Receiving The Word

Bible Book: James  1 : 19-22
Subject: Word, Receiving the; Word of God
Series: James - Owen

John MacArthur mentions that James gives three tests of a true believer her in chapter 1…

The first was his response to trials (1:2-12).

The second was his response to temptation (1:13-18).

The third is his response to the truth revealed in the Word of God (1:19-27).

In 1:19-27, James focuses on two major truths relating to that evidence. First, saving faith is marked by a proper reception of Scripture as the Word of God (vv. 19-21). Second, it is marked by a proper reaction to the word, reflected in an obedient life.

Whenever you see a “therefore” or a “wherefore” in the scripture, you look to see what it is “there for.”

Marvin Vincent in his Word Studies in the New Testament says of this word “wherefore”…

The King James Version follows the reading ‎hooste‎. But the correct reading is ‎iste‎, “ye know,” and so the English Revised Version (1885). Others render it as imperative, “know ye,” as calling attention to what follows.

I believe that the word “wherefore” in verse 19 really has the idea of “knowing this,” or as the New American Standard renders it, “This you know.” So James is saying, “Knowing this” (the truth highlighted in verse 18) … “let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” As John MacArthur states, it “refers back to the truths just expressed.”

Albert Barnes wrote…

The connection is this: “since God is the only source of good; since he tempts no man; and since by his mere sovereign goodness, without any claim on our part, we have had the high honor conferred on us of being made the first-fruits of his creatures, we ought to be ready to hear his voice, to subdue all our evil passions, and to bring our souls to entire practical obedience.” The necessity of obedience, or the doctrine that the gospel is not only to be learned but practiced, is pursued at length in this and the following chapter. The particular statement here (James 1:19-21) is, that religion requires us to be meek and docile; to lay aside all irritability against the truth, and all pride of opinion, and all corruption of heart, and to receive meekly the engrafted word.

I. In Talking About Receiving God’s Word, James Mentioned The Issue Of Attentiveness

(James 1:19)

A. Notice The Audience To Whom He Speaks…

(James 1:19) Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:

1. He Is Addressing Those Who Are “Beloved”

beloved – Greek 27. agapetos, ag-ap-ay-tos'; from G25; beloved:--(dearly, well) beloved, dear.

This word has the idea of the little loved ones.

John MacArthur wrote…

By addressing his readers as my beloved brethren James clearly indicates his deep compassion and concern for them. Like every wise Christian teacher, he is not simply trying to convince their minds in a purely intellectual way but also is trying to reach their hearts. His affection for them is equally as strong as his obligation to them. Few things can make a teacher’s work more effective than a genuine love for those being taught.

2. He Is Addressing Those Who Are “Brethren”

brethren – Greek 80. adelphos, ad-el-fos'; from G1 (as a connective particle) and delphus (the womb); a brother (lit. or fig.) near or remote [much like H1]:--brother. According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, it means “from the same womb.”

Wiersbe said…

James sent his letter to Christian Jews. At least nineteen times he addressed them as “brethren,” indicating not only “brothers in the flesh” (fellow Jews), but also “brothers in the Lord.”

B. Notice The Admonition That He Shares

(James 1:19) Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:

1. James Says That We Should Be Prepared To Receive The Word – To Be A Good Listener

MacArthur said that being “swift to hear” means…

Be a careful listener, making sure that we pay attention in order to get the message right. … James’ appeal is for believers to seize every opportunity to increase their exposure to Scripture, to take advantage of every privileged occasion to read God’s Word or to hear it faithfully preached or taught.

I heard about someone who said that they really enjoyed my preaching and could sit and listen to it for hours, but they only came on Sunday mornings. They were not as swift to hear as they thought they were.

John Phillips said…

The art of listening is one that we all need to acquire. The Lord Jesus often used this expression: “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” The words are His alone in the Bible. … He used the expression seven times while on earth (Luke 8:8; Matthew 11:15; 13:19, 43; Mark 4:23; 7:16; Luke 14:35 – in chronological order) and eight times from heaven (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; 13:9). Most of us are poor listeners. God speaks, however, to those who have ears to hear.

Have you ever heard the old adage, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt”? That has its foundation in Biblical reasoning…

(Proverbs 17:28) Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.

(Proverbs 29:20) Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him.

Consider Job’s statement to Zophar…

(Job 13:5) O that ye would altogether hold your peace! and it should be your wisdom.

As John Phillips’ paraphrased it…

In effect, Job said to him, “If you would keep your mouth shut, somebody might make a mistake a think you were wise!”

2. James Says That We Should Be Patient To Respond To The Word – To Be A Good Learner

‎speak – Greek 2980. laleo, lal-eh'-o; a prol. form of an otherwise obsol. verb; to talk, i.e. utter words:--preach, say, speak (after), talk, tell, utter.

