1 Corinthians 3:16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
Before delving into the phrase, “indwelling of the Holy Spirit, let us consider the mistaken view of New Testament scholars Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, who wrote,
The Spirit of God lives within you.” The church is holy because God’s Spirit dwells in the hearts and lives of the believers. In 6:19 Paul indicates that the Holy Spirit lives in the physical bodies of the believers. But now he tells the Corinthians that the presence of the Spirit is within them and they are the temple of God.
The Corinthians should know that they have received the gift of God’s Spirit. Paul had already called attention to the fact that they had not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit of God (2:12). He teaches that Christians are controlled not by sinful human nature but by the Spirit of God, who is dwelling within them (Rom. 8:9).
The behavior—strife, jealousy, immorality, and permissiveness—of the Christians in Corinth was reprehensible. By their conduct the Corinthians were desecrating God’s temple and, as Paul writes in another epistle, were grieving the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30; compare 1 Thess. 5:19).
First, it must be told that I am almost amazed at how so many Bible scholars say nonsensical things, contradictory things when it comes to the Holy Spirit. Bible Commentators use many verses to say that the Holy Spirit literally,
- dwells in the individual Christian believers,
- having control over them,
- enabling them to live a righteous and faithful life,
- with the believer still being able to sin, even to the point of grieving the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30).
Let us walk through this again, and please take it slow, ponder whether it makes sense, is reasonable, logical, even Scriptural. The Holy Spirit literally dwells in individual believers, controlling them so they can live a righteous and faithful life, yet they can still freely sin, even to the point of grieving the Holy Spirit. Does this mean that the Holy Spirit is not powerful enough to prevent their sinful nature from affecting them? The commentators say the Holy Spirit now controls the Christian, not their sinful nature. If that were true, it must mean the Holy Spirit is ineffectual and less powerful than their sinful nature of the Christian, because the Christian can still reject the Holy Spirit and sin to the point of grieving the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is controlling the individual Christian, how is it possible that he still possesses free will?
Let us return to the phrase of “indwelling of the Holy Spirit.” Just how often do we find “indwelling” in the Bible? I have looked at over fifty English translations and found it once in the King James Version and two in an earlier version of the New American Standard Bible. One reference is to sin dwelling within us, and the other reference is to the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.
The Updated American Standard Version removed such usage. We may be asking ourselves since “indwelling” is almost nonexistent in the Scriptures, why the commentaries, Bible encyclopedias, Hebrew and Greek word dictionaries, Bible dictionaries, pastors and Christians using it to such an extent, especially in reference to the Holy Spirit? I say in reference to the Holy Spirit because some scholars refer to the indwelling of Christ and the Word of God.
Before addressing those questions, we must take a look at the Greek word behind 1 Corinthians 3:16 “the Spirit of God dwells [οἰκέω] in you.” The transliteration of our Greek word is oikeo. It means “‘to dwell’ (from oikos, ‘a house’), ‘to inhabit as one’s abode,’ is derived from the Sanskrit, vic, ‘a dwelling place’ (the Eng. termination —‘wick’ is connected). It is used (a) of God as ‘dwelling’ in light, 1 Tim. 6:16; (b) of the ‘indwelling’ of the Spirit of God in the believer, Rom. 8:9, 11, or in a church, 1 Cor. 3:16; (c) of the ‘indwelling’ of sin, Rom. 7:20; (d) of the absence of any good thing in the flesh of the believer, Rom. 7:18; (e) of the ‘dwelling’ together of those who are married, 1 Cor. 7:12-13.”
Thus, for our text, means the Holy Spirit dwelling in true Christians. The TDNT tells us, “Jn.’s μένειν [menein] corresponds to Paul’s οἰκεῖν [oikein], cf. Jn. 1:33: καταβαῖνον καὶ μένον ἐπʼ αὐτόν [descending and remaining upon him]. The new possession of the Spirit is more than ecstatic.” What does TDNT mean? It means that John is using meno (“to remain,” “to stay” or “to abide”) in the same way that Paul is using oikeo (‘to dwell’).
