God has identified our real problem: our sinful, rebellious hearts. God has also identified the only solution: trusting that Jesus Christ died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins. The real issue is how are you going to respond to this message? Are you willing to hear God out?
- James 1:1-8: James encourages his readers to consider it joy when they go through trials because of the purpose trials serve.
- Trials test our faith and the process of proving our faith results in persevering in faith. Persevering in faith is the most valuable thing in this life.
- What should you do if you realize you lack wisdom and maturity in your life? Ask God. He is generous and will not hold your foolishness against you. He can and will bring you to wisdom and maturity.
- James 1:9-18: Here is one of those situations where they are acting foolishly and lack wisdom. If you’re poor, what perspective should you have on wealth? You have no reason to envy the rich unbeliever because you stand to inherit the kingdom of God.
- If you realize, that’s not your perspective on trials, what’s wrong with you understanding?
- James gave two answers. James 1:13-15: you don’t understand yourself rightly; or James 1: 16-18; you don’t understand God rightly.
19Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. – James 1:19-21
- The interpretative question is: how does this fit in the context? Has James truly switched topics?
- In James 1:18, James talked about the word of truth (gospel).
- James 1:21 talks about the word (gospel) again. That suggests continuity.
- When presented with the word of truth (the gospel message), how are you going to respond?
- Here’s how: you should be quick (eager) to hear the gospel, slow to talk back to God as if you know a better way, and especially slow to be hostile or angry toward God.
- Taking these verses as our response to God (rather than each other) also fits the flow of thought with James 1:20. Getting angry with God will not produce right-standing with God.
- The only hope for righteousness is found by humbly listening to the gospel message.
- Strip all that attitude, cast off pride and anger at God, remove the excuses and the back talk just like you would shed filthy clothes. Instead humbly receive the word which will take root in your heart and grow to maturity.
22But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. 26If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. – James 1:22-27
- Having discussed how we should receive the word, James says we need to do more than hear the word, we have to do it. This is one of the major themes of his letter.
- What does James think it means to be a doer of the gospel?
- James is saying something about the nature of belief itself: namely that belief in the gospel changes the way we live.
- Saving faith is not a theological aptitude test that you forget once you turn in your test paper. We don’t study the Bible just to acquire data.
- Saving faith is embracing a certain truths that change your life. Saving faith has implications.
- James is not saying that our works earn our acceptance before God. James is saying that belief makes a difference.
- If I really embrace the gospel as true, then it will change my entire life and being. I will act is if the gospel is true.
- The point of the metaphor in this context is about what happens after we look. Do we remember or forget? We are not meant to forget the gospel the way we forget our image in the mirror.
- There are many ways belief can be expressed. We saw one example in in our attitude toward the rich. James gives many more throughout the letter.
- James 1:26-27 is another example. If you claim to have faith and embrace the gospel, it should affect your speech. Don’t tell me you consider yourself a Christian when everything that comes out of your mouth contradicts that. That kind of belief is worthless.
- In James’ culture, women and children derived status from the household they belonged to, from the patriarch of the house. Widows and orphans had the lowest social status because they lacked a patriarch.
- James is saying: Don’t tell me you believe the gospel if you act as if the riches of this world make a difference. Don’t tell me you believe the gospel and talk like those who blaspheme God. Don’t tell me you believe the gospel and live like social status matters.
- True religion is not concerned with the social status of the people who are in trouble. True religion is concerned with the fact that these people are in trouble, whoever they are.
Essentially James says there are 2 responses to the gospel:
- James 1:19-21 – humble yourself before God
- James 1:22-27 – let the gospel change you from the inside out
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