June 22nd, 2008 – James 1:19-27

The Book of James
Knowing the Word Is Only Half the Battle
James 1:19:27


President Franklin D. Roosevelt got tired of smiling that big smile and saying the usual things at all those White House receptions. So, one evening he decided to find out whether anybody was paying attention to what he was saying. As each person came up to him with an extended hand, he flashed that big smile and said, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.” People would automatically respond with comments such as “How lovely!” Or, “Just continue with your great work!” Nobody listened to what he was saying, except one foreign diplomat. When the president said, “I murdered my grandmother this morning,” the diplomat responded softly, “I’m sure she had it coming to her.”

Listening is a major problem for lots of people. For to a great extent they hear words only; they do not hear with understanding. On at least three occasions, Jesus said, “He who has ears, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15; 13:9, 43; cf. John 8:43, 47). At the end of each of the seven letters He dictated to John in Revelation 2 and 3, He ended with the statement, “He, who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”.

Do not miss the point: “listening” (or hearing) is not just a response to the stimulus of sound waves, it is perception and understanding. James learned this lesson well. At one time he himself was one who heard Jesus speak, but did not hear Him.

Our Study of the Text

    1. Be quick to listen:
      Listen carefully to what is said :: and with understanding. Perceive what the person means by what he is saying. Ask questions to clarify meaning (not in a suspicious or challenging way). Repeat back to the speaker what you understand them to say – and ask if you understand correctly.
    2. Be slow to speak:
      Speak when it is necessary and beneficial to do so.
      After telling his patient to put out her tongue, the doctor continued writing out the prescription. When he had finished he turned to her and said: “There, that will do.” “But Doctor,” protested the lady, “you never even looked at my tongue.” To which the doctor replied, “It wasn’t necessary. I just wanted you to keep quiet while I wrote the prescription.”
      cf. Eph. 4:29: NO GOSSIP OR MALICE!
    3. Be slow to become angry:
      James states clearly that anger does not produce the righteousness of God.
      Moses had a problem with anger – so much so that it kept him out of the promised land (see Exodus 2:12; 32:19; Numbers 20:8:12).
    Since James is writing to believers, it is obvious the accepting the word of God so as to save one’s soul is not talking about being saved from the penalty of sin. So to better understand his meaning we need to take a closer look at the words involved.

    1. The meaning of save:
      The basic meaning of the Greek term sozo is to deliver; in the passive, to be delivered. The context must determine who or what is delivered from what. Here are some examples:

      1. Saved (delivered) from the penalty of sin (Eph. 2:5, 8).
      2. Saved (delivered) from sleep – to wake up (John 11:12).
      3. Saved (delivered) from Egypt (Acts 7:25).
      4. Saved (delivered) from sickness – become well (Mark 5:34; Acts 4:9).
      5. Saved (delivered) from drowning (Acts 27:20, 31).
      6. Saved (delivered) from prison (Phil. 1:19)
    2. The meaning of soul:
      The term soul (Gr. psuche) is used several ways. Again, the context must determine its ultimate meaning. Soul is used in four different ways:

      1. As the principle of life (Acts 20:10).
      2. As an animate human being (1 Cor. 15:45).
      3. As the immaterial aspect of man (Matt. 10:28).
      4. As the temporal experience of human life (Luke 9:23:25).

    The apostle Peter explains the concept that James is referring to more fully in 1 Peter 1:3:9. He concludes the section with, ” Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

    Here is a summary of what James and Peter are saying:

    James uses our proper responses to life’s trials to indicate how our faith is proven (1:12). Peter uses proof of faith to indicate the same thing. Both refer to what the Bible also calls good works. Our evaluations and responses to the concerns of life will either issue from faith in the provisions of God’s grace, or in our own self:sufficiency. In either case, a work is produced. If the work issues from our faith in God, it is a good work (cf. Romans 14:23b; Ephesians 2:10). It is proof of faith. All our works, good and bad, will be “tested by fire” at the judgment seat of Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:10:15). The judgment by fire is to test the quality of our works (vs. 13). Good works (proof of faith) become the basis for reward (vs. 14). This is precisely what Peter has in mind when he says that our “proof of faith” (good works) will be “tested by fire”, and having passed the test will result in “praise and glory and honor” (reward). And it will happen at “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (the judgment seat). To put it another way, our faith is proven in time, but that proof is demonstrated and rewarded in the future – at the judgment seat of Christ.

    1. One of Satan’s lies is this: If I know the truth I will experience the truth. And nothing could be further from the truth! Listening to the presentation of truth does not mean that the listener has learned anything. In fact, James is telling us that listening in itself is only temporary. It is very much like a person who looks in a mirror. As soon as they go about their business they forget what they saw in the mirror.
    2. It is the doers of the word that are blessed.
      To be blessed means to be the privileged recipient of divine favor. Being a privileged recipient of divine favor means that one is abiding in that state in which full assurance and confidence of faith is realized. That is, that state in which blessing is realized. Remember 1:12?

      “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”
      That state of blessing can be summarized in this way: it is the state that is created and maintained by living obediently to the principles and precepts of the Scriptures (and it assumes a continual cleansed life).


    The Word of God demonstrates to us that we can be very involved in Christian activities and still be characteristically fleshly and immature spiritually.

    1. Biblical Christianity is seen in ministry to others.
      1. Orphans and widows are representative.
      2. Some other aspects of ministry:
        1. Evangelism (2 Tim. 4:5; Eph. 4:11)
        2. Financial help (Eph. 4:28; Phil. 4:10:20)
        3. General principles: 1 Thess. 5:14
      3. Biblical Christianity is seen in godly character.
        A great example is the list (not an exhaustive list) of the fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5:22:23.

        • Love [the voluntary and unconditional provision of money, materials, help to people in need]
        • Joy [happiness or satisfaction]
        • Peace [a state of mental calm and serenity, with no anxiety]
        • Patience [able to tolerate being hurt, provoked, or annoyed without complaint or loss of temper]
        • Kindness [compassionate, generous]
        • Goodness [virtuous, moral integrity]
        • Faithfulness [consistently loyal]
        • Gentleness [having a gracious or honorable manner]
        • Self:control [the ability to control your own behavior, especially in terms of reactions and impulses]
    • When you don’t listen carefully, not only will you relate untruth to others, but you will form opinions about people that are not true.
    • Don’t be so quick to tell people what you know – they very likely do not need to know what you know.
    • Realize that when you are angry, you are not getting your own way – which is selfishness – and that is a major sin problem!
    • Spend regular time in the Word of God. Attend Bible class. Learn to study the Bible for yourself.
    • Learn to think biblically, not glandularly!
      Some people seem to pride themselves on their “natural instincts.” And that is very dangerous. What we need is biblical perception, not natural instinct. The object of our faith is God and his Word, not us and our abilities!
    • Set the direction of your heart toward God not self.
      We spend a lot of time in front of the mirror to be sure that we look a certain way so that people will respond to us in ways that will please us. We should be that concerned about how God perceives and responds to us :: whether He is pleased by what He sees in us.

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