“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore 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
In his letter, James claims that ‘doing’ is indispensable to genuine Christianity. This is a challenging area of Christianity to address, because of the seeming contradiction that presents itself. Is James saying that one is saved by good works? If so, this is contrary to Paul’s claim on salvation by grace alone in Ephesians 2.
What James is presenting here is a faith that is living and active naturally manifests itself in outward actions. Just as a mustard seed grows into a mustard tree according to the biological forces at work in the process, so too does our faith grow into actions according to the implanted word of truth. Our faith begins to form in us a moral compass that glorifies God. With our character transformed by the Spirit, Christ-like obedience and actions are then manifested.
James gives us a wonderful illustration in James 1:22-25 of what it looks like to allow this process of manifestation to take place. So, what then are the principles of manifested faith that we can draw out of this passage?
Learn to love living in community
We are called to “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word…” (James 1:21). This is a principle that we see time and time again in Jesus’ teaching and in the New Testament. In order to allow for new growth in our lives, we must first do away with that that brings death into our lives (Romans 13:12, Ephesians 4:22-23, Hebrews 12:1, 1 Peter 2:1, 5).
This ‘putting off’ and ‘putting on’ is a constant undertaking, and we were not meant to do it alone. Brothers and Sisters in Christ are not some archaic church terminology; they are descriptives of the relationship that we share with one another. In that shared relationship, we are to encourage and equip one another for the pursuit of the word of life (Hebrews 3:12-14). Learn to love living in community.
Learn to love looking into the mirror
The word of God is a light to our path (Psalm 119:105), the very essence that we draw life from (Deuteronomy 8:3), and the mirror into which we observe the state of our souls (James 1:23-25). It might be narcissistic to overly enjoy physically seeing yourself in the mirror, but in a spiritual sense we ought to regularly observe our lives by the light of the word of truth.
As we look into the word of life, we must not only closely and carefully observe what we see, but we must also humble ourselves in submission to the authority of God. We are blessed to be given this ‘mirror’ and the resources that are needed to understand and apply it; don’t allow yourself to waste that blessing.
Learn to love a life of prayer
What use is a mirror if you walk away and at once forget what you have seen (James 1:24)? Mirrors have practical functions in our everyday life and so too should the word of life. We cannot treat something so wonderful as the revelation of God to man as a trivial book of good morals. No, the word of life that we are speaking of is one that is able to save your soul.
Every time that we open the word of God, it solicits a response in our lives. Always begin that response with prayer (John 14:26, 16:13). Considering all of the titles that God is given throughout the Bible, we ought to be easily encouraged to include him in our response to his word of life.
“But 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.”
- James 1:25
As you look into the mirror this week, consider wether you are simply hearing the word of life or if you are allowing God to manifest his salvation through your inward faith into your outward actions.
Blog by Patrick Tayne of CrossWay International Baptist Church.
Published on 12. May 2020 from Berlin, Germany.
Photo by Inga Gezalian on Unsplash.