ARE CHRISTIANS UNDER THE LAW?
Text: JAMES 2:10-13
- As we move along in our study of the epistle of James, we come now to a reference to the law of Moses (2:10,11).
- This leads us to ask, "Are Christians under the law?" Some, like the SDA and other groups would say yes. Others would say no but in reality they are putting their members under a form of the law.
- Let me emphasize at the onset that Christians are not under the law but under grace (cf. Rom.6:14; 7:4-6).
- Paul’s epistle to the Galatians was written to refute the false teaching that Christians must submit to the law of Moses (cf. Gal.2:19,21; 3:13,24,25).
- In fact this "saved by works" teaching is often called "Galatianism," as well as legalism. Those who teach salvation through keeping the law are usually called "legalists" or "Judaizers."
- The New Testament teaches that the law is now "done away" (II Cor.3:7-11).
- However, certain principles of the law are of abiding value and apply to people of all ages: for example, it will always be wrong to commit murder or adultery (cf. James 2:10,11).
- These commandments, the sixth and seventh, are not just for believers. They apply to all mankind. It is just as wrong for an unbeliever to murder as it is for a Christian.
- Nine out of the ten commandments are repeated in the New Testament – only the fourth is missing (Ex.20:8-11). Christians are not commanded to keep the Jewish sabbath (cf. Ex.31:12-17).
- However, the principle applies to the Lord’s Day (cf. Ex.23:12).
- Before getting back to James, let me remind you that the law of Moses was a temporary way for God to administer His moral absolutes to the nation of Israel from Mount Sinai to Mount Calvary (cf. Gal.3:19-25).
I. THE LAW IS AN INDISSOLUBLE UNIT (James 2:10,11)
- To break one part of the law is to be guilty of all – the law is like a chain.
- To commit one crime makes one a criminal. To commit one sin makes one a sinner. By the way, technically committing a sin does not make us sinners – rather, we sin because we already are sinners – we were born with a lost, sinful nature.
- The law is one indissoluble unit. It has three elements – moral, ceremonial, and civil – but is a mistake to suggest that we are under the moral law but not the ceremonial (ritualistic) or civil. This cannot be done because there is only one law (James 2:10).
- It is interesting to note that in the Bible the law is always referred to in the singular, whereas it is always used in the plural everywhere else. For example, ancient writers refer to "the laws of Athens" or "the laws of Rome." This points to the unity of God’s law as opposed to merely human laws.
- The Sermon on the Mount is an interpretation, in part, of the law and has many similarities to the epistle of James (cf. Matt.5:21-28; cf. James 2:13 with Matt.5:7; James 5:12 with Matt.5:37).
- One Bible teacher found 15 connections between the Sermon on the Mount and the epistle of James (Mayor, cited by Guy King, A Belief that Behaves, An Expositional Study of James, p. 29).
- In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord is not abolishing the Mosaic law nor is He replacing it, but is actually reaffirming its unity and inviolability.
II. CHRISTIANS ARE UNDER A HIGHER LAW – THE LAW OF LIBERTY (James 2:12)
- Liberty means freedom from restraint and the purpose of the law is to restrain. (And to punish lawbreakers – Daniel Webster said that a law without a penalty is simply good advice).
- So if liberty means restraint and the law restrains, "the law of liberty" seems like a paradox. But the Christian life is a paradox – abase yourself and God will exalt you; give away your money and God will make you rich; etc.
- The law of liberty is an inward constraint rather than an outward restraint. If you are born again and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, you are perfectly free to do that which is right, not by restraint but by constraint (cf. II Cor.5:14).
- We do not obey in order to be saved – we obey because we are saved. We do not obey out of fear of punishment but out of love for Christ who died for us on the cross.
- This law of liberty is higher than the Mosaic law. Those who choose to go back to the law of Moses have "fallen from grace" (Gal.5:4).
- The law says, "Do this in order to be blessed," but grace says, "Do this because you have been blessed!"
- Scofield says: "Moses’ law demands love; Christ’s law is love."
- This law of liberty is also called the law of Christ (cf. Gal.6:2; John 13:34; 15:12; I John 3:23; II John 5).
- James calls it the "perfect law of liberty" and "the royal law" (James 1:25; 2:8,12).
III. GOD’S PRINCIPLES NEVER CHANGE (James 2:13)
- Under God’s divine government men will always reap what they sow – these principles never change.
- The merciful shall always obtain mercy (James 2:13; cf. Matt.5:7).
- Those who will not forgive will not be forgiven (Matt.6:15).
- Those who refrain from judging will be spared from the same type of judgment (Matt.7:1).
- Cover my eyes and make me blind
- Mercy shown on earth by the justified sinner, who has himself been the object of God’s mercy, is a sure ground for confidence that for him there will be no judgment from God (James 2:13).
- "Mercy rejoiceth against judgment" (2:13) – God would rather show mercy to us than judge us (cf. Micah 7:18). Judgment is called God’s "strange work" (Isa.28:21).
- God would much rather bless us – it is not His desire to deal harshly with any man. God is ready to forgive and bless, not anxious to judge and condemn.
To the petty faults I should not find.
Open my eyes and let me see
The friend my neighbor tries to be.
Teach me, when my duty seems severe
To see my purpose shining clear.
Let me at even rest content
That for the Lord my day was spent! Anon.
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