The Sin of Partiality in Our Churches Scripture (James 2:1-13)

The Sin of Partiality in Our Churches

Scripture: James 2:1-13

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH

Sunday, April 26, 2020

I recently read a story that applies to the passage we are going to look at today.

The story comes out of Ravi Zacharius’ book Deliver Us from Evil pages 422-423. He writes:

One of the greatest masterpieces of music composition, if not the greatest, is the work of George Frideric Handel simply called Messiah. Prior to its composition Handel had not been successful as a musician and had retired from much professional activity by the age of fifty-six. Then, in a remarkable series of events, a friend presented him with a libretto based on the life of Christ, the entire script of which was Scripture. Handel shut himself in his room on Brook Street in London. In twenty-four days, breathtakingly absorbed in this composition and hardly eating or drinking, Handle completed the work all the way to its orchestration. He was a man in the grip of profound inspiration. Later, as he groped for words to describe what he had experienced, he quotes Saint Paul, saying, “Whether I was in the body or out of my body when I wrote it I know not.” Handel’s servant testified that on one occasion when he walked into the room to plead with him to eat, he saw Handel with tears streaming down his face saying, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself.”

         When Messiah was staged in London, as the notes of the Hallelujah Chorus rang out— “King of Kings and Lord of Lords…. And He shall reign forever and ever”—the king of England, drawn irresistibly, stood to his feet, and the audience followed as one. Listen to how one writer sums up the impact of Messiah:

         Handel personally conducted more than thirty performances of Messiah; many of these concerts were for the benefit of the hurting and the needy. “Messiah has fed the hungry, clothed the naked, fostered the orphan….” Another wrote, “Perhaps the works of no other composer have so largely contributed to the relief of human suffering.” Still another said, “Messiah’s music has done more to convince thousands of mankind that there is a God about us than all the theological works ever written.”

Ravi continues: “The first performance was a charitable benefit to raise money to free 142 people from prison who could not pay their debts.”

I find that story quite amazing. Handel used the benefits of the Messiah to go towards the needy. You know, as I think about it, it really shouldn’t be amazing, it shouldn’t be at all. Jesus was a common man. Jesus was a lower class citizen. Jesus washed the disciple’s feet. When Jesus was to be born the angels declared it to shepherds. Shepherds were common men, they were not the upper class. But I fear that in our churches, in our individual lives and in our mindset everyone is not equal. We all have our favorites. We are all partial to a certain type of person, a certain type of people.

Let’s see what the Scriptures say about favoritism. As we talk about this passage, I intend to show you that favoritism is a sin. Showing favoritism to one person over another is wrong. It is not right in our churches and it is not right in your Christian life. Showing favoritism means showing prejudice. You are all the church. You may think, “What I do on my own time is what I do on my own time.” But as a Christian, your whole life is Christ’s time. Paul the apostle always called himself a servant of Christ, even a slave of Christ. There is no part time Christianity. Part time Christianity is shallow Christianity and shallow Christianity is not Christianity at all because as soon as something doesn’t go your way your Christianity goes by the wayside. So, let’s get into the Scriptures and see that favoritism is wrong, wrong in the church holistically and wrong in your individual life as an ambassador of the church.

Please read with me James 2:1-13:

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?

If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. 11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.


Now I want to talk about this passage in three parts. The first part is verses 1-4 which are a command not to show favoritism and there is a case study example of favoritism.

The second part is verses 5-7 which is a short section consisting of 4 questions which James uses to logically challenge the church that the ones they are favoring are slandering the name of Jesus.

The third part is verses 8-13 where the consequences of favoritism are shown.

