The Royal Law (James 2:8-11)

First Baptist Church

“The Royal Law of God”

(James 2:8-11)

Series: Living the Faith [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

December 31, 2017

Introductory Comments:

Well, we’re back in the book of James. I’m excited to be back in this book. I love the book of James!

James has just finished his discussion about favoritism and now he wants to offer more clarity about the topic. He wants to explain in a reasoned way why favoritism is not aligned with the law of God.

Illustration: Hey church, did you know about our CenterShot ministry?  I love this ministry!  In fact, I have some brochures up here on the front pew if you’d like to grab one after the service. CenterShot teaches young people and their parents the skill of archery, while also teaching them about Jesus and His ways. The leaders that serve in that ministry are very patient working with the students to learn the proper way to shoot a bow. Most of the participants are immature when it comes to archery. If they don’t do something right, the instructor points it out so they can correct it. The instructors are helping them become more mature; helping them become proficient archers.

In the same way, James wants his readers to grow in their faith.  He is pointing out immature elements of their faith.  He is instructing them in how to become mature and complete as followers of Jesus.

God also wants us to grow in our faith, and the Holy Spirit is working in us to grow us in our faith!

Let’s be open to what God may be teaching us today as God is instructing us towards maturity.

Let’s read the passage.

Read the Passage

Read James 2:8-11

8 Indeed, if you fulfill the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. 9 If, however, you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the entire law, and yet stumbles at one point, is guilty of breaking it all. 11 For he who said, Do not commit adultery, also said, Do not murder. So if you do not commit adultery, but you murder, you are a lawbreaker.

Let’s pray together.


We’re going to see here that James is putting the sin of favoritism in the context of a violation of God’s law.

He wants us to see this sin for what it is, and to see sin in general for what it is.

I want to share with you some steps that we are to intentionally take as we seek to become full and mature Christians.

First . . .

I. Do fulfill the law of God (v. 8) [on screen]

James says that if we obey the law of God that we are doing well.

He is commending the obedience of the law.  It’s a good thing if we fulfill the law!  That makes sense!


He calls this law, “the royal law.”

What does James mean when he says, “the royal law?”

It seems to be that James means something different than just the regular Old Testament law.

James is a Jewish Christian speaking to Jewish Christians. If he would have simply said, “the law,” they would have known what he meant.

However, he says, “the royal law.”

If something is royal that means that is belonging to royalty; it is belonging to a king!

Indeed, this law is given to us by God Himself, the King of the Universe!

Further, this law is instituted by the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ!

This is the royal law!

This law is not a law of bondage and slavery. This is a law of freedom, found in Jesus!

We are no longer slaves to sin, who are unable to keep the law of God.

We are set free in Christ and given help by the Holy Spirit to finally live for God as we were created to!  What a miracle!  What a blessing!  What freedom!


Not only is this the law of the King, but this specific law that James mentions is one of the two most important laws mentioned by Jesus, as found in the great commandment passage in Matthew 22:37-40.

37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” [on screen]

It’s also mentioned in the book of Leviticus. So, James highlights this law that is given to us by God, as far back as the book of Leviticus, and reemphasized through the words of Jesus.

James’ readers, and we as followers of Jesus today, are to seek to fulfill the law that God has given us, not just as a set of rules, but as God’s path for those who follow Him.

Kids that are with us, does it ever make you sad when you disobey your parents?  Why?  Because you love them and want to make them happy.  Right?

That’s how we feel towards God’s law. We should want to obey it because we love God!


Of course, this specific command that James mentions is pertinent because of the specific sin of which he has just spoken: favoritism

If we truly love our neighbor as ourself, we will not show favoritism.

If we are truly followers of Jesus, we will seek to fulfill the law by the way that we live our lives.


Next, we must clearly hear this . . .

II. Do not transgress the law of God (v. 9) [on screen]

James says very clearly if we do show favoritism that we are in sin; we are transgressors.

Look again at James 2:9

9 If, however, you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

There you go!

Well, what does it mean to be a transgressor?

