“IF YOU SHOW PARTIALITY, YOU ARE COMMITTING SIN AND ARE CONVICTED BY THE LAW AS TRANSGRESSORS. FOR WHOEVER KEEPS THE WHOLE LAW AND YET STUMBLES IN ONE POINT, HE HAS BECOME GUILTY OF ALL. FOR HE WHO SAID, ‘DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY,’ ALSO SAID, ‘DO NOT COMMIT MURDER.’ NOW IF YOU DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, BUT DO COMMIT MURDER, YOU HAVE BECOME A TRANSGRESSOR OF THE LAW” (JAMES 2:9-11).
You sin when you fall short of God’s holy standard or go beyond the limits of His law.
Many people attempt to justify their sinfulness by categorizing sins according to their apparent severity. For example, telling a “little white lie” isn’t as serious to them as committing perjury; cheating on their income tax isn’t as serious as robbing a bank. Others see God’s law as a series of detached injunctions, and assume they can gain credit with God by keeping one law even if they break the others. In the final analysis, if the laws they don’t break outweigh the laws they do, they think everything will be OK.
Apparently some of those to whom James wrote had the same misconceptions, believing sins like prejudice, partiality, and indifference to the poor weren’t as serious as sins like murder and adultery. Or perhaps they believed they could make up for their favoritism by keeping God’s law in other areas.
Both of those views are erroneous and potentially damning because God’s law isn’t a series of detached injunctions or a way of gaining credit with God. It’s a unified representation of His holy nature. Even though all sins aren’t equally heinous or damaging, from God’s perspective every sin violates His standard. When you break one law, you break them all and are characterized as a sinner and transgressor.
“Sin” in verse 9 speaks of missing the mark and falling short of God’s holy standard. “Transgressors” refers to going beyond the accepted limits. One says you’ve fallen short; the other says you’ve gone too far. Both are equal violations of God’s holiness. You must see all sin as an affront to Him and never compound your sin by attempting to hide it, justify it, or counterbalance it with good works.
Suggestions for Prayer
- Memorize 1 John 1:9 and always confess your sin whenever you violate God’s holy law.
- Praise God for pitying our plight as sinners and providing a Savior.
For Further Study
- Read Galatians 3:10-29, noting the purpose of God’s law.
From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.