BUT ONE WHO LOOKS INTENTLY AT
THE PERFECT LAW, THE LAW
OF LIBERTY, AND ABIDES BY IT: o de
parakupsas (AAPMSN) eis nomon teleion ton tes eleutherias kai
parameinas, (AAPMSN): (Pr 14:15; Is 8:20; 2Co 13:5; He
12:15) (He 2:12; Ps 19:7, 8, 9, 10; 119:32,45,96, 97, 98, 99, 100,
101, 102, 103, 104, 105; Ro 7:12,22,23) (Jn 8:32,36; Ro 8:15; 2Co
3:17,18; Gal 5:1; 1Pe 2:16) (Abides by it - 1 Samuel 12:14; John 8:31;
15:9,10; Acts 2:42; 13:43; 26:22; Ro 2:7,8; 11:22; Col 1:23; 1Ti 2:15;
4:16; 1Jn 2:24)
THE WORD OF TRUTH
(Jas 1:23, 24)
Sees self as he really is
Stoops to peer
In a mirror
Into the perfect law
Abides by the perfect law
Does not forget
Not a doer of the Word
A doer of the Word
(de) introduces an "about face" contrast (pun intended) with the
non-doing hearer of the Word of Truth.
intently (3879) (parakupto
from pará = beside, aside,
suggesting proximity +
kúpto = bend forward, stoop) means to stoop or bend beside or
sideways in order to look into. It means to look at with head bent
forward, to look into with the body bent, to stoop and look into and
figuratively to look carefully into, to inspect curiously or with a
focus on satisfying one's curiosity. The idea conveyed by this verb is to down and look
into in order to see something exactly and so to recognize.
James says this man bends over as
it were in order to makes a penetrating
look into the "mirror" of God's Word of truth, and when he notices a "blemish"
(that which is not in accordance with the Word of truth) on his "face", he
takes time to deal with the defect (eg, sin).
Yogi Berra said "You can see a lot
by looking!" Have you ever had that experience when looking intently
at a passage of God's Word that you may have read many times before.
Suddenly the Spirit of Truth (Jn 14:17, 15:26, 16:13) illuminates some
new insight in that passage which you had never seen before? In part,
this experience of joyful illumination reflects our willingness to
wait patiently on the Lord, "welcoming" and meditating on the text
Primer on Biblical Meditation)
rather than rushing through like the anxious white rabbit (cp
"energizer bunny") in Alice and
There are 5 uses
of parakupto in the NT, and the other 4 uses are recorded below
with 3 used of stooping to see into the tomb of Jesus, emphasizing
that this verb does not describe a casual, quick look - they were
stooping and peering in to see if His body was still inside!
Luke 24:12 But Peter arose and ran
to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen
wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at that which
John 20:5 and stooping and
looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go
John 20:11 But Mary was standing
outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped
and looked into the tomb;
1 Peter 1:12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving
themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to
you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit
sent from heaven-- things into which angels long to look.
is used 6 times in the Septuagint (Ge 26:8; Jdg. 5:28; 1 Ki. 6:4; 1
Chr. 15:29; Pr. 7:6; Song 2:9)
Parakupto in some uses meant "to lean over the railing". For
example it n the Septuagint in the context of the return of
the ark of the covenant of the
Lord...to the city of David" Scripture records that "Michal the
daughter of Saul looked out of (parakupto) the window,
and saw King David leaping and making merry; and she despised him in
her heart. (1 Chr
(eis) means into, implying more than just surface knowledge.
The law of
the Lord is perfect - It is complete and expressive of totality
(as opposed to partial or limited). It meets the highest standard
(teleios) means "fully mature" or "having reached its intended
goal". The law which in context stands for the Word of God in
general is a perfect reflection of the character and demands of
a holy God. The idea of the perfect law is that of consummate
soundness, wholeness, completeness, finished, reaching its end,
wanting nothing. It is God's final word and it is complete, embodying
the full revelation of God in Christ Jesus.
made a similar declaration in Psalm 19 writing that...
7 The law of the LORD is
perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The
commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of
the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.
10 They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them Thy servant is warned; In keeping them there is
Spurgeon commenting on the
descriptions of the Word in Psalm 19 says...
The law of the Lord is perfect;
by which he means not merely the law of Moses but the doctrine of God,
the whole run and rule of sacred Writ. The doctrine revealed by God he
declares to be perfect, and yet David had but a very small part
of the Scriptures, and if a fragment, and that the darkest and most
historical portion, be perfect, what must the entire volume be?
How more than perfect is the book which contains the clearest
possible display of divine love, and gives us an open vision of
redeeming grace. The gospel is a complete scheme or law of gracious
salvation, presenting to the needy sinner everything that his terrible
necessities can possibly demand. There are no redundancies and no
omissions in the Word of God, and in the plan of grace; why then do
men try to paint this lily and gild this refined gold? The gospel is
perfect in all its parts, and perfect as a whole: it is a crime to add
to it, treason to alter it, and felony to take from it.
Converting the soul. Making the man to be returned or restored
to the place from which sin had cast him. The practical effect of the
Word of God is to turn the man to himself, to his God, and to
holiness; and the turn or conversion is not outward alone, "the soul"
is moved and renewed. The great means of the conversion of sinners is
the Word of God, and the more closely we keep to it in our ministry
the more likely we are to be successful. It is God's Word rather than
man's comment on God's Word which is made mighty with souls. When the
law drives and the gospel draws, the action is different but the end
is one, for by God's Spirit the soul is made to yield, and cries,
"Turn me, and I shall be turned." Try men's depraved nature with
philosophy and reasoning, and it laughs your efforts to scorn, but the
Word of God soon works a transformation.
