out in a church gathering.  This is favoritism at its worst.  And remember, the sin is not in being nice to the rich guy, but rather in ignoring or not treating in the same way, the one who is not as well off or important. 
 
From the example, he then wants us to understand how inconsistent this is.
 
verses 5 to 7
 
Showing favoritism based on riches and authority is exactly the opposite of how God treats people, especially because God has chosen the the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of this kingdom. 
 
And if God has chosen the poor, it is inconsistent with our faith for us to treat them differently.  If God in demonstrating a heart of compassion and impartiality, if God in showing He has no favorites has chosen the ones the world does not choose, how can we who name His name do less than that?
 
And beyond that, the rich are those who are oppressing believers, both civilly and religiously.  In fact, they blaspheme the very name of Jesus. 
So we can see the inconsistency of it. 
 
So, James affirms a principle, gives an example of the principle and then follows with a discussion of the inconsistency of such behavior.
Then he begins to discuss the fourth point, which we come to tonight and that is
 
4.  The Violation
 
Not only do we find here a principle to guide the way we live, to not do so is actually a violation of God’s law.   It is an outright sin against God to treat people with partiality. 
 
Verses 8-13
 
Notice he begins with a positive and a negative.  On the one hand, if or when you fulfill the royal law by loving your neighbor as yourself, you do well.  When you do that, and I think the implication is, some of them were or they all were from time to time, that{s a good thing.  That’s as it ought to be.
 
After all, it is “the royal law” or the supreme law.  Some call it the “sovereign law”.  . When a king makes a law, that settles the issue.  And the sovereign law, according to Jesus, is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. 
 
Jesus said love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got and love your neighbor as yourself and you’ve done everything you need to do.  On these two fundamental things hang all the law and the prophets.
 
And James calls this the royal law. It is a law made by God and if this law is obeyed there will be no partiality. If you love your neighbor as you love yourself, you'll wind up loving everybody the way you love yourself.
And since you love yourself so much, and you do, you’ll be right on track when it comes to loving others without partiality.  It’s as simple as whose mouth do you put food in, whose face do you wash, whose hair do you comb, whose body do you dress, whose looks are you concerned about when you leave the house, whose career occupies your mind, who are you trying to make comfortable, who are you trying to make happy?
 
It's you and when you learn to occupy yourself with everyone else in the same way you are occupied with yourself, you will have no problem with partiality because no matter whether a person is poor or rich, educated or uneducated, ignorant or intelligent, no matter whether a person looks good or doesn't look good, whether they're high on the social scale or low, if you treat them all the same way you treat yourself, you will treat them all equally.
 
And so all of the laws of human relationships, in a sense, can be summed up in this one law, the royal sovereign supreme law made by God, love your neighbor as yourself.  And when you do that, you do well. 
 
Then he turns to the other side of the issue. 
 
verse 9
 
Some of you, he says, are not fulfilling the sovereign, supreme law of love. Or perhaps he is still talking to those who are obedient a lot of the time or even most of the time, but there are some times when they show partiality. 
 
And when that happens, you break God’s law and become a sinner.  By the way, the word "sin" means to be without law.  You are operating with disregard to and in violation of the law of God. Therefore he says you are convicted of the law as transgressors. The law says don't do it, you did it, so the law is your conviction. The evidence brings conclusive conviction that you are guilty.
 
So on the one hand, when you love everybody the same you show no partiality and no favoritism, you fulfill the Word of God, you fulfill the supreme law of God and you do well.
 
And on the other hand, when there is favoritism and partiality, you violate the law. The law forbids it and you transgress the law and commit sin. 
 
I find it interesting that James uses two different words for sin in verse 9.  First, he says you commit sin and then calls them transgressors. 
 
Sin has a negative connotation. That word means to come short of the mark.  Transgressor means to go beyond the limits.  And in one sense, it is a positive word. The negative word says you come up short. The positive word says you go too far and both define sin.
 
Sin is a coming short of the perfect standard and it is going beyond the law of God and James uses both to describe treating people with partiality. 
 
And notice, he doesn't say you broke the law.  He says you a transgressor. That's a characterization.
 
In other words, if you show partiality, you are characterized by being a violator of God's law. You are characteristically a transgressor.
 
Now somebody at this point is going to say, "Wow, this is a little heavy for such a small thing. I mean, everybody's a little partial. How can James get so worked up about this? The common sin of prejudice, selfishness, partiality is just a part of human nature, just a sort of small thing."
 
No it's not. If it so violates the law of God as to make you characteristically a transgressor, I would say it is a very big and serious thing.  It's a big sin.
 
And to confirm the severity of the sin and the largeness of it and how it violates God's law, follow James' reasoning. Here's why it's such a serious issue.
 
