James 1:21-22

James 1:21‑22  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 8
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CONDUCT is bound to be according to relationship; and this flows from what God our Father has already formed by the acting of His own purpose and mind in giving us birth by the word of truth: a fact which it was the more important to press on saints who were used to take their stand on being sprung from Abraham as their father. They were now taught how much higher and holier was the new descent; and this not only from God but in the most blessed way which gave full place to the Son as well as the Spirit, and had its title-deed indisputable in the written word. So the Lord had Himself laid down to the Jews, “If ye abide in My word, ye are truly My disciples; and ye shall know the truth; and the truth shall make you free.... If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” How little souls, that loudly boast of their liberty, suspect that they are bondmen of sin and thus in Satan's chains! Even the believers, whom Christ has set free, are but a kind of first-fruits with an evil nature in no way set aside as a fact by the new nature which is ours through the word and Spirit of God. In virtue of this we have by grace to judge and refuse every working of the old nature, living on the Living Bread whereof we have eaten, yea, eating His flesh and drinking His blood, and so living not merely by reason, but on account, of Him, as He did when here below on account of the Father. No character of life for purity can compare with that which the word of truth conveys. How different and inferior is the being of blood or of flesh's will or of man's will, which we once sadly knew, as our only experience, and still know to be productive, if allowed, only of evil, even since we were born of God!
But it is not enough, though it be much every way, to be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. The exhortation follows definitely against imminent dangers. “Wherefore, having laid aside every sort of filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, receive with meekness the implanted word which is able to save your souls. But be word-doers, and not hearers only, deluding yourselves” (vers. 21, 22).
It is well to take note of the aorist in ver. 21, as compared with the present in ver. 22: in the last a constant continuous call, in the former acts done once for all. Pollution might be, as the apostle tells us in 2 Cor. 7:11Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1), of spirit no less than of flesh, and the more ensnaring because more subtle. But the call is to have once for all put every kind of filthiness away, as also of that rank growth of wickedness which is inherent in fallen Nature. It would be indeed a hopeless call if we had not a new life in Christ; but this every believer possesses, and the Holy Spirit's indwelling to work suitably to Him Who is its source, fullness, and standard. The flesh is still there; but in the cross of Christ it has already received its condemnation in Him Who was the one and efficacious offering for sin (Rom. 8:33For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: (Romans 8:3)). Thus there is no excuse for the believer allowing its evil working in himself or others: God condemned it fully when Christ thus suffered, that we might have even now this immense comfort for faith as a settled thing.
“The word of truth,” which first reached us when under the dominion of the falsehood of sin and Satan, and delivered us through faith in Christ and His mighty work, is spoken of also as “the implanted word” which we are told to receive as an accomplished act. It is in contrast with a merely external rule that could only condemn what was opposed to itself. It works inwardly in that life which the believer has, being perfectly akin to it and congenial with it, as both are of God. Hence there is nothing strange in the call; and the call is to receive it “with meekness,” as becomes those who have already tasted that the Lord is good, and desire to profit more and more. For indeed only that word is “able to save our souls” (compare the end of 1 Peter 1, and the beginning of chap. 2). The God who began so gracious a work does not forget or relinquish His care. He exercises and disciplines our souls, He spares no fault; but He has proved fully in Christ that those whom He loved that were in the world He loved unto the end. Still He works not by rites or forms, but by our faith in His word (compare 1 Peter 1:55Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:5)). We are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to he revealed in the last time.
But as this exceeding value of God's word is capable of being abused into a school of dogma, and consequently of mere knowledge, the next verse summons us habitually to reduce the word to practice. “But be word-doers, and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.” This is the great business of every day. Our Lord had already enforced His most solemn warning against the same self-delusion. “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of the heavens; but he that doeth the will of my Father that is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out demons, and in thy name done works of power? And then will I avow unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work lawlessness” (Matt. 7:21-2321Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21‑23)). The word must not only be heard but produce fruit accordingly. To hear the Son is the urgent call of the Father, but it is to form the new life in obedience; otherwise it is to mock God and delude ourselves. And hence the grave caution here.