A. T. Robertson said that this phrase “slow to speak” means, “slow to begin speaking, not slow while speaking.”

Barnes said…

The ancients have some sayings on this subject which are well worthy of our attention. “Men have two ears, and but one tongue, that they should hear more than they speak.” “The ears are always open, ever ready to receive instruction; but the tongue is surrounded with a double row of teeth, to hedge it in, and to keep it within proper bounds.”

John MacArthur said…

The believer who willingly receives the Word with submission must be slow to speak. That characteristic is a companion of the first. You cannot listen carefully while you are talking, or even while you are thinking about what to say. Many discussions are fruitless for the simple reason that all parties are paying more attention to what they want to say than to what others are saying.

In this context, therefore, it seems that slow to speak includes the idea of being careful not to be thinking about one’s own thoughts and ideas while someone else is trying to express God’s. We cannot really hear God’s Word when our minds are on our own thoughts. We need to keep silent inside as well as outside.

The primary idea here, however, is that, when the appropriate time to speak does come, what is said should be carefully thought out. When we speak for the Lord, we should have the gravest concern that what we say not only is true but is spoken in a way that both edifies those who hear and honors the Lord in who behalf we speak.

II. In Talking About Receiving God’s Word, James Mentioned The Issue Of Anger

(James 1:19b–20)

(James 1:19-20) Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: {20} For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

A. Let’s Consider The Concept Of Wrath

A. T. Robertson said…

Slow to anger ‎bradus ‎‎eis ‎‎orgeen‎. … Probably means that slowness to speak up when angry will tend to curb the anger.

But more specifically, I think…

1. This Wrath Refers To An Indignant Anger

The Thayer’s Greek Lexicon offers this definition of “wrath”…

NT:3709 orgeen ‎(from ‎orga – to teem), denoting an internal motion, especially that of plants and fruits swelling with juice. Used in Greek writings from Hesiod down (to refer to) “the natural disposition, temper, character; movement or agitation of soul, impulse, desire, any violent emotion,” but especially anger. In Biblical Greek anger, indignation, vengeance, wrath … (it has the idea of being indignant). (It can refer to) anger exhibited in punishing.

indignant – means angry or annoyed at the apparent unfairness or unreasonableness of something.

Barnes said…

[Slow to wrath] That is, we are to govern and restrain our temper; we are not to give indulgence to excited and angry passions. … The particular point here is, however, not that we should be slow to wrath as a general habit of mind, which is indeed most true, but in reference particularly to the reception of the truth. We should lay aside all anger and wrath, and should come to the investigation of truth with a calm mind, and an imperturbed spirit. A state of wrath or anger is always unfavorable to the investigation of truth. Such an investigation demands a calm spirit, and he whose mind is excited and enraged is not in a condition to see the value of truth, or to weigh the evidence for it.

2. This Wrath Refers To An Inner Anger

John MacArthur said…

Anger is a very natural emotion that is an all but automatic response – even for believers who are not spiritually prepared – to anything or anyone that harms or displeases them. Orge (anger) does not refer to an explosive outburst of temper but to an inner, deep resentment that seethes and smolders, often unnoticed by others. It is therefore an anger that only the Lord and the believer know about. Therefore, it is a special danger, in that it can be privately harbored.

In this context, James seems to be speaking particularly about anger at a truth in the Word that displeases, that confronts sin or conflicts with a cherished personal belief or standard of behavior. It refers to a disposition hostile to scriptural truth when it does not correspond to one’s own convictions, manifested – even if only inwardly – against those who faithfully teach the Word.

B. Let’s Consider The Caution About Anger

(James 1:20) For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

1. This Implicates Us Personally

A. T. Robertson explained the word “man” in verse 20 by saying…

The wrath of man ‎orgee ‎‎andros‎. Here ‎aneer ‎(as opposed to ‎gunee ‎woman), not ‎anthroopos ‎of James 1:19 (which is inclusive of both man and woman).

man – Greek 435. aner, an'-ayr; a prim. word [comp. G444]; a man (prop. as an individual male):--fellow, husband, man, sir.

It could probably be rendered “the wrath of (a) man.”

2. This Impacts Us Productively

Barnes says…

[For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God] (It) does not produce in the life that righteousness which God requires. Its tendency is not to incline us to keep the law, but to break it; not to induce us to embrace the truth, but the opposite. The meaning of this passage is not that our wrath will make God either more or less righteous; but that its tendency is not to produce that upright course of life, and love of truth, which God requires. A man is never sure of doing right under the influence of excited feelings; he may do that which is in the highest sense wrong, and which he will regret all his life. The particular meaning of this passage is, that wrath in the mind of man will not have any tendency to make him righteous. It is only that candid state of mind which will lead him to embrace the truth which can be hoped to have such an effect.

Bud Lowry and Elbert Johnson who got so infuriated at the word…

But then there are others who heard the word and “received” the word with meekness.

