“Faith’s Manifestation” – James 1:19-27

June 2nd, 2013

James 1:19-27

“Faith’s Manifestation”

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Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. — James 1:22


Background Information:

  • Paul is a preacher of faith, but of faith which works by love.  James is the preacher of works, but of works which are the fruit of faith.  (Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: 2 Tm – Jas, 388)
  • . . . there is no real contradiction between James and Paul regarding faith, for Paul’s teaching about faith and works focuses on the time before conversion, and James’ focus is after conversion.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: James, 108)
  • What Paul is saying in places like Ephesians 2 is that justification never results from good works; what James is saying, over and over again, is that justification always results in good works.  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 107)
  • (v. 21) NIV = “Evil that is prevalent”.  KJV = “superfluidity of naughtiness”.  Evil is everywhere.  Don’t allow its constant influence wear you down.
  • (v. 22) The Greek term for hearers is an interesting one.  It refers to someone who audits a course at a university–someone who listens carefully and takes notes, but has no assignments, tests, or responsibilities.  In short, someone who merely takes in information.  (Charles R. Swindoll, James: Practical and Authentic Living, 52-53)
  • (v. 22) The Greek word akroat s (hearers) was used of those who sat passively in an audience and listened to a singer or speaker.  Today it could be used of those who audit a college class, which they are required to attend and presumably listen to, but for which they are not required to do outside study, write papers, or take any tests.  In other words, they are not held accountable for what they hear.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 80)
  • Scholars see in the three examples of pure religion–to bridle the tongue, to show mercy, and to keep oneself undefiled–an outline for the next four chapters.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: James, 67)


The questions to be answered are . . . Why does James say what he does here at the end of chapter 1 of his book?   What does he hope to accomplish?   What can we learn from this passage as well?


Answers: James is writing to those who claim to be believers.  James is trying to confirm the faith of the true believer and also trying to knock out artificial supports from underneath those who are make-believe Christians.  We would do well to look intently into the book of James and see if we pass his test of authenticity.


Mistake number 1 – Is to think that you can get to heaven by good works.

Mistake number 2 – Is to think that you can get to heaven without good works.

(Alistair Begg sermon Living with Significance – Part 2)


There is an evil which I have seen under the sun…It is the glaring disparity between theology and practice among professing Christians.

So wide is the gulf that separates theory from practice in the church that an inquiring stranger who chances upon both would scarcely dream that there was any relation between them.  An intelligent observer of our human scene who heard the Sunday morning sermon and later watched the Sunday afternoon conduct of those who had heart it would conclude that he had been examining two distinct and contrary religions…

It appears that too many Christians want to enjoy the thrill of feeling right but are not willing to endure the inconveniences of being right.  So the divorce between theory and practice becomes permanent in fact, though in word the union is declared to be eternal.  Truth sits forsaken and grieves till her professed followers come home for a brief visit, but she sees them depart again when the bills become due.  (A. W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous, 51-53)


The Word for the Day is . . . Manifest


Manifest (adj) = clear to the senses or mind.  Obvious.

Manifest (vrb) = To show plainly; to make evident


Not only do many people think that they are Christians because they go to church, read the Bible and pray, but there are undoubtedly many Christians who fondly imagine that they are making some kind of progress in the Christian life because they go through a regular routine of Bible reading and of listening to preaching.  It is precisely this danger that James is anxious to warn us about.  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 91-92)


True saving faith:


• Knowledge

• Ascension

• Conviction



Faith that does not act is a faith that is just an act.  (Lois Evans and Jane Rubietta, Stones of Remembrance)


How does James say true faith will be manifest?:

I-  True faith is manifested in self-control to encourage God’s righteous life (Jas 1:19-21, 26; see also: Gal 5:22-23; 2 Pt 1:5-11) 


All the great men have agreed that it is only in obeying the law of God that a man becomes truly free.  “To obey God,” said Seneca, “is liberty.”  “The wise man alone is free,” said the Stoics, “and every foolish man is a slave.”  Philo said “All who are under the tyranny of anger or desire or any other passion are altogether slaves; all who live with the law are free.”  So long as a man has to obey his own passions and emotions and desires, he is nothing less than a slave.  It is when he accepts the will of God that he becomes really free–for then he is free to be what he ought to be.  His service is perfect freedom and in doing his will is our peace.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 60)


James had seen too many Christians who tried to slap on God’s truth without properly preparing themselves so that it would stick.  So beginning in verse 19, he sets forth four requisites for preparing ourselves to receive God’s truth.  (Charles R. Swindoll, James: Practical and Authentic Living, 50)


a-  Quick to listen (Jas 1:19; see also: 1 Sm 3:10; Prv 18:13; Lk 8:18; Mk 4:24)


Constant talking keeps a person from being able to hear.  Wisdom is not always having something to say; it involves listening carefully, considering prayerfully, and speaking quietly.  When we talk too much and listen too little, we communicate to others that we think our ideas are much more important than theirs.  James wisely advises us to reverse this process.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 31)


A young man once approached Socrates to ask if the philosopher would teach him the gift of oratory.  His request was then followed by an incessant stream of words until, finally, Socrates placed his hand over the inquirer’s mouth and said, “Young man, I will have to charge you a double fee.”  When the fellow asked why, Socrates said, “I will have to teach you two sciences.  First, how to hold your tongue, and then, how to use it” (Spiros Zodhiates, The Behavior of Belief, 94).

