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The Engrafted Word

James 1:21-25

by
Chris Herd

Before I was a gospel preacher, I was blessed to spend my time as a “Horticultural Consultant”.  In this field of work I did a lot of work on vineyards and in nurseries.  A very common theme to me is the one of grafting.  With grafting you begin with a wild root stock and you take a cutting from a specific species of plant and graft it into the wild rootstock.  What eventuates from that exercise is a completely new plant, as it is no longer a wild plant but has taken on the form of what was grafted onto it.  A useless plant becomes something very effective and useful through the art of grafting. 

This study is based upon James 1:21-25, in which we read concerning "The Engrafted Word".  Automatically I think of the effect of having something grafted and it rings out a change for the better. 

James 1:21-25 “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth [therein], he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”

As we examine this passage of Scripture, we observe many points about the Word of God.  As I mentioned in the art of grafting, it speaks of the effect that the Word of God is able to do in our otherwise useless lives.

I recall the words that Paul penned through the inspiration of God.  How he declared that the Word of God was a mighty tool in the effect of saving a soul from Hell.  He went on to say that the Word was the avenue in which God’s righteousness was revealed to us (Romans 1:16-17).  James in no way contradicts with the writings of Paul as we notice the words of James himself.  “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”  (James 1:21)  In a straightforward fashion the epistle of James outwardly declares that the Word of God is able “to save your souls”.  This is power sent from our sovereign Lord to us, the all powerful and undisputable Word of God.  There is a clear message here that the Word can save and to see how, we need to examine some appropriate Scriptures.  For example, Peter and James tell us that the Word enables us to be “born again” or “begotten” of God (Peter 1:22-25; James 1:18).  The Word is pictured with a power to create anew because it contains the way to salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord.  So the Word is powerful enough to create anew and to ‘sanctify” us, which means to "set apart for a holy purpose".  God through His word is able to  set us apart for the purpose that He has for us in His service.  David sang of the ability that God’s Word has to sanctify His people “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.  The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.  The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.  More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.  Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.”  (Psalm 19:7-11).  Our saviour when He prayed to the Father, spoke of the sanctifying influence of God's Holy Word, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:15-17).  Therefore we see that undoubtedly the Word of God can serve to set us apart for His divine purpose!  It is powerful and has preserving qualities, which we are encouraged to apply to our feeble lives.  In the Psalms, the young were told to preserve their way by the Word of God; (Psalm 119:9,11).  In the book of Acts of apostles, we see that Paul admonished the Ephesian elders to keep the church pure by the very same Word; “I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” (Acts 20:28-32).  Sadly, today we do not see a strong revering of the all inspired Word of God as many choose to pervert it.  However for those who truly love the Lord and seek His favour, as we consider the power of God’s word, it becomes evident that the Word is very important to the Christian!  The true value of the "engrafted Word” can only be realized when certain conditions are met.  We find those conditions mentioned in our text.

In order to truly ever benefit from the all-powerful Word of God, James tells us that there are things that we must lay aside, “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness.” (James 1:21a).  Here James mentions such things as “superfluity of naughtiness” or as rendered by the NKJV "all filthiness and overflow of wickedness".  These traits are not becoming of a professed child of God and in order to receive the Word there must be room made for it. The apostle Paul also described certain points regarding things that we must lay aside; (Colossians 3:5-9).  For the Word of God to bear its fruit in our lives, the "weeds of sin" must first be uprooted!  We cannot hope to benefit from our study of the Word if we continue to dwell on things that are spiritually filthy and to engage in wickedness.  I notice that some brethren do not appear to grow and one must wonder if the reason why is because they are not truly removing sin from their lives.  This could also be another reason why some do not seem to “get enough” out of Bible study 

For the child of God who seeks to apply the Word of God to their life, there must also be of necessity a proper attitude of heart.  James goes on to address this very issue.  “and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21b).  The qualifying attitude for the true child of God is meekness.  I remember a saying that “meekness is not weakness”.  As James says to "receive with meekness" the Word of God stating that a humble and receptive attitude is essential to get the most out of the Word of God.  It helps to remain humble if we remember two things about ourselves, first that we are sinners and secondly that we can be easily deceived!  We should study, not to learn facts, not to win debates, but to learn God's truth to save ourselves and those around us!  It would be great if this prayer of David were our own?  “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.”  (Psalm 119:18). 

The word of God must be “engrafted” into our hearts.  The reason for this is made clear in the book of James; “and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21b).  The same as when grafting a grapevine, the nurseryman takes great care in ensuring that precision is used to join the cutting to the wild rootstock.  If the graft is not accurate then the job would prove to be a waste of valuable time.  In a similar sense, if we do not take time to engraft the word, to take the words out of the pages of the Bible and implant them into our hearts, we will waste our lives!  We would become no different to those Old Testament religious hypocrites of Jesus’ time who paid “lip service” to the Lord, whose hearts were far from Him.  One very decisive determining factor that marks those under the New Covenant is the fact that the Word is engrafted upon their hearts; (Hebrews 8:10-13). 