  1. So, in verses 1-4: James names the sin and gives an example of the sin as a case study.
    1. Look at the first verse. James is extremely straightforward: “Don’t show favoritism.” Period.
    2. What is favoritism? Well I think the case study in the next few verses helps us understand that. Let’s look at the case study.
    3. Verse 2 starts with the verb “suppose.” This means that this is a case study. This may not be what is actually happening, though it certainly could be happening.
    4. So someone comes into the church meeting wearing a gold ring. A gold ring would be a sign of wealth. While Jews commonly wore rings, few could afford gold rings. However, there are some reports that in the ancient world the most ostentatious people wore rings on every finger but the middle one to show off their economic status (some ancient sources indicate there were even ring rental businesses.). So, needless to say, this gold ring is a clue to the case study that this man is wealthy.
      1. This is just the illustration, the case study that James gives. James instruction is not simply against favoring the rich over the poor but favoring is wrong in all cases.
      2. This case study also gives clues to what was going on in their setting.
    5. The man is also wearing fine clothes.
    6. Then there is a man that comes in not dressed as nice. He is a poor man in shabby clothes.
    7. The next few verses show that the rich man gets the best seat, while the poor man is told to sit on the floor or just stand.
      1. Now before I go on, let’s pause to really think about this.
      2. Does this happen today?
        1. Okay, so you may be thinking, “nope, not in this church. In this church everyone is treated equally regardless of pay.” Okay, maybe they are. What about in your individual life. Remember you are part of the church. Every Christian is part of the church. How are you doing in your individual life?
        2. Do you treat people differently based off of height, weight, looks?
        3. Do you treat people differently based off of color of their skin?
        4. Okay, I got one for you. Do you treat people differently based off of how they dress? Maybe there is a man or woman who is quite educated and wealthy but if you are around them they don’t appear that way at all. Would you treat them the same way?
        5. Do you treat people differently based off of occupation?
        6. Okay, all of my prodding has so far had to do with actions, how you treat people. Let’s prod a little deeper.
          1. What types of thoughts go through your head?
          2. As you see someone at work, at church, at a game; do you make a judgment of how you would treat them based off of dress, talk, language, skin color, weight, height, the music they are listening to, sports teams?

Chuck Swindoll tells a story that is self-deprecating and makes the point of what can happen when we judge people based off of how they present themselves:

Several years ago he was teaching at a Bible conference. During one of the first days he way eating a meal and met a couple. The woman seemed really nice and talkative. The husband seemed quiet and somewhat shy. They were sitting at Swindoll’s table and they got “table acquainted.” Later on as Swindoll taught (preached) he noticed the man would fall asleep. He noticed this didn’t happen just once, but several times. Swindoll said that he had it figured out. The woman has a husband who is not as devoted to the study of Scripture as she is. He simply came to this conference to please her. On the last day the wife asked if she could speak to Swindoll after the conference was over. Swindoll said “yes.” He knew what she was going to talk about, or he thought. He thought that she wanted to tell him that she really wanted to attend this but her husband just is not as devoted to the spiritual. She waited till everyone had left and then she said, “My husband is not here today. He feels bad that he falls asleep. He is dying of cancer. One of his wishes was to come hear you speak as you are his favorite Bible teacher.” Swindoll said he was convicted. His point was that we cannot judge. We don’t know all the facts.   

You see: his case was not a matter of favoritism, but he did see how this dying man presented himself and he made a judgment. We must never do that. Never! But I admit, I do it too. I may see someone unkempt and make a judgment and if that judgment leads to the way I treat that person, it is wrong.

You see the judgment of favoritism and the opposite of favoritism, being prejudice, starts in the mind. Then it becomes meditation and then it becomes action of favoritism towards one and prejudice towards another.

James is going to continue getting more specific in the next few verses.

  1. In James 2:5-7: there are specifics to the people; James communicates through questions that the people they are favoring are slandering the name of Christ.

Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?

  1. You see the text says, “the noble’ or “’Fair’ name of whom you are called.” That is Jesus. They are favoring the ones who are slandering Jesus’ name.
  2. James says they have become judges with these thoughts. They have discriminated. These next few verses are very specific to the people.
    1. These questions have implied positive answers. This means the answer is obviously yes.
    2. Yes, they have discriminated amongst themselves and become judges with evil thoughts.
  • Yes, God has chosen the poor in this world?
    1. What does that mean?
    2. This means that Christianity is usually an underdog religion. Usually, not always. 1 Cor 1:26ff shows that Christianity is foolishness to the world. No worldly philosopher would believe that God died for His people on a cross.
    3. It was humiliating to be crucified.
    4. Jesus said, blessed are the poor in spirit.
    5. Yes, the rich were exploiting them.
    6. Yes, the rich were dragging them into court.
    7. Yes, the rich are slandering the name of Jesus.
      1. James even says by the way they favor the rich they are insulting the poor.
      2. Now a few more thoughts before we move on. It is common, too common and too natural, to view the rich better than the poor.
      3. Okay, point taken. God has equipped us to work and we all have different jobs and different jobs pay differently and are expressed differently. Don’t treat people differently based off of their occupation or financial status.
      4. Now, you may say: “this passage is talking about rich and poor relations.” You’re right it is. But that is just the example. The application is verse 1: don’t show favoritism, all types.
  • The next few verses deal with the consequence of showing partiality (James 2:8-13). Let’s re-read those verses.

