The greetings.

Grace and peace to you Beloved in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. I pray that you are growing in your faith. I pray that our studies have been helpful to that end. Wherever God has planted us, let’s seek to shine as the best disciples of Jesus Christ that we can be. Our whole desire is to live to bring Him glory. 

The Scripture.

Today is our seventh study in the book of James. I will read from James 1:16-18.  Hear God’s holy word. Read.

James 1:16. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. 

The prayer.

Please pray with me to ask God’s favor upon our study. Pray.

The study.

There is a maxim that says, do not miss the forest for the trees. The idea is that we ought not to be so involved with details that we miss the main point or truth. Of course, this is good counsel. The main idea of the book of James is to live worthy of Christ Jesus. (Phil.1:27, Col.1:10, Eph.4:1, Col.2:6, Eph.5:8, I Thess.2:12, I Jn.1:7)

James is writing to existing believers and he exhorts them to live a holy life to honor Christ’s holy gospel. I would argue that this is similar to Christ’s Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12 where Jesus lists the various characteristics and blessings of true Believers. In other words, both Christ and James are speaking about the life of good works that flow out of true and saving faith.

Well, my desire for this study has been to go slow and to really examine “the trees”. It is my purpose to study the various details of James’ instruction. That is why we are on study 7 and only halfway through chapter one. God places these details here for our instruction. (Rom.15:4, I Cor.10:11) Don’t be afraid to go slow in your study. Try to meditate and really consider each truth of Scripture. Our desire is not to finish a book quickly. Our desire is to be changed by the word of God into the image of Christ.

The doctrine.

The primary truth that James teaches in these passages is that our God is good and He gives good gifts to His children. God’s children are those with saving faith in Christ. (Jn.1:10-13, Gal.3:26-29)

I will unpack this truth as we go through our text. 

The affection.

James addresses these scattered Christians as “my beloved brothers”.

James 1:16. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

James is a half-brother to Jesus Christ. James is an apostle of Christ, immediately inspired by God the Holy Spirit to write Scripture. He is a pillar in the Jerusalem church. For all of these wonderful privileges he enjoys he still considers himself a brother to brothers. (I Pt.5:1-7, Heb.2:11, I Jn.3:14)

Part of the gifts that we Christians enjoy is that all Believers are our spiritual family purchased with Christ’s blood. Our natural family may oppose us and forsake us because we love Christ. But Christ has given us a larger family and one that is eternal.

What would the church look like if we as professing Christians really considered other professing Christians to be our real brothers and sisters in Jesus? Believers in Christ have a spiritual union and communion with the Triune God. The moment we are spiritually united to Christ our Head we are also spiritually united to Christ’s Body, which is His church. James expresses the relationship, and the friendship believers enjoy with one another by virtue of Christ’s merit. What a blessing. (WCF 26.1-3)

See how James manifests wise gentleness or gentle wisdom. He manifests Christ’s love towards Christ’s sheep. Love of fellow Christians is “the” mark that we truly love Christ. James’ motive in teaching God’s word is love, love to Christ and love to those that belong to Christ. (I Tim.1:5)

Our heart towards other Christians is often first revealed by our words to them and or about them, spoken or written. Our words are an indicator of the real spiritual state and health of our heart. How convicting. (Jas.3:8-12, Mt.12:33-37, Prov.4:23, Phil.4:8-9, Mt.15:18)

Listen to the wisest man in Scripture as regards to our speech.

Proverbs 16:21. The wise in heart will be called understanding, And sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. (Eph.4:29, Jas.2:12, I Tim.4:12)

And the Holy Spirit inspires Paul to say this.

Colossians 4:5. Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

The instruction.

The Greek verse actually does not open with “my brothers”. It opens with two Greek words that are translated, do not be deceived. This is in the second person plural. You all, do not be deceived.

James 1:16. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

The apostle Paul gives this exact admonition three times. (I Cor.6:9-11, I Cor.15:33, Gal.6:7)

It means do not go astray from right path. Do not wander from the truth. Deception means to accept as true that which is false.

