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Wednesday, January 20, 1999

32 - Why We Need Bible Doctrine

James 1:22 by Robert Dean
Series:James (1998)
Duration:59 mins 34 secs

Why We Need Bible Doctrine; James 1:21

James 1:21 NASB "Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and {all} that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls." This verse introduces the next section in James which is the first major division in the epistle. The first 20 verses covers the introduction, concluding with the threefold division of the epistle given in verse 19: "But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak {and} slow to anger." Quick to hear is the subject from 1:21 down through 2:27.

We begin in this verse with the end in mind, so to speak, which is the final purpose clause here. It starts off with the aorist active infinitive of the verb SOZO [swzw], the basic Greek word used for salvation. The problem is that any time we today see this word "save" we automatically want to impart into that context "saved from eternal punishment." That is not the meaning of the word. It has many more meanings than saved from eternal punishment. The problem is that of you look at this passage and you identify this phrase "save your souls" as relating to saved from eternal punishment then you are going to interpret this entire section as being related to soteriological doctrine/salvation doctrine as opposed to Christian life doctrine. So the issue that we have to resolve here is the question, are we talking about salvation or spiritual life. Remember the word SOZO has as its basic root meaning the idea of deliverance, the idea of even health, of rescuing from danger, preserving the life, delivering, saving from physical death, freeing from disease—it can even be used for healing- to preserve something in good condition, and the idea of preserving or saving from eternal death. In Scripture the word SOZO is used in three different aspects of the Christian life, and this takes us back to the plan of God. Phase one of the plan of God is salvation, justification, that we are saved from the eternal penalty for sin. Phase two is the spiritual life where we are saved from the power of the sin nature. Phase three is when we are absent from the body, face to face with the Lord, and in our resurrection body we have no sin nature and we saved from the eternal presence of sin. So when we run across a passage like this and we see the word SOZO we always have to ask the question, saved or delivered from what?

Is this justification salvation? No, it is not. Look back to v. 18: "In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures." There he refers to the salvation of his readers. Furthermore in v. 19 he says, "{This} you know, my beloved brethren." Earlier in this epistle he refers several times to his readers as his brethren. This indicates that these are believers, so he is not trying to save them any more, they are already saved in the sense of salvation from eternal punishment, phase one salvation or justification. So the theme of this epistle does not relate to justification salvation but sanctification salvation. How is the believer saved from the power of sin? So when we read at the end of verse 21 we look at this verb in order to identify the interpretive framework for the verse. When we read the verse with that in mind, we have "…receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls." Saved from what? The context throughout James is salvation from trials, how to handle trials, testing, how to handle adversity. So what James is telling us in verse 21 is a very important thing. He is answering the question as to why doctrine is important. Why is it important for us to study the Word of God? We are mandated to receive the Word, to learn the Word of God. This is carried out again and again and again in Scripture. In this passage we are told that one of the reasons that we are to learn the Word of God, Bible doctrine, is because this is what saves our lives; this is what gives us the information we need to face and handle adversity, the trials of life.

What do we mean by this term "Bible doctrine." Bible doctrine refers to the principles and precepts that are extrapolated from the Word of God, from a study of the Bible in its original languages, for living the spiritual life, living the life that God has designed for us from eternity past. In this age, the church age, we have a unique spiritual life which is unlike any spiritual life in any other time in human history. It is predicated upon not only the indwelling but the filling of God the Holy Spirit who empowers us. So from a study of God's Word extrapolate principles which we call Bible doctrine, the teachings of Scripture. This is not just abstract theology. A lot of people think as soon as they hear the word "doctrine" that it is referring to abstract theology that is beyond the realm of the everyday average believer and has nothing to do with their life, but Bible doctrine has to do with very practical principles.

