A. I won’t be preaching for the next three weeks, because of our family beach vacation.
1. July 1 Steve Hollidge (no communion)
2. July 8 Chris Olderog (no communion)
3. July 15 Ben P.
B. We have come to the threshold of the most difficult passage in 2Corinthians. But I didn’t want to get started today and then skip three weeks before getting back to it.
C. PCA GA: moderator Irwin Ince
D. James 2:1–9 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? 8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
II. Partiality — favoring one side or group above the other
A. Synonyms: prejudice, bigotry, favoritism, bias
B. It’s based in OT judicial law. (It’s one of those things which fits into the category of the principles of general equity of OT civil law.)
C. Leviticus 19:15 “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”
D. Deuteronomy 1:17 “You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s.”
E. Deuteronomy 10:17 “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.”
F. Umbrella which includes racism, sexism, classism, parochialism, nepotism, ageism, nationalism, any kind of discrimination based on human characteristic or circumstance
G. The specific form of partiality which James is referring to here is classism, favoring one class above another. In James it’s favoring the rich over the poor, which is the most common form of classism.
1. Proverbs 14:20 The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends.
2. Proverbs 19:4 Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend.
H. Partiality is a natural part of sinful human nature. We show preference toward people like us: my group, my people, my country, my school, my kind. But God doesn’t like partiality.
III. Peter’s dream and Cornelius’ house
A. The dream three times: sheet full of unclean animals with the instruction: Take and eat. Peter refuses. But a voice says, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” – Acts 10:15
B. Acts 10:28–35 “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean...Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”
C. Peter was convinced. But not everyone accepted this idea readily.
IV. Peter visits Antioch
A. Persecution drives Christians out of Jerusalem and they flee preaching the gospel as they go. Some of them go all the way to Antioch in Syria, where a bunch of Gentiles are converted when they hear the gospel, forming the first Gentile church. The apostles send Barnabas there to provide leadership and he recruits the newly converted Paul to assist.
B. One day Peter comes up from Jerusalem for a visit. And he enjoys sitting and supping with the Gentile believers UNTIL one day a group of Jewish Christians from the Jerusalem church show up. These guys are from Peter and Barnabas’ home church, so they know them personally. But these visitors aren’t so sure about the idea of Gentile Christians, so they refuse to sit at table with the Gentiles at meal time. They separate themselves and sit at a different table. But instead of objecting to this, Peter was afraid that these friends of his would disapprove if he ate with the Gentiles and so he went over and joined his Jewish friends at their separate table. And when he did that, Barnabas and the other Jews there did the same.
C. When Paul sees what’s happening, he rebuked Peter in front of everyone. (Gal.2:11-14)
D. Peter “stood condemned” and “their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel.”
1. How was it a violation of the gospel?
2. The gospel says that salvation is by grace, that God doesn’t save you because of who you are. God doesn’t save you because you’re a Jew or because you’re rich or because you’re smart or because you’re white or because you’re good-looking or because you’re popular.
3. And by refusing fellowship with these fellow believers in Christ just because they were Gentiles was denying the principle of grace. Partiality is a violation of the gospel, because it implies that God’s favor is given on the basis of human distinction.
E. Peter repents.
1. Silence means he repented. He was good at sinning, but he was also good at repenting.
2. We would have been told if Peter didn’t repent.
F. There’s one more important detail I’ve left out, that has to do with our passage here in James. When Paul tells the story of what happened, he says that the visitors from Jerusalem “came from James.” – Galatians 2:12. Why does he say that? Well, let’s talk about James.
1. James the apostle had already been martyred at this point in the story. The James referred to here seems to be the brother of Jesus, who was at first unbelieving, along with the other brothers of the Lord, but now has not only converted but has become a pillar in the church at Jerusalem (Gal.1:9).
2. But why would Paul specifically say that these men who came from Jerusalem to visit the church at Antioch “came from James.”
3. It seems that of all the leaders in the church, James was the slowest to buy into this idea of Gentiles being included in the church. He was the most reticent, the most difficult to convince.
4. Like Peter, it took a lot for James to see that partiality was a violation of the gospel.
5. You can see this from what happens at the Council of Jerusalem.
V. James at the Council of Jerusalem
A. The issue of including the Gentiles became so controversial in the church that a council of the leaders of the church was called in Jerusalem to resolve the issue.
B. There was much debate (Acts 15:7). And then Peter stood up and reminded them of the story of his dream and preaching the gospel to the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house, and implored them to accept the Gentiles (Acts 15:7-11).
C. And then Paul and Barnabas stood up and told the stories of how had worked among the Gentiles with great signs and wonders.
D. And then finally, James is convinced. And he stands up and says that in his judgment, those of the Gentiles who turn to God ought not be troubled but welcomed and instructed (Acts 15:19). And that is the last word, the resolution of the issue.
VI. And now we come back to James 2. The man who took so long to see that partiality was contrary to the gospel, instructs his readers, “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.”
A. Salvation by grace is so central to the message of Christ. Nothing can be tolerated in His church which violates or compromises this principle.
1. Sadly, white Christianity in America has a history of partiality to outlive. Harpers Ferry museum: church with benches in the back for slaves
2. But the important thing is that we recognize the contradiction between partiality and the gospel, and recognize and repudiate the sin of prejudice, bigotry, favoritism, bias, partiality.
B. But we can also see here the beautiful and magnificent way God works with us. Patiently. Gently. Persistently. Uncompromisingly. Bring us around to His ways.
1. He works to rid us of putting our identity in earthly distinctives.
2. He calls us not to put confidence in the flesh.
3. Paul is given to us as an example. He had a lot of reasons to put confidence in his earthly distinctives: “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” Phil.3:4–7
4. But He also works to help us to love all people regardless of their human distinctives. He empowers us to extend ourselves in love to people of all kinds, not just the ones who are like us.
C. Jesus saves us in spite of who we are, not because of it. That’s one of the reasons He saves people from every tribe and people and language – Revelation 7:9.
1. The Jesus we love and embrace was Himself very different from us: culturally, ethnically, and linguistically. But in His grace He has welcomed us in spite of these differences.
2. And now Jesus in us wants to welcome and love through us even people who are different than us in terms of culture, age, gender, ethnicity, nationality and language. This is how the gospel expresses itself through Christ’s people.