Perfect Law of Freedom
Perfect Law of Freedom
Words of Faith 4-21-2020
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2020
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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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.
It may seem odd to us that James talks about the perfect law giving freedom. We who are steeped in the teachings of Paul immediately recognize that it is not the law that gives life, but rather grace! So what is James talking about here?
James is speaking of "the perfect law of freedom.” The use of the word "law" reveals his Jewish orientation and that of his readers. The law in Judaism expresses the precepts and guidance of God, not just restrictions. James qualified this word to make sure his readers do not misunderstand. He describes this law as "perfect" or "completed" and as characterized by "freedom." This is not merely the Old Testament law or the Mosaic law that had been construed into a legalistic system for earning salvation by good works.
When James calls it the "perfect law," he has in mind the completed total of God's revealed truth. He is not speaking only about the preliminary portion found in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), but also the final revelation made through Christ and his apostles.
Jesus completed the law in His work of grace. This completed law is in contrast to that which is preliminary and preparatory. It is the "law of liberty" (Gr.), by which James means that it does not enslave. It is not enforced by external compulsion. Instead, it is freely accepted and fulfilled with glad devotion under the enablement of the Spirit of God.
James had just made clear the danger that lies in looking into the mirror of God's Word and then failing to do the Word. In contrast to the person who listens to the Word but does not do what it says, there is the person who both listens and puts what he hears into practice. He will be blessed in what he does. This is not a matter of legalism. It is a matter of discovering the truth of God and walking in response to His heart.
Part of the blessing James describes comes in the manner with which a person regards the Word of God. Such a person looks intently into God's truth. This Greek verb (parakypto) describes a penetrating absorption. It is the same word used to describe John's act of stooping and peering into the tomb of Jesus (John 20:5). This is not a casual glance or periodic study. James describes a person who stoops over the Scripture, zealously searching for its message and seeking to understand.
There is also a blessing derived from the fact that a person continues to do this. Psalm 1 speaks of blessing in the life of a person who meditates in God's law day and night. This is not a Christian who studied for a while in college or spent a year or two marking a well-worn Bible. This is a lifelong pursuit of the heart of God in His Word. This is a person who does not forget what he has heard. He or she does not walk away as though never having looked into the mirror. Instead, this person puts the truth into practice.
So, is this "Justification by Bible Study"? Not at all. James is not at odds with Paul and the truth that we are only saved by grace. James understood that the law reveals how sinful we are and how desperately we need God. But the completed law also gives us grace! The law also functions to give us freedom.
In much the same way, the Law of God offers an option of freedom simply by telling us that there is another way to live. Oh, we cannot live that freedom apart from the power of Holy Spirit. But without the Law, we would not know there is any other choice at all.
The perfect Law reveals the darkness so that we can then choose the light. The perfect Law reveals the sickness so that we can then choose health. The perfect Law reveals despair so that we then know to choose joy.
James says that if we, in the power of the Spirit, do this perfect Law, there is freedom and blessing. The blessing is not from what we do but rather in what we do-- "he will be blessed in what he does.” We do not earn blessing by being good. Rather, we are actually blessed in the life of holiness. That is the Law that frees. We are wise to learn that we cannot live under Law, but also that we cannot find life without it.
O God, help me to look intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues to do this, not forgetting what I have heard, but doing it-- that I man be blessed in what I do. In Jesus' Name.
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