Study 3 ACCEPTING THE IMPLANTED WORD
THE LETTER OF JAMES
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: James 1:18-25
It is significant that in his letter James includes a section about the nature of God’s Word, and the way in which believers are to use it each day. It is impossible to live a life that is well-pleasing to the Lord unless we know how to use our Bible properly. Carefully study James 1:18-25 and notice the following:-
1. Three ways in which James describes the Word of God
- (1) “The word of truth” (verse 18). The definite article is here: the Bible is not ‘a’ word but ‘the’ word of truth, which tells us that it stands alone; it is unique (Psalm 119:160), and compare Psalm 119:43; Ephesians 1:13; Colossians 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:15. The word of truth is the whole of God’s verbal communication which has been given to man and which is now contained in the inspired canon of Scripture.
- (2) “The word planted in you” (verse 21). Notice the definite article again. There is only one Word of God, and here we are told that it is implanted in our hearts; this means that it is living and life-giving (1 Peter 1:23).
- (3) “The perfect law that gives freedom” (verse 25). Notice the definite article again! – and the three important words: (1) PERFECT. This tells us that the author is perfect, that the Word itself is perfectly suited to our needs and cannot be improved upon, and that as we receive its truth we are ‘perfected’ – made mature. (2) LAW. This means that the Word of truth is to rule our life, for it contains God’s commandments, which are always for our good (Deuteronomy 10:12-13). (3) FREEDOM. When we obey the Lord’s Word we are freed from sin, self and Satan – free to serve God.
2. The Word of God is the instrument the Holy Spirit uses for new birth
We get this in verse 18, which in one version reads, “Through declaring the truth to us, He gave us birth” – compare John 3:5. “Born of water” means “the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to effect the miracle of the new birth. See 1 Peter 1:23.
3. When we read or hear the Word of God we are to receive its truth with humility and apply its teaching to our lives
We read this in verses 21-22: “humbly accept the word planted in you…Do not merely listen to the word…Do what it says”. This is the burden of James’ message! How easy it is to hear God’s Word, to agree with it, but not to act it out! Jesus pronounced a benediction on those who would not only hear but who would keep His Word (Luke 11:28). Compare Hebrews 4:2. And the reason we are to obey it is given in verse 21. It is able to bring us into the experience of God’s salvation, not only from sin’s penalty but also from sin’s power – look up and compare 2 Timothy 3:15-17.
4. We are to come to the Word of God and use it as a mirror to show us our true state; then we are to adjust our lives accordingly
In verses 23-25 James uses an interesting simile. It is of a man looking at his face in a mirror; he sees that it is dirty, but he does nothing about it. He might just as well have not looked into the mirror. What should we do then? How should we use God’s Word as a mirror? We should peer into it, as we see from the meaning of the words in verses 23-25. We should look at ourselves in the mirror of the Word, not casually, but with a view to seeing our true state – because we can only see our face with the help of a mirror!
5. When the mirror reveals sin and failure we must deal with it at once
This is the force of what James says in verse 21: “Therefore, get rid of…” In other words, when you see the dirt on your face, clean it off, deal with it, use plenty of soap and water! – compare 2 Corinthians 7:1 and, of course, 1 John 1:9. For an illustration of how and when to do this turn to Ephesians 4:22-32 and Colossians 3:8-10; compare Hebrews 12:1 and 1 Peter 2:1-3.
6. If we fail to do this we deceive ourselves
Verse 22 tells us this. We may imagine ourselves to be all right spiritually, but in fact we cannot be so unless we test our lives frequently by the Word of God. How easy it is to become careless and slack spiritually, to backslide and then to follow at a distance! – look up Amos 6:1; Proverbs 14:14; Luke 22:54.
7. To hear the Word of God, to receive it with humility, to use it as a mirror, and to adjust our lives accordingly will result in blessing
Notice verse 25: “he will be blessed in what he does”. Yet so often we do not believe it! We think God’s commands are severe – look up 1 John 5:3; but they are not: they are always for our good – look up Psalm 19:11. In Ezekiel 3:1-3 we see how sweet to the taste God’s Word is, and in the whole of Psalm 119 David has much to say about the blessing that results from loving and obeying God’s Word.
In conclusion, our study is summed up in Colossians 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Titus 2:10; 2 Peter 1:4-8. What does God long for His people to do, and what does He desire of us? The answer is found in Deuteronomy 5:29 – “Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children for ever!” God wants us to love Him supremely (John 14:15; John 21:15); to obey Him implicitly (John 2:5; Acts 9:6; Proverbs 3:5-6). Then His blessing is assured!