“For whosoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles on one point, he has become guilty of all.”
Now James includes the whole law, not just the royal law (the Law of Christ). Remember that within the Law of Moses is where we first saw this law of loving your neighbor as yourself, which became part of the royal law for Church-Age believers. (Leviticus 19:18; Galatians 5:14)
James was writing to primarily a Jewish audience so he used the Mosaic Law as an illustration. We know from Scripture that no one can keep the whole law. The word in Greek for keeps actually means to guard. So what was James saying in this verse that has bearing on the context? James was saying that to God “sin is sin” and disobeying the Law means that you are a lawbreaker. Your particular pattern of sin is perhaps different than mine, but they are both sin. To say that you keep the Ten Commandments and therefore you’re okay in God’s eyes is dispelled in this verse because everyone stumbles in at least one point of the Law. I’m sure the usher thought that he was okay in God’s eyes as a faithful member of James’ congregation because he thought he was obeying the laws of God. But anyone who shows favoritism is committing a mental attitude sin.
“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.”
These two commandments are specified for illustrative purposes. So the verse can be broken down mentally and overtly. Why were these two commandments picked? You say because they are common sins? No. These were picked because they have two sides. Adultery can be mental or physical, or a combination. Homicide can be mental, or physical or a combination. Murder mentally is hatred, murder physically is homicide; adultery mentally is sexual lust in the mind, adultery physically is act of sex outside of marriage. So, both of these commandments are parallel in that they have a mental side and a physical side. (Matthew 5:21,22,27,28)
There are some parts of the law one individual would never violate because that is his area of strength. No two people have the same area of strength; no two people have the same area of weakness in the sin nature. Violation of one part of the law makes a person a sinner just as violation of another part of the law. Legalistic and self-righteousness people are prone to forget that the source of all sin is the sin nature. Everyone has a sin nature. Violation of the law merely proves the existence of that sin nature because the area of weakness violates a specific part of the law. The legalist emphasizes the commandments he keeps; the honest person recognizes the commandments he breaks. The legalist emphasizes the commandments that he keeps which feeds his egotistical self-righteousness. Doctrine removes legalism and self-righteousness when properly applied. Legalism minimizes the weakness of the sin nature while emphasizing the weakness of someone else’s sin nature. Legalists condemn others who fail in their area of strength while ignoring their own failures.
“So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.”
The word so introduces the concept of application. The imperative mood means it is a command. Speak is a reference to the prohibition against sins of the tongue — gossip, slander, maligning, judging. One thing that characterizes a believer who begins to mature spiritually is the avoidance of the sins of the tongue. “Murder” by the tongue is one of the signs of a believer who has not matured.
The doctrine of human good, the doctrine of divine good, the doctrine pertaining to the law of freedom, and the doctrine of the Judgment Seat of Christ are involved in verse 12. Those is referring to believers. Every believer will have his day in court. The purpose is the evaluation of his divine production. Human good works have their source in the energy of the flesh: human talent, human ability, human systems, etc. These works will be burned up at the Judgment Seat of Christ and only divine production will remain.
It is God’s purpose to evaluate us before we spend time in eternity in resurrection bodies. He will evaluate our production so that in Heaven there will not be any human good and human good of any human being will never be mentioned again. Human good is totally incompatible with the grace of God. Law is the Greek word “nomos,”which means a system, in this case a divine system. The law of liberty is a divine law for the Christian life. The law of liberty says that grace gives you the freedom to serve God. It says that you are free to make grace decisions on the basis of Bible doctrine, that you are free to live your life as unto the Lord and that you are not accountable — apart from criminal law and things of this sort — to other people. You must live your life as unto the Lord. Basically, once you are born into the family of God there is a whole new set of rules — grace rules and grace principles — and you must learn these things and function under them so that the working object of your faith is always God and God’s provision, never human ability, never human talent. The law of freedom rejects any human ability, talent or system of spirituality or salvation by works. There is no place for man’s works no matter how well designed, well intentioned or sincere.
