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Sermon #13 — James Series
Title: A Poor Man in Rags
Text: James 2:10-13
Subject: Guilt, Mercy, and Judgement
Date: Tuesday Evening — May 12, 2015
Readings: Bobbie Estes and Cody Henson
Sin is transgression against God, rebellion against the King of kings. Sin is the violation of God’s character. It is man’s denial of God’s right to be God.
As John Bunyan put it, “Sin is the dare of God’s justice, the rape of his mercy, the jeer of his patience, the slight of his power, and the contempt of his love.”
The whole of man is defiled by sin. Because we are sinners, it is not possible for us to be saved, reconciled to God, and accepted, until sin is put away.
1. Sin is that which makes man obnoxious to God. God is holy and pure. He cannot look upon sin without hating it. It is contrary to his nature. He hates it wherever it is found.
2. Sin has brought us under the just curse of God’s holy law. It is written, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20). Where there is a crime there must be a punishment. Otherwise the law would be useless. If God did not punish sin in exact accordance with his strict justice, he would cease to be just. The Word of God is perfectly clear. — “The wages of sin is death.”
You may not admit it, but your own conscience bears witness to this fact. You know that there is a place of everlasting torment and punishment, where the worm dies not and the fire is not quenched. Hell is even more real and more horrible than you ever imagined. The character of God demands its existence. Unless the Almighty vacates his throne, sin must be punished and forever banished from his presence.
3. Sin shuts the door of hope upon our race. So long as one spot of sin remains upon us, so long as there is one transgression registered against us in the ledger book of God, we cannot hope to enter into heaven.
(Revelation 21:27) “There shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Until you and I are completely and perfectly freed from sin, we cannot enter into the presence of a holy God. Before any man can enter into heaven, sin must be put away. Sin lies across the road to heaven. It must be removed, or we cannot cross the road. Sin bars the gates of glory. Until the bar is removed, we cannot enter those gates. Unless sin is put away entirely, we have no hope. Now, hear this word from God and rejoice…
(Hebrews 9:26) Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. — (Hebrews 9:12) Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
Thank God the gift of his darling Son, for him who has put away sin by the sacrifice of himself! But let me say a little more about sin. In the Word of God nine things are specifically declared to be sin.
(Proverbs 21:4) (1) An high look, and (2) a proud heart, and (3) the plowing of the wicked, is sin.
(Proverbs 24:9) (4) The thought of foolishness is sin.
(Romans 14:23) (5) Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
(1 Corinthians 15:56) (6) The sting of death is sin.
(James 4:17) (7) Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
(1 John 3:4) Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for (8) sin is the transgression of the law.
(1 John 5:17) (9) All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.
But without question, the most abominable, the most insidiously evil, the most terrible of all sins is self-righteousness! Self-righteousness is more offensive and abominable in the sight of God than any other crime.
· Murder is a terrible crime; but I would rather be charged with murder before the law of God than with self-righteousness.
This is no new sin. Ever since man became sinful, he has professed to be righteous. — Self-righteousness is the most difficult sin you will ever have to deal with. Anger, wrath, envy, hatred and lusts may be overcome, because they are easily identified. But pride and self-righteousness are most well covered. Those who have the most of it are the least aware of it.
Self-righteousness flourishes and grows best among devoutly religious people. There it is watered by prayer, cultivated by religious profession, and fertilized by religious ceremony (Matthew 6:1-4, 5-8, 16-18). — Most of our public praying is self-righteousness. — Most of our religious works are self-righteousness. — Most of our assurance is self-righteousness. — Most of our morality is self-righteousness. — All of our hurt feelings are self-righteousness.
(Matthew 6:1-8) Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. (2) Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (3) But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: (4) That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. (5) And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (6) But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. (7) But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. (8) Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
(Matthew 6:16-18) Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (17) But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; (18) That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
The wrath of God burns most intensely against self-righteousness; and the hottest place in hell is reserved for the self-righteous (Luke 20:46-47).
(Luke 20:46-47) Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; (47) Which devour widows’ houses, and for a show make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation.
Self-righteousness hates the grace of God. — Self-righteousness is at the root of all gossip, slander, and persecution. Love covers sin. Self-righteousness exposes it.
