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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Monday, 3 October 2016

James 2:8-13 – The Royal Law

James reminds his readers that the law they obey is a royal one, a description that indicates its dignity and the status of the lawgiver. 

In general, laws reflect the lawmakers. Once we know the opinions and outlooks of those who make our national laws we can anticipate what they will legalise. They should be pleased once they pass their laws because those laws are what they regard as good and beneficial. When it comes to the divine law, it will reflect the character of the divine Giver. Since he is good, gracious and glorious, his law will be good, gracious and glorious.

When we say that the law is good, we mean that it is beneficial and that obedience to it brings various advantages. For example, if everyone obeyed it, there would be no crimes. 

In saying that the law is gracious, we mean that it is beneficial for sinners to base their lives on it. We cannot use the law to get life from God, but obedience to the law will reveal that we have received new life from God through the work of the Holy Spirit. So the law is beneficial to those who would love to keep it perfectly, but who cannot do so because of their remaining sin. 

And when we say that the law is glorious, we mean that it produces beauty in those who obey it. The most beautiful sight or being in existence is God because everything in him contributes perfectly and fully to his overall splendour. His law reflects him, so when we obey it we reveal what God is like. And our lives become balanced and beautiful to look at.

At the same time, obedience to the royal law is a glad confession by subjects to the sovereignty of the lawgiver. We obey the law because he says to do so, and we obey it because we know what kind of sovereign he is. We know that he would not ask us to do something that will be bad for us in a spiritual way.

We should note the part of the law on which James focuses. We might imagine that since he is concerned about their devotion to God he might mention the first table of the law which is concerned with one’s relationship to God, his name and his day. Instead James directs his readers to the second table of the law when he says ‘love your neighbour’. The fulfilment of the law involves human relationships as well as reacting directly to God. Within the love of one’s neighbour will be found fellowship within the church and witness outwith the church. We cannot love God if we do not love his people and we cannot serve God if we do not witness lovingly to the world.

I suppose we need to ask ourselves how such a response to God’s law shows itself and I would suggest that it happens spontaneously. After all, his law has been re-written on the hearts and minds of his people in connection with the blessings of the new covenant. There can be a reluctant attempt to keep this set of commandments, but a reluctant attempt is not a loving one.

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