The testimony of the Lord is sure. God bears his testimony
against sin, and on behalf of righteousness; he testifies of our fall
and of our restoration; this testimony is plain, decided, and
infallible, and is to be accepted as sure. God's witness in his Word
is so sure that we may draw solid comfort from it both for time and
eternity, and so sure that no attacks made upon it however fierce or
subtle can ever weaken its force. What a blessing that in a world of
uncertainties we have something sure to rest upon! We hasten from the
quicksands of human speculations to the terra firma of Divine
Making wise the simple. Humble, candid, teachable minds receive
the word, and are made wise unto salvation. Things hidden from the
wise and prudent are revealed unto babes. The persuadable grow wise,
but the cavillers continue fools. As a law or plan the Word of God
converts, and then as a testimony it instructs; it is not enough for
us to be converts, we must continue to be disciples; and if we have
felt the power of truth, we must go on to prove its certainty by
experience. The perfection of the gospel converts, but its sureness
edifies; if we would be edified it becomes us not to stagger at the
promise through unbelief, for a doubted gospel cannot make us wise,
but truth of which we are assured will be our establishment.
is used 19 times in the NT - Matt. 5:48; 19:21; Rom. 12:2; 1 Co. 2:6;
13:10; 14:20; Eph. 4:13; Phil. 3:15; Col. 1:28; 4:12; Heb. 5:14; 9:11;
Jas. 1:4, 17, 25; 3:2; 1 Jn. 4:18
(nomos from nemo = to divide, distribute, apportion)
means anything established -- a procedure or practice that has taken
I agree with
Dr. MacArthur's interpretation that the law is perfect...
because Scripture is inerrant,
sufficient, and comprehensive (cf. Ps. 19:7, 8, 9)
(and) encompasses all of
God’s revealed Word.
There are three reasons why the law
(a) It is God’s law, given and revealed by Him. The way of
life which Jesus laid down for His followers is in accordance with the
will of God.
(b) It is perfect in that it cannot be bettered. The
Christian law is the law of love; and the demand of love can never be
satisfied. We know well, when we love someone, that even though we
gave them all the world and served them for a lifetime, we still could
not satisfy or deserve their love.
(c) But there is still another
sense in which the Christian law is perfect. The Greek word is
teleios which nearly always describes perfection towards some
given end. Now, if a man obeys the law of Christ, he will fulfil the
purpose for which God sent him into the world; he will be the person
he ought to be and will make the contribution to the world he ought to
make. He will be perfect in the sense that he will, by obeying the law
of God, realize his God-given destiny.
In calling the Word "a law," James
refers to that authoritative body of truth that is the foundation of
the Christian faith. It is the message contained in the apostolic
preaching and now embodied in the New Testament. Christians accept
this body of truth as the authoritative standard by which life is to
be regulated. This title for the Word of God is in keeping with
James's stress upon the importance of doing the things found in the
from eleutheros - that which is capable of movement, freedom to
go wherever one likes, unfettered; see word study on verb
describes the state of being free and stands in opposition to slavery or
bondage. It depicts the state of being free as opposed to being in
bondage to the Law (cp Gal 2:4, Ro 7:4) or enslaved to Sin (Ro 6:16-note,
Ro 6:17, 18 -
Freedom from restraint.
by referring to the Word as the
law of liberty, James focused on its redemptive power in freeing
believers from the bondage of sin and then freeing them to righteous
obedience (John 8:34, 35, 36). It allows us to serve God not out of
fear or mere sense of duty, but out of gratitude and love. One day it
also will free us from this world and its corruption; from our
fallenness; from our flesh; from temptation; and from the curses of
sin, death, and hell. (Macarthur
J. James. Moody or
Vine writes that it
is rendered “freedom” in Gal 5:1, “with freedom did Christ set us
free.” The combination of the noun with the verb stresses the
completeness of the act, the aorist (or point) tense indicating both its
momentary and comprehensive character; it was done once for all. The RV
margin “for freedom” gives perhaps the preferable meaning, i.e., “not to
bring us into another form of bondage did Christ liberate us from that
in which we were born, but in order to make us free from bondage.”
The word is twice rendered “freedom” in the RV of Gal 5:13 (KJV,
“liberty”). The phraseology is that of manumission from slavery, which
among the Greeks was effected by a legal fiction, according to which the
manumitted slave was purchased by a god; as the slave could not provide
the money, the master paid it into the temple treasury in the presence
of the slave, a document being drawn up containing the words “for
freedom.” No one could enslave him again, as he was the property of the
god. Hence the word apeleutheros, No. 2. The word is also translated
“freedom” in 1Pe 2:16, rv. In 2Co 3:17 the word denotes “freedom”
of access to the presence of God. See liberty.
W E: Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament
Words. 1996. Nelson)
Eleutheria refers to
personal liberty but not license. True liberty is living as we should, not as we
please. Eleutheria was used especially in NT times of the freeing
is used 11 times in the NT - Ro 8:21; 1Co 10:29; 2Co. 3:17; Gal 2:4;
5:1, 13; James 1:25; 2:12; 1Pe 2:16; 2Pe 2:19.
