Session 4 | James 1:18-25
James 1:17-27 | The Kingdom Way
Verse 17 -- see session 3. This verse is foundational, explaining every good gift comes from the Father with whom there is no variableness. Upon this truth, the instructions of verses 18-27 are built.
Verse 18 --
This verse rejoices in the selection God has made of Israel. Note that the pronoun us must be taken literally, and leads back to verse 1, the twelve tribes“wrongly dividing the word of truth" (yet himself a consistently “wrong divider") commented on this passage as follows:
“Our new birth itself was the expression of His good will. He brought the Word of truth to bear upon our consciences, leading us to confess our sins and trust the Saviour He provided. So we became a new offering of first fruits, the pledge of the great harvest to be reaped in due time."
Ironside and other wrong dividers“us" are, by logic, “backed into a corner" of Calvinism. Furthermore, they are forced to make the Body of Christ into a kind of firstfruits, thus robbing Israel of her first fruit status (i.e.: replacement theology). Jeremiah 2:3 clearly states that Israel *was...the *firstfruits of his increase. Ephesians 1:12 also speaks of the Jewish believers who first trusted in Christ“us" (even though Eph. 1:13 moves on to ye also).
Verses 19-20 --
James speaks to my beloved brethren, which must be interpreted (as we have said previously) in light of James 1:1-2, where the brethren are the twelves tribes which are scattered. Thus, if it wasn't to us then, it isn't to us now.
Furthermore, the phrase every man has already been narrowed in focus to the beloved brethren, and thus cannot be broadened to all people status. While doing so in verse 19 would not cause problems, one should remember that *verse 20 comes after verse 19 and is indeed the same sentence*. Verse 20 becomes problematic in the dispensation of the grace of God.
The instruction to the brethren is that they be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. In the general population, this would be a generally good proverb. But even in a proverbial usage there would be so many instances in which a Christian should quickly speak and quickly get angry. (The KJV translation of wrath is correct but should not be narrowed to vengeance or indignation alone, as is seen in Colossians 3:8, where the same Greek word is translated anger and another Greek word translated wrath).
While verse 19 can be used proverbially and generally for the Body of Christ, verse 20 is incompatible with the Body. The question for Israel was how to be acceptable in God's sight. In Acts 10:35, Israel was told that he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. Psalm 15:2 also spoke of the one that worketh righteousness as one who would live in Zion. Isaiah 64:5 says that the one who worketh righteousness will meet God.
In verse 20, Israel is told that man's wrath is not working the righteousness of God. The wording is slightly different, but the concept follows through in the above verses as in verse 20: *if you want to work the righteousness of God, verse 19 is the instruction*. We should be reminded that in our dispensation the righteousness of God is not by works. Romans 4:5 says, But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
“similar but not the same" and applying it to ourselves. Inevitably there will be a theological train wreck approaching.
Verse 21 --
In order to *work God's Righteousness,* the Israelites were given both a negative and a positive command. In the negative, they were to get rid of the filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness. The word superfluity refers to an abundance and the word naughtiness** refers to that which is wicked. In the 400 years since the KJV, the word naughty has lost intensity in the English language.
In the positive, they were to **receive with meekness the engrafted word. The word engrafted** is only used here, but means planted within you and growing. This engrafted word must be oracles of God (Rom. 3:2) that unto them were committed (Rom. 3:2), therefore, the Hebrew Scriptures (which we often call the Old Testament). In fact, James is arguably the first New Testament book written, and if this be the case, the engrafted word can only be the Hebrew Scriptures.
James says that this engrafted word is able to save your souls. But is he talking about the same salvation we proclaim in Christ (the Pauline mystery?). How can he be, for such salvation was not known nor proclaimed in the Hebrew Scriptures (see Col. 1:26)? In the age of grace, is the word engrafted in us, somehow? If so, how? Wouldn't this (once again) require a Calvinistic concept of salvation?
Verse 22 --
Adding strength to our assumption that the engrafted word (v. 21) is the Hebrew Scriptures, now James says that Israel must be doers of the word, or they are deceiving your own selves. Virtually nobody argues that being a doer does not involve works. But those who see this as applicable to the Body of Christ will be forced to either assign this passage into some kind of rewards category or proof of salvation by grace. I've never been able to reconcile the idea that salvation by grace must produce works else it is not real salvation. This moves works one step down the road but keeps them as an essential ingredient to salvation.
Verses 23-24 --
James gives an illustration to show that those who are hearers but not doers are like a man who sees himself in a mirror and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was (v. 24).
Verse 25 --
Once again emphasizing being a doer of the work, James says that the one who continues in the perfect law of liberty will be blessed in his deed.
This law of liberty is not defined. It will come again in James 2:12, where it is also not defined but once again in the context of a man being careful what he does.
If we take this law of liberty in a general sense (do that which set's you free), then it would certainly be true that the man who does that which sets him free will be generally blessed in his deed. But there is almost no way of interpreting this passage in such a general, proverbial kind of way.
If we take this law of liberty to be the liberty of our dispensation, then it would seem a hard case to defend. Why would James refer to that which is grace by the word law? Why would he emphasize being a doer of the work in the liberating message that shouts NOT BY WORKS?
If we take this law of liberty to be the same thing as the engrafted word (v. 21), then there is no disharmony anywhere with Scripture. Some may protest that the Law brings a person into bondage, not liberty!“NO!" In fact, Jesus was speaking about the Law and obedience thereof when He said, ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32 - note the context in verse 31). Jesus also said blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it (Lk. 11:28), words that are very similar to James 1:25.