A Doer, Not A Hearer Only
October 10, 2012 § 1 Comment
But be you doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. James 1:22
Having been raised in the church, I came to be very familiar with the most popular of Christian one-liners. Among these one-liners are Bible based phrases such as, “rest in the Lord”, or “Be a doer of the word, not a hearer only”. These two specifically have confused me because one sermon will tell me that His Grace is enough, so rest in His finished work. Then not too long after the same preacher will tell us that the blessing is in the doing. Faith without works is dead, so to show our faith, we should be doers.
The Lord has in the past several months opened my eyes to the revelation and the mystery of his Grace. It’s as though I’m reading the scriptures with new eyes.
I’d like to examine this concept from James 1:22 and it’s accompanying verses, as I feel there is a key here for you as a believer.
I do want to make one thing clear: the whole Gospel; no, the whole New Testament; no, the whole Bible is summed up in God’s Grace. In the Old Testament when the Law was in place, God’s people proved over and over again that they could not keep the Law, and over and over again God blessed them and called them back to him by Grace. In the New Testament, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ to be Grace embodied, taking the penalty of sin and death in our place, and reconciling us to God the Father. Knowing this, it is clear that much of the New Testament is instruction on how to avoid falling back in to legalistic law keeping, while staying in Grace.
OK… Back to James 1. Let’s look at the passage:
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;
24for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
25 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.
It’s very easy to take a single verse (usually out of context) and preach a sermon on the concept behind that one verse. The problem with doing this is that it can often show the speaker’s, or writer’s, bias. Most people lean towards teaching legalism or the law, and verse 22 is a prime offender.
What I love about these verses, is that James actually defines what he means. So he first says that if you are a hearer only and not a doer, it’s like you look in the mirror and then walk away and forget what kind of a man (or woman) you are. Hmmm… that’s interesting. So if you are a hearer only, it does not mean that you are lazy, or that you aren’t busy in the church or helping people, but rather, it means that you have not focused on the concept of who you are as a new creation.
Secondly, James tells us exactly what it means to be a doer. A doer is a person who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it. Again, I find this very interesting.
We, as believers, are considered doers of the word when we look into the perfect law of liberty (and continue in it). What is the perfect law of liberty, you may ask? I’m glad you did. The word for liberty here is eleutheria. This word is also used in verses such as:
Romans 8:21 – because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.2 Cor 3:17 – Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord [is], there [is] liberty.Galations 5:1 – Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
While there are some other examples, these three come from Paul, who constantly wrote about the battle between Grace and Law. I love that verse from Galations, that we should stand fast in the liberty by which Christ made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. That yoke of bondage is not a yoke of sin, but is actually a yoke of trying to live right on our own by the law.
So, to look into the perfect law of liberty is to intently study, focus on, and curiously examine the perfect law of God’s Grace which makes us free from bondage. As you gain more and more understanding of this unending Grace through Jesus Christ, you are called to continue in it. Continue in His Grace. Don’t be distracted by Christians telling you that God is unhappy with you or that you are not doing enough to earn His blessings… His Grace is sufficient! Live under His Grace!
If you are a doer of the word in this way, the Bible says that you will be blessed in what you do.
Don’t underestimate the goodness of Jesus Christ. He did not die to save you from the yoke of the law, just so you can “be a doer” of more works. No! He took you out of that law of works to cover you with His law of liberty = Grace!
Hallelujah! Thank You Jesus!