James is the half-brother of our Lord Jesus Christ who is writing to the scattered Hebrew Christian flock in the Diaspora, and his primary concern is practical righteousness; in other words, how to please God in daily life; our position is already pleasing to Him, but how do we let our practice catch up to our position?
So, James is a favorite of many because it’s probably one of the most practical books, other than the book of Proverbs; one of the most hands on; tangible; books of the Bible that you could study.
The first half of the book is about faith — not saving faith but serving faith. So how do we walk in faith?
Trials — James 1:2-18. One way is to adopt God’s perspective on suffering. He begins with the whole subject of trials, and that is one way you can discern if you’re walking in a way pleasing to the Lord; if you have the mind of God on suffering. What we learned in that section that we completed last week is that in the midst of trials, we are to rejoice, and James gave us three reasons to do that in verses 2-12.
As we are walking through trials we should resist the temptation to charge God recklessly or foolishly, or imply that God is trying to destroy us. James gave us three reasons why we should not charge God with trying to tempt or destroy us in the midst of trials.
Having completed that study, but I don’t know if we ever completely learn that lesson; this is a lifelong thing to learn as a Christian. Now that we have finished that section, we are moving into verses 19-27 where we manifest a practical righteousness that pleases God when we obey God’s Word. When we obey God’s Word, we have three needs:
We have a need to be slow in speaking per James 1:19,20 and in anger. Slowness of speech, the first part of verse 19 and slowness in anger, the second part of verse 19 into verse 20. Notice how we are to be slow to speak. James 1:19, says, “This you know,.… [and I’m not sure we do know this, but his audience knew it probably through James’ pastoral ministry or through their Hebrew study of the Proverbs as the book of Proverbs is filled with this kind of thing about not being rash or someone of many words, or someone who is emotionally driven]… “This you know, my beloved brethren… [now it is very clear in verse 19 that the audience is saved, without a doubt, because it doesn’t just say ‘brethren,’ which alone would be enough proof as far as I’m concerned, but you could argue that James is just the same Jewish kinship as his audience — that is how some define ‘brethren.’ You will notice that it doesn’t just say, ‘brethren,’ but it says, ‘beloved brethren.’ I would challenge anyone to find any passage anywhere in the Bible where ‘beloved brethren’ means something other than a believer. As far as I know, it never applies to a non-Christian; a non-Christian is not a brother; they’re a fellow image-bearer of God, but they’re not a brother of Christ, and certainly not ‘beloved.’ They’re loved by God but they’re not, the way the term is used, in a relationship with God. So very clearly, He is speaking here to Christians. This is something that is only capable of being carried out by the power of the Holy Spirit. An unsaved person can never be this way — slow to speak and slow to get angry]. He continues on in verse 1:19, saying, …“But everyone must be quick to hear and slow to speak”…[it is like what my mom told me growing up: ‘you have two ears and one mouth, so use those in proportion.’]
A lot of people spend considerable time in apologetics trying to figure out how to prove that the Bible is from God and let’s come up with intellectual arguments. To me, there is no doubt that the Bible is God’s Word based on statements like that one because it is so foreign to the way we are. So, there is the idea that God, outside of time, knows our sinful tendencies, and He speaks right against those sinful tendencies. I know of no other book on planet earth which, as Hebrews 4:12 says, which is that ‘the Word, living and active, separating soul and spirit,’ laying us bare like this. I know of no other book that does this, so it must be from God; that is my apologetics. So, we] …“must be quick to hear, slow to speak,” [and of course, this is totally contrary to 21st century America, where we, through social media, blogs, tweeting, posting and texting, have the ability to take our carnal thoughts and export them to the entire world in half of a second. In the social media world, everyone is trying to get the last word in, trying to talk, have their say, and in 21st century America, this idea of being slow to speak and quick to hear is contrary to that.
In the US, we are a talker nation; we value people based on how they can talk, and usually the loudest one in the room ends up winning the argument. We have talk shows where the entire industry revolves around talking. James says the exact opposite — that we ought to be quick to hear and slow to speak.
Once we move away from this, don’t be too quick to celebrate because we are going to get to James 1:27 that will teach the same thing. Then the big whammy is James 3:1-12, where he will go on for 12 verses about this 2×2 slab of mucous membrane in between our gums called the tongue, so this is just a little introductory thought that he is giving us here about being quick to hear and slow to speak.