In the 8th chapter of John’s Gospel (vv. 1-11), the Holy Ghost gives us a very clear demonstration of self-righteousness. The Scribes and Pharisees brought a woman taken in adultery into the Temple, demanding of the Lord Jesus that she be stoned. Those Scribes and Pharisees were not interested in honoring the law of God. They were interested in their own honor. They had no regard for the woman. And they hated the Lord Jesus Christ, because he exposed the evil of their hearts. They hated the doctrine of Christ — Salvation by grace alone. They were using this woman for their own purposes. They no regard for her at all. They could not have cared less whether she lived or died. They had no regard for Moses and the law either. They were just using the law and Moses’ name for their own designs. — That is always true of Pharisees. — They are religious zealots who care for nothing but themselves!
Self-righteousness is the most deadly of all sins. It most effectually bars a man from any hope of salvation. It makes God a liar (1 John 1:10). It blasphemes God. It rejects the righteousness of God in Christ. Self-righteousness is the most loathsome form of idolatry. — It is the worship of self.
If you will open your Bibles to James 2, verses 10-13, I want show you the picture James gives us of A Poor Man in Rags.
The whole purpose of the Book of James is to reinforce and reinforce again our Savior’s relentless warning — “Beware of the leaven of the Scribes and Pharisees!” The leaven of the Scribes and Pharisees is self-righteousness (Luke 16:15). — Self-righteousness is described by the Son of God as trusting in yourself that you are righteousness (Luke 18:9) and justifying yourself before men (Luke 16:15). And, our Savior tells us that self-righteousness always looks down upon, judges, despises, and condemns others.
This is precisely what James warns us against in our text. In verses 1-9 he gives us an example of that horrid self-righteousness that causes proud religious people to look down their noses upon poor, needy sinners, having respect for the rich and despising the poor.
(James 2:1-9) My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. (2) For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment (A Poor Man in Rags); (3) And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: (4) Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? (5) Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? (6) But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? (7) Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? (8) If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: (9) But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
That “poor man in vile raiment” is held before us as a sinner saved by grace. — “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?”
Proposition: Every saved sinner comes to God and stands before God by mercy alone as a poor man in rags.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became poor that we might be made rich.
(2 Corinthians 8:9) For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.
And every sinner who comes to God by faith in his Son comes as “a poor man in vile raiment,” — A Poor Man in Rags (Psalms 34:18; 51:17; 86:1; 109:21-22; 113:1-2, 4-8; Isaiah 41:17; 57:15; 66:1-2).
(Psalm 34:18) The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
(Psalm 51:17) The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
(Psalm 86:1) Bow down thine ear, O LORD, hear me: for I am poor and needy.
(Psalm 109:21-22) But do thou for me, O GOD the Lord, for thy name's sake: because thy mercy is good, deliver thou me. (22) For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.
(Psalm 113:1-2) Praise ye the LORD. Praise, O ye servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD. (2) Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and for evermore.
(Psalm 113:4-8) The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens. (5) Who is like unto the LORD our God, who dwelleth on high, (6) Who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth! (7) He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill; (8) That he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people.
(Isaiah 41:17) When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
(Isaiah 57:15) For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
(Isaiah 66:1-2) Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? (2) For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.
Our Savior declares, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see God.” All who trust him know themselves poor and acknowledge it. We have nothing but sin. All our righteousnesses, we confess, are but filthy rags; and we are unclean (Zephaniah 3:11-12).
· The Publican
· The Prodigal
(Zephaniah 3:11-12) In that day shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings, wherein thou hast transgressed against me: for then I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride, and thou shalt no more be haughty because of my holy mountain. (12) I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the LORD.
Now, let’s read James 2:10-13. — Remember, James is showing us the difference between those who think they are rich before God and those who know they are poor before him, the difference between true believers and religious hypocrites, the difference between saints and those who think they are saints.
(James 2:10-13) For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (11) For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. (12) So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. (13) For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
Divisions: Let me show you four things in this passage of Holy Scripture, and I’ll be done.
1. We are all, by nature and by practice, guilty, law-breaking sinners (10-11).
2. Our rule of life, as believers, as sinners saved by the grace of God, that by which we are judged is the Gospel of God, “the law of liberty” (v. 12).
3. Merciless, self-righteous judges of men, graceless religious people, shall be judged without mercy (v. 13).
4. Sinners saved by God’s freegrace in Christ rejoice in the prospect of judgment (v. 13).
1st — We are all, by nature and by practice, guilty, law-breaking sinners (10-11).
