“Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” ~ James 1:17-18
Explanation of the Text: James uses verse 17 to reveal three things about the nature of God in relation to creation. It is important to understand these in order to understand why God cannot bring about temptation, as James just taught in the previous verses. The very first part of verse 17 explains that God is the giver of every good and perfect gift. By this alone, God cannot be one who tempts, because this would not be part of his nature in giving what is good and perfect. That which is good and perfect may include trials. Although one may encounter times of extreme difficulty, God has deemed this to be a good and perfect gift. Likewise, any blessing one may receive is part of that good and perfect gift. The idea of the gifts from God are that they are meant for exactly what a person needs. This means by nature, they are sufficient and complete (indicated by the word perfect). Nobody should need more or less than what God has provided, because as a sovereign god, He knows what each individual needs. That also means that each gift may look different for each person, as God deems appropriate and necessary for each individual believer and their growth.
James also calls God the ‘Father of Lights.’ This reference is to God’s role in creation. He is the creator of all the sun, moon, and stars. While this does reveal God as powerful in His ability to create and control, this also reveals His goodness. In the creation account of Genesis 1, God continually reflects on the goodness of His creation. Likewise, creation is part of the good and perfect gifts that God has given. Therefore, as part of His nature as the Father of Lights, He is good. Once again, this leads us to the understanding that He therefore, cannot bring about the temptation individuals face.
James also describes God as unchangeable. As humans, our perspective of the lights (sun, moon and stars) is the constant change. As day and night come and go, we see the change in darkness. Likewise, there are shadows cast around in darkness and light. Unlike these bodies, in God no darkness can be found and we can trust that God does not change. If God does not change, then we can trust that His giving of all things good also does not change. In order to have a right response to temptations, you must have a right perspective of who God is. Recognizing His character enables one to know that God does not bring about the temptations we face.
Finally, James closes out this section of verse by giving some examples of God’s good and perfect gifts.Those examples are His word of truth and believers, who are to be the firstfruits of creation. Through the examples of this verse, James reveals the position of humans in nature. Working backwards it can be seen that humans are to be the firstfruits of creation. In the Old Testament, firstfruits always referred to the first and best of the harvest. It was those firstfruits that God required for giving from believers. Look at what Proverbs 3:9-10 says:
“Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.”
The firstfruits were offered to God in faith that God was going to fulfill what He had already promised. Likewise, the significance is the same for believers. Each is called to be the firstfruits of creation, being a testimony of what God has done and what God is going to do in the future. A right response to temptation is indicative of being a firstfruit of creation!
James also reveals how one should be the firstfruits of God’s creation, which is through the process of regeneration which can only be obtained through Jesus Christ. James indicates that people are brought into being by God’s own will. It was not some other force or action, but rather it was by the will of God. It is then, by God’s own will that ‘he brought us forth by the word of truth.’ This phrase refers to the regeneration of every believer. Regeneration is the instantaneous work of the Holy Spirit by which a believer receives a new nature and life (John 3:3-7, Titus 3:5) when the person professes faith (1 Cor 6:19-20; Eph 2:10). Regeneration is manifested in a person’s life through attitude and conduct that is in line with obedience to God’s Word (1 Cor 6:19-20; Eph 2:10, 5:17-21; Phil 2:12b; Col 3:16; 2 Peter 2:10). This consistent obedience to God’s Word will lead a believer to conform more and more to the image of Christ Jesus and will of God through the process of progressive sanctification (John 17:17, 19; Rom 6:1-22; 2 Cor 3:18; 1 Thes 4:3-4, 5:23).
Examination & Application of the Text: As you reflect on the text for today’s Scripture, we see three parts of God’s activities or attributes that demand a response from us, as His children.
1) Resppnd to His Goodness: First we see God’s goodess presented, through His creation and through His giving. It is evident by the context of the Scripture here that the first response one should have in regard to God’s goodness is to not blame Him on the midst of tempatation. A second part to this, is replace the blame with thanksgiving. Realizing that God has given EVERY good and perfect gift, we should come before Him in thanksgiving, even in the most difficult of circumstances. In His omniscience, He has given us what we need in order to please Him, something we can’t do on our own, therefore, thank Him. Likewise, we should love Him. This love should not be based simply on the gifts that He gives us, but should be based on His character. Because He is indeed good, He is qorthy to be loved. We should lavish our love on Him in every way possible.
2) Respond to His Immutability: A second part of the character of God mentioned is His immutability, meaning that He never changes. It is because God never changes that we can trust what He says in His word will always be true. It is because God never changes that we can trust that His plan will continue according to His plan. It is because God never changes that we can trust in our eternal security, that once we are saved, we will always be saved. Trust is something we don’t freely give. There are many, who in giving out their trust to others, find themselves in a state of hurt because that trust was abused. Humans are sinful and fleshly, and in those circumstances both accountability and forgiveness need to be offered. But with God, we should freely trust Him, knowing that He is at work in our lives for our good, and that trust will never be misplaced when we place it in His hands. Therefore, as you dwell on who God is, trust Him, because He never changes.
3) Respond to His Will: The verse says that we were created of his will. Why? To be firstfruits of creation. Respond to the will of God by offering yourself as a firstfruit of creation. We do this by following Romans 12:1-2. Offer your complete lives as sacrifice to God by not being conformed to the world, but being transformed by the work of Jesus Christ! This is total commitment to God to let Him have His will in your life. It is complete submission to His authority.
As I have said previously, worship is a response to the activities and attributes of God (See the following link to see the article written regarding True Worship). Therefore, by responding to His goodness, His immutability, and His will, fall down in worship of Him. I can think of no better worship than offering Him your complete life on this day. If you have turned your back on God or if you have never trusted in Him at all, make this a day of renewal in which you fall in love with Him again, a day in which you verbally commit to Him, that your life is His to do as He pleases, and that you will seek His will first and foremost.