(Acts 17:10-11) And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. {11} These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Wiersbe said…

Meekness is the opposite of “wrath” in James 1:19-20. When you receive the Word with meekness, you accept it, do not argue with it, and honor it as the Word of God. You do not try to twist it to conform it to your thinking.

Thomas Manton said…

Before we come to the Word, there must be preparation. Many come to hear, but they do not consider the weight and importance of the duty.

James begins now to talk about the preparation in receiving the word.

III. In Talking About Receiving God’s Word, James Mentioned The Issue Of Attitude

(James 1:21)

(James 1:21) Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

Barnes says of the word “wherefore”…

[Wherefore] In view of the fact that God has begotten us for his own service; in view of the fact that excited feeling tends only to wrong, let us lay aside all that is evil, and submit ourselves wholly to the influence of truth.

A. The Right Attitude Involves Removing The Wickedness

(James 1:21) Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

A. T. Robertson said…

Putting away ‎(lay apart) apothemenoi‎. Second aorist middle participle of ‎apotitheemi‎, to put off, metaphor of removing clothing as in Romans 13:12; Colossians 3:8; Ephesians 4:22,25; 1 Peter 2:1.

1. Consider The Removal Of Dirtiness

Robertson said…

Filthiness ‎ruparian‎. A late word (Plutarch) from ‎ruparos‎, dirty (James 2:2), here only in the New Testament. Surely a dirty garment.

John MacArthur said…

Filthiness translates rhuparia, which refers to any sort of moral defilement or impurity. It is closely related to a term used of wax in the ear, which impairs hearing, and is therefore especially appropriate in this context. Moral filthiness is a serious barrier to our clearly hearing and comprehending the Word of God.

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says that “filthiness” (NT:4507 – ruparian) speaks “metaphorically, of wickedness as moral defilement: James 1:21; of sordidness (sleaziness).”

2. Consider The Removal Of Depravity

superfluity – Greek 4050. perisseia, per-is-si'-ah; from G4052; surplusage, i.e. superabundance:--abundance (-ant, [-ly]), superfluity.

naughtiness – Greek 2549. kakia, kak-ee'-ah; from G2556; badness, i.e. (subj.) depravity, or (act.) malignity, or (pass.) trouble:--evil, malice (-iousness), naughtiness, wickedness.

Warren Wiersbe said this speaks of…

A prepared heart (v. 21). James saw the human heart as a garden; if left to itself, the soil would produce only weeds. He urged us to “pull out the weeds” and prepare the soil for the “implanted Word of God.” The phrase “superfluity of naughtiness” gives the picture of a garden overgrown with weeds that cannot be controlled. It is foolish to try to receive God’s Word into an unprepared heart.

Albert Barnes said…

The object of the apostle is to express his deep abhorrence of the thing referred to by strong and emphatic language. He had just spoken of sin in one aspect, as filthy, loathsome, detestable; here he designs to express his abhorrence of it by a still more emphatic description, and he speaks of it not merely as an evil, but as an evil abounding, overflowing; an evil in the highest degree. The thing referred to had the essence of evil in it (naughtiness) ‎kakia‎; but it was not merely evil, it was evil that was aggravated, that was overflowing, that was eminent in degree (superfluity) ‎perisseian‎. The particular reference in these passages is to the reception of the truth; and the doctrine taught is, that a corrupt mind, a mind full of sensuality and wickednesss, is not favorable to the reception of the truth. It is not fitted to see its beauty, to appreciate its value, to understand its just claims, or to welcome it to the soul. Purity of heart is the best preparation always for seeing the force of truth.

Cf. (Psalms 119:9) Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.

B. The Right Attitude Involves Receiving The Word

(James 1:21) Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

1. Consider The Particulars Of Receiving The Word

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says that to “receive” (NT:1209 – dexasthe) speaks…

‎Of the thing offered in speaking, teaching, instructing; (and it means) to receive favorably, give ear to, embrace, make one's own, approve, not to reject.

meekness – Greek 4240. prautes, prah-oo'-tace; from G4239 (mild or humble); mildness, i.e. (by implication it means) humility:--meekness.

W. E. Vine says of this word “meekness” (NT:4240 – prautes)…

In its use in Scripture, in which it has a fuller, deeper significance than in nonscriptural Greek writings, it consists not in a person’s “outward behavior only; nor yet in his relations to his fellow-men; as little in his mere natural disposition. Rather it is an inwrought grace of the soul; and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God. It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.

John MacArthur explains the “engrafted” or “implanted” aspect by saying…

Implanted is from emphutos, which has the literal meaning of planting a seed in the ground. here it is used metaphorically of God’s Word being implanted and taking root in the heart of a believer (the “good soil” of Matthew 13:8,23) at the time of salvation.

