2019-7-14 Not Mere Hearers, but Doers

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          July 14, 2019

“Not Mere Hearers, but Doers”
James 1:22-25

We have before us today two ways contrasted.  The classic Scriptural case of this occurs in Psalm 1, where the Lord, through His inspired Psalmist, draws a clear distinction between the blessed righteous and the accursed wicked.  We have, once again, such as distinction before us today—a distinction between the mere hearer of God’s Word and the one both hearing and doing His Word.  Let us look more closely at the two ways that the Lord contrasts through James—and let us see if we see ourselves standing in one of those ways.


First, we consider the mere hearer of the Word.[1]  He deceives himself—and this along two lines—first by argument and second from false reasons.[2]  It is as if the mere hearer distracts himself by over-much cogitation of what he has heard—or, like the Athenians at Paul sermon, did nothing but spend their time listening to the latest ideas.  In any case, the mere hearer does nothing—and, in doing nothing, fails to profit from the Word he heard.

This is the lesson to be gleaned from James’s Spirit-led illustration of the mirror.  The man looking into the mirror turned away and immediately forgot what sort of man he was.  Hence, the mirror was useless to the man looking at himself in it, for he turned from it and forgot what he was like.  Similarly, God’s Word does not profit the one merely hearing it.  It is a tragic thing to be in close proximity to God’s Word, only to derive no benefit from it.  Happily, there is a better way—and we turn here to it.

Now let us consider the doer of the Word.  His doing assumes hearing, but he far surpasses the mere hearer.  Let’s look at three things the doer does with the Word of God he heard.  First, he looks intently at God’s Word—called here the perfect law of liberty.  Notice that this is no casual glance at Scripture—akin to a scan of the morning newspaper headlines—but it is an intense gaze at the Bible portion under consideration.  The picture drawn from the Greek word here rendered looking intently (katanoeo, katanoew) is of someone stooping to peer at something on the ground.[3]  We see the intensity with which the doer examines God’s Word.  Second, he perseveres in hearing and doing.  He is not easily discouraged from doing, either from difficulty understanding the text or from mistakes in application.  He keeps pressing to do what we has heard from God’s Word rightly.  Neither is he distracted easily from his doing.  He forbids less important concerns to override his pressing concern to keep God’s Word.  Rather, he continues over time—yea, over long time—both to hear and to do.  In due season, he reaps from his labors.

Third, the doer receives the blessing of God in his doing.  God displays His favor in the obedient one.  The Greek word rendered blessed here (makarios, makarioV) may also be rendered happy.  The doer is happy because favored of God.  He is happy because God’s favor results in his salvation and all the benefits that flow therefrom—even his doing of God’s Word—which, after all, is the behavioral proof of it that salvation has come.

Therefore, let us, having heard the Word of God, do it.  Here are some loving injunctions from the Word of God both to hear and to do.  Paul and Silas’s charge to Stephanas, the Philippian jailer, is ours as well: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shalt be saved—you, and your house” (Acts 16:31).  If you have done believed on the Lord Jesus Christ before now, then do it today—even this very hour.  Then, let us, as redeemed folk in Christ, heed the Law of our Lord, quoted in the Gospel: “Love the Lord, your God, with all you heart, soul, mind, and with strength.  Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30, 31).  Let us, privately, privately, to be sure, but especially publicly on the Lord’s Day, hear David’s Spirit-led exhortation: “Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness” (Psalm 29:2, cf. ibid., 96:9).  Let us walk the walk of Christian discipleship, heeding the Spirit-led words of the Apostle Paul to the Philippian Christian households: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God Who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).  Finally, let us hear Jesus’ commands to His eleven disciples after His resurrection, namely, “…Make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19).  We are to work to form student-followers of Jesus locally as we have opportunity, and we are to do this globally as God leads us by His Spirit to pray for the missionary endeavor, to give materially unto it, or to go to an area and a people to serve them as God directs.[4]  Therefore, in view of all the foregoing, let us be no mere hearers of the Word—or, let us be mere hearers no longer—but let us by God’s grace be both hearers and doers, and these, above all, for His rightful glory.


[1] Recall that James addresses believers (cf. James 1:1, “…the twelve tribes of the dispersion.”) in this letter.  Hence, the mere hearer is inside the household of faith—and, thus, inside God’s saving love.  Yet there is much to amend, as we shall see presently.


[2] Note the discussions on the word paralogidzomai (paralogizomai) in Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989).

[3] Cf. Louw and Nida.  Unless otherwise noted, I am indebted to this source for my studies of words occurring in the Greek New Testament.

[4] I learned the gloss student-follower for disciple from Dr. Tim Hudson, senior campus minister of Christian Campus Fellowship, The University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, during my undergraduate years there.