No one can speak and learn at the same time.  How much time do you spend in silence preparing yourself for the sowing of God’s Word?  Before we can listen, we must first learn to control our tongues.  (Charles R. Swindoll, James: Practical and Authentic Living, 51)


If we do not have an attentive ear in the ordinary circumstances of life, we do not become different people when we shut the door and open the Bible.  We must cultivate over the whole years of life those virtues and practices which will pay dividends when we turn our minds to God and to his Word.  In particular, we must use the relationships and situations of the market-place of life as a training-ground for a readiness to hear, a control of speech and a cautious abhorrence of anger.  The great talker is rarely a great listener, and never is the ear more firmly closed than when anger takes over.  (J. A. Motyer, The Message of James, 65)


A rich parallel is found in Pirke Aboth 5:12: “There are four types of disciples: swift to hear and swift to lose–his gain is canceled by his loss; slow to hear and slow to lose–his loss is canceled by his gain; swift to hear and slow to lose–this is a happy lot; slow to hear and swift to lose–this is an evil lot.”  (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary: James, 90)


Adlai Stevenson, when he addressed the students at Princeton, said, “I understand I am here to speak and you are here to listen.  Let’s hope we both finish at the same time.”  (Kent Hughes, James, Faith That Works, 64)


           b-  Slow to speak (Jas 1:19; see also: Prv 10:19; 13:3; 17:27-28; 29:20)


Climacus urged monks, “Once outside your cell, watch your tongue, for the fruits of many labors can be scattered in a moment.” (Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 273) When we are burning with the desire to speak, we should pause and check the source of that fire.  “A man should know that a devil’s sickness is on him if he is seized by the urge in conversation to assert his opinion, however correct it may be.”  (Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 106) (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 111)


It is better to bite your tongue than to let it bite someone else.


What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.  — Ralph Waldo Emerson.


Well done is better than well said.  — Ben Franklin


Actions speak louder than words, Let your words teach and your actions speak. — Saint Anthony of Padua


We have two ears but only one mouth, that we may hear more and speak less.  –Zeno


When disagreements occur in the church, over and over I have seen what great damage is done to people, to relationships and to the effectiveness of our ministries when we are quick to argue our positions, defend our views and push our opinions.  I have also seen what great good is done when we discipline ourselves to postpone defending our own views and judging others’ views while we concentrate on listening and giving a full hearing in order to understand the other side of the conflict.  We usually find the conflict more easily resolved.  Good listening is a protection against dissension.  (George M. Stulac, The IVP NT Commentary Series: James, 66)


c-  Slow to anger (Jas 1:19; see also: Prv 14:29; 16:32; 29:11; Eph 4:26-31; Col 3:8-10; 1 Tm 2:8)


When looking for faults, use a mirror, not a telescope.


“Temper is such a valuable thing, it is a shame to lose it!”  It is temper that helps to give steel its strength.  The person who cannot get angry at sin does not have much strength to fight it.  James warns us against getting angry at God’s Word because it reveals our sins to us.  Like the man who broke the mirror because he disliked the image in it, people rebel against God’s Word because it tells the truth about them and their sinfulness.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 52-53)


Anger closes our minds to God’s truth (see an example in 2 Kgs 5:11; see also Prv 10:19; 13:3; 17:28; 29:20).  It is anger that erupts when our egos are bruised–“I am hurt”; “My opinions are not being heard.”  It is just the kind of anger that rises from too much fast talking and not enough quick listening!  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 31)


“A quick-tempered man displays folly” (Prv 14:29) and anger is sin (Eph 4:31; Col 3:8; Ti 1:7).  An angry man listens to the voice of the evil one and not to the voice of God.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: James, 57)


Human anger, which is the product of a retarded willingness to listen, is at odds with God’s righteousness. (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary: James, 91)


Orgē (anger) does not refer to an explosive outburst of temper but to an inner, deep resentment that seethes and smolders, often unnoticed by others.  It is therefore an anger that only the Lord and the believer know about.  Therefore, it is a special danger, in that it can be privately harbored.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 72)


d-  Shedding of moral filth/evil (Jas 1:21; see also:  Jn 17:17; Eph 4:22-32; Col 3:8-10; 2 Pt 1:3-4)


James saw the human heart as a garden; if left to itself, the soil would produce only weeds.  He urged us to “pull out the weeds” and prepare the soil for the “implanted Word of God.”  The phrase “superfluity of naughtiness” gives the picture of a garden overgrown with weeds that cannot be controlled.  It is foolish to try to receive God’s Word into an unprepared heart.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 53)


The metaphor of taking off clothing is used often in Scripture to portray the removal of unbecoming traits related to the old life (Rom 13:12; Eph 4:22).  The writer to the Hebrews uses it of stripping for a race (Heb 12:1).  Peter also uses the concept in his discussion of the reception of the Word (1 Pt 2:1).  (Vernon Doerksen, Everyman’s Bible Commentary:  James, 42-43)


