James 009 – Law and Grace

James 009 – Law and Grace
James 2:6-9 • Dr. Andy Woods • November 18, 2020 • James


James 2:6-9 — Law & Grace

Continuing our study in the book of James, James is the half-brother of Christ, the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, writing to his scattered Hebrew believing Hebrew Christian flock, that are in the diaspora, or the dispersion.  The key to understanding James is that he is not writing a book about how to get saved; it isn’t like John’s gospel.  The assumption is that his readers are all believers, and he’s really teaching them not about positional righteousness but practical righteousness.  In other words, how does one’s daily life catch up with our high standing in Christ Jesus?

So, the first half of the book, James 1:1-3:12 is about faith, and it’s not saving faith but serving faith, meaning how does someone that is a believer continue to trust God in daily life to the point where the faith that’s already in them becomes productive, or useful?  So how does the faith that saves get used by God to advance God’s purposes on the earth through individual lives?

So, the first thing we have to do is to trust God through trials and trusting God throughout trials meaning adopting God’s perspective on suffering.  That involves rejoicing in the midst of trials, and then not charging God recklessly or foolishly in the midst of trials, ie, not saying that God put me in the circumstance because you really hate me, and you’re trying to destroy me.  So that’s really the dominant thought in James 1:2-18.

A second way to continue to trust God in daily life is to begin obeying His Word.  That is in    1:19-27.  What does it mean to obey God’s Word?  How do I really know when I’m walking in obedience to God’s Word?  I will see my need to speak slowly and be slow to anger.  When I’m the first one to get ticked off and the first one to speak my mind on everything, then chances are that I’m not walking in obedience to God’s Word.  It doesn’t say never get angry, because there’s a place for that, and it doesn’t say never speak, but it is revealing a slowness in those kind of things.  That is in 1:19-20.

Then we have a need to take in God’s Word, which you’re doing tonight, and then to obey God’s Word, 1:21-25.  Then we have a need to practice true religion, which involves not only bridling one’s tongue but also helping widows and orphans in their distress.

From there we move to James 2:1-13, and I know I’m manifesting a practical righteousness that’s pleasing God, I know I’m trusting God in daily life when I adopt God’s perspective on favoritism, meaning not showing favoritism in the assembly.  So, you have a command there in James 2:1 — don’t show favoritism.  Then you have a situation as to why the command was given in 2:2,3, and we looked at that last time, the circumstance that was happening in the assembly, which was probably more of a synagogue, a very early form of Christian worship.  In fact, the word translated there is synagogue in Greek in James 2:2.

There were situations where the rich would show up and they were in their red hot Porshce or BMW, that’s a paraphrase, and they were flashing their money around, so they were given privilege in the synagogue, the choice seats.  Then the guy who came in that smelled a little bit and was probably beneath the socioeconomic spectrum of everyone else was pushed to the back somewhere.  So that is the situation that was happening in this particular synagogue that James was addressing.  That was his flock that he had taught who was now scattered in the dispersion who were doing these kind of things.

That leads James 2:4-13 to explain that showing favoritism is contrary to God’s character and God’s purposes.  There is a command in  2:1, a situation in 2:2,3, and then there is reasoning in 2:4-13.  The reasoning is don’t show favoritism because it is displeasing to God and here is why.

The reasoning has five steps to it, two of which we have covered and the remaining which we are going to try to cover this evening.

The first reason we shouldn’t be showing favoritism like that in the synagogue or in the church is that when we do that, we set ourselves up as judges, meaning that we make a distinction that this person is important, but this person isn’t, when the fact of the matter and reality is that God has never made that distinction.  So, we are placing a line in the church that God has never drawn, and when we do that, we’re setting ourselves up as judges.  That is what James is saying there in James 2:4, and we are doing it with evil motives because we are looking at people not based on how we can minister to them but based on what we can get out of them.  So and so must have money, so let’s treat them differently and maybe they’ll be financially generous towards us.  In that sense, we set ourselves up as judges with evil motives.  We saw that in 2:4 because the fact of the matter is that in God’s church, per Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  If we are all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, then we are all equal by way of redemption, so no one is more important than anyone else; it doesn’t matter how much money they have, what their race is, how they vote, what side of the tracks they’re living on.

