The Christians Continuance In The Law.
“Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”- Jam_1:25.
It is of ‘blessedness’ that the apostle is speaking here; the blessedness of doing, not of believing, or rather, of doing as the result of believing. Paul dwells on the latter, James on the former. Both are to be kept in view. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven (Psa_32:1); and blessed is he ‘that believeth’ (Luk_1:45; Joh_20:29). But blessed also are ‘they that do His commandments’ (Rev_22:14); blessed are ‘they that keep His testimonies’ (Psa_69:2); blessed is the man ‘that delighteth greatly in His commandments’ (Psa_62:1). Let us see the apostle’s statement here.
I. The law-This is the Hebrew torah, the Greek nomos, the Latin lex, and the English law; all of them expressive of two great ideas,-a superior that instructs and enjoins, an inferior that learns and obeys. It touches our minds as instruction; and our wills as precept. Through these two it touches or operates upon our life. In some parts it touches more the former, as in the psalms, in others our wills, as in the ten commandments, though sometimes it is mixed, as in Proverbs and the prophets. We do not take up the question whether ‘law,’ as used by James, refers exclusively to the Sinaitic code. We affirm, however, that it includes these, as is evident from Jam_2:8; Jam_2:12; Jam_4:2, where two of the ten are specified, and the summary of the law is given, ‘the royal law.’ Plainly, then, the apostle refers to the moral law in his epistle. If any one say that James was writing to Jews, we answer, (1) Paul, writing to Gentiles, uses law in reference to the ten commandments (Rom_13:8-10). (2) This makes no difference, for they were believing Jews, members of the body of Christ.
II. The perfect law.-By this we understand the same as in Rom_7:12 : ‘The law is holy (as a whole), and the commandment (each of its commandments) holy, and just, and good.’ It is altogether ‘perfect,’ complete in all its parts; not reduced, or narrowed, or modified; fully unfolded; more fully now than ever; established (Rom_3:31); not destroyed; fulfilled by Christ, and to be fulfilled by us as His disciples. The law is now expanded to the uttermost, and exhibited in all its parts; held forth in all its fullness. Never was its excellence and righteousness seen so gloriously. Some of the excellent names applied to it are,-(1) spiritual, Rom_7:14; (2) holy, Rev_7:16; (3) just, ib.; (4) good, ib.; (5) fiery, Deu_33:2; (6) perfect, Psa_19:7. The 119th Psalm is full of expressions denoting in manifold ways its excellence and glory; its entire and divine perfection.
III. The law of liberty.-It is only bondage to the unforgiven. To those in reference to whom its penalty has ceased, it is a law of liberty. Obedience to it is true liberty. The greater the obedience, the greater the liberty. Disobedience is bondage. ‘I will walk at liberty, for I seek Thy precepts’ (Psa_119:45). Twice over in James it is called the law of liberty; for the law, fulfilled in Christ, and presented to us in the gospel, though unchanged and unmodified, is a law of liberty. In obeying it we are enjoying and exercising true freedom.
IV. We are to look into it.-This means stooping down so as to gaze closely into, as in 1Pe_1:12. We are to study the law, the whole law. It will unfold its riches to us. There is no terror in it now to make us shrink back. It smiles on us. Let us hide it in our hearts. Thus David speaks: ‘I will meditate in Thy precepts’ (Psa_119:15); ‘In His law doth he meditate day and night’ (Psa_1:2). ‘Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things’ (Psa_119:18). ‘Thy servant did meditate in Thy statutes’ (Psa_119:23). Psa_119:30; Psa_119:40; Psa_119:48; Psa_119:71; Psa_119:78; Psa_119:93-95; Psa_119:97; Psa_119:99; Psa_119:131; Psa_119:148. In the cross we see the law magnified and made honourable; let us then study it as thus illustrated and interpreted by the cross. The cross is a magnifying glass for revealing the breadth and purity of the law, yet with all that could terrify us taken away.
V. We are to continue in it-Looking and study is not enough. We are to abide in it, be molded thereby. ‘I do not forget Thy law’ (Psa_119:153). ‘I will have respect unto Thy statutes continually’ (Psa_119:117; Psa_119:112; Psa_119:102; Psa_119:93; Psa_119:83). It is not a look, nor even a compliance, nor many compliances; it is a continuing in the law that is enjoined on us. Steep yourself in its spirit; abide in it (Pro_28:4). ‘Thy law is within my heart’ (Psa_90:8).
VI. The blessedness of so doing-That man shall be blessed in the doing; not merely after the deed, but in the doing. In keeping Thy commandment there is great reward. ‘Great peace have they that love Thy law’ (Psa_119:165); that delight in the law (Psa_119:24; Psa_119:77). The apostle delighted in the law, found blessedness in keeping it. Obedience is blessedness. Each act of obedience is so. Fill the whole life with such acts, and you fill it with blessedness. Love is the fulfilling of the law, and each act is a flowing out of love to God and man. All acts of love are blessedness.
We are delivered from the law’s condemnation. We are ‘not under the law, but under grace.’ But shall we obey it the less? No, the more; for to this end we are delivered, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us. The condemnation of the law is cancelled, that the righteousness of the law might be free to exhibit itself in us, who are still ‘under the law to Christ;’ for the law is still good, if a man use it lawfully.