By the way, doesn’t this describe Jesus? Quick to hear and slow to speak. The prophet Isaiah, 700 years in advance, says this about Jesus, ‘In other words, you Jewish people, this is how you will be able to recognize your Messiah when He shows up 700 years later.’ It says, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.” It is interesting that when you look at the fulfillment of that prophecy, He was silent at the time when most people would be the loudest because He was being unjustly accused. If there is ever a time to run your mouth, that is the time, right? Yet, Jesus wasn’t that way (quick to speak), as was predicted by Isaiah, because in Matthew 27:12-14, it says at one of the religious trials of Jesus, “And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not answer them.” Matthew 27:13, “Then Pilate said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” Pilate is upset, saying ‘defend Yourself.’ Don’t You hear all of these charges that are being brought against You?’ But Jesus made no response to any of these charges, and it says, ‘much to the governor’s surprise.’ So, everyone could not believe how quiet He was at a time when most humans would be the loudest.
James, of course, knew Jesus very well as he was Christ’s half-brother. And I think that this is what James is talking about — being slow to speak. Obviously, I’m not against people defending themselves but a lot of times we can go too far with the talking, and James, knowing Christ’s character, is thinking of Him. ‘Be slow to speak and quick to hear.’ I look at a lot of things we do, myself included, we want to get on the radio, to start a facebook page, a blog, a YouTube channel, to get our point of view out, and I am wondering what Jesus would be doing if He were alive on the earth today. Would He be a radio talk show host? Maybe so, I could be completely wrong, but it seems to me so contrary to who He was, in relation to all of what we think is so important in terms of speech and talking all the time. Enough of that, it is too convicting.
But don’t celebrate yet because what is coming is a bit more difficult to absorb. Not only should we be slow to speak, but also slow to get angry. James 1:19, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear and slow to speak and slow to anger;…”
In the book of Ephesians 4:31, Paul would write, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander [which arise from anger] be put away from you, along with all malice.” So, your Bible has a lot to say about anger or acting out in a moment of being upset about something. One such example is Moses, when I think that he was doing pretty well as God’s representative leading the children of Israel out of Egypt and down to Mount Sinai. They had an 11-day journey into Canaan. You will find that number in Deuteronomy 1 around verses 2-5. So, Moses, along with that entire generation, was on the fast track to entering Canaan. Until Moses struck the rock which prevented him from entering Canaan.
That story is recorded in Numbers 20:8-13 that says, “Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink. 9So Moses took the rod [and he is dealing with people, if the numbers are literal, and I take them literally, from probably a million to 1.5 million people; that is quite a job there, plus the cattle and everything else. He is supposed to take them into the Promised Land, and they’ve had all these problems that God has answered; the water problem has been answered elsewhere earlier; the hunger problem was answered by manna, so once again the same group is out there in the Sinai Peninsula without water, and they’re getting upset. Moses, I think, has had enough of these people] …“from before the Lord, just as He had commanded him; and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, [This is where you can read into it and see how we was getting upset. “Listen now, you rebels; [did God ever say, ‘ok, Moses, when you do this, I want you to call them all rebels?’ I think Moses is acting in his own flesh here]… shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock? Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice.’ As far as I can tell, God told Moses to speak to the rock once, and here, he hit the rock twice, so I think that Moses lost his cool; maybe I’m reading a little too much into it, but this is my loose paraphrase. So, when I come out with my own Bible paraphrase, it will read, ‘Moses lost his cool.”
Notice how God honored their need and fulfilled it anyway despite Moses, “…and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, … [so now God is confronting Moses about what he has just done; though Moses probably thought there was no problem because the water came forth. …Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore, you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” And then the story concludes, saying, “13Those were the waters of Meribah, because the sons of Israel contended with the Lord, and He proved Himself holy among them.”
So, you have Moses who has been faithful, and you’ve got one moment of anger here, and it isn’t that Moses went to hell; he couldn’t have gone to hell because you can’t lose your salvation, and he is with the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17, but he lost a privilege he could have had. He could have entered into Canaan; but that privilege was denied to him. So, the story of Moses ends with him on Mount Nebo basically looking at Canaan from a distance.
You look at this and wonder why God didn’t cut him a break; he had been faithful every other time. Well, there are a lot of reasons why God didn’t cut him a break; for one thing this is typological of Christ, and God doesn’t want that typology messed up in any way. I think that was one of the reasons that God was so strict with Moses, and I could do a long sermon over that, but I won’t bore you. However, you can find that line of thinking with other commentators, but it also shows what God actually feels about us in our moments of fleshliness; losing it, and publicly acting out, particularly as a leader. Apparently, God doesn’t like that, and it is interesting that you can spend your lifetime building your reputation and in about 30 seconds destroy it just by exhibiting unrestrained anger.
