Mercy, Judgment, and Freedom (James 2:12-13)

First Baptist Church

“Mercy, Judgment, and Freedom”

(James 2:12-13)

Series: Living the Faith [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

January 7, 2018

Introductory Comments:

(give a paraphrase of Matthew 18:23-35)

In the book of Matthew, chapter 18, Jesus tells us the story of a servant who owes a great debt to a king. The king orders that everything the servant owes be sold to pay the debt, even his family.

The servant begs the king for mercy and forgiveness of the debt, and the man is forgiven of the debt by the king.

Well, later the servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him money and he grabbed him by the neck and started choking him, demanding that he pay back the money he owed him.

The man who was being choked begged his fellow servant to be patient with him, but he wasn’t patient with him.  He threw him in prison and treated him harshly.

Now, word got back to the king who forgave the first man about how he was treating the second man.  How do you think the king felt when he found out about the situation?  He was not pleased at all.

He said to the first man, I forgave you of a large debt; I showed you mercy. Now you turn around and bring down the thunder on someone who owes you less than you owed me.  He said, “you should have forgiven him as I forgave you!”  So, the king put the first man in prison and treated him harshly.

Jesus says this, So also my heavenly Father will do to you unless every one of you forgives his brother or sister from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35)

Here’s the point of that story: We are to be changed in the way we act towards others, because of the way God has changed our lives. We are to forgive others because God has forgiven us of such a large debt.

In this passage, James continues his theme of us living changed lives because of the great way God has changed us.

Today, he talks about showing mercy towards others.

Let’s look at the passage together.

Read the Passage

Read James 2:12-13

12 Speak and act as those who are to be judged by the law of freedom. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has not shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Let’s pray together.


Here James is again, speaking to us about the way we live; how we are to behave as Christians.

If you haven’t caught on yet, James is very concerned with this theme.  This is why the title of our series in James is, “Living the Faith.”

Last week, we learned that those who are in Christ are to love and obey the law of God. Even if we break one aspect of it, we are guilty of breaking all of it. That’s why we need the grace of God to be saved from our guilt and to live for Him once we are made new.

Now, James is speaking to us about mercy, judgment, and freedom.

I want to show you three actions that we are to take this morning because of the mercy of God.

Shall we dive in?  Good!

First, we are to . . .

I. Live free because of mercy (v. 12) [on screen]


James says to, “Speak and act as those who are to be judged by the law of freedom,” (verse 12).

James now returns to this theme of freedom.

There is freedom found in following Jesus.

We are to live free because of mercy.


Remember, part of our freedom in Jesus means that we are no longer bound by the chains of sin; not just the consequences of sin, but sin itself.

This means that we don’t have to sin any more. We are no longer held by the law of bondage, we are freed by the law of freedom.

We don’t have to be guilty before God, we can now be free before God; set free to live for His glory!

We can now follow God fully and faithfully.

James says that we should speak and act, we should behave, as those who are under the law of Christ.

I believe James is saying that we should recognize that we are changed by Jesus and live accordingly.

Again, James has already made this clear, but he keeps talking about it again, and again, and again.

There’s probably a good reason for that!

He wants us to live as Christians!

He has already given us practical examples of how we can live out the Christian life, and he will still give us more throughout his letter.

We can certainly find more of God’s law in the rest of the Bible, not just the book of James. Right?

So, we should search God and His ways and find out the answer to the question, “How now are we supposed to live?”

Illustration: One of the things that my son Levi does it to make a satisfactory noise after he sees someone drink a beverage. He says, “Ahh,” and smacks his lips together. Why?  Because he’s seen others do that. He’s learning how to live!

In the same way, we need to learn how to live. We must observe God and His ways.

Illustration: When you build a lego model, you first look at the picture to see what it’s supposed to look like. Once you try to build your version, you should compare it continually to the picture to make sure it looks right, taking off legos and adding them where they need to go to make it correct. You keep adjusting until you get it right.

In the same way, we are to look to the Bible to see how we are to look as Christians. God has given us the picture. We are to keep adjusting. Taking off certain things and adding certain things, until we get it right, which will be a lifetime of adjustment.

We are to model God and His ways!

We are not only to live this way because we have been changed, but we are to live this way because James says we will be judged by this law of freedom. Well what does that mean?

We now bear a new responsibility as children of God when it comes to how we live.

We are held accountable to this new way of life.  The blood of Christ brings us freedom from sin and new life. That new life brings with it a greater life, a higher calling, a superior existence.

With that blessing comes an expectation that when we give our lives to Jesus, we are giving all of it to Him.

“All to Jesus I surrender. All to Him I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live. I surrender all, I surrender all, all to thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.”

James says, live like you have surrendered all to Jesus.

God’s forgiveness towards us does not mean that we are no longer called to obey Him. No!  It says that even though we did not obey Him before, we are forgiven, and now given the ability to obey Him!

This takes us to our next point.  Let’s jump right into it. We are to . . .

