|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
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.
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).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
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.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
21. lay apart—"once for all" (so the Greek): as a filthy garment. Compare Joshua's filthy garments, Zec 3:3, 5; Re 7:14. "Filthiness" is cleansed away by hearing the word (Joh 15:3).
superfluity of naughtiness—excess (for instance, the intemperate spirit implied in "wrath," Jas 1:19, 20), which arises from malice (our natural, evil disposition towards one another). 1Pe 2:1 has the very same words in the Greek. So "malice" is the translation, Eph 4:31; Col 3:8. "Faulty excess" [Bengel] is not strong enough. Superfluous excess in speaking is also reprobated as "coming of evil" (the Greek is akin to the word for "naughtiness" here) in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:37), with which James' Epistle is so connected.
with meekness—in mildness towards one another [Alford], the opposite to "wrath" (Jas 1:20): answering to "as new-born babes" (1Pe 2:2). Meekness, I think, includes also a childlike, docile, humble, as well as an uncontentious, spirit (Ps 25:9; 45:4; Isa 66:2; Mt 5:5; 11:28-30; 18:3, 4; contrast Ro 2:8). On "receive," applied to ground receiving seed, compare Mr 4:20. Contrast Ac 17:11; 1Th 1:6 with 2Th 2:10.
engrafted word—the Gospel word, whose proper attribute is to be engrafted by the Holy Spirit, so as to be livingly incorporated with the believer, as the fruitful shoot is with the wild natural stock on which it is engrafted. The law came to man only from without, and admonished him of his duty. The Gospel is engrafted inwardly, and so fulfils the ultimate design of the law (De 6:6; 11:18; Ps 119:11). Alford translates, "The implanted word," referring to the parable of the sower (Mt 13:1-23). I prefer English Version.
able to save—a strong incentive to correct our dulness in hearing the word: that word which we hear so carelessly, is able (instrumentally) to save us [Calvin].
souls—your true selves, for the "body" is now liable to sickness and death: but the soul being now saved, both soul and body at last shall be so (Jas 5:15, 20).
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