My dad used to always explain anger to me this way, saying, “Anger is like temporary insanity; you say things you would never say when you are angry, or you do things you’d never do when you’re angry.” It is like being insane for just a moment. So that is why we are told about being careful about being quick to being upset; being quick to lose our temper. This is the kind of thing that James is speaking of here when he says, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.’
Why is that, James? He gives us an explanation in James 1:20, “…for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” So, you cannot fulfill God’s design for your life living off the energy of bitterness or anger. Anger can be a powerful thing in that it can motivate you for a season, but the reality is, that kind of walk is not at all the walk of the Spirit, which the New Testament tells us about. In fact, that is actually a work of the flesh. The works of the flesh are the ways that the sin nature tangibly manifests itself, and we have a laundry list of such things in Galatians 5:19-21. How do you know when the flesh or the sin nature is rearing its ugly head in your life as a Christian? This is how you act: “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger [there it is, temper tantrums], …disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, [Paul says, ‘I could give you more, but I won’t] …of which I forewarned you, just as I had forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
What does it mean that they will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Does it mean that if I get angry, I am not going to heaven? No, in this list of vices, there is a switch from the second to the third person; there are about four or five of these vice lists in the New Testament. You’ll notice even here that he says, “of which I forewarned you, just as I had forewarned you” second person 1:21, “that those” [see the switch there and how he went from the second person to the third person] “…that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” In other words, that’s how unbelievers act, and unbelievers are going to a totally different destination than where you, as a Christian, are going. So, his point is why would we imitate unbelievers? He isn’t trying to make some point here that you might be losing your salvation or that you never had salvation, etc.
It is still very clear that outbursts of anger are a work of the sin nature. Now, it is interesting, and you hear some people justify that they have a short fuse. They’ll say, ‘Well, I’m Irish, or German, or Italian, or I have red hair,’ as though people without red hair don’t get upset. No, maybe you are one of the above, but if this is a perpetual issue in your life, then the Bible says that it is carnality; you keep going back to the sin nature — is the issue. So, this is why James is saying, “For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Notice how it says, “the anger of man” — all anger isn’t wrong because Jesus got angry. I can show you chapter and verse where God gets angry.
Psalm 2:12, referring to Christ said, “Kiss the Son that He may not be angry and you perish on the way.”
A New Testament example of Christ is Mark 3:5, “After looking around at them with anger…” [that’s Jesus, and the two Temple cleansings would also be an example of Jesus’ anger].
I find it interesting that here James uses the expression “anger of man,” and there is a big difference between anger of man and anger of God. The book of Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry and yet do not sin.” So apparently, there is anger that one can experience that is not sinful. What is the difference? The difference is that when we’re angry concerning a righteous anger, we are angry because of God’s character that is being violated. When we’re angry and experience anger, usually the case is that we are trying to vindicate ourselves. It is easy to confuse the two, sometimes righteous indignation can lead to the anger of man, so we have to watch that very carefully. This is why the Scriptures tell us in passages such as Ephesians 4:32 that we should ‘forgive as we have been forgiven’ because all of us, having lived in a fallen world, have been mistreated by somebody. If we don’t forgive them as we have been forgiven is that venom is going to become bottled up and eventually spill out, so we need to be people who forgive quickly. You may say, ‘well they don’t deserve it.’ That’s true, they don’t deserve it, but we don’t deserve to be forgiven either by Jesus.
So, it is interesting that we treat others with justice when God has treated us with grace. In fact, in Matthew 18, there is a parable that shows us how silly we look when we, as forgiven people, aren’t forgiven in return.
So, it is interesting that James used the expression, ‘the anger of man,’ and this issue of being slow to speak — some people interpret this as needing to get some duct tape to put it over their mouths never to say a single word. That isn’t what the Bible is saying. The Bible promotes speech in many places, eg, 1 Peter 4:11, “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; [so obviously, you can’t just say that you aren’t going to talk; that isn’t what the Bible is saying either. God gave us speech and communication as a gift from Him. What he is saying is that in our sinful condition that when it comes to hearing and speaking, we ought to be quick to hear and slow to speak; to be guarded, reserved about speaking. And do not speak when you’re in a moment of temporary insanity, such as an outburst of anger. If anger continues to be a problem in your life, then often, what the issue may be is that you are holding others to a standard of justice when you have been treated with grace. See that? You start treating people with grace, and by the way, just because you have forgiven someone, doesn’t mean that you should place yourself back in harm’s way. The Bible doesn’t promote that either. But when we are treated with injustice, treat them, at least in the arena of your mind and thoughts, the way that God treats you, and as you do that, you’ll see that your levels of antagonism, anger and outbursts of anger will start to decrease. I’m not saying that you will be perfect, but you will see a marked decrease in those things.
