Serving Novato, Marin County, California and the World Wide Web. This feed broadcasts the latest reformed sermons and Sunday schools from Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Novato, CA. Our sermons seek to exposit Scripture, preaching Christ and the cross, and understanding the impact and demand of the Word on our lives.
Sermon preached on James 2:1-7 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 02/28/2021 in Novato, CA.
Today’s passage calls us to consider sinful partiality as something that should have no place within Christ’s church. This builds from last chapter which called us to live out God’s Word so that our Christian faith is not merely lip service. James here teaches how there are ways we can discriminate against certain people that would transgress God’s law which demands love for our neighbor. Instead, James would direct us to show righteous honor toward others. As our modern society offers us all sorts of worldly wisdom on the topic of discrimination, we are refreshed today with some Biblical wisdom on the topic. And even more than that, we’ll see that James’ discussion here about sinful partiality ultimately lays before us an even bigger picture of the hope of glory that is ours in Christ Jesus.
Let’s begin then by considering the sin of partiality. I will walk us through the passage and see how James specifically develops this point. We begin verse 1 with the language of “brothers”. Right away that should remind us Christians that while sinful partiality is wrong in general, it is especially problematic when it happens among Christians, because we are “brothers”. We are spiritually family and should especially embrace each other as such.
Verse 1 then goes on to command us to show no partiality as those who hold the Christian faith. The word here for partiality is literally “respecter of persons.” It describes showing respect and favor to someone based primarily on outward appearance. James then gives an illustration of the kind of partiality he has in mind. He imagines a church assembly or gathering. He imagines two different people coming into the church. One looks rich. The other looks poor. Maybe they are visitors or new converts, but don’t overthink it because it’s just an analogy. But he envisions in the analogy how the rich person could be honored and the poor person dishonored. And why is the one honored and the other dishonored? In James’ analogy, it is because the church had been a respecter of persons, in other words, this idea of showing partiality because of outward appearances.
Verse 3 further explains this idea with the language of “if you pay attention”. If you pay attention to rich man over the poor man, you are doing this sinful partiality. This language of paying attention uses a word about sight. Paying attention here means to look at, consider, and care about. What an interesting contrast with last week’s passage that called us to visit widows and orphans because we had said that the Greek there was also a word of looking. James said Christians are to look into and after widows and orphans in their need. It’s a different word here but a similar enough meaning that it contrasts well. And so, if anything we should be paying special attention to the people with needs, like a poor person, because they have needs. But this analogy from James speaks of how the church might instead be tempted to give the special attention to the rich person. James surely is giving this example here because this was a temptation that the church had been facing. We would be wise to recognize that it is a temptation that is still alive and present today – that we could be tempted to give special attention to the people of outward status and means.
Verse 4 goes on to describe this sin as making “distinctions” and becoming “judges”. These are judicial words. They are so legal in nature that some have even wondered if James was envisioning here a lawsuit between believers where the rich is favored over the poor. But, given the language in verse 2 that it describes an
Church History: Modern Church
Sunday School class led by Rev. W. Reid Hankins at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 02/28/2021 in Novato, CA. This week as an epilogue to our our series on biblical history, we continued a survey of church history, considering the Modern Church.
Sermon preached on James 1:26-27 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 02/21/2021 in Novato, CA.
Many well-meaning Christians have parroted the slogan, “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship.” The problem with that slogan is a passage like today which reminds us that these things are not at odds with each other. Yes, Christianity is about a relationship with God in Christ Jesus. But it is also a religion, and in fact the only true religion. Now to be fair, when such people say that Christianity is not a religion but a relationship, what they usually mean is along the lines that Christianity is not about merely adhering to a set of religious rituals or beliefs. Going through the motions in terms of religious rituals or knowing what the right answer is to some doctrinal question isn’t how one is saved. That is something we can agree on, yet without throwing away a proper, biblical use of the word religion. In fact, what James addresses here is not that far off from the concern raised in that problematic slogan. Here, James pushes back against a mere externalism in our worship or faith. Instead, he points us toward having a changed life in Christ Jesus. So, we can and should redeem the term “religion”, but also appreciate that there is much done today in the name of religion that is worthless. Ultimately, James wants us to know the true religion that is pure and undefiled before God and that does flow out of our saving relationship of being united to Jesus Christ through faith.
Let’s start our sermon for today by first considering James’ point that someone could think themselves religious when actually they are just deceived. This is raised in verse 26. I’ll start this point off by defining the word “religious” here. The meaning and nuance of this Greek word is pretty much identical to our word “religious” in English. It refers to the devotion and worship given to a divine being, expressed in both beliefs and rituals.
