“Putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness . . . receive the word” (James 1:21).
When the psalmist said, “I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Thy word” (Ps. 119:101), he was acknowledging a key principle of spiritual growth: you must set aside sin if you expect to benefit from God’s Word. Peter was expressing the same thought when he said, “Putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pet. 2:1-2). Likewise, James admonished us to put off sin and receive the Word (James 1:21).
Neither James nor Peter were addressing unbelievers, because without Christ, people have no capacity to set sin aside or receive God’s Word. But we as Christians are characterized by our ability to do both, and must continually purify our lives through confession of sin, repentance, and right choices. That’s why Paul said, “Just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification” (Rom. 6:19).
The Greek word translated “putting aside” in James 1:21 originally meant taking off dirty, soiled clothes. “Filthiness” translates a Greek word that was used of moral vice as well as dirty clothes. Its root word was sometimes used of ear wax, which impedes a person’s hearing. Similarly, sin impedes reception of the Word. “Wickedness” speaks of any evil intent or desire. Together they stress the importance of setting aside all evil actions and intentions.
Simply stated, you should never presume on God’s grace by approaching His Word with unconfessed sin. David prayed, “Keep back Thy servant from presumptuous [deliberate] sins; let them not rule over me; then I shall be blameless” (Ps. 19:13). He wanted to be pure before the Lord. I pray that you share his desire and will always receive the Word in purity.
Suggestions for Prayer
Memorize Psalm 19:14. Make it your prayer as you study God’s Word.
For Further Study
Read Colossians 3:5-17.
• What does Paul admonish you to put off? Put on?
• Why is it important to heed his admonitions?
From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187