James says here that obedience to the Bible produces spiritual freedom. He uses a different word to describe the Bible. Instead of calling it the word of God he says that it is the perfect law. Now we live in a society that realises the importance of the rule of law and one of the goals of earthly governments is to produce better laws, a reminder that they never have what they regard as perfect laws. God’s government does not have to engage in such projects because he already has the perfect law.
Obedience to God’s word results in freedom from the enslavements of sin in our own hearts. If I am drawn to a wrong practice, the best response to prevent it is to obey a commandment that prevents it. For example, I may be tempted to say something untrue about my neighbour. Instead of doing so, I do something that expresses love for my neighbour. When I do that, I am delivered from the chain of saying what was wrong and I also avoid all the consequences that would flow from wrong words.
Of course, it is not a sign of spiritual freedom only to obey a commandment once. Instead the obedience has to be lifelong. Sometimes we discuss the perseverance of the saints with regard to our eternal destiny because we are concerned about it. Here we another type of perseverance that God is concerned about, which is that we obey his word in a consistent, comprehensive lifelong manner. So the question comes to us, are we living in freedom?
There are many things that can cause us to lose this freedom. One is tradition, things handed down and which eventually become bondage. Traditions always have the tendency to turn us into men-pleasers rather than God-pleasers and we end up being concerned about their opinions instead of being concerned about what God says. Happy is the person who can say about his life, ‘I only want to do what God tells me to do.’
Another barrier to true freedom is license, which is a failure to obey the commandments of God. License is an expression of rebellion and it occurs whenever we disobey. In a strange way, those who live in such a way imagine that they are finding freedom. But all that is happening is a move to another master, whether it is sinful self, the world, or the devil, or a combination of them. Moving away from God’s law is not a move towards liberty. Instead it is a journey into bondage.
James gives great encouragement to his readers when he tells them that obedience to God’s word produces immediate blessing. The blessing could be a sense of peace or joy sent by God. Or it could be that an obedient believer is happy in the sense that he is freed from a condemning conscience. Either way, obedience to the word of God is the better way to live.