William Barclay's Daily Study Bible

The Law Of Liberty And The Life Of Mercy (James 2:12-13)

2:12-13 So speak and so act as those who are going to be judged under the law of liberty. For he who acts without mercy will have judgment without mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

As he comes to the end of a section, James reminds his readers of two great facts of the Christian life.

(i) The Christian lives under the law of liberty, and it is by the law of liberty he will be judged. What he means is this. Unlike the Pharisee and the orthodox Jew, the Christian is not a man whose life is governed by the external pressure of a whole series of rules and regulations imposed on him from without. He is governed by the inner compulsion of love. He follows the right way, the way of love to God and love to men, not because any external law compels him to do so nor because any threat of punishment frightens him into doing so, but because the love of Christ within his heart makes him desire to do so.

(ii) The Christian must ever remember that only he who shows mercy will find mercy. This is a principle which runs through all Scripture. Ben Sirach wrote, "Forgive thy neighbour the hurt that he hath done thee, so shall thy sins also be forgiven. One man beareth hatred against another, and doth he seek pardon from the Lord? He showeth no mercy to a man who is like himself; and doth he ask forgiveness for his own sins?" ( Sirach 28:2-5 ). Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy" ( Matthew 5:7 ). "If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" ( Matthew 6:14-15 ). "Judge not that you be not judged, for with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged" ( Matthew 7:1-2 ). He tells of the condemnation which fell upon the unforgiving servant and ends the parable by saving, "So, also, my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart" ( Matthew 18:22-35 ).

Scripture teaching is agreed that he who would find mercy must himself be merciful. And James goes even further, for in the end he says that mercy triumphs over judgment; by which he means that in the day of judgment the man who has shown mercy will find that his mercy has even blotted out his own sin.

- William Barclay's Daily Study Bible