Summary: The “perfect law of liberty” is not the Mosaic Law; it is the law of grace. James does not talk about this law in the same sense that Paul does. When Paul talks about the law, he is talking about the Mosaic Law. When James talks about the law, it is the law of Faith.
Lesson 14: An Illustration Of Response (James 1:22-25)
Text: James 1:22-25 (KJV)
25, But 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.
The “perfect law of liberty” is not the Mosaic Law; it is the law of grace. James does not talk about this law in the same sense that Paul does. When Paul talks about the law, he is talking about the Mosaic Law. When James talks about the law, it is the law of Faith. There is love in the law in the Old Testament, and there is law in love in the New Testament. “If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). However, the Lord also said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15), and Paul said, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ“ (Gal. 6:2). What law? Christ’s law. John says in his first Epistle, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3).
There is liberty in Christ, and it is the only true freedom. However, you can be sure that if you are in Christ, you will obey Him -- and His laws are not hard; they are not rigorous. Because you are a child of God, your freedom does not entitle you to break the Ten Commandments. Those laws are for the weak, for the natural man. Laws are for lawbreakers: what to do, where to go, and how, with a punishment prescribed for those who break over. Honest citizens do not need the law. I do not know one-half of this state’s laws, in which I live, but every shyster lawyer knows them because he is seeking loopholes to break those laws.
Turning from the folly of the first man, James now treats us to the wisdom of the second: My friend, the Word of God, will tell you what you are. “But 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.” (25)
The Word radiates liberating power, for it is “the perfect law that gives freedom.” As this man bends over the mirror in the soul-absorbing study, he sees more clearly, the mirror image of his soul. His imperfect spiritual features are forever impressed upon him. He thus becomes truly poor in spirit, for he knows what he is. He does not outgrow this. He knows that in his natural self, apart from God, there dwells no good thing. He recognizes, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death” (Rom. 7:24).
This understanding of self from the mirror of God’s Word is enhanced as he also sees the reflection of a holy, transcendent, awesome God who makes demands on his soul. Finally, this double-mirrored knowledge of self and God enables him to understand the necessity of atoning forgiveness from God. In his reception of the free grace of God, he experiences the full work of “the perfect law that gives freedom.” He is free to do as he ought.
This brings us to the apex of James’ argument in our text, where the man is described as “doing” the Word. He lives in profound obedience. He keeps looking and doing, looking and doing” looking and doing. He has become part of a God-created process in which knowledge followed by obedience brings more knowledge.