Sunday, 7 July 2019
For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. James 2:10
James now explains what was left ready to be stated in the previous verses. He just spoke of the “royal law” in verse 8. That concerned loving one’s neighbor as we love ourselves. From there, he said that if one follows through with this, he does well. However, he says that if you show partiality (something we all have done), you “are convicted by the law as transgressors.” With that in mind, and knowing that we have all failed to love our neighbor as ourselves at one time or another, he says, “For whoever shall keep the whole law.”
The idea here is that of someone who has been meticulous in every precept of the Law of Moses, doing all that is required of him in a line by line adherence to what it says, but yet he is to “stumble in one point.” In this, there is a problem.
The imagery here is a person who is walking along through life, and during his walk he is applying the Law of Moses to that walk perfectly. But while he was busy attempting to earn God’s favor through every minute precept, he fails to see the little rock in his path. It is a rock of loving his neighbor as himself, and he stumbles over it.
This person was so consumed with his own attempt at being righteous before God that he ignored the fact that there are others who are also living out their lives. Some are like him – well dressed, meticulous in adherence to the law, and refraining from sin. But, along comes someone who is shabby, who has failed to adhere to the law, and who has lived a life of sin.
However, this person knows that he has sinned, and he knows that he is in need of God’s mercy. Despite this, Mr. Meticulous shows favoritism against Frank Failure, knowing that he and his friends are so much more righteous than Frank. He has stumbled in a point of the very law he has been so faithful to adhere to. And the result? James says, “he is guilty of all.”
The meaning is that he is held fast by the condemning power of the law. The Law of Moses is a codified body of law. It is not merely a compilation of 613 laws that must be individually kept without connection to the others. Rather, it is one body of 613 laws. To break one is to break the entire body. As Charles Ellicott says –
“As a chain is snapped by failure of the weakest link, so the whole Law, in its harmony and completeness as beheld by God, is broken by one offence of one man; and the penalty falls, of its own natural weight and incidence, on the culprit.”
Jesus made this point perfectly clear when speaking to those of Israel who were like Mr. Meticulous –
“‘“Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”’” Luke 18:9-14
The Pharisee looked to his own righteousness because he meticulously obeyed all of the precepts of the law which could be externally evaluated. However, at the same time, he stood before God as a law-breaker. He had violated a law which could only be read by God because it is a law of the heart. His heart revealed his true character, and the law was broken. In this, he became guilty of all.
Life application: When witnessing to others, this is one of the best verses to make a logical defense for their need for Jesus. Another verse which is often used is –
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
However, many will dismiss Romans 3:23 unless further explanation is given. In order to make this sink in, ask them a direct question such as, “Have you ever told a lie?” Only a liar would say, “No.” Almost everyone will say, “Yes, of course I have.” Once they admit this, you can introduce James 2:10. “Well, the Bible says if you stumble at just one point you are guilty of breaking the whole law.”
When he hears this, it gives him a definite point to consider. Re-explaining the verse in another way will usually solidify your point. “The Ten Commandments form the basis of ‘the Law’ and they’re a unified whole. If you break any part of ‘the Law,’ you have broken the whole law.”
This is the point when most people begin to understand their separation from God. It doesn’t matter if you have lied, murdered, been disobedient to your parents, bowed down to an idol, or showed favoritism. Any infraction breaks the whole law.
Take time to memorize James 2:10, and consider how you can weave it into a proper application of a Gospel presentation. It truly can be a turning point in someone’s life. So think on it, use it, and then explain the great mercy of God who would forgive such a violation because of His great love for His people.
Lord God, thank you for those verses which convict us of our sin. When we understand that just one infraction of the law separates us from You, it helps us to understand how immense is Your mercy towards us. We have violated Your law so many times, and yet because of Jesus, You grant us pardon. Thank You for the gift of Your Son Jesus who reconciles us to You. Amen.