The word we have translated filthiness is ruparia; and it can be used for the filth which soils clothes or soils the body.  But it has one very interesting connection.  It is a derivative of rupos and, when rupos is used in a medical sense, it means wax in the ear.  It is just possible that it still retains that meaning here; and that James is telling his readers to get rid of everything which would stop their ears to be the true word of God.  When wax gathers in the ear, it can make a man deaf; a man’s sins can make him deaf to God.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 57)


This word, which is generally used of the ‘taking off’ of a set of clothes (cf. Acts 7:58), is applied widely in the NT to the ‘putting off’ of old, pre-Christian patterns of behavior (cf. Rom 13:12; Eph 4:22, 25; Col 3:8; Heb 12:1; 1 Pt 2:1).  What is to be put off, according to James, is all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness.  The word filthiness (rhyparia) is used only here in biblical Greek, but its adjective, ‘filthy’, is used in 2:2 to describe the clothes of the poor man, and in Zech 3:3-4 of the garments that the high priest Joshua has to put off before he can be given a new, rich set of clothes by the angel of the LORD.  (Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale NT Commentaries: James, 80)


To keep oneself unstained from the world means to avoid thinking and acting in accordance with the value-system of the society around us.  This society reflects, by and large, beliefs and practices that are un-Christian, if not actively anti-Christian.  The believer who lives ‘in the world’ is in constant danger of having the taint of that system ‘rub off’ on him.  (Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale NT Commentaries: James, 87)


Getting comfortable with a sinful lifestyle and getting apathetic about God’s hatred for sin leads to spiritual death.  Listen to God; “humbly accept the word planted in you.”  (Mark Jeske, The People’s Bible: James, Peter, John, Jude, 20)


When you hear somebody who is always joking about sin, treating it in an offhand, casual sort of way, you are listening to somebody who is in a lower state of grace than he ought to be.  To the unconverted person sin is generally a trifle, to the carnal Christian it is often a trouble, but to the sensitive saint it is always a tragedy.  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 84)


It would not be overstating the case to say that the very worst damage that sin can do to the Christian is to deafen him to the teaching of the Word of God.  Beware of anything that can tend to become wax in your spiritual ears, preventing you from hearing what it is that God wants to say to you.  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 86)


In the Bible, physical filth often stands for spiritual filth.  Scripture sometimes depicts sinners as people who are dressed in filthy clothes (Isa 64:6; Zech 3:3-4).  To change those clothes is a metaphor for conversion and a new way of life (Zech 3:4-9; Eph 4:22-24; 5:26-27).  True believers also keep themselves unstained by the world (Jas 1:27).  So James commands us to put away spiritual evil in all its forms.  (Daniel M. Doriani, Reformed Expository Commentary: James, 48)


Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God (Jas 4:4; cf. Eph 2:2; Col 2:8; Ti 2:12; 2 Pt 1:4; 1 Jn 2:14-15).  (Daniel M. Doriani, Reformed Expository Commentary: James, 59)


James not only calls us to positive action but also to eliminate immorality.  He knows that mere intellectual assent is often accompanied by an anemic will in matters of morality.  In making this case James teaches a central paradox of the faith.  God’s gift to us also lays upon us the responsibility of moral behavior.  (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary: James, 89)


James calls Christians to “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (Jas 1:21).  Implicit in James’ instruction is a distinction between an ungodly life of filthiness and wickedness and the Christlike life of humility or meekness.  Christians should receive the Word of God with meekness.  That is, in the preaching of God’s Word and in the Scripture, acknowledging it as the source of salvation and instruction in godly living.  As we come to the Scripture, we are to do so as people knowing our sinful nature, our spiritual poverty before God, and our need for the molding influence of God, which comes normally by his Word.  (Thabiti M. Anyabwile, What is a Healthy Church Member?, 77)


e-  Keep a tight rein on your tongue (Jas 1:26; 3:12-10; see also: Rom  3:13; Col 3:8; 4:6)


He who has a sharp tongue soon cuts his own throat.


The tongue inflicts greater wounds than the sword.  —St. Augustine


Death and life are in the power of the tongue.  -Prv 18:21a

A soothing tongue is a tree of life,

But perversion in it crushes the spirit. -Prv 15:4


The tongue is the only tool that grow sharper with use.  — Washington Irving


The tongue must be heavy indeed because so few people can hold it.


Don’t unsay with your life what you say with your tongue. — Richard Baxter.


