Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church https://covenantpensacola.org Exalting Christ Changing hearts Sun, 24 Jan 2021 19:32:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.6 https://covenantpensacola.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/cropped-LOGO-Covenant-OPC-New-Style-Outline-Special-32x32.png Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church https://covenantpensacola.org 32 32 GALATIANS 4:21-31. Sermon 18. Slave and Free https://covenantpensacola.org/2021/01/24/galatians-421-31-sermon-18-slave-and-free/ https://covenantpensacola.org/2021/01/24/galatians-421-31-sermon-18-slave-and-free/#respond Sun, 24 Jan 2021 19:32:31 +0000 https://covenantpensacola.org/?p=2941 The greeting.

Grace and peace to you beloved in the name of Christ. What a mercy to be forgiven of all of our sin. What amazing love that we should be called the sons and daughters of God. All in Christ. All because of Christ. Well, this morning the apostle Paul is going to speak about our freedom from spiritual slavery that Christ procures for us.

The Scriptures.

Please take out your Bible and turn to the book of Galatians. I will read for us Galatians 4:21-32. Hear the holy and perfect word of our holy and perfect God. Read.

Galatians 4:21. Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. 23 But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. 24 This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. 25 Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. 27 For it is written, “REJOICE, BARREN WOMAN WHO DOES NOT BEAR; BREAK FORTH AND SHOUT, YOU WHO ARE NOT IN LABOR; FOR MORE NUMEROUS ARE THE CHILDREN OF THE DESOLATE THAN OF THE ONE WHO HAS A HUSBAND.” 28 And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “CAST OUT THE BONDWOMAN AND HER SON, FOR THE SON OF THE BONDWOMAN SHALL NOT BE AN HEIR WITH THE SON OF THE FREE WOMAN.” 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.

The prayer.

Please pray with me as we ask our Lord to help us in our worship of Him. Pray.

The comparison of legal-works-salvation versus grace.

As we proceed, I want you to think: two women, two sons, two covenants, and two places – earthly Jerusalem and heavenly Jerusalem. One equals spiritual slavery the other equals spiritual freedom. Paul is comparing justification by law keeping versus justification by believing in Christ Jesus. And please notice that it is an either-or proposition. There is no wedding of the two. They stand as opposites. 

The outcome of legal-works-salvation versus grace.

Now also it is helpful to see what Paul says is the outcome of these two distinct paths or ways of salvation. The legal-works way of salvation, justifying yourself by works of the Law is spiritual slavery, bondage.

Romans 6:20. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

The gracious way of salvation procured by the Blood of Christ that we received by the Spirit-gift of faith alone is spiritual freedom. Freedom from the broken law of God, freedom from the wrath and condemnation of God for our sins, freedom from the power of Satan, freedom from the bondage of sin, and freedom to serve and worship God with a childlike love. (Rom.7:24-25, WCF 20.1) 

John 8:34. Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

Galatians 4:7. Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. 8 However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?

The Bible only presents two roads for our life. (Mt.7:13-14) One is a broad road. It is agreeable to our flesh. Many people are on this road. Most people are on this road. The end of this road is eternal separation from the loving presence of God – hell. The other road is the Narrow Road. This is a hard road. Only a relatively few people find it. This is the path of Christ Crucified. The end of this road is eternal bliss with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ – heaven.

Legalism is spiritual slavery, and it leads to eternal confinement. (Jude 1:6, 2 Pt.2:4) Gracious salvation in Christ sets us free now to be enjoyed fully forever very soon.

The subject of legalism.

Now Paul continues this new section hammering away at the same error of legalism, trying to merit one’s justification before God by one’s own law keeping. He opens with a question. 

V.21. Tell me you who want to be under Law. You see the Holy Spirit inspires Paul to inform us that to join the Law to the Gospel is no longer the Gospel but simply the Law. Anything added to the person and the work of Jesus Christ, to the free gift of eternal life in and through Jesus Christ, by what He has done destroys the Gospel. Oh Beloved, I do not know how many times and ways that the apostle Paul can say this in the book of Galatians. The Law is not the Gospel. The Law does not save. Only Christ in the Gospel saves. The Gospel cannot be amended.

Grace plus works equals works.

The desire of legalism.

Why would anyone with a Bible and even a casual acquaintance with their own sin challenge this? Because they do not have a true awareness of their sin. Therefore, being blind to the true depths of their sin they have a sensual or carnal desire to save themselves. Legalism is a form of auto-salvation as B.B Warfield speaks about. 

Notice Paul says you that want to be under Law. People “want” to earn their own salvation. People want to stand before God with a measure of their own righteousness. People want to boast of their own goodness. The flesh does not want to be told that it is a dead, sinful, condemned wretch unable to improve itself before a three-times holy God.

Oh, it does not matter if outwardly people are profuse with expressions of their humility and they give a nod here and there to Jesus, the Judaizers did that. (Acts 15:1-5) Watch and listen. Eventually you with see and hear what people really want. What we want comes out of us. It is either the good fruit of a good tree. Or the thorns of a thorn bush. (Mt.7:15-22, Mt.13:18-22)

The graced heart with say this, Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling, Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling, Naked, come to Thee for dress, Helpless, look to Thee for grace, Vile, I to the fountain fly, Wash me, savior, or I die. (Augustus Toplady, Rock of Ages)

Whereas the legal heart will say this, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get. (Lk.18:11-12, Mt.10:17-27, Phil.3:1-7, older brother – Lk.15:25-32)

The ignorance of legalism.

Paul says, more accurately – God through Paul says, do you not listen to the Law? 

By this God is telling these law-gospel corrupters that they do not understand the Law of God that they proport to be experts on. These legal-salvation law men always under estimate both the divine demands of the law and the divine punishments of the law. They ought not be teachers.

The apostle Paul warns pastor Timothy to be on the look out for these people coming into the church as Ephesus.

I Timothy 1:5. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, 7 wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions. 8 But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, (Jas.3:1)

You see what God is saying about these false teachers? These are the fellows that told Paul that he was wrong on the gospel. They told Paul that he did not know what he was talking about. They said, the Bible does not teach that a man is justified by faith alone in Christ alone. They claimed that Christ does not procure all our salvation by His death on the Cross and by His active obedience the Law. No. They truly believed they were experts on the Bible. Experts on the law-gospel. And soon they had the better part of the churches in Galatia believing it.

But do you know who did not believe it? God. He says so in His Book. We ought to follow the faithful guide of the Scriptures. And beware of the multitudes of carnally blind guides leading the multitudes of the willingly blind into a spiritual ditch. (Mt.15:14, Mt.23:24)

The correction of legalism.

God is taking these incompetent teachers to Bible school. He starts with the first book of the Bible, Genesis.

Galatians 4:22. For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. 23 But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise.

Abraham’s son by a slave woman.

Genesis 16:15. So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him. (Gen.16:3, Gen.21:8-12, Gen.25:1-6)

Abraham’s son by a free woman.

Genesis 21:1. Then the LORD took note of Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had promised. 2 So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. (age 99)

Physically.

Let’s look at the women and then the sons. Hagar was a Gentile Egyptian slave. Interesting side note. Here we have Abraham a Jew taking an Egyptian slave out of Egypt. Sarah was an Israelite freewoman. Ishmael is a slave’s son. Isaac is a free woman’s son. The idea is the slave woman begets a slave son. The free woman begets a free son. 

Next, Paul says that Ishmael was born according to the flesh. And Isaac was born according to the promise of God.

Metaphorically.

V.24. Paul uses certain OT passages, and he uses them allegorically. That is to say, Paul is inspired to further illustrate the doctrine that he has already proved by using a Bible passage symbolically or metaphorically. Allegory is like a similitude. We are like salt and light. (Mt.5:13-16) So real people, real place used to symbolize spiritual truths. (Gen.41:26, Mt.13:20-39, Jn.6:41) Like a parable.

Perhaps another example to show you that this is not such a strange thing. You remember in the OT when the children of Israel were in the desert. God gave them water from a rock. Well, the apostle Paul says in First Corinthians that the Rock was Christ. Well, clearly this is symbolically speaking that Christ is the life giving and life refreshing spiritual water. (Exod.17:1-7, Num.20:2-13, I Cor.10:4)

Now back to this allegory. We could put it this way. Ishmael was born by works. And Isaac was born by grace. The one son can by natural man’s effort, by flesh. The other son came by the grace of God giving a woman beyond the age of child-bearing a son, by faith. (Gen.18:11, Heb.11:11)

In this way Paul is likening Ishmael to the works of the Law. And Isaac to the grace of God in the gospel of Christ.

Let’s see if we describe some of the similarities and differences of these two sons and what they teach us spiritually or metaphorically as Paul says.

Both sons had the same father – Abraham. The Law and the Gospel have the same Author – God.

Galatians 4:24. This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar.

There are two ways to understand this first covenant that Paul speaks about. One the covenant of works that God made with Adam.

Or the covenant of grace as given to Moses under the types and shadows, veiled with all of the outward ordinances, the meats and the drinks as it were. (WCF 7.5)

However, even if Paul is referring to the OT covenant of grace under the types and shadows – the Judaizers corrupted the veiled covenant, they turned it into a legal system of salvation. So, for them it was not circumcision points forward to the saving work of Messiah, therefore believe in Messiah and be saved. No. It was be physically circumcised to be saved. Back then to the covenant of works, back then to salvation by law keeping.

The second covenant is clearly the covenant of grace that God made with Christ. (WCF 7.1)

God expresses the covenant of works to Adam this way. On the day that you eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil you shall surely die. (Gen.2:17) Expressed, disobey my law and you will die; you and all those you represent. Implied, obey and you will continue to live. (WCF 7.2, Gal. 3:10-12, Rom. 10:5)

This is how Paul states it in the book of Romans.

Romans 5:12. Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—

Get the essence of why Paul is using this covenant of works as a correction against the Judaizers. The covenant of works says, obey perfectly and live. Disobey once and you die. That is law-based salvation, that is the foolishness of the legalists. They are trying to join a obey-or-die covenant to the gracious covenant of grace or of the gospel.

The covenant of grace says believe upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. (Rom.10:1-17, Acts 16:31, I Jn.5:13, Jn.1:12, Jn.3:16-18)

Listen to how John puts this in his gospel account.

John 1:10. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

This is how our confession summarizes it.

WCF 7.3  Man, by his fall, having made himself uncapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second,(1) commonly called the Covenant of Grace, whereby He freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved;(2) and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.(3)
(1) Gal. 3:21; Rom. 8:3; Rom. 3:20,21; Gen. 3:15; Isa. 42:6. (2) Mark 16:15,16; John 3:16; Rom. 10:6,9; Gal. 3:11. (3) Ezek. 36:26,27; John 6:44,45.

Ishmael had no part in the covenant of grace. He had physical earthly prosperity only. (Gen.17:20, 25:12-18) Isaac was a member of the covenant of grace. He had all the promised spiritual riches in the Promised Messiah.

Again, God is being so clear. Trying to obey the Law for your justification is from the flesh of man, it leads to slavery. Resting only in Christ for your justification is from the promise of God, it leads to freedom.

Now concerning the comparison of the two places, we have the same truths being taught. But I think we might make a few additional comments about this verse in light of the error of the Judaizers.

Earthly Israel.

The Judaizers were just that, they were trying to retain the Israel distinctive before God, so they sought to retain the distinctive that were particular for the Old Epoch with Israel as the people of God. So, they wanted to blend ethnic-Jewish distinctives into the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You remember. You had to get circumcised to be saved. So, you had to become a professing Jew to be saved. You had to join yourself to Israel to be saved. Next you had to keep the Law of Moses to be saved. (Acts 15:1-15) This is both ceremonial rites and the moral law.

By seeking to retain these OT epoch Jewish elements they were seeking to avoid the reproach of the Cross. (Heb.13:13, Gal.6:12-15)

What Paul says next under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit would have been nothing less than shocking. He says that the slave woman represents earthly Jerusalem! This would have been like getting the bucket of cold water in that challenge thrown on top of you!

Galatians 4:25. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.

The apostle John on the Isle of Patmos says something similar about physical earthly Jerusalem. He uses perhaps even more shocking than calling Jerusalem Hagar.

Revelation 11:7. When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them and overcome them and kill them. 8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.

Spiritual Israel.

Paul is saying that those who trust in Christ alone for their salvation that we are the true Israel of God. Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, the heavenly City of Peace, over which the Prince of Peace Melchizedek reigns.

Hebrews 12:22. But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.

Spiritual re-birth.

In V.27 the idea is that our spiritual re-birth is a miracle, akin to a desolate woman, a barren woman, a woman beyond childbearing then having numerous children – miraculously! By God’s great grace. Paul further emphasizes that we are made alive by the Holy Spirit when He gives us saving faith in Jesus. (Eph.2:1-9) 

Galatians 4:27. For it is written, “REJOICE, BARREN WOMAN WHO DOES NOT BEAR; BREAK FORTH AND SHOUT, YOU WHO ARE NOT IN LABOR; FOR MORE NUMEROUS ARE THE CHILDREN OF THE DESOLATE THAN OF THE ONE WHO HAS A HUSBAND.” (Isa.54:1)

Galatians 4:28. And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. (Jn.1:10-13, Jn.3:1-9)

Paul makes this similar argument in Romans nine. Here he is saying that being born of physical Israel is not saving. Only being born again by the grace of God is someone a saved child of God.

Romans 9:5. whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. 6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.

Spiritual warfare.

V.28. Paul goes on to further prove that salvation by law keeping and salvation by faith in Christ are not joinable. In fact, the proponents of self-law-salvation and gracious-faith-salvation are opposed to one another.

The first recorded instance of this between Ishmael and Isaac was when Ishmael at aged 13 mocked Isaac when he was weaned (at some kind of celebration). Perhaps Isaac was two or three. (Gen.21:1-10)

The apostle tells us that the sons of the slave woman persecuted the sons of the free women. Notice that he does not say the opposite. He does not say that the sons of the free woman persecuted the sons of the slave woman.

Believers are for peace. Unbelievers are for war. War against Believers. Believers are the lambs of Christ. Unbelievers are vipers, dogs, lions being governed by the old dragon. (Rev.20:2, 12:9)

We see this also from the very first book of the Bible. (Gen.3:15, 2 Cor.6:14-18) In fact, we see this in the very first family of the Bible.

Genesis 4:3. So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. 4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. 6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” 8 Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

I will point out this. Often commentators here say, well this is the truth of the world against the church. Well, certainly the world is against the church. But Paul is writing to church members against other church members. This is the spiritual warfare of the legalists within the church against those in favor of the true gospel of the Cross. (I Cor.2:2)

This is the warfare of the Pharisee against the atoning blood of Christ. What entity has persecuted even to the death Christians that firmly maintain a man is justified by faith alone in Christ alone? The answer: the Roman Catholic church. Remember Beloved, church people killed Christ. They handed Jesus over to the worldling Romans to do their dirty work.

Beloved, most often the severest opposition to the true gospel of grace comes from false Christians persecuting true Christians.

Spiritual separation.

V.30. See how Paul concludes? He concludes with another question, a pre-protestant question. What does the Scripture say?

Sarah told Abraham to send Ishmael away from Isaac, that Ishmael would have no part in the blessings given to Isaac the son of promise. And God told Abraham to listen to her, that this separation was of God. (Gen.21:10-12)

Paul says, the Bible says, God says, that we who believe in graced-salvation ought separate from these legalistic works-based salvation professing Christians. Cast them out! Bad company corrupts good morals. (I Cor.15:33) We sometimes apply this to separating from professing Christians living in sexual sin. (I Cor.5:1-13) I will tell you what is worse. Keeping company with those that believe a false gospel. They will lead you into bondage all the while professing to bring you freedom. Walk, talk, and sit with Pharisees and you will become a Pharisee.

Spiritual children.

Beloved it is a great privilege to be born into a believing Christian family. It is another great privilege to attend a Bible preaching and a Gospel teaching church, where the word is rightly dispensed. When we are thus born again by the Holy Spirit making the gospel call effectual in our lives we prove that we are spiritual children of God – sons and daughters of the free woman.

Galatians 4:31. So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.

Beloved God has set you spiritually free from the bondage to Satan and to sin. The Gospel of the Christ has done that. The Gospel of justification by faith alone in Christ alone has done that. Oh stand firm in your freedom. Use your spiritual freedom to serve God and Man. Beware of those that seek to take you back into bondage by adding Law to Gospel. No man will be justified by works of the Law. Stand firm in Christ alone.

Amen

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JOSHUA 1:10-18. Sermon 2. Obedience to God’s Word https://covenantpensacola.org/2021/01/21/joshua-19-18-sermon-2-obedience-to-gods-word/ https://covenantpensacola.org/2021/01/21/joshua-19-18-sermon-2-obedience-to-gods-word/#respond Thu, 21 Jan 2021 22:13:17 +0000 https://covenantpensacola.org/?p=2929

The greeting.

Peace to you Beloved in the name of Christ. Christ is our peace. Christ is our joy. He is our life. Tonight, we are going to worship the Triune God in the book of Joshua. You remember his name means Yahweh saves. Oh, how thankful we are for Jesus – Yahweh saves. (Mt.1:21-23) Immanuel has come to save His people from our sins. And He will one day bring us to live with Him in perfect bliss – in the Promised Land. (Heb.11:1-41) Glory to God. 

The Scripture.

Please open up your Bible to Joshua chapter one. In Joshua 1:1-9 God commissions Joshua as His commander. In our evening passage, Joshua assumes command. I will read Joshua 1:10-18. Hear the Holy Word of our God, read. 

Joshua 1:10. Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, 11 “Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you are to cross this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you, to possess it.'” 12 To the Reubenites and to the Gadites and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, 13Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, ‘The LORD your God gives you rest and will give you this land.’ 14 “Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle shall remain in the land which Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but you shall cross before your brothers in battle array, all your valiant warriors, and shall help them, 15 until the LORD gives your brothers rest, as He gives you, and they also possess the land which the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to your own land, and possess that which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise.” 16 They answered Joshua, saying, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you; only may the LORD your God be with you as He was with Moses. 18Anyone who rebels against your command and does not obey your words in all that you command him, shall be put to death; only be strong and courageous.”

The prayer.

Please join me in prayer to ask the Holy Spirit to help us tonight. Pray. 

The duty of our obedience.

The doctrine under consideration this evening is obedience to the word of God. And we might refine this concept as obedience to the word of God as delivered by the leader of God or the man of God, in this case Joshua. Well, obedience to God is the theme I wish to address. By necessity I will bring in additional Bible passages. (I Kg.2:3, Dt.4:1-6)

In fact, God uses obedience to His word as the two bookends of this book. God opens, obey My Word. (Joshua 1:1-18). God closes this book, obey My Word.

Joshua 22:5. Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

Joshua 23:6. Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left,

The source of our obedience.

As we begin, let’s grasp this most basic principle regarding obedience to God. Obedience to God is an expression of our love of God. (Jer.7:21-24, Eccl.12:13)

Christ says if you love Me you will obey My commands. (Jn.14:15-31, Lk.11:28)

I John 2:3. By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

The rule for our obedience.

We only learn what to obey from the word of God as God reveals Himself to us in It. (WCF 1.1) We do not learn our duty to God from natural revelation. From creation we learn that there is a God. The image of God in man, even defaced, informs us that we ought to worship. (Rom.2:12-14) But beyond that we are lost as regards to our duty. (WCF 21.1)

Considering the Bible, perhaps a word or two before we proceed. Let me borrow some language from our secondary standards. What does the Bible principally teach? The Bible principally teaches (two things) what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man. (WSC 3, 2 Tim. 1:13; 2 Tim. 3:16)

I am afraid obedience to God has fallen on hard times in our day, even in our churches. I mean obedience as duty, as obligation, something God commands or requires we do or not do. That voice is silent in many pulpits.

Often as soon as you speak of obedience to God’s word, which is clearly what this passage is about, you will quickly be chided as a legalist, one that does not understand the free grace of God in Christ.

Oh Beloved, I am afraid much of the so-called concern for the grace of God is really a denial of the law of God, which in reality is a misunderstanding of the grace of God. Christ truly received does produce in us a desire to obey His commands. Of course, not perfect in this life. But nevertheless, a desire to obey. Think of king David. Oh, how I love Thy law. Think Psalms 1, 19, and 119.

Psalm 1:2. How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.

I believe this aversion to obeying God’s word in the Bible is even found in conservative Protestant churches and Reformed churches. We place the greater emphasis on believing and not doing. I think this is correct, rightly understand. We must believe the truth of God in Christ as presented to us in the gospel that we might be saved, that we might be in a reconciled estate before God. (Jn.3:16, Rom.5:1-10, Eph.2:1-10)

And from this, after we have saving faith, we are then enabled to obey God from the heart, freed from the condemnation of the Law, freed to obey God’s word safely in Christ with a childlike love. You cannot obey what you do not believe. Proper obedience is the fruit of saving faith. We do not obey to merit our reconciliation. We obey because Christ has reconciled us.

But, God still does require of us as His reconciled children to obey every word that proceeds from His lips, even Jesus says this. (Mt.4:4) Remember the book of James. Remember James 2:14-26, we show our faith by our works which are those things done in obedience to God’s word. (WCF 16.1)

Hear the sober word of God on obedience and disobedience as given by Samuel to Saul.

I Samuel 15:22. Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. 23 “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.”

Let me read from our confession that summarizes the Scripture on the usefulness of obedience to the moral law for the regenerate, for the truly born-again Believer in Jesus.

WCF 19.5  The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof;(1) and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God, the Creator, who gave it.(2) Neither doth Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.(3)

(1) Rom. 13:8,9; Eph. 6:2; 1 John 2:3,4,7,8. (2) James 2:10,11. (3) Matt. 5:17,18,19; James 2:8; Rom. 3:31.

WCF 19.6  Although true believers be not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned;(1) yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly;(2) discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives;(3) so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin;(4) together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of His obedience.(5) It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin; (see also the usefulness of Good Works – WCF 16.1-7)

The correction of our disobedience.

To show us how serious God takes obedience to His word let’s consider the previous leader of God  – Moses, with an eye to obeying God’s word. 

You remember that God told His servant Moses to go up on to a high mountain Mount Nebo so that he could see the Promised Land from a distance. God prohibited Moses from entering the earthly Promised Land because Moses struck the rock and God told him to speak to the rock that water would come out. And God said by this disobedience to God’s word that Moses has dishonored God before God’s people. (Dt.34:1-12, WLC 15, Ezekiel/Watchman – Ezek.3:18, Pharisees in the seat of Moses – Mt.23:13)

The notion is that Moses as the leader of God’s people aggravates his sin of disobedience to God’s word because by his bad and sad example, he would encourage those under him to also disobey the word of God. Such is the weighty responsibility of religious leaders and why many ought not to be quick to seek such an office. (Jas.3:1, WLC 129, 130) You see also why God is often times especially quick to correct religious leaders. Think of the failure-sin of the apostle Peter denying Jesus out of a fear of man. Christ let Satan sift Peter the leader like wheat. To whom much is given much is required. (Lk.12:48)

And remember God’s discipline for disobedience of Moses was in the life of a true Believer that often times greatly and courageously obeyed the word of the Lord. (Exod.3:1-22)

God called him to confront the enslaver of His people. Reluctantly he did. But he did. God called him to lead His people out of Egypt under the looming threat of destruction at the Red Sea. He did. God called him to lead His people in a howling wasteland for forty years often under the grumblings and threats of death from the people. He did. But then he did disobey. And for this one act of disobedience God disciplined because He was displeased.

