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James 2:14 by Robert Dean
Series:James (1998)
Duration:1 hr 4 mins 57 secs

Unconditional Love Resolves the Curse of Sin on Marriage
James 2:14

The royal law or the doctrine of unconditional love—James 2:8. This is a quote from Leviticus 19:18. When Jesus Christ summarized the Mosaic law He summarized it under two categories: a) You shall love the Lord your God will all your soul, mind and strength; b) You shall love your neighbour as yourself.

Why does James rename this the royal law? In the Old Testament it was an establishment principle. It is part of the Decalogue, part of the Mosaic law, and remember the Mosaic law was designed for every person in Israel, believer and unbeliever, so it was not related to the spiritual life, it was part of the legislative code to the entire nation. However, as in many other areas related to the Mosaic law, Israel failed to fulfil this. It is brought over into the church age and is renamed the royal law and is identified as a unique production of God the Holy Spirit—Galatians 5:22ff.

1)  It was renamed the royal law because it exemplified in the first advent, the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, during His life and especially when he went to the crucifixion, where He demonstrated for all time and eternity the essence of unconditional and impersonal love. It is called the royal law because it was so exemplified by the King of kings and Lord of lords.

2)  It is called the royal law because it is the unique characteristic of the church age believer who is a member of the royal family of God. The model: John 13:34, 35. This is a hard act to follow and can only be followed when we are utilizing the filling of the Holy Spirit and we understand a lot of doctrine. This is not something that the immature, baby believer can produce, at least not in a consistent manner.

3)  It is vital to advance to this level in preparation for our future role as those who will rule and reign with Jesus Christ. Part of the characteristics of those who will have that inheritance, joint heirs with Christ, who will rule and reign with Him, is that we have learned true and genuine humility, understanding the principle of being a servant and serving in the context of how divine viewpoint expresses it and not as men do, which is in terms of domination and tyranny, but that we would lead on the basis of being a servant. So this character quality has to be developed in us under the filling of God the Holy Spirit in preparation for our future role in the kingdom of God.

4)  It is very difficult for us to apply this because we want to react emotionally to many people that we run into. Sometimes that is good and sometimes that is bad. But this tells us that this kind of love is not emotional, it is not the silly, superficial, simpering, weak feeling that people have for one another. It is not emotion at all because too many people we are commanded to love whom we can't know at all and yet we still have to love them, and if we do get to know them we don't want to love them at all because they are not very lovable. Yet we have to operate on the basis of volition and application of doctrine, do what Scripture says to do and respond on the basis of doctrine which calls into play mentality and volition and not reacting on the basis of emotion.

5)  To understand this we must rely on a dispensational distinctive. That is, that mandates in the Old Testament are all fulfilled by Jesus Christ at the first advent and at the cross. The Mosaic law does not continue in its operational aspect into the church age. However, any mandates that are reiterated in the church age continue to be part of the spiritual life. We see that it is reiterated in the Sermon on the Mount in relation to the Millennial kingdom, and it is stated by Jesus Christ during the first advent, and it is stated again in James chapter two and Galatians chapter five as part of the spiritual life of the church age. So this is not something that can be just thrown off into some other dispensation and say it has no relevance for today. It is clear that this principle is to characterize believers, and uniquely believers, in the church age.

6)  This takes us back to the context of Leviticus 19:18 which shows us that this is an establishment principle for believer and unbeliever alike, and in the context of Leviticus it is explained primarily in a passive sense as an absence of mental attitude sins.