It is the tongue of the Christian that destroys the fellowship.  (Chuck Swindoll James  Series “The Perils of Playing God”)


The tongue is likened to an unruly horse that needs a bit and bridle to bring it under control.  The tongue is an exceedingly powerful instrument that can be used for good or ill.  The Christian is challenged to control the tongue, using it for good.  His speech is to be “with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt” (Col 4:6).  Solomon wrote, “He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles” (Prv 21:23).  To claim a true form of religion yet not control the tongue is to have a “worthless” religion.  Worthless, sometimes translated “vain,” means “unprofitable” (cf. 1 Cor 15:17; Ti 3:9).  Outward forms of religion are useless without the inner dynamic of the Holy Spirit.  (Vernon Doerksen, Everyman’s Bible Commentary:  James, 48)


A person who fails to control his tongue deceives his heart about the reality of his religion.  He is a mere ‘hearer’ of the Word, and by failing to put what he hears into practice, he shows that his religion is vain.  (Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale NT Commentaries: James, 85-86)


James does not specify how the tongue offends, but we can imagine a series of ways that our tongue dishonors God–gossip, angry outbursts, harsh criticism, complaining, judging.  When we let our tongue wag that way, our spiritual pronouncements and practices become worthless.  Our verbal actions speak louder than our religious rituals.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 38)


As we shall yet hear James say in greater detail (3:7-8), our tongues possess in themselves all the untamed vigor of a wild beast and, left to themselves, all their savage instincts will be given full play.  They need, like wild horses, to be broken in and harnessed.  (J. A. Motyer, The Message of James, 75)


(Prv 6:16-19).  We should take careful note of the fact that God has a particular loathing of anything that divides Christians from each other, and few things do that more cruelly than barren, negative, unjust criticism.  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 79)


From James’ repetition of emphasis throughout the letter, from his imagery of a horse’s rein and bit, and finally from his conclusions of self-deception and worthlessness, the implications are inescapable.  Readers who affirm biblical authority and so seek to submit their views to the biblical view will give priority attention to their speech as they seek to purify their behavior.  Immoral ways of speaking simply cannot be excused biblically as somehow of secondary importance.  (George M. Stulac, The IVP NT Commentary Series: James, 83)




II-  True faith is manifested in a love for and a desire to humbly submit to the Word of                       God/Law (Jas 1:21-25; see also Ps ch 1; 19:7-14; ch 119; Jn 8:31-32; 14:21-24)  


Too many Christians mark their Bibles, but their Bibles never mark them!  If you think you are spiritual because you hear the Word, then you are only kidding yourself.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 54)


The true test of any religious profession, suggests James, is not the outward ritual of worship, which many go through unthinkingly and with little heart commitment.  No, the real litmus test of religion is obedience–without it, religion is vain: empty, useless and profitless.  (Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale NT Commentaries: James, 86)


If you are a follower of Christ, then you must have within you a deep desire to want to love and obey God’s Word because that is what drove Jesus.  Constantly, Jesus refers to his actions as being what His father told him to do or Jesus does what he does so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.   How can you say you follow Christ and contradict the very principle upon which his life was based . . .  To fulfill the Scriptures.  You cannot call yourself a Christian and do less than read, obey and love God’s Word. Otherwise, to call yourself a Christian and to live contrary to what we have just said, is to make a mockery of Jesus.   (Tim Keller, sermon on Acts 3)


The man is not said to be blessed automatically in proportion to the amount of biblical knowledge he accumulates.  The blessing comes with his obedience to what God has revealed to him.  This is a truth on which the Bible is relentlessly insistent: “By [the ordinances of the Lord] is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward” (Ps 19:11); “Blessed are they who keep [the Lord’s] statutes” (Ph 119:2); “Blessed…are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Lk 11:28); “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (Jn 13:17); “Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book” (Rv 22:7).  The Bible’s insistence on the relationship between obedience and blessing is inescapable.  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 99-100)


What happens when you look into a mirror?  You see yourself, don’t you?  And what happens if your face is dirty and you look into a mirror?  The answer is that you see that you should wash your dirty face.  Does the mirror clean your face?  No.  The mirror’s function is to drive you to the soap and water that will clean you up.  .  (James Montgomery Boice, An Expositional Commentary: Romans, Vol. 1, 335)


The Law is a moral mirror.  A person looking into it sees himself as he really is in God’s eyes.  Yet the Law can no more change a person than a face mirror can make a person clean.  One can look in a mirror to see the dirt on his face, but he can’t wash his face with it.  That’s not the mirror’s purpose.  So it is with the Law.  It reveals man’s sinfulness, but it cannot make him clean.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Romans, 74)


The term emphyton (planted in you) indicates that the focus of the word’s work is on changing the Christian rather than changing the circumstances of the trial.  Humbly accept would then mean not only to believe teachably but to act upon that word–for example, to accept that being quick to listen and slow to speak really is the best course in the midst of the conflict.  (George M. Stulac, The IVP NT Commentary Series: James, 72)


If I hear the word of God but do not do what it says, I am treating the word as if it were useless.  I am deceiving myself about the very nature and purpose of the word of God.  (George M. Stulac, The IVP NT Commentary Series: James, 75)


James defines law in such a way that it grants freedom from self-interest and immorality, allowing the Christian to grow into what God intends.  (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary: James, 95)


The perfect law, the word implanted and allowed to take root, is, then, the very teaching of Jesus.  Stephen Carter says that law has only two functions: It makes you do what you do not want to do, and it prevents you from doing what you want to do.  This is essentially the problem with Mosaic Law in the eyes of Jesus, James, and Paul.  It is rigid, somewhat inflexible, and most significantly, external.  It has little or no power to animate the heart.  (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary: James, 95)


