“Be Ye Doers of the Word” James 1:22

by Steven Chan

The Bible warns us against one of the dangers faced by Christians and that is failing to do the Will of God.

There are two aspects of this danger.

Firstly, there is the general danger of hearing the Word of God and failing to do or to act on what the Word of God tells us to do. In James 1:21-22, the Bible exhorts us thus: “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”  The Word of God is able to save our souls and therefore we are urged to receive the Word such that they can be implanted in our hearts.

But having the Word of God implanted in our hearts is not sufficient; we need to be “doers of the Word”. In other words, we need to live according to the guidance and instruction of the Word of God – and thereby be led by the Spirit for the Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God (Eph 6:17) – for “the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”(Heb 4:12).

We should therefore “let the word of Christ dwell in (us) richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in (our) hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever (we) do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col 3:16-17). We can do all things in the name of the Lord, i.e. by His authority, when we let His Word dwell in us richly so that we can teach and admonish one another, and also sing unto the Lord.

The problem arises when we fail to do what the Word of God requires of us. Then according to James 1:22, we are deluding or deceiving ourselves, i.e. thinking and believing that it is sufficient to know God’s Word even though we do not do or live according to God’s Word.

Even under the old covenant, “for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” (Rom 2:13)  In Matt 23:2-4, Jesus said: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. 4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” They SAY but DO NOT DO. They were Talkers but not Doers. Others were Hearers but NOT Doers.

The second aspect of the danger is when one thinks that one is doing or has done God’s Will but in reality it was NOT God’s Will that was done. Paul was one of those who were “zealous toward God and he persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women” (Acts 22:3-4) – he was wrong but by God’s love and grace he “obtained mercy because he did it ignorantly in unbelief”. (1 Tim 1:13)

But it will be too late for us to discover that what we have done was not in accordance with God’s Will if we were to discover our error only on the Day of Judgement. Jesus warned in Matt 7:21-23: “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. 22 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?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

Our Lord warned that there will be “MANY” who will say to Him in THAT DAY” (the Day of Judgement – Rev 20:12-15; 2 Cor 5:10): “Have we not prophesied, cast out demons, and done many wonders” in the Name of Jesus?  Nevertheless the Lord rejected them because they “practiced lawlessness”. What did Jesus mean by them being guilty of practicing lawlessness? According to 1 John 3:4: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”(KJV) God’s Word/Will, is His law (Psa 1; 119). So, when one does not do according to His Word/Will or His Law, then one sins and is guilty of practicing lawlessness – for “sin is lawlessness”( 1 John 3:4, NKJV).  These people were not mere Talkers; they were Doers – but what they were doing was unfortunately NOT God’s Will.

Jesus went on to teach them in Matt 7:24-28 the importance of Hearing God’s Word AND Doing God’s Word:

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 Now everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Some desire to hear God’s Word but deceive themselves into believing that hearing God’s Word is sufficient to get them into the saving grace of Jesus. Others think that teaching/speaking God’s Word is sufficient to get them into heaven. Still others zealously DO many wonderful things in the Name of Jesus but unfortunately those things were not in accordance with God’s Will and tantamount to doing “lawlessness”!

The Bible records for us an incident in Matt 16:21-23, where Peter may have thought that he was doing God’s Will when he rebuked Jesus for talking about his impending death:

“From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. 22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

Jesus called Peter, “Satan”, for saying what Peter thought was the right thing to say; Jesus accused him of not minding the things of God – in other words, not acting in accordance with God’s will. Just being desirous of doing what we deem as being in the best interest of Jesus, does not make those actions right or acceptable to God IF they are in fact/reality not in accordance with God’s revealed Word and Will, or without His authority.

Let’s be careful to hear God’s Word and having done so, commit ourselves to do His Will as well, so that by doing God’s Will, we will be able to enter the kingdom of heaven. Let’s not delude ourselves or deceive ourselves to do otherwise.