(James 2:10-11) For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (11) For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.
“Whosoever shall keep the whole law...” — No man, but the God-man Christ Jesus, since the sin and fall of our father Adam can keep the whole law. Blessed be his name forever, he did it! But no other man can keep the whole law of God.
“Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” — To break one commandment is to break all. God demands perfect obedience (Galatians 3:10; 4:21).
(Galatians 3:10) For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
(Galatians 4:21) Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?
Few would claim to perfectly obey the law. Rather, they profess that they sincerely live by the law and obey it to the best of their ability. That is the problem. Doing our best will never do for righteousness. Our best efforts will never please God. So Paul raises a question that must answered. It is not a mere rhetorical question. ― “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?” — Every sin, every transgression, every iniquity is man’s attempt to shove God off his throne.
· There are no degrees of holiness and righteousness; but there are greater and lesser degrees of guilt and sin (John 19:11).
· Though there are no degrees of reward in heaven and though the wages of every sin is death, there are degrees of condemnation and punishment in hell (Matthew 11:12).
2nd — Our rule of life, as believers, as sinners saved by the grace of God, that by which we are judged is the Gospel of God, “the law of liberty” (v. 12).
(James 2:12) So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
This perfect law of liberty is the whole Word of God, the Gospel of God our Savior (Psalm 19:7).
(Psalm 19:7) The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
· The heathen will be judged by the law of nature (Romans 1 and 2).
· Those who lived before Christ came into the world and fulfilled the law in the Old Testament, shall be judged by the law of nature and by the law of God.
· All who live in this Gospel Age, having heard the Gospel, shall be judged by the law of nature, by the law of God given on Sinai, and by the Gospel of God!
But here James is specifically telling us that we who are saved by the grace of God are to live and talk like sinners saved by the grace of God, sinners who are being judged (distinguished and identified) by the Gospel (Micah 6:6-8).
(Micah 6:6-8) Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? (7) Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (8) He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
To “do justly” is to confess that in ourselves, by reason of sin, we justly deserve his wrath and indignation, having broken all his righteous laws. To “do justly” is to exercise that repentance toward God that only God himself gives, that only God himself can produce in a man by his grace.
To “love mercy” is to love Christ. Salvation by the Lord Jesus Christ is the performance of God’s mercy; and all who are born of God love that mercy!
To “walk humbly with thy God” is to walk before God in the conscious awareness of your sin, trusting Christ alone as your Savior, as you are taught by God the Holy Spirit for the everlasting comfort of your soul (John 16:7-11; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31; Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:6).
This grace, this salvation makes sinners merciful, not Pharisees! — “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy!”
If I’m not merciful I haven’t obtained mercy. If I’m not forgiving I have not been forgiven.
(Ephesians 4:32-5:2) And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. (5:1) Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; (2) And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
Judgment without Mercy
3rd — Merciless, self-righteous judges of men, graceless religious people, shall be judged without mercy (v. 13).
(James 2:13) For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy.
· The Rich Man and Lazarus
· The Man Demanding to be Paid All (Matthew 18:25-35)
· The Evil Servant who Beat His Fellowservants (Matthew 24:42-51)
· The Day of Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46)
Ham and his sons shall have judgment without mercy! Shem and Japheth shall have mercy, mercy, and mercy, nothing but mercy!
Rejoicing against Judgment
4th — Sinners saved by God’s freegrace in Christ rejoice in the prospect of judgment (v. 13). Taking my place before God as a poor man in rags, I rejoice against judgment, I rejoice in the prospect of judgment, — I know that I shall triumph over judgment!
(James 2:13) …and mercy rejoiceth against judgment!
(Romans 8:1-4) There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (2) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (3) For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: (4) That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
(Romans 8:33-34) Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. (34) Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
See the love of God (Amazing!),
In the sacrifice of Christ.
See His justice, truth and mercy,
In our Savior’s sacrifice!
Look, O sinners, see God’s glory,
A just God and Savior, too—
Justly, now, in holy mercy,
God can save and pardon you!
Justice called and mercy answered—
Jesus’ blood has satisfied!
Yes, the blood our debt has cancelled,
By the blood we’re justified!
Illustration: Roland Hill’s Dream