For Jesus strict observance to the letter of the law is not radical obedience.  Jesus taught a higher standard of ethical obedience than can be enforced by any law.  He taught an ethic that flows from hearts in tune with God’s heart.  James points to the same idea with his phrase “the perfect law that gives freedom.”  We might also call this a “law of the heart,” a growing and innate sense of God’s purpose and pleasure in a given situation.  (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary: James, 99)


Listening to truth is not an end in itself any more than gazing at one’s face in a mirror is an end in itself.  The purpose of listening to truth is to act upon it.  Theoretical knowledge of spiritual truth is never commended in Scripture.  In fact, it is discouraged and condemned.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 175)


Just as it is the inner desire of the believer to know and obey God’s Word, it is the natural desire of the unbeliever to disregard and disobey it.  Although unbelievers sometimes refer to certain passages of Scripture to support their own beliefs, standards, and objectives, they do not cherish it and submit to it as God’s authoritative Word.  At best, it is simply one resource among many others they may or may not agree with but will use to their advantage when it appears noble or seems helpful.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 67)


Proclamation and incarnation.  In a word-saturated world people are saying more and more, “First show me.  Then, when I have come to trust you, you can tell me.”  A man’s receptivity to what we “proclaim” will rarely exceed the authenticity of how we actually live. (Patrick Morely; Ten Secrets for the Man in the Mirror, 124)


People will judge you by your actions, not by your intentions.  You might have a heart of gold but so does a hard-boiled egg.


The word works if we work the Word.  (Joyce Meyer, “The Character of God” message from the series God is Faithful and True)


One of the best wedding gifts God gave you was a full-length mirror called your spouse.  Had there been a card attached, it would have said, “Here’s to helping you discover what you’re really like!”  -Gary and Betsy Ricucci


Faith is not faith until it is acted upon.  That is the litmus test.  Faith without works is dead.  So is love without energy.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 142)


As we discussed earlier, a vision, by its very nature, requires resources that are not readily available. The man or woman who champions a vision must step up to the plate and demonstrate a willingness to sacrifice in order to deliver. Sacrifice is the clearest demonstration of your commitment to what could be.

Generally speaking, people will not invest more in a vision than the one who originally cast the vision.  In order to get others to give sacrificially, you must lead the way.

When you make a genuine sacrifice for the sake of your vision two things happen:

1)The people around you catch a glimpse of what’s in your heart.

2)You catch a glimpse of what’s in there as well.  (Andy Stanley, Visioneering, 192)


III-  True faith is manifested in a love for God and those created in His image (Jas 1:19-27; see also: Ex 22:22; Dt 10:17-19; 24:19-21; 26:12-13; 27:19; Prv 14:31; Isa 1:10-17; Ezek 22:7; Micah 6:6-8; Zech 7:6-10; Mt 22:37-40; 25:35-40; Mk 12:30-31; Lk 6:27-36; Jn 13:34-35; 15:12-17; Gal 5:6, 13-14; 1 Tm 5:3-16; 1 Jn 3:1-5:3)  


Looking out only for yourself, for your own comfort and security, and leaving the weak to fend for themselves, is an insult to God.  “Look after orphans and widows in their distress.”  (Mark Jeske, The People’s Bible: James, Peter, John, Jude, 21)


The widows could not get jobs, and their inheritances went to their oldest sons.  It was expected that the widows would be taken care of by their own families, and so the Jews left them with very little economic support.  Unless a family member was willing to care for them, they were reduced to begging, selling themselves as slaves, or starving.  By caring for these powerless people, the church put God’s Word into practice.  When we give with no hope of receiving in return, we show what it means to serve others.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 39)


CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: What does this message have to do with Christ and me?:

A-  As followers of Christ, the best way to gain self-control and freedom is by allowing Christ to give us a new controlled self. (Jer 31:31-34; Mt 12:33-37; Lk 6:45; Jn 1:12-13; 3:1-8; 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 2:20; 6:15; Eph 4:22-32)


The law gives freedom because it is only in obeying God’s law that true freedom can be found (compare Jn 8:31-32).  Obeying our emotions and giving in to all our desires is true slavery.  But in accepting God’s will, we are truly free to be what God created us to be.  Believers respond to God because they want to, not because they have to.  We are free to obey (1 Cor 9:20; Gal 5:13; 6:2).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 36)


It seems paradoxical that a law could give us freedom, but God’s law points out sin in us and gives us the opportunity to ask for God’s forgiveness (see Rom 7:7-8).  As Christians, we are saved by God’s grace, and salvation frees us from sin’s control.  As believers we are free to live as God created us to live.  Of course, this does not mean that we are free to do as we please (1 Pt 2:16)–we are now free to obey God.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 36)


Your beliefs don’t make you a better person.  Your behavior does.  


