Doers of the Word

Doers of the Word

Doers of the word

In today’s society, the term “Christian” often gets used as an adjective. You will hear people refer to a particular genre of music as Christian music. You can drive across town and shop at the Christian store for Christian books. You can enroll at a Christian school, attend a Christian conference, or even worship at a Christian church. I’m not trying to infer that all of these things are “Christian” in the sense that they are doctrinally correct. I’m simply acknowledging them as ways people have applied the term “Christian” as an adjective to describe their product, event, or organization.

The term “Christian” is never used as an adjective in the Bible; it is always used as a noun (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). And you may recall from your English or Language Arts classes that, generally speaking, to make complete sentences, nouns need verbs. And the same is true of discipleship. Being a Christian is more than just the possession of faith; it is the presence of activity. Being a Christian requires you to add some verbs to your faith or, to say it another way, being a Christian requires you to do some things.

The Faith Hall of Fame proves this to be true. Hebrews 11 identifies several heroes of faith from the Old Testament, and every one of them demonstrated their faith through a particular action. “Abel offered” (11:4). “Noah…constructed” (11:7). “Abraham obeyed” (11:8). “Jacob…worshipped” (11:21). “Moses…chose” (11:25). In other words, the faith of these heroes was evidenced with verbs. From their example, we learn that faith has a doing component. This doing component is presented as a command in James 1:22 (ESV), where we’re instructed to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” So, the Bible indicates that being a Christian is not just what you believe but also what you do. However, there are a couple of things you need to know about being “doers of the word.”

First, you need to realize that knowing something does not automatically equate to doing something. James 1:23-24 says, “if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.” What’s the purpose of a mirror? A mirror offers you a firsthand account of your current appearance. The reason you look in a mirror is to see if there is anything you need to do (e.g., fix your hair, cover a blemish, etc.). And the ultimate mirror is the Word of God because it is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). So, James is criticizing the “Christian” who hears God’s Word but doesn’t do God’s Word, and he’s making the point that “Christians” who are only hearers are ultimately just forgetters. They are forgetting to act upon what they saw when they looked at their reflection in God’s Word. But James isn’t just going to call such an individual a forgetter; he’s going to call him a sinner. In James 4:17, he said, “whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” The point is that knowing and doing are not the same thing. Both are important. Both are necessary. Both are required. But one does not equal the other. So don’t be deceived into believing that just because you know something, you’re going to do that thing.

Second, you need to realize that doing is just as important as not doing. Many people assume that being a Christian simply means there’s a lot of stuff you’re not allowed to do. While it is true there are some things you don’t do when you become a Christian, the reason you no longer do those things is so that you can pursue better things. For example, you don’t do the “works of the flesh” so that you can produce the “fruits of the spirit.” And the point is that Christianity isn’t just about what you avoid; it’s also about what you pursue. Such is evident in James 1:26-27, which says, “if anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James says that your faith (i.e., religion) is worthless if it doesn’t do some things. Everything he mentions in these two verses involves active participation on the part of the doer—bridling the tongue, visiting the afflicted, maintaining purity—those are things you do. So, being a Christian is not just about what you don’t do; it’s also about what you do do. Isn’t that the message of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30)? The master praised the five talent servant and the two talent servant because of what they did with their resources. But he condemned and cast out the one talent servant because he did nothing with his resource. The point of that parable is that doing is just as important as not doing because it’s what the servants did that earned the praise of the master.

If emergency services come upon a motionless, how do they determine whether or not the body is alive? They check to see if the body is doing anything. They may check for a pulse to see if the heart is beating. They may listen to the chest to see if the body is breathing. They may open the eyelids to see if the pupils respond to light. Why do they do these things? Because the absence of doing is indicative of death. What does your doing or lack thereof say about your spiritual health right now?

Some material presented in this article was adapted from a sermon by Rick Atchley.