So we begin with Bible doctrine and in this passage we see that the first reason to study doctrine is that it enables us to face adversity. Secondly, we as believers are mandated to be able to correctly understand and handle the Bible—2 Timothy 2:15 NASB "Be diligent [study] to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." Thirdly, we cannot apply what we don't know. This is a critical principle. The Word of God says that spiritual growth takes place in the realm of two dynamics: a) the filling of the Holy Spirit, the energizer of the spiritual life of the church age believer, and b) the Word of God, Bible doctrine. First we have to go through the process of learning; we can't know what we haven't learned, and we can't learn something without having the attitude of teachability, humility, and authority orientation. We have to be willing to have the self-discipline to make attendance at Bible class regular, consistent, because that is how you learn anything in life. You make it a priority.

We are mandated in Scripture to be ready at all times to give an answer for the hope that is within us. That means you have to learn what the answer is, and that only comes from a detailed study of God's Word—2 Peter 3:15.

The Word of God is the second major power option in the spiritual life. The first is the Holy Spirit, and together they comprise a power tandem. They work together, you can't have one without the other. The spiritual life is a spiritual life, it is energized by God the Holy Spirit and it is based upon the precept in Galatians chapter five that we are to walk by means of the Holy Spirit.

Then, in Romans 12:2 we are mandated to renovate our thinking. "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." The Christian life is a life of thinking, not a life of emoting. What gets the believer through the tough times is knowing what God is doing in his life, he knows the principles of Scripture, he understands the problem-solving devices, the provisions that God has given us for handling the difficulties and the adversities of life.

That is why James says in v. 21, "Therefore, putting aside all filthiness…" That is a reference to rebound, confession of sin; but it is putting the emphasis not so much on the act of confession (admission or acknowledging our sins privately to God the Father) but on what takes place next. "…and {all} that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls." We are to lay aside immorality and all of the excess of sin. Sin is viewed as being an excess, it is an epexegetical genitive construction. Then the command to receive or to take in the Word implanted. The analogy is of seed that has to be placed in the soil which is prepared. The preparation is the word "humility." Humility is teachability, the absence of arrogance. What James is saying here is that we have to get back in fellowship and stay in fellowship if we are going to learn the Word of God because it is the Holy Spirit who teaches us and matures us in the spiritual life. Secondly, we have to have the attitude of humility, that goes along with being under the filling of the Holy Spirit, it is part of grace orientation, it is the absence of arrogance, and it means that we are oriented to the authority of God and His Word and we are willing to submit to it. That is the foundation for going forward—in humility, the right attitude of teachability, authority orientation to God. We are to "take in," DECHOMAI [dexomai], the word implanted, which is able to deliver our life in the midst of trial.

Now we see the overview of the passage and where we are going, and its significance. The passage begins in the Greek with an inferential particle DIO [dio]. Why does James use this particular word? Normally when you are drawing a conclusion, when you have laid out some principles in a passage and then are going to reach a conclusion, you use what is called postpositive particle, OUN [o)un]. Therefore you are drawing an inference; you have laid out your premises and are now drawing a conclusion. DIO usually introduces a shift in the action. This word introduces a new subject, it is going to take what has been said previously and now is going to draw application. So right away we know, because this word is used, that we are going to get into some pretty meaty application of the previous principle. The previous principle is the general threefold command of verse 19.