Verse 10.
 
How many laws do you have to break to be a lawbreaker? One. How many laws do you have to break to be a transgressor? One. How many sins do you have to commit to be characterized as a sinner? One.
 
The unity of God's law is that it all hangs together. We have an obligation to all of God's law. To break the law at one point is to be a lawbreaker because what you're doing is defying the authority of God. You're defying the Word of God. You're denying full love and devotion to God and you're saying I will not love You with all my heart, soul, mind and strength in that area. I will not submit to You in that area. I will not obey You in that area. I will violate that area. So you are a lawbreaker. Though you only break one small part of the law, you are characterized as a sinner and a transgressor for you have demonstrated a heart of violence toward the law of God.
 
That is the very heart and soul of a works based salvation.  You stack up the good stuff and you stack up the bad stuff and you hope the bad stuff subtracted from the good stuff leaves a little on the topside and you're okay.
 
Most people believe you just do your best and just hope their best is good enough and it kind of outweighs the bad.  After all, when compared to others, they look pretty good. 
 
That's not the way it is. Lawbreaking is not like bowling.  You can't just hit a few pins and leave the rest standing. Lawbreaking is like hitting a window with a hammer.  You may only hit it in one little spot but it will shatter the whole thing.
 
And that's how it is when you violate God's law. When you hit it at one point, you shatter the whole thing. It's one piece. It's not ten pins lined up. And no one can justify himself by saying, "Hey, I only knocked down two, eight are standing." Or, "I only committed little sins like prejudice, partiality, indifference to the poor, I certainly didn't commit the biggies."
 
Listen, you hit the law of God with your sin and you smash the whole thing. So don't kid yourself that you're some kind of righteous person because your sins are minor. Any violation of God's law instantly condemns you to hell. 
 
That’s exactly what James says in verse 10.  “Even if one keeps the whole law and offends in one area, he has literally shattered the whole thing though he stumbles only in one point."
 
I agree that not all sins are equally ugly. Not all sins are equally horrible. Not all sins are equally heinous. Not all sins are equally damaging. But they all break God's law and they turn us transgressors.
 
And anybody who runs around selecting a few laws to obey like the Jews did and a few laws to disobey and hoping they can balance the thing at the end is only fooling themselves.
 
So what James is doing here is emphasizing the sinfulness of this sin. You may blame it on your upbringing or what you’ve experienced out in the world or living in the South or whatever, but God’s not partial and neither are we to be and to be that way is to sin before a holy God. 
 
Then to drive home the point, notice what he says in
 
verse 11
 
James picks out the two most severe social sins related to human life and existence because they have the death penalty attached to them and he says, “God has set down the law regarding adultery and muirder and told us not to commit either.  So if you violate those laws, what do you become?  You’ve become a transgressor of the law.” 
 
And the same is true of this sin. 
 
 
Now what is curious to me is that James uses these two illustrations of murder and adultery and they seem so far beyond showing partiality.  So why does he do that?  He wants us to understand that it is the sin of favoritism at its root that can lead to an attitude of hate which is the attitude behind murder.  And so, he wants to rank it with very serious sins.
 
Now the Jews of James day didn't do this. I want you to grab this. Somewhere along the way, they started mixing grace with the law. 
 
They said, “Well, we know God said that but you don't have to really do all of that. Yes, we know there are an awful lot of laws and we can't keep them all and God knows we can’t keep them all.  He doesn’t even expect us to keep them all.  After all, He is gracious”.
 
But we need to understand, there is no grace in the law. God has no tolerance for who violates His law.  Sin must be punished. 
 
But they took the law and they threw in grace and they said, "Well God knows you can't keep it all so God will understand and He will overlook things."
 
In effect they were saying sin is not really sin.  Sin doesn’t really matter.  After all, sin and good works kind of balance out because God overlooks things.
 
Now listen:  when you do that, you have no need for a Savior.  If that’s the way it works, why do you need a Savior?  Why did Jesus have to die?  If there's already grace in the law, then you don’t need a Savior.
 
But I will say it again; there is no grace in the law.
God’s law condemns sinners without grace and to make the point, he says, “You may think showing favoritism is no big deal, just some little small time petty sin.  If you show favoritism, you have shattered God’s law and are deserving of judgment.”
 
This is a very serious sin, and because of its seriousness, he closes with the fifth point which is
 
5.  The Appeal
 
verse 12
 
In other words, you better speak and you better act as people who are headed for a future judgment. And that judgment will be based upon the law of God. The law of liberty is just a term to describe the law of God. You'll be judged by God's Word. That's a title for Scripture.
 
