“The Right Way to React to the Word of Righteousness - Pt 1”

The Right Way to React to the Word of Righteousness (Jam. 1:21-25) – Part 1

Wade Webster

People react to the word of God in many different ways. Some stop their ears to keep from hearing it (Mat. 13:15-16; Acts 7:54-57). Others receive it great eagerness (Acts 2:41; 17:11). Of course, the way that we react to the word of God has eternal implications. It will determine where we spend eternity. It is for this reason that James wrote to help his brethren to react correctly. We read, “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (Jam. 1:21-25). In these verses James instructed his brethren to remove sin with diligence, to receive Scripture with meekness, and to respond with obedience.

Remove With Diligence: James instructed his brethren to “lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness” (Jam. 1:21). The Greek word translated as lay aside means to put off or to put away. Repeatedly, the New Testament so instructs the Christian. For example, Paul instructed the saints at Colosse to put off anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language, and lying because they were characteristics of the old man (Col. 3:8-9; cf. Eph. 4:31; Rom. 13:12). These things remind us of the instructions that James just gave within the context (Jam. 1:19-20) for his brethren to be slow to speak (blasphemy, filthy language, lying) and to be slow to wrath (anger, wrath, malice). Please note that James instructed them to lay aside “all filthiness. “ A few verses later, he will tell to keep themselves “unspotted” from the world (Jam. 1:27). We live in a filthy world. It is easy to get dirty (Isa. 6:5; 2 Pet. 2:7). We must avoid all contamination. Paul’s words to the Corinthians bear a striking resemblance to James’ words. He wrote, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1; cf. Eph. 5:3-6).

In addition to laying aside all filthiness, James instructed his brethren to lay aside the “overflow of wickedness. “. Did this mean that they could keep wickedness as long as it stayed within certain bounds? Were they only to lay aside excessive wickedness? Absolutely, not! They were to get rid of all wickedness just like they were to get rid of all filthiness. The Greek word translated as overflow refers to “residue” or “remains.“ When a person becomes a Christian, their sins are washed away. However, it will likely take some time for them to rid themselves of all of the residue of their former life. They will have to struggle against thinking, speaking, dressing, and acting as they did before their conversion. Old habits must be replaced with new ones, and that takes time. By speaking of the overflow of wickedness James may also have simply been noting the excessive nature of wickedness (Lk. 15:13). Wickedness is excessive (Lk. 15:13; Eph. 5:18; 1 Pet. 4:3-4).

Receive With Meekness:  Having instructed his brethren to remove the wickedness, James now instructed them to “receive with meekness the implanted word” (Jam. 1:21). The Greek word translated as receive means to take with the hand, to receive favorably, to give ear, to get, to learn (Prov. 4:5, 7; 16:16). I love what Cornelius said to Peter when he came to tell him words whereby he and his house could be saved. He declared: “Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God” (Acts 10:33). First, please note that he sent immediately for Peter. He did not wait for a convenient season (Acts 24:25). He made time. Second, he gathered his whole household together. He wanted them all to hear the message of salvation. Third, they were there to hear or to give ear. They were not there to argue. They were there to receive the word with readiness and gladness (Acts 2:41; 17:11). Fourth, they wanted to hear all things. They wanted the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). They weren’t interested in a partial plan. Fifth, they wanted to hear what was commanded of God (1 Thess. 2:13). They weren’t interested in Peter’s opinions.

James not only told his brethren to receive the word, he told them how to receive it - with meekness. The Greek word translated as meekness refers to a mildness of disposition and a gentleness of spirit (Psa. 25:9; Isa. 61:1). The Greek word translated as implanted carries within it the concept of planting. When you combine these ideas you have something beautiful. The word of God is a seed that is planted in the heart (Lk. 8:11). The meek heart is the soft heart. It is rich, bottom soil. It will receive the seed and bring forth fruit (Lk. 8:15).

James not only told his brethren how to receive it (with meekness), but also why to receive it (salvation). The implanted word is able to save our souls (Acts 13:36; Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 15:1-2; Eph. 1:13; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; Heb.2:3). The Greek word translated as able refers to that which is powerful (Heb. 4:12; Rom. 1:16). It is able to save the most valuable part of us - the part of us that is going to live somewhere forever (Mat. 16:26). The Greek word translated as saved means to rescue from danger . Of course, the danger is eternal destruction (2 Thess. 1:7-9). In addition to saving us initially, the word has the power to keep us safe and sound (Jude 24; 2 Pet. 1:9-10). This is a part of the meaning of the Greek word translated as save.