When I was directing an InterVarsity conference in Colorado one year, something the speaker said prompted a student to ask with evident intensity, “But what do you do when things are going wrong, and other people are hurting you, and you are hurt and angry?”  The speaker answered, “Have your daily quiet time.”  (George M. Stulac, The IVP NT Commentary Series: James, 72)


The tongue and the heart are linked so that the tongue is an accurate index of what we are at the core of our persons.  Was James, we may ask, quietly recalling and accepting the words of the Lord Jesus; ‘How can you speak good, when you are evil?  For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’ (Mt 12:34).  (J. A. Motyer, The Message of James, 76)


“Holiness is the visible part of salvation.”  The point is well made: faith, mercy, grace, the new birth–these things are invisible, but you can see holiness, and it proves the reality of the others.  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 72)


What’s in your home mirrors what’s in your heart.




B-  As a follower of Christ, the best way to gain a love for and a desire to obey the Word of God is by being filled with the Spirit that inspired that Word. (Mt 7:24-27; Lk 11:28; Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 9:17; 13:9, 52; Eph 5:18; 2 Tm 3:15-17; Rv 1:3)


Obedience is the mother of true knowledge of God.  -John Calvin


If you are a lousy repenter, you are not going to get anything out of the Word of God.  (Tim Keller message, “Growth through Hearing Truth – pt 2)


The word is planted in us when it becomes part of our being.  God teaches us from the depths of our soul, from the teaching of the Spirit, and by the teaching of Spirit-led people.  The soil in which the word is planted must be hospitable in order for it to grow.  To make our soil hospitable, we must give up any impurities in our life.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 32)


If you want it to work, obtain the fire of the Holy Spirit to get up the steam and then it will work.  You must begin with religion if you are to have a vigorous moral life, and your work in the world must be worship if it is to rise to the height of these two great forms of beautiful and noble life, the regard for others and the effort at purity for yourselves.  (Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: 2 Tm – Jas, 405)


C-  As a follower of Christ, the best way to love humanity is to see how much Christ has loved you. (Mt 5:17; Lk 7:47; Jn 15:17; Rom 5:8; 12:9-10; 13:8-10; Gal 6:2; Phil 2:1-11; 1 Thes 3:12; 2 Tm 1:7; 1 Jn 3:1-5:3; )


The word changed in the Greek gives us our English word “metamorphosis”–a change on the outside that comes from the inside.  When an ugly worm turns into a beautiful butterfly, this is metamorphosis.  When a believer spends time looking into the Word and seeing Christ, he is transformed: the glory on the inside is revealed on the outside.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 58-59)


What James is saying is, “The finest ritual and the finest liturgy you can offer to God is service of the poor and personal purity.”  To him real worship did not lie in elaborate vestments or in magnificent music or in a carefully wrought service; it lay in the practical service of mankind and in the purity of one’s own personal life.  It is perfectly possible for a Church to be so taken up with the beauty of its buildings and the splendor of its liturgy that it has neither the time nor the money for practical Christian service; and that is what James is condemning.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 61)


We should care for orphans because the gospel teaches that we once were and still are poor.  The gospel of Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  That is, blessed are those who know their spiritual poverty.  They know that apart from God’s grace, they are estranged from God and more desolate than orphans.  By faith in Jesus, we are adopted into God’s family.  We should care for widows and orphans, thereby living out the gospel principle of adoption of the needy.  (Daniel M. Doriani, Reformed Expository Commentary: James, 59)


James may be thinking of an accurate self-appraisal, one that shows us areas that need attention.  But he may also have in mind the image of true humanity (cf. 1:4), humanity as God intended, which in our mind’s eye we glimpse when the Word is read, but a vision that soon evaporates and is replaced by more base desires that the world is intent on displaying before us.  (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary: James, 94)


The finest worship we can offer to God is the giving of our “bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–which is your spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1).  Worship that pleases God involves throwing ourselves on the altar and before the needy world in service.  We may plead a lack of time, but if we have time for recreation and social visits we have the time!  (Kent Hughes, James, Faith That Works, 84)


“The Ephesians are warned to remember the fervor of their first Christian experience, to repent because they have fallen into sin, and to do the works they did at first, i.e., works of love.  As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, all the good works done in the name of Christ are empty if they are not motivated by love (1 Cor 13:1-3).”   (George Ladd, Commentary on the Revelation of John, 39)


The fact is, I need God to help me love God.  And if I need His help to love Him, a perfect being, I definitely need His help to love other, fault-filled humans.  Something mysterious, even supernatural must happen in order for genuine love for God to grow in our hearts.  The Holy Spirit has to move in our lives.  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 104)


In his classic allegory Pilgrim’s Progress, Puritan preacher and writer John Bunyan describes the magnificent mirror that Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains showed to Christiana and Mercy:  “Now the glass was one of a thousand.  It would present a man, one way with his own features exactly; and turn it but another way, and it would show one the very face and similitude of the Prince of pilgrims Himself.  Yea, I have talked with those that can tell, and have said they have seen the very crown of thorns upon His head by looking into this glass; they have therein also seen the holes in His hands, in His feet, and His side.  The man who continues looking into the mirror of God’s Word sees in it things far more wonderful than his own face.  He sees not only his filthy garments, not only the spots and stains on his life; he sees in it Christ, the Christ of the thorn-crowned brow; the Christ of the Cross, his Savior, whose blood cleanses him from all sin.”  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 81-82)


