Four Basic Doctrines

The following is another lesson from my Sunday morning Bible study, covering about four weeks!

In James 2, he discusses the subjects of godless favoritism and godly faith. Immature people talk about their faith; mature people practice their faith. James gives the simplest of tests to see if one is mature or immature: the way we treat other people really indicates what we believe about God. A man can’t say he loves God and yet hate his brother (1 John 4:20).

Let’s take an overview of what we find about favoritism:

  1. The Command Against Favoritism (James 2:1-8)
    1. The Examples (James 2:1-4): His readers are guilty of the following sins:
      1. Treating rich visitors with great respect (James 2:1-2a, 3a)
      2. Treating poor visitors with no respect (James 2:2b, 3b-4)
    2. The Enigma (James 2:5-7): James cannot understand this, for often it was the rich who persecuted them and ridiculed their Savior.
    3. The Exhortation (James 2:8): James says, “Obey our Lord’s royal command found in the Scriptures.”
  2. The Consequences of Favoritism (James 2:9-13)
    1. To break this law is to break all laws (James 2:9-12).
    2. To show no mercy is to receive no mercy (James 2:13).

Here is the meat of the four lessons. In the beginning of James chapter 2, the author examines four basic doctrines in light of the way we treat other people:

The Deity of Christ (James 2:1-4)

  1. Jesus was not a respecter of persons (Matthew 22:16)
    1. Jesus did not look at outward appearance, but at the heart.
    2. Jesus was not impressed with status and riches (Mark 12:41-44)
    3. Jesus saw potential in sinners (Matthew, Peter, the woman at the well)
    4. Jesus was a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19)
    5. Paul was judged by his past (Acts 9:26-28)
  2. Jesus was despised and rejected (Isaiah 53:1-3)
    1. Jesus had no home to call his own (Matthew 8:20)
    2. Jesus grew up in despised Nazareth (John 1:11, 46)
    3. Jesus was judged by human standards, and rejected by his own people (John 7:24)
    4. Jesus used Peter, Zaccheus and John Mark in spite of their failures in the past.
  3. A prescription for us:
    1. Look at people through the eyes of Jesus.
    2. Look at people as children for whom Christ died.
    3. Check our prejudice and motives (James 2:4)

The Grace of God (James 2:5-7) the emphasis is on the fact that God chooses, which involves grace. We are his children by his sovereign choice, not our merit. No one deserves salvation (Ephesians 1:4-7, 2:8-10).

  1. God ignores national differences
    1. Peter at the home of Cornelius (Acts 10:34)
    2. Must one become a Jew before becoming a Christian? (Acts 15)
    3. No distinction between Jew or Greek (Galatians 3:28)
    4. No condemnation for those in Christ (Romans 2:6-16)
  2. God ignores social differences
    1. Masters and slaves, rich and poor all equal to God (Ephesians 6:9)
    2. Who makes one poor or rich? (1 Samuel 2:7-8)
    3. God chooses the poor (1 Corinthians 1:26-27)
  3. Poor in this world and rich in the next (1 Timothy 6:17-18). God promises the kingdom to those who love him
  4. James slams the people (a stern rebuke) in James 2:6-7.
  5. The doctrine of grace forces us to relate to people based on God’s plan and not the basis of human merit or status. Jesus broke down the dividing wall (Ephesians 2:11-22) between Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, male and female, educated and ignorant, young and old, black and white.

The Word of God (James 2:8-11) James reaches back into the Old Testament laws (Leviticus 19:18), and teaches a lesson like what we find in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

  1. Why is love of neighbor called the royal law?
    1. Love affirms that we are his disciples (John 13:34): true believers are taught to love one another (1 Thessalonians 4:9).
    2. Love rules all other laws: love is fulfilling the law (Romans 13:10). Who needs other laws if we would only love one another?
    3. Obeying out of love makes you a king: since hatred makes one a slave, love sets one free from selfishness and enables us to reign like kings.
  2. Take any of the Ten Commandments and you will find ways to break it when you respect a person’s position or status. For example:
    1. It makes you lie to some people.
    2. It leads to idolatry, lifting some people up.
    3. It even leads to mistreatment of parents.
  3. Christian love does not mean I have to like the other person, or agree with him on everything; but treating that person as God would treat them, and the way God has treated me.
    1. It is an act of my will.
    2. The motive is to glorify God.
  4. Christian love does not leave a person where I find him: love helps people to reach higher and go better, helping the poor, love builds up others.
  5. We only believe as much of the Bible that we practice. If we fail in this most basic challenge, then we will not do other lesser matters of the Word. Let’s not be like the Pharisees and careful about lesser matters and careless about the important foundational stuff (Matthew 23:23).

The Judgment of God (James 2:12-13) believers will not be judged for our sins (John 5:24, Romans 8:1) but our works will be judged (Romans 14:10-13, 2 Corinthians 5:9-10).

  1. Our words will be judged
    1. The two visitors mentioned in James 2:3.
    2. Careless words (Matthew 12:36).
    3. Words from the heart (Matthew 12:34-37).
    4. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-26, 33-37, 7:1-5, 21-23).
  2. Our deeds will be judged
    1. Additional insight (Colossians 3:22-25).
    2. Sins are not held against us (Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 10:17).
    3. But our sins affect our character and works.
  3. Our attitudes will be judged (James 2:13)
    1. Contrasts: showing mercy, showing no mercy.
    2. The lie: that we can earn mercy by showing mercy.
    3. The law of liberty (obedience sets us free).
    4. We are able to walk in liberty (Psalm 119:45)
  4. The law prepares us for liberty: a child under rules is not mature enough to handle himself. He received outward discipline until the time he develops inward discipline.
  5. Liberty is not a license to do whatever you want, but the freedom to become who we are meant to be in Christ.

This is just the first half of James 2; next time we will dissect various types of faith.

Spread the Community, Faith, Love

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