A second reason why it is wrong, contrary to God’s character and purposes to show favoritism in the assembly is because God elects all people.  That is in James 2:5, so I didn’t want to get into a big discussion about election versus free will.  That is an interesting discussion that we can have some time; I would rather bypass that because it really isn’t the point of the passage.  The point of the passage is when God chooses, and He does, He doesn’t just pick rich people to be His children; He doesn’t just pick white people to be His children; He doesn’t just pick the upwardly mobile people to be His children.  He chooses across the spectrum in the sense that He doesn’t show any favoritism.  So, if we are to imitate and emulate the character of God, then it is wrong to elevate people in the Church based on their means or wealth; that isn’t what God does.

That takes us to James 2:6,7 where there is a third reason, and we’re going to pick it up here in 2:6, why showing favoritism in the synagogue is wrong and contrary to God’s character and purposes.  The third reason is that it is the rich to whom they were showing favoritism, and who were actually oppressing them.  So, it was a case where they were honoring their enemies and neglecting their friends.  Take a look at James 2:6, “But you have dishonored the poor man.”  It is interesting that when God chooses, does He choose poor people?  Yes.  Does He choose rich people?  Yes, but isn’t it interesting that when God chooses, the majority of the people who He seems to choose, are not the high society types.  They are just ordinary people.  I think last time I shared 1 Corinthians 1:26, “For consider your calling, brethren, [speaking to the Church at Corinth] that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble.”  So, Paul tells the folks at Corinth to look around and at who God has in His church as believers, and you really don’t see the high society types; you see ordinary, simple people.  It isn’t that God is against rich people, it is just that rich people have a more difficult time with the gospel.  Jesus talked about that all the time — how it is harder for a rich man to enter than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, etc., because the rich already have a god, little ‘g’ and so it is hard to fill a cup that isn’t empty.  Amen?

The poor people really have an easier time seeing their need for Christ.  So, when God elects and chooses, it is interesting that there are more simple people than wealthy or powerful people within the assembly.  So, when people are coming in who are rich and are given a place of prominence, then we’re doing something that God doesn’t do.  God doesn’t do that when He elects and chooses, so why would we be different from God in that sense?  It is a case of dishonoring the poor, in other words, dishonoring the one who God has chosen, and of despising one’s friends and honoring one’s foes.  Why is that?  Because the rich people in this context were actually the oppressors, and they were also the blasphemers.  Oppressors in James 2:6, blasphemers in 2:7 — so why would you honor them? is James’ point.

So let’s look at these one by one.

How are these rich people oppressors?  See James 2:6, “But you have dishonored the poor man.  Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?”  Let me say something about rich and poor because there is a lot of confusion about this.  There are a lot of people running around trying to tell you that God hates wealth and that God is against the rich.  That is not what this is saying.  There is a version of the Bible that you are probably familiar with, and it is taught by people like Tim Keller, for example, that is basically a liberation theology message; a Marxist message, that if someone has means it is because they stole it from someone else.  That is how Marxists look at the world; it is a zero- sum game — someone wins and someone loses.  There is no real sense in their ideology that if you work hard and start a business by creating a product or service that the world needs, employing people, providing a tax base, etc., if you are getting ahead, then you haven’t done any of those good things; essentially, you got there by oppressing someone else.  Thus, a lot of people have this view that God thinks this way; every time that God sees a rich person, He hates them because the rich person obviously got rich through oppression.

I am here to tell you that this is a distortion of the Bible; that isn’t what it teaches. For example, 1 Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil.”  Notice that it doesn’t say in this verse that money is the root of all sorts of evil; that is frequently misquoted.  Money is not the problem; love of money is.  In that same chapter of 1 Timothy 6:17,18, Paul says, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.  Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.”

