Posted September 01, 2014
“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.”
James is calling his readers to action. While verses like these can be hard to read in a time when Christians are wary of using words like “obedience” and “effort”, here James is simply re-stating Jesus’ own words from Luke 11:28 when he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” This passage stands as a reminder that true believers are those who not only hear the Word of God, but also those whose lives conform to it by the power of the Spirit. While Christians still sin, they cannot remain in sin without conviction, but rather are marked by a growing obedience to God. They are “hearing doers.” How does this work itself out practically?
The Implanted Seed
In the verse immediately prior (verse 21), James urges his readers to put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. What is this implanted word? Douglas Moo commented: “The word is not something that all people have within them from birth onward, but an entity that has taken up residence within believers. James likely draws this striking conception of the implanted word from the famous new covenant prophecy of Jeremiah 31.65 The prophet, noting the failure of Israel to live up to the terms of the Mosaic covenant, announces on behalf of God a new covenant that God would enter into with his people. As a prominent component of that new covenant arrangement, God promises to put his law within his people, to write it on their hearts (Jer. 31:33). The repeated failures of Israel to obey the law that God gave to them had made it clear that the human heart was not capable of submitting to external rules. A new, interior work would have to be done, giving people a "new heart" (see the somewhat parallel passage in Ezek. 36:24-32) so that they could respond truly and obediently to God's word. James's language reminds his readers that they have experienced the fulfillment of that wonderful promise. But it also reminds them that the word that has saved them cannot be dispensed with after conversion. God plants it within his people, making it a permanent, inseparable part of the believer, a guiding and commanding presence within.” Note the progression: verse 22 flows out of verse 21. Doing flows first from God’s implanted word in our lives & our hearing it. A seed implanted in soil must grow, and so God’s work in the life of believer never stays in “seed stage,” but rather is cultivated, growing and bearing much fruit!
The Revealing Mirror
How does God’s word grow within us? James tells us in verse 23: not only is the word of God a seed, but it is also a mirror. It reminds us both of the beautiful and staggering promises of God (our identity in Christ), but it also reveals and convicts us of sin! We must allow it to do both in our lives… The Gospel Transformation Bible expounded, “The gospel is not a call to perform in order to get God’s favor; rather, it is a call first to hear—to receive the message of God’s kindness and love—and then to be transformed by the Spirit’s work. From this basis, and constantly buoyed by grace, we strive to follow after Jesus in keeping the Word: that is, we persevere in the faith.”
May we come to His Word regularly, and as we come, may we hear; as we leave, may we both remember and obey the things we heard in the strength God provides! May it deeply affect us as we go about our days, and may our lives live in more and more conformity to it. Where we believe lies, may they exposed, rooted out, and replaced by truth. Where our lives are bent and in rebellion to God’s character, may we do the hard work of obedience by confessing those things and straightening them by the Spirit’s empowering work. Where we never forget who God has told us we are in Christ, and may every action of worshipful obedience flow from a deep seeded place of gratitude for God’s saving work through His Son.
Song by Aaron Strumpel.
Artwork by Jonathan Lindsey.