Thursday, January 04, 2024

2024.01.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ James 2:1–13

Read James 2:1–13

Questions from the Scripture text: What does he call them in James 2:1? What does he tell them not to hold? Faith belonging to Whom? Of what is Jesus Christ the Lord? With what mustn’t they hold this faith? Who might come into the assembly (James 2:2)? With what accessories and clothes? Who else? With what clothes? What might they do to the one in the fine clothes (James 2:3)? What might they say to him? And what might they say to the poor man? What would they have shown (James 2:4)? Among whom? What would they have become? With what sort of thoughts? What does he urge them to do in James 2:5? About Whom does he ask? Whom has God chosen? In/of what are they poor? In what are they rich? Of what are they heirs? To whom has God promised this kingdom? But if they have behaved this way to the poor man, how does their treatment of him correspond to God’s treatment of him (James 2:6)? But who actually do mistreat them? In what way? What else do the rich do (James 2:7)? What law should they fulfill (James 2:8)? Where can they find this law? Whom does it say to love? In what way? What might they be showing instead (James 2:9)? What do they commit in this case? What convicts them? What do they call it? What might someone keep (James 2:10)? With what exception? Of what is he guilty then? What has God said (James 2:11)? What does breaking either of these make someone? What two aspects of life do James 2:12 cover? What will the law do to them? What is the law called, here? What doesn’t judgment show to whom (James 2:13)? What triumphs over judgment? 

Why must believers be kind to all other believers? James 2:1–13 prepares us for the second serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these thirteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that believers must learn to treat each other according to Christ’s own treatment of us and them.

Partiality and the Lord of glory, James 2:1-7. If the Lord of glory (James 2:1) has stooped down to do us good, then why would we favor any mere man as if he is glorious (verse 1b), and why would we shrink from reaching down to someone that the world despises, when the Lord did not shrink from humiliating himself for their sake and ours (James 2:2-3)? The judging in James 2:4 is a judging of value—and it is most certainly evil to disagree with the Lord Jesus on a believer's value (James 2:4).

James 2:5 reminds us that being poor in this world is no obstacle to God’s choosing one to be rich in faith. This verse is probably making the point as 1 Corinthians 1:26–31. God has, in the freedom of His electing unto salvation, chosen to elect a disproportionate number of those whom He also makes poor. 1 Corinthians 2 is still on the same subject, when 1 Corinthians 2:8 calls Jesus “the Lord of glory.” In both places, the Spirit uses the same language to make the same points.

Being rich is spiritually difficult. Not only does the Scripture make the observation that comparatively few of them are chosen; but, apart from this grace, riches put a man in a position where he feels that he has some power and glory of his own. Of course, the flesh takes advantage of this power and glory by oppressing even believers (James 2:6) and even blaspheming their Lord (James 2:7). Sennacherib and the Rabshakeh (Isaiah 36) are not alone in this. They are joined by all who feel strong and rich in themselves throughout history. Was this not the issue for the church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14–22)? In the cultural context in which I currently write, is this not a significant issue for us?

Partiality and the Law of the Kingdom, James 2:8-11. Just as the conduct of the Lord of glory in James 2:1 established in the principles of this passage, so now James 2:8 points us to our King and His royal law. When we receive the law from Jesus’s lips and Jesus’s hands, we are not only receiving the royal law that describes our King’s royal requirements (and what we who love the King therefore love to give Him). We are also receiving the royal law that is so-named because its principles are an expression of our King's royal character.

So, James 2:8-9 remind us that the teaching of this passage is not just “best practices for welcoming churches,” but the royal law of Christ's kingdom. Those who show partiality are not just in poor taste or clumsy at “doing” church. They are in violation of the laws of the King of the church. James 2:10-11 go on to make the point that this law that they violate is the same law that forbids adultery and murder. So the church member who prefers the rich to the poor, or vice versa (cf. Leviticus 19:15), is on the same legal footing before King Jesus as the murderer or the adulterer or the profaner of the Lord's Day. He is a transgressor of the law.

Partiality and the Liberty of Mercy, James 2:12-13. Finally, the language of James 2:12-13 reminds us not of the law's relationship to Jesus, but the law's relationship to those whom Jesus has saved. In our relationship to the law, we see just how much Christ has won our liberty! Not only are we freed from guilt and the sentence of death, but we have also been freed from our flesh. 

We have been freed from the dominion of sin. We have been freed from hating the law. We are freed from being in ourselves and brought into Christ Himself. In Him, and in this liberty, we love the law and have been enabled to begin keeping it. The law becomes a sort of judge (James 2:12) that no longer condemns; it even commends (!) what Christ produces in genuine believers: in this case, namely, mercy. 

But if we are not those who show mercy, then the law exposes that any idea of ours that we had been saved was actually a delusion. Its judgment will be without mercy to those who do not have Christ, and therefore who have shown no mercy of their own. Faith without works is dead, because if there are no works (in this case, no mercy) there can have been no union with Christ; there was no faith. And the rest of this chapter will be occupied with this subject.

Who in your family are people tempted to esteem little or mistreat? How must you esteem and treat them? Who already has done so? Whose law requires you to do so? Who in your family are people tempted to esteem little or mistreat? How must you esteem and treat them? Who already has done so? Whose law requires you to do so? 

Sample prayer:  Lord, forgive us for how often we have dishonored others whom You have chosen to make rich in faith. We are so easily impressed with earthly impressiveness—treating those who seem to be something better than those who don’t. O, forgive us! For, when we do this, we forget the glory of Christ, Who has joined all believers to Himself. We make ourselves judges with evil thoughts. Forgive us, and make us merciful like our Lord Jesus, through Whom we ask it, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP15 “Within Your Tent Who Will Reside?” or TPH461 “Blessed Are the Sons of God”

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