So, God gives us all good things to enjoy, if you have enough resources to take a cruise, don’t feel like you have stepped out of God’s will because the Bible says that He has given us all things to enjoy.  It just says don’t set your hope on wealth because it is uncertain and be generous with what you have, but wealth in and of itself is not the problem.  A lot of people will read a passage like James 2:6 and will think that wealth is a sin; that is a distortion of the Bible.  The issue is not if you have wealth.  The issues is does your wealth have you?  The issue is not if you own possessions; the issue is do your possessions own you.  Once money becomes a god, that’s is when it is a problem.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, “No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth.”  So having wealth isn’t the problem, serving wealth is the problem, and I know some very wealthy people who have a wonderful walk with the Lord, and their finances don’t have them by the throat.  On the other end of the stick, I know people who love money who don’t have much of it.  Having it or not having it isn’t the problem.  The problem is if we have turned it into some sort of idol or god.  I can show you in the Bible examples of very wealthy people who had a wonderful walk with the Lord, and you don’t have to get far into the Bible to see it.

Abraham, the patriarch, would be one example.  Another would be Job.  Didn’t Job lose everything?  Yes, but read the end of the book — he got it all back and several times over.       Job 42:12, “The Lord blessed the latter days of job more than his beginning; and he had 14,000 sheep and 6,000 camels and 1,000 yoke of oxen and 1,000 female donkeys.”  So, I guess that back in patriarchal times that is how wealth was measured — by all of these animals.  Job had plenty of them, and God was very pleased with Job as you get to the end of the book.  So obviously, wealth in and of itself is not a problem.

One of my favorites is Matthew 27:57.  Do you know that Jesus was buried in the tomb of a rich man?  Did you know that per Isaiah 53, 700 years in advance predicted that Jesus would be buried in a rich man’s tomb?  What was the name of the wealthy man who owned the tomb?  Joseph of Arimathea in Matthew 27:57, “When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus.

It is interesting that the word, ‘rich’ and the word ‘disciple’ is used in the same verse to describe the same man, so that leads me to conclude that you can be wealthy and simultaneously become a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Now you can’t do that if you love wealth, but it is possible to do it if you possess or have wealth.  So, I just want to correct the imbalance because people will use the passage like James 2:6 to make you feel like if you have money, then you are in sin.  That is not automatically the case at all.

Proverbs 10:4 commends industry leading to wealth when it says, “Poor is he who works with a negligent hand.  But the hand of the diligent makes rich.”   Ah ha!  So, one person is poor and the other is rich, and it is not always the case that the rich became rich by exploiting the poor person, which is what Marxism believes.  In their mind, it is a zero-sum game where someone wins and someone loses, but that’s not what the Bible says.  The Bible says that you can become poor with it being your own fault via laziness or the lazy hand, and that you can become rich through diligence because it says that that ‘the hand of the diligent makes rich.’ Here is a verse that almost nobody quotes in Exodus 23:3, “nor shall you be partial [it is talking about judging impartially in Israel] to a poor person in his dispute.”  Obviously, you aren’t in the dispute to show favor to the rich man, nor are you to show favor to the poor.  In other words, don’t weight the balances just because the poor person is poor.

These are all verses important because in a lot of circles there is a Marxist liberation theology interpretation of the Bible, and the liberation theology is Communism dressed up in biblical language.  So, Jesus is a kind of social reformer who came into the world to eliminate the gaps between the rich and the poor and rid us of a class society.  That is what Carl Marx taught, so you are taking Jesus the Creator and Redeemer of the world and making him into a little version of Carl Marx — that’s what liberation theology is, a perversion of what God says.

So, James 2:6 is not some sort of blanket universal condemnation of wealth.  The Bible does not condemn wealth; it condemns loving wealth but not merely possessing wealthWhat the Bible actually condemns is wealth gained through oppression.  God doesn’t have a problem with wealth if you don’t love it, but He has a problem with it if you got that wealth by subjugating another human being, and wealth doesn’t always shave to be gained that way; it could have everything to do with Proverbs 10:4:  industry, work, thrift, innovativeness — are all God-given drives and abilities that He gives to human beings.  There is nothing wrong with someone becoming wealthy through those means, but there is a problem if they got there through the exploitation of another human being, and then we have a problem with God.  That is what James is condemning, and it is pretty obvious as you look at the verse which says, “But you have dishonored the poor man.  Is it not the rich who oppress you [that’s the problem God has] and personally drag you into court?”

