James 1:21

Michael E. Phillips

On Sunday evenings, I teach a youth Bible drill before worship services begin. Bible subjects are discussed, and memory work is quoted. One verse which the young people enjoy quoting is James 1:21, perhaps due to its words in the King James Version. While it may include terms, which may be unfamiliar, yet this is an important verse, as are all inspired passages. James is presenting information which emphasizes the attitudes toward the Word of God, including its importance to man's spiritual well being. Consider the message of this verse.

First, "Wherefore lay apart all filthiness." There are characteristics of each individual's past, which need to be renounced for the cause of Christ (as in the weight of sin, Hebrews 12:1). Christians must avoid all "filthiness," which is defined by George Ricker Berry as "pollution" (p. 132). W. Robertson Nicoll describes this as "abomination, meaning that which is abhorrent to God" (p. 432). Children of God are to exhibit lifestyles in accordance with His Will and avoid any mixture with that of the world. The adjective "all" emphasizes a rejection in totality. "There is, in the word, a suggestion of loathsomeness, and it seems likely that in his use of this term it was the writer's design to create in his readers a deep sense of abhorrence of sin, all sin, any sin." (Guy N. Woods, p. 80).

Second, "lay apart all ... superfluity of naughtiness." Thayer defines this as "residue, remains: the wickedness remaining over in the Christian from his state prior to conversion." It would be similar to having cancer surgery and leaving a little bit of the malignity in the body. Wickedness grows like a disease. In a lesser example, all weeds must be removed from the garden before the seed is planted. Thus, "this has to be got out of the way first before the 'implanted word' can be received." (Nicoll). James Burton Coffman quotes, "wickedness in the smallest measure is already excess." (p. 27).

Third, "receive with meekness the engrafted word." With the heart softened with gentleness and humility resulting from true repentance, the rooted Word of God may be planted with eternal expectations. There is no better illustration of this process than from the words of the Savior in His description of the parable of the soils, saying, "Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God ... But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience." (Luke 8:11, 15).

The important result of this verse is found in the words, "which is able to save your souls;" "When the soil (which is the heart) is properly prepared, the seed (which is the word of God) - will readily spring into spiritual life, and yield its rich fruitage in Christian activity." (Coffman, p. 83). The process is presented in Paul's writing in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase." It is God's desire for a prepared heart to "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom" (Colossians 3:16), allowing spiritual direction from here to heaven.

Salvation is not possible through meritorious good works, faith only, or grace alone, but by allowing the living Word to lead in the saving pathway of the gospel and Christian lifestyle. - P.O. Box 176, Belington, WV 26250.


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