Oh Beloved, may we not presume upon our previous obedience that this in any way excuses any acts of disobedience. It does not. God is so holy that He can never look upon any sin with favor. (Hab.1:13)

God’s servant Moses died. The Bible says that God Himself buried Moses in the land of Moab. And that no man knew where his grave was. (Dt.34:5-7, Jude 1:9) I have no doubt that this was to prevent any kind of idolatry associated with the remains of Moses. In other words, to prevent people from making a shrine to Moses or pilgrimages to the grave of Moses. (Col.2:18-23, Jas.3:13-18)

So as a chastisement to Moses he was prohibited from entering Canaan. God does in fact, scourge all those that He loves and receives as His beloved sons and daughters. These make up the great cloud of witnesses walking by faith in the Son of God on their way to the heavenly Promised Land and Celestial City. (Heb.12:1-11)

So, their faith in Jesus is obviously part of that great cloud of witness but so is God’s Fatherly chastisement of them for their disobedience to His word. That in fact is the context of Hebrews 12:1-11.

Also, this acted as a warning to the remaining people of God. That God is greatly displeased with the sin of disobedience to His word, even by His people, especially by His people. This is meant also to encourage us to obey the word of the Lord. (Isa.66:5)

The necessity of our obedience.

Now God gives His people another servant leader – Joshua. (Josh.1:1-8) Right away he is told, and we are told how serious God is about obeying Him.

I hope I am not over emphasizing this, God is saying this to a saved person. God is not saying, obey Me and I will then save you. But God is clearly telling Joshua, Joshua you must obey Me. Think saved to serve. Saved to obey.

Joshua 1:2. Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. 3 “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.

God commands Joshua to get up and lead the people to walk into the Promised Land. That is how God intends to bring His people into the Land, by the obedience of His leader.

Then God gives Joshua other commands.

Joshua 1:6. Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 8 “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.

Beloved, are we not exceedingly thankful that the True Joshua – Jesus Christ obeyed every word of the Lord? (Jn.17:1-17)  It is the obedience of Jesus Christ to His heavenly Father that procures our salvation. The Father sent Christ to earth.  Christ went. The Father sent Christ to the Cross. Christ went. Every word, every command Christ Jesus obeyed – for us. The Perfect Man, the God-Man obeyed every word of God, inwardly and outwardly.

Oh beloved, how can any professing Christian object to the divine call to obey God’s word inwardly and outwardly.

Listen to the apostle Peter.

I Peter 2:21. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.

Listen to Jesus on obedience to God’s word. It is part of the Great Commission.

Matthew 28:18. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Govern your actions by the word of God.

God is telling Joshua to live upon the word of God.

Joshua 1:6. Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you;

God tells him to “do” the word. Not just hear it, but to do it. God says do not turn to the right or to the left. God means be strict in your observance, do not leave yourself wiggle room to enjoy just a little disobedience on the left or on the right.

We act according to what we believe. The fruits of our words and actions indicate the spiritual and religious condition of our heart. Christ says you will know a true Believer by the kinds of fruit their life produces. (Mt.7:15-20) Saving faith obeys the word of God. Imperfectly yes. But also, increasingly to the end of our life. And then perfectly.

Again, of course we should be on guard against the true legalist that thinks they are earning their salvation by their obedience.

But beloved, a great portion of the professing Church is antinomian. I am afraid many that extol grace and warning against the dangers of obedience are not really in love with true grace. They are not at war with their sin. This is a corruption of saving grace. This says God graces to save but it is not unto holiness. Oh, beloved Jesus says why do you call Me Lord but do not do what I say. (Lk.6:46) Paul says without sanctification practical holiness no one will see the Lord. (Heb.12:14) Profession without obedience is hollow.

Govern your words by the word of God.

Next God wants Joshua to speak of the Bible.

V.8. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, 

Govern your heart by the word of God.

You see beloved, what is really in our hearts will come out of our mouth. Get the Bible in your heart and the Bible will come out of your mouth. And obviously, if there is no place for the word of God in your heart, the Bible will not come out in your speech.

Our words are a vital part of our obedience and disobedience to the word of God.

V.8. but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it;

Notice that God tells Joshua to meditate on the word of God. Meditation is such an interesting thing. I do not mean the Eastern kind as found in Buddhism or Hinduism or the Eastern kind repackaged for Americans in Mindfulness. No.

There is a Biblical form of meditation. It is not meditation on nothing. It is not meditation on self. It is not meditation seeking to empty the mind. No. It is meditation on the word of God. This is deeply pondering the word of God. Mulling It over. Asking questions of It. Thinking deeply on it. Thinking for extended periods about it. Oh, Beloved in our frantic day almost none of God’s people do this. We give God’s word two minutes of our time. And then we are off.

Well in part that is why we are failing in the obedience department. One, we are being disobedient for not meditating. But from that comes the rest of our disobedience to the word simply because the paucity of time we give to it, it therefore never gets into our hearts such to govern us.

Listen to these two quotes by Thomas Brooks an English Puritan (1608-1680).

To read much and to practice nothing is to hunt much and to catch nothing.  

It is not hasty reading, but serious meditating upon holy and heavenly truths, that make them prove sweet and profitable to the soul…It is not he who reads most, but he who meditates most, who will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian.

Oh, how our lives would benefit from a real break from electronic gadgets. Shut of the social media for a time. Shut off the computer, the television, the smart phone. Stop recreating. Stop playing amateur social cultural political analyst. Get away from other people. Get alone with the word of God. And meditate on God’s word. Think. Ponder. Ponder some more. Seek to really understand. Seek with a desire to love God and Man. Seek with a desire to obey.

Govern your leadership by the word of God.

And this is especially so for Joshua. Joshua is a public person. He is the leader of God’s people. He especially needs to live upon the word of God so as to inform his leadership of God’s people.

God wants His leader to lead God’s people by the word of God. That is, as I say, part of his commissioning from the Lord. I would say this this is the instructional element of God’s word, how to, what to, why to. That kind of a thing. (2 Tim.3:14-17)

I Corinthians 10:8. Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. 9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

I want to point out something. God tells Joshua how to succeed as God’s leader. Or where true success will come from.

Joshua 1:8. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.

Oh Beloved, it is not legalism to say that God blesses obedience. He does. He says it.

Joshua obeys the word of the Lord.

Now with our passage this evening Joshua proves obedient to God’s word. He does what God tells him to do. God says get up and go into the Promised Land. And he does.

He is the wise builder that hears the words of Christ, believes them, and then he obediently builds his life upon the word of God. (Mt.7:16-29) He proves himself to be an effectual hearer of the word by being an effectual doer of the word. (Jas.1:23-27)

V.10-11. Joshua gives directives to the officers of the people.

What we see is this. God speaks to Joshua. Joshua speaks to the people. And he especially speaks to the people what God spoke to him.

And what we also see is the practical outworking of meditating on the word of God. It makes Joshua wise in practical matters. Or wise in the practical application of God’s word. God says go lead My people into the Promised Land.

Well, he then gives orders to his subordinate rulers or leaders to prepare provisions.

Joshua 1:11. Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you are to cross this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you, to possess it.

During the wilderness sojourn God miraculously provided bread-manna from heaven and miracle water from the Rock. (Exod.16:1-34,  Exod.17:1-15, Num.20:1-20, I Cor.10:1-4, Dt.32:15) But once they enter in the Promised Land those divine provisions will cease. So, in wisdom provide for food and drink.

This is like Christ’s words in Luke.

Luke 22:35. And He said to them, “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said, “No, nothing.” 36 And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one.

Joshua gives them a time limit on which to obey his commands. Time limits help put urgency to obedience. When people do not think their time is limited to obey the Bible often times they fall into sinful sloth and worldliness. Christ reminds those that call themselves disciples that our time to obey His word is limited. Time will be up very soon, sooner than we think, at a time that should not catch us indolent. (Mt.24:46-51) Limited time ought to make us more obedient to the word of the Lord.

John 9:4. We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” 

V.12-15. Joshua gives directives to the two-and-one-half tribes.

Joshua gave these additional directives because these two- and one-half tribes stood in a distinct relationship to the Promised Land the rest of the people of God are going to possess. 

A portion of the people of God wanted to live outside of the Promised Land in Canaan.

Numbers 32:1. Now the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad had an exceedingly large number of livestock. So when they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, that it was indeed a place suitable for livestock, 2 the sons of Gad and the sons of Reuben came and spoke to Moses and to Eleazar the priest and to the leaders of the congregation, saying, 3 “Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon, 4 the land which the LORD conquered before the congregation of Israel, is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.” 5 They said, “If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession; do not take us across the Jordan.” 6 But Moses said to the sons of Gad and to the sons of Reuben, “Shall your brothers go to war while you yourselves sit here? 7 “Now why are you discouraging the sons of Israel from crossing over into the land which the LORD has given them?

The people responded to Moses that they were not wanting to discourage their fellow Israelites. They promised to go across the river Jordan and to fight the enemies of God and of His people and to expel them from the Promised Land. They just wanted the grazing land on the other side of the Jordan. Moses said that if they would indeed do this, they could keep their families and cattle on the other side of the Jordan, then fight, and then after the enemies were conquered, they could go back to their land. God approved of this.

A few things here. God does have much to say on the care of our immediate family. Here we see the two-and-one-half tribes are concerned for providing for their families.

Many professing Christians should take heed to this. Think of all the fathers and mothers that desert the home and bring financial, physical, and spiritual ruin upon their children. The Bible says if we do not provide for our own household then we are worse than an unbeliever. (I Tim.5:8) If we do not work, we should not eat. (2 Thess.3:10)

Of course, being providential hindered is the exception. But still filial love to God ought to make us diligent to His commands to seek the welfare of our spouse and children. (Mal.2:8-12)

But He also has much to say on our care of the entire family of God. Here God is requiring these tribes to put the interests of the entire household of God even before their own personal or private interests. The notion is, as the entire people of God goes so too goes the lot of the individual members of it. This is the of I Corinthians 12, as one member suffers or rejoices so the whole body suffers or rejoices.

And perhaps by way of application I might say, are we obeying the word of God to love and help our fellow man beyond the four walls of our home, beyond our immediate family? Do we visit widows and orphan? (Jas.1:27) What are we doing for the betterment of Christ’s church upon the earth? What are we doing for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom of grace upon the earth?

Do we rest easy as long as “me and mine are OK”? How is this love to neighbor? How is this love to brother? How is this love to Christ? Beloved the moment we are joined to Christ we have an immense calling upon our lives to live to the glory of Christ and His Church. Our life has meaning, kingdom meaning. (Mt.25:13-46) Oh Beloved, do we have no responsibility for the welfare of Christ’s lambs?  Do we obey God’s word in this?

What are we doing for the destruction of Satan’s kingdom upon the earth? (Eph.5:11, Isa.25:11, 2 Cor.10:3-5) We cannot lay our weapons down until the Church of Christ is at rest.

Listen to God through the prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah 2:4. And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war. 5 Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.

V.16-18. The people respond verbally to Joshua’s directives.

Joshua 1:16. They answered Joshua, saying, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 “Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you; only may the LORD your God be with you as He was with Moses. 18 “Anyone who rebels against your command and does not obey your words in all that you command him, shall be put to death; only be strong and courageous.” (see Dt.5:27, 7:12, 11:27, 28:15)

The promise of our obedience.

What a great blessing for brothers and sisters to be unanimous in their loyalty to the word of God and to the man of God bringing them His word. May God hasten the day when all of God’s people will have perfect unfailing love and obedience to His Word when we are in the presence of the Living Word.

Amen

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GALATIANS 4:8-20. Sermon 17. The Minister – Teacher of God’s Word https://covenantpensacola.org/2021/01/18/galatians-48-20-sermon-17-the-relationship-of-the-minister-to-christs-disciples/ https://covenantpensacola.org/2021/01/18/galatians-48-20-sermon-17-the-relationship-of-the-minister-to-christs-disciples/#respond Mon, 18 Jan 2021 22:32:31 +0000 https://covenantpensacola.org/?p=2916

The greeting.

Grace and peace and mercy to you beloved in the name of Christ. God has granted us another day of life. May we devote ourselves, body, and soul, to worship Him on this day of worship.

The word.

We are back from our two-week break from the book of Galatians. This morning I want us to look at Galatians 4:8-20.  Paul continues to call the wayward Galatians back to the simplicity of Christ Crucified and away from trusting in their own works-law-righteousness. May I read God’s word in faith. May we all hear in faith. The perfect word of God, read.

Galatians 4:8. However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain. 12 I beg of you, brethren, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You have done me no wrong; 13 but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time; 14 and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself. 15 Where then is that sense of blessing you had? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me. 16 So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them. 18 But it is good always to be eagerly sought in a commendable manner, and not only when I am present with you. 19 My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you– 20 but I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

The prayer.

As our great desire is to worship God in spirit and in truth and for this we rely upon God the Holy Spirit. (Jn.16:7-15, Acts 1:8, Jn.14:16-26) Let’s pray to Him now. Pray. 

The doctrine.

What I want to do today is to consider the relationship of the minister of Christ towards the flock of Christ. What is the relationship of Paul to these Galatians? What is their relationship to or with him? What duties if any do they mutually own one another by virtue of their relationship as we see expressed in this passage.

Think along these lines. A father and a child have a natural and a filial relationship. And from this relationship flows mutual duties. The father is required to love and support and instruct his child. And his child is to love and support and receive instruction from his father. (Mal.1:6-10)

The same can be seen in the relationship of a husband and wife. They have a marital relationship. And from that union flows certain divinely governed duties to one another. Duties I will say unique to this relationship. And duties which are the privilege and the blessing of this relationship. The husband is to love the wife as Christ’s loves the church. And the wife is to respect and obey her husband as unto the Lord. (Eph.5:22-33)

The relationship.

Well similar to these two examples, Christ’s minister and Christ’s people have an ecclesiastical and a spiritual relationship. And Christ requires certain duties of the minister to the congregant and certain duties of the congregant to their minister. (WLC 126-132, 158-160)

We are joined to the same Christ. He is our Head. We are joined to the same Body. (WCF 26.1-2) But we also are individual members joined to the same Body. God has given distinct calling and gifts to each Believer and placed them where He wants us in the Body of Christ.

The teacher.

If we look at this passage in the macro view, we see that Paul shows us the place of the minister within the Body of Christ. The minister is the mouth or the herald or the teacher.

He is the religious preacher and teacher of God’s word, of God’s law, and of God’s gospel. He is to be singular and devoted in this ministry for Christ to the church. He is not to become sidetracked in other things. The minister is pastor-teacher to Christ’s lambs and a herald of salvation to the lost.

And if we take the rest of the church members of the Body, we are the those being taught. (Rom.12:1-13, I Cor.12:1-31) Paul is Christ’s teacher. He is teaching the Galatians the truth of God’s word. Even correcting their errors.

From our passage I hope to discover a few of the particulars concerning this relationship in Christ, things for our growth in Christlikeness. (2 Pt.3:18, Rom.8:28-29)

The outline.

First, I want to consider how unbelief and sin will be serviceable to teaching. So we will look at unconverted Paul and the unconverted Galatians. Then we will directly consider converted Paul as a teacher and the Galatians as professing Christians as those taught.

The unbelief of man – the Religious ignorance by nature.

The first thing that Paul and the Galatians share in common with one another is that by nature they are both fallen sinners.

Minister and congregants are all conceived in sin and at one time were children of wrath. (Ps.51:5, Eph.2:1-3, Rom.3:23, Rom.6:23, Rom.3:9-18) We can say, in one sense the minister and those ministered to are on the exact same natural moral plane. Together they are undone sinners deserving God’s wrath for their sin and needing the Savior.

Considered apart from Christ, considered apart from the saving grace of God in Christ, the minister and the congregant are morally fallen, unholy, displeasing to God. Church office does not convey holiness or the forgiveness of sin. The leader and those lead both need saving. 

Benefit for the teacher and the taught.

So, in this way there is a solidarity in sin. They are equally separated from the comfortable presence of God. They are equally in need of a Savior.

Think of it. Once Paul was saved, he could teach the Galatians, the Corinthians, the Ephesians, the whole world – the same Law that condemned him is the same law that condemns them. And the same Gospel that saved him is the same gospel that will save every man that believes.

This is why God’s sends men to preach and teach and not angels. Only fallen men restored in Christ can preach to fallen men about Christ. This produces a solidarity, sympathy, and love born out of that common nature and experience.

In addition to the spiritual solidarity, look at V.13. Paul had an eye problem. Timothy had an anxiety and stomach problem. God can even use our physical infirmities and distresses to better serve the teaching of Jesus Christ to others. These things make us more sympathetic to the sufferings of God’s people. Let make us warmer, kinder, gentler. And by this our content and our tone is sanctified thus helping our teaching.

Now let’s consider the teacher Paul as a Jew and then those being taught, the Galatians as Gentiles.

The unbelief of the Jews – the Religious ignorance in the church.

According to the flesh the apostle Paul was a Jew. In fact, in Philippians 3:1-14 he tells us in his unconverted estate he was Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee, and actually a super Pharisee, intense in his practice to perform works of the law for his own righteousness.

So, before he was converted, he was akin to these Judaizing false teachers that he is now combating. Unconverted Saul despised unclean Gentiles. And he despised Christ. And he despised anyone including fellow Jews that believed in Jesus as the Christ. He thought it was his service to God to crush the true gospel of Christ. Read Acts chapter 8. People that think they are earning their righteousness hate free grace and full acceptance with God based on the righteousness and merits of Another, even the Lamb of God.

Benefit for the teacher and the taught.

A few things here. We see after Paul was converted that God the Holy Spirit used Paul’s former unbelief and particular sins in order to better instruct Christ’s Lambs. In other words, Paul was a former legalist. Once converted, he became a better teacher against legalism which is what he is writing against in the Galatian epistle.

Learning the truth experimentally is the only way to truly know the truth. Mere head knowledge of the Bible or of Christ is not true saving knowledge. A man cannot teach that which he does not really know.

Beloved, before we were Christians, we all did and said and thought things that we are now ashamed of. (Rom.6:21-23)  But God in His great grace and wisdom can use even our worst failures and make them serviceable to teach people the truth of Christ. (I Cor.6:9-11)

If nothing other than by way of negative examples. (I Cor.10:1-10) In other words, Paul can say from personal experience seeking your own law-works-righteousness does not work. Saved sinners make the best teachers to sinners that need salvation and sinners that have found salvation. It makes us have sympathy for others.

Think of king David’s sin with Uriah and Bathsheba. He taught sinners about sin and repentance from experience – see Psalms 32 and 51. Think of the apostle Peter’s denial of Jesus. Jesus let the devil sift Peter. And Jesus told Peter, when you return feed My sheep. This failure helped mortify Peter’s pride, it drove him to Christ. This made him a more Christlike teacher of Christ.

Think of John Newton. He lived in sinned, he suffered as a semi-slave because of it. And then God used mightily to proclaim Amazing Grace.

Former drunks can say to drunks there is forgiveness and cleansing in Christ. The same is true of a whole hosts of sins and sinners. Uncleanness, hatred, anger, worldliness, pride. We can to those caught in the very sins that once held us fast – Jesus has set me free from these things. He can set you free. Only believe. (Jn.8:36) Practical learners of Jesus make the best teachers. 

Think of Andrew. After he found Jesus he went and told his brother Peter. The same thing happened with Philip. After he met Christ he went and told his friend Nathanael. Learners of Christ make the best teachers of Christ. (Jn.1:41-49)

Next, Saul was an unconverted Jew. He had the Bible. He had the sacraments. He was a member of the visible church. Yet for all this, he did not know God. He was not known by God savingly. Paul was in the household of faith, but he did not have saving faith in Jesus. His faith (really) was in himself.

Benefit for the teacher and the taught.

Once Paul was converted to Christ and commissioned as a minister of the Word, he could instruct the Jews in their synagogues and Christians in their churches that the word and the sacraments by themselves do not convert us.

He can testify that church membership does not convey holiness. He can teach his fellow Jews and fellow church goers from experience that you must be born again, you must believe Jesus is the Christ. Or else, all the means of grace you enjoy in the church will actually stand up and condemn you in the day of judgment. (Mt.8:10-12, Jer.13:27, Mt.11:21-30, Lk.19:41-44)

Oh beloved, how many people have grown up in the church, but they do not know Christ? Think of it beloved, these Galatians Christians were in the church, but they were falling away from the true Gospel of Jesus. They were seeking their righteousness in circumcision, in their own law-keeping. (Acts 15:1-5, Gal.1:6-9) Paul knows a more excellent way.

What a powerful teaching testimony that Paul gave to his fellow Jews, to his fellow unconverted church members. This is why you don’t see Paul teaching on circumcision. (Acts 15:1-5, Gal.6:12-14) Or for that matter why you don’t see him preaching on water baptism. (I Cor.1:12-18)  A former unsaved church member knows that external rites do not save. Only by believing in Christ do we know God and are known by God.

And he says so. Oh how we need former unbelieving church members to be bold and to be honest. There are people in the church that need to hear their testimony.

This makes Paul major on the majors. He does not get sidetracked with secondary things. He stays focused on the gospel of Christ. (I Cor.2:2)

Romans 10:1. Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. 2 For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. 3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Rom.9:30-33)

The belief of Paul – his conversion to Christ.

Now for Saul how was he translated out of his estate of unbelief and sin? How did this happen? (Col.1:13, Jn.3:16)

Teacher Christ – The Religious Instructor.

Christ Himself came to him and preached the gospel to Paul and saved him.

The gospel of Christ Crucified is the power of God unto salvation to them that believe, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Rom.1:16) It was the message of the Cross that changed Him. It was the merits of Christ that made him denounce his own merits.

God in the Flesh personally showed Paul the error of his ways and the truth of the true Gospel. Christ instructed Paul in a more excellent way. (Acts 9:1-20) And then Paul came to learn that his prior way of seeking salvation by his own works-righteousness was a filthy rag compared with Christ Crucified. (Eph.3:1-14) Christ told Paul that He did not come to call the (self) righteous but He came to seek and to save sinners.

Well in this way we can say that the relationship of Christ to Paul was one of Savior to the saved. But also, of Teacher and disciple. The duty of the teacher is to teach. The duty of the disciple, which means “learner of”, is to receive instruction.

Christ taught by both positive and negative instruction. In other words, Christ alone pays for sins, faith alone receives all of Christ. That is the positive truth. Negatively, all other paths are wrong and unsaving. Therefore, stay in the Narrow Path of Christ alone. And flee from the Broad Path of self-righteousness. Christ teaches salvation. Paul learns of salvation. Do you see the relationship and then the related duties?

You see as Believers we say that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. And He is. And He is our Teacher and we are His disciples. He is under obligation as our Teacher to teach us the way of salvation and holiness. And we are under obligation to take His yoke upon ourselves and learn of Him.

Teacher of Christ Paul – the Religious under-instructor.

Now we come to this spiritual re-born apostle Paul taught of Christ the way of salvation. Now he is a saved man. He is a believer. He knows God. And he is known by God. And he is then commissioned by Christ as Christ’s gospel herald and gospel preacher-teacher. Jesus sends Paul out to preach the gospel to lost sinners so that they might be saved by knowing and believing Jesus. (Mt.28:18-20) Faith comes by hearing and hearing by this word of Christ. And this occurs by the minister of Christ. (Rom.10:1-17)

The apostle Paul has been saved by Christ to serve Christ by serving other people. The work or the service that Christ has given the apostle Paul to perform is that of a religious teacher. Paul has been sent by Christ to preach and to teach the whole counsel of God and especially the gospel of Christ. Christ commissioned Paul to teach anyone that would listen, that Christ Jesus saves sinners. Jesus dies for our sins. By believing in Him we have eternal life. (I Tim.1:15, I Cor.15:1-6)

Listen to this.