Go over to James 5:4, it becomes obvious that this is the situation that James is addressing here.  He is not just condemning wealth but wealthy oppressors because in James 5, there is      a tremendous condemnation of wealthy oppressors there and God, through James, says, “Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”  In other words, these were rich people who didn’t pay their laborers, which is how they got rich — by not paying someone which they rightfully deserved.  Then, look at James 5:6, “You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.”  So, these are wealthy people who didn’t pay their laborers what was owed, and furthermore, they rolled right over people; mowed people down and in some sense, killed and condemned people.  In James 2:6, these were the very people who were dragging James’ audience into court.

So, when I think of wealthy oppressors, I don’t think of people who invent a product or service that the rest of the world needs and who become wealthy themselves.

I think of abortion providers, as you probably know, providing abortions is big money in the US.  An awful lot of money is made being involved in that enterprise, but how are you becoming wealthy?  Through the blood of an unborn child.

When I think of wealthy oppressors, I think of drug dealers who got rich by chemically enslaving others.

I think of pornographers who became wealthy through the exploitation of the body of someone else.

I think of child sex traffickers, someone who gets wealthy by, God-forbid, selling a child as a sex slave.

These are all sad realities in the 21st century.  These are who God is upset with.

This is very different from the Marxist interpretation that tells you that all wealthy people are evil.  That isn’t what the Bible teaches, but if you have a lopsided interpretation of wealth, and if the preacher only emphasizes some verses, the Bible can be made to be spun that way, and liberation theology spins the Bible in this direction.  Sadly, as the US moves into more of a Marxist direction, the path has already been paved for that through the deliberate infiltration of liberation theology into Christianity.

When you look at how Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba and study it very carefully, he went into the world of religion; into academia and got control of the schools.  I have talked to two Cuban refugees who told me how Castro worked.  To kids who were very young in the schools, one of Castro’s men would come in and say, ‘little kids,’ it’s sickening, and I wouldn’t believe it was true unless it was personally told to me by two Cuban refugees who had escaped and made it to Miami.  Castro’s people would come into the school with little kids and say, ‘Ok, kids, I want you to pray to God for ice cream.  Close your eyes now and pray to God for ice cream.’  Then when they would open their eyes, no ice cream.  The ice cream truck hadn’t arrived.  ‘Ok, kids, let’s try something else.  Close your eyes and I want you to pray to Fidel for ice cream.’ They closed their eyes and opened them at the right time and the ice cream truck would show up.  That is Communism.

Communism is about lowering the resistance to it at the earliest age possible through the deliberate infiltration of education, academia, also the world of religion.  Fidel Castro took a great interest in religion and what he started planting and promoting prior to his revolution was the whole idea of liberation theology.  Let’s just turn Jesus into a kind of a Marxist.  If people think that Christianity is Marxism because Jesus came into the world to eliminate gaps between the rich and the poor and rid us of a classless society, then when the communists actually do their revolution, then Christians say, ‘That’s wonderful.  Isn’t it great that the Lord’s work is being done?’ So, what’s happening here in the US, is more and more preachers who basically talk about social justice, white privilege, these types of concepts.  What it really is a soft form of liberation theology, and it is paving the way ultimately for the Communist takeover of the USA.  If you don’t know your Bible, you get pulled into it because you have James 2:6 that sure looks like God hates rich people, yet He does not.  Wealth gained honestly is of God as long as you’re not in love with and serving it; as long as you got it not through the oppression of someone else.

So, why would you show favor to these wealthy people when in this context, they’re the ones who are oppressing you?  Then in James 2:7, they’re also the ones who are blasphemers.  James 2:7, “Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?”  So, in Exodus 20:7, it says, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”  That is part of the Decalogue: Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain, and here this little assembly was showing favor to these wealthy people who were not only oppressing them in this context but who were also involved in slandering God’s name.

Sadly, I have recently seen this kind of thing happen where people are invited into pulpits that the Church happens to agree with on politics, yet the people who are invited into the pulpit are not believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.  If you follow them on social media, you’ll see them blaspheming the name of the Lord.  I can think of one Jewish individual, who, in one church is given carte blanche to come in and preach.  Yet I know for a fact that he is one who rejects a Christological Messianic interpretation of Old Testament prophecy.  He does not see Jesus in any Old Testament passages, and in fact, he maligns and ridicules people who think Jesus is in Isaiah 53 or that Jesus is in Genesis 3:15.  Yet he is given this platform in an evangelical church, a big church, and he is a blasphemer.  That is the issue here with showing favoritism.