This is what James is dealing with here. James 1:21-25 — so how do we obey God? We have three needs:
First, to be slow in speaking and slow in anger
Second, need to obey God’s Word, and the first thing that he deals with is receiving God’s Word, in James 1:21. After he talks about receiving God’s Word in verse 21, then he talks about being a doer of God’s Word in verses 22-25: why the order? Because you can’t do what you don’t know. You’ll notice here that receiving God’s Word is only the first step; an important step, but never intended by God to be the last step. Receiving and understanding God’s Word should translate into obedience to God’s Word if we are going to allow practice as Christians to catch up with our position.
So how do we receive God’s Word? There are three Rs: (James 1:21)
So, he is dealing with receiving God’s Word before we do God’s Word (1:22-25). So, what do I need to do to receive God’s Word? First, I need to remove something. Notice 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.” So, the first R is Removal. It is right there at the beginning of 1:21, per above verse. Before I receive God’s Word, in order for it to have the effect on me that it needs to have to its highest level, I need to put aside all sins: filthiness and wickedness — because filthiness and wickedness are appetite suppressants. For example, my wife makes me a very nutritious meal, and before I get home, I go through McDonald and get a quarter pounder, fries and chocolate shake, super-size. So, after eating all of this junk, I get home, and here comes this nutritious meal, and I don’t really have an interest in it.
That is what filthiness and wickedness do to the people of God and their appetite for God’s Word. If those things are habitual, consistent patterns in our lives, we aren’t going to go to Bible study on Wed night, or to church — a Sunday school class and a sermon?! You will start making excuses as to why you won’t take in God’s Word, and generally, it has to do with things that we have let into our lives that is suppressing the appetite because we have consumed a lot of things that aren’t nutritious for us.
There is a parallel passage in 1 Peter 2:1,2 — by parallel, I mean different author, same idea, and it says, “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander [those are the appetite suppressants, those five things], like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,…” So, the Christian is supposed to be fixated, almost like a newborn child on God’s Word so that they can grow. If you remove the mother’s milk from the growing child, then the child is malnourished. What prevents the child from malnourishment is that when the child wakes up in the middle of the night screaming (as my daughter did, and at that age, she wasn’t interested in a lecture on the Trinity; she wanted to be fed. So, I told my wife, ‘this calls for you; I am going back to bed’).
Removing appetite suppressants is the point. You hear people who complain about their church, saying, ‘I don’t like the teaching, I don’t get much out of it.’ They want to blame every time on the preacher, the teacher or the presentation when the Bible is saying that if you are bored with the church or with your pastor or Bible teacher, then maybe it is your own fault, because there is something you have allowed into your life that is suppressing the appetite for truth. It changes the focus from the man behind the pulpit to what is going on in your personal life. So, the first R is for Remove; you can’t Receive until you Remove.
The second R is to Receive God’s Word. Look at James 1:21, “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility, receive the word implanted, …” So, you will notice that a person cannot receive the Word until they’re in a position of humility. Anytime that you are allowing something to teach you — reading the Bible for yourself, you are humbling yourself, because you are coming to God and essentially admitting that you don’t have all the answers; that you need His insight and illumination in your life — and this requires humility. Whenever you sit under any teacher, college, seminar for work, mentor, etc, and if you are actively listening to that person, you are humbling yourself because you are acknowledging that you do not have all of the answers, and you need them.
There have been, and I’m not picking on anyone in particular, there have been those who come through our doors, and you listen to them, they’re really not interested in hearing any teaching from God’s Word; they’re interested in promoting or advocating something, or when it comes to questions or discussions, they only want to grab the microphone and thunder away. It is really all about what they want to promote, that they’re looking for a platform; that is not the humility that James is talking about here.
