Book of James Lesson Three
by Dr. Michael Cochran
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BOOK OF JAMES BIBLE STUDY
LESSON # 3 - (James 1: 19-27, NIV)
TITLE: LISTENING AND DOING
DR. MICHAEL COCHRAN
APPLICATION: If I live up to what I profess to believe, it will be demonstrated by my actions.
JAMES 1: 19-21
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, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
The effects of reading God's Word should be observable in our lives. James provides several practical examples. God gave us two ears and one mouth. Should we not be twice as swift to listen and learn? A wise person will listen to others and answer only when he or she has something worthwhile to say. Ahimaaz, the messenger in 11 Samuel 18:19, was so eager to speak that he ran off to King David without having received anything substantial to report! Like him, we are often hasty to pass judgment, to deliver an opinion, to give advice, to answer a question, before we have taken the time to become fully informed.
The strong admonition to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” may be a reference to the readers accusations against God's righteousness, both in the individual soul and in the world at large. There is such a thing as righteous wrath, but there is also a wild and uncontrolled wrath which works much trouble. It does not advance the best interests of the cause of God.
The Bible condemns such sinful anger. Our Lord said: “Anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5: 22). The application of this verse for us is a warning against unwarranted anger that issues from pride and that desires the injury of the other person.
Jesus condemned the methods of His disciples on several occasions when they tried to use human force to accomplish God's will. While the “Sons of Thunder” (Luke 9: 51-56) and Peter (John 18:10, 11) thought that their stand against the powers of darkness was motivated by righteousness, the real cause was uncontrolled emotion, the fury and frustration of being thwarted in the act of doing good
James speaks about something the Christian must lay aside, put away, pull out by the roots: “moral filth.” Every form of uncleanness, in thought, word, and deed, must be rooted out of the life of a Christian.
“The evil that is so prevalent” might suggest to some that only the excess of evil is to be put away. Every Christian brings into the new life in Christ much that is inconsistent with it. This “excess baggage” has to be completely laid aside, however, that the new Christian give himself or herself more thoroughly to the positive work of receiving the implanted Word of God.
The statement “the word planted in you” suggests a process of propagation. Only as the Word is really implanted does it become united with the heart. Unless the Word becomes rooted in us through faith, the fruit of righteousness cannot be brought forth.
JAMES 1: 22-24
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
Hearing the Word of God is not enough. The hearing-but-not-doing individual is like a person who sees the reflection of his or her own face in a mirror. “He sees himself, that is true, but he goes off without the slightest recollection of what sort of person he saw in the mirror.”
Accumulated Scripture knowledge without application can create feelings of superiority and self-righteousness. People who have such a distorted view of Scripture can actually fool themselves into thinking that they are pleasing God by their study alone. But over familiarity with Scripture can dull the conscience and harden the heart against the conviction of the Holy Spirit. God may have to use drastic measures to get through to such people.
The mirror which reveals the imperfections of the outer person, is now contrasted with the perfect law, the law of freedom, which reflects the inner person. This is the first reference to law in the epistle. James uses the term to denote the ethical side of Christianity, the didache, or “teaching.”
Here he calls the law perfect. James, as a Jew, is deliberately ascribing to the didache the attributes of the Mosaic Law. To James it is perfect because it was fulfilled perfectly by Jesus Christ.
“Law that gives freedom” probably means that it is a law that applies to those who have the status of freedom—not from law, but from sin and self through the Word of Truth. The person who looks into this law and makes a habit of doing so will find true happiness
The Bible is the directory of a disciplined and devout life; thus the main business of our lives should be the doing of the Word. By being doers of the Word we translate the message into a language that those around us cannot fail to read: Here is the love of God.
JAMES 1: 25-27
25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Now the author moves from the more general “not forgetting what he has heard” to the more specific “he will be blessed in what he does.” The Greek word for religious (threskos) means “given to religious observances.” In this context it refers to attendance at worship services and to other observances of religion such as prayer, almsgiving, and fasting. A person who is scrupulous in these observances but fails in everyday life deceives himself, and his religion is futile. For James the value of one's religion is always tied to something practical.
A religious person keeps a tight rein on the tongue. James is able to see past external religiosity to the matters that really count. No doubt religious life would have a different character if James were a leader in today's church.
Since widows and orphans were not provided for in ancient society, they were typical examples of those who needed help, not just words. In addition to extending charity, maintaining personal purity is another way true religion expresses itself. “The World” here refers to society opposed to-- God.
QUESTIONS TO PONDER:
1. What are some of the evidences that the Word of God is active in your life?
2. Can you think of times when you have been tempted to ignore what the Bible said, but in the end, decided you would obey the Word? What was the result of your obedience?
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