Why would you show favoritism to the wealthy people,’ James says.  Since they’re oppressing you, at least in this context, and they are blasphemers of God and of Jesus Christ, then why would you show favoritism to them?

Why should we not show favoritism?

  1. We judge where God has not and drawn artificial division  James 2:4
  2. God elects people across the socioeconomic spectrum James 2:5
  3. James’ point is that it is the rich who are oppressing you , and the rich who are blaspheming God, so why welcome them in and offer them a preferential seat? James 2:6-7

Now, he moves into his fourth point as his reasoning continues, trying to explain that favoritism is contrary to the purposes and character of God, and now he says, “Favoritism violates God’s Law.”  James 2:8,9, “If, 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.” So James’ point is that when you show favoritism, you violate God’s law, and most people believe that he is quoting Leviticus 19:18 which says, “You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.”  Is that not interesting?  The Bible never promotes self-love, ‘Hey get yourself in 10,000 counseling type situations and dial back through every problem you have ever had in your life because you really have to get in touch with yourself, and you have to learn to love yourself.’

The reality of the situation is biblically you already love yourself.  I already love myself.  I don’t have any problem with self-love.  I know how to get enough sleep, to get enough food, how to get my way.  Those things come naturally to me.  My problem is transferring the love that I already have for myself to someone else.  That is why Leviticus 19:18 says “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  By the way, Jesus thinks that He said that first—He did not.  Moses said it 1,500 years before Christ.  James’ point is that when you show favoritism and give people preference in the assembly because of what they might do for you, you really aren’t loving them as you already love yourself, you’re doing it out of self-love.  If you are doing it out of self-love, you end up violating God’s Law.  I think that is why he quotes Leviticus 19:18 here.

Having said all of that, we have a big problem, because he just quoted the Mosaic Law, so now the issue becomes, ‘Well, this is a church age epistle.  Is the church under the Mosaic Law?  Many will teach you that the Church is under the Mosaic Law and that is why he is quoting this.  I am here to tell you that the Church is NOT under the Mosaic Law.  The church is not under any part of the Mosaic Law.  The Mosaic Law was given to the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai about 1446-1445 BC after the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea and went to Mount Sinai to receive God’s Law.

Psalm 147:19-20 is very clear on this because it says, “He declares His words to Jacob, His statutes and His ordinances to Israel.  He has not dealt thus with any nation; And as for His ordinances, they have not known them.  Praise the Lord!”  So, the Law of Moses was given only to Israel, and by the way, it was not given to Israel to redeem them, because they had already been redeemed through the passing through at the Red Sea.  So why did God give the nation of Israel His law through Moses at Mount Sinai?  He gave it to them not to redeem them, but to teach His redeemed nation how they’re supposed to live.  The Mosaic Law taught them how to interact with God, ‘Hey, that’s Commandments one through four’ and it taught them how to relate to each other, ‘Hey, that’s Commandments five through ten.’  And it taught them how to relate to the outside world, ‘Hey that what it meant in Exodus 19 that you’re going to be a kingdom of priests.’  It taught them how to worship the Lord; that is what the Tabernacle is all about.  Those things were never given to Israel to redeem them; the Law did not redeem a nation; the Law was given to a redeemed nation.  It was designed as a principle of sanctification for God’s saved nation.   When the law is kept in that context, it is a beautiful thing for Israel.  When it is perverted and turned into something that God never intended, such as an instrument to redemption-works salvation, which is what the Pharisees did with the Law, then it becomes Galatians 3, a curse because you’re using it outside of its intent.  But when it was given initially to a redeemed believing nation, it was a glorious thing because it taught God’s redeemed nation how to live; how to interact with God; with each other; with the outside world and how to worship the Lord.

If that is the case, then why in the world would James quote the Mosaic Law here in a church age epistle?  It isn’t because he is trying to put the church under the Law.  How do I know that?   Because James not much long after writing this book is going to be one of the key spokespersons at the Council at Jerusalem.  In fact, when we introduced the book of James, I tried to show you that we know the author of James is James, the half-brother of Christ, because his speech is so similar and uses so many similar word to the things James says in this epistle.  Go to Acts 15:13-21, see James speaking against putting the Church under the Law.  Since James speaks against putting the Church under the Law, there is no way he could ever put the church under the Law in this letter, which was written a short time before the Jerusalem Council.