When we are considering the Father or the Son alone, and even the Father and the Son together, we are able to have a straightforward conversation. However, when we get to the Holy Spirit we tend to get off into mysterious and mystical thinking. When we think of humans and the words dwell and abide, both have the sense of where we ‘live or reside in a place.’
However, there is another sense of ‘where we might stand on something,’ ‘our position on something.’ Thus, in English dwell and abide can be used interchangeably, similarly, just as Paul and John use meno “abide” or “remain” and oikeo “dwell” similarly. Let us look at the apostle John’s use of meno,
1 John 4:16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains [meno] in love remains in God, and God remains [meno] in him.
Here we notice that God is the embodiment of “love” and if we abide in or remain in that love, God then abides in or remain in us. We do not attach any mysterious or mystical sense to this verse, such as God literally being in us and us being in God. If we suggest that this verse, i.e., God being in us, means his taking control of our lives, does our being in God, also mean we control his life? We would think to suggest such a thing is unreasonable, illogical, nonsensical, and such. Commentator Max Anders in the Holman New Testament Commentary says, “This is the test of true Christianity in the letters of John. We must recognize the basic character of God, rooted in love. We must experience that love in our own relationship with God. Others must experience this God kind of love in their relationships with us.” (Walls and Anders 1999, 211) Our love for God and man is the motivating factor in what we do and not do as Christians. John is saying that we need to remain in that love if we are to remain in God and God is to remain in us. We may be thinking, well, is it not true that God guides and direct us? Yes, however, this is because we have given our lives over to him.
1 John 2:14 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
14 I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God remains [meno] in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
Here we see that the Word of God abides or remains in us. Does this mean that the Word of God is literally within our body, controlling us? No, this means that our love for God and our love for his Word is a motivating factor in our walk with God. We are one with the Father as Jesus was and is one with the Father and he is one with us. Listen to the words of Paul in the book of Hebrews,
Hebrews 4:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Is the Word of God literally living, and an animate thing? No, it is an inanimate object. Is our Bible literally sharper than a two-edged sword? No, if we decide to stab someone with it, it would look quite silly. Is the Word of God literally able to pierce our joints and marrow? No, again, this would seem ridiculous. If we literally hold the Bible up to our head, is it able to discern our thinking, what we are intending to do? What did Paul mean? The Word of God does these things by our being able to evaluate ourselves by looking into the light of the Scriptures, which helps us to identify the intentions of our heart, i.e., inner person. When we meditatively read God’s Word daily and ponder what the author meant, we are taking into our mind, God’s thoughts and intentions. When we accept the Bible as the inspired, inerrant Word of God, take its counsel and apply its principles in our lives, it will have an impact on our conscience. The conscience is the moral code that God gave Adam and Eve, our mental power or ability that enables us to reason between what is good and what is bad. (Rom. 9:1) Then, the inner voice within us is not entirely ours, but is also God’s Word, empowering us to avoid choosing the wrong path.
1 John 2:24 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
24 As for you, let that remain [meno] in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning remains [meno] in you, you also will remain [meno] in the Son and in the Father.
Those who had followed Jesus from the beginning of his three and a half year ministry cleaved to what they had heard about the Father and the Son. Therefore, if the same truths are within our heart, inner person, our mental power or ability, we too can abide or remain [meno] in the Son and the Father. (John 17:3) It is as James said, if we draw close to God, through his Word the Bible, he will draw close to us. (Jam. 4:8) In other words, God becomes a part of us and we a part of him through the Word of God that is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
In John chapter 14, we see this two-way relationship more closely. Jesus said, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.” (14:11) He also said, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (14:20) We see that the Father and Son have a close relationship, a relationship that we are invited to join.
All through the above discussion of the Father and the Son, we likely had no problem following the line of thought. However, once we interject the Holy Spirit, it is as though our common sense is thrown out. Christians know that the Father and the Son reside in heaven. They also understand that when we speak of the Word of God, the Father and the Son dwelling in us, it is in reference to our being one with them, our unified relationship, by way of the Word of God. However, when we contemplate the Holy Spirit, it is as though our mental powers shut down, and we enter the realms of the mysterious and mysticism. However, we just understood John 14:11 and 14:20, i.e., how Jesus is in the Father, the Father in Jesus, and their being in us. So, let us now consider the verses that lie between verse 11 and 20.
Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
John 14:16-17 English Standard Version (ESV)
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells [meno] with you and will be in you.
John 14:16-17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, that he may be with you forever; 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see him or know him, but you know him because he remains [meno] with you and will be in you.
Do we not find it a bit disconcerting that, all along when looking at John’s writings as to the Son and the Father abiding [meno] in one another, in us, and us in them. In those places, the translation rendered meno as abiding, but now that the Holy Spirit is mentioned, they render meno as “dwell.”
Do these verses call for us to; drive off the path of reason, into the realms of mysteriousness and mysticism talk? No, these verses are very similar to our 1 John 2:24 that we dealt with above, but will quote again, “Let what you heard from the beginning abide [meno] in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides [meno] in you, then you too will abide [meno] in the Son and in the Father.” In 1 John 2:24, we are told that if the Word of God that we heard from the beginning of being a Christian, abides [meno] in us, we will abide [meno] in the Son and the Father. In John 14:15-17, if we keep Jesus’ commands, the Holy Spirit will dwell, actually abide [meno] in us. In all of this, the common denominator has been the spirit inspired, fully inerrant Word of God. It is what we are to take into our mind and heart, which will affect change in our person, and enable us to abide or remain in the Father and the Son, and they in us, as well as the Holy Spirit, abiding or remaining in us.
The Holy Spirit, through the Spirit inspired, inerrant Word of God is the motivating factor for our taking off the old person and putting on the new person. (Eph. 4:20-24; Col. 3:8-9) It is also the tool used by God so that we can “be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may approve what is the good and well-pleasing and perfect will of God.” (Rom. 12:2; See 8:9) The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament compares this line of thinking with Paul’s reference, at Romans 7:20, to the “sin that dwells within me.”
The dwelling of sin in man denotes its dominion over him, its lasting connection with his flesh, and yet also a certain distinction from it. The sin which dwells in me (ἡ οἰκοῦσα ἐν ἐμοὶ ἁμαρτία) is no passing guest, but by its continuous presence becomes the master of the house (cf. Str.-B., III, 239). Paul can speak in just the same way, however, of the lordship of the Spirit. The community knows (οὐκ οἴδατε, a reference to catechetical instruction, 1 C. 3:16) that the Spirit of God dwells in the new man (ἐν ὑμῖν οἰκεῖ, 1 C. 3:16; R. 8:9, 11). This “dwelling” is more than ecstatic rapture or impulsion by a superior power.
How does the Holy Spirit control a Christian? Certainly, some mysterious or mystical feeling does not control him.
Paul told the Christians in Rome,
Romans 12:2 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Just how do we renew our mind? This is done by taking in an accurate knowledge of Biblical truth, which enables us to meet God’s current standards of righteousness. (Titus 1:1) This Bible knowledge, if applied, will allow us to move our mind in a different direction, by filling the void, after having removed our former sinful practices, with the principles of God’s Word, principles that guide our actions, especially ones that guide moral behavior.
Psalm 119:105 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
The Biblical truths that lay in between Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 22:21 will transform our way of thinking, which will in return affect our mood and actions and our inner person. It will be as the apostle Paul said to the Ephesians. We need to “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness …” (Eph. 4:22-24) This force that contributes to our acting or behaving in a certain way, for our best interest is internal.
Paul told the Christians in Colossae,
Colossians 3:9-11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old man with its practices 10 and have put on the new man who is being renewed through accurate knowledge according to the image of the one who created him, 11 where there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Science has indeed taken us a long way in our understanding of how the mind works, but it is only a grain of sand on the beach of sand in comparison to what we do not know. We have enough in these basics to understand some fundamental processes. When we open our eyes to the light of a new morning, it is altered into and electrical charge by the time it arrives at the gray matter of our brain’s cerebral cortex. As the sound of the morning birds reaches our gray matter, it comes as electrical impulses. The rest of our senses (smell, taste, and touch) arrive as electrical currents in the brain’s cortex as well. The white matter of our brain lies within the cortex of gray matter, used as a tool to send electrical messages to other cells in other parts of the gray matter. Thus, when anyone of our five senses detects danger, at the speed of light, a message is sent to the motor section, to prepare us for the needed action of either fight or flight.
