James 1:25

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. James 1:25

James now contrasts the individual of verses 23 and 24 by describing the person who not only hears, but also does. To describe him, he begins with, “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty.” The word translated as “looks” is one which signifies, to stoop and peer into. It was used three times in Luke and John, each concerning someone stooping and looking into the tomb where Christ had been laid. For example, in John it says –

“And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in.” John 20:5

Again, a few verses later, it says –

“But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb.” John 20:11

Being an aorist verb, it signifies one who “has looked into” the matter. It is done and yet it actively continues even after having looked (as will be noted). In the use of the particular verb, one gets the sense of peering into. The person doesn’t just “hear” and forget. He hears, and then in his mind he stoops over and peers intently into what he has heard. It is as if there is a well of life which can be mentally seen and accessed. This marvelous access is then described as being from “the perfect law of liberty.”

The previous verse spoke of the man who observes the “face of his birth,” meaning his carnal self which is the Adam in him. That person saw this and then failed to act on what he saw. This person looks into God’s perfect law and he finds the cure for his fallen nature in “the perfect law of liberty.”

Liberty defines the perfect law. It is what is obtained from it. And so, it is a law which is completely different than the bondage of sin leading to death which is found in Adam. It is the law which looks to Christ and it is a law of life leading to freedom. In peering into it, the glory of God revealed in His plan of the redemption of man is found. And this is because the person not only stoops down to look into it, but he “continues in it.”

The word translated as “continues” is a compound word which gives the sense of remaining close beside. He has stooped and peered. He then continues at that spot, peering into the perfect law of liberty, receiving its wellspring of instruction, and being renewed in his mind and soul. Such a person is then described by James as being “not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work.”

In the Greek, the word “hearer” is a noun, not a verb. And, there is no article in front of the word “work.” The words are more rightly translated as “not a hearer of forgetfulness, but a doer of work” (Ellicott). The contrast is obvious. One hears but is a person of forgetfulness. He walks away from what he has heard and there is no change in him. The other is a doer. He hears, and when he does, he becomes a doer of what he heard, changing his life from the image of Adam to that of Christ.

Finally, James says, “this one will be blessed in what he does.” In this, the Greek more literally reads, “this one will be blessed in his deed.” The peering into the perfect law of liberty, and the continuance of that, is considered a single deed because it is an ongoing act which leads to life. In this act, the soul is blessed.

Life application: Remember the guy who looked at his grubby face in the mirror and walked away not caring? He is the person who hears the word of God and doesn’t care enough to apply it to his life. James contrasts him with someone who has true wisdom. This person looks intently into the Bible; he listens closely to the Sunday sermon; he checks what he’s been told, and then he applies it to his life. As Solomon said –

“The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd.” Ecclesiastes 12:11

Goads are pointed sticks used to prod a cow along. The Bible should be like that to us. It should prod us in the right direction and toward our goal. When we look into the perfect law and then follow what we have read, it gives us a freedom we previously lacked.

The Bible isn’t merely a rule book of things not to do; it is a guide for our souls. Not only should we follow its precepts, but we should continue to follow them daily as we continue on life’s highway. By doing so, we will certainly be blessed in all we do. This doesn’t mean we will be free from troubles and trials, but unlike those whose trials never find a happy resolution, ours will. The Lord will restore all that is lost, heal all that is torn, and raise all who have died in Him.

How precious are Your words to our taste, O God. They are sweeter than honey to our mouths! Help us to learn them and then to apply them to our lives. And Lord, help us to continue in them all our days so that we will grow to maturity in You. We love You and praise You, our exalted King! Amen.

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