Lesson 4 - Chapter 1:17-18

Lesson 4 - Chapter 1:17-18

Lesson for January 26, 2013

The Book of James

Chapter 1:17-18

Verse 17

“Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

Stop being deceived from the previous verse joins two thoughts; 1) you can share the happiness of God in the midst of adversity or prosperity 2) capacity for life as a believer comes from the grace of God. The Greek word for good is “agathos,”which means good of intrinsic value. This is the word that is used for divine good. Good of intrinsic value means everything thing that comes from God. As an advancing member of the family of God, God is going to give you a certain amount of prosperity. The only way to be prepared for it is to have capacity, and capacity comes from Bible doctrine. Capacity for life, capacity to appreciate and enjoy things in life comes from Bible doctrine in your soul. So the more you take in doctrine, the sooner you will be prepared for prosperity when it comes. Without doctrine you are going to fail the prosperity test. The same thing is true of adversity.

God gives on the basis of His essence or His character. What is intrinsic value? An example is gold, which has intrinsic value. It always has intrinsic value. No matter where you find it, it still has intrinsic value. Gold does not change its value because of its locale. That is what we call intrinsic value. God does not stop giving things because you have failed Him. God gives on the basis of His character; God does not give on the basis of your character. If you are going to stop deceiving yourself you have to go back to the fact that God never gave you anything on the basis of your character, on the basis of who and what you are. Self-deceit is failure to understand God’s grace. Good gifts are everything that God gives you whether it is spiritual or material, social, or whatever it is. Why? Because God is perfect, and therefore if God gives you something, what He gives you is perfect and it always has intrinsic value. God gives on the basis of Who He is. God is going to provide for you even if you are the world’s worst “sinner.” You are in His family. Perfect gift is everything that you have in life as a result of your faith in Christ as your Savior. God keeps on giving to all categories of believers; out-of-fellowship believers, spiritual believers, immature believers, and mature believers.

At the point of salvation we receive the greatest of all gifts, Jesus Christ. Then we receive the good gifts, and they are divided into spiritual and material. God has many things He wants to give you. He wants to give them to you right now. Some He will give you because they don’t depend upon your volition, and some He can’t give you because they do depend upon your volition, but He has all these gifts which are stored above. The food you eat, the air you breathe, the clothes you wear, the friends you have, the shelter you have, your safety, your health, your life, everything you have since salvation comes from above. As believers in Jesus Christ we cannot say, “I have this because of who I am.” Grace orientation keeps you from being deceived into believing that everything you have or ever will have is based on who you are or on your human good works. God is your Father and He gives on the basis of His character.

Use “the season of prosperity” to study and learn Bible doctrine. You can use your prosperity now and take in Bible doctrine and you will have it for the periods of disaster. Grabbing a promise and saying a quick prayer when disaster hits is not the answer. The concept is to draw upon the depth of inner resources of Bible doctrine within a frame of reference so that the doctrine in your soul is so stabilized that the application becomes routine and you don’t even miss a step as far as your Christian experience is concerned.

Doctrine is to be stored categorically in your soul. However, it is not listed categorically in the Bible. That is why when we study a doctrine we often go to many areas of the Scripture and something on that doctrine will be found in many different books of the Bible. So the word “lights” is to show the diversification of Bible doctrine. Doctrine is diversified to meet all conditions of life and the conditions of life need light shed upon them. There is an idiom we use in the English: “I wish you would shed a little light on this, or I wish you would enlighten me.” It means the same thing and that is the concept here — to be enlightened by means of Bible doctrine. Psalm 119:130, “The entrance of thy word gives light.” The entrance of the Word is that point of time when you get light from hearing the Word of God and when it enters your soul. Then the Word of God begins to construct the edification complex. So this is the light is synonymous the Edification Complex of the Soul.

What is the source of the light? God the Father is the source of light. Between you and your heavenly Father is a bridge. That bridge is Bible doctrine. He has not left you in the dark. He is the “Father of lights,” plural. He is the source of lights in your soul so that your soul is enlightened and not in darkness. An enlightened soul is able to cope with all circumstances in life — prosperity and adversity. It is a command that through Bible doctrine you are to have lights in your soul.

There is no change, variation or shifting in God’s grace. God’s graciousness is also related to His immutability and His faithfulness. God’s faithfulness is directly declared: 1) 1 John 1:9, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins 2) 1 Corinthians 10:13, God is faithful Who will not allow you to be tested above what you are able to bear 3) 1 Thessalonians 5:24, in provision 4) II Thessalonians 3:3, in protection 4) II Timothy 2:13, when we are faithless 5) Hebrews 10:23, in keeping His promises 6) 1 Corinthians 1:9, in following His plan.

Verse 18

“In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures.”

If we are going to walk across the bridge between us and the Father in time, if we are ever going to be enlightened about who and what God is and what His plan is, how He has provided for us in every circumstance of life, how we can share His perfect happiness and blessing, and face every situation in life, then we must be consistent in the intake and application of Bible doctrine.

He brought us forth is a reference to our spiritual birth; what we call regeneration in theology. Notice that regeneration takes place in time. The plan came first. God made plans in eternity past for us and He puts them into action in time. One of the things that makes the plan of God so great for your life and it can’t be improved upon is that it was designed in eternity past when God knew all the whys and wherefores, all the situations. You have been born again and it is a spiritual birth, and God has a plan for your life. If you are saying: “If God has a plan for my life, why am I so miserable?” The answer is because you are operating on your plan. You chose your plan over His, that’s all.

