Lesson 4, October 18-24, 2014

Perhaps the greatest concept from this lesson stems from the word “and” in the title. It’s a combination of being AND doing that makes us worthy of the name Christian. But how do we accomplish this amazing balancing act of being believers and also doers?

Can anyone ever find themselves as balanced and whole a person as Jesus was? Especially with all the trials, persecutions, and temptations we have to endure on this sinful planet? James seems to think it’s possible to be hearers AND doers of the Word. And he proceeds to tell us some of the ways it can happen.

Key Text: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” James 1:22 KJV

Our first step in becoming doers and hearers has to do with our tendency to deceive ourselves. In 1860, the Prince of Wales thought he was a firm believer in the skills of “The Great Blondin”, even traveling a long way to witness his great balancing act. The prince witnessed him crossing Niagara Falls with an assistant on his back, but  refused the offer to be carried across the Falls himself, even though he appeared to have faith in the performer.

In the same way, we can be firm  believers in God and His power to save, but unless we fully surrender ourselves and climb aboard His cause, on the Lord’s back so to speak, we will only be fooling our own selves about our level of commitment.

Sunday: Knowing Your Enemy

One might think that the enemy refers to knowing Satan. Surely, he’s our greatest enemy, isn’t he? But apparently James, by using the example of looking in a mirror, is suggesting that our greatest enemy is that image we see staring back at us.

When you think about it, there are two reasons we look in a mirror. One objective is to see how handsome or beautiful we are, maybe in a certain outfit. But our usual purpose is to see if there is some flaw we can correct–a spot on our clothes, a blemish on our skin, or hair that is out of place.

If we leave that mirror and all the information about our appearance that we witnessed and do nothing about it, what have we gained? In the same way, if we approach God’s law, take a look at how our life is fulfilling its requirements, but walk away without asking for God’s help to give us a clear image and then correct our flaws, what have we gained?

Here’s how James put it:

“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.” James 1:23, 24 NKJV

Matthew’s Gospel reveals two different men who were given a chance to look at themselves in a mirror. They were both astonished at what they saw, but their reactions were quite different.

  1. the rich, young ruler (Matthew 19:16-22)–Jesus showed him that even though he saw himself as a keeper of the law, there was one thing he lacked: the love for others that would be shown by selling all he had and following Jesus.  It says he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. We have no further light on his future.
  2. the disciple Peter (Matthew 26:33-35, 69-75)–Peter saw himself as unable to stumble and forsake his Master, even though others would. He thought he was incapable of denying Jesus, but in fact Jesus informed him that he would do that very thing three times before the cock crowed. After this prophecy was fulfilled, Peter “went out and wept bitterly” (v. 75). And obviously this turned out to be true repentance on his part, because of his later work in the early church.

The point of these stories is that by just looking in the mirror, we will get a distorted picture of who we really are. It was only by soliciting Jesus’ input that they were given a true image of what was lacking for their salvation.

The rich, young ruler had his obedience down pat (the “doing” part), or so he thought, but lacked when it came to “being” a totally committed follower. Peter had his commitment and following down pat (the “being” part), or so he thought, but he didn’t pass the “doing” test by showing true commitment with his actions.

Discussion Questions: Why does commitment require both hearing and doing of the word?

Which is it easier to do: be a hearer or a doer of the word?

Is it hard to be both a hearer and a doer? Why or why not?

Why do many people find the same faults in others that they themselves have? Notice the criticisms that people make about others. They usually reflect their own deficiencies to some extent. How can we be sure our view of ourselves and others isn’t distorted?

Monday: Being a Doer

Notice that James says to “BE doers of the word.” He could have just said “DO the word.” That Greek verb “be” implies an ongoing lifestyle of obedience. It’s like saying to “be a Christian.”

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James 1:22 NKJV

James seems to purposely combine this idea of “being” and “doing”. One might see it as two sides of a coin. They really are the same thing. We become something when we not only hear and believe the word, but do something about it.

Which leads us to our next concern. What might James have in mind when he wants us to be doers of the word? He mentions some things in his epistle, but we know that he drew much of his counsel from the words of Jesus. So looking at Luke 6:27-38, Jesus talks about loving our enemies, not judging others, and forgiving them. Certainly these were the kinds of words and actions that James would have sanctioned as well.

Discussion Questions: Read and discuss Galatians 5:19-21 (the works of the flesh), as compared with the fruit of the Spirit in v. 22-24.

What similarities are there with James 1:22 and Galatians 5:25 (“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”)?

Tell about a time when you did something just because it was a rule you had to obey. How does that experience compare with something similar you did because you wanted to? Relate this to the concept of “being” and “doing”.

