James 1:22-25


Bible Study Notes
Doers of the Word
James 1:22-25


The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh, Senior Pastor at Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, NE. The text has been edited and condensed by IHCC staff for use as a Bible Study aid.

Introduction - James has set forth the necessity of a proper response to the Word of God on the part of believers (1:21). This requires a putting off of all sinful habits and conduct and a willing submission to the Scriptures.

Often we encourage a major error by allowing a division between faith and practice. Some people emphasize sound doctrine as an end in itself. Their goal is to know more so that they might know more.

Others slight doctrine to emphasize conduct. They are concerned about manifesting Christian love in their relationships and do not want to be bothered with the issues of biblical doctrine.

However, it is not possible to be a biblical Christian and hold such an attitude. God intends that His children be well grounded in sound doctrine and live lives that conform to that doctrine.

It is to the issue of doctrine put into practice that James now turns our attention. We must not just hear the Word; we must do the Word.

1:22 -
doers of the word
- This word doer is a favorite of James'. Although it is used only two other times in the New Testament, James uses it four times in this letter (cf. 1:22,23,25; 4:11; see also Rom. 2:13).

The Old Testament spoke of doing the law (cf. Deut. 28:58; 29:29). The Septuagint used the word here (poietes).

prove (ginesthe) - This word is in the present imperative and denotes what they are constantly to be. They are to keep on doing the Word.

not merely hearers - The word "merely" (or "only" indicates that the command to be doers does not detract from the importance of hearing the Word. The danger is that we stop with hearing.

hearers - Among the Greeks this word was used of one who attended a lecture but was not a disciple of the teacher. Some liken it to an auditor at a university. He is there and listens, often carefully taking in what is said, but takes no responsibility in meeting the requirements of the course.

Some people act like they are auditing the study of the Word. They attend, listen, and often accumulate a great deal of knowledge, but they take no responsibility in carrying it out.

who delude themselves (paralogizomai) - The word here means "to cheat or deceive by false reasoning." By a process of faulty reasoning they deceive themselves. They think that hearing the Word, maybe even with great attention, is all that is necessary.

They stop short of applying the Word to their lives and living it out. Jesus warned of this danger in Matthew 7:17-27. (Cf. also Rom. 2:17-25.)

The emphasis in James would fit unbelievers as well as believers. To hear the Word does not mean salvation. There must be faith which changes the life (cf. 2:19). So believers must be careful to do the Word also.

It is not enough to remember what we hear, and to be able to repeat it, and to give testimony to it, and commend it and write it, and preserve what we have written; that which all this is in order to, and which crowns the rest, is that we be doers of the Word (Matthew Henry).

1:23 -
James first pictures the person who hears the Word but does not do it. This person looks at his natural (physical) face in a mirror.

When we look in a mirror we have 3 possible responses:

  1. Smash the mirror - likewise men try to destroy the Bible.

  2. Ignore the image - like knowing what the Bible says we should do, but not doing it.

  3. Change the image (make corrections) (Robinson notes).

The verb looks  may indicate that this is the habitual or characteristic activity of this individual. This person may be one who spends some time listening to the Word and attempting to understand what is being taught.

1:24 -
Note the three steps here: looked . . . gone away . . . for gotten. "Out of sight, out of mind." This person has forgotten what he saw and the changes that needed to be made.

1:25 -
looks intently
- This person also looks carefully into the Word. This word is used of John's stooping and looking into the empty tomb of Jesus (John 20:5). It is also used of the angels who long to look into the issues of salvation (I Pet. 1:12)

the perfect law - The reference to law here corresponds to "the word of truth" (v. 18), "the word implanted" (v. 21), "the word" (v. 22).

James calls it law because it is the authoritative message from God which requires our obedience. It is the truth concerning Christ as contained in the New Testament. This fits James' emphasis on doing the Word.

perfect (teleios)  This revelation from God is complete, it realizes the purposes of God. All prior revelation looked forward to this final end. This had been prophesied in the Old Testament (Jer. 31:33) and fulfills all the Old Testament (Matt. 5:17).

the law of liberty - This is the law which provides liberty to those who obey it (cf, John 8:31,32,34,36; Rom, 8:2). "Within the boundaries of the law of God man is free, for there he lives in the environment God designated for him."

"Men are free when they want to do what they ought to do."

abides by it (parameinas ) - This person continues in the Word he has studied. He does not become a forgetful hearer.

an effectual doer (poietes ergou, literally "a doer of work") - Being "a doer of the word" (v. 22) is now seen to mean being a doer of work.

This construction calls attention to what the man is rather than what he does: "Not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer."

this man shall be blessed (markarios) - Obedience leads to blessing. This word was used in 1:12. (Cf. also Matt. 5; Ps. 1.)

in what he does (literally "in his doing") - His whole life is viewed as a consistent doing. It is more than isolated acts of obedience; it is an entire life devoted to doing God's will.

We sometimes spend too much time being concerned about being "too busy" in the work of the Lord. Rather, this is what God expects. His servants are to be characterized by doing. Too much of our lives is consumed by those things which have no significance in light of eternity.

Note: The blessing is in the doing. We must be those who intently look into the Word. In the Word we see what God would have us be and do. Then we must set about doing. As obedient hearers, whose lives are constantly doing the Word, we will experience the blessing of God.

Where are you? Have you ever responded in faith to the message of the gospel? It is not enough to have heard; have you believed?

As a believer, is your life characterized as one who is constantly doing the Word?

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.

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Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.

Tony Capoccia
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