This sermon is based on James 2:1-13. Click here to read the text.
Previously, James called his readers to actively live out a religion that is “pure and undefiled” by (1) controlling their tongues, (2) caring for the vulnerable and weak, and (3) practicing personal holiness (1:26-27). In James 2, he focuses in on the command to care for the vulnerable by calling his readers to “show no partiality” (2:1). God Himself is impartial (see
Deuteronomy 10:17-18; 1 Samuel 16:7; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11). He does not offer salvation to those who are favorable to Him because of some worldly sense, but rather has shown mercy and steadfast love in Christ to people of all nations, tribes, tongues, ages, and economic statuses. As God Himself is impartial, so too are His people to be impartial.
A Matter of Glory
Holding faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is, first and foremost, a matter of rightly ascribing glory. James writes that Jesus is “the Lord of glory” (v. 1). Though He was rich in heavenly splendor He became poor by taking on flesh and by becoming sin for us so that we might be rich and righteous in Him(2 Cor. 5:21; 8:9). Despite His humiliation, He was vindicated in the Resurrection and the Ascension and has been given the name that is above every name to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11). There is no other who can claim such glory. He is the one and only. As Christians, we are called to ascribe to Him this singular glory and to live our lives in a similarly humble manner before God and others, thereby manifesting the glory of God in our own lives. Some matters are easier in theory than in practice. We find that we, though born again in Christ, still struggle with the sin of wrongly ascribing greater glory to earthly creatures than they are due.
James suggests that one way we wrongly ascribe glory in the Church is by showing partiality to the rich and relegating the poor to an inglorious status, even though the poor in Christ are rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom (vv. 2-5; see also Luke 6:20). In showing partiality we make ourselves judges of another’s worth, in the place of God, who has judged us all, not on
our own merits but according to the righteousness of Christ.
Obedience: All or Nothing
James then shows how partiality is in contempt of the “royal law” as exemplified in the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” He shows that keeping the royal law requires keeping all of the law. If we keep it in every way except one we are guilty of breaking it all. Alec Motyer says it is like throwing a rock at a piece of glass. Though the rock only hits one portion of the sheet of glass, the entire sheet is broken by the act. So too with the law. Though showing partiality may not seem like the most egregious sin, it is nevertheless a breaking of the law in its entirety. What are we to do then?
Mercy: All or Nothing
The requirement of obedience to the law is all or nothing, but thanks be to God so to is His mercy all or nothing. In Christ He has forgiven us not just for a portion of our sins but for all of our sin! He has freed us from our bondage to not only the penalty of sin but also from its power. He has enabled us by the grace of Christ to extend mercy to others because He has
shown us such mercy without distinction.
Discuss and Pray – James 2:1-13
- In what ways have you wrongly judged others based on human or worldly distinctions? Why did you make such judgments?
- How can we grow as individuals and as a church in showing mercy to the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable?
- Discuss James’ assertion that to break one commandment is to break all of the law. Is this in keeping with your view of sin before today or does it challenge your previous understanding? How does James’ view challenge the world’s view on the law, sin, etc.?
- Though James is firm on his view of sin and judgment, he is equally firm on mercy’s triumph over judgment. How is this good news for us? How does this encourage you to treat others, both within the Church and outside of it?