What was the issue at the Jerusalem Council?  You have all of these saved Gentiles.  What will we do with these people?  Let’s put them under the Law of Moses because that’s how it worked in Old Testament times.  Ruth, if she wanted to walk with God, had to convert to Judaism, so obviously that’s how it will work in the age of the Church.  So, all of the apostles got together, and Peter and James spoke up, trying to figure out the mind of God about putting Gentiles under the Law of Moses.   As Jews, they thought maybe that might be a good idea, then they had a big meeting about it in Acts 15, and they decided not to put the Gentiles under the Law of Moses.

It is interesting in the Book of Acts where there are a lot of visions and voices from God, there was no vision here, so they had to reach the proper conclusion by reasoning from the Scripture that they had, which was the Hebrew Bible.  Notice Acts 15:10, Peter is speaking, ‘Since this is the case,’… “Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples…” [the Gentiles that have been saved and are now coming into the Church] “…a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?”  I love that.  Peter says, ‘We Jews have done a terrible time keeping the Law.  Just read the Old Testament and you will see it.  You’re crazy if you put these Gentiles under the Law, we Jews couldn’t even keep it; that’s why we went into Babylonian captivity, etc.’

Then James, our guy, speaks up in James 2:13, “After they had stopped speaking, James answered, “Brethren listen to me. Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name.  With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, ‘AFTER THESE THINGS I will return,  [He is quoting Amos 9:12]…AND I will REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID WHICH HAS FALLEN, AND I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS, AND I WILL RESTORE IT SO THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD, AND ALL THE GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME, SAYS THE LORD, WHO MAKES THESE THINGS KNOWN FROM LONG AGO.   Therefore, it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.  For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.

So, there is no voice from God; no vision from God; the Holy Spirit doesn’t speak here so they have to reason from the scriptures that they have.  Peter says it is a lousy idea to put the Gentiles under the law because ‘we Jews couldn’t keep it,’ and James says, “Yeah!’  And this is why he is quoting the Book of Amos 9.  In the Millennial Kingdom, yet future, the Gentiles will be full participants without going under the Law of Moses.  If God is going to allow them into the Millennial Kingdom, let’s let the Gentiles come into the church now.  The church took a massive step forward there in Acts 15, because if that decision had gone the other way, then all Gentiles would have to go under the Law of Moses for purposes of sanctification, and the Jerusalem Church says, ‘No, that is not the case; the only thing we are going to tell these Gentiles to do is not to eat things contaminated by idols, not to be sexually immoral and not to eat things strangled and from blood.’ 

Why did he say they’re not under the Law and then give them a bunch of things that look like they are under the Law?  Well, I think there is a lot of discussion on Acts 15:20, but I think that he isn’t putting them under the law there; he is either reiterating things that the whole world is under, thanks to God’s covenant with Noah, not Moses, but Noah in Genesis 9, and/or he understands that if a Gentile, as a Christian flagrantly violates God’s Law, they lose the right to preach to the Jews because the Jews are offended.

So, Paul would put himself under the law, not to be saved, and not to be sanctified, but so as not to be an offense if his audience happened to be Jewish because it is hard to reach people that you’re simultaneously offending.  This is why Paul compelled either Titus or Timothy, I can’t remember which, to be circumcised.  Why would Paul do that?  It has to do with the offense.  If you are offending the Jew who honors the Law, then you lose your right to preach to the Jew.  So, Paul would go under the law; he would even get his hair cut and get the Nazarite vow.  Paul in Acts 21:26, would even issue an animal sacrifice.  Why would he do that?  So as not to be an offense to the Jew so he wouldn’t forfeit his right to preach to the Jew.  But if you told Paul that he had to go under the Law to be justified or sanctified, he would fight you tooth and nail on that; in fact, he would write whole books of the Bible, Galatians, and so forth on those issues.

