Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 June 30, 2019
“Swift to Hear, Slow to Speak…”
We continue this week, after a four-week hiatus, in our punctuated sermon series through James entitled The Wise Life. We come today to a turning point in the letter. Heretofore the Holy Spirit, through James, has focused upon trials (1:1-18). Now He focuses upon hearing and doing His Word (1:19-27). I expect we shall spend this week, and the three succeeding weeks, in this passage. We learn today that God calls us, by His Holy Spirit, to be swift in doing a thing and slow in doing other things. Let’s explore this further after hearing His Word read in this place.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
That which James writes to the church at large is what the Lord speaks to our souls today. We are to be swift to hear. First, we must be swift to hear the Word of God. That includes the Word of God written—that is, the Bible. Let us, then, be swift to hear the Word of God read—either if we read the Bible by ourselves or if another reads it in our hearing. Let us also be swift to hear the Word of God as it is proclaimed in preaching and teaching. Furthermore, let us be swift to hear and to heed God’s Word when He brings it to our remembrance by the Holy Spirit. At times this will be welcome, and at other times this will be unsettling, but let us hear the Lord when He brings His Word to our minds at a critical point in life. Moreover, not only are we to be swift to hear the Word of God written, but we are to be swift to discern the Word of God living, the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Word of God written. After all, Scripture everywhere, in both Testament, testifies to Him, and He declares Himself in Scripture—especially in the Gospels. Truly let us be swift to hear the Lord in His Word.
Let us also be swift to hear the speech of others, especially our fellow believer in Christ Jesus. By God’s grace, let us listen well to others; let us let them have their say. This is a good example of putting others above self (cf. Philippians 2:3), and it shows honor and respect for our speaker’s person and message. Sometimes patient listening can defuse the tension that the one speaking to us feels, and then you and the other person can work more constructively on the presenting issue.
Second, we must be slow to speak. Some interpreters have applied this to God’s Word, invoking James 3:1, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” Though there is merit in considering this, today’s text applies more likely in relation to another person. Therefore, let us be slow to speak as someone else ventures to speak with us. Being slow to speak results in learning more about a given situation. I am training myself, my children, and any other who will hear that, “It’s hard to learn anything when your lips are moving.” Also, being slow to speak results in the one speaking to you feeling valued. The other person has his say, and says his piece his way, and, often, appreciates you for letting these happen. Good things can happen when we are slow to speak.
Third, let us be slow to anger. The level of anger represented here is intense and explosive; the underlying Greek word, when applied to God, may well be translated wrath. Though it is all too easy to become angry quickly—and the devil has many an accelerant for the fire of our anger—let us, by God’s powerful grace, be slow to anger with another person, especially before hearing him out. James, led by the Lord, tells us that anger produces not the righteousness of God. In fact, anger itself often is sin, and just as often (if not more so) it leads to collateral sins. Therefore, let us put away (or stop) such anger. It works not God’s righteousness, and often works a load of iniquity.
No one said adherence to God’s commands here would be easy. Nor did anyone say such adherence would feel natural. Yet God effect compliance with His commands in our souls by His Spirit’s work. He does call us, however, to exert ourselves to obey. Therefore, let us be swift to hear, though our carnal inclination be slow to hear. Let us also be slow to speak, though our first thought be swift to speak. Let us furthermore be slow to anger, though our usual reaction be hot anger at any vexing word or situation. We need fortification from on high to comply with God’s Word. Therefore, let us be much in God’s Word, much in prayer, and much with His people—both in worship and in fellowship—that through these means we grow stronger for compliance with these things and glorify His triune self in everything.