Why does he refer to it as a law of liberty or a law of freedom? It is because it frees us from sin's slavery. It brings us to eternal freedom and glory. It frees us from the curse of death and the curse of hell. It gives us the truth so it frees us from the search for truth. It calls us to serve God freely out of love. It calls us to obey God freely by inward constraint not by outward restraint. So it is in every sense a law of freedom, a law of liberation.
 
And he says you will be judged by God's law. You will face a judgment on the basis of whether you have kept or violated God's law. That’s pretty strong language.
 
 
You say, "I thought I was judged by my faith in Christ." Yes, but your faith in Christ is manifest through your works. And the final judgments will look at your life. If God looks at your life and sees that you handled trials in a godly way, that you handled temptation in a godly way, that you responded to the Word and that you didn't demonstrate favoritism as a pattern of life, those are the works that evidence the truth of your faith and you will be judged by that.
 
It’s not just smugly standing before God and declaring we walked an aisle as a teenager and declared our faith in Jesus and therefore, deserve to go to heaven.  We need to bring some accompanying evidence. 
 
God's going to look at the record of your life because according to Ephesians 2:10, everyone child of God is created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God has already in the past ordained that we should walk in them. The pattern of life of any Christian is good works that God is producing in you.  That’s the evidence of your salvation.  Redemption always brings about obedient living.
 
Now obviously we have our times of disobedience but the pattern is good works. Living faith will be revealed then in living love. It will be revealed in godly behavior. And as a general pattern we will not be partial in showing favoritism.
 
And it will be revealed in a future judgment.  Is that not what James says?  Everybody's going to be judged in the future, therefore, "Speak and do as one who will be judged by God's Word."
Keep that in mind in all you say and keep it in mind in all you do that ultimately you're going to be judged on the basis of that.
 
And then he ends up with a strong warning in
 
Verse 13
 
Remember, there is no mercy in the law and there is no grace in the law. Therefore, God will have judgment without mercy on the one who has shown no mercy. You show me a person who shows no mercy, who has no compassion, who shows favoritism and partiality and disregard for people with need and I'll show you a person who will have no mercy in judgment.
 
Why will they receive no mercy?  It is because those who are not saved receive no mercy.  They’ve rejected God’s mercy and God rejects them. 
 
By the way, the phrase "judgment without mercy" is a reference to eternal hell.  It has to mean that.  , Judgment without mercy, strict, full unrelieved judgment, every sin getting its just punishment to the full is hell. 
 
And he says those of you will have judgment without mercy are those who have not shown mercy. It is a characteristic of the unsaved to not be merciful. 
 
The Christian life is just the opposite.  The gospel comes to transform the heart to make us like God and God is merciful and God is compassionate and God is impartial. And believers who are true believers will be like that. That's again the test of living, saving, authentic faith.
Then notice how he closes:  verse 13b
 
Literally, mercy triumphs over judgment.  What does that mean? If your life is characterized by mercy, you will triumph over judgment. You will escape judgment because one who is merciful proves he has a transformed life. That's the point.
 
And with that, James brings us to the climax of a great argument. Partiality is inconsistent with the Christian faith because the Christian faith is consistent with the nature of God and God is impartial.
 
Partiality is inconsistent with the purpose and the plan of God in choosing the poor of this world to be rich.
 
Partiality is inconsistent with loving your neighbor as yourself. Partiality strictly speaking is a sin that violate the law of God and makes a person a transgressor and partiality were the only sin you ever committed, it would be enough to condemn you to hell forever.
 
And if you come before the judgment of God and looking at your life He sees that you have shown no mercy, then He will show you no mercy because that would be evidence that you were never saved.
 
On the other hand, if He looks at your life and sees the pattern of mercy toward others and impartiality toward those in need, then you will triumph over judgment by virtue of the life of God in your soul and the salvation found in Jesus Christ. That's his message.
 
Two takeaways and we’re done: 
 
First, examine your life.
 
Every one of these is a test that James has given to see the validity of our faith. So ask yourself, “Is my life characterized by impartiality? Are gracious and kind and thoughtful and loving?  Do you treat people the same, regardless of where they find themselves in life?   That's the first issue.
 
The second thing is this:  Examine your church 
 
This is an exhortation, not just to us as individuals, but as a church to make sure we are living out these principles in the church of Christ and that we are showing love for one another.
 
And after you’ve finished the examination, you will either be established as your faith is authenticated, or you will find violation of the law of God. 
 
When you see those times when you violate His royal law, it’s time to confess that sin and seek forgiveness and to be restored to the place that God would have you be. 
 
And if you find the absence of a continual pattern of love toward one another, then you really need to dig a little deeper and see if you really know Christ at all. That's what James is saying. And he calls us to that examination.
 
Let's bow in prayer.
 
 
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