“In humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).
Scripture speaks of a past, present, and future aspect of salvation. You have been saved from the penalty of sin (salvation), are being saved from the power of sin (sanctification), and will ultimately be saved from the presence of sin (glorification). At first glance James 1:21 may sound like it’s written to unbelievers, urging them to receive the Word, which is able to redeem them. But the phrase “save your souls” carries the idea that the implanted Word has the ongoing power to continually save one’s soul. It’s a reference to the present and ongoing process of sanctification, which is nurtured by the Spirit-energized Word of God.
The Word was implanted within you by the Holy Spirit at the time of your salvation. It is the source of power and growth for your new life in Christ. Your responsibility is to receive it in purity and humility so it can do its sanctifying work.
“Humility” in James 1:21 could be translated “meek,” “gentle,” or “having a willing spirit”; but I prefer “teachable.” If your heart is pure and humble, you will be teachable and will set aside all resentment, anger, and pride to learn God’s truth and apply it to your life.
When Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15), He was addressing this very issue. If you love Him, you will desire to obey Him and will receive His Word so you can know His will for your life. As you receive the Word, the Holy Spirit empowers you to live according to its principles.
Paul said, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another . . . and whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:16-17). That’s the essence of a biblical lifestyle and the fruit of receiving the Word in humility. May God bless you with a teachable spirit and an ever-increasing love for His truth.
– John McArthur
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