A lot of people look at the life of the Church as though it is sort of a talk show where we all have a say, and we are all equal; that’s not what the life of the Church is; not what Sugar Land Bible Church is — this church has a leadership structure; there are people here in leadership who we believe to have the gift of teaching, and they’re there to be listened to; not that they’re perfect or unaccountable, but to have that mindset of wanting to be equipped by someone else requires attitudinal humility. That type of ecclesiastical structure doesn’t fit with modern day America where everyone thinks that they know everything; that they’re the experts on everything, including the subject here of spirituality. They come wanting to advocate, to promote, to dominate, and that isn’t what James is talking about, he says, ‘when you receive God’s Word you do need to do it in humility.’
Now, there are others who are just tired of the Church and they disconnect themselves from the Church; they say, ‘I have Jesus, the Holy Spirit, I don’t need anything else, a pastor.’ That too, is pride because God has put us into a body, and as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12, one part of the body can’t say to the other part of the body, ‘I don’t need you.’ If my thumb suddenly said, ‘I don’t need anybody else, I’m going to go off and do my own thing,’ that would be unthinkable, wouldn’t it? That is what a lot of people are like in Christianity, and one of the reasons why there is a decline in church attendance. In North America, church attendance has dropped throughout the generations and everyone is trying to figure out why, and actually, it has to do with a lack of humility; with a lot of pride in those who don’t want to sit under someone else.
So here, James is saying that when you receive the word, first, Remove appetite suppressants, and second, Receive it in a place of humility. Why do this, James?
Third, because it gives the Result. Why should I avail myself to the teaching of God’s Word? James gives the Result, as the third R. James 1:21, “…in humility receive the word implanted which is able…” [in other words, the Word of God is able to do something for you] …“to save your souls.”
So, we talk here in this church about the three tenses of salvation (see slide on the
Three Tenses of Salvation):
Justification as the past tense of salvation
Sanctification as the middle tense of salvation, and
Glorification as the future tense of salvation.
Justification is saved from sin’s penalty at the point of faith alone in Christ alone; Sanctification is being gradually delivered from sin’s power as we live our Christian lives, and Glorification is when my body is in a resurrected state with no sin nature in it at all; I will be saved from sin’s very presence at the point of death or the rapture.
You will notice that the Word of God is central to Justification and Sanctification. Without the Word of God, neither Justification nor Sanctification can occur, and I gave you a few quotes on that last time — remember the man who died and wanted to go back and warn his five brothers? Remember the response given to him? ‘Moses and the prophets, let them read them; if they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, in other words, God’s Word, then they aren’t going to believe a miracle.’ So, God has designed salvation in such a way that you can’t have it unless you hear His Word and respond to His Word.
It isn’t oratory that saves you; not the speaking style of the one behind the microphone; it is God’s Word by the design of God. 1 Peter 1:23 says, “…for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable [speaking of God’s Word], that is, through the living and enduring Word of God.” You have been born again, Peter says, by the Word of God. You know Romans 10:17, ‘faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,’ or per my translation, Word of Christ’ but same thing.
Remember when Paul was talking to Timothy about the Scriptures; he said to him in 2 Timothy 3:15, “…and that from childhood [really, infancy] … you have known the sacred writings [the Scriptures] …which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” So, without God’s Word, either hearing it proclaimed or like so many of those Bibles in hotels put there by groups, Gideons, for example, there are numerous testimonies of people who are at their end of life in terms of frustration and ready to commit suicide. As a last resort they start reading out of the Bible and are saved. So, salvation can’t occur without God’s Word. You can’t philosophize people into salvation. God has designed salvation in such a way that you hear the Word, the right sections about the gospel, of course, and then you respond to it by way of faith. This is why we should follow the first two Rs; why we should Remove and Receive, because there is a result — the Word of God is capable of saving your soul.
Having said all of that, I don’t think that James is really focused here on justificiation because his audience is already saved. He is focused on sanctification. You cannot grow in Christ without God’s Word; it is impossible. Psalm 119:11, “I have treasured Your Word in my heart so that I might not sin against You.” So, what will keep me from sin? It is the Word of God that I have tucked into my heart that I have recalled at the right time. If that hasn’t happened to someone and they haven’t tucked certain scriptures into their heart, then how would they ever be able to stand up to temptation? How would he even know what temptation is unless he had the Bible?
