James 1:22 Commentaries: But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
James 1:22
But be you doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(22) Doers of the word.—Acting up to the full of their knowledge, whether gained by the spoken or the written Word of God. There is a force in the original sentence, which our own language cannot supply. The term “deceiving” is the contrary of that rendered “word,” and means its corruption; the Word which is the source of knowledge and life may be so handled as to cause error and death. No acquaintance with the Bible, apart from the practice of its precepts, will avail the Christian any more than it did the Jew. “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers shall be justified” (Romans 2:13). Those who deceive themselves may not altogether be hypocrites; there is a subtler danger of being blind, and nevertheless exclaiming “We see.” (Comp. John 9:41.)

James 1:22. But be ye doers of the word — See on Matthew 7:21; Matthew 7:24. We are then doers of the word, when, being enlightened by its doctrines, awed by its threatenings, and encouraged by its promises, we, through the aid of divine grace, love and obey its precepts, both those which enjoin repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, as terms necessary to be complied with in order to our justification and regeneration, and those subsequent commands which show how those, who are already justified and born from above, ought to walk that they may please God, and save their souls; and not hearers only — Not contenting yourselves with mere hearing, or even with understanding and believing what you hear, without reducing it to practice; deceiving your own selves — As if it was sufficient to know your Master’s will without doing it. Some suppose that in these words the apostle refers primarily to the Jews, whose doctrine it was, 1st, That to be Abraham’s seed was sufficient to obtain for them God’s favour, and secure them against his judgments; 2d, That circumcision procured them acceptance with God; 3d, That all Israelites had a portion in the world to come; and especially, 4th, That to be employed in hearing and studying the law was of itself sufficient. But it seems more likely that he gives this caution with a reference to those Gnostics and other Antinomians that were creeping fast into the church; and were hearers only, not even considering the word they heard, and therefore not understanding it; and especially not experiencing its power to regenerate and save them from the guilt and power of their sins, and restore them to the divine image. The words, παραλογιζομενοι εαυτους, rendered, deceiving your own selves, properly signify, imposing upon yourselves by sophistical reasonings; an expression here used with great propriety, and very applicable to all those professors of Christianity who abuse the doctrines of grace to Antinomian purposes, and make void the moral law through a pretence of faith.1:22-25 If we heard a sermon every day of the week, and an angel from heaven were the preacher, yet, if we rested in hearing only, it would never bring us to heaven. Mere hearers are self-deceivers; and self-deceit will be found the worst deceit at last. If we flatter ourselves, it is our own fault; the truth, as it is in Jesus, flatters no man. Let the word of truth be carefully attended to, and it will set before us the corruption of our nature, the disorders of our hearts and lives; and it will tell us plainly what we are. Our sins are the spots the law discovers: Christ's blood is the laver the gospel shows. But in vain do we hear God's word, and look into the gospel glass, if we go away, and forget our spots, instead of washing them off; and forget our remedy, instead of applying to it. This is the case with those who do not hear the word as they ought. In hearing the word, we look into it for counsel and direction, and when we study it, it turns to our spiritual life. Those who keep in the law and word of God, are, and shall be, blessed in all their ways. His gracious recompence hereafter, would be connected with his present peace and comfort. Every part of Divine revelation has its use, in bringing the sinner to Christ for salvation, and in directing and encouraging him to walk at liberty, by the Spirit of adoption, according to the holy commands of God. And mark the distinctness, it is not for his deeds, that any man is blessed, but in his deed. It is not talking, but walking, that will bring us to heaven. Christ will become more precious to the believer's soul, which by his grace will become more fitted for the inheritance of the saints in light.But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only - Obey the gospel, and do not merely listen to it. Compare Matthew 7:21.

Deceiving your own selves - It is implied here, that by merely hearing the word but not doing it, they would deceive their own souls. The nature of this deception was this, that they would imagine that that was all which was required, whereas the main thing was that they should be obedient. If a man supposes that by a mere punctual attendance on preaching, or a respectful attention to it, he has done all that is required of him, he is laboring under a most gross self-deception. And yet there are multitudes who seem to imagine that they have done all that is demanded of them when they have heard attentively the word preached. Of its influence on their lives, and its claims to obedience, they are utterly regardless.

