Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 July 28, 2019
“No Partiality in Church!”
Do you remember a time and a situation where you were not the favorite? Perhaps it occurred at home, where you felt your parents preferred one of your siblings to you. It may have occurred at school, where your teacher, either expressly or by implication, conveyed this sentiment: “Why do you not perform as well as this other student?” Maybe it occurred on the team—whether on the playing field or at work—where you were one of the last chosen, played the least, and expected to perform the worst. If you ever were—or, alas, are—in such a situation, do you remember what that felt like?
Now let’s press two more questions. First, have you ever felt that way at church? I hope not, but if it never happens, then there is little occasion for today’s text. Second, whether intentionally or not, have you ever made another feel that way at church? This one may feel worse than the first one. Apparently, such was a problem—or, at least, a temptation—to the Church at large at the time of James’s Spirit-led writing (ca. A. D. 45-48). God’s Word to us today is simple to understand, though at times not so easy to apply, “No partiality in church!” Let’s hear more about this as we hear today’s text read in this place.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
We have a clear command before us today, namely, show no partiality (2:1). This is the sole thrust of today’s text. Next we see an illustration supporting this command (2:2-4). A rich man entering the Christian fellowship. He obviously is rich, for he weats a gold ring and fine (or shining, or sparkling, or glorious, Greek lampros [lamproV]) clothing into the church. He gets preferential—yea, royal—treatment upon his arrival. He gets special notice. He is invited to sit, moreover, in a good place—and he is honored in all of this. Now notice a poor man entering the Christian fellowship. He is consigned to a much lower place. He is invited either to stand “over there” or to sit at the feet of other worshippers—and is dishonored in this treatment. The illustration thus ended, James, led by the Holy Spirit, teaches further upon this subject.
God chose many who are poor in this world’s goods (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:26), and He crowns their lives with singular advantages. He chose them, though materially poor, to be rich in faith. Being rich through faith in Jesus Christ brings appertaining benefits inestimably precious. God chose the rich in faith to be lovers of Him—and this because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). He chose the rich in faith to be heirs of the Kingdom of His dear Son, Jesus Christ. If the earnest of our inheritance, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit here on earth (cf. Ephesians 1:14), is this wonderful, how much more must the full inheritance be? Indeed, we who are in Christ Jesus are legatees of His promise—and this, too, comes to us as a result of God’s sovereign election.
Note, by contrast, the rich—as described here. They oppress the poor and drag them into court. Moreover—and much worse, though the former be bad enough—they blaspheme the glorious Name of our Lord. There is nothing wrong with wealth, per se, as the Lord declares through Solomon, “The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and He adds no sorrow with it” (Proverbs 10:22). The rich, as described here and often in the Gospels, are those who gain wealth unjustly. Why would Christ’s blood-bought people honor those who revile the Lord and mistreat them? James—and, by extension, the Lord Himself—wonders the same thing.
Now let’s apply what we’ve heard today. Think of the one who may come into our fellowship here at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (EPC) for the first time. He or she may know only few, if any, of us. That soul may enter our building carrying heavy loads in the inner man or woman—such as trials, or sin, or something else. He or she also may show signs of not having much of this world’s goods. What if that one sees any one of us treating everybody else equally—and well? Such cannot fail to impress our visitor positively. More than this, what if that one receives a warm welcome—not to mention honor—from us?
Here are some ways we can extend that welcome and honor to our visitor—who may be carrying loads that we cannot imagine. First, we may say (meaning it, of course), “I’m glad you’re here,” or, “I’m glad you came today.” We may add, “If you would like, I (or we) would love to have you sit with me (or us).” We can help them meet others here with us; we may say, “(Insert name of longstanding Cornerstone friend here), I’d like you to meet (name of first-time attender).” We may offer further engagement as well, such as, “I (or we) are going to lunch afterward. Would you like to come? I (or we) would love to have you.” (Note: if you are sufficiently blessed, make this your treat.) There are other ways to honor those who visit among us, but these will suffice the prime the pumps of your imaginations.
Such sentiment and behavior will glorify God, will bless our visitor, and may well be used of God, in His wondrous mercy, to draw our visitor savingly to the Savior—if such a need exists. Its opposite, however, will not bless, but only will would. Therefore, no partiality in church. Rather, treat all equally well.