James is saying that we have to slow down and see exactly what these mandates mean: "…be quick to hear, slow to speak {and} slow to anger." What exactly does it mean to be quick to hear, and why is that so important? So he starts off with DIO. We are going to get into the application. How are we quick to hear? What is that going to look like when we put a little flesh and blood on that? Then the second word in the Greek is the aorist middle participle of APOTITHEMI [a)potiqhmi]. It is a middle participle, mostly because it is going to benefit you, so it has a reflexive idea—you put aside so it will benefit you. It is a participle, and that tells us immediately that it is going to have some relationship to a main verb, and since it lacks a definite article it has an adverbial force. This construction fits four of five criteria that are laid out in the grammars for what is called a participle of attendant circumstance. In terms of semantics a participle of attendant circumstance introduces a shift in the action. So right away, with the combination with DIO, we know that we are talking about a new subject. So this is a new paragraph, a new subdivision in the epistle. Secondly, a participle of attendant circumstance gives us a prerequisite for the action in the main verb. The main verb in a participle of attendant circumstance is almost always an imperative, a command. So in this kind of a construction that participle tells us what is required in order to fulfil the mandate. The mandate is given in the verb "receive [the word]." So at the beginning the participle tells us what we have to do, what is required, the prerequisite for receiving the Word of God, for learning the Word of God. We can translate it, "having laid aside, receive." So before you can receive the Word you have to lay aside something.

To see other places where this word is used: Romans 13:12 NASB "The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light." Here it is the aorist middle subjunctive, a subjunctive used as a command. Lay aside what? "…the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light." This is a hortatory subjunctive, which means it is an exhortation used to urge someone to unite with the speaker in a course of action upon which he has already decided. The force of the aorist is to command the action as a whole without reference to duration or repetition, stressing the importance of laying aside the deeds of darkness.

What can we learn from this? First, both verbs in this passage, laying aside and putting on, are first person plurals which show that this relates to Paul and his readers, and therefore is a mandate addressed to believers. It is not a metaphor, therefore, for salvation. Secondly, the mandate to put off the deeds of darkness assumes that believers can produce the deeds of darkness. That is important to understand because one of the greatest areas of confusion in Christianity is what Christians do with post-salvation sins. So many people have problems with Christians who sin, but what this passage tells us is, yes, Christians not only can sin, they apparently can commit all of the deeds or acts/works of darkness. This includes not only personal sin but also human good and evil. The clear implication in this verse is that the believer possesses a sin nature after salvation that is every bit as dynamic and productive as it was before salvation. Thirdly, the works of darkness (which includes sin) also includes human good which is called "dead works" in Hebrews 6:1, and evil. Fourth, the armor of light is that which protects the believer from the adversities of life. Armor is a protective device, so we are to take off or remove those works which stem from the sin nature. We are to put on the armor of light which can only take place under the filling of God the Holy Spirit. It is this aormor of light that is the protection for the believer, and that is tantamount to what we have been referring to as the soul fortress which comes from the application of doctrine and which fortifies and strengthens our soul.

Ephesians 4:22 NASB "That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit." Your former manner of life was being an unbeliever, being a slave to the sin nature. The words "lay aside" is the Greek APOTITHEMI again. Here it is an aorist active infinitive. Why is that important? It is not an imperative even though in some translations it is translated that way. An infinitive can have an imperatival force, in which it s called logically an imperatival infinitive, but it can also be descriptive, and so there is quite a battle going on as to how this should be translated. For the most part there is tremendous evidence that in this type of semantic construction an aorist infinitive should be translated as a command, that in reference to our former life we are to "lay aside the old [former] self." That is a command. In many translation this is taken to be an indicative, that you have. Because it is an aorist they translate it "because you have laid aside the old self," but the old self in this passage is synonymous to former manner of life. In other words, as a believer you can still live like you did before you were saved. In this passage it is viewing it from the perspective that you are a believer now, it is after salvation but you are living the same way, you are living just like you are still the old self prior to salvation. You are to lay this aside, "which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit." Remember, lust is the primary motivator of the sin nature.

Then the positive command: Ephesians 4:23, 24 "and that you be renewed in the spirit [thinking] of your mind, and put on the new self, which in {the likeness of} God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth." The word "spirit" there is PNEUMA, it doesn't refer to the human spirit or the Holy Spirit but to the essential characteristics of the mind. The word PNEUMA also speaks of attitude, of thinking. The spiritual life is a life of thought, a life of ;learning, a life of taking the Word of God and learning all the principles of Bible doctrine and assimilating them under the filling of God the Holy Spirit into the heart, the innermost thinking part of the soul, the KARDIA [kardia]. By renewing our mind, our thinking, we can then apply it. This is the process. First we have to learn it, then we can apply it.

