How do you approach the Bible? When you have your own personal devotions, how do you approach your Bible reading? When you go to church on Sunday, how do you approach the message? Beginning in verse 19 of James chapter 1, James gives us four steps to take when we approach the Word of God.
First, we are to be quick to hear. Remember, the context here is dealing with the Word of God. We are to be “quick” to hear the Word. The fact that James speaks of “hearing” the Word rather than “reading” the Word shows that the usual way that the early church received the word was by hearing it. The Bible was not yet complete and mass production was not yet normal. The wise man agrees. We learn by listening more than by speaking (Proverbs 17:28; 29:20).
Secondly we are to be slow to speak. In the context of the Word of God, the admonition is a caution against argumentation with the Scripture. We are not to interpret Scripture in light of our own ideas.
Third, we are to be slow to anger. The word “anger” does not refer to an explosive outburst but rather a deep, inner, abiding resentment. This is anger at the truth of God’s Word as it convicts us of sin (Galatians 4:16). When we are more eager to expound on our own ideas rather than accepting the Word for what it is and what it says, the result can be bitter arguments. The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. In other words, defenders of God’s truth do not further their cause by resorting to wrath. Wrath is usually mixed with human motives like ambition, revenge, jealousy or egotism.
Finally, we are to receive the Word. To do this we must first, put aside all filthiness. The noun “filthiness” does not appear anywhere else in the New Testament. This word in an adjective form is used in James 2:2 speaking of shabby or filthy clothing. It is closely related to a term used of wax in the ear which impairs hearing. Second, we are to put aside all the remains of wickedness. This speaks of deliberate and determined sin. The word “remains” is better understood as “abundance.” We must allow no impurity in our lives (First Peter 2:1-2). Third, we are to receive the Word in humility. This is a contrast to the attitude of wrath spoken of earlier. We must approach the Word of God with an attitude of humble submission.
James ends this section by giving a description of the Word. It is implanted. This is the idea of planting a seed in the ground. God has already planted His Word in the hearts of believers. The seed of the Gospel implanted in our hearts at the time of regeneration is to bring forth fruit in our lives (Mt 13:8, 23). The Word is also described as being able to save our souls. This is salvation by the Word, not by works. Keep in mind that salvation has past, present and future aspects. In the past, we were saved from the penalty of sin. In the present, we are being saved from the power of sin. In the future, we will be saved from the very presence of sin.