22. Qualification of the precept, "Be swift to hear": "Be ye doers … not hearers only"; not merely "Do the word," but "Be doers" systematically and continually, as if this was your regular business. James here again refers to the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 7:21-29).

deceiving your own selves—by the logical fallacy (the Greek implies this) that the mere hearing is all that is needed.

But be ye doers of the word; the same as doers of the work, Jam 1:25, namely, which the word prescribes; q.d. Receive the word by faith into your hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in your lives: see Luke 11:28 John 13:17.

And not hearers only; not contenting yourselves with a bare hearing the word, though it have no influence upon you.

Deceiving your own selves; playing the sophisters with, or putting a fallacy upon, yourselves; particularly, persuading yourselves into a good opinion of your state, merely because of your being hearers of the word, Matthew 7:21. But be ye doers of the word,.... And they are such, who spiritually understand it; gladly receive it; and from the heart obey it, and make a sincere and ingenuous profession of it; and who submit to the ordinances it directs to, and keep them as they have been delivered; and live, and walk, becoming their profession of it. The Arabic and Ethiopic versions read, "be ye doers of the law"; and so one of Stephens's copies, as in Romans 2:13

and not hearers only; though the word should be heard swiftly and readily, and received with meekness; yet it should not be barely heard, and assented to; but what is heard should be put in practice; and especially men should not depend upon their hearing, as if that would save them; this is deceiving your own selves; such as rest upon the outward hearing of the word will be sadly deceived, and will find themselves miserably mistaken, another day; see Luke 13:25. Arguments taken from hence are like the sophisms, paralogisms, and false reasonings of sophisters, which carry a fair show, and ensnare and deceive.

{15} But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, {16} deceiving your own selves.

(15) Another admonition: therefore God's word is heard, that we may model our lives according to the laws it contains. {16} He adds reasons, and those most weighty: first, because they that do otherwise seriously harm themselves.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Jam 1:22. The exhortations given in Jam 1:19 form the starting-point for what follows. The next section, to the end of chap. 2, is attached to the thought ταχὺς εἰς τὸ ἀκοῦσαι, which is continued in δέξασθε τὸν ἔμφυτον λόγον. The word must be so heard and received that it produces a corresponding activity. James first expresses this thought briefly and definitely: “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” The verb γίνεσθε is neither intended to express the successionem perpetuam horum exercitiorum (Semler), nor to indicate that hitherto the readers had not been ποιηταὶ λόγου; this indication is contained in the whole exhortation, but not in the verb, which is to be translated not by become, but by be; comp. chap. Jam 3:1; Matthew 6:16; Matthew 10:16; Matthew 24:44; John 20:27; Romans 12:16.[98] The particle δέ unites this verse with the preceding as its completion. The readers ought to be ποιηταὶ λόγου, namely, of the λόγος ἔμφυτος (Jam 1:21), or of the λόγος ἀληθείας (Jam 1:18), the gospel, inasmuch as it requires a definite Christian conduct, and on this account in Jam 1:25 is expressly called a νόμος. On ποιηταί, comp. Jam 4:11; 1Ma 2:67; Romans 2:13 (John 7:19 : ποιεῖν τὸν νόμον); in the classical language, ὁ ποιητὴς νόμου is the lawgiver. Theile correctly observes: substantiva plus sonant quam participia; the substantive expresses the enduring relation.

In the reading μὴ ἀκροαταὶ μόνον, μόνον is closely united with ἀκροαταὶ: not such who are only hearers. The word ἀκροατής, in classical Greek “an attentive hearer,” occurs in the N. T. only here and in Romans 2:13, but both times without that additional meaning. On the thought, comp. besides Romans 2:13 (where the same contrast is expressed), Matthew 7:21 ff.; Luke 11:28; John 13:17.

