This message is a companion to two previous messages: If Ye Fulfill the Royal Law (Part 1) - James 2:8
If Ye Fulfill the Royal Law (Part 2) - James 2:8
James 2:8 reads, “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well.”
In James 2:8 we find the commendation of the Lord our God Himself in His Holy Word unto all who fulfill His royal law. Herein the law of the Lord our God is described as His royal law because He is the divine Lord and King of our lives. Indeed, this reveals that we believers in this time of the New Testament do have the responsibility to serve under our Lord’s authority and to submit ourselves in obedience under the authority of law for our lives. Furthermore, we have the responsibility to fulfill our Lord’s royal law, that is – to obey it completely and consistently. Finally, we are brought to understand that we must fulfill our Lord’s royal law over our lives in accord with the Old Testament Scripture from Leviticus 19:18, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” If we do this, then the Lord our God through His Holy Word by the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit commends us with the declaration, “Ye do well.” If we do this, then in our Lord’s sight we are walking in the way of righteousness.
So then, what does it mean to love our neighbor as ourselves? In Leviticus 19:17-18 this instruction was first given, wherein God’s word declares, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.” Then throughout the New Testament, this instruction of our God’s law was quoted by our Lord Jesus Christ on two occasion in Matthew 19:19 & 22:39 (with Mark 12:31 being a parallel passage to Matthew 22:39), by the apostle Paul on two further occasions in Romans 13:9 & Galatians 5:14, and by James in James 2:8. Even so, through a study of these and of some supporting passages, we may develop a greater understanding concerning what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Already in the first part of the study, we considered two truths concerning this matter, as follows:
1. To love our neighbor as ourselves is the foundational principle of God’s law in relation to others.
2. To love our neighbor as ourselves is a debt that we constantly owe unto those around us.
3. To love our neighbor as ourselves means that we work no ill against those around us.
4. To love our neighbor as ourselves means that we not use our Christian liberty for an occasion to our selfish flesh.
5. To love our neighbor as ourselves means that we pursue a behavior of service unto those around us.
6. To love our neighbor as ourselves means that we not verbally “bite and devour” those around us.
Now, in this third part of the study, let us consider four additional truths.
To love our neighbor as ourselves requires that we walk under the directing influence of God the Holy Spirit.
Immediately after the instructions, exhortations, and admonitions of Galatians 5:13-15 concerning the matter of loving others, Galatians 5:16 then declares, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” Now, verse 13 had previously revealed that walking after our selfish flesh and serving others by godly love are the opposites of each other. Therein in the contrasting instructions were given, “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” So then, if we are to love our neighbor as ourselves in a godly manner, we must not fulfill the lusts and works of our selfish, sinful flesh. Indeed, if we are to love our neighbor as ourselves in a godly manner, we must deny and overcome the selfishness of our selfish, sinful flesh. How then can we successfully deny and overcome the selfishness of our selfish, sinful flesh. Galatians 5:16 gives answer, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” We must walk in, under, and after the directing influence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. We must daily submit ourselves to be filled with and motivated by the holy influence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. We must daily submit ourselves to be guided by and empowered through the holy direction and influence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. We must daily submit ourselves to walk after and obey completely the holy direction of the indwelling Holy Spirit. By this means we shall be able to deny and overcome the selfishness of our selfish, sinful flesh, with its selfish lusts and selfish works. In addition, not only shall we deny and overcome our selfish flesh by walking under the directing influence of God the Holy Spirit, but also we shall produce the fruit of godly love as we walk under the directing influence of God the Holy Spirit. Even so, in Galatians 5:22-23 God’s Word gives the report, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Herein we take note that the first godly characteristic of this list is godly love. Indeed, as we submit ourselves to walk under the directing influence of God the Holy Spirit, we shall be characterized by godly love toward others. So then, to love our neighbor as ourselves requires that we walk under the directing influence of God the Holy Spirit.
To love our neighbor as ourselves means that we be moved with compassion to help those around us who are in need.
In Luke 10:25-29 God’s Word gives report concerning a certain lawyer (that is – a scholar of the Mosaic Law) tested the Lord Jesus Christ. Therein we read, “And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? How readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?” In this account we notice that the lawyer recognized the two greatest and most foundational commands of God, that we must love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and that we must love our neighbor as ourselves. Yet we also notice that this lawyer asked a question concerning the command to love our neighbor as ourselves. In fact, he asked this question in order to find a ground for self-justification. He certainly recognized the need to love his neighbor. Yet he desired to limit the application of this command to love others. Indeed, he desired to limit the definition of the word “neighbor,” and thereby to limit the application of the command to love those around him. If he was required to love his neighbor, and if the word “neighbor” could be limited to a choice few, then he was only required to love a choice few. Especially this lawyer desired to exclude from the definition of the word “neighbor” anyone whom he might classify as an enemy. This was just what was taught by the scholars of the Mosaic Law, even as our Lord Jesus Christ revealed in Matthew 5:43, saying, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.”
