Summary: What does it mean that the Word is already in you? Does that mean you don’t have to read it? No, it means you have the ability to receive it.
James 1:18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. 19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 21 Therefore, having stripped off all filth and the malice that is so prevalent, humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save your soul.
Introduction: God’s Will for your Life is…Life!
What is God’s will for your life? If you have been seeking the answer to that question, it’s good that you are here because the answer is in James 1:18. If you are a believer, God’s will for your life is … life!
James 1:18 He chose (willed) to give us birth through the word of truth
God’s will for your life, His desire for you, is for you to have life through His Word. The word life refers to health, strength, vitality, growth, vigor, energy, joy – all the various components of life. God’s will for your life is that you have all those things, and that you get them through His Word.
So how is that done? Some people read their Bible and they don’t get much of those things at all. Other people read their Bible and they are abounding in those things. So what is the difference? How can you approach the Scriptures in a way that will fill up your life with life? The answer to that question is so important that James is going to devote the rest of the chapter to it. This is absolutely critical, because if we don’t get this, nothing he says in the rest of the book is going to be much help to us. He is going to point out a bunch of ways that we need to change, but if we don’t know how to draw life from the Word of God, those changes will never happen.
One Command: Accept (Receive)
We have been studying verse by verse through the book of James, and we left off last time at verse 21 of chapter one. When you look at that verse in the English translations, it looks like there are two commands: 1) get rid of filthiness and 2) accept the word. But in the Greek, there is only one command – accept. A more literal translation would be, Therefore, having stripped away all filth and the evil that is so prevalent humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. So the command is to accept the word. The rest of the verse just answers the questions how? and why? He tells us what to do, how to do it, and why we should do it. And I would like to begin this morning with the last point – why we should obey this command. It is always good to start with the motivation so that when you get to the command itself, you are excited about it.
The Motives: Sanctification and Salvation
So why is it so important for us to accept the Word of God? What is at stake? Why is it so important? I mean, it’s not like my salvation is at stake or anything, right? Well, actually, it is. Your salvation is exactly what is at stake.
James 1:21 … humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
Literally, which can save your soul. James does not include that at the end of the sentence just to practice his handwriting. The implication is very clear. He is telling us to accept the only thing that can save your soul – implication: if you fail to accept it, your soul will be lost.
This verse sounds a little strange to us because we typically use the word save to refer to conversion. We say, “I was saved five years ago,” referring to the time when we were born again. And sometimes you see that word used that way in the Bible. But more often the word “saved” or “salvation” refers to the future aspect of salvation that has not happened yet. The day of your conversion was only part of your salvation. The rest of your salvation will come when Jesus returns and sin is done away with forever and you receive your glorified body. For example:
Romans 13:11 wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
We believed in the past, but we have not received our salvation yet. We have received part of it, but we get the rest when Jesus returns. And what James is saying here is that if you want to be in that group of people who will receive salvation when Jesus returns, you need to be accepting the Word of God now. Once you are born again, this is the path you take to heaven – the path of accepting God’s Word. Remember – he is talking to believers here. He is talking to people who have been born again back in verse 18. And he is telling us that we must accept the Word of God because it has power to save our souls.