Here lies the key to altering our way of thinking. Every single thought, whether it is conscious or subconscious makes an electrical path through the white matter of our brain, with a record of the thought and event. This holds true with our actions as well. If it is a repeated way of thinking or acting, it has no need to form a new path; it only digs a deeper, ingrained, established path.
This would explain how a factory worker who has been on the job for some time, gives little thought as he performs his repetitive functions each day; it becomes unthinking, automatic, mechanical. These repeated actions become habitual. There is yet another facet to be considered; the habits, repeated thoughts, and actions become simple and effortless to repeat. Any new thoughts and actions are harder to perform, as there need to be new pathways opened up.
The human baby starts with a blank slate, with a minimal amount of stable paths built in to survive those first few crucial years. As the boy grows into childhood, there is a flood of pathways established, more than all of the internet connections worldwide.
Our five senses are continuously adding to the maze. Ps. 139:14: “I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. . . .” (NASB) So, it could never be overstated as to the importance of the foundational thinking and behavior that should be established in our children from infancy forward.
Paul told the Christians in Ephesus,
Ephesians 4:20-24 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard him and have been taught in him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that you take off, according to your former way of life, the old man, who is being destroyed according to deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and put on the new man, the one created according to the likeness of God in righteousness and loyalty of the truth.
How are we to understand being renewed in the spirit of our minds? Christian living is carried out through the study and application of God’s Word, in which, our spirit (mental disposition), is in harmony with God’s Spirit. Our day-to-day decisions are made with a biblical mind, a biblically guided conscience, and a heart that is motivated by love of God and neighbor. Because we have,
- Received the Word of God,
- treasured up the Word of God,
- have been attentive to the Word of God,
- inclining our heart to understand the Word of God,
- calling out for insight into the Word of God,
- raising our voice for an understanding of the Word of God,
- sought the Word of God like silver,
- have searched for the Word of God like gold,
- we have come to understand the fear of God, and have
- found the very knowledge of God, which now
- leads and directs us daily in our Christian walk.
Proverbs 23:7 New King James Version (NKJV)
7 For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, But his heart is not with you. [Our thinking affects our emotions, which in turn affects our behavior.]
Irrational thinking produces irrational feelings, which will produce wrong moods, leading to wrong behavior. It may be difficult for each of us to wrap our mind around it, but we are very good at telling ourselves outright lies and half-truths, repeatedly throughout each day. In fact, some of us are so good at it that it has become our reality and leads to mental distress and bad behaviors.
When we couple our leaning toward wrongdoing with the fact that Satan the devil, who is “the god of this world,” (2 Co 4:4) has worked to entice these leanings, the desires of the fallen flesh; we are even further removed from our relationship with our loving heavenly Father. During these ‘last days, grievous times’ has fallen on us as Satan is working all the more to prevent God’s once perfect creation to achieve a righteous standing with God and entertaining the hope of eternal life. – 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
When we enter the pathway of walking with our God, we will certainly come across resistance from three different areas (Our sinful nature, Satan and demons, and the world that caters to our flesh). Our greatest obstacle is ourselves, because we have inherited imperfection from our first parents Adam and Eve. The Scriptures make it quite clear that we are mentally bent toward bad, not good. (Gen 6:5; 8:21, AT) In other words, our natural desire is toward wrong. Prior to sinning, Adam and Eve were perfect, and they had the natural desire of doing good, and to go against that was to go against the grain of their inner person. Scripture also tells us of our inner person, our heart.
