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James 1:22-27

Sunday Morning Bible Study

June 2, 2019


Summer Thursdays – “Summer with Jesus”

We’re going to have a blend of movie nights, prayer/worship nights, outreach nights, and fellowship/Connect 8 nights.

Here’s the movie we’ll be showing this Thursday:

Video: Paul the Apostle - Trailer


The book of James is possibly one of the earliest things written in the New Testament.

It’s thought to have been written around AD 40-50

It was written by James, the half-brother of Jesus.

James’ father was Joseph, while Jesus’ father was God.

Though James didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah until after the resurrection, James would eventually be recognized as the leader of the church in Jerusalem.

James was known in the early church as “James the Just” because of his great devotion to God and purity of life.

Ancient historian Eusebius describes James’ prayer life, that he…

was frequently found upon his knees begging forgiveness for the people, so that his knees became hard like those of a camel, in consequence of his constantly bending them in his worship of God, and asking forgiveness for the people[1]

The book has a distinct flavor.

While the apostle Paul wrote mainly to Gentiles, James is writing to the Jews.

His teachings are going to be very practical (hence our “tools” pic) and will draw much from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, as well as the book of Proverbs.

There is a structure to the book.

The first chapter is filled with short little statements that will be discussed in greater length in chapters 2-5

1:22-27 Practical Faith

:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

beginomai to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being

Parsing? Present middle imperative

How does the “aspect” impact this?
Continuous action, “keep on becoming…”

doerspoietes a maker, a producer, author; a doer, performer; a poet

from poieo – to make, to do

hearersakroates a hearer

from akouo to hear

deceivingparalogizomai to reckon wrong, miscount; to cheat by false reckoning; to deceive, delude, circumvent

Parsing? Present middle participle

Middle – along with “heautos”, the only one being deceived is the one who is only listening and not doing.

Has the concept of being “deceived” already been in our book of James?

Yes, but with a different Greek word.
(James 1:16 NKJV) Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
deceivedplanao – to cause to stray, to lead astray, lead aside from the right way; to lead away from the truth, to lead into error, to deceive

present passive imperative

:22 be doers of the word


Salvation by faith

I’m sure Caleb and I will be repeating this more than once through this little letter because this is one of the things that has been misunderstood about the book of James.
Some people think that James preaches that salvation comes from doing good works.  Not so.
The whole of the Bible teaches that salvation comes through faith.
(Ephesians 2:8–9 NKJV) —8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

When I say “salvation”, I’m talking about salvation from hell, from the judgment on our sins.

Salvation isn’t based upon what you do, because what you do will never be good enough to meet God’s requirements.
(Isaiah 64:6 NKJV) But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags
(Romans 3:23 NKJV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Some folks think they’re pretty good, but the price required to cover your sins is far greater than you think.

Imagine if your salvation was dependent upon you long-jumping from the beach at Newport to Catalina.  Some people can jump farther than others, but nobody comes close.

Instead, our salvation is based on what Jesus did for us – He died to pay the penalty for our sins, and He gives us His own righteousness.
(2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT) For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
All a person needs to do to have their sins forgiven and to find eternal life is to come to God and trust Him.
The Old Testament prophet wrote,
(Habakkuk 2:4 NKJV) …But the just shall live by his faith.

Habakkuk is saying that the “just” will find eternal life through his faith in God.

The New Testament quotes this verse over and over again as it talks about eternal life. (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38)

(Romans 1:17 NKJV) For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

(Galatians 3:11 NKJV) But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.”

(Hebrews 10:38 NKJV) Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”

Paul said it a different way,

(Romans 10:9 NKJV) that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

So what will James be talking about when he talks about “works”?


Faith that works

The word “be” in the Greek (“be doers”) is a present imperative – meaning that this is a command, and it’s a command that we must be continually doing.
Greek scholar A.T. Robertson translates this as “keep on becoming doers of the word”.
This is not something that you arrive at and check off of your to-do list.

This is something you and I will continue to do for the rest of our lives.

James isn’t going to contradict the idea of salvation by faith, instead what he is doing throughout the letter is clarifying what true faith looks like.
True faith results in action.
True faith will produce a change in your life.
True faith will spur you on to do good works, not because you’re trying to earn your salvation, but because you’re trying to follow the One who has saved you.
James has already warned us about being “deceived”
(James 1:16 NKJV) Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
Here James is warning us about the deception of a false faith in God.
A false faith will say all the right things, but there’s no change of life to match the faith.
And even though a person with “false faith” might fool those around them, the truth is that the one they’re deceiving the most is themselves.
It may be that one or two of you this morning have fooled everyone else around you – you’ve said all the right things, you sing the songs, put money in the offering … but your life has not been affected at all by your supposed faith in Jesus.
Jesus said,
(Luke 6:46–49 NKJV) —46 “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? 47 Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. 49 But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.”
Video: SkitGuys – The Foundation
This little story isn’t really about building houses or forts, it’s about building lives.

It’s important that you build on a good foundation.

What is good foundation?

Hearing God’s Word, and doing it.

:23 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;

forhoti that, because, since

is likeeiko to be like

parsing – perfect active indicative

How does the perfect tense affect the translation?
It is something that happens in the past and the results continue on into the present.

observingkatanoeo to perceive, remark, observe, understand; to consider attentively, fix one’s eyes or mind upon

parsing – present active participle

what kind of participle is this?
Adjectival – describing “man”

faceprosopon the face

naturalgenesis source, origin; used of birth, nativity; of that which follows origin, viz. existence, life

NAS footnote: “face of his birth”

(James 3:6 NKJV) And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.

mirroresoptron a mirror; the mirrors of the ancients were made, not of glass, but polished metal

from eis (into) and optanomai (to look at)


:24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.

observeskatanoeo to perceive, remark, observe, understand; to consider attentively, fix one’s eyes or mind upon

parse – aorist active indicative

The thing happens in the past – aorist is “undefined” – it just happens

goes awayaperchomai to go away, depart

parse – perfect active indicative

The action happens in the past but the results continue on into the present (he stays away)

forgetsepilanthanomai – to forget; neglecting, no longer caring for

aorist middle indicative

The action just happened in the past (undefined)

what kindhopoios – of what sort or quality, what manner of

he waseimi – to be, to exist, to happen, to be present

parse – imperfect active indicative

This is an ongoing thing in the past – what he used to be all the time…

:24 he observes himself, goes away

James is describing the man who has heard the word, but doesn’t put it into action in his life.

He’s like a guy who looks at himself in the mirror.

He might look closely at himself and say, “Hmmm, I need to shave…”
But as soon as he walks away from the mirror, he forgets what he saw and never changes.


One Drunken Night
A fellow decides to take off early from work and go drinking. He stays until the bar closes at 2am at which time he is extremely drunk. When he enters his house, he doesn’t want to wake anyone up so he takes off his shoes and starts to tip toe up the stairs. Halfway up the stairs, he falls over backwards and lands flat on his rear end. That wouldn’t have been so bad except that he had a couple of empty pint bottles in his back pockets that broke and the broken glass carved up his rear end terribly. But he was so drunk that he didn’t know he was hurt. A few minutes later as he was undressing, he noticed blood, so he checked himself out in the mirror and sure enough, his behind was cut up something terrible. He repaired the damage as best he could under the circumstances and went to bed. The next morning, his head was hurting, his rear was hurting and he was hunkering under the covers, trying to think of a good story, when his wife came into the bedroom. “Well, you really tied one on last night,” she said, “where did you go?” “I worked late,” he said, “and I stopped off for a couple of beers.” “A couple of beers? That’s a laugh. You were plastered last night, so where did you go?” she inquired. “What makes you so sure that I got drunk last night anyway?” “Well, she replied, “My first big clue was when I got up this morning and found a bunch of band aids stuck to the mirror!”
Forgive me for that story – it’s so wrong on so many levels, but it makes my point.
Mirrors, and what you do with them can tell a lot about you.

God’s word is a mirror.

When we study it, we see ourselves as we ought to see.
When I have real faith, I don’t just read the Bible, I respond and change.

:25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty 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.

he who looksparakupto to stoop to a thing in order to look at it; to look at with head bowed forward; metaph. to look carefully into, inspect curiously

aorist active participle

Aorist, it just happens – no continuous action implied
Substantival – it becomes the noun acting as the subject of the sentence.

Are there other places in Scripture where this word is used, things that give it some flavor?

(Luke 24:12 NKJV) But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.

perfectteleios brought to its end, finished; wanting nothing necessary to completeness; perfect

This is a key word in James – where else is it used in James?

(James 1:4 NKJV) But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
(James 1:17 NKJV) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
(James 1:25 NKJV) But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty 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.
(James 3:2 NKJV) For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.

What are the implications of this?

If we want to be “mature”, perhaps we ought to be sure to be looking into God’s perfect/mature Word.

liberty eleutheria liberty to do or to omit things having no relationship to salvation; license, the liberty to do as one pleases; true liberty is living as we should not as we please

continuesparameno – to remain beside, continue always near; to survive, remain alive

aorist active participle, nominative masculine singular

What kind of participle is this? What is it connecting to/describing?
It describes the one who is “looking into” (both masc. nom. sing.)

isginomai – to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being

aorist middle participle

Again, describing that same person who is “looking into…”

Connect the dots…

Look at the three participles that all describe the same person.
All three are important components to being “blessed”

forgetfulepilesmone – forgetfulness

fromepilanthanomai – to forget (used in vs.24)

blessedmakarios – blessed, happy

will beeimi – to be, to exist, to happen, to be present

future, middle, indicative

This is a statement of truth about the future – this WILL happen

he doespoiesis – a making; a doing or performing

How does this word impact the promise?

The promise of blessing/happiness isn’t just in being blessed, but blessed in “doing”.

:25 this one will be blessed

The implication in the Greek text is that if you do the three things he says, you will absolutely find yourself “blessed”.


The path to blessing

Do you want to have a blessed life? Do you want God’s hand on your life? Do you want to know what true happiness is? James gives us three things (all participles) that result in true blessing.
The word translated “looks” carries the idea of stooping down to examine something.

It’s looking intently at something to learn about it.

We don’t want to casually read God’s Word, but to take time to understand it.
(2 Timothy 2:15 NKJV) Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
A form of this word is translated “abide” when Jesus said,

(John 15:7 NKJV) If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.

We don’t just study God’s Word, but we continue to learn, continue to go deeper.
Soak yourself in God’s Word.
David said the blessed man was the one…

(Psalm 1:2 NKJV) …his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.

It’s being a “doer” not just a forgetful hearer that leads to blessing.
It’s not enough to just hear the Word, we need to put it into action in our lives.
Here’s an example.  So you’re reading your Bible and you come across this…

(1 Thessalonians 4:3–4 NLT) —3 God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. 4 Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor—

So what do you do with this?

Sexual purity is not about abstaining from sex altogether, it’s about recognizing that sex is to be a part of a marriage – the unconditional commitment that two people make to each other.

Any kind of sex outside of marriage is considered “immorality”.

Staying away from immorality isn’t a subtle suggestion by God, it is literally God’s will for you.

Does this affect what you view on TV, movies, or the internet?

Does this affect your relationship to your boyfriend/girlfriend?  Either wait until you’re married, or get married.

That’s the path to blessing.

:26 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.

thinksdokeo – to be of opinion, think, suppose

present active indicative

religiousthreskos – fearing or worshipping God; to tremble

From “Little Kittel”

might be from throeo – to cry aloud, make a noise by outcry; in the NT, to trouble, frighten
might also be from therapeuo – to serve, do service
The word is very common in secular Greek, but rare in the N.T. and LXX.
It and its forms are not intrinsically good nor bad.

How is this and its related root forms translated/used in NT?

(Acts 26:5 NKJV) They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
(Colossians 2:18 NKJV) Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
(Colossians 2:23 NKJV) These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
(James 1:26–27 NKJV) —26 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. 27 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.

he iseimi – to be, to exist, to happen, to be present

parse – present infinitive

How does this impact the meaning?

“If anyone among you thinks to be religious…”

bridlechalinagogeo (“bridle” + “to lead”) – to lead by a bridle, to guide; to bridle, hold in check, restrain

present active participle

Modifies “anyone” (both nominative singular masculine)

tongueglossa – the tongue, a member of the body, an organ of speech; a tongue (language)

deceivesapatao – to cheat, beguile, deceive

parse – present active participle, nominative singular masculine

How does this impact the meaning?