So, the church, there is no way that James could have said what he said, not long after the book of James was written in Acts 15, there is no way he could have said what he said and then simultaneously in the book of James, ok, the whole church is under the Law.  Now Reformed Theology has this whole thing messed up.  Calvinism, RC Sproul-ism, what they say is that the Mosaic Law has three parts to it:

▪️the ceremonial part of it dealing with animal sacrifices and feast days;

▪️the civil part of it that dealt with capital punishment for law breakers and sabbath

breakers, homosexuals, witches, etc.,:  the civil portion of the Law,

▪️the moral part of it, the Ten Commandments.

RC Sproul would tell people, ‘Well, we’re not under the civil parts or the ceremonial parts of it anymore, but we are under the moral parts of it.’  That is Reformed Theology.  The problem is that as you go through the Mosaic Law, Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, it never says, ‘Ok, we are starting the moral section now; we are starting the ceremonial section now, we are starting the civil section now.’  In other words, this three-fold division they have of the Law is man-made; God never made that distinction.  If you tell a Christian that he is under the moral Law of Moses, and they put one little finger under it, guess what they’re under?  The whole enchilada!  A better illustration might be of the whole shawarma; they’re under the whole thing.  In fact, James 2:10, that if you stumble at one point, you are guilty of the whole thing.

Romans 6:15 is very clear that we are not under the Law, but under grace.  So, if all of that is true, then why is James quoting Leviticus 19:18 because it sure looks like he is putting the Church under the Mosaic Law?  I think one of the reasons that he is quoting Leviticus 19:18 is because he is very practical.  Why doesn’t James just quote Paul?  Because James is the first letter. If James doesn’t quote the Old Testament, he can’t quote the Bible. The Old Testament is written, and then James wrote as the first New Testament book.  Who is he writing to?  Hebrew Christians who already knew the law.  So, you have James as the earliest New Testament book; you have no New Testament letters of Paul yet, so if James is going to teach to love others as you already love yourself, then he is supposed to quote something, that’s why he quotes Leviticus 19:18.

Beyond that, all Scripture is for us but not all Scripture is about us.  Understand that?  Do you understand that you can’t see yourself in every single passage in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament?  A lot of people look at the Book of Judges and ask, ‘How does this apply to me?’  I call that “narcigesis” — when we want to see ourselves in everything.  The fact of the matter is that those Old Testament passages are not about us; if they were about us, then why do you show up on Sunday morning to church?  You should have come on Saturday; you shouldn’t even come here.  You should go to the Temple in the Middle East, and you should bring with you an unblemished animal sacrifice.

If you want to put yourself in the Book of Joshua, then you should pull out your sword and start killing people because Joshua was commanded to slay the Canaanites. So obviously, we aren’t in every single passage; all Scripture is for us, but all Scripture is not about us.  ‘Well, let’s just then never study Joshua.’  Well, that would be silly because there are great principles you can learn from Joshua about God and life and everything else.’  So, Paul writes to Timothy and says, “All Scripture [that would include Old Testament, I’d say that would include most of the Old Testament, because the New Testament was just being compiled when Paul wrote this.  When Paul wrote this there were books of the New Testament like the John books, who wrote five books that hadn’t even been written yet].  So, he says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable…”  All Scripture is for us but not about us.  Notice Romans 15:3,4,For even Christ did not please Himself, but as it is written: [He is quoting here an Old Testament verse]..”The taunts of those who taunt You have fallen on Me.”  For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” 

You will notice that the Old Testament can give you encouragement at the present time.  All Scripture is profitable; all Scripture is for us, but not all Scripture is about us, and that’s why I think James is quoting Leviticus 19:18.  In other words, it is revelatory but not regulatory.  It reveals a tremendous truth, but in so doing, he is not putting the Church under the Mosaic Law because the Mosaic Law was only given to Israel.  Why would James put the Church under the Mosaic Law here when not too long afterwards, he is going to speak against doing that at the Council in Jerusalem in Acts 15?

When I start talking like this, I can already automatically see the comments on my YouTube channel, because all the reformed guys will come on, and they have a word they use that is like a rock they throw at you when you tell them that the Church is not under the Mosaic Law.  They will say that you are antinomian.  What is that?  ‘Anti,’ against, ‘namas,’ the Law; you are against the law; you are an antinomian.  ‘Andy Woods is an antinomian.’  If I had a nickle for every time that accusation was thrown at me, I could become rich, but I wouldn’t oppress you in the process.

