The Book of JAMES
James J. Barker
CHRISTIANS NOT UNDER THE LAW
- James 2:10 and
11 refers to the law of Moses.
- This brings us
to that very important New Testament doctrine: Christians are not under the
- Some, like the
SDA and other groups would say that we are under the law. Others would say no,
we are not under the law, but they mix together law and grace.
- Let me
emphasize at the onset that Christians are not under the law but under grace,
and grace only (cf. Rom. 6:14; 7:4-6; 11:6).
- Paul’s epistle
to the Galatians was written to refute the false teaching that Christians are
under the law of Moses (cf. Gal. 2:19, 21; 3:13, 24,
- This "saved by
works" teaching is often called legalism. Those who teach salvation through
keeping the law are usually called "legalists" or
- The word
"legalism" is often misused by Christians who do not believe in Biblical
holiness and separation from worldliness.
- Legalism simply
means teaching believers are saved by works, or sanctified by
- We are saved by
grace through faith and sanctified by grace through
- 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.
- The fourth commandment is found in Exodus 20:8-11. "Remember the
sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six
days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath
of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor
thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy
stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and
earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore
the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it."
- Nowhere in the New Testament are Christians commanded to
keep the Jewish sabbath (cf. Ex. 31:12-17).
- Exodus 31:15 says, "Six days may
work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD:
whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to
- Seventh-day Adventists do not advocate the death penalty
for working on Saturdays. And the
New Testament does not teach Christians should worship on the seventh
- In fact, I Corinthians 16:1, 2 says, "Now concerning the
collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia,
even so do ye. Upon the first
day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath
prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I
- Therefore, the sabbath principle applies to the
Lord’s Day, the first day of the week.
- 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).
THE LAW IS AN INDISSOLUBLE UNIT (JAMES 2:10,
- The law is like
a chain. To break one part of the law is to be guilty of
- 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
- 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
- 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," but the
Bible always speaks of "the law."
- 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.
CHRISTIANS ARE UNDER A HIGHER LAW – THE LAW OF
LIBERTY (JAMES 2:12)
- We already
touched upon this back in James 1:25.
- 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
- So if liberty
means freedom from 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;
- 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
- The apostle
Paul says in II Corinthians 5:14, "For the love of
Christ constraineth us."
- 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
- This law of
liberty is higher than the Mosaic law. According to Galatians 5:4, those who
choose to go back to the law of Moses have "fallen from
- The law says,
"Do this in order to be blessed," but grace says, "Do this because you have been
- Scofield says:
"Moses’ law demands love; Christ’s law is love."
- This law of liberty is also called the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2 says, "Bear ye one
another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."
- In John 13:34, our Lord says, "A new
commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that
ye also love one another."
- In John 15:12 our Lord says, "This is my
commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved
- First John 3:23 says, "And this is his
commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and
love one another, as he gave us commandment."
- Second John 5 says, "And now I
beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that
which we had from the beginning, that we love one
- James calls it the "perfect law of liberty" and "the
royal law" (James 1:25; 2:8, 12).
GOD’S PRINCIPLES NEVER CHANGE (JAMES
- Under God’s
divine government men will always reap what they sow – these principles never
- The merciful
shall always obtain mercy (James 2:13).
Our Lord said in Matthew 5:7, "Blessed are the
merciful: for they shall obtain mercy."
- Those who will
not forgive will not be forgiven.
Our Lord said in Matthew 6:15, "But if ye
forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your
- 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
rejoiceth against judgment" (2:13) – God would rather show mercy to us than
- Micah 7:18 says
God "delighteth in mercy."
- In Isaiah
28:21, we are told that judgment is God’s "strange
- 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
- H.A. Ironside
told a story about a man hanging over a steep cliff by a chain with ten
- Ironside would
ask, "What should happen if just one link breaks?"
- The man falls
to his death just the same, whether it is one broken link or if all ten break
(cf. James 2:10).
- To summarize:
the law is an indissoluble unit. We
are not saved by keeping the law.
We are saved by God's grace through faith in
- The Lord Jesus
Christ was the only person who could ever keep the law, because He is the
sinless Son of God.
- Though we are
not under the law, we are not lawless (cf. James 2:9-11).