Human good is not liberty; it’s bondage (legalism) when substituted for spirituality. Human good is identified as dead works because it is dead to God and dead to God’s plan. (Hebrews 6:1; James 2:20,26) Human good is never acceptable to God or to the divine viewpoint. (Isaiah 64:6) Therefore human good has no place in the plan of God or the operation of grace. (II Timothy 1:9) Human good will not save mankind. (Titus 3:5) The believer’s human good is revealed at the Judgment Seat of Christ and destroyed. (I Corinthians 3:11-16) Human good is the basis for the unbeliever’s indictment to the Lake of Fire at the last judgment. (Revelation 20:12-15) When Christ died on the Cross our sins were poured out on Him and judged. The work of dying for us is divine good. The sins of the sin nature were judged. The sin nature also produces human good which was rejected at the Cross. Divine good always excludes human good, they cannot coexist. When a person takes a look at the Cross and says no to Christ, he then has to stand upon his human good and at the last judgment he will be judged on that basis, not for his sins. Everything that is sin was judged on the Cross for the unbelievers too, and the law of double jeopardy excludes sins which were judged on the Cross from ever being mentioned again. You cannot be tried for the same thing twice; you were tried once when Christ took your place. Jesus Christ was found guilty on your behalf and was judged for your sins. Therefore, at the Great White Throne Judgment unbelievers will not hear anything about sin. In their day in court they hear about all the human good they performed. They are judged “according to their works” it says twice in Revelation 20:12-15. And good works, regardless of the number of them do not add up to the righteousness of God needed to enter Heaven.
The grace of God is described under the law of liberty (the law of freedom). You must have freedom in the spiritual life for grace production and the basic law for the believer is liberty (freedom). There are four laws which can function in the Christian life.
The first law is the law of freedom and its direction is always toward the intake and application of Bible doctrine. The second law is the law of love and its direction is toward other believers. The third law is the law of expediency which is directed toward unbelievers and it deals with certain witnessing situations or situations where Bible doctrine has to be communicated. The fourth law is the law of supreme sacrifice which is directed toward God and applies only in a few cases: It often applies to pastor-teachers, to missionaries, to those who communicate doctrine and sometimes any believer. The apostle Paul is a definite illustration. He had the gift of communication and he also had the gift of apostleship and it demanded that he live a rather abnormal life. The law of supreme sacrifice never deals with ordinary things; it deals with things that are legitimate for most people. For example, Paul did not have a wife. There is nothing wrong with certain functions in life which are normal but there is a time when these things must be set aside under special conditions. (Galatians 5:1; Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22; I Corinthians 13; I Corinthians 9:1-15; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23)
“For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”
This is a very misunderstood verse. It is a reference to the Judgment Seat of Christ mentioned in the previous verse for believers only. Mercy is grace in action (doer of the Word). If you don’t live by grace, if you don’t think grace, if you don’t walk by grace, then you cannot produce divine good. The Greek word for shown is “poieo,” which means having done. What this verse is saying to believers is that if you have not “done grace in action” by producing divine good then you will be evaluated accordingly at the Judgment Seat of Christ (loss of rewards). Everything done in legalism, human good, human ability, human talent, will be loss of reward. God will not tolerate any human good in eternity; it will be burned up!
The believer who does not live by grace (mercy) cannot be rewarded under grace. Reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ is based upon the law of freedom and the action of mercy — grace in action. To do no mercy is the believer’s failure to function in grace. All grace function depends on the filling of the Holy Spirit and demands the consistent intake and application of Bible doctrine.
The last phrase of this verse means that “mercy” boasts at the Judgment Seat of Christ. The only thing that can boast in your day at court is grace production, called here “mercy (grace in action which is divine production).” The whole purpose for reward is not to glorify the person who did it. Grace production can glorify only the source of grace. Therefore God is glorified when any believer is rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ (the true meaning of casting our crowns at the feet of Jesus Christ). Therefore the believer’s rewards glorify God since they are based entirely upon His grace. Grace is designed to glorify God; it was never designed to glorify anyone else. Therefore grace excludes human boasting, legalism, human glorification, human ability, human talent, etc. God will be glorified by the believer’s rewards, not the believer who gets them. The production of human good is destroyed at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Legalism is destroyed at the Judgment Seat of Christ where God’s grace triumphs through His mercy or grace in action. Therefore, who does the boasting in that day in court? It won’t be believers, but the grace principle. The time to begin understanding and functioning under grace is now as we learn and apply the Word of God to every circumstance in life.