“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” – James 1:21
There is a good friend of mine who made this simple yet profound statement: “Either the Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.”
When I heard this for the first time, I recalled my former life as an unbeliever. There was no power from within to overcome my sinful cravings. I had eyes full of lust. A haughty heart stirring up trouble in the bars. Constant cravings for success and self-promotion. While the superego accused me of not achieving my idealized self, the power from within had no ability to change my carnal nature.
Without the Word of God–who is the Logos, the Incarnate Son Jesus Christ, we have no power to overcome sin (Jn. 1:14; 6:63; 1 Pet. 1:22; Eph. 5:26). This is what James is getting at here in verse 21. He says it’s necessary to accept the Word of Truth planted in us since the Word has the power to save; the power to restore, heal, and deliver us from the penalties of the messianic judgment.
John Piper, theologian and former Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church said it best:
James adds at the end of verse 21 “which is able to save your souls.” What saves our souls? The implanted word which we receive. In other words, our souls depend on the implanted word, and our souls depend on receiving the word. If you decide that you don’t need to receive the external word, you are like a person who decides he doesn’t need to breathe. If you are spiritually dead, you can carry through that decision. You can choose not to breathe. But if you are spiritually alive, you can’t. The implanted word is powerful; it produces life and breathing. It takes over the spiritual diaphragm and demands oxygen. It demands the life-giving external word. If the word is implanted in you, you can’t hold your breath forever. The implanted word will sooner or later conquer and be replenished. You will receive the word again. And you will love it.
Furthermore, the Greek word δύναμαι (dunamai) refers to the intrinsic power and inherent ability of the Word of God to carry out the salvation of our souls. From the context earlier, James says, “The Word of Truth brought us forth, or made us born again, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.” -James 1:18
You may be asking, “Isn’t it Jesus alone who saves us?” And my answer is, “Yes.” Also, remember that the Word took on human flesh. The Word is God. Jesus is the Word. Hebrews 4:12 makes it clear that the Word is more than letters on a papyrus–it is alive and active. Therefore, when James says the Word implanted in us is able to save our souls, he is viewing salvation as the entire process of the Christian life, culminating in our ultimate deliverance from sin and death that takes place at the time of Christ’s return in glory (Rom. 5:9, 1 Th 5:9; Phil. 2:12; 1 Tim 4:16; Heb. 9:28).
In the end, my friend was correct. Either the Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible. The choice is yours. Let’s pray.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the implanted Word of God, which is able to save our souls. Thank you for Jesus Christ, Your Son, the Incarnate Word, who died on the cross for our sins. Thank you that His atoning sacrifice on the cross was more than sufficient to cleanse us from our sins. May we continue meditating day and night on your Word, knowing full well the logos has the power to rescue us from the grave. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.