The Character of Faith Pt. 1 – James 2:1-13
HAVE YOU EVER FELT OUT OF PLACE AT A CHURCH?
READ James 2:1-13
The heart of the Book of James is “Faith”. It shows that a true believer will be exercising his faith. Chapter two is the heart of this teaching.
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.
WHY DOES JAMES MAKE SUCH A DOGMATIC STATEMENT AS THIS?
A-God the Father shows no favoritism in regard to social classes
The word implies that someone looks at one person or shows them his face, but turns away from another. It is a picking and choosing who will see one’s face. It is a simple word that James poignantly illustrates.
READ Acts 10:34-35 “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality”
CAN YOU GIVE AN EXAMPLE OF JESUS SHOWING FAVORTISM?
B-Jesus shows no favoritism according to social classes. As believers we are to be imitators of our Lord.
READ Mark 12:14 “you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion”
James is telling us that we are to not hold fast to worldly vision and worldly judgments and at the same time while we are not making judgments based on worldly assessments we are to be holding fast in faith to Christ. We are not walking by sight.
Let go of all things that would ensnare your heart and by faith hold fast to Christ. We are to not hold the world and its values and judgments but we are to hold fast to Christ.
A pastor from the 1600′s Thomas Vincent had this to say:
If you ask me what this faith is that gives an interest in Christ, what it is to believe, I answer out of John 1:12 that it is to receive Christ: But to as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” Be persuaded, then, to receive Christ, and accept Him upon the terms of the Gospel. Receive and take hold of Christ by the hand of faith and, that you may do this:
(1) You must let go your hold of sin.
(2) You must let go your hold on the world.
(3) You must let go your hold of self.
Vincent’s assessment is an accurate picture of what James is saying.
Any statistician exploring church membership and consequent qualitative change of lifestyle will admit that there a gap between what Christians profess and how they behave. It is not unusual for a person to call himself a Christian, yet give no thought to his moral behavior, the type language he uses, or his testimony in the world. The past century has witnessed the creation of a new category of Christian to explain this, the so-called “carnal Christian.” This is supposedly a person who is truly saved but you cannot tell by the way he lives his life. His ambitions, morals, habits, and practices appear to resemble more of the world than one who has a new nature in Christ. This explanation of “carnal Christians” has been promoted to explain why our church rolls are bloated with people who do not act as though they have been regenerated. It even serves as an excuse for ungodliness.
C- Paul Teaches Us Not to Show Favoritism
READ Romans 12:1-6, 16 “you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” and “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly”
God’s electing grace includes the poor, not that the poor are automatically brought into God’s kingdom as some liberal theologians express it. The fact is, while this so-called brother was rejecting a poor man, he was being totally unlike the Lord who has shown his kindness for the poor by electing many out of their number for his kingdom. So the question is put to the man: why do you reject the very one God has chosen?
Making self asserting judgments based on outward appearances is not living in the realm of faith but it is living with both hands locked tight to the world and its values.
A- There is no Place for Partiality in the Life of the Church (vss. 2-4)
The Holy Spirit working internally within individual believers and with the church will be working toward peace and unity with all that God has sovereignly placed together to make up the local body. No one sitting here today came by accident; God brought you here for His purposes. He is knitting us together as a unique creation. Mobberly Church is a living organism made up of those God chose to save and He is building us as a spiritual building placed in history with the rest of true believers that He has called out. We are being fitted to be placed into the multitude throughout all times that God has redeemed for His Son-The Universal Church.
B- There is no Place for Partiality in the Plan of God (vss. 5-7)
God chooses whom He wants to make up His church. Many times He chooses those who are not the wisest, richest, most talented to make up His special people.
READ 1 Cor. 1:26-31 “not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth”
James was neither castigating all the rich nor making saints out of all the poor. But he was speaking with a Hebraism that conveyed the principle at hand: for the most part the early church was made up of peasants, while the rich used their wealth to oppose Christianity. It made no sense to show partiality to the one oppressing the church while ignoring one who was more open to the message of the gospel. Such partiality and preferential treatment betrayed the faith of the person in question.
Partiality comes in different shapes. It might be focused on the color of a person’s skin or the level of his income or his place in society or his country of origin or the type job he holds or his lack of a job or the fact that he owns no country club membership or his lack of education or the location of his dwelling. In all of this we must remember the word Yahweh spoke to Samuel as he investigated the sons of Jesse: “for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Sam. 16:7). We do not have the omniscience of the Lord to see the heart of a man, but when we have become new creatures in Christ we have a new capacity to love one another even as Christ has loved us. That is the point James is making: if we call ourselves Christians, then we must love like Christians.
