James 1:19-21


Bible Study Notes
Be Humble and Slow to Anger
James 1:19-21


The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh, Senior Pastor at Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, NE. The text has been edited and condensed by IHCC staff for use as a Bible Study aid.
Introduction -- James has made the point that every good thing comes from God. He illustrated this fact by the new birth (v. 18). We have been saved because God willed it. Salvation has its source and origin in God.

The new birth occurred "by the word of truth" (v. 18). This new life is now to be evidenced by growth and development. This will take place when we respond to the Word that we have believed.

It is to this growth in our new life in Christ that James now directs our attention.


This you know refers to the truth regarding the new birth in verse 18. This was review for these believers.

my beloved brethren (cf. v.16) James is going to have some harsh things to say to them and he wants them to know that he addresses them out of love.

But indicates that their knowledge regarding salvation was not enough. They must allow the Word to continue to work in their lives to produce the growth that God intends for His children.

God never intends for us as His children to stop with knowledge, but rather we are to allow His truth to be a dynamic force for change in our lives (cf. 1 Cor. 8:1).

be quick to hear -- The context seems to indicate that the primary reference is to hearing the Word of God. This was the subject of verse 18 and will be the subject of verse 21.

They are to be eager and attentive to the Word as it is presented to them. This is a picture of a people who want more of God's Word and are ready to listen.

slow to speak -- This pictures a person who gives careful consideration before he speaks. Most of us are all too ready to give our opinions on a subject, whether we know much about it or not. Here we are admonished to allow ample time for thought before we speak.

slow to anger -- There are two words in Greek for anger. One,  thumos, denotes the more violent, passionate outbursts of anger. The word used here,  orge, is the more settled and persistent kind of hostility.

A person should not allow himself to be provoked too quickly by what he hears. We see this with unbelievers who are easily antagonized and angered by the Word of God. However, sometimes we as believers are guilty of the same kind of attitude. With improper attitudes taking hold in us, we find ourselves easily antagonized by the Word.

On many occasions the Scripture warns about the misuse of words and the danger of anger (cf. Prov. 10:19; 14:29; 29:11; Eccles. 5:1,2; 7:9; Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8).


The phrase  the anger of man stands in sharp contrast to "the righteousness of God."

Our goal is to have the righteousness of God produced in our lives, and anger does not promote righteousness "An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression" (Prov. 29:22).


Therefore -- This verse draws the conclusion to what he has just been saying. They need to make some changes so that the Word can be welcomed into their lives and accomplish God's purposes.

putting aside -- Certain things must be removed and disposed of. The picture here may be of taking off certain clothes so that we can put on the proper clothes.

filthiness -- The picture is of filthy, dirty clothes which must be removed. The adjective form of this noun is used in James 2:2. Note that  all filthiness must be removed. We are often too easy on ourselves and are satisfied with less than complete removal of the soiled garments.

all that remains of wickedness -- This would indicate that anything evil or sinful that has been held on to or harbored in our lives is to be put off. Sometimes old habits and activities are carried with us into our new life in Christ. It all has to go. I am now a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17; cf. also Eph. 4:22-25,31; Col. 3:8-10).

in humility (prautes) This is a difficult word to convey in English. "It is the quality of the man whose feelings and emotions and impulses are under perfect control" (Barclay).

Humility is the opposite of the quality demonstrated by a person who, in anger, is aggressively asserting himself. It is represented by the meek and gentle person who is teachable. "Prautes describes the perfect conquest and control of everything in a man's nature which would be a hindrance to his seeing, hearing and obeying the truth" (Barclay).

receive (aorist imperative) -- This is the basic command in the verse around which everything else revolves. The word means "to welcome or receive into one's home." It also means "to take in hand" or "to grasp."

This word is used of the response of the Bereans to the Word as preached by Paul and Silas in Acts 17:11. James wanted these believers to act upon the Word they had received. Like many believers today, they were remaining passive regarding the great truth they had.

the word implanted -- This is the Word as it has been implanted in the heart. The Word was implanted in their hearts at the time of the new birth (v. 18). But that was the beginning of a process, not the end.

The background for his analogy may be the parable of the soils in Matthew 13. (Note: This analogy fits both believer and unbeliever, but the context in James seems to point to believers. Cf. v. 19.)

The demand is to turn from sin and submit ourselves to the Word that God has placed within us. His purpose is that it might grow, producing His character within us.

which is able to save your souls -- It is the Word of God which is active in salvation. It brings about the new birth (vs 18). It is also the Word that is effective in our present growth in salvation (1 Cor. 1:18; 2 Cor. 3:18).

It is also the Word that is effective in saving us from judgment to come (Acts 17:30,31). This is the prime emphasis as James speaks of judgment (cf. 2:13; 3:1; 5:7-9).

For this Word to be effective in our lives as believers, we need to put off any and all sin and be eager listeners to what God has to say. Too often we are too rushed to patiently listen to what God is saying. We then need to act upon the Word that we hear. It must be cultivated so that it can develop in us the character of Christ which will spare us from judgment.

  • Are you an eager listener to the things God has to say?
  • Have you put aside all filthiness and sin?
  • Are you a teachable person?
  • Do you submit to and act upon the Word that has been implanted in you? (cf. Heb. 4:12; 1 Pet. 2:1,2).
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.

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Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.

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