Now here is another gift that we enjoy in Christ. God sends us teachers of the word to instruct us and to exhort us. What a blessing to have under-shepherds to watch out for the good of our souls in Christ. (Eph.4:11, Heb.13:17) 

By this exhortation, we are informed that real Christians can be deceived and that we have to be actively on our guard against it.

We know that the master deceiver is the devil. He tries to present God as unholy or unkind. At the same time, he tries to present himself as loving and caring.  Satan wants people to believe his lies about God.  This is exactly what he did with Eve in the Garden. He uses craftiness and deception.  (Gen.3:1-8, 2 Cor.11:3, I Tim.2:14) He tried to deceive Christ into sinning in the wilderness. (Mt.4:1-11) Satan tells us that God is not Good and that God does not give good gifts to His children. Satan says that he is good and he gives good gifts to those that obey him. What a liar he is!

The world tries to deceive Believers to call good evil and evil good. (Isa.5:20)

Our own fallen flesh deceives us – even as true Believers.

Jeremiah 17:9. The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? 10 “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.

James 1:14   But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.

The connection.

Now this exhortation is related to the previous instruction.

Remember what James has just taught. He taught that God tests and refines and strengthens the faith of all those in Christ. (James 1:2, 12) The tests and trials are often bitter and hard and sometimes long.

Then James taught us that when we are tempted to sin because of our bitter trials that it is not God that is tempting us to sin, that it is our own fallen flesh tempting us. We know also that the devil and the world under the devil’s power tempts us to sin against God.

So right after speaking about hard trials and painful temptations God the Holy Spirit is quick to say, but God gives good gifts to His children. You see the pains of life can tempt us to think that God is dealing with us harshly, but we are to reason by the word of God.

The Bible says that God gives good gifts to us. So, when we are in a hard time, we are to conclude that this is one of those good gifts. This is what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. (2 Cor.5:7, Rom.8:28) We are to live on every word of God. (Mt.4:4)

Isaiah 8:20   To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. (2 Tim.3:14-17)

How we keep from being deceived spiritually is to search the Scriptures. (Acts 17:11) Related to this is that we would rightly divide the Word of Truth (2 Tim.2:15) And not twist or pervert the true meaning of the Scriptures. (2 Pt.3:16)

Perhaps in Glory we will discover that all the tests and trials and suffering did us the most amount of spiritual good driving us to Christ Jesus, making us pray, motivating us to live by faith, exciting us to long for God, convincing us that the world is not our home, the devil is not our friend, and sin is not enjoyable, and that God alone is our true Gift.

The Giver.

Now let’s look at the Giver of our good gifts. God is referred to as the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

God is the father of the heavenly Lights, the maker of the sun, the moon, and the starry hosts.  (Ps.136:7-9, Jer.31:35) In the Bible light is often associated with God and His holiness and His goodness. (Jn.1:4-9, 3:19-21). Likewise, darkness often depicts the devil and sin (Lk.22:53)

Hebrews 12:9   Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 

1 John 1:5. This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.  6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;  7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

God is our heavenly Father. He is perfectly holy. He dwells in unapproachable light. Jesus Christ is the Light and the Life. And in Christ we become the children of light.

God does not change. He is good. And He is unchangeably good and holy. (Mal.3:6) Scripture says God is good. Our experience as creatures and especially as Christians testifies that He is good. As Believers we can say, He is good to me!

Psalm 107:1. Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. 2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary 3 And gathered from the lands, From the east and from the west, From the north and from the south. (Ps.145:7, Mk.10:18, Ps.34:8, Rom.8:28, Ps.31:19)

I John 4:16. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

Matthew 7:11  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! (Lk.11:13)

The recipients.

Let’s look at the recipients of God’s goodness. James tells his Christian brothers and sisters that God lavishes gifts upon us. 

James 1:16. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. 

James teaches in these passages is that our God is good and He gives good gifts to His children. God’s children are those with saving faith in Christ. (Jn.1:10-13, Gal.3:26-29)

John 1:11. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

I John 5:1. Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world– our faith.

The gifts – in general.