James 2:8 NASB "If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF," you are doing well." Notice the verse begins with a conditional clause, an "if" clause. In English "if" usually implies pure hypothetical possibility: maybe it will be, maybe it won't, we are not sure. The Greek has four different ways of expressing an hypothesis. It can't be a 1st class condition, which includes the idea of if and it is so; 2nd class condition: if and we assume the condition to not be true; 3rd class condition: if and maybe it is and maybe it isn't; 4th class condition: if and I wish it was true but it is not. This is a first class condition, if and it is assumed to be true for the sake of argument. But there is an interesting construction here between verse 8 and verse 9. When there are two clauses, the first beginning with the particle EI [e)i], roughly equivalent to the English "if," and then there is the protasis and then the apodasis, and then the next sentence begins with another A, it should be translated "If on the one hand, but on the other hand." There is a contrast in the midst of this condition. This is how these two verses should read. "If on the one hand you are fulfilling the royal law….but if on the other hand you show partiality…" There is a contrast going on: either you are fulfilling the royal law or you are not. "…you are fulfilling" is the present active indicative, second person plural from the verb TELEO [telew], which means to bring to completion, to cause something to happen for some end result. It always seems to be focusing on an end product. It also means to obey as a mans of fulfilling the purpose of a rule or standard, and it is used in tuis way in Romans 2:27, meaning to obey the law. This is the same sense it has here in v. 8: "If, however [on the one hand], you are obeying the royal law." Isn't obedience the subject of this entire section of James? We need to realize that when James uses the word law here, NOMOS [nomoj], the standard word for law, he is not envisioning the Mosaic law. It is not a passage you can go to to say that the Mosaic law is still in effect today. James has redefined the law already in 1:25 as the law of liberty. This is God's standard for the spiritual life in the church age and the completed canon of Scripture, it is no longer a law of slavery which is what the Mosaic law is termed. It is the law of liberty because we are free from the dominion of sin and we are free from bondage to the Mosaic law. It is called NOMOS because NOMOS refers to any absolute standard, and this is an absolute standard that has been repeated by the Lord Jesus Christ on several occasions and is applied to the church age believer. It is a royal law because it is to characterize the member of the royal family of God.

The apodasis is, "you are doing well." This is a key phrase that will break this open. The phrase in the Greek text is KALOS POIEITE [kalwj poieite]. KALOS is the adverb which means to accomplish a goal, to do well, to accomplish the task, to do well in accomplishing the task. It is a word of high praise. POIETE is from the verb POIEO [poiew], the word we have seen back in 1:22—"become doers [appliers] of the word." How do you become an applier of the Word? One application is using the problem-solving device of impersonal love for all mankind. So when somebody does something to you, mistreat you, abuse you, reject you, you need to apply the royal law. "If, however, you are applying the royal law…you are applying well." This takes us back to the dynamics of how we learn Scripture. First of all the pastor-teacher communicates doctrine. You exercise your volition and once you understand it, it becomes GNOSIS—you have to think about it before you can understand it. Once you understand it you have the option of believing it or not believing it. Once you believe it God the Holy Spirit transfers it into the innermost part of rhe thinking of your soul, the KARDIA, where it becomes EPIGNOSIS doctrine. That is usable doctrine, but that doesn't mean that it is going to be automatic for you to use it. It is available for you to use under the filling of the Holy Spirit so you have to exercise your volition in the midst of a test and apply it, thereby demonstrating unconditional love, for example, both passively and also positively in the sense that you are willing to give them more than they are asking for. You go a step further if necessary. We apply doctrine in terms of the problem-solving devices, the stress-busters. The point of this whole passage is what it means to apply in the midst of testing.

The word for "neighbour" in the Greek is the word PLESION [plhsion]. The basic meaning is a position that is quite close to another position, with the possible implication of being contiguous. It means to be quite near or nearby. Thus when it is applied to a person it doesn't mean a neighbour in the sense that we use the term neighbour, i.e. somebody who lives next door, this means anybody who comes into your sphere of life.

Let's apply the concept of impersonal love to the doctrine of marriage, and see how the royal law reverses or begins to reverse part of the devastating consequences of the curse of sin, especially as it applies to marriage.

1)  In no other arena are we tested as much and have to deal with mental attitude sins, rejection, anger, insubordination and humility as within the realm of the family and the realm of marriage. The reality is proverbial and has come to be known as the battle of the sexes.

