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James; Doing the Word

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posted on Aug, 27 2012 @ 05:10 PM
In a previous thread on the New Testament letter of James, I was considering what he says about the importance of “hearing the Word” (ch1 vv18-21)

He follows up this teaching, in v22, by warning his readers that merely hearing the Word is not enough.
We need to be “doers of the Word, not hearers only”
That is, we need to be activating, putting into effect, the Word that we have received.

If we think we can get away with hearing the Word, without acting upon what we have heard, we will deceiving ourselves.
If we think that, then we “have another think coming” (as people used to say before their pronunciation got sloppy).
James has warned us before about deceptive opinions; the false idea that he warned us against in v13 and v16 was that God sends us trials and does not help us to maintain our Faith against them.
The common factor in these deceptions is that they reduce our motivation to follow the right path.

James compares “hearing” the Word with the way that a man looks at himself in a mirror.
The similarity between the two actions isn’t obvious at first sight.
The point of comparison seems to be the length of the effect, whether it is transitory or permanent..
A man who sees his reflection and then walks away and forgets what he looks like has a very short-lived relationship with his image.
Similarly, a man who hears the Word only, and doesn’t do anything with it, has a short-lived relationship with what the Word has been telling him.
Perhaps the “reflection” which a man finds in the Word is a closer understanding of his own moral nature [TO PROSOPON TES GENESIOS AUTES- “the face of his birth”].
Then this would be the self-knowledge which is going to fade away if his “hearing of the Word” is not followed up, so that the “evil desire” which tries his Faith(v14) has a better chance to regain control.

This problem, that memory fades, is remedied when a man “looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres” (v25).
This does not mean that he’s changing the mirror (though the description is unexpected, and I’ll come back to it in a moment).
The point is the “perseverance”; instead of walking away from the mirror, the man remains in front of it, like a Narcissus or a Sir Walter Elliot (in Jane Austen’s “Persuasion”], with the result that he never loses contact with his reflection.
In the same way, “doing” the Word, instead of just hearing it, is a way of keeping in permanent contact with the Word.
Such a man, someone who does ” work”, will be blessed in what he does.

I’ve been explaining this analogy on the assumption that the mirror corresponds to the Word, in both halves of the comparison..
Following the natural flow of the argument, the opening words of v25 should have been something like “He who does the Word is like a man who remains in front of the mirror”.
Instead of those words, though, James has written “the man who looks into the perfect Law, the Law of liberty”.
In effect, he has substituted the phrase “looking into the law” for the phrase “doing the Word”, which implies that he regards them as two alternative descriptions of the same activity.
In fact it’s easy to see an equivalence between keeping the law and “doing the Word”, because they’re both about allowing oneself to be guided into an appropriate course of behaviour.

It’s not surprising that James should describe this law as “perfect”; he’s already used this word in v4, for the man whose Faith has remained steadfast.
It implies reaching or coming close to the intended ideal.

But the real puzzle is that he also qualifies the law as “the law of liberty”, since the concepts of “law” and “liberty” seem to exclude one another.
Paul treats them as opposites in the advice that he gives to his own churches.
On the one hand, he considers the Law, in the sense of the written code of Moses, to be a restraint and a form of bondage from which Christians have been liberated;
“For freedom Christ has set us free…do not submit again to a yoke of slavery”- Galatians ch5 v1
On the other hand, there were people in the congregation at Corinth- as modern scholars reconstruct the situation- inclined to interpret this liberty in the direction of licentiousness.
So Paul is obliged to warn them about the need to keep their liberty under a different kind of restraint.
What Paul is advocating is a middle course between the two extremes of “law” and “license”;
“We serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit”- Romans ch7 v6

James is approaching the problem in a different way.
Instead of avoiding the two extremes, he uses this phrase “law of liberty”, which combines them and holds them together.
It seems that he’s calling for the best of both worlds.
On the one hand, there needs to be “law”- not necessarily the Mosaic Law, but enough sense of some kind of law to hold back behaviour from drifting into license.
On the other hand, though, there should also be “liberty”- which implies that what he’s looking for is NOT the maintenance of “the old written code”.

In v25, he implicitly identified the “law of liberty” with “doing the Word”.
But I’ve already suggested in a previous thread that “the Word” was one of the terms which James was using as a substitute for “the Spirit”.
So it seems to me that “doing the Word” and “the law of liberty” are both equivalents in James’ teaching for what Paul would have called “walking by the Spirit”.
They are all about accepting a new kind of control, steering a middle course between legalism and license.

In the last two verses of the chapter, James offers definitions of “true religion”, involving control of the tongue, offering material assistance to orphans and widows, and keeping oneself unstained from the world.
I’m sure that both verses were originally features of James’ regular pastoral teaching.
In their present context, though, they are being put forward as practical examples of what is meant by “doing the Word”.

So the whole of this first chapter of James, one way or another, has been about Faith.
It has been about the origin and outcome of Faith, about the helps and hindrances of Faith, and about the way that Faith is carried forward into action.
Taking into account this last, more active, aspect of Faith, we may find that Faith can be seen as an organising theme for much of the rest of this letter.

posted on Aug, 27 2012 @ 06:45 PM
Interesting comparison;

Paul also has a "mirror" analogy, but manages it differently, and rather more straightforwardly;
"For now we see in a miror dimly, but then face to face"- 1 Corinthians ch13 v12.

The differences are;
In Paul, the observer is trying to see God's face, not his own, as the second half of the sentence makes clear.
The problem is the quality of the image ("in a glass darkly"). The mirror would probably have been polished metal, or just possibly glass crudely backed with lead. There is no suggestion in James that anything is wrong with the image itself.
The problem is remedied in Paul by turning away from the indirect mirror image and replacing it with direct vision.

