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The Book of James

Lesson 9 November 22-28


One Lawgiver and Judge

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week's Study: James 4:11-17; Acts 17:11; Heb. 4:15-16; Luke 12:13-21; Eccl. 2:15-19; Titus 2:14.

Memory Text: There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another? (James 4:12).

Our attitude toward law, whether God's law or human's, affects how we relate to others and even to how we relate to God Himself. Have you noticed that sometimes the rich and famous act as if they are above the law? Even some who make the laws, or enforce them, may look for ways to write those laws for their own personal gain. Disrespect for a society's laws, then, can involve disrespect for other people, because laws govern how we relate to each other.

At the same time, those whose attitude toward law is rigid and unbending may also have difficulty in their interpersonal relationships. At a deeper level, our view of the law depends on the degree of respect we have for the wisdom of the lawgivers and the fairness of their laws.

This week's lesson begins with a look at the law but then leads into some important words about a form of arrogance and self-dependence that we might not be aware of but which we are warned about as being sin, a violation of God's law. In fact, we're given here, in James, another way of looking at sin.

*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, November 29.

Sunday November 23

Judgment or Discernment?

Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it (James 4:11, NIV). How does judging others amount to sitting in judgment of the law?



The initial phrase in verse 11 that is literally translated speak against could include several sins of speech, including slander, bearing false witness, and angry words (see Lev. 19:15-18). On the one hand, it seems that James uses milder language here than in chapter 3; yet, the implications of speaking against one's brother or sister seem more serious in that doing so calls into question the law itself. By placing ourselves on the judgment seat, we ignore our own weaknesses (see Matt. 7:1-3) and focus instead on another's wrongdoing, as if we were somehow outside of or above the law. Such a focus also fails to love our neighbor as ourselves (Lev. 19:18). Thus, we are not keeping the law.

At the same time, however, while we should not be judging others, we must learn to have spiritual discernment.

Identity the areas in which spiritual discernment is called for in the following passages: Acts 17:11, 1 Cor. 6:1-5, 2 Cor. 13:5, Phil. 1:9, 1 John 4:1, Gal. 6:1.



We are to compare what people teach and preach with the Word of God. We should also, as far as possible, encourage church members to settle their differences among themselves rather than in courts, where the judges may or may not be guided by God's Word. Most important, we should examine ourselves as to the health of our faith relationship and whether what we dwell on is uplifting and excellent or detrimental to our Christian experience.

It's so easy to criticize and judge others, especially when they do things we don't like. How can we learn to know if we have crossed the line from being spiritually discerning to being judgmental on God's law?

Monday November 24

The Lawgiver Is Judge

All the laws of the Old Testament are from Jesus. They are sometimes called the laws of Moses because they were given through him (2 Chron. 33:8, Neh. 10:29), but it was Jesus who led the Israelites through the wilderness and spoke the Ten Commandments to them at Mount Sinai (see 1 Cor. 10:1-4). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clarified and amplified the law. He is the Word . . . made flesh (John 1:14), and it is by His Word that we will be judged (John 12:48).

There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:12, ESV). What do the following verses tell us about Jesus as our judge? Isa. 33:22; 11:1-5; Heb. 4:15-16; Rev. 19:11-16.



Only someone who knows the law very well is qualified to judge whether or not it has been broken. Lawyers study for many years before taking bar exams, which test their readiness to begin their practice. The scribes in the time of Jesus (many of whom were Pharisees) diligently studied also, and not only the Mosaic laws but also the accumulated legal traditions. The fact that Jesus did not agree with many of these traditions resulted in serious conflict with the leaders. But as the One who gave these laws, He was and is uniquely qualified to explain what they mean and to assess whether or not they have been transgressed. So when He comes again, His reward is with Him to give to all according to their works (Rev. 22:12). Furthermore, by taking on human nature, living a sinless life, dying in our place, and being raised victorious over sin and death, Jesus is able to save us from sin.

"God has committed all judgment unto the Son, for without controversy He is God manifest in the flesh.

God designed that the Prince of sufferers in humanity should be judge of the whole world. He who came from the heavenly courts to save man from eternal death; . . . He who submitted to be arraigned before an earthly tribunal, and who suffered the ignominious death of the cross-He alone is to pronounce the sentence of reward or of punishment.-Ellen G. White, Maranatha, p. 341. As both Lawgiver and Savior, Christ is uniquely qualified to be our Judge.

