Concerning the Hearing of God's Word

"Be doers of the word, and not just hearers." We should not misunderstand these words as saying that hearing and doing are opposites - as if to say "Here people just listen to the Word, but over there it is really acted upon"...,or "Here is a merely theoretical Christianity, but over there is real practical Christianity". If this were so, the letter of James would indeed be an "epistle of straw". The writer wasn't as foolish as the Christian intellectuals of our own day, who with their famous social gospel would free us from the deep seriousness of Christian repentance and faith. The epistle knows that there is no Christian life, teaching or act that is not accompanied by God's Word. The ancient church knew that, even when it didn't anymore know the unfathomable depth of the Christian faith as did Paul and John. It is only from hearing, from the complete submission of the self to the Word of God, that an act that is obedient to God's will can come. The self-deception that James warns us about is a hearing that remains only hearing - and certainly not a right hearing at that. Such superficial hearing in the church is unfruitful and useless. Therefore, "be doers of the word, and not just hearers."

From Concerning the Hearing of God's Word, a sermon preached in Erlangen, Germany on Rogate Sunday, 18th May, 1941 [trans mine].

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