I read to you 2 Timothy 3:15, but in verse 16: “All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, rebuke, correction, training in righteousness.” That is growth, so, no Word of God, then a child of God cannot be taught, rebuked, corrected, or trained. So, as I am growing in the middle tense of my salvation, my soul is being saved because I am learning to say no to sin. And learning to say no to sin is important because per Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death.” Now that is true for both the non-Christian and the Christian. If we allow habitual sin into our lives regardless of what it is, you won’t lose out on salvation, but you will lose out on a lot of good things, as Moses forfeited Canaan, though he went to heaven.
So, in that sense, James says that the reason that you should Remove and Receive is because of the Result. The Result is the saving of your soul. Just as the Word of God was instrumental in your justification, it is not equally instrumental in your sanctification, and I think that this is how James is using the word, ‘saved.’ What I just said there is a big deal because of James 2:14, which we haven’t gotten to yet — one of the most controversial paragraphs — the Greeks call paragraphs pericopes. I paid a lot of tuition to learn these fancy words, so I have to use them on someone. But this whole paragraph is one of the most controversial paragraphs in the entire Bible, that we haven’t yet gotten to, and yet because we know what the word, ‘saved’ means, we already know how to interpret James 2:14-26. Look at James 2:14, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can faith save him?”
Reformed theology will tell you that what that means is that if you don’t have enough works in your life, then you never had enough faith to begin with. You are unsaved, and if you believe that, then ideas have consequences, and you will spend your whole life wondering how many works you have to have. You won’t have any assurance of salvation, and they will quote this repeatedly, in fact, in reformed theology, it is almost like James 1 doesn’t exist. If Reformed Theology was going to come out with their own study Bible, it would start with James 2. No one tells you what is going on in James chapter 1, but chapter 1 tells you what ‘saved’ means. “Save” as we just saw, is not first tense salvation, but middle tense. So, when James says, ‘can such a faith save him,’ he isn’t dealing with if you are or aren’t a Christian. Reformed theology will tell you that. He is dealing with, ‘are you an effective Christian; are you a growing Christian?’ The word ‘save’ is not a technical word; it doesn’t always mean the same thing every time it is used; it means different things depending on the context, and when James uses the word, ‘save’ he isn’t talking about trust Christ for salvation. John’s gospel will tell you all about that, by the way. James isn’t talking about that; the presupposition of James is that his whole flock who he pastored but is now scattered, and who he personally knew (all of them) — are all saved. They are already Christians.
He is using the word ‘saved,’ not in the first tense but in the second tense.
We are supposed to Receive God’s Word. Then once we have received God’s Word, what do we do with that? ‘We can just do the three “Ss’”: sit, soak and sour.’ But that isn’t what James says to do; he says that once you receive the word, then become a Doer of the word. Notice that receiving the word is very important, as you can’t be a doer unless you’re a receiver; however, being a receiver is not a last step. Of people who think that it is a last step, James says in 1:22, that they ‘delude themselves.’ Receiving isn’t a last step but a first step. Notice in James 1:22, a famous verse that many have memorized: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers [famous verse, but what does the rest say]?… who delude themselves.” Why does it say that? What is the deception? The deception, and I hate to say this, but this is a big deception in our type of circles, our kind of church, where we stress the teaching of the Bible. The subliminal message that can be unintentionally communicated is that if you hear the Bible and study the Bible, that makes you spiritual. So, the end goal is studying the Bible because you are stressing it, so that must be the end goal, and James is saying that if that’s what you think, then you have deceived yourself, or you are in a state of delusion. You think you’ve arrived at a certain level of spirituality of practical righteousness, but you haven’t because God never intended for His Word just to be heard; He intended for it to be obeyed.
I will close with this: Jesus said this very clearly in John 13:17 in the upper room to the disciples,
‘‘If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” Jesus never said that the blessing comes from knowing; that’s the Bible church deception; not that we are trying to communicate that message, but that gets unintentionally communicated sometimes. We think that we are blessed just by hearing but that’s not what James nor the Lord said in the upper room. Blessing comes from doing; you’re blessed in the Christian life when you begin to apply what you’ve learned; when knowledge, gnosis, turns into wisdom or sofia. You’re not blessed with gnosis but with sofia. But you cannot have sofia unless you have gnosis, but gnosis was never intended to be just gnosis, because doesn’t Paul say, ‘knowledge puffs up’ (1 Corinthians 4:6)?! But love, that’s practice, edifies. So if the end game is just the accumulation of knowledge, and there are churches like that, as I’ve been in both Bible churches and denominational churches like that where it is a bunch of people whose heads are so big because they are so proud of what they know.
James is saying that if that is our condition, then we are deluded.