Summary: This morning we’re going to look at the third reason in James’ argument against partiality. Partiality violates the Law of God.
How To Avoid Partiality (Part 2)
Preached by Pastor Tony Miano
Pico Canyon Community Church
March 25, 2001
Introduction: “A deplorable incident occurred in the life of Mahatma Gandhi. He said in his autobiography that during his student days he was interested in the Bible. Deeply touched by reading the gospels, he seriously considered becoming a convert. Christianity seemed to offer the real solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India. One Sunday he went to a church to see the minister and ask for instruction on the way of salvation and other Christian doctrines. But when he entered the sanctuary, the ushers refused him a seat and suggested that he go and worship with his own people. He left and never went back. “If Christians have caste differences also,” he said to himself, “I might as well remain a Hindu” (H.G.B., Our Daily Bread, January 19).
This morning we are going to finish our look at favoritism and how we can avoid the sin of partiality in our lives and in the life of our church. Now, although it’s true that if God had wanted to call Gandhi to Himself, the ignorance of the Christian church would not have kept the man from coming to faith in Christ, the story illustrates how devastating favoritism can be to the witness of the Christian church.
Last week we studied James’ command against favoritism and his illustration of what favoritism looked like in the church. We also looked at two reasons why Christians should avoid playing favorites. One reason was that partiality contradicts the heart of God. The other reason we considered was that partiality trivializes the heart of God. This morning we’re going to look at the third reason in James’ argument against partiality. Partiality violates the Law of God.
Follow along as I read James 2:8-13. “If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”
“For 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. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”
In our passage for this morning, James shows how partiality violates the Law of God, the Royal Law—the Law of Liberty by giving an explanation of the law, an example of how all encompassing the law is, and an exhortation to obey the law. Once again, James comes to his readers and to us with hard truth that, if rightly applied, will draw our hearts closer to the Lord.
As we unwrap this passage of Scripture, we will see that the Law of God is not suffocating or limiting, but liberating in the life of the believer. We will see that following the law of liberty will not restrict our lives. We will see that following, living by the law of liberty will release us to experience the grace of God in our lives as we extend grace to others.
The Explanation (2:8-9)
James sets out to make his third argument for avoiding partiality, the fact that favoritism violates the law of God, by beginning with an explanation of the law.
We can see by what James says in verse eight that he’s anticipating an excuse from his readers for the behavior he had just brought to their attention. We can picture the discussion going something like this. James tells his readers, “You need to stop contradicting your faith in Christ by showing favoritism toward the rich while shunning the poor.” He then expects his readers to respond by saying, “But James, we’re just trying to live by the great commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. That’s why we’re paying so much attention to rich visitors.”
What we have in verse eight is James setting up his readers for his next argument by seeming to give them the benefit of the doubt. James words verse eight, as a conditional statement that assumes what he is about to say is true, although in all likelihood it’s not. He does this to avoid lumping every believer who hears his letter into one large group that plays favorites to the rich.
The Greek word translated as “however” in the NASB, and “really” in the NIV, is only seen eight times in the entire New Testament. The word almost gives James a tongue in cheek tone of voice. It brings out even more the idea that James doesn’t necessarily believe what he is about to say about his readers is true. We can translate the phrase, “if, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture,” this way. “Let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that you are really, actually fulfilling [or keeping] the royal law according to the Scriptures.”