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Sermon #30 — James Series


      Title:                                 Self-righteousness,

      Supplication,             Service


      Text:                                  James 5:1-20

      Subject:               Living for God

      Date:                                Tuesday Evening — February 9, 2016

      Readings:           Lindsay Campbell and Mark Daniel



Do you want to live for God? To live to Christ and for Christ, in the service of Christ, for the honor of Christ? I have no doubt that most of you do. You want your life to be meaningful and useful. But how can I live for God? How can I live for and serve the Lord Jesus Christ?

Š      You must live in Christ. You must be born again.

Š      You must trust Christ.

Š      You must be washed in his blood and robed in his righteousness.

You cannot live for Christ unless Christ lives in you. So that is the very first thing that must be settled. — “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?


But where can we find practical instructions about how we should live in this world for the glory of God? Let’s open our Bibles tonight to the 5th chapter of the Book of James, James chapter 5.


Proposition: In this portion of Holy Scripture God the Holy Ghost inspired his servant James to give us much needed instruction about living for God in this present, evil world.


The title of my message is — Self-righteousness, Supplication, Service.




First, let me talk to you about self-righteousness. James begins this chapter talking about rich men (vv. 1-6). But the rich men James speaks of are rich men, all of whom are lost, cursed of God, damned, and rushing to hell. But they were rich men in the church, scattered among the Jews who professed to be followers of Christ. I have no doubt at all that the words of warning given in the first six verses of this chapter have to do with material wealth and stand as a warning against the love of this world. But the language James was inspired to use in denouncing these specific rich men convinces me that he is not here condemning materially rich men. Some of God’s saints in this world are very wealthy and use their wealth for the glory of God (Abraham, David, Solomon, Joseph of Arimathea, Lady Huntington). In this passage of Scripture James denounces and condemns self-righteousness. He denounces, and by inspiration of God the Holy Ghost, condemns every sinner who thinks he is righteous. James is talking about religious Pharisees, those who “trust in themselves that they are righteous and despise others” (Luke 18:9). The fact is, those who “trust in themselves that they are righteous” always “despise others.


(James 5:1-6) “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. (2)  Your riches are corrupted (putrefy), and your garments are motheaten. (3)  Your gold and silver is cankered (rust, corrode – But silver and gold do not canker.); and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire (the unquenchable fire of hell). Ye have heaped treasure (good works) together for the last days. (4)  Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. (What multitudes there are in hell because they have been taught by their moms and dads and preachers and Sunday School teachers that salvation is something to be earned! — The Prodigal Feeding Hogs!) (5)  Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. (6)  Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.”


Self-righteous religionists, Pharisees are always self-serving, oppressive, persecuting people, people who use religion to advantage themselves (Matthew 23:13-36).


(Matthew 23:13-36) “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. (14)  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. (15)  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves…——…(23) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (24)  Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. (25)  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. (26)  Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. (27)  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. (28)  Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. (29)  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, (30)  And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. (31)  Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. (32)  Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. (33)  Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? —— (34)  Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: (35)  That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. (36)  Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.”


I would rather stand before God guilty of any crime than stand before him in the Day of Judgment guilty of self-righteousness. Self-righteousness is man’s foolish, ignorant attempt to make himself righteous. — It is the hypocritical claim of men and women that they are good, righteous and holy. — It is that great noise of religion and piety, by which people try to silence the inward torments of a guilty conscience. — Self-righteousness is the religion of fools (Luke 7:41).


There is nothing in all the world so contemptible, so obnoxious, so hateful to our God as self-righteousness (Isaiah 65:2-5). — “For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7) — Yet, there is nothing more natural to us!


But I have said all that to say this: — There hope, even for the proud, self-righteous fool. God knows how to make rich men poor, mighty men weak, and proud men humble.

Š      Saul of Tarsus

Š      Robert Lewis Harman




Second, in verses 13-18, James shows us how to live in and through all the diverse circumstances of life in this world of woe, praying, making supplication to God, and worshipping him. — No matter where we find ourselves, no matter what our circumstances in life may be, joyful or painful, merry or miserable, healthy or sick, let us worship God (Philippians 4:4-6).


(Philippians 4:4-6) “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. (5)  Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. (6)  Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”


That is exactly what James tells us in verses 13-15. — “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray.” Without question, when afflicted in any way, the very first thing we should do is pray; but our tendency is to murmur, fret, and complain, trying to fix the mess we are in. And we will continue to do so until the Lord God graciously shuts us up to himself and sweetly forces us to pray (Psalm 1-7; Hebrews 4:16).


The word “pray” here means to supplicate God. It primarily suggests, “supplicate God in worship,” referring to the public assembly of God’s saints in worship. — The very best help there is for God’s afflicted children is worship.

Š      Private Worship

Š      Public Worship


Is any merry? Let him sing psalms.” — That which is good in affliction is even better in merriment. The word “sing” is more than singing to yourself. It has the idea of…

Š      Singing praise with God’s saints in the house of God.

Š      The word actually means to sing with musical accompaniment.