The law of
God is the royal law of liberty and liberty consists in being captive
to the word and law of God. All other liberty is not liberty but the
thraldom of servitude to sin.
genitive "of liberty" is subjective, denoting that this law "gives"
the experience of freedom in the lives of those who voluntarily
observe it. The definite article with "liberty" "the liberty," points
to the well-known Christian freedom from bondage that the believer
knows through faith in Christ (John 8:31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36). As he
submits himself to its transforming power, this law of liberty works
in his life a disposition and ability to do God's will joyfully (Php
It does not promote antinomianism but prompts obedience without
compulsion. In Jas 2:12, the only other place in the New Testament
where the designation "law of liberty" occurs, James associates it
with the law of love. The believer is not free from the obligation to
do God's will as revealed in His Word, but love works in him the
desire to do his Father's will. Men are free when they want to do what
they ought to do. This is the "splendid paradox" produced by a living
faith in the gospel through the indwelling Holy Spirit. (Ibid)
[word study] from para = beside + meno
= abide, remain) means to remain near, to stay at someone's side or to
stay by/beside. Continue in a course of action. To remain in place. To
abide in the presence of or near, whether actually with them or
otherwise in full communication. Vine writes that the figurative idea
is "to continue to persevere in anything."
writes that parameno...
“to remain in place,” “to stand firm,” “to endure,”
stand by someone,” and
c. “to stay
in an occupation or state.”
In the NT
Paul tells the Corinthians in 1Cor. 16:6 that he will stay with them,
devoting the time to his work among them. In Php 1:25 he prefers
continuing at work among believers to the union with Christ for which
he longs. Heb. 7:23 uses the term in the negative to contrast the
impermanent OT priesthood with the abiding high priesthood of Christ.
has in view an abiding in the law which means readiness to do it as
compared with a mere glance that results in no transformation of life.
G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. Theological Dictionary of the
New Testament. Eerdmans)
is found 4 times in the NT...
1 Corinthians 16:6 and perhaps I
shall stay with you, or even spend the winter, that you may send
me on my way wherever I may go.
Philippians 1:25 (note) And convinced of
this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you
all for your progress and joy in the faith. (Note: Some take parameno
in context to mean something like "I will continue to live".)
Hebrews 7:23 (note) And the former
priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers, because they
were prevented by death from continuing,
Comment: The idea is that
because the Aaronic priests died, they were hindered from abiding
by or persevering with their their ministry.
James 1:25 But one who looks
intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by
it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this
man shall be blessed in what he does
is used 3 times in the
Genesis 44:33 "Now, therefore,
please let your servant remain (Heb = yashab = to sit, remain,
dwell; Lxx = parameno) instead of the lad a slave to my lord, and let
the lad go up with his brothers.
Proverbs 12:7 The wicked are overthrown and are no more, But the house
of the righteous will stand. (Heb = amad = take one's
stand; Lxx = parameno).
Daniel 11:17 "And he will set his face to come with the power of his
whole kingdom, bringing with him a proposal of peace which he will put
into effect; he will also give him the daughter of women to ruin it.
But she will not take a stand for him or be on his side.
NOT HAVING BECOME A FORGETFUL
HEARER BUT AN EFFECTUAL DOER: ouk akroates epilesmones genomenos
(AMPMSN) alla poietes ergou:
In His warnings
to the Seven Churches, Jesus repeatedly calls for them to "hear
what the Spirit says to the churches" (Rev 2:7, Rev 2:11, Rev 2:17,
Rev 2:29, Rev 3:6, Rev 3:13, Rev 3:22)
(ou) signifies absolute negation. This individual hears and
absolutely does not forget, but instead obeys what he or she hears.
This characteristic sharply distinguishes him from the forgetful
hearer in the preceding verses.
(ginomai) means to come into existence. It is as if the seed of
the Word of Truth births doing or obedience in this individual (in
contrast to forgetful hearing = "in one ear and out the other"!).
(akroates from akroaomai = to listen or hear) first
describes one who hears referring primarily to the perception of
sounds by the sense of hearing.
writes that akroates was
a term used to describe students
who audited a class. An auditor usually listens to the lectures, but
is permitted to treat assignments and exams as optional. Many people
in the church today approach spiritual truth with an auditor’s
mentality, receiving God’s Word only passively. But James’ point,
shown by his illustrations in James 1:23, 24, 25, 26, 27 (see notes
is that merely hearing God’s Word results in worthless religion (see
In other words, mere hearing is no better than unbelief or outright
rejection. In fact, it’s worse! The hearer-only is enlightened but
unregenerate. James is reiterating truth he undoubtedly heard
firsthand from the Lord Himself. Jesus warned powerfully against the
error of hearing without doing (Mt 7:21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 -see
as did the apostle Paul (Ro 2:5-note).
(MacArthur, J. The Gospel according to the Apostles: Word Pub)
One source notes
In Classical Greek, the alternate
akroázomai, to hear and the derivative akróama meant something
heard, especially with pleasure, such as a piece read, recited,
played, or sung. In the NT, it has the meaning of one just listening
without practicing what one hears. (Zodhiates, S. The Complete Word
Study Dictionary: NT)
(epilesmone) means the state of forgetfulness. In other words
this man is not a hearer characterized by forgetfulness. The seed of
the Word of Truth has taken root in this man (Observe what this means
in the parable of the soils - Mt 13:23, Mk 4:20, Lk 8:15).
1. The apostle doth not say,
I have heard, that in every estate I should be content:
but, I have learned. Whence our first doctrine, that it
is not enough for Christians to hear their duty, but they must
learn their duty. It is one thing to hear and another thing to
learn; as it is one thing to eat and another thing to concoct (to
prepare by combining raw materials). Paul was a practitioner.
Christians hear much, but it is to be feared, learn little. (! cp
There were four sorts of grounds in the parable, (Lk 8.5) and but one
good ground: an emblem (an object symbolizing and suggesting another
object or an idea) of this truth, many hearers, but few learners.
There are two things which keep us from learning.
