“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”– James 1:22-25
Our text begins with the admonition to prove ourselves “doers” of the word.1 The Apostle Paul uses this same term in Romans 2:13, when he writes, “For it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the ‘doers’ of the Law will be justified.” With this emphasis on “doing the word,” James and Paul are aligning themselves with the teachings of Christ Himself:
“… Everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock… Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”2
“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”3
In the Spirit of Christ, James is calling us to “prove ourselves doers of the word.” The word, “prove” is translated from the Greek verb gínomai, which literally means “to be” or “to become.” The command is in present tense and communicates that the believer must “keep on becoming” a doer of the word. The idea is that as the Christian goes through life, he is to continually grow in his knowledge of God’s word and to continually increase in his submission to the word he knows. To the degree that there is a discrepancy between what we claim to know and what we actually do, we are guilty of “deluding” ourselves.
The word “delude” is translated from the Greek word paralogízomai, which means to deceive through false reasoning.4 The Apostle Paul uses the term in Colossians 2:4, “I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.” However, in James 1:22, the verb is found in the middle voice denoting that this delusion or deception is something that we do to ourselves. Whenever our “hearing” is not coupled with “doing,” and we do nothing to remove the discrepancy, we are “fooling” ourselves. Whenever we affirm Sola Scriptura and the Sufficiency of Scripture, and yet we neglect the Scriptures or chose human wisdom over them, we are likewise guilty of folly. In fact, James tells we are like a man who looks in a mirror and sees his own reflection. But no sooner does he turn away than he forgets what he looks like. We do the same when we hear and understand the truths of Scriptures, but then fail to obey them or apply them to our lives and ministries.
How can we avoid the deadly malady of hearing and not doing, of seeing and forgetting, or of confessing Sola Scriptura while building our ministries upon human wisdom? The answer is found in verse 25. We must devote our lives to “looking intently” at God’s word, interpreting it according to the sound principles of hermeneutics, and walking in reverent obedience to what is written. The phrase “looks intently” is translated from the single Greek verb parakúpto,5 which means to bend beside or near, to lean over (so as to look closely). It is used of Peter and Mary who “stooped to look” (parakúpto) into Jesus’ tomb,6 and of the angels who long to “look” (parakúpto) at the things contained in the gospel.7 This is the cure for whatever ails global missions and the key to advancing the same. Positively, the church and its missionaries must devote themselves to knowing and obeying the simple wisdom, precepts, and commands of the Scriptures. Negatively, we must reject every strategy that promises a more effective, faster, or less costly way of reaching the nations.
The church’s mission strategy must not be shaped by the psychologist, anthropologist, or avant-garde church growth specialist, but by those who have devoted themselves to Sola Scriptura and who hold unwaveringly to the Sufficiency of Scripture. Our missionaries do not need to be trained in the latest “church planting techniques” that are all the rage today and will be replaced tomorrow. They must be trained in biblical languages, hermeneutics, systematic theology, and church history. Those disciplines which will enable them to correctly interpret the Scriptures, and to “do” missions by “doing” the word!
- The word “doer” is translated from the Greek noun poiétes, from the Greek verb poiéo, which means, “to do.”
- Matthew 7:24-26
- Luke 6:46
- paralogízomai [pará = against + logízomai = to reason].
- parakúpto [para = beside, near + kúpto = to bend forward].
- Luke 24:12; John 20:5, 11
- I Peter 1:12
Paul is the founder of HeartCry Missionary Society and currently serves as its missions director. He also ministered as a missionary in Peru for ten years. He has preached hundreds of sermons and has authored a dozen published works. Paul lives in Radford, Virginia, with his wife Charo and their four children: Ian, Evan, Rowan, and Bronwyn.More By Paul David Washer