Yet our Lord Jesus Christ did not answer this self-justifying lawyer with the limiting definition and application that he desired. Rather, our Lord Jesus Christ answered this lawyer with a parable and a concluding question of His own. Even so, Luke 10:30-36 states, “And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?” Finally, Luke 10:37 reports the lawyers answer to our Lord’s question and our Lord’s final instruction to the lawyer, saying, “And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” Now, through this parable and the concluding question, our Lord Jesus Christ revealed that this lawyer had asked the wrong question. We are not to ask the question, “Who is my neighbor,” with a motivation to limit our responsibility to love others. Rather, we are to ask the question, “To whom can I be a neighbor,” with a motivation to be moved with compassion for others in their need and to be merciful and loving in helping those in need.
In our Lord’s parable, the wounded man had a certain need. He had been attacked by thieves. All of his money and even his clothing had been stolen. He had been wounded in the attack and had been left half-dead. Second, the wounded man had an observable need. He was left wounded on the open roadway where any traveler could see him and his need. Third, the wounded man had a desperate need. He was in such a case that he could not help himself in any way. Finally, the wounded man had a meetable need. His need was such that those traveling past would have had some ability to meet his need. Yet the first two individuals that traveled past, both men of religious position, did nothing whatsoever to help this wounded man in his need. They both saw him and his need. They could not have indicated that they did not know that this man had a need. In addition, they both would have had some means to help meet this wounded man’s need. Yet in both cases these first two travelers, the priest and the Levite, moved to the other side of the roadway in order to ignore and avoid the wounded man’s need. They were not moved with compassion to help. Rather, they were moved with selfishness to avoid. As such, neither of these travelers conducted themselves as a loving, merciful neighbor toward the wounded man. On the other hand, when the Samaritan saw the wounded man, he was moved with loving compassion upon him even though the wounded man was a total stranger. Being moved with loving compassion, the Samaritan went to the wounded man in order to help in his need. He physically treated the wounded man’s wounds. He put the wounded man upon his own traveling beast, sacrificing his own convenience for the wounded man. He then took the wounded man to the closest inn and cared for him through the night, sacrificing his own time for the wounded man. Finally, the Samaritan made arrangements for the wounded man’s continuing care, sacrificing his own money for the sake of the wounded man. So then, who was a loving and merciful neighbor to the wounded man? Clearly the Samaritan was. The Samaritan was the one who loved his neighbor as himself, just as we are commanded by the Lord our God. Even so, if we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, we must go and do likewise.
To love our neighbor as ourselves means that we not defraud or deal deceitfully with those around us.
In the closing portion of Leviticus 19:18 we find the command first given in God’s Holy Word, “But thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.” Since this command begins with the contrasting conjunction “but,” we are brought to understand that that this instruction concerning what we ought to do is delivered in direct contrast to behavior revealed in the preceding concerning what we ought not to do. In fact, that preceding context extends at least from verse 13 to verse 18, with verse 18 serving as the concluding and foundational instruction for the entire passage. Indeed, these verses present a series of prohibitive instructions concerning our interpersonal relations with others; and throughout these verses the word “neighbour” is used five different times. So then, the first of these prohibitive instructions is given in Leviticus 19:13, “Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.” In addition, just two verses previous in verse 11 the prohibitive instruction was given, “Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.” Even so, by these prohibitive instructions we are brought to understand that loving our neighbor means that we do not deal in a defrauding or deceitful manner against others. First, this means that we do not deal in a defrauding manner against others – that we do not steal from others, that we do not hold back from others that which is their due, and that we do not manipulate others out of that which is their due. Second, this means that we do not deal in a deceitful manner against others – that we do not lie to others, that we do not behave in a false, deceitful fashion with others, and that we do not speak falsely about others. Such behavior is the very opposite of loving our neighbor as ourselves.
To love our neighbor as ourselves means that we not be impatient or abusive against those with a physical disability.
In Leviticus 19:14 the prohibitive instruction is given, “Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the LORD.” Herein we note that this instruction concerns our behavior toward the deaf and the blind, that is – toward those who have a physical disability. Such individuals are also within the category of our neighbor, and we are to love them as ourselves. So then, what are we prohibited from doing as we demonstrate godly love unto such physically disabled individuals? First, we are instructed not to curse the deaf. Indeed, we are not to speak harsh and biting words against them. Certainly, this prohibition is somewhat clear in its declaration and meaning. However, it also implies something more. In the majority of cases, when an individual speaks curses against the deaf, it is because that individual has become impatient and frustrated at the deaf individual’s inability to comprehend some communication. As such, this first part of the prohibitive instruction implies that we must not allow ourselves to become impatiently frustrated with those who possess a physical disability, so that we are not moved and motived to express harsh words against them. Second, we are instructed not to put a stumbling block in the way of the blind. Such behavior is simply that of a mean, malicious spirit. Certainly, a blind individual would not be able to see the stumbling block in the way. Thus the stumbling block will cause the blind individual to stumble and fall, possibly even unto his or her physical damage. As such, placing a stumbling block in the way of a blind individual is simply to be defined as mean-spirited abuse of another, especially of an individual who possesses a physical disability. Even so, both an impatient spirit and an abusive spirit are the opposite of godly love toward our physically disabled neighbor.
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