James 2:10-12

James 2:10‑12  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 9
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There is hardly a fact more characteristic of the natural man than condemning another for the evil to which one is not addicted, while extenuating one's own sins by every excuse possible as a peccadillo. Truly man is not only fallen, but his nature is utterly unjust, and God is in none of his thoughts.
One may plead the universal failure of mankind, and the inconsistency of the faithful. But Christ puts all such apologies to the rout, and shows us Man on earth in Whom was no sin and no guile in His mouth, now in glory, the Lord of glory. He, not Adam, nor Israel, is the standard here below as well as in heaven. Who can stand beside Him as He was, or be with Him as He is?
Here, however, it is the law which is used to crush self-righteousness; and the law, being of God, cannot but be inflexible and resents all the evasions of men. “For whoever shall keep the law as a whole but shall offend in one [point] is become guilty of all. For he that said, Thou shalt not commit adultery, said also, Thou shalt not kill. And if thou commit not adultery but killest, thou art become a transgressor of law. So speak, and so act, as about to be judged by a law of liberty” (vers. 10-12). Were there true obedience, one claim of God would be as binding as another, violence as hateful to us as corruption. To offend in one point violates God's authority and brings us under the guilt of breaking all. The appeal reminds us of the apostle's reasoning in Rom. 2:17-2917Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, 18And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; 19And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, 20An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. 21Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? 22Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? 23Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonorest thou God? 24For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. 25For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. 26Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 27And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? 28For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. (Romans 2:17‑29), where the Jew is convicted of folly in resting on law and boasting in God and teaching others as babes while failing to teach himself, and dishonoring God by the transgression of the law in which he professedly gloried. All attempt for sinful man (and a Jew made no difference) to acquire righteousness by the law, and stand on any such ground before God, is but fatal ignorance of self as well as of God. By deeds of law shall no flesh be justified in His sight.
On the other hand the believer in the Lord Jesus is begotten by His word of truth. It is not only an operation on conscience and heart; but a new nature is imparted, which is of God, as indeed those who thus believe are declared to be born of God, and His children. As the life of the Spirit is by the word of truth, so it is formed, and nourished, developed and exercised in that word, which has for him who is thus begotten a character of holy freedom in entire contrast with the action of the law on the natural man. In this case it is an instrument of bondage, because the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good; whereas the mind of the flesh, the natural man, is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be; only self-will is the law of its being.
The law therefore, when truly applied, discovers to the sinner his essential alienation and can give no quarter but condemn and kill. It is no better in those born of God than in any other, as the latter half of Rom. 7 elaborately shows. Flesh does not change into spirit. That which is born of the flesh is flesh.
But as the word was used in God's will to beget the believer by the impartation of a nature akin to Himself and His word, so it remains valid and intended for the need and admonition, refreshment, direction, and strengthening of the new life all through. This it is which is called a “law of liberty.” Its authority was recognized by the soul in hearing Christ's word and passing from death unto life. Then ensued repentance toward God as truly as faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ: self was judged as evil, grace and truth in Christ became most welcome. Then the word which communicated the knowledge of such a blessing is valued and confided in, to guide the soul through the mazes of a world departed from, and to lay bare the devices of the enemy to ensnare along the way. Light divine surrounds one's going. It is accordingly a “law of liberty” which we love; as indeed we now know the God Who gave it us first and last as our best and truest Friend, proved and manifested in the Lord Jesus.
It is of much interest to observe how the apostle Paul shows in Rom. 8:3, 43For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:3‑4) the way in which he contrasts with the law that worketh wrath and slew him that sought thus to establish his standing, what he calls “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ,” which was characterized by emancipation, not bondage, and issued in a life of obedience pleasing to God. Each inspired writer has his points of difference; both agree in testifying to a similar blessed result.