“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” (James 1:25).
Doers of the Word are persevering learners.
The phrase “and abides by it” in James 1:25 demands our close attention. “Abide” translates a Greek word that means “to stay beside,” “to remain,” or “to continue.” The idea is that a doer of the Word continually and habitually gazes into God’s perfect law. In other words, he is a persevering learner.
When you have that level of commitment to the Word, you will be an effectual doer—one who is in union with God’s will and seeks to obey it above all else. As you do that, God will bless you. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be successful in the eyes of the world, but your priorities and perspectives will be right, and the Lord will honor what you do.
This verse is a call to carefully examine yourself in light of God’s standards. That’s not a popular thing in our society because many people have an aversion to serious spiritual thought and self-examination. I believe that’s why Christian television, music, and other forms of entertainment are so popular. Escaping reality through entertainment is far more appealing to most people than gazing into the mirror of God’s Word and having their spiritual flaws and blemishes exposed. But if you desire to be like Christ, you must see yourself for what you are and make any needed corrections. To do that, you must continually examine your life in the light of Scripture.
Can you imagine what the church would be like if every Christian did that? Can you imagine the changes in your own life if you did it more consistently? Only the Holy Spirit can enable you to be a doer of the Word. So, yield to His leading through prayer and confession as you continue to study and apply God’s Word.
Suggestions for Prayer: Whenever you study Scripture, ask the Spirit to illuminate your mind and heart and to use the Word to transform you more and more into the image of Christ.
For Further Study: Read Colossians 3:16–17, noting what Paul says about responding to the Word.
1:25 In contrast is the man who looks into the word of God and who habitually reduces it to practice. His contemplative, meditative gazing has practical results in his life. To him the Bible is the perfect law of liberty. Its precepts are not burdensome. They tell him to do exactly what his new nature loves to do. As he obeys, he finds true freedom from human traditions and carnal reasonings. The truth makes him free. This is the man who benefits from the Bible. He does not forget what he has read. Rather he seeks to live it out in daily practice. His simple childlike obedience brings incalculable blessing to his soul. This one will be blessed in what he does.
25. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.
- A ready response
Look at the contrast. The person whose ears and heart are open to what God has to say literally bends over to look into the law of God, much the same as he does when he looks into the mirror that is placed horizontally on a table. However, the difference is that while he studies the perfect law of God he does not walk away from it, as does the person who casts a fleeting glance into a mirror. He continues to look intently into the Word. He meditates on it and obediently puts it into practice.
James resorts to using a synonym for the Word of God. He calls it the “perfect law” and causes the reader to recollect the content of Psalm 19. There David sings,
The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.…
By them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward. [vv. 7, 11]
The descriptive adjective perfect has an absolute, not a relative meaning. For instance, when Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48), he uses the adjective first in a relative sense (for man) and then in an absolute sense (for our heavenly Father).
Laws made and enacted by man are temporary and conditioned by culture, language, and location. By contrast, God’s law is permanent and unchangeable. It applies to everyone at any time and in any situation. It is perfect.
Why is the law perfect? Because God’s perfect law gives freedom and it alone sets man really free. That is, the law of God through Jesus Christ sets man free from the bondage of sin and selfishness. Says Jesus, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36; also consult Rom. 8:2, 15; Gal. 5:13). Within the boundaries of the law of God man is free, for there he lives in the environment God designated for him. When he crosses the boundary, he becomes a slave to sin. As long as he keeps the law, he is free.
And last, the man who continues to look into the perfect law and keeps it will be blessed. Why is that man happy? He knows that “the precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart” and “the commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes” (Ps. 19:8; compare Ps. 119:1–3). He finds joy in his work, joy in his family, and joy in his Lord. He knows that God is blessing him in all that he does (John 13:17).
25 Now the contrast. The “doer” “looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this.” In contrast with the man who looks in a mirror briefly and then walks away, the person who is actively engaged in applying the word to life stays focused on the perfect law. The term translated “looks intently” can be rendered “look into,” or “bend down to look,” and has the figurative meaning of investigation. Thus it is more than a mere glance, and both the NASB and NIV capture the note of effort by adding the word “intently.” The “perfect law of liberty” is a key concept for the book, governing the structure of the body with reference to it at 2:8 as “the royal law” and at 2:12–13 and 4:11–12. This law of liberty is the OT Scriptures epitomized in Leviticus 19:18, “love your neighbor as yourself” (2:8), which was emphasized to James through the teaching of Jesus (Moo, 94; Davids, 99–100). It is a law of liberty because it brings freedom to the one who lives by it.
The “doer” not only has this practice of investigating God’s law but stays with it. In other words, the law becomes a frame of reference for living. With the law ever before the eyes of the heart, this person lives out the law instead of forgetting it. This is the path of blessing. One thinks of passages such as Psalm 1:1–3: The person is blessed whose delight in the Lord’s law is manifested by a constant meditation on it. Such a person is like a tree planted by streams of water.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 176). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2224). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of James and the Epistles of John (Vol. 14, pp. 61–62). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
 Guthrie, G. H. (2006). James. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 227). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.