1. Slighting what we hear.
Christ is the pearl of price; when
we disesteem this pearl, we shall never learn either its value, or its
virtue. The gospel is a rare mystery; in one place, (Acts 20.24) it is
called “the gospel of grace;” in another, (1Co 4.4) “the
gospel of glory;” because in it, as in a transparent glass, the
glory of God is resplendent. But he who has learned to contemn (scorn)
this mystery, will hardly ever learn to obey it; he who looks upon the
things of heaven as things by and bye, and perhaps the carrying on of
a trade, or carrying on some politic design as of greater importance,
this man is on the high road to damnation, and will hardly ever learn
the things of His peace. Who will learn that which he thinks is scarce
2. Forgetting what we hear.
If a scholar has his rules laid
before him, and he forgets them as fast as he reads them, he will
never learn. (Jas 1.25-note)
Aristotle calls the memory the scribe of the soul; and
Bernard calls it the stomach of the soul, because it hath a
retentive faculty, and turns heavenly food into blood and spirits; we
have great memories in other things, we remember that which is vain.
Cyrus could remember the name of every soldier in his huge army. We
remember injuries: this is to fill a precious cabinet with dung;
but as Hierom said, how soon do we forget the sacred truths of God?
We are apt to forget three
things: our faults, our friends, our instructions.
Many Christians are like sieves;
put a sieve into the water, and it is full; but take it forth of the
water, and all runs out: so, while they are hearing a sermon, they
remember something: but like the sieve out of the water, as soon as
they leave the church, all is forgotten. “Let these sayings, (says
Christ) sink down into your ears;” (Lk 9.44) in the original it is,
“put (or place) these sayings into your ears,” as a man who would hide
a jewel from being stolen, locks it up safe in his chest. Let them
sink: the word must not fall only as dew that wets the leaf, but as
rain which soaks to the root of the tree, and makes it fructify
(fruitful). O, how often does Satan, that fowl of the air, pick up the
good seed that is sown (Mt 13:19, Mk 4:15, Lk 8:12)!
USE. Let me put you upon a serious
trial. Some of you have heard much, — you have lived forty, fifty,
sixty years under the blessed trumpet of the gospel, — what have you
learned? You may have heard a thousand sermons, and yet not learned
one. Search your consciences.
1. You have heard much against
sin: are you hearers; or are you scholars? How many sermons have
you heard against covetousness, that it is the root, on which
pride, idolatry, treason do grow? One calls it a metropolitan sin; it
is a complex evil, it doth twist a great many sins in with it. There
is hardly any sin, but covetousness is a main ingredient of it; and
yet are you like the two daughters of the horse-leech, that cry,
“give! give!” How much have you heard against rash anger, that
is a short frenzy, a dry drunkenness; that it rests in the bosom of
fools; and upon the least occasion do your spirits begin to take fire?
How much have you heard against swearing: It is Christ’s
express mandate, “swear not at all.” (Mt 5.34-note)
This sin of all others may be termed the unfruitful work of darkness
It is neither sweetened with pleasure, nor enriched with profit, the
usual vermillion (vivid reddish orange) with which Satan paints sin.
Swearing is forbidden with a subpoena. While the swearer shoots his
oaths, like flying arrows at God to pierce His glory, God shoots “a
flying roll” of curses against him. And do you make your tongue a
racket by which you toss oaths as tennis balls? do you sport
yourselves with oaths, as the Philistines did with Samson, which will
at last pull the house down around your ears? Alas! how have they
learned what sin is, who have not learned to leave sin! Does the one
who knows what a viper is play with it?
2. You have heard much of Christ: have you learned Christ? The
Jews, as Jerom said, carried Christ in their Bibles, but not in their
heart; their sound “went into all the earth; (Ro 10.18-note)
the prophets and apostles were as trumpets, whose sound went abroad
into the world: yet many thousands who heard the noise of these
trumpets, had not learned Christ, “they have not all obeyed.” (Ro
(1.) A man may know much of Christ, and yet not learn Christ: the
devils knew Christ. (Mt 1.24) (2.) A man may preach Christ, and yet
not learn Christ, as Judas and the pseudo-apostles. (Ph 5.15) (3.) A
man may profess Christ, and yet not learn Christ: there are many
professors in the world that Christ will profess against. (Mt 7.22,
Q. What it is then to learn Christ?
1. To learn Christ is to be made like Christ, to have the
divine characters of his holiness engraven upon our hearts: “we all
with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are
changed into the same image.” (2Co 3.18) There is a metamorphosis
made; a sinner, viewing Christ’s image in the glass of the gospel, is
transformed into that image. Never did any man look upon Christ with a
spiritual eye, but he went away quite changed. A true saint is a
divine landscape picture, where all the rare beauties of Christ are
lively portrayed and drawn forth; he hath the same spirit, the same
judgment, the same will, with Jesus Christ.
2. To learn Christ, is to believe in him; “my Lord, and my
God,” (Jn 20.28) when we do not only believe God, but in God, which is
the actual application of Christ to ourselves, and as it were the
spreading of the sacred medicine of his blood upon our souls. You have
heard much of Christ, and yet cannot with an humble adherence say, “my
Jesus;” be not offended if I tell you, the devil can say his creed as
well as you.
3. To learn Christ, is to love Christ. When we have
Bible-conversations, our lives like rich diamonds cast a sparkling
lustre in the church of God, and are, in some sense, parallel with the
life of Christ, as the transcript with the original. So much for the
first notion of the word. (Read
his entire book - Art of Divine Contentment An Exposition of
(of work) (2041)
(ergon) is the general word for work and depicts that which
displays itself in activity of any kind. In secular Greek, this word
group (includes ergazomai, energeia, etc) denoted active zeal and
occurred in relation to all kinds of work.
from poieo = to do, to make, to accomplish) describes one who
does something as his occupation such as a producer, a poet or an
author. The other sense describes a doer or a performer, speaking of
one who does what is prescribed, such as one who keeps the law (Ro
remarks that this effectual doer...
is marked by persistent performance
of what he has learned in being a receptive hearer of God's word. The
emphasis is not on certain notable deeds he performs but on his
characteristic obedience to God's known will.