It might be possible that James' use of the comparison was inspired by Paul's. Certainly his handling of it seems a little clumsy.

posted on Aug, 27 2012 @ 11:14 PM
reply to post by DISRAELI

This is something I pointed out in another thread that was in relation to James. Confucius said, "I hear and I forget. I see and I learn. I do and I understand." It takes all three to educate a person in a classroom. No different in life. Unless we engage the doing, we are merely forgetting and learning with no understanding of what we learn. James says this same thing.

posted on Aug, 28 2012 @ 09:09 AM
reply to post by EnochWasRight


I would also like to point out the consistency of Jesus using parables to articulate the Gospel message. What better way to explain something than to correlate it into common everyday life experiences?
Thus not only are you explaining the message in such a way that anyone could understand, but also in such a way that the person "experiences" the message because it is usually something that they have already done.

Part of the mystery is to understand that it is not doing the Word that gains our access into eternal life, but truly it is only by and through God's abundant grace and Jesus' death on the cross. However, we show our commitment to the Word by doing it, by living it out, in such a way that reflects our nature as citizens of heaven.
Gotta make sure we don't have a bunch of ignorant heathens running around up there, ya dig?

Another stellar thread, Dis...~

edit on 28-8-2012 by stupid girl because: (no reason given)

posted on Aug, 28 2012 @ 02:25 PM
reply to post by stupid girl

Part of the mystery is to understand that it is not doing the Word that gains our access into eternal life, but truly it is only by and through God's abundant grace and Jesus' death on the cross.

There is a bit of a mystery in how Jesus won this thing that we are so interested in, which is 'How we are saved by what someone else did?'.
One aspect that Jesus seems to have felt was important in the Gospels was how he was going to his Father in heaven, then returning to give the spirit to who we take in a vicarious sort of way to be ourselves.
It is this spirit that we receive from God through Jesus, that is quite necessary, to empower us to good works, and Paul goes on to say that 'By this same spirit which makes us do do works, we will be raised from the dead.'
Jesus did not die for us in order to just have a lot of people who will hypothetically be resurrected and taken to heaven in some future time. Jesus intended a way so people can live righteous lives in this life, to make the world a better place for everyone.
edit on 28-8-2012 by jmdewey60 because: add Bible quote: "For the creation eagerly waits for the revelation of the sons of God." Romans 8:19

posted on Aug, 28 2012 @ 05:12 PM
reply to post by EnochWasRight

Thank you for those comments.
I think your previous contribution to this James series was in "Do not be deceived".

posted on Aug, 28 2012 @ 06:11 PM

Originally posted by stupid girl
However, we show our commitment to the Word by doing it, by living it out, in such a way that reflects our nature as citizens of heaven.

Thank you for those observations.
I think the key to what James is getting at is that he doesn't really distinguish between the Word and the actions which result from it- as, if he used Pauline terminology, he would not distinguish between Grace or the Spirit and the actions which express them.
The Word causes actions (if we allow the Word to be applied) in the same way that an electric motor causes motion.
If Grace is present, it will show itself in action (but I'm in danger of anticipating the Faith-and-works thread, which exists in first draft).

posted on Aug, 28 2012 @ 07:49 PM
Sir Walter Elliot and mirrors;

"I have done very little besides sending away some of the large looking-glasses from my dressing-room, which was your father's...I think he must be rather a dressy man for his time of life- Such a number of looking glasses! oh Lord! there was no way of getting away from oneself".
The Admiral to Anne Elliot, "Persuasion" ch13, Jane Austen

posted on Aug, 29 2012 @ 05:36 PM
Previous threads on James ch1 have been as follows;

Tested Faith

Do not be deceived

[I have deleted the link with "hearing the word", because that link raises security alarms with my browser.]
edit on 29-8-2012 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Aug, 30 2012 @ 08:53 AM

Originally posted by stupid girl

Part of the mystery is to understand that it is not doing the Word that gains our access into eternal life, but truly it is only by and through God's abundant grace and Jesus' death on the cross. However, we show our commitment to the Word by doing it, by living it out, in such a way that reflects our nature as citizens of heaven.
Gotta make sure we don't have a bunch of ignorant heathens running around up there, ya dig?

Let's say I agree with you.

If we take Jesus as the 'word becoming flesh', do you realize, only very few Christians can become committed to the 'word'?

Here's a few tough ones from Jesus: sell all your possession, give all the profits to the poor and follow me. He who is in the world, the love of the Father is not in him. You cannot serve two masters, you will love one and hate the other, you cannot serve both God and money.

Do you realize why God and his son Jesus hates money, and the works of ungodly men - education, careers, technology, worldly success, pride of life, city building, industrial revolution, agriculture, population explosion, etc?

Because these things are hurting His creations - The Earth, plants, animals, lowest classes of people - the very poor.

All our mining, prospecting, city-building, farming, and all manners of polluting is causing much pain to our living planet.

That's why Jesus said to hate money, He really means it. He's talking literally, not figuratively. You jump at every opportunity to make more money, buy things beyond your basic needs, enjoy your hobbies, your leisure while the rest of the world suffers. You'll you be in for a nasty surprise later.

When Jesus come back, he is coming to the Earth's rescue, the plants, animals, and the very poor.

posted on Aug, 31 2012 @ 05:19 PM
For information;

I will probably be covering the second chapter of James in the latter end of September- probably over the course of two separate threads.

posted on Dec, 18 2012 @ 01:27 PM
Now that the series on James is complete, an Index of the various threads can be found at this location;

James; Teacher of Faith and Wisdom

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