21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
With the book of James (as in all of the Scripture) it is imperative to understand who the apostle is writing to. For our passage today, is this passage directed to those outside the church, or to believers? If we look at the passage independently of the context, it may appear to be addressed to non believers, especially when James speaks of receiving…
with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
But let us not be single verse believers and consider the context. James makes sure we are to understand this passage as applying to believers in verse 19.
Jas 1:19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
Ok – So we know that James intends for his brothers in the faith to be hearing this message, but what does the passage have to say in regards to conditional security?
Receive with Meekness
Believers are to receive with meekness the implanted word. If the Word is implanted (another nod to James speaking to believers), we have received it already, correct? What more do we need?
Let’s consider the term “recieve”. As I have mentioned in this blog previously, I am no Greek geek, but depend on desktop studies of others to try to understand the implications of the original language for our studies.
For the word “receive” I refer to BLB (Blue Letter Bible) as a resource for our study. Under the tools button for each verse, a tab shows up allowing for an interlinear data base to come up. Using the reverse tab, the following data comes up for our word “receive”
At this point, since receive is a verb, I click on the right hand button (V-XXX-XX) to find the “parsing” of the verb.
One more step to understand what all this means. Each of the underlined terms are hot links to help us understand the verb we are looking at.
An easy one for myself is the mood of the verb in this instance. Our verb has the imperative mood. This is a command. Believers are to actively take part in receiving the Word.
Voice speaks of who is performing the action. A middle voice notes that the subject (the beloved brethren in this case) is the agent of the action. The believer is performing the action of receiving. All of this is simply stating what seems obvious from the English translation.
The aorist tense is what helps me to understand that this action as not limited to a past decision or act of faith. The aorist tense has no regard to the past present or future. It defines a point in time, sometimes referring to the past, and yet this is too limiting.
If I understand the passage correctly, James is telling the believers to receive (at some point in time) the Word of God, which is already implanted in our souls as believers. To receive the Word, we must remove filthiness and wickedness, (another action of the believer).
I have previously seen this passage as a call to sanctification, a passage that speaks of our responsibility to understand and obey God’s will for our lives. Without the next phrase, I would be certain it is a sanctification passage. It’s just that I kinda struggle with what James is telling believers about saving their souls.
Able to Save your Souls
Saving your soul. What in tarnation is that? I thought our souls were saved at the point of conversion, when we first believed.
Maybe other translations translate this term differently? All of the popular English translations use the phrase “save your souls” in this verse, except for the NIV, which translates it as “save your life”. So what is James trying to tell us?
Notice that the implanted word is “able” to save our souls. Ability is an interesting word when it comes to reading the Word. Some that I have interacted with on other blogs interpret the ability to perform an act as synonymous with the completion of the same act.
When I think of the ability to save, I think of the boys in the furnace back in the book of Daniel.
If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.
But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Notice that the boys confessed God’s ability, but not the outcome (in relation to the furnace). The young Hebrew men spoke of God’s ability to save His children, but allowed for God to choose how to save his children.
To be able to do a task is to have sufficient power to accomplish that task. In relation to our passage today, I understand James is telling believers that the Word has sufficient power to save our souls. I am not convinced James is speaking of the final result, that is the saving of our soul, but of a potential result.
So is this a sanctification verse or a security passage?
But let us not end with simply a question but an affirmation that comes shining through this passage. God is able and has supplied all the needs of the saint. He is the provider of everything the believer requires to save our souls. He is the Savior and we are the ones who need Him so.
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