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.
- 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.
- 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
- Psalm 103: When you count your blessings
- Psalm 91: When God lifts you up on his lap
- Psalm 4: When you draw nearer to the end
- Psalm 42: When you ask, “Where is God when I’m hurting?”
- Psalm 32: When you need forgiveness
- Psalm 130: When rocks fall
- Bible study: Freedom in service
- What does this mean for me? Article 6
- Bible study: Spiritual gifts
- What does this mean for me? Article 5
- What does this mean for me? Article 4
- Bible study: Rejoice in your status!
- Bible study: Baptismal blessings
- What does this mean for me? Article 3
- What does this mean for me? Article 2
- Bible study: Gifts of tongues and miraculous healing
- What does this mean for me? Article 1
- Bible study: Jesus is everyone’s Savior
- Bible study: Love one another
- Bible study: Above all things!
- Bible study: The comfort of God’s providence
- The book of James: Waiting for Christ’s return
- Bible study: Precious grace
- The book of James: Active in using prayer
- Bible study: Rewards of grace
- The book of James: Active in showing love
- The book of James: Correctly evaluating riches
- Bible study: What’s going to happen on the Last Day?
- The book of James: Avoiding loveless judging
- Bible study: Interpretation practice
- The book of James: Taming the tongue
- Bible study: The Bible’s attributes
- Bible study: The importance of the family altar
- Bible study: God’s attitude is grace
- Bible study: The Bible’s account of Easter morning
- Bible study: Different types of sin
- Bible study: God’s inspiration
- Bible study: Giving God glory
- Bible study: Judge for yourself
- The book of James: Using the Word of Truth
- Bible study: The need for the Bible and worship
- Bible study: Citizens of two kingdoms
- The book of James: Active in good works
- The book of James: When battling temptation
- Bible study: God cares
- Bible study: God made the world
- The book of James: When facing trials
- Bible study: A loving God saved people from hell
- The book of James: A blueprint for living out our life of faith
- A Bible story just for me: Guilt
- Bible study: God provides victory over death!
- A Bible story just for me: Anxiety
- Bible study: God forgives and refuses to remember our sins
- A Bible story just for me: Grief
- Bible study: God helps those who cannot help themselves
- A Bible story just for me: Depression
- Bible study: God has not grown soft on sin
- Bible study: Only one path leads to God’s presence
- A Bible story just for me: Trauma
- A Bible story just for me
- Bible study: God wants me in heaven
- Bible study: The incarnation of our Lord