James says, every good thing given and every perfect gift. This means every material gift and every spiritual gift; every temporal gift and every eternal gift is from God to His children in Christ. We live by God’s giving. This is called grace.

James 1:17. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 

Material gifts.

God gives us material gifts. We pray, give us our daily bread and He does.

Exodus 20:11   For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and  all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Gen.1:1-4)

Psalm 19:1  The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.  ALL of Job 38-41.

Matthew 5:45  for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Acts 14:15-17)

Spiritual gifts.

God gives spiritual gifts. And for these, I want to consider them as we treat V.18.

The gift – in particular.

V.18 represents the greatest of gifts, that is our salvation in Christ. (See: Rom.8:26-39, God did not spare His own Son)

James 1:18. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

V.17 we can say represents all the other benefits we enjoy by being in Christ.

Ephesians 1:3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

The most perfect gift that God gives us is our new birth.

John 3:5. Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  7 “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  8 “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

John 1:12. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (Rom.9:13-16)

In this gift God gives us Himself. God gifts us with union and communion with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. God is our gift! Knowing God, being known by God, Loving God, being loved by God is our gift! (Rom.8:14-16)

The means.

Next, we see the means whereby God draws us to Christ savingly, and that is His holy word. (Side note: and not by the baptismal font.)

We hear of Christ by the word of truth. (2 Cor.6:7, Eph.1:13, Col.1:5, 2 Tim.2:15, Rom.10:1-17, Jn.17:1-17, 2 Tim.3:14-17)

2 Timothy 3:15. and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

 Romans 10:17. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (I Cor.4:15, 2 Cor.5:17, Col.3:10)

1 Peter 1:23  for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.

What a gift to have the Bible. How many live and die without the Word of God? What a gift to have the gospel presented to us in purity and simplicity? How many live and die without the message of the Cross? How many professing Christians live and die in churches that obscure the gospel with the traditions of men? Oh, blessings to have the gospel of Jesus Christ. (Jn.3:16)

And not only to have the gospel but implied in this is that the Holy Spirit has effectually applied the gospel to Us.

Listen to this.

WSC 31 What is effectual calling?

  1. Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit,(1) whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery,(2) enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ,(3) and renewing our wills,(4) he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.(5)    (1) 2 Tim 1:9; 2 Thess. 2:13,14 (2) Acts 2:37 (3) Acts 26:18 (4) Ezek. 36:26,27   (5) John 6:44,45; Phil. 2:13

Now let’s think on some of the gifts we enjoy in Jesus. Think of the fruits of the Holy Spirit we enjoy in Christ.

Galatians 5:22. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Think of this summary of gifts we have as Believers.

The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end. (WSC 36, Rom. 5:1,2,5, Rom. 14:17, Prov. 4:18, 1 John 5:13; 1 Pet. 1:5) 

The purpose.

God has a purpose in saving us in Christ. Part of that purpose is to separate out a people for Himself, a holy and a devoted people. James uses language familiar to the Jewish saints. He calls Believers the first fruits of God. 

James 1:18. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

In the OT, the first-fruits were holy and especially belonged to God.  We see, the first fruits of the field, of cattle and flocks, and of men. (Exod.23:16, 34:22, Lev.19:23-25, Num.15:20-21, Dt.18:4, Ezek.44:30)

Jeremiah 2:3  Israel was holy to the LORD, The first of His harvest. (I Cor.16:15, Rev.14:4)

Romans 11:16. If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too.

I Corinthians 15:20. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.

Romans 8:23. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

What a gift to be called out of sin and the world and separated unto God. (2 Cor.6:14-18) What a gift to be gathered in as wheat, waiting for the great harvest of souls, to be brought in on the Final Day. Oh, Beloved Believer, God is so good. He is so good to us. May our lives reflect His goodness.

Amen

Study Questions.