Jeremiah 17:9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
9 The heart is more deceitful than all else,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
Jeremiah’s words should serve as a wake-up call, if we are to be pleasing in the eyes of our heavenly Father, we must focus on our inner person. Maybe we have been a Christian for many years; maybe we have a deep knowledge of Scripture, perhaps we feel that we are spiritually strong, and nothing will stumble us. Nevertheless, our heart can be enticed by secret desires, where he fails to dismiss them; he eventually commits a serious sin.
Our conscious thinking (aware) and subconscious thinking (present in our mind without our being aware of it) originates in the mind. For good, or for bad, our mind follows certain rules of action, which if entertained one will move even further in that direction until they are eventually consumed for good or for bad. In our imperfect state, our bent thinking will lean toward wrong, especially with Satan using his world, with so many forms of entertainment that simply feeds the flesh.
James 1:14-15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then the desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
1 John 2:16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
Matthew 5:28 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
1 Peter 1:14 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
14 As children of obedience, do not be conformed according to the desires you formerly had in your ignorance,
If we do not want to be affected by the world of humankind around us, which is alienated from God, we must again consider the words of the Apostle Paul’s. He writes (Rom 12:2) “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Just how do we do that? This is done by taking in an accurate knowledge of Biblical truth, which enables us to meet God’s current standards of righteousness. (Titus 1:1) This Bible knowledge, if applied, will enable us to move our mind in a different direction, by filling the void with the principles of God’s Word, principles that guide our actions, especially ones that guide moral behavior.
Psalm 119:105 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
We have said this before but it bears repeating. The Biblical truths that lay in between Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 22:21 will transform our way of thinking, which will in return affect our mood and actions and our inner person. It will be as the apostle Paul set it out to the Ephesians. We need to “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness …” (Eph. 4:22-24) This force that contributes to our acting or behaving in a certain way, for our best interest is internal.
Bringing This Transformation About
The mind is the mental ability that we use in a conscious way to garner information and consider ideas and come to conclusions. Therefore, if we perceive our realities based on the information, which surrounds us, generally speaking, most are inundated with a world that reeks of Satan’s influence. This means that our perception, our attitude, thoughts, speech, and conduct are in opposition to God and his Word. Most are in true ignorance of the changing power of God’s Word. The apostle Paul helps us to appreciate the depths of those who reflect this world’s disposition. He writes,
Ephesians 4:17-19 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
17 This, therefore, I say and bear witness to in the Lord, that you no longer walk as the Gentiles [unbelievers] also walk, in the futility of their mind [emptiness, idleness, slugishness, vanity, foolishness, purposelessness], 18 being darkened in their understanding [mind being the center of human perception], alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart [hardening as if by calluses, unfeeling]; 19 who being past feeling gave themselves up to shameless conduct, for the practice of every uncleanness with greediness.
Hebrews 4:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
By taking in this knowledge of God’s Word, we will be altering our way of thinking, which will affect our emotions and behavior, as well as our lives now and for eternity. This Word will influence our minds, making corrections in the way we think. If we are to have the Holy Spirit controlling our lives, we must ‘renew our mind’ (Rom. 12:2) “which is being renewed in knowledge” (Col. 3:10) of God and his will and purposes. (Matt 7:21-23; See Pro 2:1-6) All of this boils down to each individual Christian digging into the Scriptures in a meditative way, so he can ‘discover the knowledge of God, receiving wisdom; from God’s mouth, as well as knowledge and understanding.’ (Pro. 2:5-6) As he acquires the mind that is inundated with the Word of God, he must also,
James 1:22-25 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For 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.
24 for he looks at himself and goes away, and immediately forgets what sort of man he was. 25 But he that looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, being no hearer who forgets but a doer of a work, he will be blessed in his doing.