Acts 9:15. But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;

Galatians 1:1. Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), 2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.  (Acts 20:18-24)

Paul, sitting in prison, writes the Philippian church that God has appointed him for the defense of the Gospel. (Phil. 1:7-16) Christ has given to the OT church prophets that preach God’s word to God’s people. Christ has given to the NT church extraordinary teachers, apostles. And Christ has given to the NT church ordinary teachers, pastor-teachers. (Eph.4:11)

The disciple of Christ – the Religiously instructed.

Now as regards to the Galatians and then by extension to us. These people are now professing disciples of Jesus Christ. And as such they are obligated to learn of Christ. And the way that Christ ordinarily teaches us religiously the truth of His word is by His teachers. Here, apostles. With us, ministers.

Christ sends us His ministers to teach us. That is their job (unto Christ) to do so to speak. But our job (unto Christ) is to be taught by them.

Listen to the word of God.

Luke 10:16. The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”

John 15:20. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.

I John 4:6. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Hebrews 13:7. Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith…17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

The teacher corrects religious error.

V.8-20. This entire section today, and in one sense, the entire book of Galatians is a correction by Paul of the Galatians. Part of the duties of the teacher of the word and of the gospel is to correct God’s people when then err. That is what Paul is faithful to do. He seeks to do it out of the principle of love and in a winsome way. But he clearly is telling them, based on the Word of God, you are believing a false Gospel.

And it is the duty of these Galatians to heed the apostle Paul’s correction teaching on the word of God. They are to listen to him. Search the scriptures to see that it is true. And then repent and reform.

The teacher reminds them of their unconverted estate.

V.8-9. What Paul does here as a good teacher is he reminds these erring Christians of what they were before they became Christians.

He reminds them they did not know the true God.

V.8. Remember Paul was the chosen instrument of God to bring the gospel to them at the first. Paul preached Christ crucified for sinners to pagan sinners and they repented of their sins and they believed in Christ. And thus they turned away from dead gods and embraced the true and living God of the Bible. Paul now reminds them of that fact.

Beloved, sometimes when we are caught in a sin, either a doctrinal sin like the Galatians or a practical sin like the man in First Corinthians chapter five, our sin can temporarily make us forget what we once were before we came to know Jesus. And to temporarily forget our Savior and the salvation He alone gives.

It is sometimes very needful for God to remind us what we once were before we came to know Christ by the mouth of His servants. Like the prophet Nathan to David. You are the man!

God sends us a faithful teacher to wake us out of our sinful delirium.

He reminds them they were slaves to false gods.

Paul is to the point. He says to them, before I preached Christ to you, you did not know God. And you were enslaved to false gods. Oh beloved, most Christian churches in our Land today would not put up with what Paul just said. Paul said, there is only one God, the God of the Bible. And every other god is not a god, but a lie.

He says that people that do not believe that Jesus is the Christ do not know God.  The gospel is designed to have us know God savingly and be known by God lovingly. The gospel is not health and wealth.

Of course the better part of the world today and I sure at Paul’s day would have hotly objected. Those that rejected Jesus as the Christ would have vehemently proclaimed that they did know God and that their gods were real gods. The Bible says no.

So what he does here is states a basic undeniable truth. And this is undeniable truth in their lives. 

When Paul says, can you turn back, he means that they have turned back. He is likening their embrace of a false gospel to going back to paganism. You see Beloved many people use the name “Christ” but they do not mean the Christ of the Bible. They mean the Christ of their own making. That is paganism.

He gives them proofs of their apostasy.

V.10-11. Then Paul gives proofs that they have turned away from the simplicity of Christ. They are observing special religious days. Remember they are under the sway of the Jewish false teachers. These men are perverting the OT and then adding the man-made religious laws of the Pharisees to their corrupt form of Christianity. (Mk.7:1-10) And the Galatians loved it. The flesh always does.

With the coming of Christ the OT church calendar with the religious feasts and the one day of fasting is over. God has instituted only one abiding day of the week to worship and that is the sabbath. Beyond that all special religious holy days are not holy. And they only detract from the true gospel as presented in the word of God. (Col.2.13-23, Gal.4:10, Rom.14:5)

So you see adding these holy days and holy rites to the Cross of Christ destroys the grace of God in the Gospel. They have the appearance of religious wisdom. But they are in fact religious corruption. And they ought to be forsaken.

Extra Biblical religious rites are contra biblical rites. They are not good or helpful. They are not acceptable worship of God. They are returning to spiritual bondage. What is worse, it is a willing and self-bondage. The people are doing it to themselves.

He reminds them of his abiding love for them.

V.11-12, 19-20. Paul then reminds them of his abiding love for them. Even now after they have defected from his original gospel teaching. Even after they believed the false teachers against him. They thought the false teachers were true and that he was false! Stunning. And he still says, you have done me no wrong!

What this faithful servant of Christ has done is he has covered over their sins against him with a cloak of love. In love he takes no record of their wrongs against him.  Oh beloved, the more we see the greatness of our sins against God and the greatness of His forgiveness of us in Christ, the infinitely inconsequential do the sins of others against us seem.

Teachers of religious truth would do well to imitate Paul. Forget the sins of the past. Start afresh. Move forward. Above all, love God’s people like our own children.

He says that he is afraid for them. He calls them “my little children”. Oh Beloved, this is the heart of a true under-shepherd of Christ. This is the true imitation of Christ. Christ loves His people. Christ loves even His erring people. And this faithful teacher of Christ also loves the people of Christ. Their sins and faults and errors cannot stop his love of them. And his service of love to them is his teaching.

V12. He wants them to become as he is, to enjoy freedom in Jesus. (Acts 26:28-29, I Cor.9:20-22) His greatest desire is that Christ be formed in them. That they love Jesus in spirit and in truth. And that they be increasingly conformed into Christ’s holy image.

You see the faithful servant of Christ does not want to build devotees to himself or his cause, but he has the heart of John the Baptist – I must decrease, but Christ must increase.

Oh beloved, how convicting. What a goal to strive for.

Oh beloved, may we love Christ and His word and His people as the goal of our life. May we devote ourselves to tell people and show people the truth and the love of Christ.

Amen

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JOSHUA 1:1-9. Sermon 1. Joshua the Leader of God’s People https://covenantpensacola.org/2021/01/16/joshua-11-9-sermon-1-joshua-the-leader-of-gods-people/ https://covenantpensacola.org/2021/01/16/joshua-11-9-sermon-1-joshua-the-leader-of-gods-people/#respond Sat, 16 Jan 2021 20:08:37 +0000 https://covenantpensacola.org/?p=2896

The greeting.

Grace, peace, and mercy to you beloved in the Name of Christ. I trust that this day has been a day of spiritual and physical rest for you. A rest in the Lord. In the OT sacrificial system, they had the morning offerings and the evening offerings. (Exod.29:39, 2 Chron.13:10) Some are quick to use this as Scriptural proof for requirement to have two services on the Lord’s Day, a morning, and an evening. Well, I am not so certain on dogmatically applying such texts. However, the morning and the evening services do facilitate us keeping the Lord’s Day holy. For me, the evening service is so practically helpful in my keeping my mind and heart on the Lord’s things. I found during the initial shut-down strictures that by the middle to the end of the day that my mind was already running into the work week. Well, let’s turn our eyes upon God’s word. 

The Scripture.

Please open your Bible to the book of Joshua. We will read Joshua 1:1-9. Hear the holy word of our holy God. Read. 

Joshua 1:1. Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, 2 “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. 3 “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. 4 “From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory. 5 “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 6 “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 8 “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. 9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Immanuel) 

The prayer.

Please join me in prayer as we seek the Holy Spirit’s assistance in worship tonight. 

The introduction.

This is our first sermon in our series on the book of Joshua. Joshua has 24 chapters. My sense is that each chapter contains 1 to 2 to 3 divisions within each chapter from which we can take one whole sermon. So, likely we will have somewhere around 48 sermons. If things go as I intend this will be our book for our evening sermons in 2021.

Tonight will be an introduction of this book.

The history of God’s people – the Church.

Joshua is the sixth book in the OT canon. The first five books of Moses are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These books teach us the beginnings of all things and the beginnings of God’s people. So, the beginnings of God’s OT church as Stephen calls Israel in the wilderness moments before he was stoned to death. (Acts 7:38)

And then we have this book – Joshua. What we have beginning with the book of Joshua running to the end of the book of Esther is the history of the Jewish nation. So, this is a historical book, written in historical narrative style not in poetical style like the psalms. The history of the OT church.

This is important for us as NT Christians because Israel was broken off for their unbelief and we Gentiles were grafted into the people of God. (Rom.11:17-20, Mt.21: 18-46) So in a sense we can say this is our early church history. Because in Christ we are the Israel of God as the apostle Paul calls us in the book of Galatians. (Gal.6:16)

I am not saying anything novel. Paul says in First Corinthians 10:1-10 that the history of Israel coming out of Egyptian slavery and then Her time in the wilderness is written for our instruction. Paul says “brothers our fathers” were under the cloud (the shekinah glory cloud of God) and all passed through the Red Sea and all were baptized into Moses. All of the Believers in the OT, and that we will see in the book of Joshua, are our “fathers in the faith”.  James calls Abraham “our father”. (Jas.2:21) Paul calls Abraham the father of all those that believe in Christ. (Rom.4:4, Gal.3:26-29)

The assurance of God’s Christ – the Christ.

And this brings me to another truth that Joshua teaches us. We have the record of God’s people in part to give us the assurance that God is bringing in His promised Deliverer. The Bible is a book of redemptive history. The Bible is one extended promise that God will bring in His appointed Savior to save sinners from their sins and to bring saved sinners to Himself. Well, God is making good on that promise from the Garden onward.

And what we learn here is that God preserves His chosen people in the midst of enemies in order to bring the Messiah through Israel. As Jesus Himself says, salvation is of the Jews. God preserves the Jews in order to bring in Christ. (Jn.4:22)

The earthly man Joshua here is a faint type of the true Joshua Jesus. (Heb.4:8) We will look at this in more detail as we go along.

The provision of God’s rest – the Land.

The next major truth that Joshua teaches us is that not only is God redeeming a people for Himself by His chosen Redeemer, but He is also bringing His people into the Promised Land to live with Him in peace and joy by that Redeemer.

And God has promised to give His chosen people their own special land in which we will live and enjoy God. The book of Joshua testifies that God is faithful. (Gen.12:1-7, Heb.4:1-11, Rev.21:1-3)

The book of Joshua is about Israel entering the Promised Land. The Land that the writer to the Hebrews tells us will be our land of rest. True rest with Jesus. (Heb.4:8-11) This is the land where the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest. There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor. (Job 3:17-19)

Let me give us the outline of this book with an eye to understanding the truth of the Promised Land.

The general outline of the book of Joshua runs something like this: in chapters 1-5 we have the people of God entering the Promised Land. Then in chapters 6 to 12 we have the children of God fighting the inhabitants of the Promised Land and to some degree expelling the heathen from the Promised Land. These chapters represent the conquest of the Promised Land. Then from 13 to 22 we see the division of land within the Promised Land, each tribe receiving their portion of the Promised Land. The final two chapters, chapters 23 and 24 are Joshua’s final words to Israel about keeping the Promised Land.

Joshua will teach us in shadows what the ultimate Promised Land will be like. It will be a land flowing with milk and honey. There will be no lack there, no poverty, no privation. The enemies of God will be cast out and the children of God gathered in. Sin will be banished forever. Therefore, the sad miseries of sin will be absent from the Promised Land. No more sickness, disease, death, Satan – all gone.

The Bible calls the Promised Land Beulah Land. Beulah in Hebrew means married. Oh Beloved, the book of Joshua testifies to every Believer that we will enjoy, soon and very soon, the marriage supper of the Lamb. The Bible says that the Promised Land will be Hephzibah, meaning My delight is in Her. (Isa.62:1-5) Oh what glories and joys await the redeemed with our Redeemer in the heavenly Promised Land, the glorified Bridegroom and the glorified Bride forever. (Heb.11:1-41, Rev.19:6-9)

Remember that the heavenly Celestial City in the heavenly Promised shows us that the OT people of God and the NT people of God form one people in Christ. (Eph.2:12-21)

Revelation 21:9. Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. 12 It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

The testimony of God’s witnesses – the Pilgrims.

This history of Joshua leading the people of God into the earthly Promised Land is part of that great cloud of witnesses that testify to us that by faith in Messiah one day we all will enter the true heavenly Promised Land in Glory. (Heb.11:1-40, Heb.12:1)

The time frame that we are looking at here with Joshua is somewhere around 1450-1390 BC. So just a little bit after Moses. And a three hundred years before David (of 1100 BC).

Here is where I think I need to make a pointed application. The people in this book were looking forward to the true Promised Land. Read Hebrews chapter eleven. These people are still pilgrims, even when they entered the physical earthly Promised Land.

Beloved listen to what the Word of God is teaching us.

At the time of Moses Israel was in slavery to Egypt for 430 years. (Exod.12:40) Then God freed them. Then God saved them. Then God led them in their wilderness pilgrimage for another forty years. And here is the reason why.

Deuteronomy 8:1. All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your forefathers. 2 “You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 “He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.

After the pilgrimage then they enter the Promised Land. Let me say that again. After the pilgrimage then they enter the Promised Land. The pilgrimage land was not their home. They were going home. Oh Beloved, many professing Christians are becoming sinfully engrossed in the politics of the pilgrimage land and they are treating this place as our Promised Land.

Oh Beloved, we need to live like an otherworldly people. Many Christians have forgotten heaven. (Col.3:1-3) Christ says, My kingdom is not of this world. (Jn.18:36) The true Promised Land is not of this world. It is of the next world, the new heavens and the new earth.

The leader of God’s people – Joshua.

In today’s text we are looking at the new leader of the people of God. As we look at Joshua tonight I want us to consider the Greater Joshua that he represents.

Hebrews 4:8. For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. 9 So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. 10 For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. (Acts 7:45)

Prior leader.

Moses has died. God has raised up Joshua to replace Moses.

Beloved we just learned from 2 Corinthians 4 and 5 God tells us that our bodies are like earthen pottery and earthly tents. We are here in this life only for a little bit of time to serve Christ and to serve others ministering Christ to them. (2 Cor.4:7, 5:1)

This is true for all people. But for our purposes this is also true for God’s appointed servant leaders over His church. Moses was a mighty man of God. A prophet like no other. He spoke face to face with God as it were. (Exod.33:11-15) But Moses was just a mere man, a servant of God. He is not God. He is not the Messiah Savior of the people. He was a saved sinner just like us. He got mad at the people and he struck the rock instead of speaking to the rock. (Num.20:6-18, Dt.3:23-28) (prior he as told to strike the rock – Exod.17:6)

And for that God would not let him enter the earthly Promised Land. For that God was going to take him home immediately. (Dt.34:1-12)

But God is so good to His people. He raises up another servant leader this time Joshua.

Before we move on to look at him, we do learn some important lessons by the death of Moses and the replacement of Joshua.

God’s people ought not make an idol of God’s servant their minister. The minister always points to Christ and not to himself. The minister and the people ought always to remember that their work on earth is very brief and we are soon to depart. And that we always need to keep our eyes on the true leader Christ. Paul reminds Timothy that he has run the race, he has fought the good fight, he knows that he is soon to depart and be with the Lord. The work goes on beyond the life of the servant. (2 Tim.4:7-8)

Christ’s church does not depend upon the minister. It depends upon the Christ. There is only one true Leader of the church that never dies. Or that died once and now lives forever, Christ. (Rev.1:18)

Also, for Moses. The pains of his leadership were over the moment he died. Dying time is the Christian’s resting time. And not before. Moses “retired” from ministry when he died. Joshua himself will die about 20 years after entering the Promised Land at the age of 110. (Josh.24:29) So he is about 90 when he takes servant leadership over Israel.

Current leader.

Now let’s look at the new leader. And God always does raise up a new leader. And knowing this, ministers ought never exaggerate their own (self) importance. When we are gone, God will raise up another man to take our place. Jehovah Jireh. God will provide.

Let’s look at what God teaches us about His leader of His people.

He is a man. Male leader.

V.1. First, he is a man. God calls men to lead His people. In the OT the prophets, priests, and kings were men that led the people. In the NT where the church is no longer a theocracy we are still led by men. The NT extraordinary officers were male apostles. (Lk.6:12-16) Then after them the ordinary officers the male elders, men that must be the husband of one wife, ministers of the word of God.  (I Tim.3:1-2)

This is not a form of sinful discrimination by God against women. This is an expression of the holy sovereignty of God. God has all right to dictate how His church will be governed. And He does. God places each distinct member of Christ into the Body of Christ with the gifts and the calling that God wants. (I Cor.12) And no one properly has grounds to question or critique Him. (Dan.4:35)

Though people sinfully do all the time. Female leadership in Christ’s church is against God, while pretending to serve God.

Also, the principle of male headship in the family and in the church is not a denigration of the dignity and worth of women before God in His church. Women are as equally loved in Christ as are male Believers. In Christ there is no male or female as regards to our belonging to Jesus. (Gal.3:26-29) But as regards to our temporal rolls in Christ’s church there are differences as determined by God.

I Timothy 2:11. A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. (I Cor.14:34-35)

Someone may be quick to say what about the Judge Deborah. Doesn’t she prove female leadership in the household of God. She was a female leader in the house of God. But it was to Israel’s shame. Even she herself said to Barak the army commander that would not fight unless she led, that God would mock him by giving glory to a woman for the victory. (Judges 4:1-9)

Isaiah says that inexperienced young men and women that rule God’s people is a form of God’s judgment against them. (Isa.3:12)

Again, think of leader Joshua-Jesus. Unto us a son is born. And the government of His church will be upon His shoulders. (Isa.9:1-7)

He is a Jew. Jewish leader.

Next we learn that Joshua is also a Jew. The Bible says that he is from the tribe of Ephraim. (Num.13:8)

We are told that Joseph had two sons by his Egyptian wife. The first was Manasseh. The second was Ephraim. (Gen.41:50-52) Joseph’s father Jacob-Israel, “adopted” both of these boys as his own. In this way they are leaders of their own tribes in Israel. (Gen.48:1-6)

And he is leading his fellow Jews into the Promised Land.  Salvation is of the Jews as Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well. (Jn.4:22)

Remember the NT tells us that as the ethnic Jews were broken off because of their unbelief and us ethnic Gentiles were grafted into the people of God. We Gentiles after the flesh are the wild olive branch grafted into Israel. (Rom.11:17-24)

Joshua-Jesus is a Jew according to the flesh. Messiah is the king of Israel. Come to seek and to save both Jews and Gentiles. But the Savior is a Jew.

He is a brother. Sympathetic leader.

Within this idea is also the idea of solidarity. God raises up a brother-leader out of His brothers to lead and serve his brothers taking them into the Promised Land.

You see in this way the salvation that the people need is the same salvation that Joshua needs. In fact, for Joshua he himself was born into Egyptian slavery. So, he was a slave just like the rest of Israel were slaves. Christ was born under the law. (Gal.4:4)

This gives a mutual love and concern of the leader for the people. He is one of them.

Of course, this is shades of Christ. Christ was made like His brothers in every way but without sin. Listen to what God told Moses as regards to this principle of brotherly solidarity with the leader and the people being applied ultimately to Jesus.

Deuteronomy 18:15. The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. 16 “This is according to all that you asked of the LORD your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’ 17 “The LORD said to me, ‘They have spoken well. 18 ‘I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 ‘It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.

Hebrews 2:16. For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. 17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.

He is a savior. Saving leader.

His name is Joshua. Joshua in Hebrew means Yahweh Saves. The Greek equivalent is Jesus. (Acts 7:45) Jesus means Yahweh Saves. Or Yahweh is Salvation. (Mt.1:21-23)

As I said earlier, Joshua is a type of Christ. In this instance, a type of Christ as leader and conqueror and savior. The idea is that our salvation comes from the Lord, the LORD saves us. The LORD come in the Flesh Immanuel leads us into the Promised Land. The Lord Joshua-Jesus conquers all of His and our enemies. That is the idea here.

Joshua “saved” these people delivering them from their enemies the Canaanites. Christ is the ultimate One that does this.

Now as we consider Joshua’s lineage. He was the son of Nun. No, I am not going to say that this is an allusion to Christ’s virgin birth! Nun is N–U–N. (Num.11:28, Num.13:16, I Chron.7:26-27) Not. None. 😊

Let’s look at some of the things that made Joshua an effective leader-savior of God’s people entering the Promised Land to defeat the enemies of God.

He is a Servant leader.

Joshua served as Moses’ servant from the time he was a young boy. (Num.11:28) We have a man that learned before he taught, that served before he ruled.

Christ, the second person of the Godhead, emptied Himself by taking to Himself human flesh. Christ the King humbled Himself to come as a servant, and the lowest of servants at that. (Phil.2:1-11) Christ came to serve and not be served. (Mt.20:20-28)

Think of this. Before Joshua ruled, he learned to obey the commands of another.

Listen to this of Christ.

Hebrews 5:7. In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. 8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,

All God’s ministers are God’s servants. Yes, we rule or guide in Christ church but we do so with a servants heart. Like our Christ, He calls us to gird our loins and to wash feet.

He is a Military leader.

Then Moses used him as one of the 12 spies to spy out the Promised Land. Only Joshua and Caleb came back with a pleasing report and counseled Moses to obey God and enter the Promised Land and fight against the heathen. All the other spies were cowards. As an aside, at the time Moses sent out the spies he changed Joshua’s name from Hoshea to Joshua. I think Hoshea means “desires salvation” to Joshua the LORD is Salvation. (Num.13:16)

Moses used Joshua to lead battles and fight the enemies of God. And God gave Joshua great victories. (Exod.17:9-14, Num.13:16-14:6)

In our passage we see that God is calling Joshua to be a military leader, a military savior. A leader with power and courage to lead and to fight.

Christ has all power and authority in His hands. Christ is the Lamb of God. But He is also the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

Listen this description of Joshua-Jesus.

Revelation 19:11. And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

He is a Holy or Moral leader.

One of the other things about Joshua is that he was a devout Believer. He was jealous for the honor of Moses as God’s true servant. He loved the Lord and served Him in spirit and in truth. (Num.27:12-23)

Numbers 27:15. Then Moses spoke to the LORD, saying, 16 “May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, 17 who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the LORD will not be like sheep which have no shepherd.” 18 So the LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him; 19 and have him stand before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and commission him in their sight. 20 “You shall put some of your authority on him, in order that all the congregation of the sons of Israel may obey him. 21 “Moreover, he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the LORD. At his command they shall go out and at his command they shall come in, both he and the sons of Israel with him, even all the congregation.”

God says of Joshua that he followed the Lord fully. (Num.32:12)

Christ always did and does the things that pleased His Father. (Jn.8:29)

The commissioning.

He is an authorized leader.

Then as we consider the specific commands and promises associated with these commands, we are looking at the formal commissioning of Joshua for his divine work. God himself is calling him out and setting him apart for this work. 

He has a particular mission.

V.1-9. The idea with this passage is that Joshua is a man on a mission. God has given him a divine work to do. And he is busy about that work. Of course, this is also seen in its zenith in Christ Jesus.

