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The book of James: Using the Word of Truth

What different descriptions we have for God’s Word! It is “a lamp for my feet” (Psalm 119:105), the only sure light in a sin-darkened world. It is “fire” and “hammer” (Jeremiah 23:29), tearing us down by showing our sins and building us up by showing our Savior. It is “seed” (Luke 8:11), which the Spirit sows in our hearts and through which he produces a harvest. It is the “power of God that brings salvation” (Romans 1:16), God’s tool for working in the hearts of sinners.

The Word of Truth

This remarkable Word filled James with awe and admiration. For him it was the “word of truth” and the “word planted in you, which can save you” (1:18,21).

James knew the importance of the Word. When in his blueprint for Christian living he writes about using the Word of Truth, he’s not telling us what we must produce by our own power, but what that Word produces in us. He reminds us that what God’s Word asks of us, God’s Word acts in us.

There have always been those who fail to do what they hear. Their eyes are on the Word, but not their hearts. They hear with the ears, but not with the soul. Their hearing is like looking into a mirror. They look, walk away, and forget what they saw (1:23,24). Such hearing is temporary with the truths soon forgotten and the effects soon failing.

The law of liberty

Hearing with the ears needs to be followed by holding with the heart and then heeding with the life. How different is the hearer who also does this. He looks into and continues in “the perfect law that gives freedom” (1:25).

With this phrase James seems to be referring to the whole Word of God. He has already called it “the word of truth” and “the word planted in you.” Now he labels it the “law that gives freedom.” Only in that Word can we find the message of the one Savior and Liberator from sin. Only through that message are people set free—free from sin and free for service to God.

Some would have James preach about building our own ladder to heaven with the two-by-fours of our works of the law. No! James knows of only one Liberator, Jesus. He knows of only one ladder, the perfect, complete ladder of Christ’s salvation. When James says, “Do,” he’s repeating what Jesus said in John 6:29, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” Doing means hearing about the Savior, holding him in faith, and then heeding his Word of truth.

James’ words urge us not to be church spectators this Christmas. Don’t just watch the shepherds at the manger—kneel with them. Don’t just hear the angels sing—join them. Don’t just say, “Christ, the Savior, is born”—make it, “Christ, my Savior, is born.” Hear, hold, and heed the Christmas gospel. Through it, God would move the Christ Child, our Liberator from sin, out of the stable and into the inn of our hearts and lives.

Digging deeper

  1. How do John 8:31-33; Romans 8:15; and Luke 1:74,75 help explain James’ words about “the perfect law that gives freedom”? These references explain “the law that liberates” as the Word of God that brings the truths of our salvation. Through the gospel the Spirit works to set us free from the slavery to sin and fear of eternal punishment and enables us to serve our Savior all our days.
  2. How do Romans 3:20 and Acts 16:31 rule out using our works to help earn heaven? If the law were to save us, we would need to keep all its commands perfectly. But instead the law like a mirror shows our many sins. All we need for salvation is God-given faith in Jesus as our only Savior.

This is the final article in a six-part series on the book of James.

Author: Richard Lauersdorf
Volume 107, Number 12
Issue: December 2020

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This entry is part 54 of 63 in the series bible-study

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