13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified;
The word “for” explains the difference between those with negative and those with positive volition toward God’s revelation.
not the hearers of the law
“Hearer” here is not the usual Greek word for hear. The Greek uses this word for those whose business it is to listen; it is their characteristic to hear. The Jew often heard the Old Testament read in their synagogues in the first century. There is no virtue in listening without applying to experience.
are just in the sight of God,
The word “just” means acquitted. It is the state of being right with God on the basis of responding positively to revelation. The word “just” fulfills all claims that are right and becoming, a right state (of which God and His Word are the standard). Those who hear but do not apply what they hear are not becoming to God, but God will not charge a fault against the person who hears and applies.
but [strong contrast] the doers [appliers] of the law will be justified [vindicated];
The doer of the law is a person who puts his will in a positive attitude toward God’s revelation. It is not enough to hear God’s Word, we must believe it. Those who listen to revelation but do not apply it are not just or right before God in their response to revelation.
Those who engage with revelation get God’s approval. Justification here does not refer to the justification of salvation but simply to God’s vindication of their positive volition toward revelation. There is nothing about justification by works in this verse. If there were, it would contradict passages that deal with justification by faith.
It is the business of the believer to engage with the Word of God in an active sense.
It is not enough that we have a clear understanding of justification by faith, we must embrace it with engaging belief. Correct doctrine does not equate with active volition. There is a difference between a mechanical belief and active, dynamic belief. There is no virtue in simply listening to God’s Word; the virtue lies in accepting it as true and acting upon it. There is a participatory aspect to belief.
It is the student’s business to listen in class. The student who takes the course for credit will take a test on what he hears. This is his business. The person who audits the course is not responsible for what he hears and will take no test on what he hears. It is the business of the believer to put to test what he knows about the Word of God. The Word of God should bring conviction and confession of sin.