We don’t use that word very often.

For one to transgress means to go past the boundaries of something.

Illustration: Just this morning as I was loading the car my boys were playing in the driveway. I told them, don’t go past this line in the driveway. They were to stay on this side of the line. To go past it, would be to transgress!

When we transgress the law of God, we go outside or beyond the way that God has set for us.

James says that to show favoritism is to sin, is to transgress, and is to come under conviction by the law.

Well, why is favoritism a transgression?

James has already spent considerable time explaining that showing favoritism is improper in the eyes of God.

In verse 8 he has just reminded us that we should love our neighbor as ourselves.

To do anything otherwise is not keeping the law of God.

Therefore, if we do show favoritism, we are transgressing the law of God.

God doesn’t want us to show favoritism!  If we do, we are going outside of His ways for us!

Loving our neighbor is obedience to God; showing favoritism is disobedience to God.

James has already told us earlier in his letter that favoritism is a violation of loving those whom God created and a rejection of those whom God may have chosen for salvation.

He makes it clear that favoritism is a transgression against the law of God.

So, not just with favoritism, but with any sin, we must be careful not to transgress the law of God.


Finally, what we can learn from this passage is . . .

III. Do not be inconsistent with the law of God (v. 10-11) [on screen]

James makes it clear that to sin in even one point of the law is a violation of the entire law.

This concept is something difficult for many of us to accept.

Is it really a violation of God’s law to sin just a little bit?  Just to tell a small lie on our tax return?  Or, to tell our parents part of the truth, but not the whole truth?  Or, to not love that person that’s been mean to us?

We don’t think of so many small sins as sins that would separate us from God; things like favoritism, and gossip, and lack of forgiveness, and pride.  We think these are not offensive to God and to His law.

Listen, though, to what James says.  Look at verses 10 and 11.  (Read James 2:10-11).

10 For whoever keeps the entire law, and yet stumbles at one point, is guilty of breaking it all. 11 For he who said, Do not commit adultery, also said, Do not murder. So if you do not commit adultery, but you murder, you are a lawbreaker.

James says whoever keeps the entire law yet stumbles on one point is guilty of not keeping the law.

Any part!

Well, that covers the entire law, doesn’t it?

That’s James’ point.

We are vulnerable with any and every part of the law.

One part of the law that is not kept is equal to not keeping the entire law.

James then uses these two extreme examples: adultery and murder.

We tend to think this way, “It’s not like I cheated on my wife!”  Or, “It’s not like I killed somebody!”


James’ point here is to point out that you might not be guilty of one particular sin, but if you’re guilty of another, then you are guilty of sin before God.

It would be ridiculous for us to say that we’re keeping the law because we don’t commit adultery, even though we may be committing murder over here on the side.  Or to say that we’re not sinful because we’ve never murdered anyone, yet we’re being unfaithful to our spouse.

Kids, if you’re obeying your parents by brushing your teeth, but disobeying by not going to bed, you’re still disobeying. Right parents?

J. Vernon McGee helpfully states, “To break one law makes a lawbreaker.”


Not all sins are equal in terms of consequence, but they are equal in terms of guilt.

Some sins have greater effects on this earth in terms of their consequences  However, all sins greatly affect our relationship with God.

If I were to steal money from our church, that would have a greater effect, or a greater consequence, than if I broke the speed limit.  But, both make me a lawbreaker.


God’s standard for us is so high, indeed, His standard is holiness.

If we don’t keep that standard, we are guilty of sin.

This is why we need Jesus!  Because on our own, we cannot keep the law perfectly!  We need Jesus!

Since we stepped outside the bounds of what God created for us, we are due punishment from God.

However, God wanted to show us grace and spare us from that punishment, so He sent His perfectly obedient and perfectly holy Son, Jesus to our world.

Jesus never stepped outside of God’s boundaries. He never transgressed.  He never sinned.

He paid our punishment by dying on the cross.

He then showed power over death by rising from the dead and going back into Heaven with God the Father.

