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“In many things we offend all.” — What a sad, sad fact; but fact it is. — “In many things we offend all!” I wish it were not so, but I know it is. I cannot and will not deny it. “In many things we offend all!”
The early Church, like the Church today, was a mixed multitude. Nominal professors of religion mingled with the people of God who possessed true godliness. The seed of the serpent sat side by side with the woman’s seed. The children of the devil sat at the Lord’s Table with the sons of God. Reprobate vessels of wrath fitted themselves for destruction by trampling underfoot the precious blood of Christ, while chosen vessels of mercy were being prepared for Glory by hearing the same Gospel.
Because that is the way it has always been and the way it always shall be in this world, God the Holy Ghost, by his servant James, uses this fact to teach us again a fact that we are terribly prone to overlook and forget. — As it is in the professed Church of God, as it is in this world, so it is in each of us. Living here, in this body of flesh is both righteousness and sin, both faith and unbelief, both good and evil, both purity and pretense, both sincerity and hypocrisy, both the child of God and a child of the devil, that which is born of the flesh and is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit and is spirit. Obviously, these things are written plainly in the Book of God (Romans 7; Galatians 5; 1 John 3). And they are painful facts of everyday life experienced by every believer.
In James 3:1 the Spirit of God teaches us again that we are not to set ourselves up as masters and judges over God’s elect. — “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.”
This might be applied to the great error men make when they set themselves up as preachers. Let none run who have not been sent. Let none assume to themselves the work for which God has not gifted them and to which he has not called them. Yet, we are clearly taught to pray that God would raise up laborers from among us and send them out into the harvest. And we are clearly taught that the work of the ministry is a work to be desired.
Obviously, then, James is not here talking about preaching, and warning men not to do that great work. Rather, he is telling us what we are told throughout the Scriptures. — We are not to set ourselves up as masters over and judges of God’s elect. That is an evil work we are specifically forbidden to practice (Matthew 7:1-5; Romans 14:4).
It is not my business to govern your life; and it is not your business to govern your brother’s life. It is our business to help one another along life’s road (Galatians 6:1-5).
James has told us in the first two chapters of unstable, double minded men (James 1:8), very religious men and women who are mere hearers of the Word. They hear the Gospel and loudly profess to believe the Gospel; but the Gospel they profess has not made them new creatures in Christ. Instead of making them godly people, James tells us that their religion has made them nothing but men and women who partially observe the law, pretending to be righteous because they do some of the things required by the law, failing to understand that to break the law in one point is to be guilty of all (James 2:10; Galatians 3:10).
What multitudes there are among professed believers who are guilty of this evil! They are (at best) partial in their religion. They pick and choose what they like and disregard the rest. They do so in the doctrines they believe, in observing the ordinances of divine worship, and in their day by day conduct in this world. Their religion, while pretending to be surrendered to Christ the Lord, is nothing but obstinate rebellion cloaked in religion
Believers are not double minded hypocrites; but they are both sinners and saints. Though we are new creatures in Christ and partakers of the divine nature, having Christ formed in us by the new birth, heaven-born souls are sinners still. Here, in James 3, the Apostle speaks of bitter envying, strife in the heart, and of lying against the truth; and says “in many things we offend all,” including himself with the offenders. This is a fact that every heaven born soul knows; but a fact we appear too often to forget. — “In many things we offend all!” You have the evidence in yourself, and I have it in myself. With the same tongue we bless God and curse men! These things, as James tells us, ought not to be, but they are!