Three days later I am wondering if my thoughts about this passage are right. I am thinking that James wants us to see who we are in Christ and then live that out. As we look in God’s word we have a revelation not only of Jesus but of who we are in him. Our actions should come out of that and if they don’t we have forgotten who we really are. As I write it I still feel that is true but my concern is that James jumps so quickly to practical outworking and does not mention our identity in Jesus.
A slightly different interpretation that I have heard before is that we look at God’s word, ie the law, and see what we should do but then do not go away and do it. Actually that sounds rather like my previous illustration of seeing something on your face in a mirror, but turning away and not wiping it off. Trouble is that smacks of works based living and kind of excludes Jesus from the picture. This cannot be right. I feel sort of confident in my insight. It’s grace based, Jesus focused but does it fit the words James uses? He talks about the “perfect law”, and doing what he has heard in it. For James “doing” is practical things like how you speak, looking after the poor etc not knowing your sins are forgiven or the Father’s acceptance of you. The perfect Law that brings freedom does seem to point to Jesus though not the OT law of do’s and don’ts. I really need the reassurance of knowing the commentaries back this up.
I read some commentaries:
1) The Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament.
2) The new Application Commentary
3) New International Commentary on the New Testament by James B Adamson
4) The New American Commentary
6) BST The message of James
I also now have New International Commentary on the New Testament by Scot Mc Knight
Oh dear. Don’t really feel much more informed after reading seven commentaries, although I have a broader background in my head now. It’s like I have listened to some much more informed and intelligent people speak about this passage but now have to go away and consider it again for myself. Having said that I did find some support for the gospel interpretation of “the law of freedom”. I also feel that “the way of looking” and “the thing looked at” are not James’ focus here. His concern is what the two people do after they have looked at something that matters. Therefore forgetting is contrasted with doing. My preach should contrast these two things. How is it that we forget, how can we not forget, and how can we make sure we “do”.
I find pulling back from the detail helpful after doing lots of reading and thinking. If I do that it’s this forgetting/doing aspect of the passage that stands out. What is looked at, in its broadest sense, is God’s word, which has as its main intention the revelation of who Jesus is and who we are in him. I did not find any strong enough arguments to persuade me to focus in more tightly on any aspect of the word of God, ie the Torah, or sermon on the mount, or the OT as opposed to the new. Nor any one aspect of God’s revelation of himself except the main one of his grace to us in Christ.