So antinomian, basically what they’re saying is that ‘What you are teaching is that it is okay for Christians to go out and live any way they want; you don’t care.  Just get your fire insurance paid up, trust Jesus, and go live like the devil; that is what your doctrine is — antinomian, because you are not putting the Church under the Mosaic Law.  If you won’t put the Church under the moral law of Moses, then you’re antinomian, and you’re teaching licentiousness.’

The answer to that is that we are under the law, but it isn’t the Mosaic Law, therefore, for people to call our view antinomian, then in essence, they don’t understand what we are teaching.  You are under a law, but not the Law of Moses.  What law is it?  The Law of Christ, in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”  New Testament.  Sometimes it is called the law of the Spirit; in Romans 8:2, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”  The church is not under the Law of Moses, any facet of it, but the Church is under the law of Christ, and Christ Himself said in Matthew 22:34-40, that you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.

So, the law of Moses and the law of Christ are totally different, but they look similar at points.  I am originally from California, but I got here to the Promised Land, Texas, as fast as I could.  Let’s say that I commit a crime, that I embezzled money in California, and then I come to Texas.  Where do you think I will be tried?  In California, even though Texas has laws against embezzlement. California and Texas look a lot alike — their legal systems, but they’re different.  The Law of Moses and the law of Christ look very similar, they even both have the provision to love your neighbor as you love yourself, but they’re very different.

Under the Law of Moses, if you broke the law, you were stoned to death; under the Law of Moses, subsequent generations didn’t even have the spirit’s enabling to fulfill it.  But the law of Christ is totally different; it has moral principles that look a lot like the Law of Moses, but it is different, in fact, nine of the ten commandments in the Old Testament are repeated in the New Testament.  ‘Oh, that must mean that the Church is under the moral Law of Moses.’  No, no, no.  The church cannot be under any facet of the Law of Moses or it goes under all of the Law of Moses, including the stoning to death of Sabbath breakers.  The church is not under the Law of Moses, it is under the law of Christ, but the commandments under the Law of Christ sure look similar to the Law of Moses.  Yes, they do, just as Texas law and California law look very similar but they’re different systems.  If you commit a crime in Texas, I guarantee that you will be tried in Texas.  You will not be tried in California.  It might be easier to be tried in California than Texas, by the way.

Thomas Constable puts it this way, and hang with me on this, this is a big deal.  This area I’m getting into is an area of tremendous confusion if you don’t get it right.  “Christians live under a new set of rules, the law of liberty.  Israelites lived under a different set of rules — the Law of Moses.  The fact that the golden rule, [do unto others as you would have them do unto you], the fact that the golden rule was part of both the Mosaic Law and the Law of Christ does not mean that we are still under the Mosaic Law.” So when James is quoting Leviticus 19:18, that is part of a package that concerns the Law of Christ, not the Law of Moses.  Why is he quoting that verse?  That is the only one he can quote because there is no New Testament book yet.  James is the earliest New Testament book we have.  Look very quickly at James 2:8, “If however, you are fulfilling the royal law [then it quotes Leviticus 19:18—notice that when it quotes Leviticus 19:18, it doesn’t say the Mosaic Law; see how it says the royal law.  Why would James say the royal law when he is quoting the Mosaic Law?  Because he is not quoting the Mosaic Law; he is quoting the Law of Christ that looks similar to the Mosaic Law at points, but is not the same thing.  Look at James 2:12, “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.”  Why does James say ‘the royal law’ and ‘the law of liberty’ if he is quoting the Law of Moses?  The answer is he isn’t quoting the Law of Moses.  He is quoting the Law of Christ or the law of the Spirit that we are bound by.

So why is favoritism contrary to God’s purposes and character?  Because:

▪️We have made a division where God isn’t

▪️Because God elects all

▪️Because it is the rich that is oppressing and blaspheming

▪️Because to do will violate God’s law, not the Law of Moses but the Law of Christ.

Next time, we will look at the last one,  that when you show favoritism, you’re making a judgment, forgetting that you yourself are going to be judged at the Bema Seat Judgment of Rewards.