II. Love others with mercy (v.13) [on screen]


Look again at the first part of verse 13.

For judgment is without mercy to the one who has not shown mercy. (James 2:13a)

This is a weighty passage of Scripture.

James says that if we do not show mercy towards others, we will not be shown mercy.  Wow!

What is going on here?

Is James saying that even though God has forgiven us of our sins, that forgiveness will be nullified if we don’t show mercy towards others? No. That’s not what he’s saying.

What James is saying is if we do not show mercy towards others, then we have not truly received the mercy of God.

Again, this fits with James’ consistent message: those who have truly been changed by Jesus will live as followers of Jesus. If we do not live as followers of Jesus, then we are demonstrating that we have not been changed by Jesus.

This is not just the message of James. This is the message of the entire Bible, both the Old Testament and New Testament.


One of the marks of a genuine follower of Jesus is one who shows mercy towards others. Whether it be the poor, the helpless, our brothers and sisters in Christ, or whomever. We are to show mercy!

Not showing mercy is so antithetical to the Christian life that it’s like teaching a young man how to play basketball and putting him on the court, telling him go out there and make a basket, and he runs to the wrong basketball hoop!  He’s got it all wrong!  If we’re not showing mercy, we’ve got it all wrong!

Jesus said, “14 For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. 15 But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.” (Matthew 6:14-15) [on screen]

David Platt says, “You can tell who has received mercy from God by the way they show mercy to others.”

If we do not show mercy, we reveal ourselves as imposters, and mercy will not be shown to us.

James wants us to live as the real thing: genuine followers of Jesus.

One might ask, “Pastor why are you so intent on making this point?  It almost seems as if you want us to doubt our relationship with the Lord!”

Well, first of all, I’m passionate about this because James is passionate about this.

I want all of us to feel the weight of what the Bible has to say about this.

Further, this is very important stuff.  Think about it. Our very souls are at stake. If you or I think that we are Christians, but we are truly not Christians, that is a serious problem!

We need to live like Christians, not just with showing mercy, but with all of our lives.

We shouldn’t doubt our faith, but we should examine ourselves to see that our lives demonstrate that we really have a relationship with God.

We must have genuine faith!


Finally, this passage shows us that we are to . . .

III. Triumph through mercy (v.13) [on screen]


James ends this passage with a reminder that God’s mercy brings us triumphant victory over the consequences of His judgement.

Read James 2:13

13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has not shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Why do we need to show mercy?  Because we have been changed by the wonderful mercy of God!

His mercy has triumphed in our lives!

The power of His mercy changes everything in our lives, which is precisely why we are to live by His mercy.

We all need God’s mercy and it is widely and generously available to us all.

The power of God’s love is much stronger than the consequences of our sin!

He can bring new life, new ways, new desires. He can change us by His mercy!

Mercy is stronger than judgment!

Make no mistake, we will either receive God’s mercy or God’s judgment.

(present gospel here)

God created us.

We are sinners and deserve God’s judgment.

God showed us mercy instead, through Jesus. He will take the judgment.

God offers us a new and changed life, through mercy.

God will carry out His judgment through the sacrifice of Jesus and show mercy to those who trust in Jesus.

Further, God’s mercy can make us people of mercy who show love to others.

One thing I told our staff when I became the pastor here is that love is always stronger than hate. God’s love is more powerful than the sinfulness of mankind.

We must remember that!

We must fight for that!

Show the love of God rather than the sin of this world!

Let mercy triumph over judgment not only in your life, but also in how you live your life!

Concluding Thoughts:

James is calling us to live different lives because we have experienced the mercy of God!

We are to be people of mercy because of the mercy we have experienced.

Bottom Line: By God’s mercy we are free, and by God’s mercy we will live[on screen]


Live changed!

Follow God and His ways.

Live by His mercy.

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Ask, “How has God’s mercy set me free?”  [on screen]

Remember the change in your life!

Reflect upon the work of God in your life.

Be prepared to tell others how God’s mercy has changed you.

  1. Ask, “To whom do I need to show mercy?”  [on screen]

Let God convict you if necessary.

Do you need to show mercy to someone in particular?

Always be ready to show mercy.

  1. Remember how God’s mercy triumphs[on screen]

Everything about you should change; not just showing mercy.

You’re a new creation. Free go guilt, free of bondage, free to live for Him!

Live like one who has been changed by God’s mercy.


As we close let’s remember God’s mercy.

If you need God’s mercy, seek it today.

(review Gospel Presentation)

(Closing Prayer)

Invitation Song: Lord I’m Coming Home


Join us again tonight as we are back in our study of the book I Will by Thom Rainer. We will be in chapter 4 tonight, which is entitled, “I Will Serve.”

Also, be sure to be here next week because we start a three week series on Sunday morning that is launching and explaining our new vision statement as a church. I’m super excited about this, church!

Please be here.

Let’s dismiss by singing the Doxology. 

(Sing Doxology)

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