If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. 11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

  1. The royal law. This just means it is the most important law. Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was and He said love the Lord Your God with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:37ff). All of the other commandments are summarized in this law.
  2. So, James is saying if you are truly loving your neighbor you are doing good. But if you show favoritism you are breaking another law.
    1. So, James is saying: if you break one law, you have broken them all.
      1. I haven’t committed idolatry
      2. I haven’t taken the name of the Lord in vain
      3. I haven’t broken the Sabbath
      4. I am honoring my father and my mother
      5. I haven’t murdered
      6. I haven’t stolen
      7. Oh, no I have told a lie.
        1. Just as a piece of glass is broken so is the law. You break one law you have broken them all. Just as a baseball that goes through a second floor window ruins the whole window, when you break the seventh commandment, you have broken the whole law. You cannot just fix the part of the window where the baseball went through.
        2. This is why we need Jesus. Jesus covers all of our sins.
      8. So, James says act as though you are judged by the law that gives freedom. Christianity brings freedom. Jesus has saved us from having to scruple about which laws we have or haven’t broken; however, Jesus allows us to press forward. True freedom is freedom to obey God and do what pleases him. The law of Christ provides freedom from sin through the gospel. In the context of James’s discussion of rich and poor ( 1–7), he may also be suggesting that God’s law will set the poor free from prejudice, oppression, and exploitation.
      9. Lastly, when we give mercy we prove we are Christians which means that God’s mercy triumphs over judgment.


So, Handel wrote the Messiah and regardless of race, regardless of wealth, he took his performance specifically to the people in need. Handel’s Messiah full of Scripture was life to the people who are marginalized by society. Handel did something that was countercultural. Praise God for that. Handel lived out one of my favorite verses, Phil 2:3-4: consider others more important than yourselves and look out for the needs of others before your own. And when we intentionally do that, we live out the Scripture and we eliminate favoritism from our churches.


Practice What is Taught (James 1:19-27)

Practice What is Taught (James 1:19-27)

Prepared and Preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH

What do we think of someone who teaches one thing but then does something entirely different? We might call them a hypocrite, wouldn’t we? We may lose respect for them. What does the world think of people who claim to be Christians, yet their lives are filthy? What would you think? Imagine with me for a moment that you are a non-Christian. You have gone to church a few times in your whole entire life, yet you have Christian friends, or alleged Christian friends. You observe these friends: they don’t seem to care about the orphan. They don’t care about the homeless. They don’t care about the poor. They talk pretty poorly about all your coworkers, at least when their backs are turned. They talk badly about their spouse. These Christian friends get angered pretty easily and when they get angry watch out.

What would you think?

Would you want to be a Christian?

Would you want anything to do with Christianity?

My theme:

Over the next few minutes, we are going to look at James 1:19-27 and I intend to show that James challenges his listeners that true Christianity means letting Scripture soak deep within you and a Christ like lifestyle flow out of you. True Christianity is two-fold: inward and outward—listen to the Scriptures and let it take root and then live the Scriptures.

Let’s read James 1:19-27:

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

In this passage I see the main point a few verses into the passage. The main point is in verses 21-25:

Main point:

21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.[1]

The main point concerns the Scriptures, the Bible. So, take a note of that and we will come back to it. But first let’s talk about verses 19-20.

