Sermon Passage: Colossians 2:13-15
When we look at this passage, we can feel various kinds of emotions and we might be able to see the amazing grace of God as well as the sacrifice of Jesus. But what we often do not see is the genius of the writer, namely, Paul. Paul was an educated man and he was very intentional with his words. so to see what he really intended, we need to study his grammar and syntax.
The passage starts with the direct object of the main verb "to make alive with". And the direct object is in an unusually place for emphasis. Paul, before he proclaims the amazing work of God through Christ, reminds us that we were wholly, entirely dead. We were dead in our trespass and also our uncircumcision of the flesh. Then, Paul explains what God did. He makes sure we know that God is the doer. God is the subject of all the verbs we find in this passage. God is the initiator of our salvation. It's solely because he chose to save that we are saved. He loved us first. And Paul, then, reminds us that God did his working through his son Jesus Christ. And what Christ did, Paul explains in verses 10-12 before our passage. and we can clearly see that Paul is drawing our attention to the direct object of the verbs that we mentioned already. YOU. You are the object of God's love, grace and mercy. You are the reason Christ died, was buried and was risen again. And so you are made alive with Christ. It's all God's doing. It's all through Christ. But you are the object of all his grace, love, mercy. We just sit here and receive. How amazing is his love.
In the book of James, division is one of the important theme. So from the chapter 1, he deals with the division between faith and doubt, listening and living, and personal piety and helping others. And in today's text, he continues to talk about the division between faith and works.
His point is very clear that faith apart from works is dead. This dead faith appears in two ways. First is mere words (which is lip service). And the second is mere knowledge (which even the demons have). These are not small or lack faith, but these are not faith at all.
Also James gives two examples of living faith, Abraham and Rahab. While Abraham was the father of faith to the Jews, Rahab was a gentile prostitute. It seems that James picked two very different people to show that there is no favoritism in faith as long as the faith is accompanied by works. From Abraham's example we can see that living faith is obedience. Although Abraham was justified by faith in Genesis 15, 30+ years later his faith was proved by obedience in Genesis 22. Also, a living faith is making a difference. Rahab had a faith in one true God of Israel. Has her faith saved her? Yes. She was living among the city of Jericho which would be completely destroyed. However, Joshua sent two spies despite the fact that he did not have good experience, they did not need military strategy, and the spied did nothing but being saved by Rahab. Therefore, we can conclude that God sent two spies to save Rahab, who had faith in gentile. She made a difference based on her faith. Living faith is obedience and making differences.
Knowing about what is faith and what is not is important. However, having a living faith which is accompanied by works is more important. Let's examine our faith and live it out.
Abram and Lot came back to Canaan from Egypt with wealth. However, because of the wealth the land could not take both family anymore. It was the time to make a decision. At that moment, Abram conceded his right to choose to his nephew Lot. This was not avoiding decision-making out of fear. It was an action based on faith. Abram believed that God would keep his promise of land. In previous chapter Abram made a decision by sight and went to Egypt to avoid the famine. There, He learned that it was not the circumstances (land or water) but God who kept Abram safe. Through this lesson, now Abram made a choice to give his right to Lot. His principle was he put the relationship first. This decision was not to keep his flocks or possessions, but to keep the relationship (v.8). He was confident (v.9) because he knew that whether he go right or left, the promise of God will come true (Will of God) as long as he puts his faith and seek God first (Isa. 30:21). Based on his faith, he did not follow his culture and gave up his right. It was a decision made by faith not by sight.
On the other hand, Lot who experienced same thing with Abram on the Journey to Egypt and back to Canaan still made his choice by sight not by faith. He chose the well-watered land (Gen. 13:10-11). It was self-focused and greed-based decision.
So when we made our decision, we are to put our purpose and principles on God (Glory of God, Fear of God, Will of God), not on ourselves, and we need discernment, wisdom and temperance instead of polluted judgment and greed.
James exhorts believers to 'show no partiality.' The reality of partiality is that we all have it in our relationships. We tend to deny that we have partiality but James did not hide or cover up their issue. Instead he points out that they are showing partiality based on people's wealth (v.2-3). As he did, we should be able to admit we have partiality, too. Moreover, we should know that it produces bad fruits. We have many examples in and out of the bible. It hurts people's heart and distorts the relationships.
The root of partiality is our evil thoughts and judgment based on those thoughts (v.4). Therefore, it is a sin because having partiality means that we are sitting on the God's position and judge people with our thoughts which is evil or not enough to judge others. Also, partiality is against the royal law, 'love your neighbors as yourself' (v.8-9). And this sin is relatively considered as a small sin, yet James compares it to murder and adultery (v.11). It's because no matter which law breaks, we found guilty of breaking all of it (v.10).
Then, what is the remedy of partiality? It is mercy. It is love. Not showing partiality (passive) is not enough. We should show mercy instead of partiality (active). That is the goal of the law, and that is the best way to get rid of partiality in us. Mercy triumphs over judgment! (v.13).