What we will soon see is that we are still under a Law, but it is not the OT laws such as food regulations or sabbath rules. The Law we are under is Jesus instruction concerning life in light of the OT. Remember that Jesus said time and again, "You heard that it was said...but I say..." I would like to discuss this subject which James calls the Royal Law and how it should govern our lives today. Also keep in mind what we learned the last time we were in James. He told his readers to not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ with partiality. In 2:8-13 there will be two propositions:
1) IF you really fulfill the royal law 2) IF you show partiality
The first proposition ends with you do well while the second ends with you commit sin.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Point 1: The Royal Law, Leviticus 19:18
This could be THE royal law, but most likely is a premeire verse for the Biblical principle. This verse stands in place of the law that is found all over Scripture, most clearly in the New Testament as Jesus so forcefully teaches it.
I like the idea that the word "royal" could mean that it is "from the king." And it could mean that this law belongs to Him, comes from Him, and leads to Him.
There is a connection that could be made between "royal law" here in v8 and "kingdom" back in v5. A kingdom is guided by royal decrees passed down from the king. Just as an aside, let me say that many of you may not know but I took two classes at another Bible college other than the one I earned my degree from. I took a class on the Holy Spirit and I took a Hebrew class. My Hebrew professor got on his hobby-horse one night and said that as for Gentile Christians, Jesus is not our King. He said that Jesus is Israel's king and simply our Savior. I thought to myself, whoa whoa whoa. I have been told by Jesus Himself that I am part of a kingdom; the Kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God. And a kingdom must have a king! So let me tell you this morning that Jesus is our King, He has a kingdom of which we are citizens, and this kingdom is ruled by one, royal law- the Law of Love, which I we will discuss more throughout this sermon.
In the verse that James quotes, Leviticus 19:18, God follows the command with "I am the LORD." Now that may seem like an insignificant statement, but I think that it has great importance. If this law is good enough for Yahweh God, then surely it is good enough for His people. Wouldn't you agree?
Remember that when a Jewish teacher referred to a certain verse of a text, often he was referring to the entire context or atleast more than the one verse. Two points can be made from chapter 19 in Leviticus. I will make one of those points here and another later. In v34 of Lev 19 this love command is extended past simply Israelites loving Israelites to lovingly receiving foreigners into the community. They were to love outsiders as they love other Israelites, and truly as they love themselves.
The greatest parable that Jesus ever taught on this subject was of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37. The trap that the lawyer fell into was that the Scripture said that a foreigner was his neighbor. Even a despised Samaritan was this Jewish lawyer's neighbor. Jesus didn't reinterpret the OT law, but clearly taught what the text says, "The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself."
The Leviticus 19 reference also works well in this context because it has a prohibition of partiality. Lev 19:15 says, "You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor."
(Matthew 22:34-40) "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
Point 2: Speak and Do as those who will be Judged by the Law of Liberty
The royal law is now called the law of liberty. This gives us an understanding that love leads to freedom, but the question is how do we respond to the freedom we are given in Christ? This is the question which will govern our judgment. The Scripture says that we will be judged by the law of liberty. Thus we are warned to so speak and so do as those who will be judged not by the OT law, but by the royal law (the law of liberty).
Jesus told a parable about how the Heavenly Father will judge in terms of mercy when Peter asked how many times he should forgive his brother. See Matthew 18:21-35.
When we were in James last we discussed the sin of partiality. Now we see another reason why it is sinful: "Partiality is sinful because it violates the love command."
James does not end the section on a gloomy note of judgment. After all, we are Christians and our hope is in Christ. The section ends with a positive, exciting statement, "Mercy triumphs over judgment." God said in Hosea 6:6 "For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." In Micah 6:8 the question is asked, "And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?" Mercy must drive the relationships with our spouses, children, parents, family, friends, foreigners, and enemies.
There is no way to get around quoting a wonderful Scripture like Zecariah 7:9-10 so let me read it and then we will stand for our hymn of response:
"Thus says the LORD of hosts:
'Execute true justice,
Show mercy and compassion
Everyone to his brother.
Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless,
The alien or the poor.
Let none of you plan evil in his heart
Against his brother.'"
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."