(See Matthew 13:5, 20-21 concerning the seed which falls on stony ground; perhaps, suggesting receiving it without “meekness.”)

2. Consider The Purpose Of Receiving The Word

which is able to save your souls

MacArthur says that this phrase…

First refers back to our initial salvation in which the Word brought the truth of the gospel to an unsaved heart, showing us the way of salvation and saving us from the penalty of sin (cf. 1 Peter 1:23). It is also able to save by being a constant resource of God’s truth that the Holy Spirit uses to guard believers’ souls from being snatched out of God’s family by protecting us from the power and dominion of sin. Finally, it is able to lead us to ultimate and complete salvation, when we are glorified with Christ in heaven, forever separated from the presence of sin. … It is the divine power behind the truth of Scripture that is able to initiate salvation, keep it alive and growing, and finally bring it to final glory, complete and perfect.

Barnes said that the word…

Is not, therefore, a weak and powerless thing, merely designed to show its own feebleness, and to give occasion for God to work a miracle; but it has power.

able – Greek 1410. dunamai, doo'-nam-ahee; of uncert. affin.; to be able or possible:--be able, can (do, + -not), could, may, might, be possible, be of power.

David Butler, a young man in our church, said that a friend of his gave him his first Bible after he was saved. And inside he had inscribed these familiar words…

“This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.”

It saves us from the dominion of sin.

IV. In Talking About Receiving God’s Word, James Mentioned The Issue Of Action

(James 1:22)

A. Notice The Doing That James Mentions

(James 1:22) But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

1. There Is The Idea Of Listening To The Word

This is a continuation of the instruction to “swift to hear” in verse 19, for to merely hear is not the goal.

hearers – Greek 202. akroates, ak-ro-at-ace'; from akroaomai (to listen; appar. an intens. of G191); a hearer (merely):--hearer.

John MacArthur said…

The Greek word akroates (hearers) was used of those who sat passively in an audience and listened to a singer or speaker. Today it could be used of those who audit a college class, which they are required to attend and presumably listen to, but for which they are not required to do outside study, write papers, or take any tests. In other words, they are not held accountable for what they hear. Tragically, most churches have many “auditors,” members who willingly expose themselves to the teaching and preaching of the Word but have no desire for that knowledge to alter their day-by-day lives.

Matthew Henry said that mere “hearers”…

Are self-deceivers; the original word, ‎paralogizomenoi, ‎signifies men’s arguing sophistically to themselves; their reasoning is manifestly deceitful and false when they would make one part of their work discharge them from the obligation they lie under to another, or persuade themselves that filling their heads with notions is sufficient, though their hearts be empty of good affections and resolutions, and their lives fruitless of good works.

2. There Is The Idea Of Living The Word

The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament says that a “doer” (NT:4163 – poietes) is “a person who does what is required (a ‘doer’).”

Warren Wiersbe said…

Too many Christians mark their Bibles, but their Bibles never mark them!

The idea is illustrated in the story of the building of the two houses in Matthew 7.

MacArthur said…

The substantive form of poiete (doers) carries the characterization of the whole personality, all of a person’s inner being – mind, soul, spirit, and emotions. It is one thing to have to fight for a few days or weeks in an armed conflict; it is something elese to be a professional soldier, whose whole life is dedicated to warfare. … James is speaking of Christian doers of the word, emphasizing what they are rather than just what they do. There are people whose very lives are dedicated not only to learning God’s Word but also to faithful and continual obedience to it. One commentator says that James has in mind “a person whose life is characterized by holy energy.”

B. Notice The Deception That James Mentions

(James 1:22) But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

1. Let’s Consider The Conceptual Meaning Of This Deception

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines the word “deceiving”…

NT:3884 paralogizomai; a. to reckon wrong, miscount. b. to cheat by false reckoning; to deceive by false reasoning; hence, c. universally, to deceive, delude, circumvent. (The word is also used in ‎Colossians 2:4 where it is translated “beguile”).

2. Let’s Consider The Contextual Meaning Of This Deception

The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary says…

Deceiving your own selves, [paralogizomenoi] – by the logical fallacy that the mere hearing is all that is needed.

Albert Barnes said…

[Deceiving your own selves] It is implied here, that by merely hearing the word but not doing it, they would deceive their own souls. The nature of this deception was this: that they would imagine that that was all which was required (the hearing), whereas the main thing was that they should be obedient. If a man supposes that by a mere punctual attendance on preaching, or a respectful attention to it, he has done all that is required of him, he is laboring under a most gross self-deception. And yet there are multitudes who seem to imagine that they have done all that is demanded of them when they have heard attentively the word preached. Of its influence on their lives, and its claims to obedience, (there is utter disregard).


The old fellow who went around town with the sign saying, “He’s my boss.”

When He is our boss, we don’t get mad at what He tells us to do; nor do we just hear what He tells us without acting upon it.