2)  Without impersonal love—advancing to this level of maturity and having the capacity for love—you will never have the experience, the kind of stability, success and happiness that God has originally intended. It won't happen. Without doctrine you can never get there. This is not to say that the unbeliever or the immature believer or the carnal believer cannot have some measure of happiness in marriage, because they certainly do. But it is not the kind that God intended. It is only when you get along in the advance to spiritual maturity that you have the capacity for love and to appreciate all that you have in marriage. At best, without it, you can experience a modicum of happiness and stability but it is often tenuous and shaky because it is built on human viewpoint systems of problem-solving and not on divine viewpoint systems of solving problems. Remember, at the very root all human viewpoint systems of problem-solving are going to a) misdiagnose the problem, and b) because it is a misdiagnosed problem they are going to misdiagnose the solution. Because human viewpoint is always built on arrogance, whether it is overt arrogance or pseudo-arrogance, arrogance blinds the minds of men to the truth. So fallen and carnal man is to one degree or another living in a state of denial, divorced from reality, and unwilling and unable to honestly face the ultimate realities of any problem. Thus they cannot openly and honestly face or appropriate the true solution. While man can opt for human viewpoint solutions to make him and his marriage functional, and they can experience a degree of happiness it in only when two believers who are operating on the basis of divine viewpoint under the filling of the Holy Spirit that they can achieve what God intends for Christian marriage. 

3)  Marriage is the second of five divine institutions. The first is individual responsibility. God holds each individual responsible for the decisions that they make, and this is exemplified in the original test related to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden. The authority of individual responsibility is the individual's volition. The second divine institution is marriage. It is for every member of the human race. The third divine institution is family. The authority in the family is the husband; the authority in family is the parent. The fourth divine institution is human government. This is established in the Noahic covenant. God delegates judicial authority to man at that point, specifically in the realm of capital punishment. The fifth is individual nations—national identities and distinctions. That was established at the tower of Babel.

4)  Marriage was originally designed by God as a partnership between two people for the fulfilment of God's plan for the human race in the perfect environment of the garden of Eden. This partnership was designed with an authority structure and role distinction which are determined by the inherent qualities which God created into the male soul and the female soul. They are about 90% similar but it is that ten % difference which makes the distinction. The male is designed to be the authority and the initiator and the female soul is designed to be the responder to the man and his assistant. There is an inherent authority structure. Even in the Trinity there is Father, Son and Holy Spirit there is absolute and total equality; they are one in essence. But they are distinct in personality and they have distinct roles. The Son is the Son from all eternity, the Father is the Father from all eternity, the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit from all eternity, and they have distinct roles and responsibilities; but that does not mean that is one less equal than another. They are equal but subordinate, so equality is not a contradiction in terms with subordination. This has been the typical stance of feminism in the modern era, that if you have role distinctions then there is no equality. The man was initially created to rule over creation as God's designated representative on the planet. But God never intended the man to function alone so He created the woman to he his helper, his assistant. The image that is presented in Genesis chapter two is that they both have a common goal, the central responsibility being upon the shoulders of the male, and the woman is to help him get there. This authority structure in the marriage was present in perfect environment. Authority is not something that God instituted after the fall because of the effect of evil on the human race. Because authority is inherent in the roles of the Godhead for all eternity it is not something God designed to deal with the sin problem. It is necessary in order to achieve a goal and to fulfil any plan.

5)  The fall of man in the garden involved at its very core a rejection of authority: 'God, you can't tell me what to do, I have to have empirical data so that I can decide what is really best for me, I am not going to take your word at face value.' So what happens is a) the woman acted independent of and in an insubordinate manner to the husband's authority as the head of the family, and she disobeys God, and b) in her act of independence she is insubordinate to God's authority. She has rejected God's plan that man is the head and he makes the decisions, c) the woman then in another act of insubordination entices the man to join her in her rebellion. Now you have role reversal, she is going to lead him, and she leads him into sin, d) the man then succumbs to this role reversal scenario. He allows her to put herself in a leadership position, he puts himself in the responder position, submits to her leadership and eats the fruit, e) the issue in the fruit was not inherent evil in the fruit. It wasn't poisonous, that is not the issue. The issue underlying the prohibition is, are you going to obey God or not? The issue is authority orientation to God. Failure to obey God introduced rebellion into the human race, which is the antithesis of authority orientation, and put rebellion at the very core of human experience and introduced chaos into every realm of creation, including marriage. Every realm of creation, including marriage and human relationships, is now chaotic.

