There is an old saying that ignorance is bliss (i.e., great joy or happiness). However, if a person does not understand the importance of making biblical teachings applicable in his (or her) own life, that person’s sense of bliss will be considerably less than they would be if they apply in their life many of the biblical teachings that they currently are not applying.
Even people who are relatively knowledgeable about what the Bible says regarding various matters may often not apply to their life what the Bible is intended to teach. In this regard, James 1:22 states, “[B]e doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
[Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible, except when we are quoting a source that uses a different translation.]
The following are a few of the Bible commentaries that discuss the significance of James 1:22.
Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible declares,
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only – Obey the gospel, and do not merely listen to it.
Deceiving your own selves – It is implied here, that by merely hearing the word but not doing it, they would deceive their own souls. The nature of this deception was this, that they would imagine that that was all which was required, whereas the main thing was that they should be obedient. If a man supposes that by a mere punctual attendance on preaching, or a respectful attention to it, he has done all that is required of him, he is laboring under a most gross self-deception. And yet there are multitudes who seem to imagine that they have done all that is demanded of them when they have heard attentively the word preached.
Also, with regard to James 1:22, Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible says,
Hearing is in order to doing; the most attentive and the most frequent hearing of the word of God will not avail us, unless we be also doers of it. [T]he apostle [James] insists much upon it (and, without doubt, it is indispensably necessary) that we practice what we hear. “There must be inward practice by meditation, and outward practice in true obedience.” (Baxter)
David Guzik’s Enduring Word Bible Commentary addresses the same scripture, as follows:
It was common in the ancient world for people to hear a teacher. If you followed the teacher and tried to live what he said, you were called a disciple of that teacher. We may say that Jesus is looking for disciples: doers, not mere hearers.
“A teacher or preacher may give an eloquent address on the gospel, or explain ably some O.T. prophecy about Christ, but when the sermon is done, it is not done; something remains to be done by the hearers in life, and if they content themselves with sentimental admiration or with enjoying the emotional or mental treat, they need not imagine that this is religion.” (Moffatt)
“I fear we have many such in all congregations; admiring hearers, affectionate hearers, attached hearers, but all the while unblest [sic] hearers, because they are not doers of the word.” (Spurgeon)
Additional perspective regarding James 1:22 is provided by Sutcliffe’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, which states,
Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only. In order to that, we should hear with attention so as to understand, for at that time the readers were few. The poor could not read, nor buy the scripture parchments.
The preceding commentaries make it clear that James 1:22 instructs people not only to hear what the Word of God (i.e., the Bible) says, but also to do what the Bible teaches. And, by inference, those who read the Bible should likewise do what the Bible teaches.
Many people who regularly read the Bible may erroneously think that much of what the Bible teaches is applicable to only the people who were involved during the times when the recorded incidents took place and that, therefore, those teachings are not applicable to themselves. Perhaps, one of the primary reasons for this lack understanding is because they read the Bible as if it is a history book rather than a spiritual guide. As a result, a lot of people who read the Bible fail to make personal application of a number of the scriptures in the Bible that they do not realize are relevant to them.
It is important for everyone to know and understand what the Bible teaches about all kinds of spiritual matters. However, just reading the Bible is frequently not sufficient to understand the personal applicability of many biblical teachings. To properly understand the personal applicability of many biblical teachings, diligent study of the Bible is usually necessary. Diligent Bible study helps to make biblical knowledge relevant. Therefore, the more diligently a person engages in Bible study, the better that person will understand the applicability of what the Bible teaches.