God raised up His Son and sent Him to seek and to save a people and to lead them into the heavenly Promised Land. (Jn.5:17, Jn.17:1-17, Jn.6:39)

And I will say this about being a man on a mission. God commissioned Joshua to a very specific office and gave him very specific work to do. The notion is, do only the work that God sent him to do. Do not turn to the left or the right. Christ was this way. One day a man said, Jesus please arbitrate between me and my family over some money problems. And Jesus said, Man who made Me a judge over such things? (Lk.12:13-14)

Christ set His face like flint to do the work God the Father had for Him. And shunned getting absorbed in things that would detract from the work. (Lk.12:50-52, Jn.6:28)

I think it was the prophet Nehemiah that also exhibited this singular focus given his divine commission for divine work.

Nehemiah 13:1. Now when it was reported to Sanballat, Tobiah, to Geshem the Arab and to the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall, and that no breach remained in it, although at that time I had not set up the doors in the gates, 2 then Sanballat and Geshem sent a message to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they were planning to harm me. 3 So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” 4 They sent messages to me four times in this manner, and I answered them in the same way.

If I could say by way of application to NT ministers. They also have received a commission for a particular office and work. And likewise, ought to be singular in their devotion and labors. And not dissipate their actions or affections in worldly things. (I Tim.6:1-21, 2 Tim.2:1-7, 2 Tim.4:1-8)

V.2-4. In this commissioning God tells Joshua to enter a very specific land. This is the land that God promised to give to Abraham and his descendants in Genesis. (Gen.12:7, 13:14-15, 15:18-21) So God makes this promise circa 2,000 BC. Now circa 1400 BC, 600 years later God brings His promise to fruition. (Gen.35:10-12)

God always does what He says He will do. He said He will seek and save the Lost. He does. He says He will gather His sheep into on sheepgate in the Promised Land. He does.

But what we learn with this commissioning is that most often God uses means. He raised up a leader. Moses. Then Joshua. He raises up men to fight the gentile pagans to drive them from the land. In this way God “gives” the Land to the people. This is still grace-gift even using means. Because He makes the means effectual.

The encouragement of God’s promise – the Success.

Think of how God advances the Gospel of Joshua-Jesus conquering enemies. He uses the preaching of His Gospel Word. God Himself is the efficacy. Look at the promise of success that He gives Joshua. And why Joshua will succeed.

Joshua 1:5. No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 

The exhortations – believe God’s promise.

God tells His man to “Be Strong and Very Courageous”. Read 1: 6, 7, and 9.

Joshua 1:6. Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go… 9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

God has just repeated something that Moses was inspired to say to all of Israel earlier. (Dt.31:1-9)

We have the command. But notice where the ability to keep the divine imperative comes from. It comes from the Divine indicative. The Divine indicative is something that God does for us. And we know that all that He does for us He does for us in Christ. In this case, Joshua is told to be strong and courageous knowing that God is always with Him. The idea is, be courageous knowing that Immanuel is your strength.

I do not want to gloss over these exhortations for the leader of God’s people.

Be strong. You will need strength to lead the people of God. You will need strength to fight the enemies of God. Be courageous. Your enemies are many and mighty and merciless.

The exhortation – obey God’s word.

Then God tells His leader – be obedient to My Word.

Joshua 1:7. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 8 “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.

Oh Beloved how thankful we are for Joshua-Jesus. He is strong and very courageous. He has obeyed His Father in all things. He faced the wrath of God upon the Cross of Calvary. By which He has defeated the world, the flesh and the devil. Even now He is preparing the Promised Land for His promised people. May we trust in Him even more. May we be more certain we will arrive at Beulah Land. Glory to God. Immanuel.

Amen

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JAMES – Living to Honor Christ. Study 12. James 2:14-26. Saving Faith Produces Good Works https://covenantpensacola.org/2021/01/13/james-living-to-honor-christ-study-12-james-214-26-saving-faith-produces-good-works/ https://covenantpensacola.org/2021/01/13/james-living-to-honor-christ-study-12-james-214-26-saving-faith-produces-good-works/#respond Wed, 13 Jan 2021 21:38:04 +0000 https://covenantpensacola.org/?p=2864

The greeting.

Given the tenor of the times in which we now live, let me use an appropriate greeting from the apostle Peter. She who is in Babylon chosen together with you, greets you. (I Pt.5:13) Beloved, I believe that we live in fallen Babylon. (Rev.18:2) The world in which we live today is like Sodom and Gomorrah. (Jude 1:7, Rev. 11:8, Mt.10:14-15) The love of many for God has grown cold and lawlessness has increased. (Mt.24:10-14) I think this is true even in the visible church. We are in the Last Times. The apostle John says we are in the last hour. (I Jn.2:18)

I do not say any of this to depress us. No not at all. Rather, this ought to motivate us to believe more fully in Christ, to love God and to love Man more honestly, and to hate sin and fight against Satan more intensely, and to run upward to heaven with eager expectation to reach our goal soon and very soon. Sad times. Scary times. But exciting times to live for Jesus. The light shines the brightest in the darkest times. What glory we will give to God by living holily for Christ in Babylon.

The word of God.

Now today’s passage for our study is so appropriate for our times. James is speaking about true faith that produces good works or holy fruit. He writes against a mere empty profession of faith, that is to say a dead faith. Oh beloved, that is the great problem with many professing Christians. Their faith is dead. They have a name that the live. But they are spiritually dead. (Rev.3:1)

Please open up your Bibles to James 2:14-26. Hear the holy and perfect word of God.

Fruitless faith is dead faith.   James 2:14. What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

Fruitless faith is useless faith.   James 2:18. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?

Two examples of living useful faith.   James 2:21. Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

The prayer.

Let’s pray and ask God’s help with this passage that has so divided the church of Christ. Pray.

The doctrine.

If I could put some of the difficulties of this passage aside for just a moment. This is actually a very simple passage. There really is just one basic truth or doctrine, that is fruitless faith in Jesus is not saving faith in Jesus. To put it in the positive, true saving faith in Jesus will produce holy fruits and good works in our life.

The outline.

There are three parts to this section. 1. In V.14-17 James says that fruitless faith is a dead faith. 2. In v.18-20 he says the same thing, he says that fruitless faith is a useless faith. There is no spiritual saving benefit of the possessor of such fruitless faith. 3. Lastly, in V.21-26 James illustrates what he has been saying from the lives of two OT saints, Abraham and Rahab.

The contradiction.

I want to first deal with an apparent contradiction in Scripture that we find here.

There are no true contradictions in Scripture because God is the holy perfect Author of His word. And as such He cannot truly contradict Himself. I admit there are apparent contradictions in the Bible. But since the problem cannot be on God’s side, it must be on our side. When we approach something that appears to be contradictory in Scripture it either means we do not have enough understanding of Scripture or else that this truth is beyond the full comprehension of saints upon the earth and we must wait until glory to receive full understanding. I think of such doctrines as the Holy Trinity. We believe this. We understand in part. When the Perfect comes in the Eternal Estate we shall know more fully.

The apostle Paul. Let’s look at Paul on justification first.

Paul is quite clear especially in Romans and in Galatians that a man is justified before God by faith alone in Christ alone apart from any works of the Law. Let’s just read a selection of proof texts.

Romans 3:20. because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;

Romans 3:28. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.(Rom.5:1-9, I Pt.2:24, 2 Cor.5:21, Jn.3:16, Rom.1:16-17, Rom.3:24-26, Rom.4:1-9, Rom.9:30, 10:4-10, 11:6, Eph.1:13, Eph.2:8, Phil.3:9, I Tim.1:16) 

Romans 4:5. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,  6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works.

Galatians 2:16. nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. (Gal.2:21, Gal.3:8-24)

This is how our larger catechism summarizes this truth.

WLC 70  Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners,(1) in which he pardons all their sins, accepts and accounts their persons righteous in his sight;(2) not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them,(3) but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them,(4) and received by faith alone.(5)

(1) Rom. 3:22,24,25; Rom. 4:5 (2) 2 Cor. 5:19,21; Rom. 3:22,24,25,27,28  (3) Tit. 3:5,7; Eph. 1:7 (4) Rom. 5:17-19; Rom. 4:6-8  (5) Acts 10:43; Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9

The apostle James. Now here with James, he says with equal clarity that a man is not justified by faith alone.

James 2:21. Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?

The reconciliation.

Now what are we to do here? As we said we cannot admit real contradictions without destroying the Scriptures. So, how then do we understand these apparent contradictions?

Well obviously, we must seek to reconcile Paul and James. We believe that the clear Scriptures help us to understand the less clear related Scriptures. (WCF 1.7, 9)

There are only two ways to reconcile this passage.

Deeds merit.

You take James as teaching that your person is justified before God by your good works and so then you understand Paul in that light. You have to interpret the no justification by law passages as some kind of fleshly or non-graced ability to keep the law. Or something like this. This is the Roman Catholic position. For your instruction on this read the Council of Trent session six on justification and merit.

The Roman Catholic church teaches that there is initial justification by baptism, this is a current justification and that there is a future justification based on faith in Jesus and your good works. They include sanctification as part of your justification. This is the way they say Paul and James are speaking about the same kind of justification.

This destroys real grace. Then God’s gift of salvation is not real gift, it is part wage. This deprecates the atonement of Jesus Christ. It says Christ is not all sufficient. We make up part of our salvation. No Beloved, making James 2:18-26 our gospel when it is no gospel is foolish. Denying the clear gospel of Scripture because we are perplexed by James is bad theology.

Deeds indicate.

There is a more excellent understanding. Paul and James are answering two different errors about faith.

Paul is writing against the legalist, the man that believes by his law keeping he is meriting his own righteousness before God. This is the Galatian error. The false gospel was believe in Jesus for part of your righteousness and then keep the ceremonial and moral law to also add to your righteousness.

So, the legalist says, I keep the Law. I trust in my good works to give me favor with God. Paul says no. Only faith in Jesus that receives Christ, and all His merits justifies us before God. And not by any works of the Law. (Gal.3:11)

So, for the legalist God sends them to Paul. Here, look at Christ. Your good works are filthy rags. Repent and believe. And look to Christ.

James is dealing with antinomians or libertines. These are people that say, well I am justified by faith alone and then it does not matter at all how I live. I have faith in Jesus and now I am free to live in sin if I like.

For the libertine God sends them to James. Here, look at your sin. Look at the absence of your fruit. Repent and believe. Look to Christ. And follow Him.

If you wrongly understand the gospel preaching of Paul, you accuse him of being a libertine. (Rom.3:8, 6:1) If you wrongly understand the law preaching of James you accuse him of being a legalist. Oh beloved, Luther was right. How valuable and necessary it is to distinguish between law and gospel.

The legalist trusts in their works. They don’t know the law or the gospel. The libertine trusts in their profession. They don’t know the law of the gospel. The true Christian trusts in Christ. The one who has satisfied the demands of the law on our behalf and now we devote ourselves as a thank offering to Him.

The instrument of faith alone receives Christ.

Faith is believing in Jesus Christ to save you of your sins. True saving faith is a gift of God and a work of the Holy Spirit. (Eph.2:1-9, I Cor.12:3, WCF 14.1-2, WCF 11.2, WLC 72, WSC 86) 

The profession of faith in Christ is not always indicative of possessing faith.

However, merely saying “I believe in Jesus” or “Jesus is my Lord and Savior” is not the same thing as true or saving faith. (Rev.2:9) Judas went out and preached Christ. He did miracles in the name of Christ. Yet, he had no real saving faith. He was and is the son of perdition. Remember Simon the sorcerer called Jesus Lord and Savior and was baptized, but he was still in the gall of bitterness. He professed faith in Jesus that in reality he did not possess faith. (Acts 8:21-23)

Saying you have faith in Jesus and having faith in Jesus can be two different things.  The faith is proven or manifested by our good works.

Fruitless faith indicates the absence of true faith.

The primary lesson taught by James is that faith without works is not real faith.

James 2:14. What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?

So, when we come to the ‘justification’ question.  James is not saying the works justify the person, but they justify or vindicate the faith.  Our persons are justified by faith.  Our faith is justified by works.

Jesus said the foolish man hears the gospel, and by application he says he believes, but he never builds his life on Christ, there is no living for Jesus, no fruit of the Holy Spirit.  Whereas the wise man hears the Gospel, says he believes, and builds his house on Jesus.  The building shows the (true) believing. (Mt.7:16-29)

The illustration that fruitless faith indicates the absence of true faith.

To make his point James uses a practical situation to show that faith that does not produces good works is useless like spoken love without deeds of love.

The illustration from men.

James 2:15. If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

I believe James, when he mentions clothing and daily bread is using a Hebraism to mean the necessities of life, so including other things for daily needs. (Gen.28:20, Mt.6:11, 6:31, I Tim.6:8) As an aside, daily needs do not include a free cell phone or television.

And the (hypocritical) professing Believer says, I love you brother! Be warm and well fed!  Great sounding words.  But they are empty words from a Christ-less heart.  This mocks the poor.  And in a way mocks God. (Gal.6:7, Prov.14:21, Prov.17:5)

The apostle John teaches the very same truth of James when he says, Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. (I Jn.3:18)

Malachi says to vain-faith-Israel go ahead try that kind of ‘faith’ out on your earthly ruler and see if he accepts you! (Mal.1:8)

Plus, this kind of deedless “faith” is contrary to the nature of God. When God loves us and says He loves us, He then shows His love by deeds. Think of John 3:16.

Listen to the Psalmist.

Psalm 72:12. For he will deliver the needy when he cries for help, The afflicted also, and him who has no helper.  13 He will have compassion on the poor and needy, And the lives of the needy he will save. 

Saving faith is alive, it moves, it breathes, it does because it flows out of union and communion with the LIVING Lord. (Heb.9:14, I Pt.1:3, Jn.15:5-6) Living faith produces inward and outward holiness. Dead faith does not. (Gal.5:16-21) Dead faith has no life-giving Spirit, it is earthy, carnal, and fruitless.

John the Baptist says this.

Matthew 3:8. Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10 “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Jesus our Christ says this.

Matthew 7:17. So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits.

The illustration from demons.

To further prove his point on this, James says that fruitless faith person may say correct things about God in Christ but rise no higher than the faith of demons!

James 2:19. You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.

James corrects the person that says well, how can you say my faith is not saving faith I have made an orthodox profession of faith! (Dt.6:4, Rom.10:9-10)

Having an orthodox confession of faith without good works puts a person in the company with the devil and demons.  Demons know that God is One.  Demons know that God is Triune – Three in One.  Demons ‘believe’ that Jesus is the Christ, The Lord.

And they are not saved. They know Jesus. But they hate Jesus. They are terrified of Jesus.   (Mk.1:24, 5:7, Lk.4:34, Acts 19:15, Mk.5:6-9, Jn.8:31-33)

Many of the same people that quote-unquote “believed in Jesus” (Jn.2:23-24) and cried out during His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Hosanna in the highest (Lk.19:38) were the very same people that cried out crucify, crucify!  (Mt.27:22)

Correct religious knowledge without saving faith in Jesus Christ is useless, worse than useless.  It will aggravate our sins and increase wrath on the Day of Judgment. It will go better for Sodom and Gomorrah than for the person that professes Christ but does not actually love Christ as proved by cups of cold water for His namesake. (WLC 151)

The inseparability of saving faith and good works.

Let me say a few words on the truth that true saving faith in Jesus will and must produce good works and that it is utterly impossible to separate true faith from good works.  As impossible as separating an orange tree from the fruits of the orange tree. Good trees produce good fruits. Bad trees cannot produce good fruits. (Mt.7:17-20)

Let’s look at James 2:18-20.

James 2:18. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?

In context, James is speaking about a professing Christian that says I have faith in Jesus but no good works and a professing Christian that says I have faith in Jesus and it produces good works.

From this, let’s address the person says I have good works, but I do not believe in Jesus as my Lord and Savior. The non-Christian says, I have no faith in Jesus as my Lord and Savior, but I do good works before God that are pleasing to God, that commends me to God.

Is this true that people that do not believe in Jesus as their savior can nevertheless do pleasing works to God? Simply put, no. The Bible says otherwise.

Romans 3:9. What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;  10 as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one;  11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God;  12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” (Rom.8:7, Eph.2:13, I Cor.2:14, WCF 16.7)

Only those with saving faith are truly joined to Christ. Only those truly joined to Christ are seen as acceptable by God, both our persons and our works are acceptable in Christ. (Eph.2:8-10)

Listen to what Christ says.

John 15:16   You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you. (read WCF 16.1-7)

The examples of saving faith and good works.

Now James concludes his argument by two practical examples from Scripture. James uses Scripture to prove Scripture. A good point to be remembered.

The example – Abraham.

V.21-24. Abraham is such an important example to use because of the status he held.  The Jews prided themselves of being children of Abraham and disciples of Moses.  (Jn.8:33-41, 4:12, Gal.3:6-7) You can see why you would want to claim solidarity with these two fellows?  Abraham was called, the friend of God. (Is.41:8, Jas.2:23, 2 Chron.20:7) The father of those that believe.

Person justified.

James uses Abraham (and Rahab) to prove Believers in the OT and Believers in the NT are justified the same way through (living-graced) faith in Christ.

Paul distinctly says Abraham was not justified (before God) by his works.

Romans 4:1. For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.  3 For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.”  4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.  5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,

God declared Abraham righteous when he believed in the promised Gospel of God.

Genesis 15:6   Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Galatians 3:6. Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.  7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.  8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations shall be blessed in you.”  9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. (Gal.3:26-29)

Romans 4:8. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”  9 Is this blessing then upon the circumcised, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.”  10 How then was it reckoned? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised

Faith justified.

Abraham was considered righteous before God because he believed the Gospel, and his faith was proved to be genuine by his obedience, here by offering Isaac that we find in Genesis 22:1-12. (Gal.3:6-9)

James 2:21. Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?  22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;  23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

To make this V.21 say, Abraham was justified (before God) as righteous because he offered up Isaac – Genesis 22 contradicts V.23 that says Abraham believed and God justified him – Genesis 15.

The reconciliation must be that the offering up of Isaac testified that Abraham’s faith was genuine. (Heb.11:19)

The explanation has to be faith in Jesus Christ on our behalf justifies us before the throne of God’s justice.  The wages or the penalty of sin is not to do good works. The atonement for sins is death. We are required to do good works. Doing our duty can never atone for not doing our duty. Think of this. Even our best works are filled with so much imperfection, they could never stand God’s strict judgment. Even our good works need forgiveness.

The good works justify us before our own consciences, before man, before the world as having saving faith.  In other words, works help us judge the quality of faith true or false, strong or weak.

This is the explanation for when other NT passages speak of us being judged by our works. (Rev.20:12, 2 Cor.5:10) (see Manton, On James, p.245) 

The examples ~ Rahab.

V.25, 26.  Now James goes to the other end of the social spectrum to drive home his point.  Rahab, a female, a Gentile, and a former harlot. (Josh.2:1, 6:17-25, Heb.11:8-19, 31) God saves sinners, no matter how wicked by faith, a faith He gives them. (Heb.11:31)

Interestingly, both Abraham and Rahab are in Christ’s lineage. (Mt.1:1-5)             

James 2:25. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works (proved to be sincere) when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?  V.26.  For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.(Josh.2:9-11)

James does not focus on Rahab’s former sinful life.  James does not mention her faith, he presupposes she already believes.  His point is to show her faith by her deeds.

James 2:18  and I will show you my faith by my works.

The application.

Let’s conclude with some words of application. 

Warning.  See V.20, you foolish fellow!

I think here we need a word of explanation.  There are times when calling another man, a fool is forbidden. (Mt.5:22)

The idea with the prohibition is that the person hates his brother in Christ, a fellow believer of the true Gospel.  Now, the Bible shows us that there are other times, when God calls people fools, Christ calls people fools, and the apostles call people fools.  Not from a heart of hate, but from a heart that loves the truth, and truly loves the lost, enough to tell them forcefully their error is damning. Legalism is a false gospel. Antinomianism is a false gospel. It is loving to say so. 

By this we learn what the wisest man on earth next to Christ once said there is a time and a season for everything under heaven. (Eccl.3:1-8) A time to be soft spoken and gentle, and a time to be blunt and forceful.

Thomas Manton on this text says hypocrites (pretend Christians) usually have a sleepy conscience, so that we must not whisper to them, but cry aloud.

This passage warns and reveals hypocritical and formal Christians, those bereft of the Spirit of Christ. (Mt.7:24)

Examination.  This is an admonition for all that say they believe in Jesus Christ to test themselves to see if they really are in Christ or not. (2 Cor.13:5)

Part of the examination has to be what is my response to the real Jesus presented in Scripture?  Do I hate the truth of Christ?  Or do I love the truth of Christ? (Jn.3:16)

The other part of the examination has to be what is the fruit of my life? (Rev.20:12, Mt.7:23, 25:41-42)

Assurance.  This passage also motivates true Believers to look for the fruits of the Holy Spirit in their lives and by this to be assured that we are in an estate of grace and salvation.  (WCF 18.1-2) This is part of our duty to make our calling and our election certain (to us). (2 Pt.1:10)

1 John 3:18. Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.  19 We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him. (I Jn.5:13, Ps.1:1-2, Ps.32:1-9)

Manton says there is a difference between peace with God (had by faith in Christ) and peace of conscience (often a product of view the fruits of the Spirit in our lives, even our good works. 

Motivation.  And this passage motivates us to strive for greater Christlikeness, to strive for more fruits of the Holy Spirit, to labor to do good works. (Phil.3:12-14)

Matthew 5:16   “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Amen

Study Questions.

  1. What are one, two, or three of the main truths taught in this passage? (Jas.2:14-26, Jn.15:1-10, Mt.21:12-22, Mk.11:12-19, Mk.4:19, I Cor.15:10)
  1. How does Paul say a person is justified or declared to be right with God or in right standing with the Law of God? (Rom.3:20-28, Rom.5:1-9, I Pt.2:24, 2 Cor.5:21, Jn.3:16, Rom.1:16-17, Rom.3:24-26, Rom.4:1-9, Rom.9:30, 10:4-10, 11:6, Eph.1:13, Eph.2:8, Phil.3:9, I Tim.1:16, Gal.2:16-21, Gal.3:8-24)
  1. How do we reconcile all of these Pauline passage with this one passage from James 2:21-26? Why cannot Paul and James be speaking about justification in the exact same sense? Are there any real contradictions in the Bible? What is a legalist? What is a libertine or antinomian? How does Paul speak to the legalist? How does James speak to the libertine? (Lk.15:25-32, Lk.18:9-14, Gen.3:4-6, Lk.6:46)
  1. What are the divine penalties for sin? Do good works pay for sin? What is God’s grace? If we add good works to God’s grace what happens to grace. If God pays you for something that you earned what do you call that? (Rom.6:23, Jn.3:16, Rom.4:4, Rom.11:1-6)
  1. What is true saving faith? Where does it come from? What are the principal acts of saving faith? (Jn.1:10-13, Eph.2:1-9, WCF 14.1-2, WCF 11.2, WLC 72, WSC 86)
  1. Show from Scripture people that said they had faith but did not? Is it possible to say we have faith but not possess faith? What do we learn by this? (Rev.2:9, Acts 8:21-23, Mt.13:18-23, 2 Tim.4:10, I Jn.2:19-23, Rev.3:1)
  1. What are good works in relationship to faith? What do good works do as regards to faith? If one does not produce good works what does that say about the nature of a person’s faith? (James 2:14-26, Mt.7:16-29, I Jn.3:18, Mal.1:8)
  1. How is a faith that does not produce good deeds unlike God? What lessons do we learn by this? (Jn.3:16, Ps.72:12, Heb.9:14, I Pt.1:3, Jn.15:5-6, Mt.3:8-10, Mt.7:17-20)
  1. How is making a sound profession of faith yet without good works like having the faith of demons? Do the demons know right things about God? Do they love God? Do they serve God out of love because of what they believe? What lessons do we learn for us by this? (Jas.2:14-20, Mk.1:24, 5:7, Lk.4:34, Acts 19:15, Mk.5:6-9, Jn.8:31-33, Jn.2:23-24, Lk.19:38, Mt.27:22)
  1. Can unbeliever, those without saving faith, do good works that please God? (Rom.3:1-19, Rom.8:7, read WCF 16.7)
  1. How does Paul say Abraham was justified before God? What example does James use in the life of Abraham that proved the reality of his saving faith? (Rom. 4:1-5, Gen.15:6, Gal.3:6-29, Rom.4:8-10, James 2:21-26, Gen.22:1-12, Heb.11:19)
  1. Who is Rahab? Where does the Bible say she had saving faith? What example does James use in her life to show that her saving faith produced good works? (Josh.2:1-11, 6:17-25, Heb.11:8-19, 31, Mt.1:1-5, James 2:25-26)
  1. How does this passage warn professing Christians that do not produce good fruits? What should we do about this? Is it loving to warn sinning Christians? Is it popular? Should we examine our lives for good works? (James 1:18-20, Eccl.3:1-8, Mt.7:24, 2 Cor.13:5, Rev.20:12, Mt.7:23, 25:41-42)
  1. How can James 2:14-26 comfort us and motivate us? (WCF 18.1-2, 2 Pt.1:10, I Jn.3:18-19, I Jn.5:13, Ps.1:1-2, Ps.32:1-9, Phil.3:12-14, Mt.5:16)
  2. Interact with the quote by C.S. Lewis on faith and works. “Regarding the debate about faith and works, it is like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most important.” Why is this essentially the Roman Catholic view of justification/salvation? Interact with this. Which is most important in justification-salvation? The root? Or the fruit?

