Lesson 5 For
November 1st 2014.
LOVE AND THE LAW.
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Four Quatter 2014
Love and the Law
Read for This Week's Study:
For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy
triumphs over judgment (James
We know the story well; the question is, How
well has it sunk in?
First a priest, then a Levite, going from Jerusalem to Jericho,
encountered a man lying half dead in the road. Though both just finished
their religious duties, neither was, apparently, able to link those
duties with any sense of obligation to the injured soul, and so each
kept walking. Finally, a Samaritan, a half-pagan, happened by, took pity
on the man, bandaged his wounds, and paid for his stay at an inn where
he could recover. He also promised to pay the innkeeper for anything
else the man might need (see
Jesus told that story in response to a question by a lawyer about
eternal life. Rather than tell the lawyer,
Try harder! or
more!-Jesus painted a picture of love in action. That is, we are to
love even in potentially dangerous or unpleasant circumstances, and we
are to love even those we don't like.
Though it's not easy, and often goes against our nature, true love
involves a substantial amount of risk and calls us to tear down barriers
that separate us as people, both outside and (especially) inside the
church. This week we'll see what James has to say about this crucial
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, November 1.
The Man in Gold
James 2:1-4. It is, among other things, a study in contrasts. One
person is rich, well dressed, and, apparently, important, while the
other is poor, shabbily dressed and, apparently, a nobody. One receives
the utmost courtesy, the other disdain. One is offered a comfortable,
prominent seat; the other is told to stand off to the side or find a
place on the floor.
The description is not a very pretty one, especially because it is
depicted (potentially at least) as happening in a worship service! The
Greek word for
verse 2 is synagoge, probably an early reference to a
Jewish-Christian Sabbath service, many of which would have taken place
in private homes (see
In the Greco-Roman culture of the first century, one's public image
and position were all important. Those with wealth, education, or
political influence were expected to use these assets to enhance their
reputation and benefit their personal interests. Any large gift to
public or religious projects obligated the receiver to reciprocate to
the giver in some way. Kindness was repaid with loyalty and generosity
with public appreciation. The few upper-class people who attended
Christian services expected privileged treatment. To ignore these
expectations would have brought disgrace on the church. A failure to be
politically correct or to reject societal values was a recipe for
offense and a cause for division.
Mark 2:16 and
Luke 11:43. What societal expectations are involved? How do they
conflict with the principles of the gospel?
It is not a sin to be poor or rich, but one barometer of our
Christian experience is how we treat people who are different from us in
age, wealth, education, and even religious convictions. We tend to give
more respect to those we perceive as
above us on the social
ladder and less respect to those
below. We must remember that it
is easy to get pulled into convention even though God calls us to be
Let's face it: we might not be as open and as
crass about it as James depicted, but are we not all easily susceptible
to playing favorites? How can we learn to recognize this problem in
ourselves and, ultimately, deal with it?
As every literature evangelist knows, very often those who have
the least are willing to sacrifice the most to buy
Christian books. Well-to-do neighborhoods tend to be tough territory to
sell books in, because the people who live there may be content with
what they have and so very often do not feel their need of God as much
as those who have less. The same phenomenon is also detectable on a much
larger scale: the church often has grown the fastest in places and
periods of economic and social stress. After all, aren't even those
individuals who are struggling with big issues often more open to the
hope presented in the story of Jesus than are those who think that
things are going great for them?
James 2:5-6. How does James expand here on what he wrote in the four
Judging from this passage, it would seem that there were major issues
in the church among the rich and the poor. God chose the poor who,
though rejected by the world, were
rich in faith, while the rich
used their wealth to
oppress the poor. This problem, that of the
rich exploiting the poor, was an ever-present reality at that time. Even
worse, Roman law codified discrimination against the poor and in favor
of the rich.
Persons of lower class, who were thought to act from
economic self-interest, could not bring accusations against persons of
higher class, and the laws prescribed harsher penalties for lower-class
persons convicted of offenses than for offenders from the higher class.-Craig
S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New
Testament (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1993), p.
James 2:7. What important point does James make here about the
impact of this bad behavior?
Their bad behavior is really blasphemy against
the good name
of Jesus. Bad actions are bad enough in and of themselves; what makes
them worse is when those who profess the name of Jesus do them. And even
worse would be those who, in the name of Jesus, use their wealth or
power to gain advantage over others in the churches, which often leads
to divisions and quarrels. Hence, how careful we should be that our
words and actions match the
good name we associate ourselves
Loving Our Neighbors
James 2:8-9, along with
Leviticus 19:17-18 and
Matthew 5:43-45. What crucial message are we being given here?
