How to Receive God’s Word

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. [James 1:19-21, ESV]

open-golden-bibleGod speaks today through His written Word, the Bible. Anyone who wants to receive a message from God needs only to open their Bible.

If you want to hear God speak to you audibly, then read your Bible out loud. It is through Scripture that God speaks to us objectively.

In James 1:19-21, James gives us five keys to receiving God’s written Word. We’ll consider the first of these in this blog.

These observations are designed to help us better receive the implanted Word, stated at the end of verse 21.

The first key deals with the beginning of verse 19. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear…” So here’s the first observation…

I.  Believers who willingly submit to God’s Word must be quick to hear (19a).

In the ESV, which I’m using here, the opening phrase is rendered, “know this.” In the NIV it says, “take note of this.” In the NASB it’s translated, “This you know.”

Once again, James is using an imperative statement. He has used the imperative earlier in chapter one as well.

The imperative is like a verbal highlighter that underscores what the writer is about to say. James grabs the reader’s attention and requires action on our part.

He says, “know this…” because there were and are Christians who don’t know how to receive God’s Word profitably. This is something every Christian needs to hear.

James loves these Christians. He calls them “my beloved brothers.” He isn’t writing in anger, but he’s pleading; he’s urging like a concerned father for their progress in the faith. There are spiritual dangers James urges believers to avoid. These instructions relate to receiving God’s Word, both publicly and privately.

The first key to receiving God’s Word (in verse 19) is the determination to be “quick to hear.” The idea behind this phrase is that of an eagerness to learn.

When we read the Bible for personal study, “quick to hear” describes how our heart should be toward God’s Word.

In the private setting, we hear with our eyes as we read the Bible. Hearing can be active or passive. Passive hearing is when you’re not trying to hear but it happens anyway.

Every day, I passively hear train whistles in the background, especially at night. At home, I passively hear dogs bark in the background. I don’t try to hear these sounds. In fact, I prefer not to hear them; but I hear them anyway. So James is calling for active hearing… where we strive to hear with an embracing heart.

Likewise, when I listen to a sermon, “quick to hear” means my heart is prepared and eager to listen. My mind should be awake and fully engaged, but not to criticize or to pass judgment on the text or the speaker, but to receive instruction as the Spirit applies the truth to my own heart.

This attitude presupposes the desire to be taught.

Winston Churchill revealed something about himself when he confessed, “I am always willing to learn, although I’m not always willing to be taught.”

Many of us can relate to that sentiment.

There is wisdom in knowing that we need to be taught. Learning requires a high degree of listening (or taking knowledge in rather than putting information out) where talking is restrained on the part of the learner, except in interactive contexts, and only then when it’s absolutely necessary to facilitate learning.

I remember in seminary, Dr. Howard Hendricks said, “When I was a boy, my father taught me to take every opportunity to stand in the presence of wise men.” Then he said, “Always keep your mouth shut, except to ask a perceptive question.”

In Proverbs 10:19 Solomon wrote, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”

The ability to keep silent is a prerequisite to learning. The more proud and foolish a person is, the less willing they are to retrain their lips and listen to others.

In a book published back in 1970, Dr. Paul Tournier wrote: “Listen to the conversations of our world, between nations as well as between couples. They are, for the most part, dialogues of the deaf.” That’s a description of people who are “hard of listening.”

Why is listening – being quick to hear – so important to receiving God’s Word?

When James wrote these words to the dispersed Jewish believers throughout the Roman Empire, apart from the OT, there were no canonical Scriptures for the NT at this early date in the church’s infancy. James was first in terms of writing.

The epistles hadn’t been written yet and even the gospels hadn’t been written yet.

Therefore, all instruction in the gospel of Christ and in doctrine was oral as believers met from house to house. They gathered to listen to the apostles’ teaching as it was conveyed orally.

Listening became a matter of spiritual life or death. Those who didn’t listen didn’t receive God’s truth. Those who don’t know how to listen to God’s Word in any era become spiritually weak and divisive. Listening is still spiritually vital in our day.

Little or nothing can be learned by a person who refuses to stop talking.

Have you heard from God today?

Have you taken the time to read your Bible?

Take up and read! Be quick to hear and slow to speak.

May God use this teaching to enable us to profitably receive His Word.

For the glory of Christ,
Pastor Kevin