 

 

 

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JAMES – Living to Honor Christ. Study 11. James 2:8-13. Love Others https://covenantpensacola.org/2021/01/10/james-living-to-honor-christ-study-11-james-28-13-love-others/ https://covenantpensacola.org/2021/01/10/james-living-to-honor-christ-study-11-james-28-13-love-others/#respond Sun, 10 Jan 2021 17:59:59 +0000 https://covenantpensacola.org/?p=2852

The greeting.

Greetings in the name above all names, the name of Jesus Christ. (Acts 4:12) And at His name every knee will bow and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord. (Phil.2:9-11) By God’s grace we do that now willingly and happily. (Eph.3:14) Thank you all again for joining with us for our studies in God’s word. We are in our series on the book of James. Today is our eleventh study. 

The Word.

Before we open up our Bibles to our study section. I want to read something to you from our secondary standards. Remember, I am a Presbyterian minister, we believe that the Westminster Confession and Catechisms best summarize the doctrines taught in the Bible. This Assembly met regularly from July 1, 1643 until February 22, 1649. Then they met occasionally till 1652.  Listen to this with an ear to benefit from today’s Bible study. 

WSC 90  How is the word to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to salvation?  A. That the word may become effectual to salvation, we must attend thereunto with diligence,(1) preparation,(2) and prayer;(3) receive it with faith and love,(4) lay it up in our hearts,(5) and practice it in our lives.(6)

(1)Prov. 8:34 (2)1 Pet. 2:1,2 (3)Ps. 119:18 (4)Heb. 4:2; 2 Thess. 2:10 (5)Ps. 119:11 (6)Luke 8:15; James 1:25

Now given that call to read and hear the Scriptures with faith and love and purpose, please open your Bible to James chapter two. I will read for us James 2:8-13. Hear God’s holy Word. Read. 

James 2:8. If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. 11 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. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. 

The prayer.

Let’s go to God in prayer and seek His help for our study of His word.

The duty to love.

This passage is about our duty to love. Jesus Christ says the whole moral law of God is summarized under two great laws. The first and the greatest is to love God with all our being, to love Him perfectly. The second law, which is like the first, is to love our neighbor as we love our self. (Mt.22:37-40)

The specific command in our passage is the second greatest commandment, to love our fellow man. This includes to love our fellow Christian, and to love our enemy as we love our self, to love others from the heart and with loving words and deeds. Well, that is what James talks about today, he calls this the royal law of love and the law of liberty.

Before I move on to that. Let me just give us my basic definition of love. It is warm or benevolent feelings or affections that will give birth to loving words and deeds. In other words, love is an affection, an emotion of the heart that induces our will to speak and act lovingly. (I Cor.13:1-13)

I leave all the usual discussions about the different Greek words for love and all the supposed different meanings to more gifted people.

These words by Jesus are our guide in love.

John 13:34. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Remember, God is a God of love. It was for love that God sent the Son to save us. (Jn.3:16) Christ is a Savior of love. The Spirit is a Spirit of love. The Bible is a book of love. And we are God’s children in Christ, we are to be a people of love that bear the fruit of love. (I Jn.4:1-24, Rom.5:5, Gal.4:6, Gal.5:22) In love we have been saved. And we have been saved to love. 

Listen to the apostle whom Christ loved.

I John 4:9. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Now let’s unpack our passage. 

Sinful discrimination breaks the law of love.

When James says “if however” by this he will now draw some conclusions about what he has previously been saying to his readership about showing sinful favoritism.  They showed favoritism to the rich in the church and they showed contempt for the poor in the church. (James 2:1-7)

We see another example of this in the NT Church when the native Jewish Christians were serving the native Jewish Christian widows and they were neglecting the Greek-Hellenized Jewish Christian widows in the daily food ration. (Acts 6:1) They were respecting certain kinds of Christians while showing contempt for other kinds of Christians based on ethnicity.

Remember even true Believers still have the corrupt flesh, and even we are prone to deceive ourselves. (I Pt.2:11, Jas.4:1-10, Rom.7:1-25) No doubt the professing Christians that were engaging in this sinful discrimination did so under some pretense of righteousness.  In other words, likely they were not saying, oh, I know that I am openly sinning by doing this, and I am going to do it anyway.  No.  Most often we tend to rationalize our sinful desires and behavior.  And we do so in such a way as to make our sin seem like righteousness. (Jer.17:7) Remember Judas? He scolded the woman for pouring the expensive perfume on the feet of Christ under a pretense for being concerned for the poor. But in reality, he was mad because he was a thief and there was now less money to steal from the money bag. (Jn.12:1-8, see also Mt.26:6-13, Mk.14:3-9)

The church people of James 2:1-7 could have reasoned, well the Bible says to give honor to honor is due.  And since the rich men are the leaders in society then we are giving them proper honor. (Rom.13:7) Or with the example with preferring the Jewish widows over the Gentile widows they could have reasoned in some way the Jewish women were more needy.

Thomas Manton says, sin loves to walk under a disguise, our self-love loves to use a mask to cover our sins.  How sad. We remember the devil’s method is also to disguise himself as an angel of light. (2 Cor.11:4)

This is why we need to examine our hearts.  And we need to be especially careful about our affections and actions. This is especially so if there might be any advantage to ourselves in the situation. In other words, if we sinfully defer to the rich Believers might they in some way benefit us materially or financially? If yes, then be on special guard against the self-deceit of our heart seeking advantage for self.

Love fulfills the Law of God.

James now speaks about fulfilling the Law of God.

James 2:8. If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, 

Now some conclude by this that James teaches that it is possible to keep the Law of God perfectly the way that God requires us to. (WCF 19.2) People that believe we can either do what the law requires, or do even more than the law requires (Romanism: works of supererogation) would also appeal to passages like these. 

Luke 1:6  They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. 

1 Thessalonians 2:10  You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers.

But the idea is not that a Believer may keep the whole law perfectly but that a Believer has an honest or sincere respect for the whole law.  And more specifically that love is the thing that fulfills the whole law.  Because if you love God and man then you will not sin against them and you will treat them accordingly.

A side note. No mere man in this life can keep the moral law of God perfectly. (WSC 82) Only Christ did. And He did for us. Only in heaven will believers keep the moral law of God perfectly. 

Love is the Royal law.

All of the specific commandments as well as the summary commandment to love our neighbor as our self comes from the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  (Rev.17:14, 19:16) And as such the Royal Law reflects the character of the King, holy and perfect and good.

Revelation 15:3  And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations! (Num.21:22)

There is no higher authority above God.  His laws supersede all other laws.  His laws are the basis for all righteous law.  All laws that are contrary to God’s laws are wrong and sinful.  God’s law is magisterial. Our laws are ministerial, meaning they are to minister His laws or ought to reflect His laws. 

And as such God has the authority to command us to any duty He sees fit.  And if we say that God is our King then we our oath-bound to obey His commands, to give Him respect as our heavenly Father and to give Him obedience as our Sovereign Governor. (Mal.1:6, 2 Tim.4:8)

And this Royal Law is meant to be for God’s royal children, a whole nation of kings and priests that are holy and righteous in Jesus. (Rev.1:6) And so this royal law determines kingdom conduct. (see the Beatitudes and Similitudes. Mt.5:1-16)

Love as our duty is found within the Scriptures.

See how James speaks about our knowing the duty of loving our neighbor recorded in the holy Scriptures. The Bible contains the Law of God. The Bible contains the Gospel of God. The Bible alone is where and how God reveals Himself to us savingly.

In ancient times God still made use of dreams and visions. Now in the NT epoch, the Bible says that in these Last Days the written Word of God, the Holy Bible is our guide for faith and for life. (Heb.1:1-3) Everything that God wants us to believe about Him and what duty He requires of us are found in the Scriptures. (2 Tim.3:15-17)

Listen to how our confession summarizes what the Bible teaches about Itself.

WCF 1.6  The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture:

Now certainly, some things are more clear than other things in the Bible. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the great clear and necessary truth in Scripture. (Jn.3:16, Rom.5:1-10)

WCF 1.7  All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all;(1) yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.(2)  (1)2 Pet. 3:16,  (2)Ps. 119:105,130.

Not only is the Gospel clear so too is our duty to love God and Man.  It is expressly stated, there is no need to deduce or make inference. Listen to God.

Leviticus 19:18  You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

Matthew 22:39. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

Romans 13:8. Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 For this, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Galatians 5:14  For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Husbands love their wives. (Eph.5:28) Christians love other Christians. (Jn.13:34)

Love as our duty is commended by the Scriptures.

Then James tells us, not only does God command the duty of love, but He also commends us when we love. 

James 2:8. If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,” you are doing well.

Think of that. When you love another Christian for Christ’s sake, when you think of him or her higher than yourself for Christ sake, because the Bible tells you to, imagine hearing God say to you, well done My good and faithful servant! What encouragement!

The best way to test if we are living a Christ-honoring life is to examine our life by the Scriptures. (Acts 17:11) The Law is especially helpful in this.  Am I coveting or am I content?  To the Law and to the Testimony. (Isa.8:20, Rom.7:9, Rom.3:20) And of course, we always ought to look to our Christ and ask ourselves, am I walking in His footsteps? Does my affection imitate His? Do my words imitate His? Are my actions full of love like His? Jesus is our great example. (I Pt.1:21, Eph.5:1-12, I Cor.11:1)

Lovelessness is condemned by the Scriptures.

But the same God that commends our obedience to His law in the Scriptures also condemns our disobedience to the royal law to love our neighbor as ourselves.    

James 2:9. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

So, if we do not love our fellow Christian as evidenced by our continued improper discrimination, then God’s verdict is we are sinning.

While we may deceive ourselves and our consciences may not convict us when we sin, we never deceive God. When we disguise our sin as religious observance, God is not fooled.  We can justify our sin all day long, we can come up with great sounding arguments for why our sin is not sin, we can convince ourselves, we can convince others, but God knows the truth of our heart.

Lovelessness is condemned in its varied forms by the Scriptures.

Now the Holy Spirit wants to remind God’s people that the Law of God is to be kept pure and entire. This means that Believers are not free to pick and choose which laws of God they intend to obey. And by this, I mean they cannot keep only some of God’s laws and then comfort themselves that they are good “law-keepers” living in a Christ pleasing fashion.

James 2:10. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.

In context with James 2:1-7, if you say, well I honored the rich man because the Bible says give honor to whom honor is due. Ok. But the Bible also says, love your neighbor as yourself. And when you treat the poor Believer with contempt and consigned him or her to a less desirable place within the church then you are breaking God’s law to love.

Though Christ has satisfied the demands of the law for us (by way of covenant of works), so the covenant is to us a covenant of grace.  Yet, Christ’s satisfaction of the Law does not lessen the demands of the Law, which is perfection. (Mt.5:19)

Then the Holy Spirit inspires James to give an example from the moral Law to illustrate his point. He says, if you keep the 7th commandment but break the 6th commandment then God considers you a lawbreaker.

James 2:10. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.  11 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.

Adultery is such an obvious sin that James assumes his readership would agree. Yes, God does say, thou shall not commit adultery. (Exod.20:14, Lev.20:10, Prov.6:32) And he assumes his readership will say, yes, adultery is obnoxious to God and to me, I do not commit adultery. (Heb.13:4) So far so good.

But then he introduces murder. Remember the context of the sinful favoritism and sinful discrimination against fellow Christians being an expression of lovelessness. Lovelessness is an expression of hate, it is hate in its infancy. Hate is the heart-sin that left unchecked brings forth actual murder. Hate is heart-murder. Lovelessness is heart-murder in the seed! (I Jn.3:15, Mt.5:21-26, Exod.20:13)

And murderers will not inherit the kingdom of God. Not loving anyone, hating anyone is contrary to God’s law. The idea is, God wants us to keep all the commandments from the heart, from a heart of love to God and love to man.

Love is to be manifested in our speech and actions.

James continues to speak on the royal law to love our neighbor as our self. And I would add, for God’s sake or for Christ’s sake.

What I mean is that we are to obey the second table of the Law, commandments 5-10, our duty towards Man because of our duty towards God, commandments 1-4, the first table of the law. In other words, we love man because we love God and God tells us to love man.

And that love which God requires must manifest itself in deeds. Just like the non-love or the hate manifests itself in sinful discrimination in so many ways, in our passage in the higher and lower seating places. You “say” you sit there. That is un-love in words and in deeds. What was in the heart came out. (James 2:2-3)

God wants the opposite to happen. A heart of love that brings forth words and actions of love.

James 2:12.  So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.  13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

Listen to the apostle John.

1 John 3:16. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?  18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.  19 We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him.

The deeds of love and faith confirm the true existence of love and faith.

James specifically wants us as Believers to express love for our Brothers and Sisters in Christ with our words and with our actions. Christ purchased our lips with His precious blood for holy use. The words we speak to and about other people indicate the nature of our heart. The outward fruits of our lives seen in our actions to others indicate if we are truly united to the True Vine or not. (Mt.12:34-37, Col.4:6, Jn.15:1-10, Mt.7:15-20)

Love is going to be evaluated by God our Judge.

The Holy Spirit wants us to be loving in our words and deeds, as those that are going to be judged.   

Briefly James tells these Christians that they should live in such a way that they would not be ashamed to have God judge their lives. (2 Cor.5:10, Rom.14:10, I Cor.3:14)

So, speak and act in such a way as if God were viewing or hearing your life and in such a way that God would approve of.  Live your life, aware that you are being evaluated by God. (Gen.18:25, Ps.7:8, 75:7, 96:10-13, Mt.16:27, Acts 10:42)

Hebrews 4:13. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. (2 Cor.5:9-11)

By God’s grace there is much benefit and blessings when we think often and seriously about the Day of Judgment.  This practice helps us live holy and sober lives.  This practice helps us fear God more than we fear Man. (read WCF 32 & 33)

When we think about The Master returning to Whom we must give an account of ourselves and our service then we are motivated to loyal activity. (Mt.24:45) This is not so that thinking on Judgment Day would reduce us to cringing fear. No.

As Believers in Jesus there is now no more condemnation. Christ has freed us from the wrath of the broken Law. But we still labor to obey the law as our service of love that we want to present to Christ on the Last Day. We do not love in word in deed to earn our salvation. We love God and Man because God in Christ has saved us. This will redound His glory. Faith in Jesus enables us to love God and Man in word and deed! To God be the glory! (I Jn.4:17, 2 Tim.4:8, WCF 19.5-6, WLC 93-98)

Love towards the needy is especially going to be evaluated by God our Judge.

And one special aspect of the evaluation of our love at the Last Day will be our love to the needy.

James brings up the ideas of mercy versus no mercy. Or mercy versus judgment or mercy versus strict justice.

For my purposes, let me give a very basic definition of mercy. Mercy is love extended to the needy. This is either love given to the physically needy or to the spiritually needy. This is love seeking to alleviate their neediness.

And often times this is love to not only those in need but to those that have also demerited our love.

For example, let’s say a poor man steals from a rich man. And the rich man has it in his power to condemn the poor man to be sold into slavery to pay for the theft. Well, the poor man is needy. The poor man actually deserves punishment. Love to such a one is mercy. Love is rather than selling them as a slave instead adopts them as a son and lavishes upon them gift upon gift.

That is love to the needy. That is mercy. God especially delights in giving His love to the needy. God is full of mercy, love for sinners. (Ps.145:8, 86:15, Eph.2:4-10)

I have no doubt that in part James is applying this to the previously mentioned sin of deprecating poor Believers, not being merciful to the poor Christians. 

James is trying to get these Christians to admit they have ALL fallen short of the glory of God. And daily come up short with the Law, and ALL deserve death.  So, when any one of us comes to God, we plead the only thing guilty people CAN plead.  Mercy.  Please forgive me.  I cannot repay You.  Please freely pardon me based on Your own mercy.

And God grants that petition in Christ.  And God expects those freely forgiven to go and do likewise, to imitate Him.  And when we show mercy to others, we testify that God in Christ has shown mercy to us. Listen to this.

Matthew 5:7  “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Matthew 6:12  And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Luke 23:34   But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.

Luke 6:35. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men36 “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.

Lovelessness towards the needy is especially provocative to God.

But if we do not have love, if we do not show love to the needy, mercy to sinners, then God will withhold mercy from us.  If we treat others with strict justice, then God will treat us with strict justice. (Mt.18:21-33, 6:14-15) Lovelessness, mercilessness, shows that we are unconverted, that we are still dead in our sins and trespasses, that we are not savingly in Christ.

James 2:12.  So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.  13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

Matthew 7:2  “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.

Oh Beloved, what a strong warning to remember to love the unlovely, people just like us. Beloved we live in the Last Days. Please take this warning as regards to our duty to love God and to love Man.

Matthew 24:12. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 14 “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.

2 Timothy 3:1. But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.

Amen

Study Questions.

  1. How is the Bible to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to salvation? (Prov.8:34, I Pt.2:1-2, Ps.119:18, Heb.4:2, 2 Thess.2:10-13, Ps.119:11, Lk.8:15, Jas.1:25, Rom.10:1-17, Jn.17:17)
  1. Where is the moral law of God summarized? What are the two greatest commandments of God? What are some of the attributes of love? Why should we love God? Why should we love people? Why should we love fellow Christians especially? How is loving others an imitation of God? Of Christ? (Exod.20:1-17, Dt.5:1-21, Mt.22:37-40, I Cor.13:1-13, Jn.13:34-35, Jn.3:16, I Jn.4:1-24, Rom.5:5, Gal.4:6, Gal.5:22)
  1. How does sinful favoritism and discrimination break the law of love? In what ways is it unloving to sinfully discriminate? Think of the examples of the rich and the poor and of ethnic or cultural favoritism. Why are true Believers still prone to this sin? How do we often disguise this sin? What should we do about it? (James 2:1-13, Acts 6:1, Num.12:1-10, I Pt.2:11, Jas.4:1-10, Rom.7:1-25, Jer.17:7, Jn.12:1-8,2 Cor.11:4)
  1. James calls the commandment to love our neighbor the royal law. How does this law reflect the royalty of the Lawgiver? How does it reflect royalty to its adherents? In what way is love for others the law of living in Christ’s kingdom? Where does the Bible clearly command us to love other people? What lessons do we learn by this? (Jas.2:8, Rev.17:14, 19:16, 15:3, Num.21:22, Rev.1:6, Mt.5:1-16, Lev.19:18, Mt.22:39-40, Rom.13:8-10, Gal.5:14, Eph.5:28, Jn.13:34)
  1. How should God’s commendation of our obedience to His commands inform us and motivate us? How does the promise to hear from Christ, “well done good and faithful servant”, for your obedience to Him affect you and motivate you? How can you tell if you are obeying God? What standards do you use? Should we practice self-evaluation of our obedience to God? Why? How? (Jas.2:8, Mt.25:14-40, Lk.11:28, Acts 17:11, Isa.8:20, Rom.7:9, Rom.3:20, I Pt.1:21, Eph.5:1-12, I Cor.11:1)
  1. How should God’s condemnation of disobedience to His word and specifically against all forms of non-love affect and motivate us? Is God displeased with the sin of true Believers? Does He express His displeasure for our disobedience? How? Why? (Jas.2:9, I Pt.4:17, WLC 151, Rev.2:1-29, Rev.3:1-22, Heb.12:1-15)
  1. Does God require us to keep all of the Law or only part of the Law? Does Jesus keep all of the Law for us or only part of the Law? Why should we strive to keep all of the Law since we are now in Christ and not under the condemnation of the broken law? What are some ways that even true Christians pick and choose which laws they like and which they intend to obey and others that they do not? What are some truths that James teaches by using the 7th and the 6th commandments? (Jas.2:10, Exod.20:14, Lev.20:10, Prov.6:32, Heb.13:4, I Jn.3:15, Mt.5:21-26, Exod.20:13, WCF 19.2-6, WLC 93-98, WCF 20.1)
  1. James wants the love in our heart to come out in loving words and loving deeds. Why are loving deeds so important in the life of a Believer? What are some ways we express what is in our heart by our words and deeds? Give some examples of loving words and deeds to fellow Believers. (Jas.2:1-13, I Jn.3:16-19, Mt.12:34-37, Col.4:6, Jn.15:1-10, Mt.7:15-20, WCF 16.1-6)
  1. How does knowing that God does and will evaluate your life for Him affect you? (Jas.2:12-13, Gen.18:25, Ps.7:8, 75:7, 96:10-13, Mt.16:27, Acts 10:42, Heb.4:13, 2 Cor.5:9-11, WCF 32 & 33, I Jn.4:17, 2 Tim.4:8)
  1. What is mercy? Why and how is mercy an expression of love? Upon whom should we have mercy? Is God merciful? Is Christ merciful? How? How does God’s love-mercy to us in Christ inform and motivate us to have mercy on others? (Jas.2:12-13, Ps.145:8, 86:15, Eph.2:4-10, Mt.5:7, Mt.6:12, Lk.23:34, Lk.6:35-37)
  1. If we do not have love-mercy on others what does this indicate about our spiritual condition? If we do not extend love-mercy to others what does God’s word say about that? If we treat others according to strict justice how will God treat us? How should this change us? (Jas.2:12-13, Mt.18:21-35, Mt. 6:14-15, Mt.7:2, Mt.24:12-14, 2 Tim.3:1-5, Lk.6:31-38, Lk.7:36-50, Lk.15:25-32)
  1. Interact with these two quotes by John Newton. “If you once love Him, you will study to please Him.” “I am persuaded that love and humility are the highest attainments in the school of Christ and the brightest evidences that He is indeed our Master.”
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JAMES – Living to Honor Christ. Study 10. James 2:1-7. Do Not Show Sinful Favoritism https://covenantpensacola.org/2021/01/08/james-living-to-honor-christ-study-10-james-21-7-do-not-show-sinful-favoritism/ https://covenantpensacola.org/2021/01/08/james-living-to-honor-christ-study-10-james-21-7-do-not-show-sinful-favoritism/#respond Fri, 08 Jan 2021 17:17:48 +0000 https://covenantpensacola.org/?p=2842

The greeting.

