Wednesday, September 7, 2011

James - part 12 - Engrafted Word

Dear readers,

Last time I wrote of God's great love for us, His adopted children, and how we can show our love for Him to the world through how we act, what we say, and how we do things. This time, James is going on with what he just wrote, expanding on the topic.


James 1:21-22
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.


James once again starts with "wherefore". What is this "wherefore" here for this time? (Tip: when you see a "therefore" or a "wherefore," look at the text that came before it! For the author wishes for you to read that which comes next in light of that which came before!) What happened in the previous verse? James wrote of how we must be slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to wrath; so in regard to that, he now exhorts us to separate ourselves from those things that are bad and receive (or encourage and do) that which is good.

Wherefore, now that you've got a simple grasp on how to live so that others may see Christ in you and that you might continue growing in Christ, here are some tips to REALLY live for Christ! The whole core of it - the basics - are being slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to wrath. Do all that and you are in pretty good standing. But James goes on to expand and explain a little bit so that we have a better idea of what exactly we are to do.

"Lay apart" - this means that you set it aside. If you lay apart a certain blanket from a stack of them you are separating that one from the rest of the group. In many cases, this phrase is used to imply a rejection of that which is laid aside. Not only are you separating it from the group, but you are REJECTING it also. Laying aside in the way James is using it is a complete separation and rejection. A metaphorical brick wall, you may say, between the two groups. But what is it that we are to lay apart?

"All filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness" - this is what we are to lay apart. ALL does not mean some. ALL does not mean certain or chosen ones. ALL means ALL. To say anything differently is to be reading it biasedly, for ALL means every single cotton pickin' one. Filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness are super awesome ways to say evil and sin. You may think of it in this way: God is perfect, clean, white. Sin is dirty, black, and evil. Sin is filthy. Who honestly likes to be filthy? (Sometimes I think my brother does, but I think he just does that cause he's the only boy with five sisters.) It's dreadfully uncomfortable unless you are just totally used to it (which, sadly, is what happens with sin too. By sinning and searing your conscience continually you are getting used to the dirty blackness of sin and sooner or later your sin will not provoke guilt, but it will become comfortable).

I think the word "superfluity" is awesome. According to it means an excessive amount. So, we are to lay aside, all excessive amounts of naughtiness. That's kind of oxymoron if you just read it fast. But really, I think that James used the word "superfluity" to emphasize how great our sin is. He knew our sin was excessive, he knew that all people sinned so much, so often, so consistently, that it was superfluitous (Note: that's not a word but it gets my point across) for everyone. Therefore he said to lay apart ALL of your superfluitous naughtiness.

"And receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls" - This phrase is packed with meaning, so be careful to take it a word or two at a time. Receive - although Calvinists say differently, this word implies a choice. Receive is the opposite of reject and by using one or the other you are implying an option. I won't go into depth about this right now because I'll start ranting and the next thing we both know is that this post will be ten miles long, so I'll just say this: I believe in free will; that God knew beforehand who would choose Him, but that He loves us so much that He gave us the choice of either receiving or rejecting Him. (If you would like to talk about this I'd be more than happy to talk with you, just be forewarned that I can/will argue my point till the cows come home...)

I think it interesting that James put the two word phrase "with meekness" after the word receive. By doing this he makes it obvious that receiving Christ is not something you do (or even can do) pridefully. By receiving Christ, truly, you are saying that you know that you cannot save yourself but that you need Christ to save you. "With meekness" you must receive Christ.

When something is grafted in, it is placed into something that is not like itself. A perfect example of this is in horticulture - sometimes people will let a certain kind of tree grow, and when it is big enough they will cut off one limb and put in it's place a limb cut off from another kind of tree. This new limb, apparently, will grow with the tree. Granted, I've never tried it and it doesn't make sense to me, but that's the way I understand it to work. James refers to receiving with meekness the "engrafted word". This means that the word, or Jesus Christ, which is THE WORD, is not a natural part of the Jews life. He offers salvation, a totally unnatural concept, to those who did not have it beforehand.

To gain good fruit, you must first prune of the bad branches so that the good branches get all the nutrients. To live a godly life, you must first do away with (lay apart) your ungodly life (your sinfulness). So, James writes, do away with all evil and sin and receive with meekness the engrafted word. This engrafted word is Jesus Christ, and HE is able to save your soul.

James now warns us: Don't be just hearers, but doers also! You can hear something all day long every day of your life, but if you do not act upon it then it does nothing for or against you. You can hear about Jesus Christ and His love and sacrifice all day every day all of your life, but if you do not receive Him then you will still have to pay for your own sins by spending eternity in hell. Hearing does you no good unless you act upon it. Don't just hear stuff, ACT on it!

Beware! Don't take this as a verse that promotes salvation by works. Many people take things out of context and get crazy doctrines from it. But when taken in context, we can see that it is by RECEIVING Christ that we obtain salvation, not by working hard and "being good" because we can't do it, no matter how hard we try.

By hearing and not acting we may possibly be deceiving ourselves. We would be deceiving ourselves because we somehow got the notion into our own heads that we are Christians on the inside and we do not need to be Christians on the outside. Well, if you are not a Christian on the outside then it's probable that you are not a Christian at all. For being a Christian means that Christ is your Lord, your God, and should be your number one priority. In Luke 9:23 Jesus says that to follow Him you must carry your cross, deny yourself daily, and follow Him. He demands all or nothing. If you are only willing to give Him part and not all then you are rejecting His insanely huge offer of salvation.

Don't just claim to be a Christian: act like one. Be one outside as much as inside. The outward attitudes, words, and actions of every man and woman betray that which is in the heart.

For His glory,

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