Keep the context
in mind, for James had just charge his readers to...
yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers (akroates
= "auditors") who delude themselves. (Jas 1:22-note)
Thomas Watson rightly observed that...
Doers of the Word are the best
There are many who complain of
their short memories when they are hearing sermons. Well, then, let
them be quick about doing what the sermon bids them, and then they
will not be forgetful hearers. You have heard how one good woman
described the effect of the sermon she has heard. She was one who
washed wool, and when her minister went round to ask her what she had
learned on the previous Sabbath, she did not even recollect the text.
“Oh, Janet!” said he, “I am afraid you are a forgetful hearer; I
cannot see what good the sermon has done to you.” So she took him to
the back of her house, where she had a pump; and she worked at the
handle while she held underneath the spout a sieve full of wool that
was dirty and foul. The water ran through the wool, and through the
sieve, and all ran away. “There,” she said, “this sieve is like my
memory; but, sir, though the water does not stop in the sieve, it
washes the wool; and what you preach, though it does not stop in my
memory, it has washed my heart and cleansed my life and
conversation.” Never mind about keeping the water in the sieve so
long as it washes the wool. No man can be said to be a forgetful
hearer who is a doer of the work that he is bidden to perform.
THIS MAN WILL BE BLESSED IN
WHAT HE DOES: houtos makarios en te poiesei autou estai. (3SFMI):
(Psalms 19:11; 106:3; 119:2,3; Lk 6:47, 48, 49; 11:28; Jn 13:17;
1Co 15:58; Re 14:13; 22:14 )
- James now presents the blessed promised of the blessing of one's
activities in our short life on this earth -- life as it was meant to
be lived (in Christ).
(estai) introduces the promise that should give this man blessed
assurance, that he shares in the blessed state of life with God in the
future. And yet there is also the sense in which he experiencing
blessing even in this present life. Loving obedience to God's Word of
Truth and His perfect will, is the ultimate secret of the happy
(blessed) Christian life in this world and the world to come!
is derived from a root makar,
(others say from "mak" which means large or lengthy)
which means to be happy, but not in the usual sense of happiness based
on positive circumstances.
A blessed or
makarios person describes the one who is free from daily cares and
worries because his every breath and circumstance is in the hands of
His Maker Who gives him such an assurance (such a "blessing").
Makarios describes the kind of happiness that comes from receiving
Blessed connotes the state
of “prosperity” that comes when a superior bestows his favor
(blessing) on one.
The Greeks used makarios to refer to their gods and thus
"the blessed ones" were the gods. They were "blessed" because they had
achieved a state of happiness and contentment in life that was beyond
all cares, labors, and even death. The blessed ones were beings who
lived in some other world away from the cares and problems and worries
of ordinary people. To be blessed, you had to be a god. Homer used
makarios to describe a state unaffected by the world of men, who were
subject to poverty, weakness, and death. The Greeks also used
makarios in reference to the dead who were "the blessed ones", men
and women who, through death, had reached the other world of the gods
and so were now beyond the cares and problems and worries of earthly
life. To be blessed, you had to be dead, a state many of us have felt
like we would just as well experience because of the nature of our
manifold troubles and afflictions at the time. Finally, the Greeks
used makarios to refer to the socioeconomic elite, the wealthy,
the idea being (completely false I might add) that their riches and
power put them above the normal cares and problems and worries of the
lower socioeconomic strata, who constantly struggled to make it in
life. In short, the Greeks felt that one had to be either a god, dead
or filthy rich to be blessed (makarios)! And so we see another one of
the words (like doulos, charis, etc) that the Bible
elevated in status and meaning, as described below in a compilation
from many different resources.
MacArthur writes that makarios...
means to be happy,
blissful. That happiness is a divine pronouncement, the assured
benefit of those who meet the conditions God requires. (MacArthur,
J: Matthew 1-7 Chicago: Moody Press or
Makarios is a state of existence in relationship to God in
which a person is “blessed” from God’s perspective even when he or she
doesn’t feel happy or isn’t presently experiencing good fortune. This
does not mean a conferral of blessing or an exhortation to live a life
worthy of blessing; rather, it is an acknowledgment that the ones
indicated are blessed. Negative feelings, absence of feelings, or
adverse conditions cannot take away the blessedness of those who exist
in such a relationship with God!
Makarios ultimately describes the state those who believe in
Christ and in so possessing God, possess everything. In addition since
they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, they are fully satisfied no
matter what their circumstances. It is interesting that Aristotle
contrasted makarios with the Greek word endees which means "the needy
Friedrich Hauck says that the Greek word Makarios
overwhelmingly to the distinctive religious joy which accrues to man
form his share in the salvation of the kingdom of God."
Makarios means possessing
the favor of God, experiencing "spiritual prosperity". It
describes a state of being marked by fullness from God. And so what
Jesus is saying in the "Beatitudes" is "Spiritually prosperous
(blessed) are the poor in spirit...", etc (Mt 5:3-note) And thus some of the translators like Wuest pick up
prosperous are the destitute and helpless in the realm of the
Expositor's Bible Commentary notes that...
describes the man
who is singularly favored by God and therefore in some sense
"happy"...As for "happy" (TEV), it will not do for the Beatitudes,
having been devalued in modern usage. (Gaebelein,
F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament.
In what he
does - Literally the idea is "in his doing".
The apostle does not say, for
his deeds, that any man is blessed, but in his deed.
This is a way in which we shall certainly
find blessedness, but not the cause of it. This blessedness does not
lie in knowing, but in doing the will of God.