6)  The first consequence of the fall was spiritual death which is defined as separation from God and the inability to relate to God. Everything else flows from spiritual death.

7)  The second arena of consequences destroyed the perfect environment of the earth. God comes to man, man runs and hides and tries to cover himself up in his nakedness. God seeks out Adam and the woman and once He hears from their lips what they have done He pronounces a curse. He announces what the negative consequences for sin are. Several points to note re. Genesis 3:14-19: a) the context here is a curse. Some have taken the meaning of "desire" here to refer to a physical, sexual desire, that the woman will have a desire for her husband. That does not fit the context, though it doesn't mean it is not true; it is not what God is talking about in v. 16. The context is delineating the negative consequences on the participants in the fall; b) the curse here is written in the form of Hebrew poetry. Hebrew poetry mirrors of rhymes ideas, not words. So you have two stanzas, one will be somewhat synonymous stanza. The second stanza states, "And he [the husband, the man] shall rule over you." That term for rule is the idea of despotic tyranny, control; it is not a positive word. The second idea in the stanza relates to authority. In the first stanza the concept of desire must fit synonymously with that concept of rule. So it is not talking about sexual desire because that is not what is mirrored in the second phrase. What this is saying, though, when it uses the word to describe man's desire to rule is not that the worst case scenario is going to be true in every man all the time. What this is saying is that left unchecked by establishment training or good manners, the tendency in the male sin nature will be towards a despotic authoritarianism in the home. This is not that every man will be some totalitarian dictator in the home, but that this will be the general characteristic of man at his worst. Sexual desire is not an issue, it is not present in the idea and so it has nothing to do with the context; c) in establishing the meaning of this we have seen first of all that the context is the curse. We are talking about a negative consequence here and a woman having a sexual desire for her husband is not a negative idea. Secondly, the curse is written in the form of Hebrew poetry and the parallelism here is of power and domination. The Hebrew word that is translated here "desire" is teshuqah. It is only used three times in the Scriptures. One time in Song of Solomon is in the marriage context, it relates to the husband, and it is showing what happens in a reversal after there is true love and doctrine applied in the marriage. But always remember something as a principle of hermeneutics. A word like teshuqah that is used in the Song of Solomon, written in roughly 950 BC, is going to very possibly have different nuances and meanings than a word that is used in a document written in approximately 1400 BC and is used twice in that context of Genesis 3:17 and 4:7. E.g. the word "charity" at the time of the translation of the KJV and its use today. Genesis 4:7 NASB "…sin is crouching at the door." That is, sin is waiting to dominate you. Note: This is the portrayal of the tendency and the consequences of sin on mankind left unchecked. The New Testament mandate to the man to love his wife as Christ loved the church is the antithesis of ruling over the woman as expressed in the curse. Consequently, the woman's mandate to submit to her husband is the opposite of the curse. The point is that under the power of the filling of the Holy Spirit the regenerated believers living out the mandates of the Christian institution of marriage is able to overcome and reverse the devastating consequences of sin on human relationships, and what makes this possible is his ability to apply the royal law of impersonal love. The curse says this is the tendency of the sin nature left unchecked; the hope that we have in the New Testament is that because of the filling of the Holy Spirit and because of doctrine in our souls we can reverse this, and the mandates that are directed to the man and the woman are the direct antithesis of what God says is going to be the natural tendency of the sin nature in Genesis 3:16.