παραλογιζόμενοι] belongs to the subject contained in γίνεσθε (de Wette, Wiesinger), deceiving your own selves, and not as a more exact definition of ἀκροαταί, “hearers who deceive themselves” (Stolz, Gebser, Schneckenburger, Lange). The import of the word (besides here in the N. T. only in Colossians 2:4, in the O. T. Genesis 29:25, LXX.; synonymous expressions are found in Jam 1:26; Galatians 6:3; 1 John 1:8) is to draw false inferences, to deceive by sophistical reasoning. The warning is directed against such who deceive themselves by sophisms on the utility of mere hearing.

[98] Meyer certainly explains the imperative γίνου, γίνεσθε, uniformly by “become thou,” “become ye;” but this meaning is frequently retained in a manner more or less forced; comp. especially John 20:27. The N. T. usage, to consider γίνου as equivalent to ἴσθι, is explained from the fact that the Christian must yet ever more become that which he as a Christian is.Jam 1:22. γίνεσθε: perhaps best expressed by the German “Werdet,” though Luther does not render it so.—ποιηταὶ λόγου, καὶ, etc.: Taylor quotes an appropriate passage from the Babylonian Talmud: “On Exodus 24:7 which ends (lit.), We will do and we will hear, it is written (Shabbath, 88a) that “when Israel put we will do before we will hear, there came sixty myriads of ministering angels, and attached to each Israelite two crowns, one corresponding to we will do, and the other to we will hear; and when they sinned there came down a hundred and twenty myriads of destroying angels and tore them off” (quoted by Mayor, p. 67). The duty of doing as well as hearing is frequently insisted upon in Jewish writings. See, further, Matthew 7:24, etc. As to the precise meaning to be attached to λόγος opinions differ; but the mention twice made of hearing the word makes it fairly certain that in the first instance—whatever further meaning it connoted—reference is being made to the reading of the Scriptures in the synagogue; further, the mention, also twice made, of the doing of the word makes it a matter of practical certainty that the reference is to the Torah, the Law; the fact that Jews are being addressed only emphasises this. For the attitude of the Jews towards the Torah during the centuries immediately preceding Christianity and onwards, see Oesterley and Box, The Religion and Worship of the Synagogue, pp. 135–151; here it must suffice to say that it was regarded as the final revelation of God for all time, that it was the means of salvation, and that its practice was the highest expression of loyalty towards God. Jews who had from childhood been taught to regard the Torah in this light would have found it very difficult to discard the time-honoured veneration accorded to it, and there was no need to do so, seeing the place that Christ Himself had given to it (Matthew 5:17-18; Matthew 7:12; Matthew 12:5; Matthew 19:17; Matthew 23:3; Luke 10:26; Luke 16:17; Luke 16:29), and provided that its teaching in general was regarded as preparatory to the embracing of Christianity. The intensely practical writer of this passage realised that those to whom he was writing must be drawn gently and gradually, without unduly severing them from their earlier belief, which, after all, contained so much which was identical with the new faith. The Torah, which had been rooted in their hearts and which was to them, in the most literal sense, the word of God, was the point of attachment between Judaism and Christianity; it was utilised by the writer in order to bring them to Christ, the “Word” of God in a newer, higher sense. All that he says here about the λόγος was actually the teaching of the Jews concerning the Torah, the revealed word of God; and all that he says was also equally true, only in a much higher sense, of the teaching of Christ, the “Word” of God,—this latter, higher conception of the “Word of God,” the מימרא, was one with which Hellenistic Jews were quite familiar;—what has been said can be illustrated thus:—