Either reward or punishment, we will face only one or the other. What's your only hope of reward?


Tuesday November 25

Planning Ahead

Read James 4:13. (Compare Luke 12:13-21.) How do we balance prudent planning for the future with our need to live each day in expectation of Christ's imminent coming? How can we avoid the trap of merely building bigger barns?



It may seem very reasonable to plan a year in advance or even more. Businesses commonly have short-, medium-, and long-range plans. Individuals and families need to save for the future and to make provision for unexpected expenses. On the other hand, we also believe that Jesus is coming soon and that, someday, all of our earthly possessions will be consumed by flames (see 2 Pet. 3:10-12).

These two approaches to life are not necessarily in conflict. Someone has said, Plan as if Christ were not coming for years but live each day as if Christ were coming tomorrow. This is good as far as it goes, though long-term planning can make it difficult to take one day at a time. Many of Jesus' hearers (and no doubt many Christians today) would consider that the rich man who decided to build bigger barns was prosperous because God was blessing him. But Jesus reveals to us the man's inner thoughts: soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry (Luke 12:19, NKJV). In short, his overarching concern was to lay up treasure for himself.

Most important, rather than making our plans too definite, Instead you ought to say, If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that (James 4:15, NKJV). This means more than simply appending d.v. (Deo volente, Latin for God willing) to the end of a sentence about our future plans. It means we should submit all our plans to God. We can pray: God, I want to know Your will. If you are not pleased with these plans, please show me. Then, if our plans are not good, God will show us that-as long as we remain attentive and willing to correct our plans or even change them entirely.

Read again James 4:13. Though on the surface nothing really seems wrong with what is being said, obviously there's a problem-not in what the people want to do but in their attitude about it. How can we be careful not to get caught up in that same attitude, even subconsciously?


Wednesday November 26

A Mist

Read James 4:14. What crucial point is being made here?



Life is uncertain. Every breath is a gift. James 4:14 uses a very rare Greek word (atmis), which is translated as vapor or mist. Like the Hebrew word hebel (breath, vapor), which occurs 38 times in Ecclesiastes and is often translated as vanity, it emphasizes the transitory nature of life. Who hasn't, especially as we get older, experienced just how fast and fleeting life is? Well into his old age, well-known evangelist Billy Graham said, I never knew that life went by so quickly.

In other words, there's always the imminence of death. We are all just a heartbeat away from it. Any of us, at any moment, for any number of reasons, could die in an instant. How rightly James says, yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring (4:14, ESV), including death.

I will not here dwell upon the shortness and uncertainty of life; but there is a terrible danger-a danger not sufficiently understood-in delaying to yield to the pleading voice of God's Holy Spirit, in choosing to live in sin; for such this delay really is.-Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 32.

Plus, not only is life so short but, in and of itself, it can also be so unsatisfying.

Read Ecclesiastes 2:15-19; 4:4; 5:10; 9:11-12. How does the message of Solomon here only add to the point that James has made?



We see so much injustice, so much unfairness, so much that doesn't make sense in this life. No wonder we all long for the promise of eternal life made to us through Jesus. Without that, we are just a mist that will be gone and forever forgotten.

Take stock: how much of this world holds you in its grip? How can you always keep in mind just how fleeting it all is?


Thursday November 27

Knowing and Doing What Is Good

Read James 4:15-17 in the context of the verses that come before it. What crucial point is he making here?



James here is dealing with the attitude of self-dependence. In fact, he calls that attitude arrogance, and the words spoken as boasting; he says it is evil. That's how important the right attitude is for the Christian.

Read verse 17. The Bible defines sin in two ways: (1) doing wrong; (2) not doing right. The first definition is given by John: sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). Many modern versions render it sin is lawlessness, but the Greek word anomia refers to specific violations of the law rather than to habitual lawless behavior (see its use in Rom. 4:7, Titus 2:14, Heb. 10:17). The second definition is given in James 4:17: Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. We must therefore go beyond simply resisting temptation to do wrong. We are called to be children of light (Eph. 5:8) and to let [our] light shine before others, so that they may see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:16, ESV, emphasis added).