James calls God's law
the royal law (James
2:8) because it is the law of the
KING OF KINGS
19:16). The law of His kingdom is given in detail in the
Sermon on the Mount (Matthew
5-7), which includes the first of
nine references in the New Testament to loving our neighbor.
Jesus' words in
Matthew 5:43 suggest the way
Leviticus 19:18 was understood at the time. For example, the
immediately preceding commands in Leviticus use apparent synonyms for
one's neighbor: they prohibit hating one's
19:17) and holding a grudge against one's fellow Israelite
Most likely some interpreted these commands to mean it would be fine
to be angry with or hate someone who was not an Israelite, because he or
she is not specifically mentioned in these Leviticial texts. After all,
people who were not Israelites were also generally considered to be
enemies. We now know that such an attitude existed in the Qumran
community, a group of devout Jews who had separated themselves from the
rest of the nation. They were taught to hate
the children of darkness
the men of perdition (The Community Rule
1QS 1:10; 9:21, 22), labels which apparently included not only
foreigners but even Israelites who had rejected the community's
Sin is the greatest of all evils, and it is ours to pity and help
the sinner. There are many who err, and who feel their shame and their
folly. They are hungry for words of encouragement. They look upon their
mistakes and errors, until they are driven almost to desperation. These
souls we are not to neglect. If we are Christians, we shall not pass by
on the other side, keeping as far as possible from the very ones who
most need our help. When we see human beings in distress, whether
through affliction or through sin, we shall never say, This does not
concern me.-Ellen G. White,
The Desire of Ages, p. 504.
Jesus' life is the greatest example we'll ever
have of selfless love for the undeserving and those who didn't love
back. How can we learn to express such love for those whom we deem
undeserving or who don't love us back? Why is, in the end, complete
self-surrender and death to self the only answer?
The Whole Law
James 2:10-11. Now read the passages listed in the table below and
classify them as either emphasizing the
whole law, the
love, or both.
It is hard for us to grasp how radical Jesus' teaching on the law
was. For devout Jews then (and for many today) one cannot really claim
to keep the law without a commitment to keeping all the laws found in
the books of Moses. Eventually, 613 separate laws were identified (248
positive laws and 365 negative ones).
The question put to Jesus about which law was most important
22:36) was probably meant to trap Him. But although Jesus
seems to have affirmed every
jot (the smallest Hebrew letter;
Matt. 5:18) as important, He also taught that love to God and
love to our neighbor were the most important commandments because they
sum up all the others.
Jesus' teaching also shows that obedience cannot be done in a vacuum.
It is always relational, or it is meaningless. In other words, if
I tithe because I am afraid of being lost if I don't, it is not
relational. On the other hand, if I tithe out of gratitude for how much
God has given me, then my actions are based on my
relationship with God.
Jesus also spoke about the
weightier matters of the law as
judgment, mercy, and faith (Matt.
23:23). All of these revolve around relationships too-with
God and with other people. James is, therefore, not saying anything
different than did Jesus or Paul: any transgression of God's law
damages to some extent our relationship to God and to others. So, it is
not a question of having enough good deeds to outweigh our bad deeds.
That is obedience in a vacuum, acting as if it all revolves around us.
Instead, by knowing Jesus, we begin to direct our attention away from
ourselves and toward devotion to God and service to others.
How much of your obedience comes from your love
for God and others and how much from a sense of obligation? Is working
from obligation always wrong, though? Perhaps you don't feel love for a
person but help him or her only because you know you are supposed
to. What, if anything, is wrong with that?
Judged by the Law
James 2:12-13. See also
2 Cor. 5:10;
Rev. 20:12-13. What do these verses teach about judgment?
Nothing is clearer than the teaching that we will be judged by the
law based on what we have done, whether for good or for evil. At the
same time, too, the Bible is also clear that through faith in Jesus, we
are covered by His righteousness.
This covering entails two aspects: forgiveness (justification) and
therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him
2:6, NKJV); and
For as many of
you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ
It is often said that we will be judged based not only on what we
have done but also on what we have not done. While this is true, many
have a wrong idea of what this means. It is not about doing more
things. That is a recipe for discouragement and self-defeat. Notice
how James describes it in the first half of
judgment is without mercy to the one who has
shown no mercy (NKJV).
