The Word, The Law: Devotional Commentary for June 7-13
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us Wisdom and Insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
8If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF," you are doing well.
9But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
Still focused on the social dimensions of Christian living and relationships, James takes his examination of the believer's faith to a higher level of scrutiny. Instead of analyzing faith as a subject matter, he thoroughly investigates faith as a behavioral attribute of Christians under the purview of God's law, His living and Holy Word. He says, if the believer's expression of faith reflects the fulfillment of the royal law according to the Scriptures, then the believer does well.
On the contrary, if the believer continues to practice partiality in the expression of one's faith, then that person is guilty of violating the law of God's Love. The Scriptures tell us to love our neighbor as ourselves in as much as we love God with all of who we are. In other words, our love toward our neighbors flows out of God's Love in us.
Partiality is a transgression of the law of God's Love, because it constrains the flow of God's care through us toward others. That is disobedience. Endorsing the rich and despising the poor is substituting our sentiments for God's Love. Our natural sentiments are corrupt while God's Love is holy and righteous.
Loving one's neighbor as oneself is honoring God's Love. It is the righteous thing to do and a holy allocation of what is given to us, God's Love. Expressing our faith through impartial love is practicing the words of Jesus Christ. Any contrary behavior is a violation of God's law.
10For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.
11For He who said, "DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY," also said, "DO NOT COMMIT MURDER." Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
James' focus on the law might appear to some, somewhat inconsistent with the doctrine of sovereign Grace. True, we are saved by Grace through faith. Only Grace. Only faith. No other way, no other means. But the Grace we received from our Redeemer does not diminish the significance of the law to the Christian. James is not saying we must fulfill the law in order to be saved. But we must observe the law because we are God's redeemed children.
God's law outlines the particular precepts by which our Christian life is guided. God's law is God's Word. It is the lamp unto our feet and the light unto our path. Therefore, observance of God's law is not a matter of performance to the Christian. It is a matter of responding in obedience to the Will of our Redeemer, Creator, our Father, our God.
That is why violating one tenet of the law makes us guilty of transgressing the whole law. Since the whole law is given by God, any violation is a behavior against our Father's Will, the Law-giver. James exhorts us to be impartial in the expression of our faith in Jesus Christ our glorious Lord, so that we do not displease Him by being contrary to His Will.
12So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.
13For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
Simply put, the heart and soul of James' exhortation is that we practice our faith in Christ as those who are governed by God's law, His Holy Word. This is not merely a behavioral expression of our faith. He says to speak and act as those who are subject to God's royal law of liberty. This is not bondage to the law. It is freedom to be in God's Will according to His revealed truth.
He urges us to show mercy as we have received Mercy. Because of Christ's sacrifice, God's Mercy has offset the judgment we deserved. But if we are partial and merciless in our dealings with others, we shall suffer the consequences of our unkind ways. We are judged by the way we judge others. If God's Love and Mercy flow through us to bless others, mercy shall triumph in us over the judgment reserved for the disobedient and the wicked.
James' teaching comprises several precepts that make up one wholesome message. A redeemed soul must necessarily have a transformed life that reflects the enduring presence of the Redeemer and His continued work in the life He ransomed. In other words, our life as God's redeemed children must show that we are indeed saved. We must act and speak as those governed by the precepts outlined in God's Word. We must live our lives as those who have indeed received a new life in Christ through our salvation in Him. Christ's newness in us must show that all things with us are now new and the old is indeed passed. We must walk in the light even though we still live and serve in a dark world.
In James chapter 1:21-27, James specifies a simple rubric by which we can conduct an effective self-examination. He says "look in the mirror". What mirror, one might ask. He says "the royal law of liberty", the Word of God. By subjecting ourselves to the soul-searching light of God's living Word, we can plainly observe the true reflection of our own hearts.
- Are we standing firm in God's Will?
- Are we in tune with His revealed truth?
- Are we leaning on Him?
- Are we walking by faith?
- Is His Word our guide?
- Are we doers of His Word?
The law holds us guilty when our behaviors or actions stand contrary to God's Word. The mirror exposes our true spiritual character at the time. In other words, our misconduct proves that we are not doers of the Word. We are just hearers only. We stand in disobedience displeasing our Father and grieving the Holy Spirit.
James urges us to ask for wisdom to redirect our steps, to strengthen our faith, and to respond in obedience. To do the law is to obey Christ, for the child of God. To express our faith with consistent adherence to the Word of God is to honor the Source and Completer of our faith. Therefore, we faithfully walk by faith. We faithfully live and observe the Word of God obediently. After all, the Law-giver is also our Father, our gracious Redeemer, and our Lord.