(poiesis) is more literally doing or what one is doing. Spurgeon alluded to
doing when he said that believers are to
be "walking Bibles"
The singular noun "doing" (poiesis),
used only here in the New Testament,
views his whole life as a consistent doing. God wants more than
isolated acts of obedience; the believer's entire life must be devoted
to the incessant doing of His will.
The blessedness of true religion
lies very much in the practical effect of it. Hearing is pleasant; but
doing is the effectual proof of grace.
The sum and substance of the
preparation needed for a coming eternity is that you believe
what the Bible tells you and do what the Bible bids you.
A B Simpson in Christ in
the Bible has a chapter on PRACTICAL OBEDIENCE
"But be ye doers of the word and
not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if a man be a hearer
of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his
natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way,
and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso
looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he
being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall
be blessed in his deed" (James 1:22, 23, 24, 25-note).
Practical obedience naturally
follows the subject of practical faith. Trust and obey are the two
wings which maintain the equilibrium of our flight, the two oars which
keep us steadily in the channel of our course. This paragraph unfolds
some of the profoundest ethical principles of the New Testament.
I. THE WILL OF GOD AS THE SUPREME AUTHORITY OF RIGHT AND DUTY.
The Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of
turning. Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth." Here our
very conversion is referred back to the will of God as its supreme
source. And God Himself is recognized as the Sovereign Being who sits
enthroned in His eternal, unchangeable and infallible authority and
righteousness as the Sovereign of our being and of all being. The
figure here involved in the beautiful original phrase is that of the
parallax by which the astronomer measures the distance of the remotest
stars, The parallax is the angle formed by two points on the earth's
surface from which an observation is taken of a distant star according
to the angle made. From these two points we measure the distance of
the star by the acuteness of the angle. But with God he says there is
no parallax. Looking at Him from every standpoint He is eternally the
same and His will is forever the same, and therefore, there is a fixed
standard of right and wrong, and duty is not a mere accommodation to
circumstances, sentiments, or human opinions, but conformity to the
will of God.
II. THE WORD OF GOD AS THE STANDARD OF RIGHT AND WRONG.
For this supreme Lawgiver has given us a law, and has revealed to us
His will concerning our conduct. That law is here called "the perfect
law of liberty." It is a perfect law. There is no greater miracle in
the Bible than its revelation of righteousness. Even the Decalogue
itself, although not nearly so perfect in its primal edition at Sinai
as it has become through the teachings of the Son of Man, and as
reissued and reenacted by Him through the Sermon on the Mount and His
wise and holy teachings, is a marvelous monument of the wisdom and
righteousness of God. One of our American Justices, it is said, was
converted from infidelity to Christianity by studying the Mosaic Law.
Where did Moses get that law? he asked himself after carefully reading
and analysing it. There is nothing in the literature of Egypt, Chaldea
or Greece from which he could have derived its profound and
comprehensive principles of jurisprudence. Everything is there in the
most condensed and comprehensive form. Under two great tables he
classifies our duty to God and to one another, and covers all ethical
questions with sublime simplicity and completeness. He must have got
it from heaven. And so he did. And as we read it in its larger edition
in the spiritual teachings of the New Testament, it claims the
subjection of our conscience, the homage of our will, the obedience of
our life, and we are constrained to say of it, as Jehovah said of His
ancient commandments, that it is "for our good always."
III. THE LAW OF LIBERTY.
But it is here described by a new phrase, "the law of liberty." This
is the New Testament law, the law of love. As it came to us from
Sinai, it was not the law of liberty, but of condemnation. But now its
penalty met in the person of Christ, and its motive power supplied by
His Holy Spirit and His indwelling life in our heart, it becomes to us
not the authority of necessity, but the constraint of love. It is the
law in our heart becoming part of our nature so that we keep it not
because we have to, but because we love to. As citizens of the State
we do not avoid the crime of murder because we fear that we shall be
electrocuted if we murder, but because our nature lifts us above it.
We do not want to murder. We are under the law of liberty. We make the
law ourselves, and so long as we keep it, we are free from it, for
"the law is not made for a righteous man, but for transgressors." The
obedient are lifted above it, and are free from its condemnation and
IV. THE ENGRAFTED WORD (James. 1:21-note).
A new figure is here introduced. The principle of grafting is very
simple and suggestive. On a common root or stock a cultivated bud or
branch is fastened, and trained to grow into its new trunk and stem
until all its vegetable organism has become connected with the new
fountain head. And then it begins to bear, not the fruit of the old
stem, which is but a common crab or wild vine, but the cultivated
fruit in all its mellowness and delicacy of flavor. It is really
drawing upon the life of the old root, but crowning it with new beauty
and richest fruitfulness. So upon the stem of our natural life God
engrafts His Word, and so infuses and in-works that Word into our very
life that it becomes the element of our being and the second nature of
all our habits, controlling us without arbitrary constraint and making
it our delight to do His will. Thus it becomes to us a law of liberty.
We do right because we want to. We serve God because we love Him.
Obedience becomes as natural as sin was before, and the heart is
spontaneous and free in all its spiritual affections and actions.
Obedience, therefore, is not a matter of outward authority, but inward
impulse. Character is not built as you would build a house, by adding
plank to plank and timber to timber from the outside, but as God
builds a tree, by throwing out life from the inside, and adding each
new layer from the heart out.
This is the secret of liberty and power in all the natural and
spiritual world. Take the laws of the physical realm and get them
incorporated into your industrial art, and what power they exercise!
