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Receiving the Word involves Acting Upon the Word
James 1
James 1:22-25 shows us how Christians are to listen to the Word and why such listening is to their advantage.
Published December 26th, 2018
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Main point summary for James 1
Devotional Reflection for James 1:22-25
Arcing for James 1**
Main point summary for James 1
James begins his letter by exhorting his fellow believers in two ways: (1) rejoice in trials because God is perfecting and preparing them for the crown of life and (2) be those who not only hear the Word but act upon it.
Devotional Reflection for James 1:22-25
In James 1, James has just made two important references to 'the word' in the immediate context. First, in identifying God the Father as the source of every good gift, he elaborates on this by saying God has brought forth his people by means of His Word (v. 18). Then, he goes on to exhort his readers that since a quick and angry tongue does not produce the righteousness of God, Christians should instead be quick to listen to and receive the Word of God (v. 21). When we turn our attention to vv. 22–25, James is clarifying the manner in which we are to receive the Word of God. Receiving the word is more than just sitting patiently under the Sunday sermon or faithfully executing our Bible reading plan. It is much more than that, James says. Those who hear the word but do not act upon it are engaged in spiritual self-deception (v. 22c). James supports this point by presenting us with two hypothetical people. The first is the person who is a hearer but not a doer. James likens this person to the person who stares at himself in the mirror but walks away, forgetting what he has just seen. The point behind this comparison will become more evident after looking at the second person that James mentions: the one who hears and does the Word. This second person--the hearer and doer--continues in the Word which he has heard. Unlike his contrast, he does not forget what he has heard but he allows it to occupy his thoughts and, in so doing, determine his actions. Like Jesus' mother Mary, this second person hears the Word and treasures it in his heart--not forgetting it--and then acts upon it. This is at the heart of the contrast: while both people are exposed to the Word, only the second person has his course of action determined by the Word. But there is a second contrast at work here. Besides the fact that the second person responds with action to the word and the first person doesn't, there is also a contrast in the benefit received by the two people. The first person--like the man who looks in the mirror but forgets what he sees--derives no benefit from merely listening to the Word and not acting upon it. The second person, however, does receive a benefit. James tells us that the doer of the Word will be blessed by God in his active obedience to the Word. James uses this contrast in outcomes to support his initial exhortation to be hearers and doers of the Word. Since only those who hear and do are blessed, our receiving of the Word should be marked by an active response of obedience to it. So then, as we think about this exhortation as it applies to us today, we ought to ask ourselves at least two questions. First, which of these two persons am I? Is my life characterized by a striving to put into practice the things that I hear in the Word or read in my Bible? Or do I often find that like the water from a quick summer downpour washes over the ground without penetrating the earth, the Word quickly comes and quickly goes in my life, never being translated into action? The second question we may ask ourselves is one of action: what have I heard or read in God's Word recently that I need to apply next? What is the next step of obedience to the Word that I can take? Perhaps the next step of obedience is one that seems like it would be hard to take. There is a conversation that may not go well. There is confession that may feel at first painful. There is a sacrifice that may be hard. Yet take to mind James' support for obedience to the Word here: while obeying may be hard it is not without its benefit. For the person who not only hears the Word but does it will be blessed by the Lord even as he does it.
Arcing for James 1**
James 1:1-27
a James, a servant 1 of God and b of the Lord Jesus Christ, To c the twelve tribes in d the Dispersion: Greetings.
e Count it all joy, my brothers, 1 when you meet trials f of various kinds,
for you know that g the testing of your faith h produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be i perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
j If any of you lacks wisdom, k let him ask God, l who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
But m let him ask in faith, n with no doubting,
for the one who doubts is like o a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; p he is a double-minded man, q unstable in all his ways.
Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation,
and r the rich in his humiliation,
because s like a flower of the grass 1 he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and t withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
u Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial,
for when he has stood the test he will receive v the crown of life, w which God has promised to those who love him.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,”
for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire x when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and y sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.
z Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from a the Father of lights b with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 1
c Of his own will he d brought us forth by the word of truth, e that we should be a kind of f firstfruits of his creatures.
g Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person h be quick to hear, i slow to speak, j slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Therefore k put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with l meekness the implanted word, m which is able to save your souls.
But be n 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 who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.
But the one who looks into the perfect law, o the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts,
p he will be blessed in his doing.
If anyone thinks he is religious q and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart,
this person’s r religion is worthless.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: s to visit t orphans and widows in their affliction, and u to keep oneself v unstained from the world.
The rich man should boast boast in humiliation because like the flower of the field his life in this world--and everything in it that that he is chasing-- is fleeting.
Happy is the man who remains faithful when tested--a testing of evil that does not come directly from God but from our own desires--because he will receive the crown of life.
Our heavenly father is the giver of every good gift as we see most clearly in his causing us to be born again and elevated to an esteemed place among his creatures.
We must receive with gentleness the word of God
Each person should be quick to listen because man's anger does not produce righteousness.
Because man's anger does not produce righteousness, Christians should be quick to listen and receive the word of God.
Be word-doers, not merely word hearers, because while the person who hears-only gets no benefit, the person who hears and does is blessed.
The religion that has value in the eyes of God shows itself in controlled speech, compassion, and godliness.
We should ask for wisdom from God, trusting that he will grant it.
Christians should rejoice in their trials because God is perfecting his people through them.
The religious person that God delights in is the one who hears and acts upon the Word.
Every good gift comes from God; therefore, receive his word with meekness.
Every good and perfect gift comes from God; therefore, we should receive the word of God by hearing and acting upon it.
I decided to identify this as a action-manner since the petition for wisdom seems to be one of the ways we are able to carry out the exhortation: count it all joy. When we are not sure how to respond in the context of faith-testing trials, we should ask our Generous God for wisdom.
Christians should rejoice in their trials which they are able to do as they exercise faith and ask God to give them wisdom.
I was really feeling stumped by vv. 9–11's place in the passage.
Christians should rejoice in their trials because their Generous God is perfecting and preparing them for the crown of life.
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.