2019-7-07 Welcome the Word That Saves

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          July 7, 2019

“Welcome the Word That Saves”
James 1:21

We continue this week in our punctuated sermon series from James entitled The Wise Life.  Our text today is the end of the paragraph including James 1:21, and we build on last week’s message as a result.  We learned then that swift speech, slow hearing, and quick anger do not produce God’s righteousness in us.  Today we see how God produces His righteousness in us.  He does it as we welcome the Word that saves.  Let us hear that glorious Word which is able to save our souls.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

Our text today begins with the word therefore.[1]  The Greek word here rendered therefore is stronger than usual.  It is the same word used in the Greek text when Paul turns from writing of Christ’s humiliation to talk of His exaltation (Philippians 2:5-11, esp. 2:9).[2]  In essence, the Holy Spirit says to us here, “Pay special attention to what follows.”  What follows, of course, is worthy of special attention.

In order that God’s righteousness may be displayed in us, the Holy Spirit commands us, through James’s pen, to put away (or to stop) certain behaviors.  We must put away all filthiness, or moral impurity at a crass, gross level.  We know what such behavior is, for we see it displayed for us in our newscasts and—all too often—in our entertainments.  Living in this sub-human way, and living for the glory of God in all things, are incompatible.  We, by God’s help, must put away such behavior.  We also must put away what James here calls rampant wickedness.  This rampant, or excessive, wickedness involves hostility and strong dislike against others—and these to a level potentially, if not actually, harmful and damaging to them.

These remarks seem more appropriate to a unregenerate audience that, of course, stands outside God’s saving love in Christ Jesus, but these remarks are to believers (cf. James 1:1).  They are addressed to the Church.  These behaviors, and their antecedent outlooks, are not to be named among Christ’s followers.  Yet, apparently, it happened then during James’s ministry in the mother church at Jerusalem—and surely such occurs now.  God, by His Spirit, tells us to put off conduct abhorrent to Him in Ephesians, and Colossians, and here in James, to name but three places.  Again, when God desires to emphasize a thing, He repeats it.  I think we have sufficient repetition now.  What we need is a replacement for these lingering behaviors.

The replacement is this: Welcome the Word that saves.  The word here rendered receive (Greek dechomai [decomai]) is usually glossed as welcome.  We speak of the Word here in two senses: first, we speak of the Word living, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14), and, second, we speak of the Word written—the Bible, Holy Scripture.  Let us then receive this Word implanted in our souls by the Spirit of the living God.

Moreover, let us receive the Word of God with meekness (literally gentleness).  We receive God’s Word well when we receive it in a gentle, rather than harsh, spirit—and we receive His Word well when we receive it with humility, not haughtiness.  After all, the Word of God is powerful to save your souls.  Salvation involves rescue from danger, as we sang earlier in “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”: “He, to rescue me from danger/Interposed His precious blood.”  Salvation also involves healing from the ravages of sin in our lives.  God’s Word does these, and so much more.  Let us receive it—and Him—with thanks and with meekness.

The temptation, either when lusting after unrighteous conduct or when trapped by it, is to resist God’s Word when the Spirit applies it to our lives and to avoid it generally.  We, after all, even if redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, remain sinners—and at times we prefer our sin to fellowship with God in Christ and obedience to Him.  God, by His Holy Spirit, may permit this lamentable state for a season in His redeemed, but then He works by that same Spirit to bring us to a better place.  Once he begins to work, then persistence in lamentable sin is a miserable condition.  Yet if you are in filthy, rampant wickedness, and are not miserable, then your case is worse than miserable.  It may well testify to your ongoing unregenerate state, your ongoing station outside God’s saving love in Christ, and your danger of eternal ruin in hell with the devil and his host.  Happily, that state need not continue.  To believer and to unbeliever alike, then, I issue this charge: Welcome the Word that saves.  Welcome Jesus into your soul through faith in Him, if you’ve never done it before now.  Lay down your arms against Him and, thus, cease all current and future rebellion against Him.  In place of this, receive the Lord Jesus with meekness and thanks.

Believer and unbeliever alike, welcome His Word into your ears and eyes.  Welcome His Word into your mind, heart, and soul.  God will work through this intake of His Son and His holy Book to make you more like Christ Himself.  Being thus saved, and thus in right relationship with God, rejoice in your rescue from hell and all its pains.  Revel also in your healing from the ravages of sin.  Finally, reap all the blessing of God, prepared in advance for you, and to be enjoyed both in life and in eternity.  May He bless us one and all in the hearing of His preached Word today.

AMEN.

[1] My honored predecessor in this pulpit, Rev. Ron Odum, once instructed me, and the assembled group here, in his evening study of Hebrews 2 on Sunday, July 26, 2009, “Whenever you see the word therefore in Scripture, ask, ‘What is it there for?’.”

 

[2] Dr. John Blumenstein, who taught my courses in New Testament and Greek during my tenure at Erskine Theological Seminary, Due West, South Carolina, said that the therefore contained in Philippians 2:9 is the most theologically significant therefore in all the New Testament.

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