Sixth Sunday of Easter - Epistle (1881

James 1:22-27 This text immediately follows the Epistle of last Sunday. When James showed in it that the new birth is a gift of the Giver of all good gifts, that He works it according to His will by the Word of Truth, and has prompted us, in order to attain to the new birth, to hear of this Word of Truth and to allow us in no way to prevent the acceptance of it, either by our own wisdom and arrogance ("slow to speak"1 = wanting to claim our own wisdom), or by all sorts of ardor (wrath, impurity, wickedness); but to accept this sanctifying Word, which is planted in us through preaching, with meekness: he thus cautions in today's text about a great self-deception in which so many live, namely that they think, they indeed go to church and to the Lord's Supper, therefore they are also good Christians, reborn, God's children and heirs of eternal salvation. Mere external worship, the mere work of hearing the Word does not do it. It is imperative that we rightly hear the Word, namely that we also accept the same and are doers of it. Now, for my part, in order to help that you, dear hearers, may be preserved from that terrible self-deception, let me speak to you today: About the right hearing of the Word of God; 1. who are those who do not rightly hear the Word and thus deceive themselves. Simile, v. 23-24; in one ear and out the other.2 As a result, man deceives himself. He means to be a good Christian and is actually on the way to Hell. He builds on sand3 and will get hurt. The depth of his heart also becomes harder and less sensitive so that finally even no earnest and urgent admonition and warning penetrates anymore. Such a person will all the more receive greater damnation.4 So beware of such terrible self-deception. You can perhaps occasionally fool even your fellow Christians, perhaps up to your death, but not yourself, except that God would have given you up for the sake of your wickedness to the judgment of hardening; but at the very least you could deceive God, Who knows even the most hidden things of your heart better than yourself; 2. how we should rightly hear the Word, a. what Word we should rightly hear, "the perfect law of liberty".5 Here is not meant α. the law of works. Without a doubt we should also hear the Law, the holy Ten Commandments, in order that we should rightly learn to know ourselves in our misery of sin; but here James does not want to have understood the Law or the doctrine of that which we do and ought to do, this clearly can be seen 1. from the context of the text6 and 2. from the epithets (the "perfect" Law "of liberty"). Therefore
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James 1:19. Luke 8:5, 12. 3 Matthew 7:24-27. 4 Luke 12:47-48; Matthew 11:20-24, etc. 5 James 1:25. 6 Cf. James 1:18, 21.

β. The Gospel is understood here; for it is ‫א‬. perfect. Namely the law is perfect in itself, insofar as it contains a perfect regulation for our doings; but it is not perfect in the intention of its final purpose, because it cannot make us perfect, only the Gospel can do this7, ‫ב‬. a law of freedom. (Not through the Law, but through the Gospel do we acquire freedom.) Michael Walther (the Elder): "James speaks here and 2:12 about a law of liberty, this seems to conflict with Paul, who says about the Law, that it gives birth to bondage.8 Answer: ... 3. This difficulty is most easily solved if we assume that James does not speak of the Decalogue, as Paul does, but about the Gospel..., which he calls Law in the wider meaning of the word, i.e. the teaching about freedom, namely the effect, because it brings the faithful to the true freedom of the children of God, about which Christ says9: "If the Son makes you free, then you are truly free." In the same sense Paul calls the Gospel "the Law of faith"10 and "the Law of the Spirit", through which he is made free from sin and from death.11 The words of James about the Mosaic Law permits to understand neither the Scopus, nor even the epithet, because that law everywhere in the New Testament is called the law of bondage, not freedom."12 b. how we should rightly hear it, α. we should see through into it13 ‫א‬. seek to penetrate in the understanding of it (with prayer), but not to seek mere knowledge of understanding (that would still be just a mere hearing), but ‫ב‬. thereby to allow us to move to doing it. But a doer of the Word is one who can be brought to true faith in Christ through the Gospel, or who can be moved by the Gospel to faith in Christ and subsequently by this faith also to new obedience, after he has come to the knowledge of his sin through the Law and to repentance over it, β. persevere in the heard and kept Word14, Therefore, whoever is not a forgetful hearer, but can be moved by the hearing of the Word to the doing of the Word, has the glorious promise that he will be blessed in this his doing (i.e. in faith). Therefore hear the Word aright! Michael Walther (the Elder): "He shall be blessed in his doing.15 Objection: We are saved by the grace of God, not by our works.16 Answer: 1. Here is no talk about the law, but about the Gospel; because in the foregoing, the apostle will say of this: whoever looks into the teaching of the
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Hebrews 7:19; 2 Corinthians 3:6ff. Galatians 4:24. 9 John 8:36. 10 Romans 3:27. 11 Romans 8:2. 12 Harm. Bibl. ad h.l. 13 Cf. 1 Peter 1:12; Psalm 33:14. 14 Luke 11:28 15 James 1:25. 16 Ephesians 2:8-9

Gospel, which brings true peace and freedom to the conscience, and constantly persists in this doctrine taken by faith, so that he is focused entirely according to it, he will attain salvation, not because he was a hearer of the Word of God, but because he believed it and has subsequently kept it; however, it may not promise salvation to those who think it may be enough, so that they talk greatly and admirably about the Gospel, while in the meantime the Gospel does not take root, even no true piety is devised in it. 2. A doer is therefore a believer, who draws faith from the Gospel, as Christ Himself testifies, Who says to the Jews not only in John 6:29: 'This is God's Work that you believe in Him Whom He has sent', but also erupts in the words of Matthew 7:21 and 12:15: 'Whoever does the will of My Father will enter into heaven and is My brother' etc., where He certainly primarily speaks about faith by which we must accept His Gospel. Therefore this is said 3. about such a doer or believer that he may be saved not by his work, lest someone would understand this from the Law, but in his doing, i.e., in obedience to the Word that presupposes faith, through which the believer alone is saved according to the words of Habakkuk 2:4: 'The righteous man lives by his faith.' I believe this with Osiander as the most appropriate explanation of this point. Otherwise, this text would straightway contradict the teaching of Paul."17 3. on what it is manifest that we have been proper hearers of the Word. On that, when we become doers of the Word. The foremost and actual (wrought by God in us) doing is faith; since it is hidden in the heart, it thus must be given characteristics, whereof not only faith is recognized, but also is obvious, whether we have rightly heard the Word. These characteristics are the works of the new obedience; a. those are no doers of the word, who do not keep their tongues in check (2nd and 8th Commandments), but they seduce their heart, i.e., they live in selfdeception.18 Just as little are those doers of the word, who, while keeping their tongues in check, but otherwise willfully sin; b. doers of the Word are19 α. those doing good to the poor and β. keep themselves unspotted from the world. The ones doing this have not heard the Word in vain. Michael Walther (the Elder): Objection: "The apostle writes in verse 27: 'A pure' etc., but true worship (religio) extends much further and consists mainly in true knowledge of God and in faith in Christ. Answer: So it is, even James perhaps knew this, but he has deemed it sufficient for the time being, to show the completely unvarnished godliness by these two characteristics, because those who have in here proved faithful to God and to neighbor, will prove godliness even in other things. But without those parts the glory of worship is altogether vain."20

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op. cit. James 1:26. 19 James 1:27. 20 op. cit.

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