This morning I would like to take an introductory look James 1:22-25. This is an important passage to understand when tracking the thoughts of James. On Monday we will take a look at the two types of people that James describes in this passage, but until then I want to give just a few simple things to think about.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.James’ message in these verses is simple: be a doer of the word, not a self-deceived hearer only. Those who are hearers only, not doers also, do not accept the word of God. They are the people who say: “I go to church isn’t that enough?” They congratulate themselves for just hearing the word, but they are deceiving themselves. They have never accepted the word. Without obedient acceptance the word will not only be without benefit, but it will lead to judgment. Hearing without doing will only give a man a false sense of security. The truth of the matter is that you cannot just hear the Gospel message and be saved, rather you must hear the Gospel and respond to it to be saved. This is not salvation by works, this is common sense. If I believe that God’s word is true I will apply it to my life, if I do not believe it is true I will not apply it to my life. Do not fool yourself into being a “hearer only” of God’s word. If we only hear God’s word, never letting it impact our lives, then we must face the reality that we might be like the men in Matthew 7 who thought they were saved but were not.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
This passage may be the key passage to the entire book of James. It sums up James’ message that we must put into practice what we profess to believe. The doer of God’s word is the one who from the heart embraces God’s Word and testifies by his life that he really believes it. The doer of God’s word has been counted righteous by his faith, and the righteousness of Christ will have an impact on his life. He will struggle with sin, but as the apostle Paul in Romans 7 he will hate sin because it is contrary to God’s word.
For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.