But be doers of the word, (1:22a)
James is telling his readers to be doers of the word as obedience to the Word is not optional, it is required if one is to walk faithfully with God. Jesus pointed out: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21, 24-27) He also said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28) The Greek verb (ginesthe) is an imperative in the present tense, “be you becoming,” which carries the force of an exhortation for a continuous action. James is not suggesting they become doers, but that they be doers, i.e., make sure that they are continuously doers. The expression doer of the word is a Hebrew idiom that literally means ‘makers of the word.’ It could mean a writer or speaker, but more likely carries the meaning of one who lives by the word, one who obeys the word, who practices the word.
and not hearers only, (1:22b)
It does not make one a Christian because they listen dutifully as one is sharing the Word of God. While it is great if a Christian attends Christian services and reads the Scriptures daily, but there is more to being a Christian. Literally hearing the Word, even understanding the Word, is not enough. In the early first century, Jews and Christians had similar services, wherein a lecturer would read from the Scriptures regularly while also explaining what had been read. However, this alone does not lead to faith. If one is to be the type of hearer that James is speaking of here, he would have genuine faith, meaning that his faith in what he heard would result in works. (Rom. 10:17; Jam. 2:20) In other words, a Christian, who was a hearer only, would be one who lacked faith.
deceiving yourselves (1:22c)
Over 41,000 different Christian denominations today are filled with dutiful persons who regularly attend Christian services, regularly read their Bibles, and involve themselves in the social actions of the congregation. In this, they all believe that they are fulfilling their Christian obligations. However, many of these people’s lives are no different from the atheist that is a good person, living by the laws, paying his taxes, and doing good to others. We are deceiving ourselves if our entire life is not inundated in our worship of God. We may not be aware of, or maybe we even block out the fact that obeying the Word of God is an unnegotiable requirement. What we may not realize is that this deceiving ourselves is like a roadblock on our path to salvation and harder to set aside than ignorance or skepticism itself. God expects exclusive devotion from his worshipers, which encompasses every aspect of the Christian life. (1 Cor. 10:31) If our worship is merely an outward display, a going through the motions, we are falling short. We were given the great commission of proclaiming and teaching God’s Word, as well as making disciples. If we are not regularly engaged in such work in our own communities, we are missing the most important act of obedience.
For 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. (1:23)
When looking into a mirror, man has his image reflected back at himself, where he can see all of his flaws and faults. The purpose of looking into the mirror is so he can see if anything is out of place so that he can make any needed corrections. Can we imagine looking into a mirror, seeing a big stain on our shirt, our hair is completely disheveled, or that we have something on our face, but we ignore them and head off to work?
The image he sees in the mirror is sent to the mind, where it is evaluated, reasoned on, considered. For this reason, by looking at the Word of God, by hearing the Word of God, we are able to see our true selves. We can see all of our imperfections, character flaws, and human weaknesses. We can also see any wrongdoings, misdeeds, even thinking that is out of harmony with the Word of God.
We must keep in mind this analogy is a negative one that is looking at a person who looks intently at his natural face in the mirror, sees the things that need to be corrected, but walks away ignoring them. The same is true with the Word of God. He looks into the Word, listens to the needed corrections as he reads, ignores them, and chooses to remain inactive, and fails to respond.
For he looks at himself and goes away, and immediately forgets what sort of man he was. (1:24)
When a person looks into a mirror, he is good at quickly seeing what is out of place as to his appearance. Maybe he has been unable to sleep, so he sees the yellow skin and puffy eyes and dark circles under the eyes. Maybe he sees that he has more gray hair coming in from increased age. When he looks intently into a mirror, he is aware of the things that should give him pause as to how he is living his life. Sleepless nights can cause high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, memory loss, diabetes, and lower libidos, and less interest in sex. Does it seem logical to ignore the physical signs of lacking sleep? Should we not consider how we could turn things around? Nevertheless, the man in James’ analogy quickly forgets, once he has turned away from the mirror. It is a case of, ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ as he may want to forget some unwelcome features. Yes, once he has walked away from the mirror he allows the anxieties of the day to crowd out his appearance, forgetting what he may have needed to correct. (See 2 Pet. 1:9) However, the man who is a doer reacts quite differently as he looks into the perfect law.
