Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on James 2:10-13.
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all (James 2:10).
James offers here a brief lesson on anthropology, the doctrine of man, and hamartiology [from hamartia, sin or missing the mark], the doctrine of sin.
He begins with a hypothetical: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law…” Does James really think it is possible that a man can keep the whole law? Think of the rich young ruler who said he had kept the law since his youth (Luke 18:18-23).
I remember a street preacher who came to my college campus and claimed he had not sinned in years. Of course, the moment he uttered those words he committed the sin of pride (see also 1 John 1:8-10).
Think about trying for one day to see how long you could go without falling into sin. What if you stayed in bed, as if in paralysis, so that your hands could not steal, your mouth could not lie, your tongue could not gossip…. Ah, but you would still have your thoughts, would you not? Barely a few moments would pass before you would be aware of some conscious sin.
We cannot insulate or cut ourselves off from personal sin. So James says that if a man keeps the whole law, “and yet offends in one point he is guilty of all.”
James is not saying here that all sins are the same. Question 88 of the Baptist Catechism asks, “Are all transgression of the law equally heinous?” And it answers: “Some sins in themselves and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.”
Christ taught that the blaspheming of the Holy Spirit was an unpardonable sin. Paul talked about fornication as a sin against one’s own body (1 Cor 6:18). John talked about “a sin unto death” (1 John 5:16). James was not “levelling” all sins.
His point: Our problem is not sins (plural) but sin (singular). Any sin, even the ones we rank lowest on our sin totem pole, our hierarchy of sin, condemns us a sinner deserving of God’s just wrath and punishment.
Our problem is not merely our sins (plural), our actual transgressions, but original sin (singular), the fact that we were born with a sin nature, so that before we ever commit any actual transgression, we are deserving of death.
So, David writes, “Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). Psalm 58:3, likewise, says, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.”
The old saying goes, “We are not sinners, because we sin; we sin, because we are sinners.”
One mark of the presence of sin ruins a man’s life. Think of a proper suit or dress one buys for a big event. Let’s say it is a white tuxedo or a white evening gown. And you get just one spot on it. Once you do that where is your eye going to go everytime you look int the mirror? To that one spot, that one stain. And what will those see who look at you? That one blemish, that one imperfection.
Our problem, alas, is not that we have but one sin, but many. Their name is legion.
Thanks be to God, however, that the Lord Jesus Christ is the spotless Lamb of God. He perfectly kept the whole law for us, and he covers those who are his own with his perfect righteousness.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle