James 1:22-27 (AD 48)
“But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:25, NIV)
Paul pointed out that the Law brought death (Romans 7:10; 2 Corinthians 3:7), and that we are saved by grace. So why did James write that we must obey the law, and that the law brings life?
In short, because there are two types of law. First there was the Law as outlined in the first five books of the Bible, by which you pay the penalty for your own sin. Then there is the law of the Spirit, whereby God fulfilled the law through Jesus, which the first five books of the Old Testament point towards. And of which the prophets reminded people.
Because of Jesus’ actions in fulfilling the law of the Spirit,
“…there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4, NIV)
Throughout the time of the old covenant, God’s people trusted in the promise of a Messiah who would fulfil the law on their behalf. Animals were sacrificed to symbolically take the punishment of the people, while pointing to the ultimate sacrifice to come.
So the law was and is perfect:
- Our sin is not tolerated, but is punished – that is justice.
- Jesus fulfilled the demands of the law to live a perfect life – that is holiness.
- Jesus died to take the punishment for all the sins of his people – that is justice and love.
- Jesus rose from the dead – that is the defeat of death.
- We who have repented, who are forgiven by God, have nothing to fear – that is freedom.
So how, looking back at verse 25, do we ‘continue’ in the perfect law, and ‘remember’ and ‘do’ it?
We need to be continually and deliberately conscious of the 5 above points. When we bring those to mind we help ourselves to be humble, grateful, and full of love to God. As people who can live without fear, and who have every reason to be overwhelmed with gratitude to God, we will be blessed in what we do, because what we do comes from that place of love. When you work, ultimately, you work for God. When you parent, ultimately, you parent for God. When you take dinner to someone who’s struggling, you’re feeding someone for God. And God blesses everything we do for him, giving us strength to keep going, giving us reasons for joy.