“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.

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“MY BRETHREN, DO NOT HOLD YOUR FAITH IN OUR GLORIOUS LORD JESUS CHRIST WITH AN ATTITUDE OF PERSONAL FAVORITISM” (JAMES 2:1).

Because God is impartial, we as Christians must be impartial too.

People are prone to treat others differently based upon external criteria such as looks, possessions, or social status, but God is utterly impartial. He never shows favoritism and always judges righteously.

Favoritism can be defined as a preferential attitude and treatment of a person or group over another having equal claims and rights. It is unjustified partiality. James 2:1-13 confronts it as sin and admonishes us to avoid it at all costs.

God’s impartiality is seen throughout Scripture. For example, Moses said to the people of Israel, “The Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality, nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:17-19). Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, warned his judges to rule without partiality because God Himself has “no part in unrighteousness, or partiality” (2 Chron. 19:7).

God’s impartiality is also seen in His gracious offer of salvation to people of every race. In Acts 10:34-35 Peter says, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him.”

God is also impartial in judgment. Romans 2:9-11 says that God will bring “tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil . . . but glory and honor and peace to every man who does good. For there is no partiality with God.”

Our text is a timely admonition because prejudice, discrimination, and bigotry are ever-present evils in our society—both inside and outside the church. I pray that God will use these studies to guard you from favoritism’s subtle influences and strengthen your commitment to godly living.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to reveal any partiality you might be harboring. As He does, confess it and turn from it.

For Further Study

  • Read Ephesians 6:5-9 and 1 Timothy 5:17-21. How does God’s impartiality apply to how you should respond to your co- workers and your church leaders?

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.

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“This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear” (James 1:19).

Being quick to hear involves a proper attitude toward God’s Word.

It has been well said that either God’s Word will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from God’s Word. Apparently some of James’s readers were allowing sin to keep them from receiving the Word as they should. God was allowing them to experience various trials so their joy and spiritual endurance would increase, but they lacked wisdom and fell into temptation and sin. James called them back to the Word and to a godly perspective on their circumstances.

James 1:19 begins with the phrase “This you know,” which refers back to verse 18. They had experienced the power of the Word in salvation, now James wants them to allow it to sanctify them. For that to occur, they must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath (v. 19).

Being quick to hear means you don’t disregard or fight against God’s Word. Instead, when trials or difficult decisions come your way, you ask God for wisdom and receive the counsel of His Word with a willingness to obey it. You’re not like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, whom Jesus described as “foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25).

You should be quick to hear the Word because it provides nourishment for your spiritual life and is your weapon against all spiritual adversaries. It is the means by which you are strengthened and equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). It delivers you from trials and temptations and engages you in communion with the living God. The Word should be your most welcome friend!

Be quick to hear, pursuing every opportunity to learn God’s truth. Let the testimony of the psalmist be yours: “O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day. . . . I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Thy word. . . . How sweet are Thy words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps. 119:97, 101, 103).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for His precious Word and for the marvelous transforming work it accomplishes in you.

For Further Study

  • Read Psalm 19:1-14.
  • What terms did the psalmist use to describe God’s Word?
  • What benefits does the Word bring?

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.

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