Thursday, February 08, 2024

2024.02.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ James 4:11–12

Read James 4:11–12

Questions from the Scripture text: What type of speech does James 4:11 forbid? About whom? What does the one who speaks evil of a brother do to his brother? Of what else does he speak evil? What else does he judge? What is our relationship to the law supposed to be? But what is this man’s relationship to the law instead? With Whom does this put them into competition (James 4:12)? What two things is this other Lawgiver able to do? Who is not able to do either of these things.

Why is speaking against our brother so bad? James 4:11–12 prepares us for the second serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these two verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that speaking against our brother puts us at odds with the law and with God Himself.

A right relation to our brother. “speak evil” (James 4:11) is a combination of the preposition for “against” and the word for “speak.” It definitely has the sense of speaking of someone as if he himself is a form of evil. Note that the Lord’s prophet calls his speakers “brethren” immediately before reminding them that their fellow church member is “a brother.” Shall we consider that brother to be an evil thing, when he has not only been made in the image of God, but also redeemed by Christ and for Christ, and is now in union with Christ? God forbid! 

A right relation to God’s law. It is important to take these two verses together, because the “judgment” in v11 is one that puts us in competition not only with God as judge who acquits/condemns (cf. James 2:4), but with God as “Lawgiver.” In other words, this passage is NOT saying that we are not to tell our brother when he is violating God’s law. Scripture actually commands us to do that (cf. Matthew 18:15; Luke 17:3; Galatians 6:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:15; James 5:20). But note that in those situations, it is our brother to whom we are to speak. 

So this passage is addressing speaking about our brother to someone else. It is addressing when we speak against a brother on account of something apart from violating God’s law. Doing this not only speaks against and judges the brother, but speaks against and judges God’s law, as if it is incomplete. But is that what we are supposed to do with God’s law? Add to it other things as a basis of speaking against a brother? No! We are to be instructed by God’s law and do what it says (cf. James 1:22–25). 

Either we are under God’s law, together with our brother, whom we help as needed; or, we are above our brother and speak against him, in which case we are putting ourselves above God’s law. 

A right relation to God. Of course, putting oneself above the law is especially grievous because of Whose law it is. Adding to His law arrogates to ourselves the status of “co-lawgiver.” But there is only one Lawgiver, and by rights, He could and would have already destroyed us all. Yet, by grace, He has saved those whom He makes righteous through faith in Christ. 

We ought to reverence God, as the One Who would rightly and justly destroy us, and not presume to judge His law as incomplete, speaking against it by speaking against our brother.

And we ought to love God, as the One Who has instead saved us. This means loving and praising His good and perfect law that He has given. And it also means loving and speaking well of our brethren, whom He Himself has loved and saved. Rather than being competitor-judges to God who will be destroyed, we ought to be companion-redeemed with our brothers who are being saved by God!

Refraining from speaking against our brothers is a significant part of the Christian life. If it is not something that you have been pursuing by God’s grace, dear reader, then it is high time that you humble yourself before the Lord. He will give you grace to help cleanse your mouth and purify your heart (James 4:6–10) out of love for the Lord Himself (James 4:3–5) that produces love for your brothers and sisters as well (James 4:1–2). 

Whom, in the church (especially in your home!) do you need most help not speaking against? To whom should you speak, if a brother is breaking God’s law? What else must you not allow to become the basis of thinking ill of another? What are you attempted to add to God’s law as a basis for evaluating others? What should you be doing with God’s law instead? What does God do, in accord with His law?

Sample prayer:  Lord, forgive us for when we have spoken against one another, instead of to one another, when our brother has broken your law. And forgive us for thinking ill of one another on the basis of things other than your law. Forgive us for becoming judges with evil thoughts, rather than submitting ourselves to You, alongside our brethren, and hoping in Your salvation together with them. Grant that we would humble ourselves under Your mighty hand, looking to You to life us up together with them to the joy of delighting in You, which we ask through Christ, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH409 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

No comments:

Post a Comment