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THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 21

Verse 21. Wherefore. In view of the fact that God has begotten us for his own service; in view of the fact that excited feeling tends only to wrong, let us lay aside all that is evil, and submit ourselves wholly to the influence of truth.

Lay apart all filthiness. The word here rendered filthiness, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means properly filth; and then is applied to evil conduct considered as disgusting or offensive. Sin may be contemplated as a wrong thing; as a violation of law; as evil in its nature and tendency, and therefore to be avoided; or it may be contemplated as disgusting, offensive, loathsome. To a pure mind, this is one of its most odious characteristics; for, to such a mind, sin in any form is more loathsome than the most offensive object can be to any of the senses.

And superfluity of naughtiness. Literally, "abounding of evil." It is rendered by Doddridge, "overflowing of malignity;" by Tindal, "superfluity of maliciousness;" by Benson, "superfluity of malice;" by Bloomfield, "petulance." The phrase "superfluity of naughtiness": or of evil, does not exactly express the sense, as if we were only to lay aside that which abounded, or which is superfluous, though we might retain that which does not come under this description; but the object of the apostle is to express his deep abhorrence of the thing referred to by strong and emphatic language. He had just spoken of sin in one aspect, as filthy, loathsome, detestable; here he designs to express his abhorrence of it by a still more emphatic description, and he speaks of it not merely as an evil, but as an evil abounding, overflowing; an evil in the highest degree. The thing referred to had the essence of evil in it, (kakia;) but it was not merely evil, it was evil that was aggravated, that was overflowing, that was eminent in degree, (perisseia.) The particular reference in these passages is to the reception of the truth; and the doctrine taught is, that a corrupt mind, a mind full of sensuality and wickedness, is not favourable to the reception of the truth. It is not fitted to see its beauty, to appreciate its value, to understand its just claims, or to welcome it to the soul. Purity of heart is the best preparation always for seeing the force of truth. And receive with meekness. That is, open the mind and heart to instruction, and to the fair influence of truth. Meekness, gentleness, docility, are everywhere required in receiving the instructions of religion, as they are in obtaining knowledge of any kind. See Barnes on "Mt 18:2-3".

 

The engrafted word. The gospel is here represented under the image of that which is implanted or engrafted from another source; by a figure that would be readily understood, for the art of engrafting is everywhere known. Sometimes the gospel is represented under the image of seed sown, (compare Mr 6:14, seq.;) but here it is under the figure of a shoot implanted or engrafted, that produces fruit of its own, whatever may be the original character of the tree into which it is engrafted. See Barnes on "Ro 11:17".

The meaning here is, that we should allow the principles of the gospel to be thus engrafted on our nature; that however crabbed or perverse our nature may be, or however bitter and vile the fruits which it might bring forth of its own accord, it might, through the engrafted word, produce the fruits of righteousness.

Which is able to save your souls. It is not, therefore, a weak and powerless thing, merely designed to show its own feebleness, and to give occasion for God to work a miracle; but it has power, and is adapted to save.

 See Barnes on "Ro 1:16"; See Barnes on "1 Co 1:18; See Barnes on "2 Ti 3:15.

 

{a} "lay apart all filthiness" Col 3:5-8; Heb 12:1; 1 Pe 2:1-2

{*} "filthiness" or, "defilement" {+} "naughtiness" or, "abounding wickedness"

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