In Jam 1:18 it is said, “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth”; the Jews taught that they were the children of God by virtue of the Torah. In Jam 1:21 it is said, “Wherefore putting away all filthiness … receive the rooted word”; according to Jewish ideas, purity and the Torah were inseparable, it was an ancient Jewish belief that the Torah was the means whereby lust was annihilated in a man. In the same verse, the expression ἔμφυτος λόγος can have a two-fold meaning in reference to the Torah; either it contains an allusion to the belief that the Torah was implanted, like Wisdom, in God Himself from the very beginning, hence the expression ראשׁית (“beginning”) used of the Torah; or else the writer is referring to the teaching of the Torah which was implanted, and therefore rooted, in every Jew from the earliest years. Once more, it is said that this word is able to save souls. Among the Jews it was an axiom that the Torah was the means of salvation; to give but one quotation illustrative of this ancient belief, in Wajjikra Rabba, 29 it is written: אין אורח חיים אלא תורה (“Torah is the only way that leadeth to life”). And finally, as already remarked, the necessity of being doers as well as hearers of the Torah is a commonplace in Jewish literature. For many illustrations showing the correctness of what has been said, see Weber, Jüdische Theologie (2nd Ed.), pp. 14–38, Bousset, Die Religion des Judenthums (1st Ed.), pp. 87–120, the various editions of Midrashim translated by Wünsche in “Bibliotheca Rabbinica,” and the handy collection being issued under the editorship of Fiebig, entitled “Ausgewählte Mischnatractate”. It will have been noticed that all that the writer of this passage says about λόγος as applicable to the Law, or Torah, is equally applicable, only in a much higher sense, to Christ; this will be obvious and need not be proved by quotations. But it is interesting to observe that apparently precisely the same thing was done by our Lord Himself, as recorded by St. John in the fourth Gospel; He adapted Jewish teaching on the Torah and applied it to Himself; for details of this, see Oesterley and Box, op. cit., pp. 139 ff. It will be noticed that in our Epistle the writer presently goes on to substitute νόμος (Torah) for λόγος, Jam 1:25; this is very significant; the “perfect law of liberty,” and the “royal law,” both refer to the Torah as perfected by the “King of the Jews”.—παραλογιζόμενοι ἑαυτούς: i.e., deceiving the heart, as it is expressed in Jam 1:26; the rebuke shows the intimate knowledge on the part of the writer of the spiritual state of those to whom he is writing.22–25. Doers and Hearers

22. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only] The thought is the same, though illustrated by a different similitude, as that of the closing verses of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:24-28). The reference to the “hearers of the word” confirms the explanation given above of the Word of the Truth. It is not primarily the written word, for then we should have the “reader,” not the “hearer,” nor Christ as the Incarnate Word, but the spoken message from God to the soul of man—“Be ye doers;” literally, “become,” as though life were a continued process of such “becoming,” the condition not being that in which men find themselves by nature.

deceiving your own selves] The word is etymologically more definite than that commonly used for deceiving, and implies strictly the self-deception, if one may so speak, of bad logic. The hypocrite knew the major premiss; “The doers, not the hearers, are blessed,” but though conscience supplied the minor, “I am a hearer, not a doer,” he shut his eyes to it and failed to draw the conclusion. The use of the word in the LXX., as e. g. in Genesis 31:7; Genesis 31:41; Exodus 8:29, shews, however, that it had come to be used in the general sense of “cheating” or “defrauding,” and it may be questioned, therefore, how far the special sense is to be pressed here.[22. Παραλογιζόμενοι ἐαυτοὺς, deceiving their [“your”] own selves) Pleasing themselves in their hearing.—V. g.]Verse 22. - They are not merely to receive and hear the Word; they must also act upon it. Compare St. Paul's teaching in Romans 2:13, "For not the hearers (ἀκροαταὶ) of a law are just before God, but the doers of a law shall be justified." Ἀκροατής occurs nowhere else except in these passages. Deceiving your own selves (παραλογίζειν); to lead astray by false reasonings; only here and in Colossians 2:4. Not uncommon in the LXX. Hearers (ἀκροαταὶ)

Used by James only.

Deceiving (παραλογιζόμενοι)

From παρά, beside, contrary to, and λογίζομαι, to reckon, and hence to conclude by reasoning. The deception referred to is, therefore, that into which one betrays himself by false reasoning - reasoning beside the truth.

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