Most of us have heard the verse, “be ye doers of the word and not hearers only.” But few really know what it means. I think the most common explanation is that it means to engage in some overt “Christian” activity. What we are going to learn is that it does not mean that at all. (James 1:20-22)
In order to understand what James 1:22 means, “be ye doers of the Word…,” we must consider the context in which we find this verse. Therefore, let’s begin with a little background and then take a look at James 1:20-22.
James is writing to a group of Jewish believers who had been scattered throughout the region. It is significant that these are believers. Therefore, the Book of James is not written to explain salvation. It is written as a guide for the Christian life. We will see the importance of this as we continue our study.
Verse 20 - “For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”
The Greek word here for anger is “orge,” which is a reference to the mental attitude sin of anger. Any sin, including this one, takes you out of fellowship with God resulting in the inability to learn the Word of God.
The Greek word for man is “aner.” Normally the word used for man in Greek is “anthropos,” which is a general term. “Aner,” on the other hand, is a word used for a nobleman or nobility. The reason this is important to note is that before you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior you were “anthropos,” - just part of mankind. Upon faith in Christ you become “aner,” - nobility or Royal Family of God. You are no longer simply God’s “creation,” you are now God’s child. Therefore, what we have in this verse is a believer (aner) out of fellowship with God. This believer hasn’t lost his/her salvation (we know that’s impossible). So it’s talking about a believer who has committed a mental attitude sin. So, the mental attitude sin of anger by a believer (aner) does not achieve the righteousness of God.
The Greek word for righteousness refers to just or fair dealings. It is a reference, therefore, to divine production or producing the righteousness of Christ in your life. We have studied the two types of production found in I Corinthians 3:11-15. Production done under the control of God the Holy Spirit is called gold, silver and precious stone. Production done under the control of the sin nature is called wood, hay and straw.
I Corinthians 3 says that all production will be evaluated by fire (a representation of the judgment by Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ). When the fire of judgment is applied to gold, silver and precious stone, it purifies them. When the same fire is applied to wood, hay and straw, it burns them up. Once again, we are talking about believers, NOT unbelievers. The good that we produce as believers is either divine good or human good.
Human good is not part of the plan of God for believers. When we attempt to replace divine good with human good we are missing the entire point of our spiritual life. There is nothing wrong with human good unless we substitute it for divine good. For example: The Bible says, “if a man thirst, give him a drink.” If we fulfill this mandate trying to gain a reward from God, then we have done it for the wrong reason (from the control of the sin nature) and it is wood, hay and straw (human good). If, on the other hand we do this because of the character of Jesus Christ residing in us (from the control of the Holy Spirit) then we have produced gold, silver and precious stones (divine good). (Matthew 10:42; Romans 12:20; II Timothy 1:9; Hebrews 6:1)
Verse 21- “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.”
This verse tells us how to correct the problem of being out of fellowship due to mental attitude sinning. The word therefore should be translated “because of it,” - because of the information in the previous verse. Then we have the Greek word for putting aside, “apotithemi,” which is a compound word meaning to put off soiled garments. It is another way of saying, “get back into fellowship.” Confess your sins, examine yourself, lift up holy hands, make straight paths and take off those dirty clothes are all synonyms for getting back into fellowship. In other words, you can’t produce divine good when you are out of fellowship, so get back in fellowship.
All filthiness is the Greek word “ruparia” and is used for pollution. This pollution is anger, as we saw in the previous verse. It’s talking about pollution of the soul, your mental attitude. All that remains is the Greek word “perisuo” and means to overflow. Wickedness is “kakia” in Greek and means evil. So when we put them together we have, “because a believer with unconfessed mental attitude sin/sins cannot produce divine good, he/she should get back into fellowship and lay aside the pollution in his/her thinking and the overflow of evil in his/her mind.” And receive the Word is our next phrase. Receive is the Greek word “dechomai” and means to embrace. Its usage in Greek is a term for an intimate embrace, an embrace with love. So what James is saying is to embrace the Word of God, to love the Word of God and to have an intimate relationship with the Word. This phrase is in the imperative mood, which means that it is a command. Therefore, it is God’s will for each of us to embrace His Word.
The word humility is the Greek word “prautes” and is another word for grace in your soul. Humility means teachability and a respect for God and His Word. This is a reference to the grace function of the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Then we have the word implanted. Implanted is the Greek word “enphutas” and means to plant somewhere. God’s Word is to be implanted in the mind of the believer, who has gotten back into fellowship, isolated and removed certain mental attitude sins, and is now embracing the Word of God under the grace function of the filling of God the Holy Spirit.
Which is able to save your souls is the last part of this verse. The Greek word for save is “sozo,” but it is not talking about eternal salvation, since you’re already saved. It’s talking about the deliverance of your soul. So, it’s the implanted Word that has become a part of your thinking that can deliver you from ANYTHING. This is not talking about a mere academic knowledge of God’s Word. This means that you have studied, learned and believed what the Word of God is teaching. You have learned it to the point that it has so become a part of your thinking that Divine Viewpoint Thinking is now your norm and standard, not Human Viewpoint Thinking. But it says it is able to deliver you, which is still only potential.
Verse 22 - “But prove yourselves doers of the Word and not merely hearers, who delude themselves.”
So far we have, “Because a believer with unconfessed mental attitude sin/sins cannot produce divine good, you should get back into fellowship and lay aside the pollution in your thinking and the evil in your mind and embrace the implanted Word of God under the grace function of the control of God the Holy Spirit, which has the potential to deliver you from anything.”
Again, I want to emphasize that we only have a potential to this point. The ONLY way that the Word of God is going to be able to deliver you is if you APPLY IT! This is what is meant by being a doer of the Word and not a hearer only!
But be ye doers are the Greek words “ginomai” plus “poietes” and mean to become a doer. Word is the Greek word “logos” and is a reference to the Word of God or divine viewpoint. A doer is an applier of the Word. If it goes no further than hearing, it is useless. Where does application take place? It takes place in your thinking.
The Greek word for hearers is “akroates” and it means to listen. The meaning should be clear, listening to God’s Word is NOT ENOUGH. The last phrase of this verse, “deceiving your own selves” means to defraud yourselves. The Greek word for delude is “paralogizomai” and it means to defraud or to self-deceive in one’s mind.
Our prototype Jesus Christ, as deity, is omniscient. He never needs to learn anything because He has always known all things. Bible doctrine is the very mind of Christ. (I Corinthians 2:16) But in His humanity, He was a person who needed to learn doctrine in the same manner as we do. Jesus was also a perfect child and subjected Himself to his parents and teachers. (Luke 2:46-52)
Jesus continually used the doctrine that He had learned to sustain Himself throughout the trials and tribulations of life. When attacked by others, He applied the doctrine and principles of the Word of God to endure the adversity. He also applied the doctrine He had learned to combat the tests from Satan. And He used the doctrine in His soul to teach others. (Matthew 4:1-11; John 5:16-39; 6:59-60; 7:16-24)
As believers, we are to follow Christ’s example of applying what we have learned. A believer who fails to go all the way with God’s Word, from study, to belief, to application is defrauding himself of the opportunity to have a victorious Christian life. If the Word of God is not changing your thoughts and actions, then you are not applying it properly.