With these truths in mind we can see how great a sin it is to show favoritism. This is truly a sin that has more evil contained within than is seen on the surface. Favoritism is working against the very sovereignty of God. Everyone God sends has a gift to be used and perfected. It may be that very gift that is used to honor Christ in the church, is the same gift that is to be used in the world to come. The Church is the training grounds for the glory to come. When we show favoritism we are placing ourselves in judgment over the very work of God.
C- There is no Place for Partiality in the life of a Believer (vss. 8-13)
To be slack in this area of favoritism is to be guilty be a transgressor of the whole law of God.
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,”
On one occasion, Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment. His reply sets forth the essence of the entire Law: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). The first of these commandments relates directly to the first four commandments. The second commandment relates to the remaining six commandments. Are these just arbitrary demands that God has made upon man? Rather these commandments in relationship to man demonstrate the divine character in our lives toward others. They are defined by “love,” not as an emotion, but in terms of caring for others [cf. Alec Motyer, The Message of James, 97].
James calls this “the royal law.” It is royal because of who gave the law, our Lord. It is royal because of who is identified by the law, those who belong to the King. We do well if we obey the royal law; that is, we demonstrate the reality of our faith in Christ. Motyer write, “The essence of the royal law is that wherever there is need there is an obligation to extend the sort of love we lavish on ourselves; the essence of partiality is to select the recipients of our care on some ground other than that they are in need” . The faith that can overlook the royal law is a blind faith and in need of Christ.
WHY DOES JAMES SAY THAT IF WE BREAK ONE PART WE ARE GUILTY OF ALL?
We are accountable to all of it because we haven’t only sinned against the poor person we have judged but in fact we have passed judgment on the One who made the Law and called that very person out from among sinners, namely God. It’s not so much the specific evil deed but it’s the rebellion against God’s authority.
As we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that in many ways we fail the Lord; often we are disobedient. But what is “the tilt of your soul”? Do you seek to treat others with compassion and care? Do you seek to follow after what God has commanded? It involves the direction and passion of our lives. True faith shows concern for obedience.
The problem he exposes in verses 9-11 involves the sin of partial obedience. As Curtis Vaughan expressed it, “Partial obedience is actual disobedience” . James uses rather exaggerated language, showing someone who claims to be satisfied because he has not committed adultery, yet he has murdered someone. He reminds his audience, that partial obedience leaves a person as “a transgressor of the law.” The implication is that he need not think that such a life pleases God.
Like a King Saul, he is satisfied because he has done some of the things God has commanded, mainly those things that he found convenient or conducive to impressing others. But the rest he was satisfied to neglect. Saul did not see himself as having obligation to be passionately obedient. He lived with partial obedience and never knew the Lord. So there is both a warning and an encouragement. The warning is that something is wrong with our faith if we can be satisfied with partial obedience. The encouragement is found, “you are doing well,” in affirming the passionate obedience demonstrated in concern for others.
There is absolutely no place for that type of thinking in the life of a true believer. If it continues, you may be showing that you are not a believer at all. That’s James’ whole point. Our faith will guide our actions. Where there is true understanding there can be true faith. Where faith is lacking our Christ like behavior will be lacking in proportion.
In verses 12-13 James says our attitude should not be that of the judge but one who is about to be judged. We cannot pass judgment based on external appearances. When we do we’re setting ourselves up for a guilty verdict.
“For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” He is not advocating gaining merit through acts of mercy. Rather as believers we are to show the same kind of mercy to others that the Lord has shown to us. To fail to show mercy to others is to prove ourselves spiritually bankrupt. God’s children are to act and speak like God’s children. “They bear His image; they copy His example,” wrote Curtis Vaughan. “It is therefore impossible for them to fail to share in His compassion, to fail to reflect His spirit of mercy. If one does not show mercy, he thereby shows that he has no vital connection with God”.
True Christian character is evident in the way we treat other people. This is a reinforcement that we do not live in a vacuum as Christians. We are to live unto the Lord in relationship to those about us. The sins of partiality and partial obedience, particularly regarding relationships, raises questions about the reality of our faith.
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ has a new passion of obedience. One’s character is affected by the reality of a new nature in Christ. That shows up best in our relationships.
As we begin to trust God’s choices and His sovereignty we are beginning to be more and more conformed to the image of His Son Jesus Christ.