  1. Verses 19-20 are a specific way to live out the Bible’s instructions. This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 
    1. Be quick to listen
    2. I know you have heard as I have. God gave us two ears and one mouth. Needless to say, “listening is very important.”
    3. How many times would arguments be simmered if people could listen to one another? Not just listen but take each other seriously. How many marriages have I seen that could be helped by honest, humble communication? We must be listening and slow to anger.
      1. I have talked with many people who have had marriage issues that go back to communication, and I am not perfect at this either.
      2. I think that listening equals humility. I am not saying everyone who listens is humble. I am talking about really listening. Not listening because you just don’t like to talk. But listening because you care about the person talking and you are interested in what they are saying.
    4. The text also says to be slow to anger. When we are not listening carefully it is easy to jump to conclusions and become angry.
    5. My grandmother used to tell me, “Steve I don’t get mad, dogs get mad. People get angry.” Anger puts you in a position to more easily sin and I believe that is why James says we need to be slow to anger.
    6. See verse 20: when we are angry, we are not becoming righteous as God desires.
      1. God desires righteous living. Do you? Do you? What does it mean to be righteous? Righteous means right-living. Right-living could be called “set apart” living, even holy living.
      2. God wants us to live holy lives. God wants us to be Godly. So, start praying for it and start trying. We don’t preach about holiness nearly enough. Well, we need to.
    7. Verse 21 starts to move into the center of this passage. The center is what I would consider the main point and the main point concerns Scripture. 21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 
      1. In the NIV verse 21 starts with a “therefore.” When you see a “therefore” you must always find out what it’s therefore. It is an inference, an application. James had just written about the righteous life that God desires and now he will take it a step further.
        1. Basically, James says to get rid of stuff that is not right. Get rid of moral filth and evil. Now James could have made a nice list of all the things that we’re to get rid of, but he would probably miss one, so James just uses a couple nice summary words.
          1. Every one of us needs to get rid of a few things in our lives, including myself. What do you need to get rid of?
            1. What is the moral filth in your life?
            2. Is it your thought life? Is it your lust, pride, language, things that you look at on the internet?
          2. What is the evil in your life?
          3. Evilness doesn’t necessarily mean that you are using Ouija boards and chasing witchcraft.
          4. It just means excess badness.
            1. Let’s pray: Lord, I think right now is a great time for us to pause and confess where we fail and ask for your help. [I am going to give you several seconds to confess and to ask God to help you]
            2. When we pray God forgives. 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But we must try to move forward. How? That is in the rest of the verse and the next few verses.
          5. Accept the Word. How do you accept the Word? We accept it humbly. There is no other way to accept the Scriptures than in humility. Why? The Scriptures convict us, but we can’t be convicted when we have pride. That pride stands in the way.
            1. Now am I sure that James is talking about the Bible? Yes, later on James will talk about the law and just by the context I am sure that he is talking about writings that are considered Scripture. For them it was the Old Testament and probably some early church writings which would develop into our New Testament.
            2. James also says to accept the Word implanted in you. The Word must get rooted. You see, we can read the Scriptures but that is not enough. They must sink down and take root in us. Again, this happens through humility.
          6. Last in this verse James says the Word can save you. Salvation is in God’s Word.
          7. In verse 22 James goes into the analogy. Don’t only listen to the Word, do what it says. Don’t be hypocrite.
          8. But do you know the Word? How important are the Scriptures to you?

I read a true story in a book by Ravi Zacharias. Zacharias is a Christian writer and speaker who writes about defenses for Christianity. He writes: 

During my ministry in Vietnam in 1971, one of my interpreters who traveled with me was Hien Pham, an energetic, devoted young Christian who had worked very closely as a translator with the American military forces, purely as a civilian, with no official or military responsibilities. He just knew English so well that he was able to be of immense help to them in their linguistic struggles.

         By virtue of that same strength he also worked with the missionaries. He and I traveled the length of the country and became very close friends before I bade him good-bye when I left Vietnam to return home. We were both very young, and neither of us knew if our paths would cross again. Within four years Vietnam fell, and Hien’s fate was unknown.

         Seventeen years later, in 1988, I received a surprise telephone call that began with, “Brother Ravi?” Immediately I recognized Hien’s voice. We got caught up with our pleasantries, then I asked him how he managed to get out of Vietnam and come to the United States. I was not prepared for the story I was about to hear.

         Shortly after Vietnam fell to the Communists, Hien was arrested. Accused of aiding and abetting the Americans he was in and out of prison for several years. During one long jail term, the sole purpose of his jailer was to indoctrinate him against the West— and especially against democratic ideals and the Christian faith. He was cut off from reading anything in English and restricted to communist propaganda in French or Vietnamese. This daily overdose of the writings of Marx and Engels began to take its toll on him. One of the books he was given to read pictured the Communist man as a bird in the ironclad cage of capitalism, throwing itself against the bars of “capitalist oppression” and bloodying itself in the process. Yet still it continued to struggle in its quest for freedom.

         Hien began to buckle under the onslaught. Maybe, he thought, I Have been lied to. Maybe God does not exist. Maybe my whole life has been governed by lies. Maybe the West has deceived me. The more he thought, the more he moved toward a decision. Finally, he made up his mind. He determined that when he awakened the next day, he would not pray anymore or ever think of his Christian faith again.