Ephesians 4:25 NASB "Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE {of you} WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another." We are not talking here about a kind of personal moral reformation of the life so that we can grow. This is not a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality. It is a recognition, first of all, that you have to get into the bottom circle through confession of sin. But once you are there, when you are applying doctrine that means there is going to be first a renovation of the thinking and then a renovation of the activities in the life. We are all going to fail. Over and again we are going to sin because we still have a sin nature, and that is why we have a grace recovery procedure, 1 John 1:9, after which we move forward in the spiritual life. So all of these mandates are addressed to what we do when we learn doctrine. Part of learning doctrine is learning these mandates that there are certain things that we are to divest ourselves of because we are members of the royal family of God. We not only have imputed righteousness but through learning doctrine there is to be a production of righteousness. Cf. also, Colossians 3:8 NASB "But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, {and} abusive speech from your mouth"; Hebrews 12:1 "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us…" 

James 1:21 "…in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls." EN plus the dative of the noun PRAUTES [e)n prauthj]. This gets us into the doctrine of humility or teachability. This is an interesting word because it has two basic translations in the Greek. In many places it is translated as "gentleness," but in other passages it is translated as "humility." The root meaning is an absence of arrogance and a lack of preoccupation with self. If you go anywhere and try to learn anything and you are dominated by arrogance you think you know more about the subject than the teacher. Or, you are preoccupied with all your problems and everything else that is going on in life and you can't concentrate and focus on whatever it is you are learning. You are not going to learn anything. You have to have the basic attitude of humility and teachability which is characterized by PRAUTES, an absence of arrogance and a lack of preoccupation with self. In some contexts the emphasis is more on sensitivity, that the believer should be thoughtful and considerate of others. This would include, of course, good manners, self-control and gentleness. In other contexts the emphasis is more on a lack of arrogance and having true objectivity. You will never learn doctrine and go anywhere in the spiritual life unless you have an attitude of objectivity. The word includes in the context here authority orientation. It means respect for the authority of God the Father, respect for the authority of Jesus Christ, and the authority of the Word of God which is called the mind of Christ. So in this context we are talking about humility as the prerequisite for all learning, and teachability is what we will call that.

We are to "receive the word implanted." This is the word DECHOMAI [dexomai] which means to receive, to take in, to acquire. This is the first of the three Rs of learning: reception, retention, recall. Reception is when the pastor communicates Bible doctrine to a group of believers, those believers accept it as true and it goes to those believers' human spirits. The Holy Spirit makes it understandable as PNEUMATIKOS [pneumatikoj] doctrine, and then they receive it and it goes to the NOUS [nouj] as academic knowledge, and if they believe it, it is transferred to the KARDIA as EPIGNOSIS [e)pignwsij] doctrine, usable doctrine which can be metabolized, assimilated into the soul, and is the basis for application. Unless it is EPIGNOSIS it is not usable; GNOSIS is simply academic knowledge. EPIGNOSIS is knowledge that is used by God the Holy Spirit in promoting growth. Then there is retention, you have to learn it. This means that the pastor has to communicate it over and over again until it is inculcated and you can retain it in your mind. Recall is the application of doctrine when the Holy Spirit brings it back to your mind and you can apply that doctrine to the specific situation. To receive the word implanted. That is a word that is used in reference to a seed. Just like a seed in placed into the soil and the soil has been prepared. The soil is prepared through humility. First of all you have removed that which impedes growth, the soil is characterized by humility, and the seed of the Word of God is planted there so that it can then produce fruit which is application. It is that fruit which is able to deliver your soul/life, and that refers to deliverance in the midst of testing. 

Then we come to a verse that is grossly misunderstood and misapplied: James 1:22 NASB "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves."