For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.James 2:10(NASB)
James reminds us that: whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, has become guilty of all, which appears to be at odds with the teaching of Paul, who insists that we are not under Law but under Grace.
On the surface, this verse appears to be contradicting the good news of the gospel of grace, and upholding the Law of Moses, by teaching that breaking one part of the law makes a man guilty of all. However, when both teachings are examined in their biblical context, it is clear that both teachings remain in perfect union.
The Law of Moses was given to the redeemed nation of Israel, a few months after their supernatural delivery from Egypt. In total, there were 613 individual laws, but they were indivisible. If an Israelite broke one of the laws given through Moses, then that man broke the whole Law, and breaking the Law in one area, meant he had broken the entire Law. Breaking the Law was a sin, which did not nullify his redeemed status, but placed him out of fellowship with God.
Once a year the whole company of Israel would have a day of Atonement, when the high priest offered certain God-ordained sacrifices, to pay for the sin of the whole nation. And for one more year Israel's collective sin would be covered - until the promised Messiah came, to save His people from their sins. The Law also outlined certain sacrifices that had to be made when an Israelite broke certain specific commands of God.
There were certain punishments given to individual sinners for their particular sin. There were requirements made, rules that were given or rituals that had to be undertaken by the either the priest or the contrite sinner. But collectively, the SIN of the nation had to be covered, once a year, until Jesus came, as the one and only perfect sacrifice for SIN. Daily sacrifices would be used for individual sins but national sin was an annual event.
The Law of Moses was given to the pre-cross, redeemed nation of Israel, to point them to their coming Messiah, but breaking one part of the Mosaic Law meant a man had broken the whole of the Mosaic Law, which removed them from fellowship with God, until their sins were covered, by offering the appropriate blood-sacrifice. But following God's full, complete and final sacrifice for sin - ie the offering of Christ on the cross, (once and for ALL) - the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus was introduced into the post-cross era, for , living in the Church age - 'the dispensation of the grace of God', as Paul calls it.
The full and final sacrifice for ALL sin was paid at the cross, and although past, present and future sins of Christians are forgiven forever - one single sin removes us from fellowship with the Father. If we are guilty of one post-salvation sin, we forfeit our communion with Christ, until we confess it to Him. Though positionally secure, and still a child of God, sin removes every born-again child of God from enjoying fellowship with our Father, until we confess our unrighteousness.
The pre-cross Law, was given to redeemed Israel to point them to Christ, (the coming, complete sacrifice for sin). The Law of Moses was in place until the cross, when it was superseded by the post-cross Royal Law of Christ, which is given to the redeemed Church of God, for Christ paid the sacrifice for our inherent sin, and also for the many sins we commit individually.
The moral requirement, of the New Testament Law of the Spirit, are similar to the moral commands within the Mosaic Law - but 'similar-to' is not the same as 'equal-with', which is why Paul teaches that we are not under the Law but under Grace. We are not under the old, Mosaic Law but under the new Law of the Spirit of Life. However, the Word of God insist that ALL who believe should live a godly life that honours our Saviour.
Sadly there are those that continue to insist that the post-cross Church are still required to adhere to the pre-cross Law.. but this is not what the Bible teaches. Adherence to the requirements of the indivisible Mosaic Law, with its 613 commands and annual sacrifices to atone for sin, until the arrival of the Messiah, is not what the New testament teaches Church age believers. We are saved by grace - though faith in Christ and are no longer under the Law but under grace.
The Law was the pattern of life given to redeemed Israel.. and breaking one of the 613 laws equated to breaking the entire law. James is not telling us that Christians must keep the Mosaic Law as our pattern of life - CHRIST is the pattern of life for redeemed believers, in the Church age. However, he is saying that there is an equally severe penalty for Christians, who sin, by breaking one part of God's Royal Law, just as there were penalties for Israel who broke any part of the Mosaic Law. Just as one sin removed an Israelite from fellowship with God - so one sin removes a Christian from sweet fellowship with our heavenly Father.
Christ DIED to pay the price for our sin, (and our sins), and those who are in Christ are no longer under God's condemnation, nor are we required to atone for our sin through a sacrificial system, like Israel. We are delivered from the PENALTY of sin, because Jesus took the punishment that we deserve. But also, believers are delivered from the POWER of sin. We are given the Holy Spirit's power to live a righteous life, and not to be tempted into sinning - for we have received the life of Christ and His indwelling Spirit - and we are enabled to abide in Him and He in us, through the power of the Spirit.
Praise GOD that as Christians we are not under the BONDAGE of the Law of Moses, but are under the LIBERTY of the Law of Grace, and as such are called to walk in spirit and truth, to live as Christ lived and to remain in fellowship with our heavenly Father - in the beauty of holiness and to the glory of God.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word and the truths within its pages. Thank You that I am not in bondage to the Law of Moses but am free to live in the liberty of the Law of the Spirit of God, in Christ Jesus. Thank You for the lessons I can learn from Your dealings with Israel and of the importance of remaining in fellowship with You, day by day. Thank You that Christ died to pay the full price for my sin and that I have been given the power to live a holy life, that is honouring to You. Keep me from sinning, for I know that sin, in thought, word or deed, will remove me from the fellowship I enjoy with You. But thank You that Christ's sacrifice for me, was made once and for all - and that if I confess those times I fall into sin, You are faithful to forgive me and return me into sweet communion. Thank You in Jesus name, AMEN.