James 2:8-13


Bible Study Notes
Free to do God's Will
James 2:8-13


The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh, Senior Pastor at Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, NE. The text has been edited and condensed by IHCC staff for use as a Bible Study aid.

Intro. - James has been dealing with the problem of believers showing partiality in their dealings with others. This was especially evident in the way they responded to the rich and poor who would visit their services.

God has honored the poor by choosing many of them for salvation, but these Christians were guilty of dishonoring the poor. When we as believers deny by our actions what we profess with our mouths, we are functioning as hypocrites. The importance of this area is seen in a story related in the devotional guide Our Daily Bread several years ago regarding Mahatma Gandhi:

Mahatma Gandhi was the leader of the Indian Nationalist movement against British rule and is considered the father of his country (India). He is internationally esteemed for his doctrine of nonviolence to achieve political and social progress.
He says in his autobiography that in his student days he was truly interested in the Bible. neeply touched by reading the gospels, he seriously considered becoming a convert. Christianity seemed to offer the real solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India.
One Sunday, he went to a nearby church to attend services. He decided to see the minister and ask for instruction in the way of salvation and enlightenment on other doctrines. But when he entered the sanctuary, the ushers refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go and worship with his own people. He left and never came back.'If Christians have caste differences also,' he said to himself, I might as well remain a Hindu' (Henry Bosch, Our daily Bread, 2/2/79).

James now proceeds to show the importance of functioning impartially towards all. Rather than looking at specific passages dealing with the matter of partiality, he goes right to the command which is the heart of the law.

2:8 - James calls this "the royal law" because it is given by the sovereign ruler and also it is the law in which all others are fulfilled.

Leviticus 19:18 is the Old Testament passage quoted here. Jesus used this passage and Deuteronomy 6:4,5 as the two laws which summarize all of the remaining laws (cf, Matt, 22:36-40). John says that these two commands are inseparable (cf, I John 4:19-21).

Paul says that the command to love your neighbor fulfills the whole law (cf. Gal, 5:14; Rom, 13:8-10).

as yourself - This includes both the degree and the manner of the love that is to be shown. This is a supernatural love that marks us off as true children of God (cf. Gal, 5:22; John 13:34,35).

2:9 -
But marks a contrast to the commendation he has just given.

partiality connects this with "personal favoritism" (2:1). They are convicted of "committing sin" and being "transgressors" (cf. Lev, 19:15; Deut, 1:17; 16:19). They both fall short and violate the standard that God has established.

2:10 -
Satan has deceived people into accepting the idea that God is concerned about numbers - i.e. that He is going to put all of our good deeds on one side of the scale and all of our bad deeds on the other side. If the good outweighs the bad, He will accept us.

This kind of reasoning enables us to minimize our sin. We play down the importance of a particular sin with the explanation, "Nobody is perfect."

However, we cannot be selective in our obedience to the law of God. To break the law in one area is to break the law. The law is not to be viewed as a series of separate commands, but the expression of the will of God. I cannot minimize my sin by emphasizing the part of the law that I have obeyed.

2:11 -
For indicates that he is going to give the explanation of the principle he has just stated.

He who said - The unity of the law is a result of its origin in one Lawgiver. The entire law with each of its commands came from God. Therefore, disobedience to any command is disobedience to God.

James puts adultery, murder and partiality all together. All are sin and condemn us as law-breakers (cf. Rom, 3:23).

James now concludes this section with an exhortation to live consistently with the Word of God.

2:12 -
Our conduct is to be conditioned by the fact of coming judgment. All men are destined to stand before Jesus Christ to be evaluated by Him as their judge (cf. Acts 10:42; 17:31).

by the law of liberty (cf. 1:25) - This is the law which brings true liberty (cf. John 8:32-36; Rom. 8:2). It is by this law that we shall be judged. Note that obedience and submission is required. I am free to be what God created me to be, not to do as I please.

The fact of coming judgment is to be a strong motivation to godly living on the part of the believer (cf. 2 Cor. 5:9,10).

2:13 -
Demonstrating mercy to others is an indication that we have received the gracious mercy of God ourselves (cf. Matt. 5:7; 18:21-35).

Justice is not sacrificed in the name of mercy. Rather, in mercy, God has met the demands of justice for us. He did not give us what we deserved, but what we needed. He rescued us by giving His own Son. The one who rejects that mercy will be judged without mercy (cf. Rev, 14:10,11).

But those who have been redeemed are obligated to be a people of mercy. Certainly partiality, a failure to show mercy to one who needs it, cannot be a part of our lives as believers.


  • Where are you in light of the standard of God?

  • Have you seen yourself as a law-breaker?

  • Have you responded to the mercy of God as demonstrated in Christ?

  • Does your life now demonstrate the mercy of God being shown to others?
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.

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Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.

Tony Capoccia
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