Chapter 4 of The Book of James
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines “mercy” as God’s gratuitous compassion. The definition for “love” is God’s mercy toward man. God shows His love for man through His great mercy.
There are many stories in the Bible which reveal God’s judgment on mankind. Yet in the midst of every judgment you can find God’s mercy. Let’s look at a few of them.
The first act of God’s judgment is found in Genesis 3. Adam and his wife are being banished from the Garden of Eden because of their disobedience to God’s command. We will pick up the story in Genesis 3:22:
22 And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever:
23 Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
It is easy to see God’s judgment at work here but have you ever noticed His mercy? If you look closely you will find it in verse 22. Adam and his wife both had sin in their lives. Don’t let them eat from the tree of life. Why? So they won’t have to live forever in their sin. It is difficult to imagine a world full of wicked sinful men where no one ever dies. God’s mercy would not allow such a thing.
Then there came a time in the history of mankind when the entire population of the earth had turned from God. In Genesis 6:5-7, God’s judgment is clear.
5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
6 And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
7 And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
God’s righteous judgment would have completely destroyed mankind but then came God’s mercy in one little verse, Genesis 6:8:
8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
You will never see God’s judgment without His mercy. Consider Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). Two cities so wicked they were like a deadly cancer growing out of control. Leave the cancer and it will eventually destroy the world. So God sends His judgment and destroys both cities with fire and brimstone. The cancer has been removed. It is no longer a danger. The fire and brimstone which destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah is the same fire and brimstone that set the world free from the wicked, deadly cancer. God’s mercy has once again shown itself along with His judgment.
The greatest act of God’s mercy is found in John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
All the mercies of God are made known in a single verse. God, in a divine act of love, gave His Son as a ransom for the sin of man. God offered life to the very creatures that sentenced His Son to die. The richness of God’s mercy is on full display. But what about God’s judgment? It is here, too. It is God’s judgment against the sin of man being poured out on the Holy One as He hangs on the cross. It is God executing the final wages of sin, death.
There came a day when I realized my own life fell under the judgment of sin. I found myself condemned to die, but thank God, the Eternal Father, for His infinite mercy. When I deserved death (judgment), He offered me life (mercy). (Romans 6:23)
Where do you stand with the Lord? Have you ever believed on the name of Jesus? Have you ever received the gift of eternal life? Have you ever repented (turned from sin) and asked the Lord to “have mercy” on your soul? Remember mercy triumphs over (rejoices against) judgment. (James 2:13)
If you know the Lord you know of His mercy. Therefore, “have mercy” on others.
1 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;
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.
10 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.
Lesson Study No. 4
Before you begin this worksheet, read James 2:1-13, and then ask God for wisdom. (James 1:5)
- (James 2:1-4)
I was at my son’s middle school football game one night when I noticed children playing at the far end of the bleachers. They were kicking and yelling at each other. It seemed as though each comment they made ended with a loud “shut up”. They had chosen sides. The clothes they wore made a distinct separation for each side. What kind of attitude would these children have as young adults? The behavior of the children I was watching made it clear why God deals with “social graces” in His Word.
Have you ever treated someone different because of the way they were dressed? _______________________
Have you ever been treated differently because of the way you were dressed? ________________________
How did it make you feel? ______________________
Remember those feelings and “have mercy” in the way you judge other people.
42 And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.
43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
Who is the only true judge? _____________________
There are two rules of spiritual enlightenment:
1) There is a God and 2) You’re not Him.
We will talk more about judging in the seventh chapter of this study entitled “Here Comes the Judge”.
- (James 2:5-7, 1 Corinthians 1:26-29)
Read the above verses and then make a list of the kind of people God chooses for His kingdom.
(1 Corinthians 1:26) Why does God choose these kinds of people?
NOTE: (1 Corinthians 1:29) says, “. . . not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” The Word of God says, “not many”. It never says, “not any”. Who can be saved?
(John 3:16) For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (Emphasis mine)
What is the royal law?
In what way are we to treat other people?
Make a list of some things you could do for others to show them the love of Christ.
What happens when we have respect of persons (show partiality)?
- (James 2:10-11)
What happens when we break one law?
(James 2:11) Why does breaking one law make us guilty of breaking all the laws?
Look up the word “transgress” in the dictionary and write out the definition.
Now look up the word “law’ in the dictionary and write out the definition.
What does it mean to “become a transgressor of the law”? __
- (James 2:12-13)
As Christians, how are we to speak and act?
Look up the word “liberty” in the dictionary and write out the definition.
Using the definition for “law” from section four, write out the meaning of “the law of liberty”.
(James 2:13) How do we gain victory over judgment?
Look up the word “mercy” in the dictionary and write out the definition.
(Hebrews 9:27) “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”
We all have an appointed time followed by judgment.
One day you will stand before God. It would be wise to “have mercy” on others now.
There was a man who had his portrait taken. When the finished photos arrived at his house he was infuriated. He took the pictures back to the photographer claiming they did not do him justice. The photographer looked at the pictures and then at the man’s face repeatedly, and finally said, “Sir, you don’t need justice, you need mercy!”
If we all got what we deserved (justice), it would be an eternal death in hell. (Refer back to lesson study no. 2, section 3)
- Write down some truths you have learned from this lesson and how you can apply those truths to your life. Remember, these are “words you can live by”.
- Memory verses:
So speak ye, and so do,
as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
For he shall have judgment without mercy,
that hath shewed no mercy;
and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.