Paul Kretzmann Commentary - James 1:22 - 1:27

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Paul Kretzmann Commentary - James 1:22 - 1:27


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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

Doers of the Word:

v. 22. But be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

v. 23. For if any be a hearer of the Word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass;

v. 24. for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

v. 25. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

v. 26. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.

v. 27. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

The words which introduce this paragraph may be said practically to form the topic of the entire letter, the apostle's aim being to combat the mere head Christianity which, even in those days, threatened the life of the Church: But become doers of the Word, and not only hearers, deceiving yourselves. The Jewish Christians of Judea had now heard the Gospel-message for about a generation, and they were in danger of falling away from the first love. They still came to hear the Word, but there the matter ended. There was no evidence in their lives of their possessing the fruit-bearing faith which should come by hearing, Rom_10:17. The hearing of the Gospel, of all the preaching which they were blessed with so richly, had become a mere dead custom with them, a habit without life. But hearing should be accompanied by a living faith, by a faith which gives evidence of its existence in the entire life of the believer. Sanctification is the correlate of justification. The preaching of sin and grace is not to pass through the hearing of the Christian like a dead sound, but the spiritual life which was worked in the Christians through the Gospel should find its expression in deed and in truth, should be living and powerful in good works. Unless there is such evidence of faith in the life of people professing to be Christians, unless sanctification follows upon justification, they are deceiving their own hearts, they are reasoning themselves into a state of carnal security.

The apostle explains his meaning by a comparison: For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man who glances at his natural face in a mirror; for he glances at himself, and goes away, and at once forgets what he was like. A person whom this description fits, with whom the hearing of the Word has become a mere dead habit, without meaning and life, is well compared to the average person who merely glances into the mirror to see whether his face is clean, whether his clothing is arranged properly. There are very few persons that would be able to recall their own features even after using a mirror hundreds of times. Thus the mere hearers of the Word go back to their every-day lives and neither retain the Gospel-message with a believing heart, nor do they bring forth fruit with patience, Luk_8:15.

With such forgetful, vain hearers of the Word the apostle contrasts the true believer: But he that looks closely into the perfect law, that of liberty, and remains thus, proving himself not a forgetful listener, but a doer of the Word, he will be blessed in his doing. It is God's will that the believers, having been regenerated through His almighty power through faith, should grow in holiness, in perfection, according to His holy will. The perfect law or institution of liberty is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for it teaches us wherein true liberty consists, namely, in serving our heavenly Father through Christ. The true believer does not merely glance at this fact in passing, but takes time to study carefully all those things which, he knows, have the approval of the Lord. It is just because he realizes the extent and the wonderful richness of his liberty in Christ Jesus that he strives to be a doer of the Word, to make progress in sanctification. And he that is thus employed in the service of his heavenly Father, for the love which he bears Him in faith, will be happy and blessed in his doing, the very fact of his being engaged in works which are well-pleasing to his Lord and Master is a satisfaction and a reward which fully repays him, not to speak of the reward of grace which the Lord will pay out to him on the last day. In doing the will of God, a Christian realizes and experiences on his part what the Word of God is able to perform in him, that it is a power of God unto salvation.

That sanctification must thus follow justification the apostle shows in conclusion: If anyone fancies himself to be a religious man, but does not control his tongue and rather deceives his own heart, his religion is vain; pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to care for orphans and widows in their tribulation, to keep oneself unspotted from the world. If Any person thinks he is, imagines himself to be, such a one as has the reverence of God in mind at all times, probably making a boast of his religion and of his zeal for God's Word, and at the same time is guilty of the threefold misuse of the tongue, slander, swearing, and impure speaking, he thereby deludes himself. His own words and actions give the lie to his protestations; he denies by his life during the week what he proudly boasts of on Sundays, and therefore his so-called religion is a futile, useless thing. The power and efficacy of the Word, as the author points out, will rather, in all true believers, give evidence of its presence in a far different way. That is pure, real, unsoiled, selfless religion, a real fruit of faith as it is active and effective in love, if Christians make the care of the fatherless, of widows, of all such as are deprived of their natural protectors, their special purpose, thus alleviating their affliction as much as lies in their power. And another way in which true religion will become evident is in this, that the believers preserve themselves unspotted from the world, that they have no communion with the unfruitful works of darkness which soil the hearts and minds and drive faith out of the heart. Thus shall the sanctification of the Christians go forward all along the line and their faith and love be exercised in accordance with the will of their heavenly Father.

Summary

After the address the apostle speaks of the temptations which beset the Christians, of the power of prayer, of the need of humility, of the real source of temptations, of the fatherhood of God, of the acceptance of His Word with meekness, and of sanctification as a fruit of justification.