“But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22)
This is one of the most critical verses in James chapter one for the believer to understand. It is often used by legalistic preachers in order to manipulate listeners to perform church busy work. Notice that James focuses on “being” rather than “doing.” The verse begins with the Greek word ginomai, which means to “prove yourself.” James is saying to the believer, prove your authenticity as a true believer by “being” a doer of the Word and not just a deceived hearer. Let’s examine what James means by a hearer and a doer.
The Greek word for a “hearer” is defined as someone who passively sits in an audience and listens to a speaker or musician. This is the equivalent of the modern-day definition of auditing a class. When a person audits a college class, he is required to attend and presumably listen in class, but is not required to take tests, do research, or turn in papers. In other words, he is not accountable for the material presented in the class lectures.
Unfortunately, this “hearing only” deception is an epidemic in today’s churches. Many take advantage of the opportunity to hear the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, but have no intention of putting into practice what they hear from God’s Word. As James warns, these are deceived hearers. Those who claim to be believers yet do not really want to hear the Word of God (much less allow it to change and direct their lives) “prove” that they are deceived and are not truly believers (Matt 13:24-30). They are actually pretenders, “auditing” Christianity.
When James uses the word “doer,” he is encompassing the entire personality of the believer (mind, will, and emotions). James is exhorting believers to “be” completely consumed, conformed, and renewed by the wisdom of God (James 3:17). When a believer thinks as God thinks then he will act like God acts, thus proving the authenticity of his claim to know God.
This deception of hearing only is so “normal” in today’s churches that many are “getting saved” by the local church or denominational standard but are actually missing salvation based on the Biblical standard. One can simply read the parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:1-23) to see that the only evidence of life is fruit. Likewise, in the life of the professing believer, the only evidence of true salvation is spiritual life manifested by spiritual fruit.
James continues in 1:23-25 to describe how abiding in Christ produces fruit in the believer.
“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. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty [love] 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.”
When a person hears from the Word of God who he is in Christ, and walks out the door of the church into the world, he is instantly bombarded with false wisdom. His background, upbringing, various rejections from family, friends, and peers, abuses of all kinds, emotional damage, etc., convey messages of an uncertain identity.
However, if a person is truly “In Christ,” then he need only look as far as the first chapter of the book of Ephesians to discover who God says that he is. God says that a person who is “in Christ” has been “blessed with every spiritual blessing,” he has been “chosen by God from the foundation of the world,” he has been “adopted as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself,” he is “accepted” by God, as well as many other spiritual truths.
For a believer to walk in victory, he must continually remember who he is in Christ. Consider the example from James 1:24 of the man who looks in the mirror and then forgets what he looks like. The believer must know who God says that he really is and then apply those truths by living out of his new identity in Christ! When the world system and the world leader (Satan) tries to deceive and dilute the believer’s mind by coercing him into believing lies about who he really is, the believer must walk by faith in who Christ says that he is.
Knowing your true identity in Christ is the key to living the abundant life, being in order to do.
Danny Niceley is Minister of Education at Thorngrove Baptist Church in Tennessee and is an associate counselor at GFI. His testimony has been published through Grace Notes: https://gracenotebook.com/my-pilgrimage-from-body-builder-to-body-edifier/ Church: www.thorngrovebaptistchurch.org, email:firstname.lastname@example.org
 For further study on the believer’s new identity, see https://gracenotebook.com/the-basis-of-your-identity/