         The next morning, he was assigned to clean the latrines of the prison. It was the most dreaded chore, shunned by everyone, and so with much distress he began the awful task. As he cleaned out a tin can overflowing with toilet paper, his eye caught what he thought was English printed on one piece of paper. He hurriedly washed it off and slipped it into his hip pocket, planning to read it at night. Not having seen anything in English for such a long time, he anxiously waited for a free moment. Under his mosquito net that night after his roommates had fallen asleep, he pulled out a small flashlight and shining it on the damp piece of paper he read at the top corner, “Romans, Chapter 8.” Literally trembling with shock, he began to read:

          And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?…

… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,  neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:28, 31, 32, 35, 37-39)

         Hien wept. He knew his Bible, and he had not seen one for so long. Not only that, he knew there was not a more relevant passage of conviction and strength for one on the verge of surrendering to the threat of evil. He cried out to God, asking for forgiveness, for this was to have been the first day in years that he had determined not to pray. Evidently the Lord had other plans.

         The next day, Hien asked the camp commander if he could clean the latrine again. He continued with this chore on a regular basis, because he had discovered that some official in the camp was using a Bible as toilet paper. Each day Hien picked up a portion of the Scripture, cleaned it off, and added it to his nightly devotional reading. In this way he retrieved a significant portion of the Bible.

  1. The Scriptures are so important. Learn them and then obey them.
  2. Look at the example of someone who doesn’t follow the Scriptures teaching. This person is like one who looks in a mirror and forgets what he looks like. Has that ever happened to you? I doubt it.
  3. The Scriptures reveal your spiritual state. A mirror tells you to comb your hair and the Scriptures tell you to comb your relationships. Do what It says.
  • Verses 26-27 are a conclusion to this passage about following the Scriptures and in following the Scriptures you can live as pure and holy.
    1. Keep a reign on your tongue. Our words matter. Words can be very hurtful. Ask a teenager. It’s true. How many of you have been hurt by words? How many of you have hurt others by words?
    2. Then verse 27: look after the needy, the lowly. These are people who are helpless. The orphan is a child who can’t take care of himself or herself. The widow likely can’t work because of the children and lack of education.
    3. Lastly, don’t be polluted from the world. This goes along with verse 21. When we become Christians, we confess and God saves us from this moral filth and evil. Don’t let it keep polluting you.

So, how are you doing? Are you studying the Scriptures? More than studying, are you letting them soak in? Then is your life an outflow of the Scriptures? The Christian life gives liberty because we are set free from our bondage to sin. We no longer owe our debt to sin, yes; but more than that we are not slaves to sin for life.

But some of you are still in bondage to sin. You never have given them over to Jesus. I invite you to this right now.

Please everyone close your eyes and bow your heads. With no one looking I ask you to consider where you stand with God. If you were to die today are you sure you would meet God in Heaven?

You know that Jesus died to set you free from sin. He died so that you can be sure. For those of you who are not sure please raise your hands:

Now say this prayer with me:

Dear Jesus, I recognize that I have sinned. I have done wrong. I recognize that you came and lived a sinless life and died on the cross to pay for my sins. I recognize that You rose again. Please come into my life and forgive me. Please help me not to give in to sin. In Christ name Amen.

If you said that prayer please tell someone and please tell me.

Let’s pray again

Closing song.


[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. Jas 1:21-25

The Resurrection Gives US Hope and Joy (Mark 16)

Easter Sunday, 2020
Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, April 12, 2020

Happy Resurrection Sunday! It is odd saying that while speaking into a camera. However, I submit to you that now more than ever we are reminded how the resurrection gives us hope. Recently, we have been reminded of more than a few things:
• Now more than ever we have been reminded of the brevity of life (James 4:14).
• We have been reminded that the future is unpredictable (James 4:14, see also Rev. 1:8 and 22:13).
• We have been reminded that what matters is not really what we think matters. Most of our way of life has changed.
• Everything has changed. Did you ever think we would be hoarding toilet paper?
• Have you ever heard social distancing?
• Do we ever think that a microscopic virus could change the world?
• Our way of life has changed, but our hope is the same.
• The resurrection is our hope.

Think with me about things right now. For the Christian, the resurrection is our hope. We truly do have a home in Heaven. The Christian life is about a fuller life now and life eternal. The Christian life is about living life with Jesus now and life eternal in resurrected bodies. We live life with Jesus because He lives (John 15). In John 14:1-6 Jesus says that He goes to prepare a place for us. In Revelation 21 we see the New Heaven and New Earth. In 2 Cor. 5:8 the Apostle Paul says if absent from the body we are to be present with the Lord. This is all the more important because the Apostle Paul had seen Heaven and he knew it was awesome (see 2 Cor. 12). In Christ we win no matter what!

