The General Epistle of James (Part 9)

vs. 22-25. A. James escalates from the importance of hearing the word (vs. 19-21) to the next level of doing the word. 1. This theme is enlarged upon in the next chapter where he rebukes the vain man for the absence of good works. JAM 2:20. 2. It is addressed again later where he shows that the absence of good works in the face of knowledge is sin. JAM 4:17. 3. He further shows in JAM 4-5 that there was not only an absence of good works among the professing believers, there was an abundance of evil works. 4. James' words to his own countrymen are reminiscent of Jeremiah's words to his own countrymen whose wickedness was inviting general judgment. JER 4:22; 13:23. 5. The instruction given here and in the rest of the chapter is a warning against hypocrisy and vanity in religion, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof...” (2TI 3:5). a. Believers are to be light to the unbelievers (PHIL 2:15), but “...if the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (MAT 6:23). b. The honour of God is denied Him where the conversation does not accord with the profession. ROM 2:17-24. B. The man who thinks that hearing the word is all that is needed is deceiving himself. v. 22. 1. He may be deceiving himself into thinking that he will escape chastening. LUK 12:47. 2. He may be deceiving himself into thinking that the preacher is there for his pleasure. EZE 33:30-32 c/w 2TI 4:2-3. 3. He may be deceiving himself into thinking that he will always have a good preacher. EZE 33:33. 4. He may be deceiving himself into thinking that good understanding only requires hearing. PSA 111:10; JOH 7:17 c/w ISA 29:9-14. 5. Worst, he may be deceiving himself that he even has a heavenly inheritance awaiting him. MAT 7:21-27. a. It is a glorious truth that God begets His children by His own will. v. 18. b. It is a glorious truth that the new birth makes repentance possible and necessary. v. 21. James 8-24-14 Page 21 c. It is a glorious truth that the elect can receive the engrafted word meekly. v. 21. d. It is a glorious truth that the received word can save one's soul from many things in this life. v. 21. e. But it is also a glorious truth that the temporal saving of one's soul is only a possibility in the receiving/hearing; it is a reality only in the doing. f. The election of God unto eternal life which eventuates a new birth by His will which is brought to light by the gospel (2TI 1:10) which calls men to faith and repentance (ACT 20:21) also calls them to “ works meet for repentance” (ACT 26:20). (1) Isaiah had long before made clear the need to “...cease to do evil; Learn to do well...” (ISA 1:16-17). (2) Bona fide service does not stop at putting off works of darkness. It also puts on righteousness. ROM 13:12 c/w EPH 4:22-32. g. Therefore, none should assume to make his calling and election sure by reasoning back to God's begetting from the hearing of the word but from the doing of the word. 2PE 1:10-11. (1) God's begetting of “...a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (v. 18) is a creation unto good works. EPH 2:10. (2) God's working in His elect is “...both to will and TO DO of his good pleasure” (PHIL 2:13). h. It is not the hearers of the law but the doers that shall be justified. ROM 2:13. (1) They shall be justified before God in the sense of their actions being approved by God and deemed righteous. c/w JAM 2:24. (2) They shall be justified before God in the sense of being declared free from the guilt and penalty of sin on Judgment Day, their earthly works now being their evidence. JOH 5:28-29. i. It is the foolish and the slothful that does nothing with the good thing he has acquired. PRO 12:27; MAT 25:24-26. j. Genuine Christianity is more than sitting in church and listening to sermons! C. James uses a simple but powerful illustration to show the importance of not forgetting what has been received from the word. vs. 23-25. 1. The non-doer of the word is like a man who looks at himself in a glass (mirror) and then immediately forgets what he looks like. a. He has not a lasting perception of what he is really like and does not act in accord with what was seen. b. Prudent people who examine themselves in a mirror will make the most of what assets and liabilities they see. 2. The word of God is a spiritual mirror. a. It reveals the deficiencies in our beliefs, attitudes and conduct, and tells us to do something about them. 2TI 3:16-17. b. It also reveals that we are new creatures in Christ, legally dead to the law which condemned us, dead to sin and no longer under its bondage, and therefore have both power and responsibility to do what is right. 1PE 4:1-2; ROM 6:6-14; ROM 8:1-2; EPH 4:22-24. c. It is the means by which we now can openly see Jesus Christ as the “...end of the law for righteousness...” (ROM 10:4) and is therefore “...the perfect (completed, finished, fully formed) law of liberty...” (JAM 1:25) in which we can continue and become more like Christ. 2CO 3:7-18. James 8-24-14 Page 22 (1) The glory of God at the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai made the people afraid of death, a great bondage. EXO 20:19 c/w HEB 2:15. (2) God promised the people that a Prophet would come to speak a message that would not have such a spirit of fear of death. DEU 18:15-16. (3) Christ is that Prophet. ACT 3:22-23. (4) What we have received in Christ and His New Testament is not a spirit of bondage to fear but one of liberty. ROM 8:15. (5) Whereas Israel of old could not stedfastly behold under the spirit of bondage (2CO 3:7, 13), we can look into and continue therein under the spirit of liberty. JAM 1:25. (6) Compare “...looketh into...” (v. 25) with 1SAM 6:19. Things have changed! (7) What holds men back from attaining Christ's image in their attitude and conduct is not the lack of approachability, availability or liberty. It is the lack of desire and faith. 1PE 2:2; 2CO 4:3-4. d. The New Testament of Jesus Christ being a perfect law of liberty had particular relevance to the Jewish believers who were still being enticed to bondage. GAL 2:4. (1) The Old Testament was a law of bondage. GAL 4:24-25. (2) The Old Testament church was like a child under the bondage of tutors and governors. GAL4:1-3. (3) The New Testament delivers all from many rules and rituals of the Old Testament. Continuing in the New Testament is the way of freedom whereas going back to the Old Testament is the way of bondage. GAL 4:9-10 c/w HEB 13:9-16. (4) (GAL 5:1) Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. e. That we have a perfect law of liberty demands that it cannot be added to or improved upon. (1) Man's ideas and traditions certainly do not improve it. MAR 7:7, 13. (2) Adding Moses' Law to it ruins its liberty. GAL 5:3. (3) This also forbids post-apostolic era “revelations” such as are assumed amongst Catholics, Mormons and the cults in general. D. Note the shift from hearing the word to looking into the word (v. 25). 1. One should attend to preaching and reading. One may “hear” God speaking in both. 2. One should search the scriptures after the preaching. ACT 17:11. 3. This “looking into” implies meditation, a necessary part of reading Scripture. JOS 1:8; PSA 119:15, 23, 48, 78, 97, 99, 148. a. meditate: To muse over or reflect upon; to consider, study, ponder. b. ponder: To weigh (a matter, words, etc.) mentally; to give due weight to and consider carefully; to think over, meditate upon. think deeply or seriously on. c. This is more than a cursory reading to satisfy conscience! E. James links being “not a forgetful hearer” with “doer of the work” (v. 25). 1. A good way of not forgetting something important is to make a habit of doing that thing. 2. The gospel saves us if we keep it in memory. 1CO 15:1-2. 3. Those who look into the word and continue in the word are disciples INDEED and free. JOH 8:31-32. F. The believer who looks into the word, continues in it, remembers it and does it, “...this man shall be blessed in his deed” (v. 25). The blessing is IN the doing. PSA 1:1-3; 19:7-11. James 8-24-14 Page 23
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