But he that looks into the perfect law, (1:25a)
James now gives a comparison to the man who not only hears the Word but also actually applies that Word to his life. James says the man who applies the word is he that looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty. The Greek word used for “looks” is the word parakupto, which means to “bend inside, lean over, or stoop down to look into.” (Vine 1996, Volume 2, Page 378) The sense here is of one seeking to get a better look at something by leaning forward, peering at it. (See John 20:5, 11; 1 Peter 1:12) “The same verb—translated as bent over—pictures the apostle John staring into Jesus’ empty tomb (John 20:5). John’s look led to an obedient faith (John 20:8).” (Lea 1999, 267)
One, who is wanting to obey the law of Christ does just that, as he peers into the perfect law to inspect, examine and study it, with a heart motivated toward obedience. He is able to visualize himself as it relates to being a biblical father, husband, son, or to herself as a biblical mother, wife or daughter. The law is perfect in the sense that it is complete, everything we in our imperfect state need to walk with God, to have and maintain a righteous standing before the Father and the Son. It is a pathway to salvation through the grace of God. – Proverbs 30:5-6; Psalm 119:105, 140.
the law of liberty, (1:25b)
Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32) The Word of God frees his people from slavery to sin and death, putting them on the path of life. (Rom. 7:5-6, 9; 8:2, 4; 2 Cor. 3:6-9) This “law of liberty” is a reference not to the Mosaic Law, but to the new covenant, in which the Father declared, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer. 31:33) Christians are under the principles of the Mosaic Law, but not under some long code of rules and regulations but rather the inspired, inerrant Word of God, which enables them to know the will of the Father. (Matt. 7:21-23; 1 John 2:15-17; Gal. 5:1, 13-14) In other words, they have a developed fine-tuned Christian conscience, which leads them in the way that they should go, not because of some fearful dread of displeasing some all-powerful being. The Christian’s worship is out of love and is principally positive, not negative. – Matthew 22:37-40; see James 2:12
and abides by it, (1:25c)
James also says that the doer of the word does not just obey it occasionally but abides in it. The Greek word for abide is parameno which means “to remain by or near” para, “beside,” hence, “to continue or persevere in anything.” (Vine 1996, Volume 2, Page 127) He is abiding in these things in the fact he is daily striving to live these truths out in a manner that is pleasing to his master who gave him these commands. This is moving beyond a mere examination of it. This one is different from the man who had looked into the mirror, being dissatisfied with what he saw, but nonetheless walking away forgetting or even losing interest in what he saw. The Christian perseveres and continues to pore over the perfect law with the mindset of keeping his life in harmony with it. (Ps. 119:9, 16, 97) We need to be immersed and engaged fully with the Word of God, as it guides us through this imperfect age.
being no hearer who forgets but a doer of a work, he will be blessed in his doing. (1:25d)
The Christian, who has moved over from being a forgetful hearer into the world of being a doer, is one who has a biblical mindset. This biblical mindset leads him to every decision he makes, no matter how great or small. Before, he had been one who may have sat listening respectfully but then failed to act on the insights he gained from the Word of God. Now, he takes everything that he hears from the Word to heart (his inner person), the seat of motivation, and puts it to work in his daily life. He now has an inner joy that he had never previously known. The Word of God proves to be beneficial in ways he had never imagined. (Ps. 19:7-11; see 1 Tim. 4:8.) He draws real comfort from the fact that he has a righteous standing before God, and that God finds him pleasing.
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 Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, vol. 18, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 117
 Millard J. Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1992), 265–270
 W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1996), 180.
 Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–)
 Str.-B. H. L. Strack and P. Billerbeck, Kommentar zum NT aus Talmud und Midrasch, 1922 ff.
 Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 135
 Or old person
 Or new person
 See Romans 3:20 ftn.
 An interpretive translation would have, “put on the new person,” because it does mean male or female.
 Or “own lust”
 ἐπιθυμία [Epithumia] to strongly desire to have what belongs to someone else and/or to engage in an activity which is morally wrong–‘to covet, to lust, evil desires, lust, desire.’– GELNTBSD
 I.e., obedient children
 Or “loose conduct,” “sensuality,” “licentiousness” “promiscuity” Greek, aselgeia. This phrase refers to acts of conduct that are serious sins. It reveals a shameless condescending arrogance; i.e., disregard or even disdain for authority, laws, and standards.
 Lit the face of his birth