Grace and mercy to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What a joy to be alive in Christ. It is true that we are living in strange and trying times, 2020 has been an unusual and tumultuous year. But we serve an amazing God. The harder the times the brighter we can shine for Jesus. The crucible only refines us Beloved. Whatever fiery trials come; God sends them to conform us into the holy image of Christ. (James 1:2, 12, I Pt.4:12-19) And I trust you are becoming more and more like our wonderful Savior with each passing day. Someday soon, we who love the Lord, will be with Him forever, shining like the stars before the bright Morning Star Himself. (Phil.2:15, Rev.22:16, Rom.8:28, 2 Tim.4:8, Lk.21:28-33)
Well, today is study number eight in our James series. Please take out your Bible and read along with me. I will read James 1:18-21, though our study will focus on verses 19-21. Hear the holy word of our holy God, read.
James 1:18. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.
James 1:19. This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.
Christ told us to ask the Father whatever we need and to ask believing and God will give it to us. (I Jn.5:15-15, Jn.14:13-15, Mt.21:22) Well, let’s pray in faith that God would give us wisdom of insight into this portion of His word today. (James 1:5-8) Pray.
The main teaching of this passage is the right receiving of the word of God. We would all do well to ask ourselves, “am I willing to be taught by God”?
The new birth.
I read verse 18 to show us the connection for this week’s passage.
In V.18 James told his readership that they were born again by the Holy Spirit using the holy word.
V.18. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth,
We can divide the Bible into two parts, the Law of God and the Gospel of God. God uses His moral law to act as a tutor to bring us to Christ in the Gospel. (Gal.3:24) The law of God shows us that we are law breakers and that the wages of sin is death. The law shows us our need of Jesus. (Rom.6:23)
Jesus is the one that satisfies the Law of God for us. Jesus takes the penalties of the broken law, and that is death. And Jesus carries out the precepts of the moral law for us. The gospel is the message of the Cross. (Gal.3:22-24, WSC 89, 1 Cor.2:2) We believe in Him and we are cleansed by Christ and forever joined to the Triune God.
You see God uses the preaching of the gospel to cause us to be born again. Peter says the same thing in his first epistle. (Rom.1:16-17, I Cor.2:2)
I Peter 1: 23. for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For, “ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS, AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS. THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF, 25 BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.” And this is the word which was preached to you.
Paul reminds pastor Timothy of the importance of the sacred writings.
2 Timothy 3:15. and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Faith comes from hearing and hearing comes from the word of Christ. (Rom.10:1-17)
Beloved as professing Protestants we can never make too much of the word of God. God uses the Bible to convert us. God does not use the sacraments to convert us. God uses the word and the sacraments to strengthen us. But the word of God is the (ordinary) means of converting God’s elect. (WCF 10.1,3)
The new life.
For today’s passage, James teaches us that the same Holy Spirit that begets our new spiritual birth now admonishes us to live a new life worthy of our calling. (Eph.4:1-6, Phil.1:27, Col.1:10)
Let me just say a word or two about living a life to honor Christ, which is the subtitle of our James study.
The Bible says without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Heb.12:14) The holiness in this passage is sanctification holiness, practical progressive holiness, dying to sin, growing in righteousness. (WLC 75, WSC 35) I think, Beloved, far too many professing Christians live like practical atheists or practical antinomians. That is to say, they live like a bare profession of faith in Jesus Christ but without any fruits of righteousness is sufficient for them to enter heaven. (2 Cor.6:14-18)
Many will say on the Last Day, Lord, Lord did I not go to church, did I not say I was a Christian. And what will Christ say to them? Depart from Me you workers of iniquity. God knows the heart. What is in the heart comes out of us. Holy love for Christ will produce holy fruits for Christ. (Mt.7:13-29, Mt.25:14-46)
Oh, beloved faith alone in Christ alone justifies us. (Gal.3:6-12, Rom.5:1) But true faith is never alone. True faith always grows in practical holiness. You will know true faith in Jesus by the fruits of the Holy Spirit. (Gal.5:18-25) No (holy) fruits. No (true) faith. That is the thrust of the book of James. (James 2:14-20) Oh, I pray that I may stir myself and all of God’s people up to live a life to honor Jesus and His sin-cleansing Cross. (Mt.11:12, Lk.13:24, Rev.7:14)
The word implanted.
Please look at the governing exhortation of V.21, In humility receive the word implanted. This is in reference to the Bible. The same Bible that God used to convert us, God calls us to continue to receive the Bible as our only rule for doctrine and practice to progressively build us up in Christ.