“One of the first tests you must apply to yourself, or to anyone else, in order to discover whether or not you are a Christian is to ask the question, Do you want to come together with other Christians?  If you do not feel this desire, there is only one explanation: You are not a Christian. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Authentic Christianity, by, 91)


The heir of heaven serves his Lord simply out of gratitude; he has no salvation to gain, no heaven to lose; …now, out of love to the God who chose him, and who gave so great a price for his redemption, he desires to lay out himself entirely to his Master’s service.  O you who are seeking salvation by the works of the law, what a miserable life yours must be! …you have that if you diligently persevere in obedience, you may perhaps obtain eternal life, though alas! none of you dare to pretend that you have attained it.  You toil and toil and toil, but you never get that which you toil after, and you never will, for, “by the works of the law there shall no flesh living be justified.” …The child of God works not for life, but from life; he does not work to be saved, he works because he is saved.  (Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 114-15)


D-  The Word of God planted in us is the means by which God uses to manifest His character and attributes and thus save us.  Look intently into God’s Word.  Don’t forget what it says about you! (Josh 1:8; Mt 7:24-27; 13:1-23; Mk 4:3-20; Jas 1:18; 1 Pt 1:23-25; Rv 1:3)


How do we prepare the soil of our hearts for God’s Word?  First, by confessing our sins and asking the Father to forgive us (1 Jn 1:9).  Then, by meditating on God’s love and grace and asking Him to “plow up” any hardness in our hearts, “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns” (Jer 4:3).  Finally, we must have an attitude of “meekness” (1:21).  Meekness is the opposite of “wrath” in verses 19 and 20.  When you receive the Word with meekness, you accept it, do not argue with it, and honor it as the Word of God.  You do not try to twist it to conform it to your thinking.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 53)


Perhaps James had in mind the parable of the sower (Mt 13:3-9, 18-23) in which the productivity of the seeds was dependent upon the receptivity and condition of the soil.  The Word is to be received with “humility,” meaning “mildness, gentleness.”  Rather than being self-assertive and brash, the true believer should receive with gentleness and consideration the Word.  He should be ready and eager to learn and respond gladly to the will of God as shown in His Word (1 Pt 2:1-2).  (Vernon Doerksen, Everyman’s Bible Commentary:  James, 43-44)


“Looks intently” is a word picture of one bending over to get a closer look.  It is the word used by John to describe how John and Mary peered into the empty tomb (Jn 20:5, 11).  It is also used of angels who long “to look” into the salvation provided by Christ (1 Pt 1:12).  Here then is a picture of one bending over the perfect law to make careful examination, in contrast to the careless hearer illustrated by the hasty glance in the mirror.  (Vernon Doerksen, Everyman’s Bible Commentary:  James, 45)


The command to receive the implanted word, then, is not a command to be converted (‘receive the word’ means this elsewhere in the NT), but to accept its precepts as binding and to seek to live by them.  Christians who have truly been ‘born again’ (v 18) demonstrate that the Word has transformed them by their humble acceptance of that Word as their authority and guide for life.  Or, to use the imagery our Lord used to make the same point: the believer is to prepare ‘good ground’ in his heart in order that the ‘seed’ of the Word that has been planted there might produce much fruit (cf. Mk 4:3-20).  (Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale NT Commentaries: James, 81)


It would be silly to leave dirt on your face or your hair in a mess after seeing yourself in a mirror.  It is just as silly to look into God’s Word and make no changes in your life.  Whether we read God’s Word for ourselves or hear it read, our listening must have an attitude of seriousness and submission that will lead to obedience.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 34)


This is how transformation occurs: The implanted word takes root deep within us and transforms us.  It brings conviction of sin and assurance of mercy.  It instills faith and creates new life, so that good fruit inevitably follows.  (Daniel M. Doriani, Reformed Expository Commentary: James, 48)


When the house has been swept and dusted, it cannot remain empty (Mt 12:43-45).  Therefore, James tells his readers to receive the Word of God that has been planted in them.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: James, 58)


We must remember that the NT presents a triple pattern of salvation: We have been saved through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Rom 8:24-25); we are being saved (1 Cor 1:18); and we will be saved (Rom 8:21-23).  This triple pattern helps us understand the shades of meaning that attend to “planted,” as it presents us with an image of growth and development.  The word of truth has saved us.  We are to nurture it, for it is a motive force in the process of saving us.  The result of this process is that we will achieve ultimate salvation.  (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary: James, 93)


He has told us that His Word is…


  • A Mirror: Therefore, I need to read to see myself as I really am in the light of what the text is saying.
  • A Seed: I permit the Word to be implanted deep in my heart and then envision what the fruit will be if I water and nurture it with care.
  • A Sword: The two-edged kind that pierces through all the externals and reveals the deepest secrets and motives.  In this metaphor it is essential to let the Word cut where it will and to honestly admit and submit to its surgery.
  • A Lamp: It gives guidance and direction in the darkness of life.
  • Bread For My Soul: I need to let the Word of God nourish my soul through reading it to feed me, not just to inform me.  When my soul is touched by a truth, encouragement, comfort, reproof, or insight from God’s Word, it’s a moment of feeding.  (Joseph M. Stowell, Experiencing Intimacy With God, Discovery Series 30)


The authenticity of theology is measured by the integrity of (their) biography.  — Steve Brown.


