While Paul insists we must rely on Jesus for our redemption, James makes it clear that redemption must not stop there; it must be expressed by our actions.
Day 3: Doing the word.
‘For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.’ Rom.2:13
Additional reading: Mt. 7: 21-28; 12:37; Gal.5:6; Jas.1:22-25; 2:14-20.
While delivering His sermon on the mountain, Jesus made a profound statement: ‘‘Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. ‘‘Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’’ This is instructive — not everyone that says to Me Lord, shall enter the kingdom of God … but those who do the will of God! Therefore, it is possible for a preacher to cast out demons, heal the sick and perform all forms of miracles and yet not have the chance to enter the kingdom of God. Why? ‘And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works’ (2 Cor.2:14-15).
In the light of this, Paul re- echoed saying; ‘For not the hearers (akroates; to listen, a hearer – merely) of the law (nomos; general — regulation, specific of Moses; also of the gospel) are just before God, but the doers (poietes; a performer) of the law shall be justified (dikaioo; to render, i.e. show or regard as just or innocent).’ Law in this particular reference is not in regards to that as handed down by Moses; rather it refers to the gospel — the New Testament, which contains the will of God as referred by Jesus in Matthew 7:21-22. Therefore, merely hearing the word without a corresponding action amounts to nothing, but when we hear the word and act (perform) on the word in faith, then, we shall be declared innocent.
In a similar vein, James in his epistle said: ‘But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves … But who so 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.’ The man who will be blessed according to James is not the one who merely hears the word for this man deceives himself, but the one that performs the word –– brings the word to manifestation.
Speaking further he said: What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be you warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.’ But this you would say; is a clear contradiction of Paul’s teaching. Not at all, Paul said that we are saved by grace and not by works — our personal effort, i.e. our salvation is not based on our obedience to the law or regulations, but on our reliance (faith) on Jesus to save. What then do we do having been saved? Do we sit back with legs crossed in front of a television set, or read newspapers cover to cover all day long doing nothing with the grace of Jesus invested in us? God forbid! We must work to show the reality of the word of God. While Paul insists we must rely on Jesus for our redemption, James makes it clear that redemption must not stop there; it must be expressed by our actions.
Now, this is what James is saying: if you say you have faith, yet you do not make it a lifestyle, then, it is useless. If you say you have faith and you cannot act it out in giving, then, it amounts to nothing. Faith, therefore, is an expression of your firm believe, trust or reliance in God and His word. And faith is always expressed out of love for God and mankind. The one who is a doer of the word therefore, is one who hears the word and acts it out in faith through love like Abraham and Rahab the harlot. Read this: ‘Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers and had sent them out another way? So, we can conclude that what justifies one is not faith alone, for faith alone is dead, but the doing the word, which is an expression of our confidence, reliance in God, and His word towards God Himself and mankind in love.
Meditation: If indeed I am a doer of the word, when was the last time I acted out the word of God through giving not of necessity but cheerfully? Do I give to be recognised by men or rewarded by God?
Prayer: May Your true character of giving be formed in me; that I may give freely and willingly as You did. May I not be a mere hearer of Your word, but in love, let Your word be seen in me. Amen.