James talks about the continuing place that the Bible has in the life of the professing Christian. This is very important. And very revealing. Those that profess to be Christ’s disciples but have little or no interest in the Bible testify they are still in darkness, they have yet to be delivered by Christ. Or that they are backslidden Believers.
Hear what the Bible says about Itself.
2 Timothy 3:16. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
Now I believe V.21 governs the moral exhortations of V.19 and 20 and 21. In V.21 James is talking about receiving the Word of God rightly (and not wrongly). The idea is to hear God’s word with humility, with submissiveness, with a teachable heart, yielding to It, not kicking against It, obeying It, not sitting as judge over it, that kind of a thing.
Let me show you what I mean.
V.19. But everyone must be quick to hear – the holy Scriptures.
V.19 (Everyone must be) slow to speak and slow to anger – slow to speak against the Bible, slow to speak to give your opinion on what the Bible speaks on matters of Faith, slow to get angry with the word of God.
Our flesh does in fact get angry at God’s law and gospel. This is why we need continuous sanctification.
V.20. for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness – be governed by the word of God. What God says is righteous is righteous. What God says is wicked is wicked. Be changed by the word of God. Live upon the Word of God. (Mt.4:4)
Let me show you a few instances where the people of God did not receive the word of God with all humility.
Ezekiel 18:25. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not right.’ Hear now, O house of Israel! Is My way not right? Is it not your ways that are not right? (Ps.50:17)
Ezekiel 33:30. But as for you, son of man, your fellow citizens who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses, speak to one another, each to his brother, saying, ‘Come now and hear what the message is which comes forth from the LORD.’ 31 “They come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain.
James 4:11. Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.
Positively James wants us to obey this exhortation that Paul gives the Romans.
Romans 12:1. Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 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.
We are transformed by the renewing of our mind by our receiving the word with all humility. Christ prayed Father sanctify them in Thy truth Thy word is truth. (Jn.17:17)
Now let’s look at some of the particulars of the various exhortations to receive God’s word rightly.
In V.19 James repeats his affection for his audience.
James 1:16. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
James 1:19. This you know, my beloved brethren.
James writes this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And that means he really does love these fellow Christians even the ones that he has not met. Christ calls us to love other Christians. This is the preeminent mark of truly receiving Jesus savingly. (Jn.13:34-35, I Jn.3:14-16, I Pt.3:8, Rom.13:8-14, Gal.5:14)
Loving other Christians is a testimony of receiving the word of God with humility when we love other Believers and consider them higher than ourselves and look out for their spiritual welfare as well as our own. (Phil.2:1-11) Not loving other Christians is a testimony that we are not receiving the word of God with submissiveness to God, but rather are living self-willed and self-centered and self-righteous lives. How convicting.
James teaches us that our motive for all of our religious instruction to anyone ought to be love; love to God and love to man. (I Tim.1:5) Love fulfills the Law of God. (Rom.13:10)
Notice that James says, my beloved brothers everyone must be quick to hear.Receiving the word of God with all humility to teach us on every point of doctrine and every moral practice is the duty of everyone than names the Name of Christ. No professing Christians are exempted from this. I would add, those in positions of authority over others are especially responsible to obey this.
This is particularly so if we have authority over others in religious training. For example, parents are especially obligated to receive the teaching of the Bible as they are responsible to teacher their children the Bible. (WLC 151) This is preeminently applicable to the minister of the Word. We especially must hear and obey the Word if we are to teach the Word. (James 3:1)
Control what you listen to – be quick to listen.
Jesus said, if anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” He was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to. (Mk.4:23-24)
The apostle John said, test every spirit for many false prophets and lying spirits have gone into the world. (I Jn.4:1, Eph.5:11)
And I do believe, that is the thrust of what James means to be quick to listen to the Word of God. Hear Oh Israel! (Dt.6:4) Be diligent to hear and heed the Bible.
Matthew 17:5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (Mt.4:4, Isa.55:2-3)
What is our duty then as regards to listening to the Bible? Daily in private? Weekly in preaching? Do we receive the preached word with a teachable spirit? Or do we sit as a critic over our pastor’s preaching? Do we oppose and contradict everything he preaches that we do not like?
Listen to what the apostle John says.
1 John 4:6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
Very few Christians have mastered the art of listening. It is harder to listen than to speak. In listening to others, we are fulfilling the second table of the Law. Because in listening to others we are practicing love for our brothers and neighbors. In listening we are treating others as we want to be treated. (Mt.7:12) In listening we are considering others, higher than we consider ourselves. In listening to others we are practicing self-denial.
Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor. (Phil.2:3-4, Rom.15:2)
Obviously, this does not mean to be quick to listen to sin, gossip, slander, lies, and false teaching. The Ninth Commandment forbids this. (WLC 143-145)
Control what you say – be slow to speak.
Next, James cautions his readers to be very careful about what they say. He spends chapter 3:1-12 speaking about the dangers of the tongue.
Jesus says we will have to give an account of every idle or careless word we say! (Mt.12:36-37, Eccles.5:1-2) Yikes! How convicting.
Listen to the wisest man in the Bible on this.
Proverbs 17:28 Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is counted prudent.
Proverbs 10:19. When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise. 20 The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver, The heart of the wicked is worth little. 21 The lips of the righteous feed many, But fools die for lack of understanding.
Again, we cannot take this exhortation too far. James is not saying we should all take a vow of silence as medieval monks did in certain monasteries as a token or practice of their piety. Remember there are times that God requires us to speak, and then to be silent is sin. Jesus requires us to confess Him before men. God requires us to defend our faith when asked.
We can apply this exhortation to corporate worship. There should be slowness to speak in the corporate assembly. This is so that there should not be chaos or disorder in God’s worship.
1 Corinthians 14:27. If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; 28 but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. 30 But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted;
Related to this, men should be slow to speak the word of God until they are sufficiently informed by It or can rightly divide It. So many want to be teachers of the Word before they are learners of the Word. (I Tim.1:7, James 3:1)
We all should be slow to speak if we are not informed by the Holy Scriptures. Think of many so-called “Bible studies”. How does it go? The “teacher” read a passage and then asks the group, what do you think this means? For most of the respondees there was no reading the text, no studying the text, not meditating on it, no prayer for God’s guidance on it, just “I think it means such and so to me”. This is shared ignorance Beloved.
Control your heart. Be slow to anger. V.19-20.
Now we come to an exhortation about our passions and wrath. First, there is righteous anger.
You can be angry at sin and Satan. You can be angry at what God is angry with. (Heb.3:10)
But because we still have the fallen or corrupt flesh, we should be extra cautious in this, lest we cross the line and engage in sinful anger, which I would argue is most of our anger.
Listen to Jesus.
Matthew 5:22. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
Listen to the Holy Spirit through Paul.
Ephesians 4:25. Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. 26 BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.
V.20. Our sinful anger never produces the godly life that God requires of Believers.
James 1:20. for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
Sinful anger disobeys God, obeys the world, the flesh, the devil and harms the Church and hinders the unbeliever. It is a bad witness. It disparages Christ and Christianity. And think of this. Sinful anger hurts us emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It grieves the Holy Spirit. It causes us to go backwards in our sanctification.
All of us get angry. But a Christian that is habitually an angry man is not a true Believer. Or he or she is progressed little in the way of practical holiness sanctification.
Outbursts of anger and inward seething anger are deeds of the fallen flesh. (2 Cor.12:20, Gal.5:20)
Very often angry people justify themselves in their anger, rather than repenting of it, and asking God for forgiveness of their sins, love for other people and control over their own emotions.
Proverbs 16:32 He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.
The Bible calls a quick-tempered person foolish, morally foolish. (Prov.14:29)
Ecclesiastes 7:9. For anger resides in the bosom of fools.
Most often our anger is just an expression of our pride and self-will being contradicted. Remember anger is a fruitful sin, it multiplies other sins. Angry heart, angry words, angry deeds. The peace and love are destroyed. Hatred and disunity prevail. Marriages are destroyed by angry. Churches are destroyed by anger. (Eph.4:31, Col.3:8, Titus 1:7)
Proverbs 29:22 An angry man stirs up strife, And a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.
Remember Moses, a man that spoke face to face with God, a prophet like no other. God kept him out of the earthly Promised Land because of one outburst of anger. (Num.20:10-12, 27:14, Dt.1:37, 3:26-27)
Ultimately, whether we recognize it or not, our anger is directed against God as God is the providential Governor of all things in our lives. (Mt.7:23) Anger represent an un-humble, unteachable, proud heart that will not yield to God’s will and word.
Remember Cain was angry with God! (Gen.4:5-6) Remember the older brother Pharisee was angry with Christ’s goodness and mercy on sinners. (Lk.15:28-30)
The preventative for sinful anger is to think highly of God, to think highly of others and to think lowly of self. Meditate upon the Cross and God’s mercy on you. You will be less angry with others. 😊
Grow in your sanctification. V.21.
