“So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2.12-13). Mercy is obviously the central focus in these verses. Mercy is not the only quality that is necessary to find the eternal edicts if judgment pleasant, but it is one essential characteristic. In James’ inspired view, the final judgment is not something to be dreaded, or an obstacle to be gotten through by the skin of our teeth; rather, it is an event where mercy is depicted as triumphing over judgment.
Humility is not “at risk” in these verses; neither is contriteness, sobriety, or a score of other qualities that God has commended for humankind. As stated earlier, mercy is just the central focus in these verses. So, it would be false to assume that an abundance of mercy can “make up” for the other essential qualities that are required to be pleasing in God’s sight. Nothing that James said, and certainly nothing contained in this series of articles, should be construed as meaning this could be the case! Neither can the existence of the requirement for other qualities detract from the fact that Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment.
A perennial issue with believers whom I have known in my lifetime has been the lack of surety they seemed to sense in the fact of their entrance into heaven. It was as if uncertainty of this fact was an attribute. Or, maybe it was thought that if one claimed a certain knowledge of the outcome of judgment, they were not displaying humility, or perhaps they were displaying arrogance. I am convinced that God does not expect nor desire the believer to dread the final judgment or to go through life with the uncertainty of eternity hanging over his/her head. I am equally convinced that this is one of the reasons that the Holy Spirit moved James to pen the verses upon which this series has been focused, was to allay our fears and to give us certain knowledge of the outcome of judgment. This persuasion comes not only from James’ statements, it also results from a careful study of other related passages. Today’s message as well as three additional messages will focus on other passages that complement this view.
One such passage that will be introduced today will also continue in our consideration tomorrow; if anyone should have been unsure of his eternal destiny, the author of this text would have been that man. Yet, he wrote, “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1.10-11; emphasis mine, jb). Why do I say that if anyone should have been uncertain of his destiny, this author should have? Simply because he had made a boast about his undying love for Jesus only to, within a matter of hours, publicly deny any knowledge of Him (see Luke 22.31-34 & 22.54-61). I know of no sin that would quite “mount up” to the “size” of the grievance Peter committed. If there ever was a cardinal sin, surely an out-and-out denial of the Messiah would be such a sin. In fact, Jesus Himself said, “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10.33).
However, herein is our problem as humans: we tend to quantify sin by the severity of the grievance involved. God makes no such assessment! There is not a passage in all the Bible that teaches such to be the case. In fact, the very passage from which this series was birthed (James 2.1-13) teaches the exact opposite! Sin is sin is sin! There are no degrees of sinfulness, and hence there are no degrees of guiltiness. A justified person is exactly that; he is justified! All justified persons will be granted an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom just as Peter stated! (Continued)
1. Is mercy the only attribute necessary to pleasing God? Why or why not?
2. Once Peter denied Jesus, was there any hope for him, or did that automatically place the condemnation of Matthew 10.33 upon him (i.e. having Jesus deny him before the Father)?
3. Can a sincere believer find comfort in the fact that Peter’s sin could be absolutely forgiven and he could be treated as if he never had denied the Christ? Why or why not?
4. Is there such a thing as “partial forgiveness” or “partial justification” with God? From God’s perspective, does sin come in varying weights like motor oil (10W, 20W, 30W etc., etc.)?
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