In a Wall Street Journal article, George Weigel gives a combination history lesson and apologetic for the Resurrection:
There is no accounting for the rise of Christianity without weighing the revolutionary effect on those nobodies of what they called “the Resurrection.” They encountered one whom they embraced as the Risen Lord, whom they first knew as the itinerant Jewish rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, and who died an agonizing and shameful death on a Roman cross outside Jerusalem.
As N.T. Wright … makes clear, that first generation answered the question of why they were Christians with a straightforward answer: because Jesus was raised from the dead …. As they worked that out, their thinking about a lot of things changed profoundly.
The article mentions some of the positive secular outcomes brought to the ancient world through Christianity:
• A new dignity given to woman in contrast to the classical culture.
• A self-denying healthcare provided to plague sufferers.
• A focus on family health and growth.
• A remarkable change in worship from the Sabbath to Sunday
• A willingness to embrace death as martyrs—because they knew that death did not have the final word in the human story.
• Living as if they knew the outcome of history itself.
Weigel suggests that it’s only through, what he calls the Easter Effect, that these changes make sense. The social changes that followed Good Friday occur only if they actually believed in the resurrection of Jesus.
The resurrection changed the world.
So, do you have joy? Don’t let what is going on right now, steal your joy.
The definition of “joy.”
1. a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.
synonyms: delight, great pleasure, joyfulness,


Do we have joy about our salvation? (Psalm 51:12)


Today, my focus is that I believe the resurrection gave the disciples joy and we need to have joy as well. We are winners!

Let’s read Mark 16:1-8:

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

I. Rejoice! Have great joy, Jesus lives!
a. So, the disciples go from huddling in a room to I think rejoicing.
b. One moment they are huddled the next moment they see Jesus.
c. Consider that the rest of the New Testament is about them spreading this amazing message, so they must have had some excitement.
d. Verse 8 has the women leaving the tomb with trembling and astonishment. I think they had a type of holy fear. They were amazed. They did not know what to think of this.
e. Notice that the women go to the tomb first.
f. In John’s Gospel chapter 20 and verse 2 the women run and tell Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved (Probably John) about this. They ran, probably in excitement, in joy.
g. Then in verses 3-4 the two disciples run to the tomb. Their lives are being turned upside down.
h. Thomas responds when he sees Jesus by stating, “My Lord and My God.” He worshipped (John 20:28).
i. Now, think about the disciples, many of them were fishermen before Jesus called them and then they traveled with Jesus for some three years. Now, they thought that they were going to reign with Jesus, but now He is crucified. I bet this was a real downer. I wonder if they were a bit depressed. I wonder if they were wondering what they were going to do.
j. Do you think they were thinking about fishing again? They were not that good at it. Every time they are fishing they did not catch anything until Jesus would come along. Jesus would come along and they would think, “What do you know about fishing?” Yet, they followed His advice and caught fish (Luke 5; John 21).
k. They were at a loss for their life had revolved around Jesus and then He was gone. But He really was not gone.
Think of the hymn: Up from the Grave He Arose:
Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior,
waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o’er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Savior,
vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!

Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Savior;
he tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!

