The Law Gives Freedom
12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
James has already said a lot about our words. And there is more to come. So far he says if we consider ourselves religious and do not keep our words well controlled that we are fooling ourselves.
And James has said a lot about our actions as well. We are to apply the Word of God to our actions or else we are kidding ourselves that we are approaching God correctly. Isn’t it amazing that in our culture when the Word of God comes into conflict with our behavior that we begin to make exceptions and excuses?
We are to receive the Word implanted which is about to save our souls. The Bible, as we understand and apply it to our lives will change our lives into what God wants us to be. And where we will see those changes clearly is in what we say and what we do!
As an application of how we act toward others, James has a couple of very interesting statements in our short passage today.
He talks about the law, judging and mercy. Let’s delve into our relationship to the law first. James says that the law give freedom.
This is not the law that makes you free to do whatever you want! Let’s talk about it!
- Freedom Responsibility and the Law
Briefly, when we are talking about the law it comes in three parts:
National laws that apply to and govern Israel as a nation
Priestly laws that manage the temple worship and sacrificial system.
Moral laws that manage our actions toward God and neighbor.
The Jews view laws as applying to themselves and to Gentiles. The national laws never applied to Gentiles. We are Gentiles. We are not talking about those kinds of laws. Cities of refuge are an example.
Priestly laws and the sacrificial system are completely fulfilled in Jesus. The Temple was destroyed in 70AD and sacrifices have not been made since!
The moral laws will always be in effect for all people because they are based on the character of God and the created purpose of all people. God has created us to be moral and reflect His character.
- The law defines our responsibilities to God
- Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil
- Respect the image of God in man
- You are to have no other God’s than YHWH
You are responsible to God for the way that you treat other people. Words and actions.
- Freedoms are dependent on being responsible
Adam and Eve are created free, but their freedom does not last!
Adam and Eve are kicked out of God’s Garden
They earn their living in a manner that requires much more labor.
They have relationship trouble, they compete instead of being mutual helpers.
They have family trouble.
They struggle with shame and feel its fear.
You are free to operate a motor vehicle. You are responsible to do that according to the laws associated with it. If you do not you will be fined. That fine is a loss of freedom.
- God has given us freedom
God wants us to be free.
He is free and we are created in His image.
There is no moral action apart from freedom. Taxes vs. Tithes
Children away from home.
Keeping the law keeps us free.
I Timothy 1: 8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
- We will be judged by our law keeping
- We are meant to love the law and hate sin
Since the law is a reflection of the character of God, if we love God, we should love the law!
Sin has eternal consequences. Sin has present consequences. We should all reflect on
Romans 7: 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.
13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
- The law is meant to bless us
God is interested in our good! He gives us the law as a blessing in our lives.
- We are meant to bless others
We bless others as we keep the law!
Imagine a world without any bad behavior!
The royal law: Love your neighbor as yourself
Do justice to others
Walk humbly with God
III. Mercy and Judgement
- Mercy, judgement and deserving
What do we deserve?
What have received?
How do we reflect this to others?
People will do terrible things to you! They will kick you when you are down. They will mock you when you are suffering. We cannot reply in kind. Jesus did not, He is our pattern!
- What does God want for you?
Go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”
Matthew 9: 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Matthew 12: At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”
3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’[a] you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.
Mercy is a necessity BECAUSE of sin. And the great news is that mercy triumphs over judgement! It does this because Jesus has received the judgement of God on our sin!
Since mercy is a necessity in our lives, we should expect that it will be necessary for us to share with others as well.
- We are agents of God’s mercy
God is both the just and the justifier. He has born the cost for both!
Judgement without mercy will be shown to those who have not shown mercy!