  1. What do we learn by James addressing fellow Christians as “my beloved brothers”?  How are we made brothers? How does his affectionate address manifest gentleness, wisdom and love as a religious teacher? What lessons do we learn by this? What gifts of God does James teach us we possess in James 1:16? (James 1:16, I Pt.5:1-7, Heb.2:11, I Jn.3:14, WCF 26.1-3)
  1. Since our speech to other Believers and about other Believers indicates the nature and the spiritual health of our heart what is the state of your sanctification? How then should we speak to others? How do we speak to and about others? What should be the motive of our religious instruction and speech? (Mt.12:33-37, Prov.18:21, James 3:8, Eph.4:29, Col.4:6, Prov.15:1-2, Prov.21:23, James 1:26)
  1. What does it mean to be deceived? What lessons do we learn by his admonition that we not be deceived? What agents seek to deceived us? What is the common method in religious deception? Think of Eve. Think of Christ in the wilderness. What blessings or gifts from God do we possess by His minister warning us not to be religiously deceived? How do we prevent ourselves from being religious deceived? (James 1:16, I Cor.6:9-11, I Cor.15:33, Gen.3:1-8, 2 Cor.11:3, I Tim.2:14, Mt.4:1-11, Jer.17:9-10, Isa.5:20, James 1:14, Gal.6:7, Eph.4:11, Heb.13:17, 2 Tim.3:14-17)
  1. How does James’ previous teaching on trials and temptations relate to his exhortation to not be deceived and that God gives us good gifts? Why or how can trials and temptations incite us to think that God is not good and that He has not given good things to us? What should we do about this? (James 1:2, 12, 14, Mt.4:4, 2 Tim.3:14-17, 2 Cor.5:7, Job 1:21-22, Job 2:10, Rom.8:28)
  1. God is the giver of all good gifts. What lessons about God do we learn by figures of light and unchangeableness? All that we have comes from God, what lessons do we learn about God and about us by this? (James 1:16-18, Ps.136:7-9, Jer.31:35, Jn.1:4-9, 3:19-21, Lk.22:53, Heb.12:9, I Jn.1:5-7, Mal.3:6, Ps.107:1-3, Ps.145:7, Mk.10:18, Ps.34:8, Rom.8:28, Ps.31:19, I Jn.4:16, Mt.7:11, Lk.11:13)
  1. Who are the recipients of God’s good gifts in James 1:16-18? Are they believers and or unbelievers? What gifts does God give unbelievers? What gifts do Christians enjoy that unbelievers do not enjoy? (James 1:16-18, Jn.1:10-13, Gal.3:26-29, I Jn.5:1-4, Mt.5:45, Acts 14:15-17)
  1. Why is our spiritual re-birth or salvation in Christ our greatest gift? In what way is God Himself our greatest gift? (James 1:18, Rom.3:26-39, Eph.1:3, Jn.3:5-8, Jn.1:12, Rom.9:13-16, Rom.8:14-16)
  1. What is the outward means that God makes us His children or brings us to Christ savingly? What lessons do we learn by this? Does the Bible say that God brings us for (or spiritual begets us) by the baptismal font? What lessons do we learn by this? What gifts of God do we possess as represented by James 1:18? (2 Tim.3:14-17, Jn.3:16, James 1:18, 2 Cor.6:7, Eph.1:13, Col.1:5, 2 Tim.2:15, Rom.10:1-17, Jn.17:1-17, 2 Tim.3:14-17, Rom.10:17, I Cor.4:15, 2 Cor.5:17, Col.3:10, I Pt.1:23)
  1. What is the inward means that God brings us to Christ savingly? Or, what is effectual calling? Why is this a gift? Does the mass of mankind possess this gift of God? How does this make us estimate this gift? (2 Tim.1:9, 2 Thess.2:13-14, Acts 2:37, Acts 26:18, Ezek.36:26-27, Jn.6:44-45, Phil.2:13, WSC 31, I Cor.2:4)
  1. What does it mean to be God’s first fruits? What are some gifts or privileges we enjoy by being God’s first fruits in Christ? (James 1:17-18, Exod.23:16, 34:22, Lev.19:23-25, Num.15:20-21, Dt.18:4, Ezek.44:30, Jer.2:3, I Cor.16:15, Rev.14:4, Rom.11:16, I Cor.15:20-22, Rom.8:23, 2 Cor.6:14-18)

 

 

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