James 1:21 MEANING

James 1:21
(21) Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness.--So Peter (1 Peter 3:21) speaks of "the filth of the flesh." But the defilement here referred to seems general and not special, common, that is, to the whole natural man. The superabundance--the overgrowth--of evil will occupy the heart, if care be not taken to root it out; and, like the thorns in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:7, et seq.), spring up and choke the good seed. All such a rank and poisonous crop must be gathered and laid aside, in caps may be, for some fiery trouble to consume, that out of the dead luxuriant weeds a richer soil for virtue may be made.

Naughtiness (ne-aughtiness, or nothingness) was used in 1611, instead of the older and more correct translation, malice or maliciousness. The badness implied in the original is much more positive than that which appears from our present version.

Receive with meekness the engrafted word.--Or, in mildness accept ye this word of truth (see James 1:18, above), engrafted, like a good olive tree, or rather implanted, in you. The term is peculiar to this place, and means "innate" in its first intention. If taken so, "the innate Word" will be Christ Himself formed within us. (Comp. Galatians 4:19.)

Able to save your souls.--In like manner Paul at Miletus commends the elders of Ephesus "to God, and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified" (Acts 20:32). Observe, the idea of salvation thus conveyed by the implanted word, is so potentially and not actually. Tended and cultured, it will grow into a tree of life, the fruit whereof may heal the wounds of sin; but the after-growth of this plant of God is largely in the hands of man.

We can hardly help making a brief inquiry in this place on the meaning of "soul." There are few words more vaguely used by devout persons, or which present greater difficulties to the learned, or open wider fields of speculation for the thoughtful. In common language we speak of "body and soul," meaning much the same as "body and spirit;" but theologians write more carefully of "body, soul, and spirit" (comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:23); and psychologists distinguish between the animal branch of their subject and the rational or intellectual (???? ????). The second of these methods of division is known as the trilogy, and is of most importance to the Christian reader. By it is understood (1) the body, wholly and entirely material, of and belonging to this world; (2) the mind or reason, corporal also--that is, arising from the body, and depending in its exquisite balance upon it; (3) the true soul or spirit, the breath as it were of God, immaterial and immortal. Our bodily nature, of course, is shared with the lower creation, and the spiritual with the higher, while the intellectual is peculiar to mankind. If it be hard to draw a line between vegetable and animal, harder still is it to separate instinct from reason, the difference being of degree rather than kind. But if the one side of the mental soul--namely, the rational, be near akin to what is termed instinctive in the brute, the other, the intellectual, however it may, as it does, soar upward, yet approaches not to the angels, for the difference here is of kind and not degree. Now, strange to say, the Apostle treats not of the spirit but the natural soul. Other texts in plenty assure us that God is able to save the one; from this we may learn salvation is for both, such being the work of "the engrafted Word." Reason and intellect consecrated to divine service have an eternity before them, one of activity and not repose. The highest conception of God to the Greek mind was the Aristotelian idea of intellectual self-sufficiency and contemplation; the Oriental strives, as for ages it has striven, for extinction and nothingness; but to the Christian is given the sure and certain hope of the glorified body, the enlightened soul, the perfected spirit--three in one, and one in three--working the will and praise of its Maker and Redeemer for ever.

Verse 21. - With the form of expression in this verse, comp. 1 Peter 2:1, "Putting away, therefore, all wickedness (ἀποθέμενοι οῦν πᾶσαν κακίαν), and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil-speakings, as new-born babes long for the spiritual milk," etc. Filthiness (ῤυπαρὶαν). Here only in the New Testament, never in LXX.; but the adjective ῤυπαρός is the word used of the "filthy garments" in Zechariah 3:3, 4 - a narrative which illustrates the passage before us. Karts is not vice in general, but rather that vicious nature which is bent on doing harm to others (see Lightfoot on Colossians 3:8). Thus the two words ῤυπαρία and κακία comprise two classes of sins - the sensual and the malignant, Engrafted; rather, implanted. The word is only found again in Wisd. 12:10, where it signifies "inborn." St. James's teaching here is almost like a reminiscence of the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3, etc.). The "implanted Word" is the gospel teaching. "The seed is the Word of God" (Luke 8:11).

1:19-21 Instead of blaming God under our trials, let us open our ears and hearts to learn what he teaches by them. And if men would govern their tongues, they must govern their passions. The worst thing we can bring to any dispute, is anger. Here is an exhortation to lay apart, and to cast off as a filthy garment, all sinful practices. This must reach to sins of thought and affection, as well as of speech and practice; to every thing corrupt and sinful. We must yield ourselves to the word of God, with humble and teachable minds. Being willing to hear of our faults, taking it not only patiently, but thankfully. It is the design of the word of God to make us wise to salvation; and those who propose any mean or low ends in attending upon it, dishonour the gospel, and disappoint their own souls.Wherefore lay apart all filthiness,.... All manner of filthiness, both of flesh and spirit; all pride, vanity, wrath, malice, and evil speaking, under hearing the word: the allusion seems to be to a boiling pot, which casts up scum and filth, which must be taken off: and such is the spirit of wrathful men; it throws up the filth of haughtiness and pride, of anger, wrath, and wickedness, which must be taken off, and laid aside; or the word will not be heard to any profit, or advantage:

and superfluity of naughtiness, or "malice"; the abundance and overflow of it, which arises from such an evil heart, where wrath prevails, and governs: see 1 Peter 2:1. There seems to be an allusion to the removing of the superfluous foreskin of the flesh, in circumcision, typical

of the foreskin of the heart, spoken of in Jeremiah 4:4 which the Targum, in that place, calls , "the wickedness", or "naughtiness of your hearts" to be removed:

and receive with meekness the ingrafted word; which becomes so when it is received; when it is put into the heart by the Spirit of God, and is mixed with faith by them that hear it; so that it is, as it were, incorporated into them, and becomes natural to them, which before was not; and taking deep root in them, brings forth much fruit: and where it comes with power, it reduces every high thought into the obedience of Christ, and makes men meek and humble; and only such receive the truth in the love of it; and to such is the Gospel preached, Isaiah 61:1, and none but such hear it with profit and edification:

which is able to save your souls; even your whole persons, both soul and body: but the soul is only mentioned, as being the more excellent part of man: this must not be understood of the word, as if it was the author or cause of salvation, but as an instrument; it being a declaration of salvation by Christ, or what shows unto men the way of salvation by him; and is the power of God unto salvation to them, when it is attended with the energy of the Spirit, and the efficacy of divine grace. See 2 Timothy 3:15.

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