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THE ROYAL LAW James 2:8-13 January 2, 2011 Given by: Pastor Rich Bersett [Index of Past Messages] Introduction Roy Hattersly is a British columnist known primarily as an out-spoken atheist. But he finally did admit “Faith does breed charity”—in fact that was the title of his article one week. He said, "It ought to be possible to live a Christian life without being a Christian." He came to this conclusion after watching the Salvation Army lead several other faith-based organizations in the relief effort after Hurricane Katrina. Hattersley bemoaned that atheists and unbelievers are consistently outmatched when it comes to helping people when the chips are down. When he returned from Louisiana he said, "Notable by their absence were any teams from rationalist societies, free thinkers' clubs, and atheists' associations—the sort of people who scoff at religion's intellectual absurdity." According to Hattersley, it is an unavoidable conclusion that Christians "…are the people most likely to take the risks and make the sacrifices involved in helping others." He also said, “Civilized people do not believe that drug addiction and male prostitution offend against divine ordinance. But those who do are the men and women most willing…” to do the hard work, to get down and dirty when the fetid bandages, sick and sad people need companionship and the clean up’s got to be done. He commented, “The only plausible conclusion is that faith comes with a packet of moral imperatives that, while they do not condition the attitude of all believers, influence enough of them to make Christians morally superior to atheists like me.” The mark of the Christian is that he loves, and that love, more than the commandments and doctrines they strive to uphold defines their calling. So it is that the book of James emphasizes the Royal Law of Love as the trump card of the faith. If you will recall, the previous teaching from the first seven verses of chapter 2 dealt with the problem of prejudice, provincialism and giving preferential treatment to people we wrongly respect or carnally believe will do something for us. From that negative observation James turns to bring rightful emphasis to the Royal Law of Love. The Text – James 2:8-13 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself, ” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a law breaker. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom. For judgment without mercy will be shown anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment! The Wonder of the Royal Law What James calls the “royal law found in Scripture” really is found in Scripture—a lot! Lev. 19:18 is the first place where “love your neighbor as yourself” appears. This is, of course part of what Jesus referenced when He was asked “What is the greatest commandment?” This is big. Jesus gives the single most important of all God’s hopes and expectations for His people: “Love God with all your heart, soul and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” The rest of the Bible picks up the wonder the royal law of loving others. We read earlier from Romans 8 and Galatians 5 where the Spirit of God hammers home the message that love is the summary of all the Law of God in both testaments. Jesus also made it plain that people should do to others what they wanted others to do to them, because that very loving approach to moral decision-making was at the heart of loving others, and it “sums up all the Law and the Prophets.” (Mat. 7:12) Given by the King In essence, what makes the royal law of love so central and important is that God reiterates and stresses it so consistently. And it’s not a new arrival in the New Testament. It’s in the earliest writings of the Law, suggesting that God had it in mind all along. Not only that, but His plan was to unfold it throughout history, making it more plain. Eventually Jesus, Who came to fulfill the Law in every way Himself, said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another.” King over all other laws The Scriptures resonate the message: the Law of Love (the Royal Law) supersedes all other law (gospels); it covers them (James); overrides them (Hebrews), subsumes them and summarizes them (Galatians). The Law of Love is called the Royal Law because it is the King of all Law in the kingdom of God. It’s just as Jesus said: this is the first and most important commandment: Love God and Love your neighbor. Obeying it brings you into the King-approved life The King of this Kingdom has said this is the way His subjects must please Him, draw near to Him and live for Him. Notice what verse 8 says, If you really keep the royal law, you are doing right. But look at the rest of that paragraph and notice the contrasts. Whereas the one who keeps the royal law does right, but if you stumble at even one part of the law, like when you show favoritism and demonstrate prejudice in loving others, you are guilty of breaking all of it . . . You are convicted as a law-breaker. Even if you do well at not committing adultery, but you murder, you are a law-breaker. But one who loves and serves others will do neither, because he is living by the higher law of love and adultery and murder don’t fit into that life. Incidentally, it is important that we understand this critical idea: the law is integral—it comes as a whole, not in little parts. James says if you break even the smallest part of the Law of God, you’ve broken the whole thing. I remember being careless with the groceries bringing them home from the store on one occasion. When Charlotte opened the carton a couple of the eggs were broken and had leaked out all over the other items. I volunteered to do the clean up, since I knew it was my fault. I tried to salvage a little honor when I said, “Yeah, but they’re only broken on one side!” Didn’t help. There is one thing sure in this passage and in all the pages of scripture: Obedience to this law pleases God For all of humanity, throughout history, philosophy, humanities, etc., man has searched for the perfect system of law. They have all come short. But they all admit that if people loved one another with perfect love, that would be the best rule of law. The Necessity of the Royal Law The Royal Law is a necessary part of the whole revelation of God in the Scriptures and in Christ. Two observations: people are not perfect, even far from