While James is often castigated for concentrating on works, we should note how at this critical juncture he carefully highlights the saving power of God’s word, which when it grows strong within us creates Christian character that results in righteous action.  (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary: James, 93)

Worship point:  James ought to encourage us to worship as we see our ineptitude and better understand God’s grace, forgiveness, love and mercy for sinners such as us.  


Obviously the doctrine of justification by faith only is absolutely essential.  There has never been a revival but that this has always come back into prominence.  This doctrine means the end of all thinking about ourselves and our goodness, and our good deeds, and our morality, and all our works.  Look at the histories of revivals, and you will find men and women feeling desperate.  They know that all their goodness is but filthy rags, and that all their righteousness is of no value at all.  And there they are, feeling that they can no nothing, and crying out to God for mercy and for compassion. Justification by faith.  God’s act.  ‘If God does not do it to us,’ they say, ‘then we are lost.’ (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Revival, 55)


The noonday devil of the Christian life is the temptation to lose the inner self while preserving the shell of edifying behavior.  Suddenly I discover that I am ministering to AIDS victims to enhance my resume.  I find I renounced ice cream for Lent to lose five pounds.  I drop hints about the absolute priority of mediation and contemplation to create the impression that I am a man of prayer.  At some unremembered moment I have lost the connection between internal purity of heart and external works of piety.  In the most humiliating sense of the word, I have become a legalist.  I have fallen victim to what T. S. Eliot calls the greatest sin: to do the right thing for the wrong reason. (Brennan Manning; The Ragamuffin Gospel, 131)


Spiritual Challenge:  Study God’s Word intently.   See what it has to say about you.  Then realize where you need to be and repent.  Also realize from where you have come and rejoice!  See anew the truth, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”, and “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”


There is a difference between thinking and knowing.  There is a difference between reading a menu and eating a meal.  There is a difference between reading a prescription and taking medicine. There is a difference between reading the Bible and growing in grace.  How easy it is to deceive ourselves on this issue!  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 95)


Christianity must reverse its current image and become dynamic, genuine, and real.  If we can prevent the message from being watered down by casual Christians, outsiders will begin to experience believers who have been (and are being) transformed by their faith and who are working in humble and respectful ways to transform the culture.  In the Bible Paul puts it this way: “This should be your ambition: to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we commanded you before.  As a result, people who are not Christians will respect the way you live.” (1 Thes 4:11-12).  There is nothing more powerful than the Christian life lived out in obedience; there is nothing worse than a flat, self-righteous form of faith that parades around in Christian clothes.  (David Kinnaman, Unchristian, 83)


James presents a powerful challenge to a world more and more tolerant of the idea that religion is whatever the individual makes it–self-designed faith is worthless.  Believing in a God we refuse to submit to or obey is just another expression of sinful rebellion.  In the end, it does not matter whether we consider ourselves religious.  The real question is, What does God consider us to be?  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 38)


This is the third time that James tells his readers not to deceive themselves (1:16, 22, 26).  As a pastor he is fully aware of counterfeit religion that is nothing more than external formalism.  He knows that many people merely go through the motions of serving God, but their speech gives them away.  Their religion has a hollow ring.  And although they may not realize it, by their words and by their actions–or lack of them–they deceive themselves.  Their heart is not right with God and their fellow man, and their attempt to hide this lack of love only heightens their self-deception.  Their religion is worthless.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: James, 64)


How penetratingly the Bible exposes that sort of thing!  Paul specifically says that one of the signs of “the last days” will be that of people “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Tm 3:1, 5), while the angel’s piercing analysis of the church in Sardis was this: “You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead” (Rv 3:1).  The form was there, the name was there, the reputation was there; but there was no life, no reality!  Is that not true about so much of our church life today?  We have equated busyness with blessing, program with progress, yet I suspect that so much of it is lacking in reality.  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 102)


Quotes to Note:

As E. Stanley Jones wrote somewhere, “you may dispense moral judgments so that by the very dispensing of them you judge yourself moral.”  When we say a person is careless, are we not implying that we are careful?  When we call someone proud, is there not the suggestion that we are humble?  When we criticize a man’s meanness, are we not implying our own generosity?  When we say that another Christian is just a little astray theologically, are we not saying that he does not agree with our impeccable doctrine?  Beware of the subtle sins that lurk here!  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 79)


get rid of                                                 IS IN CONTRAST TO                             humbly accept

the evil prevalent around you                  IS IN CONTRAST TO                             the word planted in you

which threatens you (implied)                 IS IN CONTRAST TO                             which can save you

(George M. Stulac, The IVP NT Commentary Series: James, 69)


But turning from evil is not enough.  James also places before us an alternative path: “Humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”  This attitude of humility characterizes the one who has “converted.”  It is no longer a life of evil and wickedness, but one marked by calm and concern for others.  (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary: James, 92)




the object of

our confirmed faith


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