Illustration: The First Time Shelby Heard Me Whistling Again


Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (v. 14). I will not speak decisively about this 14th verse because I simply cannot speak decisively about it. This much I am certain of…

Š      When you are sick, the first thing you should do is seek God’s help through his people.

Š      In the Old Testament holy oil (typically representing the Holy Ghost) was used to anoint prophets, priests, and kings.

Š      But nowhere was oil used during the Apostolic Era in connection with the special gifts of the apostles in the miraculous healing of the sick in the name of the Lord. — Those days of apostolic gifts are over.

Š      However, oil was used for medicinal purposes, and still is (Mark 6:13 — The Good Samaritan).


The word “anoint” here is not precisely the same word translated commonly “anoint.” This word carries the idea of rubbing, or massaging with oil. It appears to me that James is saying, “When you are sick use the best medicine available and pray: bow to, worship, and supplicate God your Father, casting all your care on him.”


Then the Lord God, by his servant James, declares in verse 15, — “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.” Obviously, the healing here promised is not the certain temporal healing of the body, the certainty that the sickness will be temporally cured. Sickness or health have nothing to do with the forgiveness of sins! The Lord God here promises…

Š      The fulness and perfection of life in resurrection glory.

Š      The perfect, complete forgiveness of all sin to those who believe, to those who trust Christ, even if their sickness and the death of their bodies is brought on by their sin!


Reade on…(James 5:16) — “Confess your faults one to another.”

Š      Confess Yourselves Sinners to One Another

Š      Confess Your Offenses to those You Offend

And pray one for another, that ye may be healed.”


The effectual (in wrought) fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

Š      All true prayer is prayer wrought in the heart by God the Holy Spirit. — True prayer is God inspired prayer.

Š      In wrought prayer, God inspired prayer, will not let go of God until it has obtained the thing sought at the Throne of Grace. — Jacob Wrestling! — The Syrophenician Woman! — Importunity in Prayer!

Š      The righteous man, whose prayers are both fervent and effectual, is one who has been made righteous by the grace of God.


Then James gives us an example of the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man in verses 17-18.


(James 5:17-18) “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. (18)  And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”


I do not know much about what I am talking about here, and don’t pretend to. I don’t know much about prayer. But, I do know this: — Blessed be his name forever! There is one Righteous Man whose prayers are always fervent and effectual The Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 2:1-2).


(1 John 2:1-2) “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: (2)  And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”




The last thing James speaks about in his Epistle is service. He ends his short, instructive Epistle very abruptly, as if he intends that we should, when we have read the Book, walk away with this final thought — If we would serve God and serve his people, if we would live for God and be of help to others, we must make it our business to help the fallen (vv. 19-20),


(James 5:19-20) “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; (20)  Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”


This is exactly the same thing Paul tells us in Galatians 6.


(Galatians 6:1-2) “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (2)  Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”


Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth…” — Brethren often err from the truth.

Š      In Doctrine

Š      In Conduct

Š      In Neglect of Worship


And one convert him…” — What a wonderful thought! God uses sinners to help sinners! Conversion is God’s work. I know that; and I hope you do. But God condescends to uses converted folks to convert folks.


Illustration: “Take ye away the stone!


“It may not appear so brilliant a thing to bring back a backslider as to reclaim a harlot or a drunkard, but in the sight of God it is no small miracle of grace, and to the instrument who has performed it shall yield no small comfort. Seek ye, then, my brethren, those who were of us but have gone from us. Seek ye those who linger still in the congregation but have disgraced the church, and are put away from us, and rightly so, because we cannot countenance their uncleanness. Seek them with prayers, and tears, and entreaties, if peradventure God may grant them repentance that they may be saved.” (Spurgeon)


Now, look at James’ last word to us in verse 20. — “Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” What a great, great privilege! What a great, great honor! He who restores the fallen, he who is used of God for the everlasting salvation of another…

Š      Converts a sinner from the error of his way!

Š      Saves a soul from death!

Š      Hides a multitude of sins!


Sin is covered only by the blood and righteousness of Christ. It is so covered as not to be seen by the eye of vindictive justice and so thoroughly that those who are covered with Christ’s blood and righteousness are all fair, without fault, and unreproveable, chaste virgins before the Thrice Holy God! Though our sins are many, an incomprehensible multitude, they are blotted out as a thick cloud, and are abundantly pardoned! Though our sins be ever so many, God forgives all for Christ's sake! The blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin! —— But God condescends to use such things as we are for this blessed, blessed work (1 Corinthians 1:26-31; 2 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Timothy 4:16).


(1 Corinthians 1:26-31) “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: (27)  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; (28)  And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: (29)  That no flesh should glory in his presence. (30)  But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (31)  That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”


(2 Corinthians 4:7) “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”


(1 Timothy 4:16) “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”


O my God, God of all grace, make me an instrument in your hands by which…

  • Sinners are converted from the error of their ways.
  • Immortal souls are saved from death.
  • And the sins of your people are covered!








Don Fortner








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