Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and evil,
humbly receive the implanted Word, which is able to save you.
But be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
There is much to digest in this short but significant passage. James is exhorting us to abandon our impure lives in light of the goodness and righteousness of God that is offered to us. The instruction to "rid ourselves of our moral filth and evil" make it very clear that, as humans, we have to constantly fight the temptation of our flesh.
And it is very clear that unless we are able to do that, the second half of that exhortation cannot take place. In order to humbly receive "the implanted Word", we must abandon our immoral and impure flesh. These two states of our human existence are held in stark contrast. I actually like the English Standard Version (ESV) interpretation of this verse better ... receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
That term "meekness" insinuates that we have a teachable heart. And as I have recently disclosed, it has become quite evident to me that our heart is most important to our ongoing salvation journey. It is where God has written His laws. We are given a new, circumcised heart when we accept Jesus as our Savior; circumcision being the sign of a covenant between God and His people. Satan introduces sin to our heart, which then corrupts our minds and emotions, resulting in sinful behavior. The heart is "at the heart", so to speak, of our relationship with God.
So, in effect, James is telling us that we must be humble and meek -- having a teachable heart -- so that the Word might be implanted in our hearts; that we might receive it. As the 19th Century theologian Charles Spurgeon so eloquently expounded: "The first thing, then, is receive. That word 'receive' is a very instructive gospel word; it is the door through which God's grace enters to us. We are not saved by working, but by receiving; not by what we give to God, but by what God gives to us, and we receive from Him."
But we need to receive the full meaning of this passage. It is my opinion that James is telling us that there is spiritual power in the Word of God. It is very plainly stated ... When the Word of God is implanted in the human heart, it is able to save your souls! The Word of God carries the power of God!
James then goes on to tell us how to receive that power of God ... be doers of the Word and not hearers only. And he takes it one step further -- To pat yourself on the back that you have heard God's Word, when you haven't done it, is to deceive yourself.
It was common in the ancient world for people to hear a teacher. If you followed the teacher and tried to live what he said, you were called a disciple of that teacher. That is what Jesus is looking for ... disciples ... doers ... not just hearers. He does not desire us to be admiring hearers, or loving/affectionate hearers; I don't think He even desires faithful hearers! I believe that Jesus needs us to be doers. Our faith is meant to be active! That is why James continues in this extended passage to say in verse 25, "But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets, but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing."
And I further believe that the blessing he is talking about is not blessings in this life, but our inheritance and rewards in the next. It will be the blessing we receive when we stand before our Lord at His Judgment Seat and He says, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" It will be the blessings of crowns bestowed upon our heads; crowns which we will cast at His feet because what we have received from Him, we are not worthy to gain. It will be the blessings of ruling and reigning with Him because we didn't just hear the Word, we acted upon it and showed Him and imitated Him to the lost of the world. Those blessings only come when the Word has been implanted in our hearts; we receive it, hear it, and then act on it. To only receive the Word and hear it, is to be religious. But to have the Word implanted in your heart so that you hunger to hear it, understand it, and can do nothing but act on it is to be a true disciple of Christ. May we all have such tender hearts.