Again it is a relational definition of
If we thought about it long enough, we could become so paranoid about
the judgment that we would give up in despair. But that is not
what it means to
fear God . . . for the hour of His judgment has come
14:7, NKJV)! Instead, we must always trust in the
righteousness of Jesus, whose merits alone are our only hope in the
judgment. It's our love for God, who has saved us by His righteousness,
that should spur us on to do all the things that He has called us to do.
At the same time, the warnings in the Bible about the judgment are
there for our good, so that we do not lull ourselves into a false sense
of security. James says,
Mercy triumphs over judgment
2:13, NKJV). We must remember his words, especially when we
deal with those who have fallen into the worst of sins.
Have you ever messed up really badly and when
you expected only condemnation and judgment, you were given mercy,
grace, and forgiveness instead? How did you feel? How can you make sure
that you don't forget that the next time someone else messes up badly?
Ellen G. White,
Facing Life's Record,
Great Controversy, pp. 479-491.
God has acknowledged you before men and angels as His child; pray
that you may do no dishonor to the worthy name by which ye are called.
James 2:7. God sends you into the world as His representative. In
every act of life you are to make manifest the name of God. . . . This
you can do only through the acceptance of the grace and righteousness of
Christ.-Ellen G. White,
Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 107.
Through Christ, Justice is enabled to forgive without sacrificing
one jot of its exalted holiness.-Ellen G. White Comments,
The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 936.
- Gandhi summed up the thinking of many when he said,
like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians
are so unlike your Christ. Why, unfortunately, is it not
hard to understand why he said that? And though, of course, it's
so easy to look at what others have done in the name of Christ,
why must we instead look at ourselves and at what we have done
in the name of Jesus? How well do we reveal Him to the world
- Is your local church a place where people feel valued and
respected regardless of their background, social standing,
idiosyncrasies, et cetera? If not, what can you do to make a
- What are some of the traditions and social norms in your
country that are contrary to the principles of the biblical
faith? What are some overt ones, and what are some of the more
subtle ones? After identifying what they are, how can you learn
to transcend them so that you are able to live out and reveal
the principles of the gospel in a way that could show others
that Jesus offers us all a better way of life?
- It's one thing to love your neighbor, but what does it mean
to love God? In class, discuss what it means to love God, why we
love Him, and how we express that love.
Mercy triumphs over judgment. What does that mean on
a practical level, such as when we have to deal with those who
do wrong? What kind of balance is needed there?
Angels on Main Street, Part 2
As the girls hurried on through the night, they passed three young
men. They didn't look up when the boys pointed fingers at them and made
crude remarks, but kept walking as quickly as they could. Then they
became aware that someone was following them. It must be one of the
three boys, Rocio thought. The girls did not look back, but kept walking
toward their destination. Rocio squeezed Mery's hand and whispered a
prayer, "Dear God, please help us!"
Suddenly the girls heard a noise. Was it a shout? A cry of surprise?
Out of the corner of her eye, Rocio could see that the boys who had been
following them had turned and were running the other way. They seemed to
be fleeing something--or someone, as if they were being chased.
The girls hurried on their way, stopping for nothing until they had
reached the safety of the university. Again they thanked God for guiding
them safely back home.
The next morning Rocio dressed and hurried to the bus stop to wait
for the bus that would take her to work. As she stood waiting, she
overheard a conversation between two young men. "Last night we tried to
take two girls that we saw walking alone. We followed them for a little
ways, looking for the best chance to grab them. Then suddenly we saw two
men walking with them. I don't know where they came from, but they were
strong and looked threatening. They frightened us so we ran the other
As Rocio listened to the boy's conversation she felt as if she had
touched electricity! Two strong men? I saw no men, only the
troublemakers. When the boys had stopped talking, she turned and looked
into the eyes of the boy who had told his friend what had happened the
night before. "Do you know who I am?" she asked. The boy shook his head
no. "Those two young girls you are talking about are my sister and me.
We were coming home from church when you began to follow us. But we
believe in Jesus, and we asked Him to take care of us. Those two men you
saw with us last night were God's holy angels."
The boys stood speechless as they listened to this girl talk openly
about God. "If you like, I can help you get to know God. I invite you to
visit my church, the Seventh-day Adventist church." The Holy Spirit
moved the heart of that young person, and the next Sabbath he visited
the church. He continued attending the little church in the ghetto, and
soon began Bible studies. In time he was baptized.
That little neighborhood church has grown rapidly, and today a large
congregation meets to worship the all-powerful God of heaven. And the
young people of Medellín continue to visit neighborhoods in search of
those honest-hearted people who are seeking God.
Ismael Serrano is a pastor in Apartadó,