But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
The Lord Jesus once complained, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ and don’t do what I say?” (See also Matt. 7:21-27). This is the great problem with so many Christians (among whom, sadly, I must include myself): We have heard so much, accumulated so much knowledge, but we do not apply what we have learned! As a result, our lives remain spiritually impoverished and our testimony is tarnished in the eyes of “outsiders”.
But why is the Word so unproductive in our lives? The answer may be found in the previous verse (21): We have not received the implanted Word with meekness, it has not struck deep roots into the soil of our innermost being, because our hearts are still so full of filth and wickedness that, like weeds, choke the Word and make it unfruitful. We need to cry out to the Lord, “Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me!”
Two kinds of persons are talked about in this passage.
1. THE CASUAL HEARER
He hears the Word but has no intention of obeying it.
(a) He forgets.
He reads the Word – even intently it seems; he sees what’s wrong with himself, but suddenly he just takes off and forgets what he’s read or heard. Thus, nothing comes out of his reading and hearing.
(b) He deceives himself.
He thinks he’s derived great benefit from all his reading and hearing. He did look at the “mirror” intently; he did have some realization of the truth about himself; he might even have found great delight and enjoyment in his reading and hearing of the Word. But if he walked away from that unchanged and untransformed, it was all in vain!
2. THE CAREFUL OBSERVER
He reads and hears the word, fully intending to obey and apply it to his life.
(a) He perseveres.
He reads and hears the Word not just intently but perseveringly, meditating on it day and night (Psalm 1). Why? Because he reads with a view to obedience. He hides it in his heart, memorizing it, because he has no intention of forgetting it. He knows he’ll need to have the Word handy when times of temptation and trials come so that he’ll have the sword of the Spirit ready in his hand to strike down lusts, doubts, and depression when they arise (see Psalm 119:9, 11).
Incidentally, the Word is also described as the “perfect law of liberty”. As God’s law, it cannot be wrong and cannot lead us astray. It is perfect. Also, the truth of God’s law will set us free from bondage to sin and its consequences. “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free,” says our Lord. “Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has set you free.” Freedom from the penalty of sin, freedom from the power of sin, and someday freedom from the very presence of sin! All this may be found in the Word – the perfect law of liberty; the truth that sets us free.
(b) He acts.
He applies God’s word to his life; he puts it into practice. It is practicing God’s Word that leads to spiritual maturity (Hebrews 5:11-14). So many remain spiritual infants who cannot digest “solid food”, even though they’ve been Christians for a long time, because they do not practice what they’ve learned from God Word.
(c) He is blessed.
There’s a lot of blessing attached to loving and keeping God’s Word/Law: success (Joshua 1:8), peace (Psalm 119:165), wisdom (Psalm 119:99), etc. But for me these two blessings stand out:
i. Greater intimacy with God. “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me shall be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21) What could be more satisfying than an ever increasing sense of God’s presence and love for me!
ii. Greater willingness and facility in doing God’s will. “Blessed in the doing” The doing itself is already the blessing! The fact that before you find obedience a struggle, a burden, and a thing of great difficulty – as if your arm is being torn off your body or your eye is being gouged out! But now you obey with delight, with alacrity, and with ease – this is a blessing beyond words! The fact that you can obey God’s Word means that you are experiencing freedom from your spiritual bondage to lust, sloth, vice, etc.
To be enabled to do God’s Word is to be freed from the chains that have shackled my miserable soul. This freedom in the doing is the blessing!
© Dennis M. Cortes. 2022.