Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 August 18, 2019
“Mercy Triumphs over Judgment”
We continue today in our punctuated sermon series through James entitled The Wise Life, and today we also conclude this section of James’s general letter in which God forbids favoritism (2:1-13). We see today, in particular, that mercy triumphs over judgment. Mercy triumphs over the improper judgments implicit in showing favoritism in church. Mercy, rather than judgment, also describes God’s stance toward His redeemed in Christ Jesus—and, thus, mercy once again stands the winner. Let us hear more about this as we hear God’s inspired, inscripturated, infallible, and inerrant Word read in this place today.
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James, led of the Holy Spirit, urges us to speak and to act as those to be judged under the law of liberty. What a happy thing it is to dwell under the Gospel law of liberty. We who are in Christ—and that by grace, through faith—are not judged as in verse ten: “One strike, and you’re out.” Because of Jesus’ Person and work, the benefits of which the Holy Spirit applies to our souls, we are judged according to the law of liberty. The Apostle Paul, also inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). Therefore, God judges us, “Not guilty,” before His infinitely holy bar. We receive this liberty because Jesus Christ both satisfies the moral law’s demands in our places and bears the consequence of our failure to keep the moral law’s demands—namely, physical death, in His case, upon a cross—in our places. Truly ‘tis a glorious exchange (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21) by which we come to dwell under the sweet law of liberty.
Because we are adjudged innocent, we must speak and act accordingly, for judgment is without mercy to the one showing no mercy. Jesus Himself guides us to this truth in a portion of His model prayer, to wit, “…forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…” (Matthew 6:12). We are called to show mercy to others, especially in the form of forgiveness. Peter wondered how much he should forgive others. Maybe he could forgive even up to seven times—well above the degree customary or humanly expected of the day. Jesus then tells Peter that he must forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven. Then Jesus illustrates His declaration with a story.
A servant owed a king ten thousand talents—about 200,000 years’ wages for a laborer (so the ESV footnote). Of course, the servant could not pay, and the king order the servant, his wife, his children, and all his goods sold in consideration of the debt. The servant pleaded for mercy, and the king canceled the debt. That forgiven servant soon found his fellow servant, who owed him one hundred denarii—just over one-quarter years’ wages. The lessor debtor pleaded for mercy, but received none. Instead, this forgiven great debtor mistreated his fellow servant and had him cast into prison until he should repay the debt. The king learned of this, summoned the first (great) debtor back to him, rebuked him for his utter lack of mercy—after receiving staggering mercy—and ordered him jailed until he should repay the debt. Jesus ends his story with these words, “So also my Heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Hence, being adjudged innocent, let us show mercy to our fellow debtors.
After all, mercy triumphs over judgment. It pleases God to glorify Himself by extending us mercy. He shows us great kindness and concern in our pitiable estate, and by judicial fiat He absolves us of our guilt. Indeed, mercy triumphs over (or has greater power than, Greek katakauchaomai [katakaucaomai]) judgment. None can thwart His kindness and concern toward us. If He be disposed to forgive us, to place in right eternal relationship with Himself, to remove the threat of Hell forever from our souls and futures, and to grant unto us the riches of his inheritance, who can stop Him? None can, and none ever shall. Moreover, none can revoke His judicial absolution of our guilt. If the Son shall make us free, then we shall be free indeed (John 8:32). None shall pluck from the Son’s hand any that the Father has granted Him (John 10:29-30). God gets His glory in His redeemed via mercy, not judgment—and, yet again, mercy emerges the victor.
Because of the Gospel law of liberty, the ground beneath Christ’s cross is level. All who are in Christ—no matter their relative earthly advantages or disadvantages—needed a Savior, and all who are in Christ—indeed, and infallibly—have a Savior. Because the ground beneath Christ’s cross is level, let us show no favoritism in Christ’s Body, the Church. We who are in Christ had the same fundamental need of His mercy, and we received that mercy in equal measure. Therefore, let us show no distinction between how we treat the rich and the poor. Let us make no distinction between our treatment of the famous and of the obscure. Let us show no difference in our treatment of the long-stander and of the newcomer. Rather, as we heard some weeks ago, let us treat one another in Christ’s Church equally well. Thus souls are upbuilt in Christ, thus we conform to this section of Holy Scripture, and thus is God glorified in our conduct.
 Some Greek manuscripts read seventy-seven. Though I am inclined to favor seventy times seven, in either case the degree of forgiveness incumbent upon us is far beyond the usual expectation.
 We find Jesus’ interaction with Peter, and the consequent Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, in Matthew 18:21-35.