James underscores the importance of being impartial in verses 10-13 of chapter two. (Sorry for the typo in yesterday’s homework.)
Jam. 2:10-13 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (11) For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. (12) So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. (13) For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
Guilty Of All
After James telling his readers the partiality is sin, he goes on to say that breaking one law makes a person guilty of breaking the whole law. It’s a frightening thought that one sin makes you guilty of all. Where does that leave all of us in relation to a holy God? Sounds severe, doesn’t it? But when you consider the explanation, it makes perfect sense.
He That Said
Human laws represent a consensus of what some group of people think is right at a certain point in time. (People who say that you can’t legislate morality are mistaken – every law ever enacted is someone’s idea of right and wrong.)
God’s law isn’t like human laws, though. God’s law isn’t based on consensus. He doesn’t take a poll to decide what’s right and what’s wrong. Every divine law reveals something about the Law Giver.
We tend to see God’s commandments as isolated requirements. James presents them as a unified presentation of God’s character. Whether you commit adultery or kill, you have offended the God revealed in the law. That’s why you become guilty of all.
God didn’t intend for His people to embrace the laws we like and discard the laws the spoil our fun. The law was to be accepted as a whole:
Deu. 27:26 Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.
Gal. 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
James reminded his readers to speak and act in light of God’s coming judgment. James uses the phrase “law of liberty” again, as he did in 1:25. I think this is probably synonymous with “the royal law” in 2:8.
Believers in the Church Age are not under the law (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 5:18). We aren’t required to keep the Jewish sacrificial and ceremonial laws, which Christ fulfilled. But we are still bound by the moral law and by the higher standard of Christ’s new commandment:
Joh. 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
That’s God’s standard for us. We don’t keep the Law so God will save us, though. We keep the law because God has saved us. Those who show no mercy give evidence that they have not grasped their own sinfulness and God’s mercy.
The person who has received God’s mercy has confidence in the day of judgment and shows mercy to others from day to day.
How’s It Going?
- Do you follow the commands of God that you like and ignore the ones you don’t like?
- Are you merciful to others as God has been merciful to you?
Read James 2:14-17. How do you reconcile this passage with verses such as Eph 2:8-10 and Tit. 3:5?