God’s plan is learned progressively, step-by-step, doctrine-by-doctrine, line upon line and precept upon precept. God has a plan for you but you also have free will and God is a gentleman. He will not overstep your volition. You have to choose His plan daily and build up a storehouse, a warehouse full of things for the time of disaster or prosperity. God actually does have a plan for your life! If you choose your plan over God’s it is just simply saying that you are smarter than God. If you choose God, and if you choose God’s plan, it must come from your volition. God does not try to coerce you. God wants you on the basis of your own soul. It is imperative that you understand that your free will must be involved in anything that is worthwhile. You must be willing.

What does it mean to be a first fruit? First fruit means first in rank, the fruit that is ripe and ready to be picked. It is an analogy of a person who has believed in Jesus Christ for salvation and is advancing in the spiritual life. Those who reject God’s plan for their lives are not fit to be picked by analogy in this verse.

The Doctrine of Divine Decrees

  1. The divine decrees are the sum total of God’s plan, designed for believers in eternity past.
  2. Obviously the plan centers around the Person of Jesus Christ (1 John 3:23; Ephesians 1:4-6)
  3. Entrance into the plan is based on the principle of grace whereby the sovereignty of God and the free will of man meet at the Cross. The sovereignty of God meets with a completed salvation package; man brings his faith which is non-meritorious; faith in Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  4. God’s plan was so designed in eternity past so as to include all events and actions related to their causes and conditions as a part of an indivisible system, every link being a part of the integrity of the whole system.
  5. The same thing theologically: The decree of God is His eternal, holy, wise and sovereign purpose, comprehending at once all things that ever were or will be, their causes, conditions, successions and relations and determining their certain fruition.
  6. Under His plan God has decreed to do some things directly and some through agencies, i.e., Israel, the Church, pastor-teachers, and so on. Without interfering with human volition in any way God has designed a plan so perfect that it includes cause and effect, directive, provision, preservation and function for all believers.
  7. There are primary, secondary and more functions within the plan of God but they all constitute one great all-comprehensive plan which is perfect, eternal, unchangeable, and without loss of integrity.
  8. The plan of God is consistent with human freedom and does not limit or coerce human freedom. However, distinction should be made between what God causes — He caused the Cross — and what God permits; He permits sin, but doesn’t cause sin. God created man with a free will and He permits human freedom to function in a bona fide way. This is how Adam sinned. But God is not the author of sin; God is not the sponsor of sin. Man’s volition is the source of sin in the human race, not God. However, the fact remains that the plan of God is consistent with freedom.
  9. God never condoned or caused sin in the human race. Man started in perfect environment — in innocence, as it is called. God warned man against sin and its consequences. So it was up to man. It rested with man and his free will. God gave him clear and adequate warning and man eventually made a choice.
  10. Distinction should be made between the divine decrees, which are related to the plan of God in design and action, and divine laws which regulate human conduct and function in the universe. There is a difference between the divine decrees and divine laws. This is a distinction of time and eternity. Divine decrees occurred in eternity; the divine laws regulate human conduct and function on the earth and in the universe, and also preserve mankind.
  11. God’s decrees do not arise from His foreknowledge. The foreknowledge of God makes nothing certain, it merely perceives in eternity past the things that are certain.
  12. So we distinguish, then, logically between foreknowledge and foreordination. The fact that God knew that you would have problems and difficulties and trials is not a part of the decrees; what He provided for them in His plan is. He knew you would have problems but He provided; he decreed provision so that you could be taken care of and have happiness, blessing and stability in the midst of every disaster of life. He knew that you would have prosperity and He provided for that. The decree provides. His foreknowledge ensured that He would make exact provision for the trouble. What makes His plan certain is the decree, not the foreknowledge. The foreknowledge is merely a way of preparing, to anticipate the problems, the needs, the situations, the circumstances of your life. Foreordination establishes certainty but doesn’t provide for the certainty which is established; it is the decree that provides. This is taught in Romans 8:29; Acts 2:23; 1 Peter 1:2.
  13. Therefore the elect are foreknown and the foreknown are elect. God knew ahead of time which way every free will would decide at any given point in history. For example, God knew all of the problems that you would have today. He knew ultimately which decisions you would make and He made provision for them. It all adds up to grace. The provision is all there; he provided all things. The decision was yours. You could have missed many things just by saying no. God does not coerce human volition but He does know which way human volition will operate at any given point. This does not imply divine coercion. God’s plan anticipates every decision in history. As free will decides so God provides. However, God did the providing before the free will actually “decided.” This is the concept of 1 John 3:23.
  14. Since God cannot contradict His own essence, He plans the best for the believer. God is perfect; His plan and His provision are therefore perfect.
  15. The Cross was decreed in eternity past but the human volition of Christ decided for the Cross at Gethsemane — Matthew 26:39, 42. That is a decision made in time. It was decided many times before but Gethsemane was where the great test was faced and where the ultimate final decision was made. God has provided salvation through the Cross but it has to be your free will choice, and your free will can be expressed only in a non-meritorious way. Free will can be expressed but God has laid down the lines for the expression of a yes. Yes can be expressed only by believing, because believing is non-meritorious. So it is whosoever believes in Christ. The merit is in Jesus Christ and His work on the Cross. The Cross is efficacious; there is no merit in believing. So free will can operate only one way when it comes to salvation and that has to be compatible with grace, something totally apart from merit. That is why the Bible says to believe. Nowhere in the Bible does salvation depend on feeling sorry for sins, walking an aisle, raising your hand, jumping through some kind of a psychological hoop, inviting Christ into your heart or any other system of human good works.