Love, peace, mercy, and joy to you Beloved in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. What a joy to know God and to be known by Him in a saving and reconciled way in Jesus. The Bible says that the right hand of God are joys and pleasures forever more. (Ps.16:11) God is our joy and pleasure and hope and peace and every other good thing. We desire to grow in our adoration of Him today as He reveals Himself to us in His word. (Ps.5:7, I Chron.16:29) 

The Scripture.

Beloved, please open up your Bible to the book of James. Today we will read James 2:1-7. Hear the holy word of our holy God. Read. 

James 2:1. My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. 2 For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, 3 and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? 5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? 7 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called? 

The supplication.

Please join me in prayer as we ask God to help us understand and obey His word today. Pray. 

The doctrine.

God the Holy Spirit through the apostle James commands us not to show sinful favoritism in the church of Jesus Christ. (Rom.2:11, Acts 10:34, Gen.37:4, Dt.10:17, Eph.6:9, Col.3:25, I Tim.1:25, Jas.3:17)

Specifically, James speaks about discriminating against poor or poorer Christians by the richer Believers. Included in this is God’s prohibition against all forms of sinful discrimination.

The inequality among men.

Obviously, God is calling us to unity and harmony in His church. (Ps.133:1-3) As Believers we are equally loved and forgiven by Christ. But before we consider the sameness that Believers enjoy together as Believers let’s consider certain forms of inequality among men. 

There is a common saying in our land that all men are created equal. And some people think that this is a Bible quote.  It is not.

Let me give you the fuller quote. It comes from the Declaration of Independence, by the United States Congress July 4, 1776. And please as I read this, I promise I love America! I am not speaking against our country!

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. 

Sinful inequalities.

Some of the writers of this document held slaves. They were the masters and their slaves were their slaves. This is a form of inequality. Some of these men approved of a certain form of slavery namely of African peoples. They made a distinction and discrimination among people based on skin color. And they wrote laws to keep and promote such slavery. I am quite certain that the “just powers” to govern the slaves in their slavery did not come from the slave’s consent.

God is against this kind of discrimination. I bring this up to illustrate that there are various forms of inequality among people. Some are sinful such as this slavery example. God prohibits us to engage in these kinds of discriminations as Christians.

Non-sinful inequalities.

But then there are also non-sinful inequalities among people. Think of this.

There are various gifts, stations, callings and so on wherein men and women differ greatly. Some are strong, some are weak, some have physical skills, some have intellectual skills, some are rich, some are poor, etc. And this is not sin per se. We are not angry that the brain surgeon has a higher position and is more well paid than the teenager that scoops ice-cream for their part time job.

Also, in Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12 God likens the Church to the Body of Christ and God makes us different members of the same Body. But individually we are different. We have different gifts and different roles. In roles there are superiors, inferiors, and equals. (WLC 124-131)

James is not arguing that we are not to acknowledge these non-sinful differences in church among Believers. That would be silly to pretend we are all the same when we are not. If there is a man in the church that is a skilled carpenter versus another church member that has never held a hammer, then you make a proper discrimination among Believers if you need a carpenter.

And I would argue this would apply to our treatment of non-Christians. It is legitimate to recognize non-sinful differences among non-Christians. There is an Indian woman, presumably a Hindu, she calls herself the “human computer”. She can do mathematical problems faster than a computer. It is legitimate for me to acknowledge she is my superior in math and give her the due deference! 😊

Divinely considered equality among men.

But then there is another sense in which all men are created equal.  All men have been created in the likeness and the image of God. (Gen.1:27, WCF 4.2)

This means that God created Adam and Eve with true knowledge of God and true holiness and righteousness before God. All human beings have a body and a soul.  We are all responsible religious creatures before God.

And after the Fall of Adam now all people that descend from him via ordinary generation, we are all equally fallen and estranged from God. (Rom.3:9-18) And we all will one day die and give an account of ourselves to God. (Heb.9:27-28, Rom.14:12)

Think of the earthly distinction in view in our passage, a difference between the rich and the poor. The Bible says that God created them both. (Prov.22:2) And that they have this one great similarity, they both with lay their body in the ground and present their souls before God. (Exod.30:15, Ps.49:2)

Fallen man does not rightly respond.

All of these equalities among all people ought to make us more sympathetic and loving towards our fellow man. But unregenerate man is at war with God and is in a fallen spiritual estate. Therefore, fallen man does not rightly consider these things. (Rom.8:7, I Cor.2:10-16, 2 Cor.4:4)

Restored man can rightly respond.

But James is not addressing fallen Man. James is writing to Believers in Jesus. We have eyes to see and ears to hear. We can reason rightly looking at God’s book of Providence and God’s book of Redemption.

Now let’s look the particulars of our passage.

Do not show sinful discrimination against fellow Believers.

All Christians are family.

James 2:1. My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. 

James uses this “my brothers” regularly throughout the epistle. (Jas.1:2, 2:1, 2:14, 3:1) He does this to impress upon Christians that we have a true spiritual union and fellowship with other Believers. And because of this common bond in Christ, we have certain obligations to one another in the household of faith. (WCF 25.2, 26.1-2, I Jn.3:1-2, Eph.2:19-22, Gal.6:10)

How did we become members of God’s household? (Jn.1:10-13) Was it because we are rich or powerful or any good thing in us? No. It is all by God’s grace given to us in Christ. God gifted us with being members of His family. How then can we discriminate against anyone else knowing that anything good we possess is a gift of God to us? (I Cor.4:7, Rom.4:1-9, I Cor.1:26-31)

Now if we truly considered other Believers in Jesus as our true family then we would love them. And if we loved them, we would not sinfully discriminate against them. Consider the example in our passage. Let’s say, you are wealthy. And you have a brother or sister that is materially poor. Do you not still love them? Don’t you study ways to help them? Wouldn’t it grieve you if they thought you thought less of them because they are poor?

Like that. Treat your fellow brothers and sisters in Jesus. God is their Father and your Father. Christ Jesus is their older Brother and your older Brother. We are family. (Jn.13:34)

All Christians have the same faith.

Next, James specifically reminds them of their common faith in Jesus Christ.

James 2:1. My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. 

All Christians by nature are utter moral paupers before God.

By reminding them (and us) of faith in Jesus Christ, James by inference reminds us of our need of Savior Jesus.   (Gal.2:20, Eph.3:12, Phil.3:9, I Tim.3:16)

So negatively considered, left to ourselves before God we all are hopeless and wretched sinners. Think of that. The richest unbeliever and the poorest unbeliever are equally in their fallen estate. They are equally under the wrath and curse of God for their sin. The same is true for every other human distinction. Currently in our country the political climate is boiling. Think of this. The most flaming unbelieving democrat and the most flaming unbelieving republican are in the exact same moral condition before God. They are under His wrath. And as different as their earthly differences may be, if they die apart from Christ, they will spend eternity together.

Man looks at the outward. God looks at the heart. If the heart loves Christ all is well. 

Again, in reference to the example in our passage, left to ourselves we are all spiritually poor people dressed in filthy rags. (Isa.64:6, Eph.2;1-3, Lk.15:11-32) 

All Christians by grace glory only in the Lord.

Positively considered, all Christians have saving faith in the same Christ. For every Believer Jesus is our only hope in life and death. For every Believer Jesus is everything to us.  If we live, we want to serve Jesus. When we die we want to see Jesus. How we think, feel, speak, and act is to honor Jesus. (Phil.1:18-29)

The apostle Paul sums up the heart of every Believer this way.

Galatians 2:20. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Listen to what the apostle Paul writes to the Ephesian Believers.

Ephesians 4:3. being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

James refers to the glory of Jesus. This is an inferred reference to the deity of Christ.

We remember in the OT it was the cloud of shekinah glory that was a theophany, a visible manifestation of the invisible God, that led the children of Israel around the desert for forty years. (Exod.13:21) And it was the glory of the LORD that filled the tabernacle and the temple when he visited His people. (Exod.40:34) Stephen refers to God that led Israel in the OT as the God of glory. (Acts 7:2)

The NT refers to Jesus Christ as the Lord of Glory, God come in the Flesh. (I Cor.2:8)

John 1:14  And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

We see why James describes God this way.  He wants us to think God in Christ is glorious and precious.  And the more we adore and value God the less enamored we will be with what Natural Man values. Namely, riches and power and so on.  You see the idea?  Stop looking at Man!  Look at Christ.  Stop evaluating Man like an unbeliever.  Stop looking at the outward.  Evaluate Man like God. Consider the heart, the inward disposition, the faith. (I Sam.16:7, I Jn.2:15-17, I Cor.2:13-15)

I John 2:15. Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts;

Do not show sinful discrimination against fellow Believers in worship.

Favoritism in church and in corporate worship is wrong.

The meeting.

James now refers to a particular venue in which it is especially sinful to show sinful discrimination. And that is in the church and also in the corporate worship of God. (see and study WLC 151)

James actually used a word for the church assembled for worship that is “synagogue”. The word church means those called out. Called out from sin. And the word synagogue means those gathered together. Believers are called out of sin to Christ. And all Believers we are gathered together in Christ as one flock under one Shepherd.

Here is the American Standard Version of 1901.

James 2:2 For if there come into your synagogue a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, and there come in also a poor man in vile clothing;

Later James will use the specific word for church, ekklesia. 

James 5:14  Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

The attendees.

The NT Church appears to have been open to all people.  (I Cor.14:22-26) That is to say, all people of all distinctions  could come into the corporate assembly on the Lord’s Day.  They could hear the word of God. Amen! As it should be.

But then the problem began that once into the assembly there appears to be some segregated seating in the church. The good section for the rich Believers. The bad section for the poor Believers. How awful. How displeasing to Jesus.

As an aside the NT does prohibit unbelievers from partaking of the Lord’s Supper. (I Cor.10:16-22, I Cor.11:22-34, Lev.10:1-11) 

The favoritism.

The Believers look at the external clothes and carriage of the two different classes of men. They respect the rich man. They despise the poor man.

We would do well to remember Christ’s teaching on the rich man and Lazarus. (Lk.16:19)

The idea is Christians are not to make a distinction in treatment that God does not make.

Let me offer a gentle criticism of my beloved English Puritans of the 1600’s. They were men of their times. Even as we are men of our times.

Listen to these two Puritans arguing for a measure of favoritism in the church. Something that I believe God tells James to tell us He condemns.

Thomas Manton. He says that it is not necessarily wrong or evil to rise in the presence of a rich man or a man or power or prestige (in the church).  He says, if this were a complete prohibition from showing any deference then there would be no basis for government or mastership. (Manton, On James, p.181)

Matthew Henry. He says this situation only has to do when the church courts meet to administer justice between believers. He does not necessarily apply this to the assembly for corporate worship. He says there certainly may be appointed different places of persons according to their rank and circumstances without sin.  (Commentary on the Bible, Vol.6, p.787)

I think Manton and Henry are wrong on this. God forbids favoring the rich over the poor in His church.

Proper respect – Biblical obedience.

But let’s say a few words on giving proper respect to others. God does require us to treat certain people, even in the church with more respect. We think of the aged. We think of our parents, and so on. (WLC 127)

Leviticus 19:32. You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the LORD.

Improper deference – evil motives.

James is teaching against the practice sinful deference.  Christ taught the same thing when he taught against the practices of the Pharisees.

Matthew 23:5. But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6 “They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. 8 “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 “Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11 “But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. (Lk.11:43, Lk.20:46, Mk.12:38-44)

Now it is somewhat popular in certain circles for the poor to despise the rich. When Christians do this, they imbibe a kind of Marxist ideology. We are not allowed reverse sinful discrimination either. Listen to God’s word.

Job 34:12  Surely, God will not act wickedly, And the Almighty will not pervert justice. 

Job 34:19   Who shows no partiality to princes Nor regards the rich above the poor, For they all are the work of His hands? 

Leviticus 19:15  You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. 

Deuteronomy 1:17  ‘You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.

Miscellaneous thoughts on the poor.

Let’s conclude by saying a few more things about the poor.

James 2:5. Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? 7 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?

Christ Himself was poor according to the flesh. (Phil.2:1-11)

2 Corinthians 8:9  For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is given to the spiritually poor.

(LXX) Isaiah 61:1. The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. (Lk.4:18-19)

Christ refers to His blessed disciples as the poor. (Mt.5:3, Lk.6:19-20)

God tells us that He has many of His elect one from the ranks of the materially poor.

(WCF 3.5, Dt.7:6-9) Not many of the early Believers came from the ranks of the rich and powerful. (I Cor.1:26-31)

In fact, Jesus says it is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than a camel to go through the eye of a needle. (Mk.10:25)

James wants these Christians that are deferring to the materially rich to remember what class of people are responsible for persecuting them. The rich were dragging the poor Christians into court. Poor people do not tend to drag people into court. They do not have the financial means to financially persecute other people. In this way, the Christians were acting against their own interests. They are elevating the very people that were most responsible for harming them.

Regularly God directs the poor and the needy to look to Him for their protection and provision. And God promises to protect and to provide for the needy and the weak.

Psalm 9:18  For the needy will not always be forgotten, Nor the hope of the afflicted perish forever. (Ps.12:5, Prov.22:22-23)

God is teaching His children to value spiritual riches above earthly and material riches. (Mt.6:19-21, Lk.12:16-21)

God wants us to value our heavenly kingdom above the earthly kingdom. (Mt.19:16-30, Mk.10:17-25, Lk.18:18-30, Rev.1:6, Mt.25:34-41)

God wants us to live like a loving spiritual family.

God wants us to walk by faith and not by sight.

Amen

Study Questions.

  1. List various non-sinful differences and even inequalities among people and also among Christians in the church? Think. Is everyone healthy? Wealthy? Intelligent? Does everyone perform the same task in life? In the church? (Gen.4:21-22, Rom.12:3-8, I Cor.12:1-31, Eph.5:33, Eph.6:1-7, Rom.13:1-8, I Cor.7:21-23, Eph.4:11, Rev.5:9, Acts 17:26)
  1. What are some sinful distinctions whereby people value one person and devalue another person? What makes us sinfully value one person and sinfully devalue another person? Why do we? (James 2:1-7, Num.12:1, I Cor.1:12, I Cor.3:4-9, Gal.2:11-13, I Sam.16:7, I Tim.5:21, Exod.22:21, Jn.7:24)
  1. What are some ways all human beings are the same? Before the Fall of Adam? After the fall of Adam? Why should these truths make us more loving, sympathetic, and kind to all people no matter their distinctives? Why don’t they? 😊 (Gen.1:27, WCF 4.2, Rom.3:9-18, Heb.9:27-28, Rom.14:12, Prov.22:2, Exod.30:15, Ps.49:2)
  1. How do we become members of God’s household, of His family? How or why are fellow Christians our brothers or sisters? In what way are they our family? What lessons do we learn by this? Why should this help us not show favoritism in the church? (Jn.1:10-13, Gal.3:26, Jn.3:16, Rom.8:11-16, Jas.1:2, 2:1, 2:14, 3:1, WCF 25.2, 26.1-2, I Jn.3:1-2, Eph.2:19-22, Gal.6:10, I Cor.4:7, Rom.4:1-9, I Cor.1:26-31, Jn.13:34)
  1. What kind of people need a Savior? What spiritual family did all Christians belong to before they were converted to Christ? What was the spiritual nature of every Christian before they were converted? How should these truths prevent us from showing sinful favoritism in the church to any persons or class of persons that we think are superior and so we favor them? Why should these truths prevent us from looking down on others? (Rom.3:9-18, Eph.2:1-3, I Cor.6:9-11, Jn.3:36, Jn.8:44-45, Eph.3:12, Phil.3:9, I Tim.3:16, Isa.64:6, Eph.2:1-3, Lk.15:11-32)
  1. What are some reasons that committing the sin of valuing one Believer and devaluing another Believing in the church and in corporate worship aggravates our sins? Our sins against God? And our sins against Man? Hint. Who is doing the sinning? Who is being sinned against? What is the occasion of the sin? What is the nature of the sin? For example, why is the sin of eating too much ice cream when your wife is not around as sinful to God as showing sinful favoritism in the church or in worship? (WLC 151, James 2:1-7, Ps.133:1-3, I Chron.16:23-31, Jer.20:13, Exod.20:2-6, Jn.4:21-24, Ps.99:1-9, Dt.29:18, Rom.12:1-2, Isa.29:13, Mt.15:8, Mt.23:27-28, Isa.58:1-9, I Cor.13:1-3, Mt.22:37-40)
  1. What are some practical ramifications for valuing one Believer and devaluing another Believer? Think along the lines of a parent favoring one child over another child? What happens then parent to child? Child to parent? Child to fellow child?  (Jas.2:1-9, Gen.25:27-34, Gen.27:1-46, Gen.37:1-36, Mk.3:25)
  1. What are some sinful reasons why people value rich people and discriminate against poor people even in the church? How does this go contrary to Christ? To the Gospel of Christ? To the people of Christ? How does God bless the poor? (Jas.2:5-7, Phil.2:1-11, 2 Cor.8:9, Isa.61:1, Lk.4:18-19, Mt.5:3, Lk.6:19-20, I Cor.1:26-31)
  1. Why is it hard for the materially rich to enter heaven? What is the deceitfulness of wealth? Why were the rich people dragging the poorer Christians into court and not the poorer abusing the richer? (Mk.10:24-25, James 2:1-7, Ps.73:1-28, I Tim.6:17-19, Prov.11:28, Job 31:24, Jer.48:7, Ps.52:7, Lk.12:13-31, Mk.4:19-21)
  1. Interact with this saying from J.C. Ryle. We ought not to envy the rich, instead we ought to pity them and pray for them.

 

 

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JAMES – Living to Honor Christ. Study 9. James 1:22-27. Effectual Doers of God’s Word https://covenantpensacola.org/2021/01/05/james-living-to-honor-christ-study-9-james-122-27-effectual-doers-of-gods-word/ https://covenantpensacola.org/2021/01/05/james-living-to-honor-christ-study-9-james-122-27-effectual-doers-of-gods-word/#respond Tue, 05 Jan 2021 21:52:12 +0000 https://covenantpensacola.org/?p=2822

The greetings.

Grace, mercy, and peace to all of us that love the Lord Jesus Christ in spirit and in truth. God’s word assures us that peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. (2 Jn.1:3) As Believers in the Savior of the world how our lives have fallen to us in wonderful places. (Ps.16:6) God loves us. And we love Him. All is well with our soul. Amen! (I Jn.4:1-10)

The Word of God.

Beloved, today is our 9th study in the book of James. Today we are going to examine James 1:22-27. Please take out your Bibles and read along with me. Hear God’s holy and perfect word. Read.

James 1:22. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

The assistance of the Spirit.

The Bible tells us that the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit to instruct us, to be our indwelling Counselor. (Jn.15:26, Phil.1:19, WCF 2.3) The Holy Spirit inspired the Bible. He made us spiritually re-born. And He can help us understand, love, and live according to His word. Let’s ask Him now in prayer. Pray.

The outline.

Today I want to look at this passage first in a macro-view, try to get the big picture ideas. Then we will look at the micro-view, unpack some of the particulars of this exhortation.

The macro-view.

The use of the Bible.

James had previously spoken about the place of the Word of God in the life of the Christian.  We are converted by God the Holy Spirit making the Gospel of Jesus Christ effectual to us. (WCF 10.1-2, WLC 66-68, Isa.55:11) In this way we can say that the Holy Spirit uses the gospel word of God to justify us.

James 1:18. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. (2 Tim.3:15)

Romans 10:17. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

Also, Jesus tells us as those that Believe in Him that we are continually sanctified by the Spirit of God using the word of Truth. Jesus says, Thy Word Oh God is truth. (Jn.17:17)

Here, James continues talking about the Christian and the Bible.  We can say very generally that James presupposes that professing disciples of Christ, those that profess to be saved children of God will in fact use the Bible. What I mean by use the Bible is this, to read the Bible and to believe the Bible and to labor to obey the Bible.

Christians that do not use the Bible – hypocrites and worldlings.

For someone to say well I am a Bible-less Christian would be to contradict God for their justification and also their sanctification. Apart from being providentially kept from the Bible, being a Bible-less Christian is a contradiction in terms. Christ is presented to us in the Bible. How then are we disciples of Christ if we do not listen to Him where He is presented? It is like being a prayerless Christian. Another contradiction in terms. Living things live. Living children of God speak with God that begat them. Do.

But sadly, in part James writes his admonition because the Holy Spirit knows that there are those that call themselves Christians that do not love, read, or obey the Bible as the word of God.

This is nothing new. This is called having an evil heart of unbelief while abiding within the visible household of faith. (Heb.3:12-19)

Listen to how OT hypocritical professing Believers showed their true spiritual nature by their lack of use and misuse of the Divine Word.

Psalm 50:16. But to the wicked God says, “What right have you to tell of My statutes And to take My covenant in your mouth? 17 “For you hate discipline, And you cast My words behind you. 18 “When you see a thief, you are pleased with him, And you associate with adulterers. 19 “You let your mouth loose in evil And your tongue frames deceit. 20 “You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother’s son. 21 “These things you have done and I kept silence; You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes. 22 “Now consider this, you who forget God, Or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver. (Ezek.18:25-29)

Listen to this sober word of God on the importance of obedience to God’s word.

I Samuel 15:22. Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. 23 “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.” 24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice. 25 “Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me, that I may worship the LORD.” 26 But Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.”

Beloved, I believe that this passage of James and the truth it contains is vitally needed for the church in our day. I believe that there are masses of professing Christians that do not read the bible and make no attempt to obey the Bible. They are Bible-less Christians. They are Christ-less Christians. They believe to try to obey God’s word is a form of legalism. They are self-deceived. They think their disobedience is testimony of their understanding of grace. They are in great danger.

Of course, I pray that this not apply to any in this study. However, if it does then I pray God would grant us repentance, faith, and reformation. I pray that we all would live upon every word that proceeds from the lips of God. (Mt.4:4)

Christians that hear the Bible but do not obey the Bible – hypocrites and formalists.

Now there is another kind of deficient Christian that James is writing to here. And that is a Christian that does “hear” the Bible but then he or she goes away and does not obey the Bible. So, these would be called “hearing” Christians but not hearing and “doing” Christians.

This would be a professing Christian that does read their Bible. They do attend church where the Bible is read and preached. But that is where their use of the Bible ends. The word of God enters into their ears, it is processed in their brain a bit, but it never makes it to their heart and it never comes out in their words or actions.

These are professing Christians that do not bear any fruits of the Holy Spirit.  Christ speaks about these three types of false Christians in the Parable of the Sower, which really should be called the Parable of the Soils. (Mt.13:18-23, Mk.4:19-21)

This is a very dangerous kind of professing Christian to be. Jesus said this about this about those in the church but not “in” Christ. They were mere formalists. Their faith was a mere empty profession. (Mt.5:20, 2 Tim.3:1-5, Mt.23:27-28)

John 5:37.  And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form.  38 “You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.  39 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;  40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.

Christ says this about those that call Him their Lord but do not obey His word.

