Ephesians 4:3-6; One Faith – Clarifying James 2, part 7.
length: 69:00 - taught on Apr, 15 2021
Thursday April 15, 2021
This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
These three admonitions are the theme of the epistle: 1) swift to hear, 2) slow to speak, and 3) slow to anger. This is how to behave in trials.
The body of the letter (1:21-5:6) deals with each one in turn.
Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls (lives).
A believer cannot harbor filthiness and wickedness and receive the word implanted. When James says, “be quick to hear,” if they say, “Okay, we will,” they must understand that filthiness (word only used here meaning moral defilement) and “remains of wickedness” which refers to an overflow of evil.
Filthiness (everything dirty) and “the excrescence which evil is” (Hodges); excrescence meaning an abnormal outgrowth.
The distinctive terms used by James refers to all moral stain (a word used for the black mulberry tree) and the great big and abnormal growth that evil is. The imagery that he uses of evil is something like an unsightly tumor growing on the skin. Evil is an unwanted enlargement, or abnormal growth in the Christian’s life.
All human evil should be renounced by the Christian before he hears the word of God. Therefore, we begin every class with a reminder to listen in humility, reverence, and thankfulness. James also uses the word “humility:” in humility receive the word implanted. I used to tell you to confess anything sinful or evil, but I personally like the positive way of saying the same thing. I decided that I didn’t like starting class with a mention of sin as the first thing you hear, but rather a mention of virtue to prepare you. One cannot be thinking evil and be humble, reverent, and thankful to God for the privilege of hearing His word.
James’ statement here is parallel to Peter’s:
Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,
James uses the word “implanted,” in humility receive the word implanted. In vs. 18 James said that God “brought us forth (new birth) by the word of truth.” Then, to the born again believer, the word implanted is like a seed implanted within us. It may be suggested that just as a seed of wheat contains within itself all of the potential from which fully developed wheat may grow, so too does the Gospel. Simple though the message of salvation is, the seed of life implanted when we believe this message contains enormous potential which only Christian obedience can fully develop. The Gospel is the truth about Christ as Savior as well as His Person and work to successfully save. The entire revelation from God in His word is like a massive tree that grows from the seedling Gospel. There are no true doctrine that are not related to the grace and love of God in Jesus Christ the God/Man.
Then James states the benefit of the word of God implanted. It will save your life.
It is vital that we hear the word of God with cleansed hearts and a humble spirit, but there is one further essential step. This is no different that what our Lord said at the end of His magnificent and earth-shattering Sermon on the Mount. Jesus would not allow the listeners to leave as mere auditors of His words, or critics, or sympathizers. He would give them no choice but to either act on them, and be a house built on the rock, or not act on them, and be a house built upon the sand.
“Be swift to hear” (vs. 19) has the meaning of obeying and not merely auditory perception. If the readers thought that mere attention to scripture was enough, they were mistaken. With such a view, they would be deceiving themselves.
But they must understand that they will only be able to live “abundantly” (JOH 10:10) if they are doers of the word rather than hearers only.
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does.
The mirror was used in Hellenistic ethical teaching as a common metaphor for moral instruction. The man who goes away and forgets what he looks like is the one who has seen his flaws in the mirror but soon after forgotten them. He has not used what he has seen for self-improvement.
In the case of the born again believer, the meaning of the mirror is significant - we see the face of our new birth in Christ.
But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
The mirror of the word of God shows us both our faces, one to be ignored and rejected and one to be embraced. The phrase James uses is “looks at his natural face.” A more precise rendering would be “the face of his birth (geneseos).” One might think of old birth or new birth, but what the word of God emphasizes the most to us is the new birth. As Paul prays, “the eyes of your heart would be enlightened that you may know the hope of His calling.” His calling is our new birth and the life that it is to live.
As we have seen for the last few weeks in detail, is that the word of God shows us who we really are in Christ, and therefore how we ought to behave in keeping with that image of ourselves. Thus, the believer who hears the word, but goes on with his life ignoring what it has shown him, is truly like a person who immediately forgets what kind of man he is. To hear God’s word and not obey and act upon it is to not know who you really are, though you will never lose who you are.
The one who is an effectual doer will be blessed in what he does.
The worker-doer is someone who looks into the perfect law of liberty. That is his spiritual mirror into which he looks when he hears the word of God. This Christian law is in accord with the believer’s divine inner nature. Therefore, the law is that which set that creature free and not something that puts him in bondage. It is truly a law of liberty. The Christian doctrines, the law of liberty, the law of Christ (GAL 6:2), or the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (they are all the same) reveal the natural expression of the divine nature within each believer.
Law of liberty - reveals and guides the divine inner nature. It sets it free.
When we are doing that which the natural expression of our true nature, we are enjoying liberty.
Paul writes that we are not under law but under grace. James would not disagree, and again, a reading of the account of the Jerusalem council in Act 15 would confirm that. Peter said at that very council that the OT Law was a yoke that our fathers nor any other Jew was able to bear. Paul called the OT law the law of bondage, of death and sin. The OT law revealed the heart of man, but it could not change the heart of man. Yet, now the law of Messiah that we live under works from the inside out. It works with the Holy Spirit within and gives life. Our service to God is now carried on in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter (ROM 7:6). Our divine nature, born of God, has an affinity for the law of liberty. The law of God unto us is loved by the new nature and breathes life into the new nature, and so it sets us free, free to work and do the will of God, and so rightly is it called the law of liberty.