Take the law of electricity and put it in your house as a telephone,
and it will carry your messages for hundreds of miles. Put it in your
towns and cities as a telegraph system and it will traverse continents
and oceans with its messages of fire. Put it in your vehicles and it
will carry your trolleys and your automobiles. Put it in your
factories and it will become the motive power of all business,
transportation and commerce. But let it get beyond your control,
disobey it, and it will strike you lifeless with the lightning's awful
blaze. So the Word of God must be received, incorporated, engrafted,
and assimilated into our spiritual being, and then it becomes the
motive power of our being, "the man of our counsel" and the guide of
V. THE MORAL CONDITIONS WHICH HINDER THE FREE OPERATION OF THE WORD
OF GOD IN OUR LIVES.
"Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness,
and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save
your souls." (James 1:21-note) Just as the electric current must be
insulated before it can be operated, so the Word of God cannot work
freely in a soul that willingly indulges in sin. Two forms of evil are
here classified, one the impure, the other the malignant. Filthiness
includes all forms of sensual indulgence; naughtiness all forms of
bitter and malicious feeling. Either of these will cloud the spiritual
vision and interrupt the life of God in the heart. Just as the compass
on shipboard can be deflected from its true direction by a
counter-attraction through some piece of metal thoughtlessly left on
deck, so conscience, though sincere, may be warped and misdirected by
the influence of unholy desire or indulgence, and the soul perverted
even when flattering itself that it is acting with the deepest
sincerity and doing that which it believes to be right. There must,
therefore, be a spirit of surrendered self-will and holy meekness, if
we would receive the engrafted word. The apostle Peter expresses the
same truth in almost identical terms, "Wherefore laying aside all
malice, and all guile, and hypocrisy, and envies, and all evil
speakings, as newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that
ye may grow thereby." (1Pe 2:1, 2-note) Therefore it has come to pass
that this same Word of God has been used to defend the most bitter
persecutions and to justify the most unholy teachings by men whose
judgment was biased by a wrong heart, and whose conscience was
perverted by an unsanctified spirit.
VI. THE SELF-REVEALING POWER OF THE WORD OF GOD.
It is here compared to a mirror, and the ordinary hearer of the Word
to a man beholding his natural face in the glass. But the hasty glance
passes, and "straight-way [he] forgetteth what manner of man he was."
The true hearer is represented by the man who takes a nearer view of
himself in the sacred mirror, and becomes not a forgetful hearer of
the Word, but a doer. Literally translated, this should read,
"Whoso looketh nearer into the perfect law of liberty and maketh his abode
there, this man being not a forgetful hearer, but an energetic doer,
shall be blessed in his doing."
The beginning of all self-improvement
is self-knowledge, and the most wholesome knowledge we can have of
ourselves is to know our faults. "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for
theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Blessed are they that are
dissatisfied, for they shall be satisfied, so this has been happily
translated. It is thus that the Word of God sanctifies us by showing
us first our need, and then leading us to Christ for the supply. We
look into the picture of love first in the thirteenth chapter of First
Corinthians, and we see how little we have of the love that suffereth
long and is kind; and humbled by a sense of our failure, we take
Christ for the grace of love. We bring our strifes and quarrels to the
teaching of Jesus in the eighteenth and nineteenth chapters of
Matthew, and we begin to settle our disputes according to the Word.
Thus we "discern ourselves," and by true self-judgment we escape the
divine judgment and rise to a higher righteousness, taking Christ as
our Sanctification over against our self-condemnation. The willingness
to see ourselves in our true light is the very highest proof of a true
heart. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," and the best
evidence that there is no hidden sin covered up in our heart is our
readiness to say, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and
know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead
me in the way everlasting."
VII. THE BLESSEDNESS OF DOING.
"This man shall be blessed in his doing." Having seen our fault and
also the vision of God's highest will for us, now follows the
responsibility of practical obedience. James is a thorough believer in
good works. He is no musty ascetic living in pensive cloisters and
dreaming his life away in self-centered introspection, but a man of
wholesome action carrying his religion into the light of day and the
field of human life and helpful duty. It is in the doing that the
1. This is the remedy for doubt and the secret of faith. "If
any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be
of God, or whether I speak of myself." (John 7:17) Don't argue with
your skeptic. Say to him as Christ used to say, "Come and see." Prove
Christianity by testing it. Go to God with even the little faith you
have, or if you have nothing but doubt to bring, go with your doubt.
Tell Him the worst. If you can only pray, "O God, if there be a God,
help me," He will hear that cry. The writer once knew of an
intelligent infidel being converted by what might be called an
unconscious prayer. His Christian wife had just died, and in the
remembrance of her beautiful life and still more beautiful death, his
heart was bursting with agony, and before he realized it, he had
uttered a sob of prayer to her God for comfort and help. Instantly he
remembered that he did not believe in her God, but before he had time
to recall his prayer by an act of reasoning, it had reached heaven
through an impulse of his heart, and the answer had come back to him
in a new consciousness such as he had never felt before, and from that
moment he knew there was a God. He had proved Him by the practical
2. This is the best way to find salvation. Take it as Christ
has freely offered it, and then begin to act as if you had it, and you
will be blessed in your doing. The best formula for beginning a
Christian life that we have ever heard is the simple resolution of
Hendly Vivars the night in which he turned away from a life of
ungodliness to follow Christ, "If this be true for me, I will live
from this moment as a man that has been cleansed from all sin by the
blood of Christ." That decision put him on salvation ground, and from
that moment he was a Christian. The most happy and useful Christian
the writer has ever known was a gentleman who struggled for months for
a religious experience without any result, and then quietly walked
into the woods one day and made this resolution, "From this moment I
will serve Christ as my Master whether I am lost or saved. My business
is to follow Him. The responsibility of my salvation rests with Him."
Before twenty-four hours had passed, that man was rejoicing in the
experience that he had stopped seeking, and was blessed in his doing.