Luke 6:46. Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Lk.6:47-49)

Jesus says, in Matthew 7, that there are many professing Christians like this. Many will say, Lord, Lord did I not hear the Bible read for 5 minutes (if that!) every Sunday. And He will say, depart from Me you worker of iniquity. (Mt.7:16-29)

Oh Beloved, I believe the better part of professing Christian “church goers” fall into this terrifying category. They are nominal Christians, name only. They are in great danger. (Rev.3:1-6)

Christians that hear the Bible and labor to obey the Bible – true lambs of Christ.

And then there are professing Christians that hear the word of God and labor to obey the word of God. These are the effectual hearers that James speaks about. These are true Believers, true Christians.

People with true Spirit-wrought faith and those truly spiritually united to Jesus our Vine. And because we are attached to Him, His life is in us and it comes out of us in our obedience. (Jn.15:1-10 Gal.2:20) True Believers are those that actually produce Gospel fruit of righteousness. (Mt.13:18-23)

In Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, He speaks about two kinds of ‘hearers’ in the visible church. One is a foolish man that builds his house on shifting sand. And he will be destroyed at last. His folly and unbelief are evidenced by his lack of obedience to God’s word.  The other man is a wise builder. He builds his house on The Immovable Rock of Christ Jesus. (Mt.7:24) We can see the true saving faith in Christ as evidenced by obedience to Christ.

Listen to Jesus.

John 14:14. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. 15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

Listen to the disciple whom Jesus loved.

I John 5:1. Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world– our faith.

Jesus says that you will know true inward heart of love for Christ by their outward fruits of holiness and obedience to His commands. (Mt.5:1-16, Mt.7:15-20)

The micro view.

Now let’s consider some of the particulars of this passage.

The duty.  When you hear or read the Bible – pay attention.

James 1:21. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

The Holy Spirit is telling us to hear the Bible with a humble and teachable heart and to be actively involved in trying to understand it with an eye to obey it. If I were to tell you that I was going to read to you the directions to a treasure map, you would be intently listening with an eye to later going to find the treasure.

The writer to the Hebrews says this. 

Hebrews 2:1.  For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty,  3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard.

The idea is to pay attention to the word so as to be changed by the Word.  Real change, inward change revealed in the outward.  The apostle John says, let us not love with words or tongue (only) but with actions and in truth. (I Jn.3:18, Ezek.33:32)

Some words of practical application.

Negatively when we disobey the word of God and thereby grieve the Holy Spirit that inspired the word, God in turn may grieve us. He may grieve us as discipline in a number of ways. He may remove His friendly felt presence from us. He may send frowning or afflictive providences to us. He may not heed our prayers since we are not heeding His word. (WCF 5.5) By habitually disobeying God we reveal we are unbelievers and in great danger. (Rom.2:7-8)

Positively, when we labor to live according to God’s word we please God. We please Him in a number of ways. We honor Him by obeying Him. We rightly respect ourselves in that we are His royal holy people and we live to our calling. We express love for others. Obeying God is a wonderful platform for which to then present the gospel to unbelievers. Obeying God in an anti-God world shows that world that God is worth living for. We encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ to likewise live worthy of the gospel of Christ. We act as a check or a preventative for sins that fellow believers may be tempted to engage in but are called back by our obedience to God. (WCF 16.1-7, Mt.5:16, Mal.1:6)

The duty – when you hear the Bible beware of self-deceit.

Next, negatively James warns Christians that they can be self-deceived “hearers” of the Bible. Obviously, he wants to put us on our guard against this. 

Let me give us some practical examples. Those that hear the Bible preached on the Lord’s Day or read the Bible privately and at the conclusion of the preaching or reading, walk away without any Christ-like change. These people are deceiving themselves.

The deception is they think that are true Christians, that they are in an estate of salvation or grace and they are not.

The Bible says this about the corruption of our heart.

Jeremiah 17:9. The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? 10 “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.

The danger.

Could there be a greater deception and danger?  To believe that you are In Christ, when in fact you are apart from Christ.

The illustration.  V.23, 24.

Again James imitates Jesus Christ even with his teaching method. He uses a common illustration from daily life, a man in front of a mirror.  Much as Jesus did using parables from the farm and the field. (Mt.7:26)

The mirror is John’s way to illustrate his point of hearing and doing the word.

The mirrors of this day were made of polished metal and not of glass.  And as such the reflection was not nearly as clear as our mirrors. So, the reflection of these mirrors was not an accurate reflection, but just a dim representation. (Job 37:18, I Cor.13:12, 2 Cor.3:18)

James says the man that sees his face in the mirror and as soon as he turns away, he immediately forgets what his own face looks like!  Is just like the man that hears the word and does not obey the word.

The man has no spiritual memory, no spiritual sense, no spiritual abilities. (Eph.2:1-9)

The mirror of the Bible shows us our sins. If we are never convicted, then we have not profited by the Bible.  (I Jn.3:8, Rom.7:7-10, Rom.3:21)

The Bible shows us the mercy of God in Christ. If we never trust in Christ for our salvation, then we are forgetful hearers of the gospel.  (Jn.3:16)

The Bible shows us the duty God requires. If we walk away and do not do our duty, then we are the foolish man still dead in sins and trespasses. (Exod.20:1-17, Mt.22:37-40)

The comfort.

Then James gives us the positive example of the true hearer as the one that obeys what he or she hears from God’s word. This is here to comfort and encourage all true Believers. (WCF 18.1-4) 

This is the contrast to the ineffectual hearer.  This person hears and obeys.

James 1:25. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

God’s moral law is permanent.  Those set free In Christ love God’s Law.  The moral Law shows the Believer the things that please and displease God. (Jn.8:36, Rom.8:2,15, Gal.5:13)

Listen to David under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 19:7. The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple…V.11. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward.

Psalm 119:1. How blessed are those whose way is blameless, Who walk in the law of the LORD.  2 How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, Who seek Him with all their heart.  3 They also do no unrighteousness; They walk in His ways.  4 You have ordained Your precepts, That we should keep them diligently.  5 Oh that my ways may be established To keep Your statutes!  6 Then I shall not be ashamed When I look upon all Your commandments. (Jn.13:17)

The examples.  V.26-27.

James continues to be very practical.  Now here he gives some common examples of how to obey God’s word.

James 1:26. If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

I would argue here that what James teaches is a summary of the second table of the Law of God. In other words, James is talking about the second greatest commandment in the Bible here – to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Rom.13:10-12, Mt.22:37-40)

Watch your speech – holy speech.

A truly converted Christian labors to put a bridle on his mouth because we love God and because we are loved by God in Christ. And now therefore we love people. So, we speak well of others and not ill. (James 1:19, 3:2, Ps.14:1-3, Prov.21:23, Prov.13:3, (see WLC on the 9th commandment regarding our speech towards our neighbor, WLC 143-145)

Because of our fallen flesh, our mouths without reigns on them will curse and swear and gossip, and so on.  The person changed by the Word wants to love his neighbor and labors to love their neighbor even with what they say.

It is a sobering thought that James does not say do not be adulterers, robbers, murderers and so on.

These ‘big’ sins we all would condemn and strive against. At least the outward expressions of them.  (Mt.5:16-32)

But watching what we say?!  Little sins are not little to God.  And in the little things we prove whether we are True Believers or deceived professors.

Our speech reveals the quality of our Christianity. (Eph.5:4, Eph.4:29, Col.4:6, Mt.15:11, Prov.15:1-2, Prov.16:24, James 1:26)

Help people in need – holy love.

(Dt.14:29, Ezek.22:7, Acts 6:1-6, Mt.25:35-40) True Christianity is not all negatives.  But also, positives.  Do not do evil.  But practice righteousness. True Believers are to love others like our God has loved us. Not just with words, but also with deeds. True love for God gives birth to true love for others which comes out of us in expressions of love and grace and mercy and peace. We give cups of cold water to the thirsty because God in Christ has shed His love in our soul. God has given to us that we can give to others.

Psalm 68:5. A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation.  6 God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity.

Psalm 146:8. The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; The LORD raises up those who are bowed down; The LORD loves the righteous;  9 The LORD protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, But He thwarts the way of the wicked.

Deuteronomy 10:16. So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.  17 “For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe.  18 “He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.  19 “So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.  20 “You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name.

Don’t be corrupted by the world – holy concern.

Thomas Manton says the world is a dirty and defiling thing.  A man can hardly walk here without defiling his garments.

Christ prayed that we would be kept from the evil of this world. (Jn.17:15) In part, this is why the apostle Paul says he was crucified to the world. (Gal.6:14) We have to treat this world properly if we would not be corrupted by the world. (Gal.1:3-4, 2 Cor.6:14-18)

Listen to the apostle John on this.

1 John 2:15. Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

You see in a very practical way this exhortation indicts many Christians for their friendship with the world. We are to be separate from the world in our affections, beliefs, words and deeds. We are called to be holy in Christ and devoted wholly for Him. (2 Cor.6:14-18) 

Be spotless – holy goal.

Finally, the apostle James tells us that those that have true faith and truly hear the word of God that our ultimate desire is to be spotlessly holy like Christ. Oh, this does not mean that we make ourselves holy. But this does mean that we desire to be free from sin and that love holiness and that we constantly seek Christ for His holiness to us. (2 Pt.3:14, I Tim.6:14, Jas.1:21, 4:4, Phil.3:1-14, I Pt.1:16, Lev.11:44)

Let me close with these words.

Revelation 3:4. But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.  5 ‘He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

Amen

 

Study Questions.

  1. Why it wrong to be a professing Christian that does not read and or labor to obey the Bible? What does being a Bible-less “Christian” indicate about the person’s spiritual nature? Of their thoughts of God? What are some ways that professing Christians express their disinterest and dislike of the Bible? (James 1:21-27, Rom.10:17, Jn.17:17, Heb.3:12-19, Ps.50:16-22, Ezek.18:25-29, I Sam.15:22-26, Mt.4:1-4)
  1. What is a nominal Christian? What is a formalist Christian? What are some tests to see if we are nominal or formal Christians? What are some ways that professing Christians read or hear the Bible but are not inwardly or outwardly changed by the Bible? What are some dangers associated with being a Bible “hearer” only? (James 1:21-27, Mt.13:18-23, Mk.4:19-21, Mt.5:20, 2 Tim.3:1-5, Mt.23:27-28, Jn.5:37-40, Lk.6:46-49, Rev.3:1-6, Mt.7:16-29)
  1. Why are Bible hearers and Bible doers the only true Christians? If good works do not save us, then why is it necessary to obey God’s word? Can true Christians perfectly obey God’s word in this life? How does obeying God’s word reveal our love of God? Do you sometimes not obey what you know from the Bible? Why? What should you do about it? (Jn.15:1-10 Gal.2:20, Mt.13:18-23, Mt.7:24, Jn.14:14-15, I Jn.5:1-4, Mt.5:1-16, Mt.7:15-20, WCF 16.1-7)
  1. How does the Bible act as a mirror? How does the Bible show us our sins? The danger of our sins? The Redeemer of our sins? How does the Bible show us the wonders of Christ, both His precepts and His practice? How does the Bible show us our duty towards God and Man? (Eph.2:1-9, I Jn.3:8, Rom.7:7-10, Rom.3:21, Jn.3:16, Exod.20:1-17, Mt.22:37-40)
  1. How does love fulfill the law of God? How do we express love of neighbor in our thoughts of them, affections towards them, speech of them and to them, and actions towards them? How can we express lovelessness to our neighbor? (James 1:21-27, Rom.13:8-14, Mt.22:37-40, Gal.5:14, I Jn.3:16-18, I Jn.4:7-21, Phil.2:3-4, Prov.10:12, I Cor.13:1-13, Mt.5:43-48, Rom.12:10, Eph.4:2, Rom.5:8)
  1. Why should we guard our speech? In what ways can we practice guarding our speech? How does our speech reveal what we think about others? How can we sin against others with our speech? (James 1:21-27, James 3:2, Ps.14:1-3, Prov.21:23, Prov.13:3, Mt.5:16-32, Eph.5:4, Eph.4:29, Col.4:6, Mt.15:11, Prov.15:1-2, Prov.16:24, James 1:26, WLC 143-145)
  1. Widows and orphans represent those that are needy. How do our outward words and actions reveal our inward heart of love for them? Or not? Why should we love with our deeds and not just words? Think of God’s love for us. (Dt.14:29, Ezek.22:7, Acts 6:1-6, Mt.25:35-40, Jn.3:16, Ps.68:5-6, Ps.146:8-9, Dt.10:16-20)
  1. How can we obey God’s word and not be stained by the sin of this world? How can we strive for practical moral holiness? Why should we? What are some ways that Christians make friends with the world? How can we maintain a proper holy “separatism” in the world? (James 1:25-27, Jn.17:15, Gal.6:14, Gal.1:3-4, James 4:4, 2 Cor.6:14-18, I Jn.2:15-17, 2 Cor.6:14-18, I Cor.15:33)

 

 

 

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2 CORINTHIANS 5:1-21. New Creatures in Christ https://covenantpensacola.org/2020/12/28/2-corinthians-51-21-new-creatures-in-christ/ https://covenantpensacola.org/2020/12/28/2-corinthians-51-21-new-creatures-in-christ/#respond Mon, 28 Dec 2020 17:33:18 +0000 https://covenantpensacola.org/?p=2809

The greeting.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank our Lord God for all of you that join with us in the worship of our God on site and via our videos. I pray that the Holy Spirit would enable me to serve Him in my spirit today as I bring us the word of God in today’s sermon from the second book to the Corinthians. (Rom.1:6-9) And I pray also that we all would worship God in spirit and in truth today. (Jn.4:14-23) For His glory. And for our joy.

The word.

With that said, please take out your Bibles. I am going to read all of chapter five in Second Corinthians. 2 Corinthians 5:1-21. Hear God’s holy word. Read.

2 Corinthians 5:1. For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. 4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. 6 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord– 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight– 8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 9 Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences. 12 We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. 16 Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

The prayer.

Let’s pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help us in our worship today. Pray.

The introduction.

I mentioned last week that I intended to take a two-week break from our Galatians series. I hope to pick up with Galatians 4:8-20 next Lord’s Day. If the Lord wills. Also, next Sunday evening I plan to begin a series through the book of Joshua. A bit of a challenge. But I hope it will be interesting and profitable to our faith. Remember Jesus is the true Joshua that takes us into the true Promised Land. (Heb.11:1-40)

The doctrine – We are new creatures in Christ.

Well today’s sermon is a topical message. I have taken my title from the seventeenth verse of the chapter. As Believers in Jesus Christ, we are new creatures in Him. We have been born again by the Holy Spirit. (Jn.3:1-9) We have been raised from spiritual death to spiritual light. We once were children of wrath, but by receiving Jesus we become the holy and beloved children of God. (Eph.2:1-9, Jn.1:10-13)

Think of this. Before we believed we hated God. (Rom.8:7) Now we love God. Before we believed in Jesus we had a stony heart. Now as new creatures in Jesus we have a Spirit-gifted new heart. (Ezek.36:24-29). As new creatures in Christ, He has given us a new heart, new thoughts, new affections, new words, a new family, and a new eternity – all in Christ.

Beloved, I want us to really believe this. We are not what we once where. We are not that old man. We once where all of those vile things. But know in Jesus we are new, we are clean by His blood, we are holy in Jesus. (I Cor.6:9-11)

I want us to look at this chapter through the lenses of this one doctrine that we are new holy changed children of God in Jesus Christ. (Jn.1:10-13, Eph.2:12-21)

New creatures in Christ have saving faith in Christ.

How we are going to do this is by faith in the word of God. We are going to believe what the Bible says about us.

Look how Paul puts this in 2 Cor.4:17-18.

2 Corinthians 4:17. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (I Cor.2:9)

New creatures in Christ are able to believe the Bible.

In 2 Cor.5:7 he says, we walk by faith and not by sight.

It was Jonathan Edwards that said, Lord stamp eternity on my eyes. God wants us to reason by faith. He wants us to look at physical things with spiritual eyes. God wants us to look at temporal things in light of eternal things.

For us to acknowledge and enjoy the good things for us in our passage, and I would argue also the good things in our life, we have to have eternity with Christ stamped upon our eyes, we have to live like new creatures. (Gal.2:20)

New creatures in Christ are spiritual and eternal creatures. New creatures in Christ are destined to live with Christ. And to glorify Him and enjoy Him and worship Him and serve Him perfectly forever. The Bible says so. This chapter says so.

So new creatures of Christ have faith in Christ and in God’s word. And see what this enabled Paul to do. He could soar above many of the common difficulties that so quickly upset and undo us. His vision of Christ and his desire for Christ’s glory and his longing for the eternal estate caused him to serve Christ with joy.

New creatures in Christ temporarily reside in temporary bodies.

Now chapter five obviously gets its context from chapter four. In chapter five he repeats and emphasizes some of the things he wrote about in chapter four. I will combine a few of these things.

In chapter 4:7 Paul speaks about children of God as jars of clay.

2 Corinthians 4:7. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;

We do not often think of ourselves that way. But if you ever stop and think about it, we are really like a little bit of clay pressed together. Even as God made Adam out of the earth. (Gen.2:4-7) I think the Hebrew word for Adam comes from a root word that means “to be red”. The idea is that Adam was taken from the soil, like the red clay you see in the south.

And obviously this refers to our material being, our outer man that is subject to decay. God the Holy Spirit reminds us that our physical bodies are from the dust. And in this life, we are like a piece of pottery, subjecting to breaking. Not very strong at all. Not a permanent body at all. And so, this body will return to the dust. Exactly as God has said from the very first book in the Bible. And the Bible and the universal experience of all men have proved God to be 100% correct.

Look at our nation beloved. Look at our world. Jars of clay terrified that they are jars of clay. Man is busy doing everything they can to prevent their own clay jar from being broken. But broken it will be. I say they are doing everything but the one thing needful. Repentance of their sins to God and faith in Christ as their Sin-Bearer. (Jn.11:23-27, Jn.3:36)

Paul’s point is that even as Believers we are subject to weakness and decay and disease and accident. Even Believers will die physically.

You see Paul wants us to reason by faith. When our body is ailing, when we are physically breaking down, when we go down into the grave, we are not to think that something strange is happening to us. (I Pt.4:12) True Believers are not exempt from the common maladies of this life. In fact, often times following Jesus will incur for us an extra portion of physical hardships and sufferings and even death in this life for the name of Jesus.

Remember the apostle Paul said a number of times that Believers are to imitate him as he imitates Christ. (Phil.3:17, I Cor.4:16, 11:1, I Thess.1:6, 2 Thess.3:7) This is an amazing statement. But it is not pride. This is the Holy Spirit raising up a Believer to true and strong faith in Jesus. A real Believer like you and like me, real sins, real faults, real struggles, but real faith joining him to Jesus. Paul is an example of what strong faith in Jesus can do. For which we ought to pray that God would enable us to imitate him.

Physical death did not hold the apostle Paul in bondage. He was not terrified of it. Physical death was not the worst thing that could happen to Paul. He had been delivered of this cringing fear when he believed in the Risen Christ.

Christ breaks that awful slavery of the fear of death over us.  (Jn.14:1-6)

Listen to what the writer to the Hebrews says.

Hebrews 2:14. Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

Listen to how our secondary standard summarizes our primary standard on this.

WLC 85  Death, being the wages of sin, why are not the righteous delivered from death, seeing all their sins are forgiven in Christ? A. The righteous shall be delivered from death itself at the last day and even in death are delivered from the sting and curse of it;(1) so that, although they die, yet it is out of God’s love,(2) to free them perfectly from sin and misery,(3) and to make them capable of further communion with Christ, in glory, which they then enter upon.(4)

(1) 1 Cor. 15:26,55,56,57; Heb. 2:15 (2) Isa. 57:1,2; 2 Kings 22:20 (3) Rev. 14:13; Eph. 5:27
(4) Luke 23:43; Phil 1:23

New creatures in Christ can face sickness and death with hope and courage. In Christ we can do all things. (Phil.4:13)

New creatures in Christ are temporary travelers in a temporary world.

Now in chapter five Paul uses another metaphor for our physical body, this time he moves from earthen pots to earthly tents.

Remember being a true Believer in Jesus with all of the amazing privileges we enjoy in Him, Jesus does not give us physical superpowers. Just like a clay pot, a tent of canvas will soon wear out and dissolve. That is our material body.

Now someone might say, well if you have enough faith then you do not have to suffer these physical maladies. Oh beloved, beware of people that twist scripture to say something that it does not say. The most Pentecostal Pentcostal lives in a canvas tent and so does the most frozen chosen Presbyterian. All people do. Your tent may last 2 days, or it may last 102 years. But it is a tent. It will wear out. Will.

Read psalm 90 the psalm of Moses that says people are like dust and grass. Here today and gone tomorrow. Therefore he teaches us to pray this.

Psalm 90:12. So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

God clearly does not want any Believer in Jesus to be surprised by death. Not by our own. And not by our loved ones. I am not saying this in a morbid fashion. Look at Paul’s focus. It is on life after physical death. We will speak on that in a bit. But this is something that we ought to face directly and with a sober mind and by faith in the Son of God and by faith in the word of God.

Sadly, many professing Christians put off seriously thinking about this day. And many will be unprepared.

The idea of living in a tent also teaches us that as new creatures in Christ we are travelers.

In the OT God would meet with Moses in the Tabernacle. The tabernacle was a tent. God placed His presence there as He dwelt with His people. (Exod.25:8, 36:8) And the idea is that the people were a sojourning people, they marched through the wilderness. They were not at home. They were going home. Home was the Promised Land. Read Hebrews chapter eleven. The idea of a God dwellings in a tent taught the people of God that they would be dwelling in tents because they would be traveling. But that God would be traveling with them! Immanuel.

Then when the people of God entered the Promised Land the temporary traveling tent of meeting became the (more) permanent Temple.

But the idea is that our physical body is a tent is that God has equipped us with the necessary temporary and traveling “home” while we are not yet in our permanent home.

In fact, Paul in First Corinthians 15 tells us that our flesh and blood “tent” cannot inhabit the eternal estate. (I Cor.15:50) Our temporal body is not equipped to sustain the atmosphere of holy heaven in the immediate presence of God. For that we will be given another “house”.

Living in a traveling tent, if we reason spiritually and eternally, is meant to create in us a right posture towards the world and the things of the world. Oh, I do not mean that we are to become hermits and separate from the world – physically. That is impossible anyway. Even true Believers carry around a little bit of the world in our remaining corruption.

And I do not mean that we are careless about our temporal bodies. No. Christ purchased us body and soul. So we are required to treat our body and soul with respect as they belong to Jesus. Remember Paul did not tell Timothy, Timothy so what you have a stomach problem, you will get a new body eventually so treat your “tent” any old way you want. No. He said take a little wine for medicine. (I Tim.5:23) Treat your tent carefully. It is the only one you will get on your pilgrimage. (WCF 5.2)

Also, being a traveler does not mean that we are utterly disinterested in the affairs of the land in which we travel. No. Just like Judah was told to pray for the welfare of Babylon while they traveled awhile there, so too we are properly concerned about the place and the people of our sojourn. (Jer.29:7) God in the NT also tells us to pray for the kings and leaders over us even as we dwell in a spiritual Babylon. (I Tim.2:1-4, I Pt.5:13)

But what I mean is that as tent dwelling travelers we understand that the place we are in is not permanent. It is not our home. The people, the place, and the things they are all passing away because in a sense, we are walking away. We are going up. We are heading towards the Celestial City to be with our Lord. Like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim in “Pilgrim’s Progress”. (Phil.3:1-14)

So as earthen vessels and tent dwelling travelers we do not become over happy with the things of this world nor do we become overly despondent by them either. Paul shows us that new creatures in Christ can live with a holy “contempt” of this world and its things because we are absorbed with a holy devotion and love of Christ and the next word. (see 2 Cor.5:14)

Listen to the apostle Paul’s counsel to the Corinthians in his first letter.