it, so in practical terms the Law of Love must at least be put on hold if not given up on. Secondly, if there were a way to bring human beings past/beyond their own sinful selves and set them on a path to perfect love, that Law of Love—at least for them and their ilk—could serve as a perfect law. God knows that. So He set in motion a plan to redeem man from his own fallenness, guilt and condemnation, then give them a new heart (in fact, write His own law on their hearts, which is tantamount to saying that they could be internally governed without the necessity of external law). How would that play out in a world where not everyone was one of the redeemed ones? And where many of those who became one of the redeemed, but had not yet matured far in that perfection? What would happen would be a TRANSITION time, wherein those redeemed people would be self-governed, doing their best to live according to the supreme law, the Law of Love, yet recognizing that they yet lived in a world that was neither in step with nor sympathized with that new order. Thus the redeemed would live in quiet acquiescence to the need for forms of moral law and the governments of men. And God revealed in His Word to those who would hear these instructions: obey the laws of the land and do not disobey until and unless those laws come into sharp and irreconcilable conflict with the royal law. Do your best to live in keeping with the higher The Source of the Royal Law As we bring this discussion around, I want to remind you that the Royal Law is not just some good philosophical idea or a nice religious theme. This is right from the heart of God. It displays the very wonder and glory of God’s character, and He says it is the necessary piece in the fullness of His revelation to us. All of our talk about the Royal Law means almost nothing if we don’t understand that as human beings we are not naturally able to live out the royal law. Remember, James says at the beginning of this passage, If you really keep the royal law, you are doing right. And here is where the final piece of the puzzle needs to fall into place. Verse 12  says, Speak and acts as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom… What does that mean? Well, for one thing, it means that some are going to be judged by the law that give freedom, and others are not going to. So, what is the law that gives freedom? To love one’s neighbor is the highest form of freedom. I don’t have to love—I am free to love. It’s not a matter of needing to love others in order to please God, but wanting to love others and please God. 1 Jn 4:7-8 In July of 2005, ESPN reporter Andrea Kremer asked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to explain his decision to ride his motorcycle without a helmet: “Because you don't have to. It's not the law. If it was the law, I'd definitely have one on every time I rode. But it's not the law and I know I don't have to. You're just more free when you're out there with no helmet on.” A year later Roethlisberger was involved in a serious motorcycle accident in June of 2006, less than one year later. When a 62-year-old woman failed to yield at a Pittsburgh intersection, Roethlisberger was thrown into the windshield of her Chrysler Town and Country. His bike was totaled, and emergency surgeons spent over seven hours repairing a broken jaw, a fractured skull, missing teeth, and several other facial injuries. After being released from the hospital, Roethlisberger apologized to the fans, his family, and his team for risking his health (and life) unnecessarily. (He has since had to apologize for other irresponsible actions.) By the grace of God, I'm fortunate to be alive." He added that, if he ever does ride a motorcycle again, "it will certainly be with a helmet." Most people think of freedom as license to ignore doing the right thing. But freedom is having the desire to do the right thing, knowing it is the best thing. The Christian has been set free from the law of sin and death by the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus. His heart has been changed; he wants to please God. There is an story about a poor Czechoslovakian woman who was married by arrangement to a very mean and domineering man. He lorded it over her and made her life miserable, especially when he was drunk—and he very often was. If dinner wasn’t ready when he came home he beat her. A misspoken word from her also invited his wrath. The most degrading thing to her was that when he came home he made her take off his boots. They were muddy and tight and his feet stank horribly. It made her feel like a slave. One day she had had enough. Her depression took her over the edge and she decided that suicide was better than life with this man. She threw herself out the window of their third story flat to the concrete below. But as she jumped her husband turned the corner on his way home, and she fell on him, breaking her fall and breaking his neck. He died and she was acquitted. Shortly after that tragedy she met another man—a kind and gentle man who was all the things her husband had not been, and nothing like he was. They married and she was finally happy, free. Then she loved when her husband returned home because he always spoke words of love to her. She loved preparing him meals because he always expressed his appreciation. She loved that he did not make her help him with his boots. But every day she helped him with his boots—because she loved him. Conclusion The condition of freedom: from the law (Gal. 5:16-18); from the yoke of bondage (Gal. 5:1); into freedom of God’s truth (Jn 8:32) That liberty comes by Christ’s mercy. Four steps to fulfilling the law of love: 1. acknowledge that you have broken God’s law and you are powerless to save yourself from judgment; 2. understand that only the life of love can ever fulfill that perfect law of love; 3. believe/trust that only Jesus can supply that love to you; and 4. receive the salvation that Jesus alone provides. Then the Bible promises, you will be forgiven of your sins and you will receive the Holy Spirit to dwell within you, Who will empower you to live increasingly more perfectly in the Royal Law. The last part of our passage says: “Mercy triumphs over judgment” and it is a powerful summary of how God has treats those who will trust Him. Read 1 John 4:7-19   [ Back to Top]          
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