Are the three participles three separate ideas, or things that flow from each other?

Is the deception of the heart because he does not bridle his tongue, or are they two separate ideas that both belong to the man who think he’s religious?

I think the basic premise is that the man “thinks” he’s religious.

But his uncontrolled tongue shows he’s deceiving his heart, and that makes his “religion” useless.

uselessmataios – devoid of force, truth, success, result; useless, of no purpose

religionthreskeia – religious worship

Related word to “religious” earlier in the verse

is – not in the text. It is added to help the meaning.


:27 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.

:26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious

The meaning of the Greek word for “religious” is not clear in its origin.

Some think it comes from the idea of “fear”, and others think it has something to do with “serving”.
The word is used a lot in ancient Greek, but not very much in the New Testament.

In evangelical circles, we tend to look down on the word “religion”.

We will tell people, “It’s not about religion, it’s about relationship”.
We say this to people who look at us going to church and who tell us, “You must be religious”.
We have come to find out that going to church may make you look “religious”, but the thing that really counts is not what you know about God, or how many times you go to church, it’s actually knowing God that counts.

Yet we need to reclaim the word “religion” – James would tell us that there is a good kind of “religion”.

purekatharos – clean, pure; in NT always ethical “purity”

undefiledamiantos – not defiled, unsoiled; far removed from every kind of contamination

to visitepiskeptomai (“upon” + “to look”) – to look upon or after, to inspect, examine with the eyes; to see how someone is; to look upon to help

parse – present middle infinitive

Completes the verb “is” – pure religion is to visit…


(Matthew 25:36 NKJV) I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
(Luke 7:16 NKJV) Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.”
(Acts 15:36 NKJV) Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.”

troublethlipsis – a pressing, pressing together, pressure; metaph. oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, straits

unspottedaspilos – spotless; free from vice, unsullied

to keeptereo – to attend to carefully, take care of; to guard

present active infinitive

Same as “to visit” – complements “pure religion is … to keep”

worldkosmos – world … the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments riches, advantages, pleasures, etc, which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ

:27 Pure and undefiled religion before God


Good Religion

If we look at vs. 26&27 together, we get three elements of what James would call “good” religion.
Learning to “bridle the tongue” is about learning to control what comes out of your mouth.

We’ll see much more on the tongue in upcoming chapters.

Sometimes the issue is about “what” comes out of our mouths.

(Proverbs 12:18 NKJV) There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, But the tongue of the wise promotes health.

We want helpful things to come out of our mouths, not things that destroy.

Sometimes the issue is about how much comes out of our mouths.

(Proverbs 17:27–28 NKJV) —27 He who has knowledge spares his words, And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. 28 Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.

This too is learning to “bridle” the tongue.

Caring for the widows and orphans

Caring for those who need caring for like the handicapped or the poor.

This is about reflecting God’s heart. We read last week in the Psalms:

(Psalm 68:6 NLT) God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

God wants us to have the same compassion He has on those around us.

Jesus said we are to even love our enemies…

(Matthew 5:45 NKJV) that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Here’s an example of someone with “good religion”.

Video: On The Road – Texas School Bus Driver

It’s important to God that we learn to cultivate lives of purity, different from the world around us.

(1 John 2:16 NLT) For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.

Purity is not an issue of “staying saved” but staying useful.


Soap and Water

A pastor was asked to dinner by one of his parishioners who he knew was a bad housekeeper. When he sat down at the table, he noticed that the dishes were the dirtiest that he had ever seen in his life. “Were these dishes ever washed?” he asked his hostess, running his fingers over the grit and grime. She replied, “They’re as clean as soap and water could get them”. He felt a bit apprehensive but blessed the food anyway and started eating. It was really delicious, and he said so, despite the dirty dishes. When dinner was over, the hostess took the dishes outside and yelled, “Here Soap! Here Water!”

Paul told Timothy that purity was an important key to being useful to God.

(2 Timothy 2:21–22 NKJV) —21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

It’s not that doing these things “saves” you, but they make you more useful.
If you have a real faith, these are the kinds of things that others will see in your life.

[1] Eusebius of Caesaria. (1890). The Church History of Eusebius. In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), A. C. McGiffert (Trans.), Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine (Vol. 1, p. 125). New York: Christian Literature Company.