l. So jump, up and down, put your hands in the air, rejoice!
m. Have we lost our joy?
n. In John 15:11 Jesus talks about joy while talking about being connected to Him.
o. Joy can be spontaneous and immediate. Think of the joy of seeing gifts under a tree. A few years ago Mercedes came out and screamed “Presents!” We as believers can have joy that is lasting. We have long term joy that sustains us.
p. Many times, I arrive home and I hear Mercedes say: “Daddy’s home!” as she runs to the door. Jesus is alive, He has risen! Are we rejoicing? Are we excited? Do we have the joy of a child when their parent arrives? How do we look when we arrive at worship to meet with Jesus? I am applying this to myself as well.
q. You say, “I want the joy, I want to rejoice, but I have lost the joy.” Let me answer that as best as I can.
i. Everyone goes through dry spells spiritually. That does not mean that God is further away. Nor does it mean that the individual has a sin issue.
ii. Make sure you are active in the Bible. No Bible means no breakfast or no Bible means no television at night. Make sure you are spending time in the Bible.
iii. We need to be in the Spiritual disciplines:
1. Prayer
2. Bible reading
3. Bible memorization
4. Meditating/ruminating on the Scriptures
5. Deeper Bible study
6. Extended prayer
7. fasting
iv. I encourage you to spend extra time in prayer and extra time in the Scriptures. If you are not connected to God through prayer and the Scriptures you will eventually lose joy.
v. I encourage you to spend time with the church. If you are not connected to the church you will eventually lose joy. This time of social distancing will end soon and make sure you are connected to the church.
vi. I encourage you to further your church involvement. If you think Sunday is your duty and then you’re done, you will eventually lose joy or not gain joy.
vii. I encourage you to listen to Hymns and songs, read Hymns and songs. (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
viii. I encourage Christian radio and/or podcast.
ix. Ask Jesus to restore the joy of your salvation (Psalm 51:12).
x. Pray Psalm 42: “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs for You.”
xi. Pray the Psalms.
xii. Just some initial suggestions.
xiii. Share your joy
II. Rejoicing has applications:
a. We no longer have to fear death because Jesus rose from the grave. 1 Cor. 15:55 says there is no longer a sting in death.
i. In 1 Cor 15:3-8 the Scriptures write about Jesus appearing to the disciples and later over 500 people all at the same time. Again, Jesus showed many that He had been resurrected.
ii. Later on, in 1 Cor. 15:13-15 the Scriptures tell us that if Christ was not raised from the dead our faith is in vain! This means that our faith is useless. Later on, in that same chapter the Scriptures write about our hope in the resurrection. You see, because Christ rose from the dead, we have hope. We have hope that when we die it is not the end. We have hope that when our family members and friends who are Christians die they are not gone, but with Christ in eternal paradise. We can see them again because they will have resurrected bodies as Jesus did. Paul wrote, “Where O death is your sting” (1 Cor. 15:55). There is no sting because we have eternal life in perfect bodies.
b. The resurrection separates Christianity from other religions. We must take confidence in that. Our Savior lives!
c. We must rejoice that our savior lives.
d. Rejoicing must cause us to commit: Luke 9:23; Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 2:20.
e. Rejoicing must cause us to share the Gospel (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15).

Tim Keller writes the following:
[On Easter] I always say to my skeptical, secular friends that, even if they can’t believe in the resurrection, they should want it to be true. Most of them care deeply about justice for the poor, alleviating hunger and disease, and caring for the environment. Yet many of them believe that the material world was caused by accident and that the world and everything in it will eventually simply burn up in the death of the sun. They find it discouraging that so few people care about justice without realizing that their own worldview undermines any motivation to make the world a better place. Why sacrifice for the needs of others if in the end nothing we do will make any difference? If the resurrection of Jesus happened, however, that means there’s infinite hope and reason to pour ourselves out for the needs of the world.
N.T. Wright has written:
The message of the resurrection is that this world matters! That the injustices and pains of this present world must now be addressed with the news that healing, justice, and love have won. If Easter means Jesus Christ is only raised in a spiritual sense—[then] it is only about me, and finding a new dimension in my personal spiritual life. But if Jesus Christ is truly risen from the dead, Christianity becomes good news for the whole world—news which warms our hearts precisely because it isn’t just about warming hearts. Easter means that in a world where injustice, violence and degradation are endemic, God is not prepared to tolerate such things—and that we will work and plan, with all the energy of God, to implement victory of Jesus over them all.

When we have joy we share it. Joy is the gift that keeps on giving if we allow it to.
Share Jesus He has risen!

Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross paying the price for your sins? Sins are the wrong things we do.

The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The Bible says that the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). The Bible says that Jesus is the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except by Him. (John 14:6). The Bible teaches that sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). The Bible says that God will not let the guilty go unpunished (2 Thess 1:8-9). Yet, the Bible teaches that God loves the people of the world (John 3:16). That is a dilemma. God can’t tell a lie or He wouldn’t be God (Numbers 23:19). God doesn’t change His mind (1 Sam 15:29). That is why God sent Jesus. The guilty must go punished. Jesus took our punishment on the cross. The penalty of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life.

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)
Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)
Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

Confess, Believe, trust, commit: Firmly make the decision to be with Him in order to become like Him and to learn and do all that He says and then arrange your affairs around Him.


Palm Sunday, Surrender to Jesus

Palm Sunday video

Today, we are going to look at a passage in which it is prophesied that Jesus will enter Jerusalem humbly, riding on a donkey. But do not forget the second part of the passage. There is a double prophesy in this passage. Jesus is coming again.

I want us to look at Zechariah 9:9-10 where it is prophesied that Jesus will humbly enter Jerusalem. I want to look at Matthew 21:1-11 where this passage is fulfilled.

The Application:

Surrender and share.

