Lesson 18-An Appeal To Avoid Partiality (James 2:12-13)
by John Lowe
Text: James 2:12-13, KJV
12So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
12So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
"So speak ye, and so do," "Let it, therefore, be your concern, that you speak and act like those that shall be judged by "the law of liberty" by the glorious gospel, which is an act of mercy that sets us at liberty from the bondage of the Jewish ritual, and directs us to all the branches of that virtue and holiness, which is the truest liberty of the mind, and which, being so excellent, must subject us to the severest punishment if we presume to condemn it."
Pharisaism recognized six-hundred odd laws in their complicated religious system. The Apostle Paul simplified this complicated system with Romans 13:10: "Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."
Dear reader, the judgment is looming before each of us, and we shall be tried on equitable principles that do not have to do with obeying one part of the law but rather concerning the whole law of God. We should act similar to those who expect to be judged by the entire law, or on the question of whether we have conformed to every part of it.
The phrase, "the law of liberty," is explained in the notes on James 1:24 and the notes given at James 4:11. The meaning is that in all our conduct, we are to act under the constant impression of the truth that we are soon to be brought into judgment and that the law by which we are to be judged is that by which it is contemplated that we shall be set free from the dominion of sin. In the rule which God has laid down in his word, called "the law of liberty," or the rule by which true freedom is to be secured and protected. It reveals a religious system by which man shall be emancipated not only from one sin but from all sins. Such law shall judge us, so we shall not be able to plead our innocence by claiming we were forced to sin, but we shall be judged under that law by which the arrangement was made that would set us free from sin. If we might be free from sin, if an agreement was made by which we could have led holy lives, it will be proper to be judged and condemned if we are not righteous. The sense is, "In all your conduct, whatever you do or say, remember that you are to be judged, or that you are to give an impartial account; and also remember that the rule by which you are to be judged is that by which provision is made for being delivered from the dominion of sin, and brought into the freedom of the gospel." The argument here seems to be that he who habitually feels that he is soon to be judged by a law under which it was contemplated that he might be, and should be, free from the bondage of sin, has one of the strongest of all inducements to lead a holy life.
13For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
"For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy."
This is an equitable principle that is found everywhere in the Bible.
Proverbs 21:13. "Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself but will not be heard."
2 Samuel 22:26-27, "with the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful, and with the froward thou wilt show thyself unsavory."
"For he whose faith does not work by love, according to the grace and obligation of the gospel, so as to shew compassion to his poor brethren, shall pass under a severe sentence of condemnation and wrath, to be executed upon him in the day of judgment, without any mixture of that mercy, which is held forth in the doctrine of Christ: and, on the contrary, he who, as the fruit of his faith, exercises tenderness and loving-kindness toward them, shall rejoice in his deliverance from condemnation and wrath, and the fear of being cast in judgment: and divine mercy, according to the gospel, shall triumph in his favor, and glory over strict justice according to the law, in the final day of account, agreeably to our Lord's own representation of it" (Matthew 25:34-46).
Compare Psalm 18:25-26; Matthew 6:15; Matthew 7:1-2.
The idea which the apostle seems to convey here is that there will undoubtedly be a judgment and that we must expect that it will be conducted on equitable terms; that no mercy is to be shown when the character is not such that it will be proper that it should be; and that we should habitually feel in our conduct that God will be impartial, and should organize our lives accordingly.
"and mercy rejoiceth ("glorieth") against judgment
The idea is that of glorying over one superior to another or has gained a victory over another. The reference here and in what follows is to the judgment, the trial of the great day (the judgment day); the apostle is stating the principles on which the trial will be conducted - on which one class shall be condemned, and the other acquitted and saved. In reference to one class, the wicked, he says that where there has been no mercy shown to others - referring to this as one evidence of piety - that is, where there is no true righteousness, there will be judgment without mercy; in the other case there will be, as it were, a triumph of compassion or mercy will appear to have gained a victory over judgment. Strict justice would indeed plead for their condemnation, but the attribute of mercy will triumph, and they will be acquitted.
The attributes of mercy and justice would seem to come in conflict, but mercy would prevail. This is a true statement of the plan of salvation and what occurs in a sinner's redemption. Justice demands, as what is her due, that the sinner should be condemned; mercy pleads that he may be saved - and mercy prevails. It is not uncommon that there seems to be a conflict between the two. In the dispensations of justice before human tribunals, this often occurs. Strict justice demands the offender's punishment, yet there are cases when mercy pleads, and when every man feels that it would be desirable that pardon should be extended to the guilty, and when we always rejoice if mercy triumphs.
There is a circumstance where respect is paid to justice, but mercy triumphs. Justice pleaded for the condemnation of the sinner, but mercy intervened, and he is saved. Justice is not disregarded, for the great Redeemer of humanity has done all that's necessary to uphold it. Still, there is the freest and fullest exercise of mercy. While the justice of God is maintained, every benevolent feeling in the breasts of all holy beings can be gratified in the salvation of countless thousands.