Where is the Word of God today?  Is the Word of God limited to the ink printed on paper?  Or do we read it often enough, meditated upon it enough, that it has become “engrafted” in our hearts as well?  To have the Word of God “engrafted” in our hearts is not possible without daily reading of the Bible.  Did you know that many seem content with solely reading the word of God?  For some reason the thought of application of the written Word seems to be the last thing in mind.  But let this be known to all of us right now!  We must apply the word of God to our lives.  “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:  For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.  But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”  (James 1:22-25).  James declares to the dismay of those advocates of “faith alone” the fact that faith alone will not save us.  We need to be people of obedient works or as James puts it, we must be "doers of the Word and not hearers only" (James 1:22).  If we do attempt to be hearers only the implication is that we deceive ourselves and contextually it is only ourselves that we deceive.  You can fool some people some of the time but God is not deceived nor is the devil.  The greatest of actors will only fool others some of the time and generally our brethren and our children will see through us and so will many others! 

The illustration that James draws is that of a mirror.  If we look into a mirror it is very revealing as it exposes blemishes in our skin…imperfections…untidy hair…etc.  We cannot see these things until we look in the mirror and in comparison the Bible has the effect of a mirror, reflecting the condition of mans heart.  The Bible reveals that the heart of man can be very deceitful.  In fact it can be more deceitful than anything; (Jeremiah 17:9-10).  As we look into the mirror of God’s all revealing Word, the reflection of the heart tells us where evil comes from; (Matthew 15:19).  The Bible reflects that we are Spirit soul and body, things that we could not know unless the Lord had made them known to us through the apostles inspired words; (1 Thessalonians 5:23). 

Perhaps the hardest thing for some to accept is the revealed truth of the sinfulness of man and how this sinfulness separates us from God.  The truth is that we are all guilty of sinning and are in need of repentance; (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10; Isaiah 59:1-2; Acts 17:30).  God never blesses anyone for inactive faith.  God called Noah to obedience to the degree of building an ark.  Noah actively built the ark but God saved him from the floodwaters.  We have a similar call to obedience today that we must heed to in order to be saved (1 Peter 3:21).  If we look at God’s word, do not apply it, then the word is soon forgotten.  This practice is as effective as glancing in mirror and then going away and forgetting what we saw.  In a similar fashion if we go to a doctor and tell him what is wrong with us and he diagnoses our symptoms and recommends a prescription.  If we choose not to take the prescribed medication we cannot expect to be cured.  People have noticed a changing mole or a wart when they look in the mirror but go away and ignore it and later die of cancer.  If we look in the Bible and see things we need to change but we go away and ignore them, we will die of spiritual death.  People can preach, teach, attend all Bible classes and worship, but never apply to their lives the things they read or are taught.  Jesus our saviour taught about this very problem; (Matthew 7:21-23).   James is not the sole advocate of obedient faith as this is the theme of the Bible.  Another apostle stated the very same thing, the apostle Paul to the Romans.  “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified”  (Romans 2:13)

We must be prepared to examine ourselves honestly as we stand before the mirror of God’s word.  As some come into contact with mirrors they hide their face as they do not like what they see.  However for the penitent soul there is an unprejudiced opportunity to be beautiful regardless of our outward appearance.  Sadly however, some would rather spend an eternity in Hell than to give up their sinful habits; (John 3:19-21). 

In conclusion to this great passage of Scripture we see that there is true value in the word of GodIt comes straight from our maker to us and teaches us about our inner man, instructing us how we can be right with God.  The Word is like a “MIRROR” and the true blessedness of the Word comes “NOT” by "looking into the perfect law of liberty "ALONE” but by "continuing in it," and being "a doer of the work".  Yes it is not just the reading of the Word which provides joy, peace and happiness.  The only way to truly have these blessings is through the actual application of the Word in lives through faithful obedience!   Notice that James calls the Word of God the "perfect law of liberty" (James 2:15).  This is because in its power to create anew, to sanctify (set apart) and to preserve.  It provides true freedom and liberty from guilt and the dominion of sin.  Of course, what gives the Word this power is the message it contains, the gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s power to save (Romans 1:16).  Undoubtedly you have heard it, but hearing it is not enough!  You must lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness and that is, to repent; (Acts 17:30-31).  You must receive the message of the gospel with meekness, in other words you need to believe that saving message; (John 3:16).  There is also the essential requirement that you be a "doer of the Word" and obey the command to be baptized.  God only rewards an obedient faith; (Hebrews 5:9; Acts 22:16; Mark 16:16). 

Receive with meekness these very words of Jesus and His apostles, let His Word engraft upon your heart through frequent meditation and application.  For that is how the Word of God is able to save your soul!

The Mirror
by Chris Herd

"When I look in the mirror, what do I see,
there I see my eyes as they look back at me. 
Staring, who are you I say inside of my mind,
not really wanting to answer, what will I mind? 
When I open the Bible I see myself there,
then in my reflections I can’t help but to stare.
For I see that I am more, than just a mortal man,
but a soul created for God’s eternal plan. 
I see I have many faults, I am laden with sin,
but I see through the Bible a promise within. 
If I gaze at my life, in God’s mirror of love,
I can make changes, to prepare me for above

In God’s mirror gives direction, in it is a place,
where I can be with God, see Him face to face. 
But He asks me, be honest, examine, be true,
and make all the changes that I ask of you. 
If you’re honest with the reflection, all that you see,
obey and be blessed, for eternity with Me.

 

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