Tuesday: The Law of Freedom

This law of freedom or law of liberty is mentioned in James 1:25. “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty [compared with looking in a mirror in v. 23] and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” NKJV

[Note that it doesn’t say he would be saved by what he does, but he would be blessed.]

Even David in the Old Testament was familiar with this idea of the law being a perfect law of liberty. In Psalm 19:7 he calls the law perfect, and in Psalm 119:45 he says, “And I will walk at liberty, For I seek your precepts.” (Therefore, even before Christ, they viewed the law in terms of liberty or freedom, not bondage.)

Paul definitely follows this same line of thought. In II Corinthians 3:17 we find, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” NKJV

This is also accurately portrayed by Jesus Himself when He said, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36 NKJV)

Only with Jesus, with His Spirit, can we be freed from the condemnation of the law. The law will always been there for the purpose of pointing out our sin and delivering us from the bondage of it when we comply with its requirements.

Discussion Questions: What do you say to Christians who claim that Christ’s grace makes us free from the law? Before contradicting them, what do you think they actually mean by that statement?

How can Jesus free us from the law, but then actually command us to keep it?

Wednesday: Useful or Useless?

James wraps up the first chapter by identifying useless religion and telling us what makes it useful:

“If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:26, 27 NKJV

In other words, if our religion consists of believing doctrines and hearing lengthy sermons, we are useless representatives of true Christianity.

Jesus also encouraged the kind of good works James endorsed:

“for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was in prison and you came to Me…’Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ “ Matthew 25:35, 36, 40 NKJV

Paul, the great expounder of grace, was not hesitant to say, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 NKJV

The good works we are talking about here are not the same as that found in the world. It makes no sense to most people to focus resources on those who can give nothing back to society. And yet, Jesus and His followers are told to even bless those who have been cast off and rejected and may never reciprocate or appreciate our good deeds. Lending money to those who can’t repay you…unheard of in the banking world. But this is exactly what the Lord expects of us.

Discussion Questions: Is it unreasonable to ask a small church to expand their mission by performing everyday services to their community, instead of just concentrating on getting Bible studies in order to fill the pews? Suppose their efforts in community outreach do not lead to an increase in church membership. What other benefits to the church might there be in filling unmet community needs?

We’ve heard it said that some Christians are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good. Is it possible for us to also be so earthly minded that God cannot use us?

Thursday: Unlike the World

Besides our volunteer work, James mentioned another area of character development that we shouldn’t neglect. He says we are to “…keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)

Two verses help us understand what it means to be “unspotted from the world”:

  1. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–is not of the Father but is of the world. “ I John 1:15, 16 NKJV
  2. “by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” II Peter 1:4 NKJV


Breaking down the verses in I John, we are able to pinpoint most of our human weaknesses:

  • lust of the flesh–any action that is against God’s will; those activities that have detrimental effect on our body or that produce a wrong example for others
  • lust of the eyes–the desires and thoughts that we nurture that do not glorify God and that lead to sin
  • pride of life–any tendency to take glory from God and shower it on ourselves or someone else

Therefore to be unspotted” means to exhibit self-control over our actions, words, and even thoughts. Every aspect of our being should glorify and uplift the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Discussion Questions: Is it possible or necessary to move away from worldly influences by living in the country? How do our surroundings impact the kinds of temptations we confront? When is it advisable and when is it not advisable to move out of big cities?

The earliest Christians had a marked difference in their diet and lifestyle, compared to the rest of the world. Has this been true of the Seventh-day Adventist church? What about your local church? Why is it desirable to stand out from our neighbors?


Neither God nor Satan is responsible for our falling into temptation. Temptations come from the lusts and desires of our own heart.

It pays to ask God to give us an undistorted perception as we look in the mirror of His law of liberty, and correct, with God’s help, those flaws that He points out.

We looked at what being a doer of the word means for someone saved by grace. James 1:27 describes how the Word of God is implanted in our heart and is manifested by good works, such as

  • caring for others (“to visit orphans and widows in their trouble”)
  • living a clean lifestyle (“to keep oneself unspotted from the world”)


Prayerfully ask God to give you insights this week about your own shortcomings:

  1. Listen to your friends, pay attention to what you read in Scripture, and the behaviors that offend you in others, and determine if any of these is a reflection of who you are.
  2. Give those undesired things to God and trust that He can take them far away from you.
  3. Even if you fall occasionally, know that God is on your side and repent immediately from your wayward actions.

Do your best to care for others and incorporate healthier choices in your everyday life.

All these things will help you be a doer of the word.

Next week: Love and the Law

To read the Sabbath School lesson or find more resources for study, see www.ssnet.org