Read with me Matthew 21:1-11:

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

  • This procession of Jesus into Jerusalem was a fulfillment of an Old Testament prophesy.
    • Many years we talk about Jesus’ procession, but let’s go back in time and talk about the passage prophesying Jesus’ procession.
    • Now, let’s read Zechariah 9:9-10: Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
      Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
      See, your king comes to you,
      righteous and victorious,
      lowly and riding on a donkey,
      on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
      10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
      and the warhorses from Jerusalem,
      and the battle bow will be broken.
      He will proclaim peace to the nations.
      His rule will extend from sea to sea
      and from the River to the ends of the earth.
    • First, notice this passage prophesies that the King will come and the King has come. We see this in verse 9 and we see it’s fulfillment in Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; John 21:4-9; Luke 19:29-38
    • Let me summarize the first eight verses of this passage. It is important that we do not divorce the passage from the context.
    • In the beginning of this chapter there are prophesies against the nations surrounding Jerusalem. Notice verse 8 says that God will protect His house. That is my summary, but the point is that God will protect Jerusalem. Zechariah was likely written around 520 B.C. to Israel, post exilic Israel. This was after they had come back from being exiled to Babylon. But they still were under Persian rule.
    • You ask, what happened with these prophesies of judgment on the surrounding nations? I am glad you asked. Alexander the Great carried out the fulfillment of these prophesies. God used Alexander the Great to carry out the judgment. This was after the battle of Isus in 333 B.C.“He went into Syria and knocked off Syria, came over to the coastline and took Phoenicia which amounted to Tyre and Sidon…moved south and took care of Philistia, all of the cities of Philistia that are named in verse 5, Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron. But amazingly enough, after destroying the nations, he saved…whom? Israel. And he spared them. And he absolutely to the tee, fulfilled the prophecy penned hundreds of years before the man was ever born, a prophecy written in a book he never saw. It was God’s way of saying, “When you see Alexander do this, know that just as that part came to pass, so will part two. And if I can use a pagan human being to judge nations and to save My people, wait and see what I’ll do with the God-Man, Jesus Christ in the end of the age.”[1]
    • That is what is going in the first few verses in this passage. We then come to verse 9, which is the verse concerning Jesus.
    • The passage says, “Rejoice.” The passage says to “rejoice, greatly.”
    • Why? Your King is coming to you.
    • Now that is something to be excited about, right?
    • But the next verse might be a downer. Imagine, we are in a war situation and the King is coming in to save us. How do you want the King to arrive? Do you want the King to come in a tank, or a Volkswagen? I would choose the tank any day and twice on Sunday.
    • But the passage says that the King will come humble and riding on a donkey, really?
    • Now, that is something to motivate the troops.
    • Now early in Israel’s history, very early, it was respectable to ride around on a donkey. But by Solomon’s time, it wasn’t. See, Solomon brought into Israel horses. He had literally…some say 30,000 horses in his private group of horses. He introduced the horse. And from that time on, nobles and soldiers and important people rode horses and the donkey lost its dignity. You were really admitting your poverty by putting around on a donkey.
    • But the passage acknowledges Jesus humility.
    • Could we miss King Jesus because He came in humility?
    • I think we certainly could.
    • Second, in verse 10, this passage prophesies judgment, this is still to come.
    • Jesus is coming as the judge. Verse 10: I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
      and the warhorses from Jerusalem,
      and the battle bow will be broken.
      He will proclaim peace to the nations.
      His rule will extend from sea to sea
      and from the River to the ends of the earth.
    • If you turn to Revelation 14:14, it says: I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.
    • This is about Jesus coming as judge. We see this also in: Luke 21:27; Phil. 2:9-11
    • See also 2 Peter 3:9-10: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
    • You see verses 9-10 of Zechariah are a double prophesy. They were fulfilled in Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey, but they will be fulfilled when Jesus comes again as judge and literal King.
    • We could even look at Zechariah 9:1-10 as a triple prophesy since Alexander the Great fulfilled part of the passage.


Do you ever get discouraged when you turn on the news, or read the paper? It makes sense if you do. Be encouraged today that Jesus will come and make things right. Judgment will come. Justice will come. Why is Jesus waiting? He is waiting so that more people can choose to follow Him. Truth is, some of us want justice and that makes sense, but true justice would send us all to hell. Instead, Jesus came humbly on a donkey and surrendered to the cross so that we can be saved.

The application is to “surrender and share.”

So, today, surrender to Jesus. He is our rightful King. He is the only King.

Share Jesus. Judgment is coming and we need to be covered with the blood of the Lamb. Our friends, family and co-workers need to know Jesus.


God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)