Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 August 11, 2019
“Sin in One, Guilty in All”
My boyhood pastor, Dr. Joe Renfro, had a classic children’s sermon. He would present two inflated balloons before his assembled group, and he would give each child a pin. At one instant, all pressed their pins against the first balloon. Of course, the balloon burst. Then he collected all pins save one, and the child with the remaining pin pricked the remaining balloon. Of course, that balloon burst too. This children’s sermon displays vividly the mortal effect of just one sin upon our lives.
Today’s text grounds this vivid children’s sermon. Let us hear the Word of God as we have it in James ii.8-11. May He bless the reading of His Word to our understanding—for the grass withers, and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8).
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
James begins today’s text by reminding us, “If you love your neighbor as yourself, then you do well.” This sentence forms one half of the twofold love command (Mark 12:30-31)—the other half being, “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Loving our neighbor sounds noble, even sweet, but Jesus—while speaking to an expert in the Law—provided a honors examination in loving our neighbor in his parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). It’s easier to love those who love us—especially those who love us well—but ‘tis harder to love the apparently unlovely and the apparently unlovable. Truly we do well before God when we do this.
Yet should we show partiality, a thing forbidden in our text two weeks ago (James 2:1-7), then we are not loving our neighbor. Rather, in showing the partiality forbidden in that text, we commit sin and are shown from the Law to be transgressors. It appears, therefore, that showing partiality, as forbidden in James 2:1-7, undercuts (if not in fact erases) even heroic loving of one’s neighbor.
This sense meets us explicitly when we arrive at verse ten. If we offend in one point of the Law, then we are guilty of all. Recall the balloons and the pins from Dr. Renfro’s children’s sermon many years ago. James, led by the Holy Spirit, provides an additional example (in verse eleven) for our instruction. One shunning adultery does well—very well, in fact, considering how far our culture and even our American evangelicalism have declined from the Godly standard set forth in Scripture. However, if he murders, he transgresses the Law. It appears that, before the bar of Heaven, the obedience in adultery counts for naught when coupled with the commission of murder.
We see this further illustrated from 1 Corinthians 13:1-3—from a chapter, called the love chapter, often recited at Christian marriage. Many consider the sentiments expressed here sweet and tender. Yet, as we see presently, love as described and defined in this chapter is rugged, difficult, and comes only through considerable expenditure of intentional effort. Without love, even the tongues of men and of angels become noisy gongs and clanging cymbals—of no blessing whatsoever to the hearer. Without love, prophetic power, understanding, knowledge, and mountain-moving faith—great though these be—are nothing. Without love, the renunciation of all material possessions profits nothing. Without love, even martyrdom—and that in the flames—profits nothing. Alas, to sin in one aspect of the moral law of God, be it ever so tiny or apparently trivial, is to be guilty as if transgressing every aspect.
The Lord, through Paul, speaks to our righteousness before the Law—or, rather, our utter lack of it—in Romans 3:9-18:
“None is righteous, no, not one
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.
Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.
The venom of asps is on their lips.
Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Paul, led by the Spirit, speaks later in that epistle to his own condition (cf. Romans 7:7-25). He notes that the good he would do, he cannot do, but the evil which he would flee—this he keeps on doing. He finally asks, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?”
Yet, as Paul noted just after that stinging indictment recited above, a righteousness apart from Law avails (cf. Romans 3:21-31). Righteousness before God comes not from observance of the Law, but through faith in Jesus Christ—Who, by His perfect active and passive obedience, fulfills the Law’s demands upon us, and God bestows the benefit of that obedience upon elect sinners by the secret work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we who by grace believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior, cry with Paul, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” Therefore, know deep in your souls that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). More of this, God willing, in next week’s text.