Steps to Achieving Righteousness

Steps to Achieving RighteousnessText: James 1:19-22

The book of James is filled with practical instructions for our lives as Christians. In our text, James discussed – in practical terms – how to be righteous. Our goal is to “achieve the righteousness of God.” How do we do that? James outlined four steps we can take to achieve righteousness.

Be Quick to Hear (v. 19)

  • We must have a willingness to listen – in context, this is about hearing God’s word (v. 21; cf. Luke 8:8; Nehemiah 8:1, 3)
  • Quick to hear and slow to speak – not quick to respond with what we already know/think; we don’t learn anything that way; we need to listen because we don’t know everything (Job 40:1-5)
  • Quick to hear and slow to anger – not quick to react emotionally (usually the emotion is anger); anger does not lead to righteousness; cannot rationally arrive at the truth that way (Isaiah 1:18; Acts 17:2-3, 11)

Put Aside All Filthiness (v. 21)

  • Filthiness – moral defilement (Thayer); this is sin; all have sinned (Romans 3:23); but we are expected to put away sin (1 John 2:1)
  • Wickedness – wickedness that is not ashamed to break laws (Thayer); we need to feel guilt for sin (Jeremiah 6:15); our conscience helps keep us doing right (Hebrews 5:14; 1 Timothy 4:2)
  • We will either be slaves of sin or slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:16-18) – we must not continue in sin (Romans 6:1-2); be dead to sin (Romans 6:11)

Receive the Word Implanted (v. 21)

  • We already talked about the importance of listening – be “quick to hear” the word of God; this is important, but just listening to the word does not make us righteous (Acts 17:19-21; 24:24-27)
  • The word must be planted in our heart – written on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10); this requires study (2 Timothy 2:15) and meditation (Psalm 119:97)
  • After the word is planted in our heart, it should naturally produce fruit (Luke 8:15) – grow in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18)

Be Doers of the Word (v. 22)

  • It is important to hear God’s word, study it, meditate upon it, and believe it to be true – but if we do not obey God’s word, we are deceiving ourselves (Matthew 7:21-23)
  • Righteousness is not a “status” granted to us arbitrarily – we must practice righteousness (1 John 3:7); obedience results in righteousness (Romans 6:16)
  • The righteous live by faith (Romans 1:17) – this faith is an obedient faith (Romans 1:5; James 2:26); all of this is about how we can save our souls (v. 21); Jesus saves those who obey Him (Hebrews 5:9)


  • Our goal is to “achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20)
  • We do not need anything that will hinder this – anger, wickedness, arrogance, etc.
  • We need to focus on what helps us achieve this – listening, repentance, humility, obedience
  • If we will do these things, we can be counted by God as righteous

Adapted from a podcast by Steve Ellis.

When you subscribe, you’ll also receive 3 free PDF’s: Plain Bible Teaching on Hope, the latest issue of Plain Bible Teaching Quarterly Review, and Road Trip.