Lastly, James concludes with two general exhortations. In these, we are active. We strive for the goal set before us.
James 1:21. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.
James has already spoken of God converting us or justifying us by the word. Now here he is speaking of our further sanctification as we have been saying all along. He tells us to put away external and internal moral filth. In a way these are the general duties behind the specific exhortation of quick to hear God’s word, slow to teach God’s word, slow to get angry, etc. Dying to sin. Grow in righteousness. (Eph.4:22-31, Col.3:8, I Pt.2:1, Rev.22:11, Zech.3:3-4, Phil.2:12, Heb.4:12, Rom.1:16)
Keep your eye on the goal.
Beloved may we truly love the word of God. May we be teachable. May we love God and love people. God tells us to. May we keep our eyes upon the great goal – the salvation of our souls. Let’s imitate Paul and run this earthly race looking above at the finish line, the goal, to be with Christ, the culmination of our salvation!
- What are some other terms or phrases used for the Bible? And what lessons do we learn by these different terms and phrases? (James 1:18, James 1:21, Mk.12:10, 2 Pt.3:16, Mt.4:4-10, Rom.1:1-2, Mt.15:3-6, I Pt.1:24-25, Dan.10:21, I Thess.2:13, Jn.12:34, Rom.3:21, Lk.16:29, Lk.24:44, Rom.3:1-2, 2 Cor.3:14)
- What is the usefulness of the Bible? What good does the Bible provide for us? What benefits do we enjoy by the Bible? (WCF 1.1, James 1:18-21, 2 Tim.3:15-17, Jn.17:17, Rom.10:1-17, Jn.3:16, Gal.3:22-24, WSC 89, 1 Cor.2:2, Rom.1:16-17, I Cor.2:2, I Pt.1:23-25)
- What is sanctification or progressive holiness? How does increasing practical holiness adorn the Gospel and adorn our life as Christians? What is the benefit and usefulness of fruits of holiness in our life? What is the standard for holiness? (WSC 35, Eph.4:1-6, Phil.1:27, Col.1:10, Heb.12:14, WLC 75, WSC 35, Mt.7:13-29, Mt.25:14-46, Gal.5:18-25, James 2:14-20, WCF 16.1-2)
- How is loving other Christians a mark of receiving the Bible humbly? How is not loving other Christians a mark of unteachableness and lovelessness? How should love govern our religious instruction to others? (James 1:16-19, Jn.13:34-35, I Jn.3:14-16, I Pt.3:8, Rom.13:8-14, Gal.5:14, Phil.2:1-11, I Tim.1:5, Rom.13:10)
- What does it mean to be quick to hear? Hear what? What does it mean to receive the Bible with a teachable spirit? In what ways can we act as a judge against the Bible? Give some instances where you received the teaching of the Bible with submission and instances where you did not. (Jas.1:18-21, Exod.18:25, Ps.50:17, Ezek.33:30-31, James 4:11, Rom.12:1-2, Mk.4:23-24, I Jn.4:1, Eph.5:11, Dt.6:4, Mt.17:5, Mt.4:4, I Jn.4:6, Rom.12:10, Phil.2:3-4)
- What does it mean to be slow to speak? Why and how should we be slow to religiously teach others? Could there ever be an instance where it would be sin to not speak about the Bible or Christ? Explain. (Mt.12:36-37, Eccles.5:1-2, Prov.17:28, Prov.10:19-21, I Cor.14:27-31, Mt.10:17-19, Mt.10:27-32, Ezek.33:6)
- Is there righteous anger? If so, define it. What is unrighteous anger? Why does sinful anger not produce the righteousness of God? What is the root of sinful anger? How can anger beget other sins? Give examples. How can we govern our anger? (Heb.3:10, Mt.5:22, Eph.4:25-27, James 1:18-20, 2 Cor.12:20, Gal.5:20, Prov.16:32, Prov.14:29, Eccles.7:9, Eph.4:31, Col.3:8, Titus 1:7, Prov.29:22, Prov.15:1, Jn.3:16)
- James 1:21 is a sanctification verse. What are some external and internal sins we need to mortify? How can we grow in our inward and outward obedience to each of the Ten Commandments? Give examples of how you might grow concerning each commandment. How should the goal of the salvation of our soul influence how we live? (2 Cor.7:1, Eph.4:22-31, Col.3:8, Exod.20:1-17, I Pt.2:1, Rev.22:11, Zech.3:3-4, Phil.2:1-12, Phil.4:4-10, Heb.4:12, Rom.1:16, Phil.3:1-14)