Of course, one could get easily discouraged because, after all, who constantly does all the good they could possibly do every single day? But that's not the issue. Even Jesus' life was not a continual round of ceaseless activity. There were times when He withdrew to pray or simply to rest (Luke 5:16, Mark 6:31). Most important, He sought God's will in everything He did (John 5:30). Jesus even compared doing God's will to eating: My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work (John 4:34, NKJV). Just as there are limits to how much we can eat at one sitting, so there are limits to how much we can do. That is why Jesus goes on to say that some sow while others reap but both rejoice together (vss. 36-38). As we work for the Lord, we will be encouraged to do more and will pray for a greater willingness to be used in every possible way.

How does prayer help us die to self and thus maintain an attitude of surrender to the will of God? Whatever your plans are, how can you learn to surrender them to the Lord?


Friday November 28

Further Study: Read about the value of time in Ellen G. White, Talents, Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 342-346, and share the points that impressed you with your Sabbath School class.

Let no one among you glory any longer against the truth by declaring that this spirit [of discerning the evil motives of others] is a necessary consequence of dealing faithfully with wrongdoers and of standing in defense of the truth. Such wisdom has many admirers, but it is very deceptive and harmful. It does not come from above, but is the fruit of an unregenerated heart. Its originator is Satan himself. Let no accuser of others credit himself with discernment; for in so doing he clothes the attributes of Satan with the garments of righteousness.-Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pp. 936, 937.

He who is guilty of wrong is the first to suspect wrong. By condemning another he is trying to conceal or excuse the evil of his own heart. It was through sin that men gained the knowledge of evil; no sooner had the first pair sinned than they began to accuse each other; and this is what human nature will inevitably do when uncontrolled by the grace of Christ.-Ellen G. White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 126.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Look at the last Ellen G. White statement above. How can we protect ourselves from doing the same thing: judging and accusing others so that we try and feel better about ourselves and our own shortcomings?
  2. Dwell on the fact of just how fast life goes by. What should that tell us about what our priorities should be? Though we're told by the Special Theory of Relativity that time itself varies depending upon how fast we are moving in a frame of reference, one thing is certain: no matter how fast, or slow, time goes by, once a moment is gone, it is gone forever. How should this sobering thought impact what we do with our time?
  3. How do we deal with those whose sins need to be dealt with, and yet not fall into the trap that James has warned us about?

Not-So-Smart Solomon Wises Up

Dennis Rodrigues

As a teenager Solomon was not so smart. He let his peers influence his decisions and began smoking and taking drugs. He experimented with every drug he could get, and often he grew weak because he was not eating. Drugs were all he cared for.

Solomon and his friends were always together, smoking and taking drugs. They formed a gang and often fought with other teens. Once when he was high on drugs he picked up a machete, ready to strike his father. But a voice shouted to him, "Stop!" and he dropped the machete as if it were on fire.

"Help me, please!" he cried. His family took him to a mental hospital for treatment. But the hospital kept him for only a few days.

Solomon's grandmother prayed for him constantly and encouraged him to attend church with her and let God heal him. Solomon went, and there he felt God's love calling him. But he continued taking drugs for 10 more years. Then Solomon's grandmother and father died. The two people who had tried to help him were gone. Finally Solomon could run away from God no longer. He gave up and gave his life to God. It had taken him years to heed the voice of God.

Solomon did not know which church to attend. He tried several before he visited an Adventist church. There he watched the pastor baptize someone, and instantly he knew what he must do. He went to the pastor and asked for baptism. The pastor reviewed the doctrines with him and baptized Solomon.

Solomon's repentance was real. He serves his church and his God with joy and faithfulness as a deacon and an elder. Several members of his family have given their hearts to Christ because of his witness.

Recently he held his own evangelistic series and led seven people to Jesus.

He is trained as an accountant, but he has chosen simpler work that puts him in touch with people he can talk to about God. Solomon shares his faith on the bus, to strangers in the street. "For years I was compelled to take drugs; today I am by God compelled to preach," he says. He is eager to redeem the time he has left for God.

Dennis Rodrigues is a pastor living in Tegulcigalpa, Honduras.


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