God is calling us to be forgiven for our transgressions.  He is calling us to a new way of life where we love Him and His law.

This is the good news of the Bible. God has spoken to us, even though we rejected Him.  God offers us forgiveness in Jesus.

If you are still not following Jesus, start following Him today. Give your life to God!

Let us remember also that James is speaking to those who have Jesus.  He’s saying to them, if you are in Jesus, you must now seek to keep God’s law.

You see, James has already mentioned that we are deceiving ourselves if we call ourselves followers of Jesus, but we don’t keep the commands of Jesus.

He has told us to be doers of the word, and not hearers only!

He is reinforcing that here by reminding his readers that showing favoritism to someone, as innocent as that may seem, is a violation of the law; just as murder and adultery are violations of the law; and it leads to an inconsistency with our adherence to the law of God.

You see it’s not just about the consequences of the sin itself, it’s about a rejection of the authority of God.

So, as a follower of Jesus we say, “I am now willingly coming under the authority of God.”  Yet, if we do not keep God’s law, we are again rejecting God’s authority.

In short, we cannot claim to follow Christ and only obey part of His law.


We must ask ourselves, “How are we being inconsistent with the law of God?”

Do we claim to love each other, yet don’t forgive those who have offended us?

Do we claim to be in favor of biblical marriage, yet we don’t love our spouses sacrificially?

Do we claim to love the church, yet don’t give and serve and pray for our church?

Do we claim to value human life, yet don’t care for those that are dying unjustly in our world, both inside the womb and outside the womb?

The list could go on, but we get the point, right?

Concluding Thoughts:

We’ve talked a lot about favoritism in the church, probably to the point that some of us are ready to move on.

However, let us not miss what James is saying in the greater picture.

First of all, favoritism is an abomination in the church of Jesus Christ!

Even more so, if we are followers of Jesus Christ, we must eradicate any form of sin, no matter how great or how small it is in our eyes.

We must commit to follow after Jesus with everything that we have!  We must hold nothing back!

Once we commit our lives to Him, we must be all in.

We must seek to fulfill the royal law of God.

That’s our bottom line for this week.

Bottom Line: Seek to fulfill the royal law of God[on screen]

This law is for our good.

The law of God is not what brings us into a relationship with God, but once we are forgiven of our violation of God’s law and we are made new, we then have new desires which should include a love and devotion to God and His ways; to His royal law.

Here’s our weekly challenge for this week folks.  This is worth making some New Year’s resolutions right here:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Ask God to give you a love for His law[on screen]

If you want to love His law, but you don’t, ask God to give you a greater love for His law.

Commit yourself to this.

  1. Ask God to give you a hatred for transgressions[on screen]

The more you love God, the more you should hate sin.

Ask God to make that true for you.

If you hate sin, if you have transgressions, hopefully you will be more likely to avoid them.

  1. Fight to be a consistent follower of God.  [on screen]

This take effort!

God gives us the strength, through the power of His Holy Spirit, but it’s still hard!

Keep fighting.

Fight to be consistent in following God.



James spoke earlier about being a transgressor of the law.

Again, what that means is that you’ve gone out of the boundaries of what God has designed for you.

If you are a follower of Jesus, He has forgiven you for transgressing and has set you back in bounds. Don’t go out of bounds any more. Stay faithful to Him.

If however, you are still rejecting God’s ways, there is hope for you to get on the right path.

As I shared earlier, Jesus offers forgiveness. If you need to follow Him, do so today.

(Closing Prayer)

Invitation Song: Jesus Paid it All


Remember, church, that we do not have service here tonight. I know some of you are getting together to celebrate the coming of the new year tonight, so praise God for that.

Be sure to check your bulletins for all the great information that’s in there!

I love you all and I’ll see you next year!

Let’s dismiss by singing the Doxology. 

(Sing Doxology)

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER: The text contained in this sermon is solely owned by its author. The reproduction, or distribution of this message, or any portion of it, should include the author’s name. The author intends to provide free resources in order to inspire believers and to assist preachers and teachers in Kingdom work.