3. This is the way to realize the experience of Christ's indwelling
and the baptism of the Spirit. Simply yield yourself to God and
claim the promise of the Spirit. And then begin to act as if you had
Him as your Sanctifier, Keeper and Indwelling Life, and He will answer
to your faith, and meet your trust just where you look for Him and
recognize Him. If you recognize Him in your heart, you will find Him
in your heart. If you recognize Him in some distant heaven, He will
meet you there at a distance. If you count upon Him, He will answer to
your expectation and meet your faith. If you venture on Him, He will
be there every time. It is the doing that brings the blessing.
4. Are you seeking for healing? Christ never healed anybody on
his back or his bed. "Stretch forth thy hand," was His prescription to
the man with the withered hand. "Get up and walk," was His command to
the paralytic. "Go, show yourselves to the priests," He said to the
lepers, and "as they went they were healed." "Go thy way, thy son
liveth," He told the anxious father, and as he was obeying, the
message met him that the healing had come. It was in doing something
they all received the blessing. And so still we must show our faith by
our works, and find strength in stepping out even in our weakness, and
throwing ourselves upon the strength of God for life's duties and
5. Would you find joy and happiness? Again it will meet you in
doing the will of God. "Well done, good and faithful servant," is the
significant benediction of the Master, "enter thou into the joy of thy
Lord." It is duty well done that brings the joy of the Lord. "What is
heaven?" said one of our eccentric preachers. "I'll tell you what
heaven is. It's out yonder in that little back street where a poor
widow is weeping over her roofless children and sitting on her boxes
and furniture on the street. Go to her with a basket of groceries, a
load of coal and a good-sized bank note for her unpaid rent, and you
will soon find what heaven is." And the hard-fisted hearer came next
day to tell Mr. Jones that he had been in heaven the last twenty-four
hours, ever since he had found that poor widow and helped her out of
The writer remembers a New Year long ago in his own experience when he
dedicated a whole month, beginning with the week of prayer, to wait in
his musty old study for a fuller baptism of the Spirit. He had
received the Spirit, but he was straining after something more. Day
after day he prayed, and left his duties largely undone. Thicker grew
the murky air, and darker the visions of his troubled brain. More
intense became his sensations and temptations, and more terrible the
struggle with his feelings and his spiritual foes. But still he
persevered, expecting surely some mighty blessing. At last one day
when his brain was almost bursting with the strain, he turned to his
Bible with a cry for direction and help. Before him in letters of
light he read, "He is not here, He is risen. He goeth before you into
Galilee. There shall ye see Him. Go ye and teach all nations," etc. In
a moment the message was plain. Not dreaming, but doing. And as he
went forth from that cloister to the bedsides of the sick and the
pressing duties of a sad world, lo, the light returned, the sky
cleared, the Master was revealed, the Lord drew nigh, and a blessing
came which has never ceased through all these years to meet him still,
as he goes forth in self-forgetting love to bless others, to pray for
others and to find the fellowship of the Master in doing His perfect
6. Finally, in the work of the Lord and the ministry of our
Christian service we shall find that what we do and what we are count
for more than what we say. Missionary Richards preached for many
years with little effect to the savages of the Congo, until one day he
began to live the Sermon on the Mount in their midst, and told them he
was going to act according to all its precepts. Before the day was
over they had taken him at his word, and the last stick of his
furniture was gone. But before the next sun went down they had felt
that they, too, must live according to the Sermon, and they brought
back his furniture with compound interest. Before many months were
passed hundreds of them were saved, and today the largest congregation
on the Congo stands there at Banza Manteke as the monument, not of
saying, but of doing the Word of God.
In the last months of the Civil War there was a soldier in
Andersonville prison named Frank Smith. The day came for the exchange
of prisoners. Six Northern soldiers were to be released for six
Confederates, and Frank Smith heard with delight his name read. But a
poor fellow with a wife and children came and pleaded so hard that
Frank gave up his ticket of release, and let the other be his
substitute and go home to the little family that needed him more. The
months rolled round, and again there was a release of prisoners, and
once more Frank Smith heard his name called and dreamed of home and
liberty. But he remembered an infidel whom he had often talked to in
the prison, and he said, "I cannot go till I make one more appeal to
him to accept Christ." But the infidel laughed him to scorn, and told
him that talk was cheap. Then Frank breathed a prayer and made a great
resolution. Taking his little ticket of release from his pocket he
said, "Take this, and in my place tomorrow walk out into freedom." The
infidel started and looked hard at him. "What made you do this?" he
said. "The love of Christ," he said, "the Christ that you will not
receive." Then the proud heart broke; sobbing and kneeling beside him,
he asked forgiveness for his hard heart, and gave himself to the
Savior whose love could make such sacrifice possible. "It was not what
you said that convinced me," he explained, "but it was what you did."
Once again there came a day when a little company walked forth from
that awful dungeon into liberty, and for the third time Frank Smith's
name was on the roll. He went to bid goodbye to a lad who was dying of
consumption. The poor fellow wept bitterly and said: "Oh, Frank, I had
hoped that you could be with me to the last. I have nobody else to
pray with me or point me to the Savior. How shall I ever die alone?"
Again Frank closed his eyes, lifted his heart to God, and formed
another big resolution. He gave his ticket of liberty for the third
time to some one else, and he went back, and, throwing his arms around
the dying boy, he said, "I'll not leave you till He comes to take
you." And he held the hand of the sinking lad until the gates of light
opened, and with blessings on his lips a ransomed soul passed in.
Then on the dark storm clouds of war burst the rainbow of peace. The
gates of Andersonville prison swung open forever, and this Christian
hero went forth to well earned liberty with a record of Christian
heroism and blessed doing mightier than libraries of books or sermons.
So may we be blessed in our doing. (A. B. Simpson. Christ in the Bible