We have been involved as a church in a quest to become as Biblical as possible. Why? Because it matters how Christ’s body lives! As those surrendered to the Lordship of Christ we want to live as God wants us to. Scripture gives us commands and principals for how we are to live as God’s people. God’s Word is the basis of how we form our church culture, the raw materials that we build our church culture from. We read & interpret and apply The Scriptures as God’s people always have: #1. We believe it is God’s Word, written by people under the power of the H.S #2. We read it in context and examine it according to scientific principals (Hermeneutics: The science of interpreting communication) #3. We practice it. We apply it to our actual lives, we ‘live it out’.
Today we shall read, understand & apply 3 aspects of Biblical Church Culture:
~ Biblical Church culture of welcoming: How we treat people entering our community
~ Biblical Doctrine of the equality of sin to God. How God views sin
~ Biblical Practice of ‘Grace Distribution’. How Christ’s Body is a ‘pass-through’.
James Chapter 2:1-13
1 Don’t ever attempt, my brothers and sisters, to combine snobbery with faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ!
- Zero tolerance for discrimination, prejudice or unequal treatment in Jesus’ Body
- Real faith in Christ and snobbery are mutually exclusive
2 Suppose one person comes into your meeting well-dressed and with a gold ring on their finger, and another, obviously poor, arrives in shabby clothes.
- More-so then than now, people’s socio-economic status was reflected in dress
- Each of these people are God’s ‘Image Bearers’
3 If you pay special attention to the well-dressed one by saying, “Please sit here—it’s an excellent seat”, and say to the poor one, “You stand over there, please, or if you must sit, sit on the floor”, 4 doesn’t that prove that you are making class-distinctions in your mind, and setting yourselves up to assess a person’s quality?—a very bad thing.
- These kinds of interactions fuel pride and comparison
- Making class distinctions is opposite of God’s heart throughout Scripture
5 For do notice, my brothers and sisters, that God chose poor people, whose only wealth was their faith, and made them heirs to the kingdom promised to those who love him.
- God doesn’t assign eternal life based on socio-economic status
- God has a different value system than the world’s
6 And if you behave as I have suggested, it is the poor person that you are insulting. Look around you. 7 Isn’t it the rich who are always trying to “boss” you, isn’t it the rich who drag you into litigation? Isn’t it usually the rich who blaspheme the glorious name by which you are known?
- Can we afford to offend those God has placed great value in?
- Why would we give preferential treatment to people who oppose God?
8 If you obey the royal law, expressed by the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’, all is well. 9 But once you allow any invidious distinctions to creep in, you are sinning, you have broken God’s Law.
- The royal law = God’s heart, the full message of Scripture / The Gospel
- He uses Jesus’ teaching that it is sin to ‘pick’ your neighbor based on appearances (you can pick your neighbor based on actions)
- Invidious distinction is openly saying: ‘You are worth more’ for whatever reason
- It is sin to judge people based on appearances of affluence and or influence
- Our value to each other comes from the fact that each of us bears God’s image
V9: prosopolempteo typically is translated as ‘show favoritism’ or ‘partiality’. Here it is translated as ‘invidious distinction’ which conveys motivation for the action and the result of such action on relationships that fits the context!
- This is why I chose to use the JB Phillips NT: masterful linguistic work from both ends!
“It is like looking at a familiar picture after it has been cleaned”.
~ C.S. LEWIS, on J.B. Phillip’s original translation
Invidious: An action is invidious when it sows discord or strife between people. Invidious behavior can also be hurtful for no clear purpose. Invidious comparisons drive a wedge between people by comparing them in an unfavorable way. It is similar to the word insidious: it is thesame kind of actions that cause conflict, but insidious things are done covertly, in secret. This ‘invidious distinction’ is happening right out in the open (at worship).
10 Remember that a man who keeps the whole Law but for a single exception is none the less a law-breaker. 11 The one who said, ‘Do not commit adultery’, also said, ‘Do not murder’. If you were to keep clear of adultery but were to murder a man you would have become a breaker of God’s whole Law.
- Biblical Doctrine: break one commandment & you’re guilty of breaking them all
- Is this an Unachievable Standard? Absolutely!
- All of God’s commandments are connected to who He is and His heart for us
- God’s point of view: We are all equally guilty, all in equal need of forgiveness
12 Anyway, you should speak and act as those who will be judged by the law of freedom. 13 The one who makes no allowances for others will find none made for them. It is still true that “mercy smiles in the face of judgment.”
- James, under the control of The Holy Spirit is writing to proven followers of X
- Read: “You, who have fully surrendered your life, should speak and act…”
- Who we are informs everything we do
- When we live from gratitude and honor the one who judges based on heart
- What makes us who we are is that God has transformed our hearts
- Being judged by the law of freedom means that EVERYTHING is forgiven
- Everything is forgiven because of Jesus The Christ!
- In Christ: Repentance + Surrender = Forgiveness
- And we are to speak and act from that place of liberty from sin and God’s wrath
- We should be the most forgiving people in the world!
- The rest of the world is going to judge and be unforgiving, we will offer mercy
- We love because HE first loved us. We forgive because HE forgave us.
- We have experienced the reality of how Mercy triumphs over judgement
- Literal: God’s Compassion assumes superiority over God’s Judgement
- Compassion is to assume superiority over judgement in our lives! ‘In Christ’
We are all guilty and deserve God’s Judgement. Instead Christ died for us. To be forgiven and have eternal life will you live for HIM? Will you truly lay down your life, turn it over to HIS will, HIS plan, HIS ways? We who follow Christ do this EVERY DAY!
Scripture commands us in Christ’s Body to welcome everyone into our community equally. It is a stewardship to be taken very seriously.
How we live as Christ’s Body is important. Each command is of equal importance to God because He cares about our heart condition.
Jesus Christ’s Church exists based on God’s Mercy. We make God’s grace reality in our lives by expressing God-given grace to others.
What is your responsibility as far as making people feel welcome here at Midtown?
Why is each and every sin equally offensive to God? Why is this an important biblical doctrine?
How can you specifically elevate mercy over judgement in your life this coming week?