So then, James says that someone can think they are religious but be wrong. There could be a way, he says, that one could deceive their heart by thinking are religious when really their version of religion is worthless. What a wake-up call James gives here. Someone could really believe themselves to be a Christian by their faithful devotion to either a creed or a ritual and find that they’ve been living a lie that they told themselves. Of course, how true this is to reality. How many people today, if asked their religion, would immediately reply “Christian”, and yet how many of such people have truly known the Lord? This is surely a less common in our area where it is not the social norm to call yourself a Christian or to go to church. We could imagine this as a prevalent issue in the Bible Belt region of the southern United States where going to church and calling yourself a Christian is the cultural norm. But just going to church or calling yourself a Christian doesn’t mean you have truly known the Lord. And this problem of thinking yourself religious when you’re not is not unique to the Bible Belt. James wants to get us to do some self-examination of our claim to be Christian to see if our supposed devotion to God is genuine.
You see, he explains that someone’s religion might be worthless. The word for worthless in the Greek is about something that is in vain or useless or empty of what it claims to be. Notice even how he describes that in verse 26 that “this person’s religion is worthless.” It’s not saying that true religion is worthless. It is saying that whatever religion “this person” has, it is not of any value in God’s eyes. In other words, such a person that is self-deceived is because they have come to hold a religion
Church History: Modern Church
Sunday School class led by Rev. W. Reid Hankins at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 02/21/2021 in Novato, CA. This week as an epilogue to our our series on biblical history, we continued a survey of church history, considering the Modern Church.
Be Doers of the Word
Sermon preached on James 1:22-25 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 02/14/2021 in Novato, CA.
Last passage called us to meekly receive the Word of God which God has implanted in us. Here James further elaborates on what that means. To receive the Word of God is not simply to hear what it has to say. It’s not just that you give a welcome audience to God’s Word. Receiving is more than just about hearing, it also includes heeding. A true Christian doesn’t just give lip service to God’s Word. Nor does a true Christian claim to value God’s Word but ignore what it has to say. That’s not what our faith believes. No, our faith has come to see that Jesus has the words of eternal life. His Word we embrace and look to live out. As it says here, let us not be merely hearers of the Word but doers of it. This will be our topic for today.
Let us begin by considering how James in verse 22 says that if we are just mere hearers of the Word then we deceive ourselves. We’ve heard this idea of deception already in this letter. Back in 1:16, James warned against being deceived by your evil desires that will try to tempt you to sin. But the Greek word is different back in verse 16. There it was a word about being led astray. In comparison, this word here in verse 22 for being deceived is about deluding yourself with false reasoning. In other words, you mentally think and reason about something, but your logic is faulty and so you come to some faulty conclusion.
In context, he’s saying its faulty logic to think we can just hear the Word and not look to do what the Word says. If you think you will benefit from God’s Word by listening to it or reading it but not by looking to respond and act to its teachings, then you have deluded yourself. The Bible is not some magic spell that you just read over you and it does some magic. No, the Bible is God’s Word to you that teaches you what you need to know about him, the duty that God requires of you, and especially of how to be saved from sin and death in Jesus Christ. The mere hearing of the Word is not going to save you. This is what the Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes so wonderfully in question and answer 90. It asks, “How is the word to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to salvation?” It answers, “That the word may become effectual to salvation, we must attend thereunto with diligence, preparation and prayer; receive it with faith and love, lay it up in our hearts, and practice it in our lives.”
For example, when the Word says that we need to repent of our sins and turn and put our faith in Jesus Christ to be saved, it’s not enough to just hear that if we want to be saved. We need to actually repent of our sins and turn and put our faith in Jesus Christ if we are to be saved. That’s an example when it comes to responding to the gospel. But we can apply this principal across the board when it comes to God’s Word. Think of all the laws in the Scripture. The Bible’s many laws are given for our instruction and have many practical benefits in life and it is what we Christians are to strive for as fruit of our repentance. But if you hear those commands but never seek to live them out, they won’t bring any benefit in progressing in righteousness. When the Bible says don’t lie but you just keep on lying, or when it says submit to your boss, but you keep trying to subvert your boss, you won’t know the fruit of righteousness that God would have you to have in those areas. While we know that we need God’s Spirit to help us understand the Word and live it out, we know that the Word itself is not mystical in how it instructs us and trains us. It speaks in straightforward terms that as we heed it we find its benefit. Otherwise,
Church History: Modern Church
Sunday School class led by Rev. W. Reid Hankins at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 02/14/2021 in Novato, CA. This week as an epilogue to our our series on biblical history, we continued a survey of church history, considering the Modern Church.