I Corinthians 7:29. But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; 30 and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; 31 and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.

New creatures in Christ are spiritually united to the living Christ.

Now let’s look at why Paul is so courageous and even optimistic in despite being a jar of clay and a tent of earth. The answer of course is that he is taking his own Spirit-inspired counsel to consider this life and especially his physical life in a spiritual way with an eye to eternity.

Paul gives the answer in 4:8-18 speaking about Christ’s resurrection from the dead and therefore our own resurrection from the dead.

Remember Jesus is our Head. We are joined to Him by the Spirit and by faith. We are His Body. As our Head rose from the dead, so shall we who are joined from Him shall be raised from the dead. Beloved, the resurrection from the dead is an absolutely fundamental truth of our holy religion. Without this truth the whole of Christianity comes crashing down. If Christ was not raised. We will not be raised. And then our faith in Jesus is in vain. And we are pitiful people.

Oh beloved, but Christ was raised. And we are not pitiful people. We are blessed people. Paul wrote this.

2 Corinthians 4:14. knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. 15 For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. 16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,

This is what he is getting at in chapter five when he says that if our tent is torn down we have a building from God, a house made not with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2 Cor.5:1)

He refers to our spiritual entrance into heaven the moment we physically die. But he is also looking out to the very last day, the day of judgment that will usher in the eternal estate when God will give us glorified bodies just like Christ’s! (I Jn.3:2)

Let me say something about Paul’s faith here. First, he does have some advantages over us. He was in fact immediately converted by the Risen Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He also did have direct revelation from God the Holy Spirit. He wrote holy Scripture. He was also taught by Christ Himself on a number of occasions. Also, he did go to the third heaven and saw unspeakable glories, but God forbade him to speak about it. (2 Cor.12:1-2) Side note: a good warning from buying the books of all the people that (supposedly) die and go to heaven. Paul really did. God said do not write about it.

But for all these unique privileges he is still the same new creature in Christ we are. He has the same kind of faith joining him to the same Christ. Yes, this is strong faith. But this is what faith can do. Faith can take God at His word. Faith can believe God without doubting. And I mean really. This is what a strong Christ in a real Believer can do. Oh, we should be like Elisha about Elijah. He wanted the Lord to give him a doubly portion of Elijah’s spirit, meaning his faith. (2 Kg.2:9, James 5:17)

I know the Bible says strong faith can move mountains. I think what this means is strong faith can truly and strongly believe in God’s word. God says, you are a new creature in Christ. You have every blessing procured by Christ. Your temporal body will be replaced with an eternal heaven body. And faith says, Amen!

The more strongly we believe in Christ the more assurance of being in an estate of grace and salvation we will enjoy. The more strongly we believe that Christ died, and that Christ rose from the dead and that He will return to receive us to Himself the more closely we will emulate the apostle Paul.

More than just not being afraid of death, the apostle Paul actually longs to depart this life.

2 Corinthians 5:2. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. 4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. 6 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord–

New Creatures in Christ get sad and discouraged by sad and discouraging things in this life. And sometimes these things make us long to go Home, much like the prophet Elijah. But more than that the idea of seeing Jesus, being with Jesus, hearing Jesus, worshiping Him without any hindrance of sin is the great motivator for the Believer.

New creatures in Christ are courageous.

Let me show you another wonder gift or virtue that Christ has given all those in Him. New creatures in Christ have courage.

2 Corinthians 5:6. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord– 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight– 8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.

I am reading a book about a journey led by a fellow named Shackleton on a ship called Endurance to cross Antarctica on foot. The ship gets trapped in an ice flow and I think the men stay for 20 months on that pack of ice and they are finally rescued. The story of courage and pure grit is amazing. It makes me ashamed of my lack of courage.

But beloved, when we live by faith in the Son of God we have access to greater strength and greater courage. We can face the world, the flesh and the devil and still yet live for Christ.

Think of the apostle Paul and the early church. Christians were despised by the people of honor and wealth and power. Christians were considered to be fools and the scum of the earth. We worshiped a crucified Man!

But as true Believers we are not ashamed of the gospel of the Cross. In fact, like Paul we glory in the cross of Christ. (I Cor.4:13, Gal.6:14, I Cor.2:1-2)

Oh beloved, new creatures in Christ can withstand the hatred and disdain and mocking of the world. They hated our Christ. They will hate us. We can swim against the mass of humanity. We can walk on the Narrow Road all the while the mass of humanity walks on a broad and an easy and a populous road. Oh beloved, the populated and easy road is a road to hell.

We can walk following our Jesus on the hard and narrow road to heaven.

New creatures in Christ are active for Christ.

Lastly, we love to obey Christ. We love to speak of Christ and for Christ. New creatures in Christ are evangelical. Those that know Jesus and all His glories want other people to know Him also.

2 Corinthians 5:9. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.

2 Corinthians 5:14. For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. 16 Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Oh Beloved, look up your redemption draweth nigh. Turn your eyes upon Jesus.

Amen

 

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JAMES – Living to Honor Christ. Study 8. James 1:19-21. Receiving the Word of God https://covenantpensacola.org/2020/12/23/james-living-to-honor-christ-study-8-james-119-21-receiving-the-word-of-god/ https://covenantpensacola.org/2020/12/23/james-living-to-honor-christ-study-8-james-119-21-receiving-the-word-of-god/#respond Wed, 23 Dec 2020 17:54:45 +0000 https://covenantpensacola.org/?p=2804

The greetings.

Grace and mercy to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What a joy to be alive in Christ. It is true that we are living in strange and trying times, 2020 has been an unusual and tumultuous year. But we serve an amazing God. The harder the times the brighter we can shine for Jesus. The crucible only refines us Beloved. Whatever fiery trials come; God sends them to conform us into the holy image of Christ. (James 1:2, 12, I Pt.4:12-19) And I trust you are becoming more and more like our wonderful Savior with each passing day. Someday soon, we who love the Lord, will be with Him forever, shining like the stars before the bright Morning Star Himself. (Phil.2:15, Rev.22:16, Rom.8:28, 2 Tim.4:8, Lk.21:28-33)

The Scripture.

Well, today is study number eight in our James series. Please take out your Bible and read along with me. I will read James 1:18-21, though our study will focus on verses 19-21. Hear the holy word of our holy God, read. 

James 1:18. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

James 1:19. This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;  20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.  21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.

The prayer.

Christ told us to ask the Father whatever we need and to ask believing and God will give it to us. (I Jn.5:15-15, Jn.14:13-15, Mt.21:22) Well, let’s pray in faith that God would give us wisdom of insight into this portion of His word today. (James 1:5-8) Pray.

The doctrine.

The main teaching of this passage is the right receiving of the word of God. We would all do well to ask ourselves, “am I willing to be taught by God”? 

The new birth.

I read verse 18 to show us the connection for this week’s passage. 

In V.18 James told his readership that they were born again by the Holy Spirit using the holy word.

V.18. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth,

We can divide the Bible into two parts, the Law of God and the Gospel of God. God uses His moral law to act as a tutor to bring us to Christ in the Gospel. (Gal.3:24) The law of God shows us that we are law breakers and that the wages of sin is death. The law shows us our need of Jesus. (Rom.6:23)

Jesus is the one that satisfies the Law of God for us. Jesus takes the penalties of the broken law, and that is death. And Jesus carries out the precepts of the moral law for us. The gospel is the message of the Cross. (Gal.3:22-24, WSC 89, 1 Cor.2:2) We believe in Him and we are cleansed by Christ and forever joined to the Triune God.

You see God uses the preaching of the gospel to cause us to be born again. Peter says the same thing in his first epistle. (Rom.1:16-17, I Cor.2:2)

I Peter 1: 23. for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For, “ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS, AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS. THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF, 25 BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.” And this is the word which was preached to you.

Paul reminds pastor Timothy of the importance of the sacred writings.

2 Timothy 3:15. and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Faith comes from hearing and hearing comes from the word of Christ. (Rom.10:1-17)

Beloved as professing Protestants we can never make too much of the word of God. God uses the Bible to convert us. God does not use the sacraments to convert us. God uses the word and the sacraments to strengthen us. But the word of God is the (ordinary) means of converting God’s elect. (WCF 10.1,3)

The new life.

For today’s passage, James teaches us that the same Holy Spirit that begets our new spiritual birth now admonishes us to live a new life worthy of our calling. (Eph.4:1-6, Phil.1:27, Col.1:10)

Let me just say a word or two about living a life to honor Christ, which is the subtitle of our James study.

The Bible says without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Heb.12:14) The holiness in this passage is sanctification holiness, practical progressive holiness, dying to sin, growing in righteousness. (WLC 75, WSC 35) I think, Beloved, far too many professing Christians live like practical atheists or practical antinomians. That is to say, they live like a bare profession of faith in Jesus Christ but without any fruits of righteousness is sufficient for them to enter heaven. (2 Cor.6:14-18)

Many will say on the Last Day, Lord, Lord did I not go to church, did I not say I was a Christian. And what will Christ say to them? Depart from Me you workers of iniquity. God knows the heart. What is in the heart comes out of us. Holy love for Christ will produce holy fruits for Christ. (Mt.7:13-29, Mt.25:14-46)

Oh, beloved faith alone in Christ alone justifies us. (Gal.3:6-12, Rom.5:1) But true faith is never alone. True faith always grows in practical holiness. You will know true faith in Jesus by the fruits of the Holy Spirit. (Gal.5:18-25) No (holy) fruits. No (true) faith. That is the thrust of the book of James. (James 2:14-20) Oh, I pray that I may stir myself and all of God’s people up to live a life to honor Jesus and His sin-cleansing Cross. (Mt.11:12, Lk.13:24, Rev.7:14)

The word implanted.

Please look at the governing exhortation of V.21, In humility receive the word implanted. This is in reference to the Bible. The same Bible that God used to convert us, God calls us to continue to receive the Bible as our only rule for doctrine and practice to progressively build us up in Christ.

James talks about the continuing place that the Bible has in the life of the professing Christian.  This is very important. And very revealing.  Those that profess to be Christ’s disciples but have little or no interest in the Bible testify they are still in darkness, they have yet to be delivered by Christ. Or that they are backslidden Believers.

Hear what the Bible says about Itself.

2 Timothy 3:16. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Now I believe V.21 governs the moral exhortations of V.19 and 20 and 21. In V.21 James is talking about receiving the Word of God rightly (and not wrongly). The idea is to hear God’s word with humility, with submissiveness, with a teachable heart, yielding to It, not kicking against It, obeying It, not sitting as judge over it, that kind of a thing.

Let me show you what I mean.

V.19. But everyone must be quick to hearthe holy Scriptures.

V.19 (Everyone must be) slow to speak and slow to anger – slow to speak against the Bible, slow to speak to give your opinion on what the Bible speaks on matters of Faith, slow to get angry with the word of God.

Our flesh does in fact get angry at God’s law and gospel. This is why we need continuous sanctification.

V.20. for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.  21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness – be governed by the word of God. What God says is righteous is righteous. What God says is wicked is wicked. Be changed by the word of God. Live upon the Word of God. (Mt.4:4) 

Let me show you a few instances where the people of God did not receive the word of God with all humility.

Ezekiel 18:25. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not right.’ Hear now, O house of Israel! Is My way not right? Is it not your ways that are not right? (Ps.50:17)

Ezekiel 33:30. But as for you, son of man, your fellow citizens who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses, speak to one another, each to his brother, saying, ‘Come now and hear what the message is which comes forth from the LORD.’ 31 “They come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain.

James 4:11. Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.

Positively James wants us to obey this exhortation that Paul gives the Romans.

Romans 12:1. Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

We are transformed by the renewing of our mind by our receiving the word with all humility. Christ prayed Father sanctify them in Thy truth Thy word is truth. (Jn.17:17)

The exhortations.

Now let’s look at some of the particulars of the various exhortations to receive God’s word rightly.

The affection.

In V.19 James repeats his affection for his audience. 

James 1:16. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

James 1:19. This you know, my beloved brethren.

James writes this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And that means he really does love these fellow Christians even the ones that he has not met. Christ calls us to love other Christians. This is the preeminent mark of truly receiving Jesus savingly. (Jn.13:34-35, I Jn.3:14-16, I Pt.3:8, Rom.13:8-14, Gal.5:14)

Loving other Christians is a testimony of receiving the word of God with humility when we love other Believers and consider them higher than ourselves and look out for their spiritual welfare as well as our own. (Phil.2:1-11) Not loving other Christians is a testimony that we are not receiving the word of God with submissiveness to God, but rather are living self-willed and self-centered and self-righteous lives. How convicting.

James teaches us that our motive for all of our religious instruction to anyone ought to be love; love to God and love to man. (I Tim.1:5) Love fulfills the Law of God. (Rom.13:10) 

The audience.

Notice that James says, my beloved brothers everyone must be quick to hear.Receiving the word of God with all humility to teach us on every point of doctrine and every moral practice is the duty of everyone than names the Name of Christ. No professing Christians are exempted from this. I would add, those in positions of authority over others are especially responsible to obey this.

This is particularly so if we have authority over others in religious training. For example, parents are especially obligated to receive the teaching of the Bible as they are responsible to teacher their children the Bible. (WLC 151) This is preeminently applicable to the minister of the Word. We especially must hear and obey the Word if we are to teach the Word. (James 3:1)

Control what you listen to – be quick to listen.

Jesus said, if anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”  He was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to. (Mk.4:23-24)

The apostle John said, test every spirit for many false prophets and lying spirits have gone into the world.   (I Jn.4:1, Eph.5:11)

And I do believe, that is the thrust of what James means to be quick to listen to the Word of God.  Hear Oh Israel! (Dt.6:4)  Be diligent to hear and heed the Bible.

Matthew 17:5   While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (Mt.4:4, Isa.55:2-3)

What is our duty then as regards to listening to the Bible?  Daily in private?  Weekly in preaching? Do we receive the preached word with a teachable spirit? Or do we sit as a critic over our pastor’s preaching? Do we oppose and contradict everything he preaches that we do not like?

Listen to what the apostle John says.

1 John 4:6  We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Very few Christians have mastered the art of listening.  It is harder to listen than to speak.  In listening to others, we are fulfilling the second table of the Law.  Because in listening to others we are practicing love for our brothers and neighbors.  In listening we are treating others as we want to be treated. (Mt.7:12) In listening we are considering others, higher than we consider ourselves. In listening to others we are practicing self-denial.

Romans 12:10   Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor. (Phil.2:3-4, Rom.15:2)

Obviously, this does not mean to be quick to listen to sin, gossip, slander, lies, and false teaching. The Ninth Commandment forbids this. (WLC 143-145)

Control what you say – be slow to speak.

Next, James cautions his readers to be very careful about what they say.  He spends chapter 3:1-12 speaking about the dangers of the tongue.

Jesus says we will have to give an account of every idle or careless word we say! (Mt.12:36-37, Eccles.5:1-2) Yikes! How convicting.

Listen to the wisest man in the Bible on this.

Proverbs 17:28  Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is counted prudent.

Proverbs 10:19. When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise. 20 The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver, The heart of the wicked is worth little. 21 The lips of the righteous feed many, But fools die for lack of understanding.

Again, we cannot take this exhortation too far.  James is not saying we should all take a vow of silence as medieval monks did in certain monasteries as a token or practice of their piety. Remember there are times that God requires us to speak, and then to be silent is sin. Jesus requires us to confess Him before men. God requires us to defend our faith when asked.

We can apply this exhortation to corporate worship. There should be slowness to speak in the corporate assembly. This is so that there should not be chaos or disorder in God’s worship.

1 Corinthians 14:27. If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret;  28 but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.  29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.  30 But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent.  31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; 

Related to this, men should be slow to speak the word of God until they are sufficiently informed by It or can rightly divide It.  So many want to be teachers of the Word before they are learners of the Word. (I Tim.1:7, James 3:1)

We all should be slow to speak if we are not informed by the Holy Scriptures. Think of many so-called “Bible studies”. How does it go? The “teacher” read a passage and then asks the group, what do you think this means? For most of the respondees there was no reading the text, no studying the text, not meditating on it, no prayer for God’s guidance on it, just “I think it means such and so to me”. This is shared ignorance Beloved.

Control your heart.  Be slow to anger.  V.19-20.

Now we come to an exhortation about our passions and wrath. First, there is righteous anger.

You can be angry at sin and Satan.  You can be angry at what God is angry with. (Heb.3:10)

But because we still have the fallen or corrupt flesh, we should be extra cautious in this, lest we cross the line and engage in sinful anger, which I would argue is most of our anger.

Listen to Jesus.

Matthew 5:22. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

Listen to the Holy Spirit through Paul.

Ephesians 4:25. Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. 26 BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity. 

V.20.   Our sinful anger never produces the godly life that God requires of Believers.

James 1:20. for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

Sinful anger disobeys God, obeys the world, the flesh, the devil and harms the Church and hinders the unbeliever.  It is a bad witness.  It disparages Christ and Christianity. And think of this. Sinful anger hurts us emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It grieves the Holy Spirit. It causes us to go backwards in our sanctification.

All of us get angry.  But a Christian that is habitually an angry man is not a true Believer.  Or he or she is progressed little in the way of practical holiness sanctification.

Outbursts of anger and inward seething anger are deeds of the fallen flesh. (2 Cor.12:20, Gal.5:20)

Very often angry people justify themselves in their anger, rather than repenting of it, and asking God for forgiveness of their sins, love for other people and control over their own emotions.

Proverbs 16:32   He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.

The Bible calls a quick-tempered person foolish, morally foolish. (Prov.14:29) 

Ecclesiastes 7:9. For anger resides in the bosom of fools.

Most often our anger is just an expression of our pride and self-will being contradicted.  Remember anger is a fruitful sin, it multiplies other sins. Angry heart, angry words, angry deeds. The peace and love are destroyed. Hatred and disunity prevail. Marriages are destroyed by angry. Churches are destroyed by anger. (Eph.4:31, Col.3:8, Titus 1:7)  

Proverbs 29:22   An angry man stirs up strife, And a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.

Remember Moses, a man that spoke face to face with God, a prophet like no other.  God kept him out of the earthly Promised Land because of one outburst of anger. (Num.20:10-12, 27:14, Dt.1:37, 3:26-27)

Ultimately, whether we recognize it or not, our anger is directed against God as God is the providential Governor of all things in our lives. (Mt.7:23) Anger represent an un-humble, unteachable, proud heart that will not yield to God’s will and word.

Remember Cain was angry with God!  (Gen.4:5-6) Remember the older brother Pharisee was angry with Christ’s goodness and mercy on sinners. (Lk.15:28-30)

The preventative for sinful anger is to think highly of God, to think highly of others and to think lowly of self. Meditate upon the Cross and God’s mercy on you. You will be less angry with others. 😊

Grow in your sanctification. V.21.

Lastly, James concludes with two general exhortations.  In these, we are active. We strive for the goal set before us.

James 1:21. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.

James has already spoken of God converting us or justifying us by the word. Now here he is speaking of our further sanctification as we have been saying all along. He tells us to put away external and internal moral filth. In a way these are the general duties behind the specific exhortation of quick to hear God’s word, slow to teach God’s word, slow to get angry, etc. Dying to sin. Grow in righteousness. (Eph.4:22-31, Col.3:8, I Pt.2:1, Rev.22:11, Zech.3:3-4, Phil.2:12, Heb.4:12, Rom.1:16)

Keep your eye on the goal.

Beloved may we truly love the word of God. May we be teachable. May we love God and love people. God tells us to. May we keep our eyes upon the great goal – the salvation of our souls. Let’s imitate Paul and run this earthly race looking above at the finish line, the goal, to be with Christ, the culmination of our salvation!

Amen

Study Questions.

  1. What are some other terms or phrases used for the Bible? And what lessons do we learn by these different terms and phrases? (James 1:18, James 1:21, Mk.12:10, 2 Pt.3:16, Mt.4:4-10, Rom.1:1-2, Mt.15:3-6, I Pt.1:24-25, Dan.10:21, I Thess.2:13, Jn.12:34, Rom.3:21, Lk.16:29, Lk.24:44, Rom.3:1-2, 2 Cor.3:14)
  1. What is the usefulness of the Bible? What good does the Bible provide for us? What benefits do we enjoy by the Bible? (WCF 1.1, James 1:18-21, 2 Tim.3:15-17, Jn.17:17, Rom.10:1-17, Jn.3:16, Gal.3:22-24, WSC 89, 1 Cor.2:2, Rom.1:16-17, I Cor.2:2, I Pt.1:23-25)
  1. What is sanctification or progressive holiness? How does increasing practical holiness adorn the Gospel and adorn our life as Christians? What is the benefit and usefulness of fruits of holiness in our life? What is the standard for holiness? (WSC 35, Eph.4:1-6, Phil.1:27, Col.1:10, Heb.12:14, WLC 75, WSC 35, Mt.7:13-29, Mt.25:14-46, Gal.5:18-25, James 2:14-20, WCF 16.1-2)
  1. How is loving other Christians a mark of receiving the Bible humbly? How is not loving other Christians a mark of unteachableness and lovelessness? How should love govern our religious instruction to others? (James 1:16-19, Jn.13:34-35, I Jn.3:14-16, I Pt.3:8, Rom.13:8-14, Gal.5:14, Phil.2:1-11, I Tim.1:5, Rom.13:10)
  1. What does it mean to be quick to hear? Hear what? What does it mean to receive the Bible with a teachable spirit? In what ways can we act as a judge against the Bible? Give some instances where you received the teaching of the Bible with submission and instances where you did not. (Jas.1:18-21, Exod.18:25, Ps.50:17, Ezek.33:30-31, James 4:11, Rom.12:1-2, Mk.4:23-24, I Jn.4:1, Eph.5:11, Dt.6:4, Mt.17:5, Mt.4:4, I Jn.4:6, Rom.12:10, Phil.2:3-4)
  1. What does it mean to be slow to speak? Why and how should we be slow to religiously teach others? Could there ever be an instance where it would be sin to not speak about the Bible or Christ? Explain. (Mt.12:36-37, Eccles.5:1-2, Prov.17:28, Prov.10:19-21, I Cor.14:27-31, Mt.10:17-19, Mt.10:27-32, Ezek.33:6)
  1. Is there righteous anger? If so, define it. What is unrighteous anger? Why does sinful anger not produce the righteousness of God? What is the root of sinful anger? How can anger beget other sins? Give examples. How can we govern our anger? (Heb.3:10, Mt.5:22, Eph.4:25-27, James 1:18-20, 2 Cor.12:20, Gal.5:20, Prov.16:32, Prov.14:29, Eccles.7:9, Eph.4:31, Col.3:8, Titus 1:7, Prov.29:22, Prov.15:1, Jn.3:16)
  1. James 1:21 is a sanctification verse. What are some external and internal sins we need to mortify? How can we grow in our inward and outward obedience to each of the Ten Commandments? Give examples of how you might grow concerning each commandment. How should the goal of the salvation of our soul influence how we live? (2 Cor.7:1, Eph.4:22-31, Col.3:8, Exod.20:1-17, I Pt.2:1, Rev.22:11, Zech.3:3-4, Phil.2:1-12, Phil.4:4-10, Heb.4:12, Rom.1:16, Phil.3:1-14)
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