The title for this sermon is “Saved by the Word to Do the Word.” As you may suspect, there are different meanings of “word.” The first way is the common use of the word “word.” The second way is God’s Word meaning the Bible. And the final way is the Word as Jesus. James builds on these different meanings and begins with Jesus as Word (vs. 18, 21) who is able to save you. Because the Word saves you, you do the Word of God, which is the Bible. And James has a thing or two to say about our use of words. This simple truth––you are saved by the Word to do the Word–– provides the foundation for James’ commands (as well as for your life).
The Word as Jesus
Our spiritual beginning comes from the logos of truth (vs. 18). Your memory verse engine should start revving up. Where have you seen the Word and a beginning? John 1:1-3, 14. We are created by the Word spoken by the Father, and we are also saved by the Word. Look down at the end of verse 21, “…and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” James further identifies the Logos as the implanted word which is able to save your souls. We can’t skip over who is saving and who is being saved. The word saves you. Paul shows that the word of truth and salvation unite in Jesus, “In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephs 1:13). If the Word has saved you, then you should listen to what the Word has to say.
Hear the Word
“Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (vs. 19). If the Word of Truth has created you, and the Implanted Word has saved you, therefore be swift to hear from the Word of God. The result for those quick-hearers, slow-speakers and long-fused people is spiritual rototiller in their garden. All the weeds of filthiness and rampant wickedness are ripped out and the soil is prepped to receive the implanted word (vs 20-21). Meekness is the tilled ground of the soul that receives the God’s word. If a seed is planted, you should expect a plant to grow. If the Word is heard, you should expect the Word to be done. At least, that’s what James thinks.
Do the Word
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (vs. 22). You are saved by the Word. You hear the Word. And now, you must do the Word. Suppose a man looks in the mirror and spots a chunk of spinach covering his four front teeth, but forgets about the vegetation for the rest of the day (vs 23). He’s not using the mirror properly. But when you look into the Bible, the perfect law, the law of liberty, you see yourself truthfully reflected. As a Christian, you look and see your true self in Christ, in the Word. If you look in the mirror, and see Jesus, that will change how you live. You can do the word because the Word is in you, and you will be blessed (vs. 25)
Law of Liberty: Legalism or Obedience
If we miss the first half of the message that the Word saves you, and only hear the second half––do the Word, then you can easily see that this is a heap of legalism. Why do we ‘do the word?’” Legalism says, “Do the Word in order for God to save you.” Obedience says, “Do the Word because God has saved you.”
Just as Jesus, the Word of God, became incarnate, so God’s word in you must take on flesh. If the Word is really in you, then you will do the Word––the real kind. James says there are religion want-to-bes and religion realities. The false religion produces counterfeit forms of holiness that are worthless. But pure religion is a true reflection of God. Because you have been saved by the Word, you therefore guard your words. Because God has become your Father, you therefore visit those without a father or husband. You have have been washed by Jesus, you therefore you keep yourself unstained from the world.