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James 1:16-18: Good Gifts

I love gifts! I know that Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). But receiving isn’t too bad either! Think for a moment about the worst and the best gifts you ever received.

What is the worst gift you ever received? I remember when our family used to have a Christmas gift exchange. I think the dollar limit was $10.00. Well we found a very nice gift to exchange for probably a bit over the limit of 10 bucks. On Christmas Eve, parents, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, et al, gathered, it was a packed house. Then we began to exchange our gifts, what an exciting time, until I got my gift, a pair of socks that were made of very thin material and were about 3 sizes too small. I imagined that they came from a Thrift store, or at best, one of those stores that advertise, “nothing over 99¢.”

What’s the best gift you ever received? Well for me, salvation was the best gift. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9). The second best gift was when Marlena Miller agreed to be my wife, 61 years ago. When I became a Christian, Marlena gave me a great gift, my first Christian book, Clarence Larkin’s “Dispensational Truth.”

Verse 17a: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above…”

“Every” means all without exception. Every good thing from the all good God.

“Good gift” identifies the giving as useful, profitable and beneficial for the receiver.

The Greek word for “good” is agathos, it means, “intrinsically good, inherently good in quality but with the idea of good which is also profitable, useful, benefiting others, benevolent (marked by or disposed to doing good). Good and doing good is the idea. Agathos describes that which is beneficial in addition to being good. Agathos is that which is good in its character, beneficial in its effects and/or useful in its action.” –

The word “gift” denotes the act of giving. The emphasis is on the Giver. God is the Author of each and every good gift.

“Perfect” in Greek is teleios, from telos: an end, a purpose, an aim, a goal. It means complete, mature, fully developed, full grown, brought to its end, finished, wanting nothing necessary to completeness, in good working order. Teleios signifies consummate soundness, and includes the idea of being whole. “Perfect” identifies the gift as lacking nothing for completeness and thus lacking nothing to meet the needs of the recipients.

“Perfect, complete or without defect. In addition, this also could mean that what God gives us, is perfectly suited for us and the stage in our life when it is given.” –Mark Dunagan

“For the source of all truly beneficial giving is God, and the source of every gift which is perfect in its entirety, is God.” –Peter Pett

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…”

Verse 17b: “…and comes down from the Father of lights…”

“Comes down…” from heaven, the realm of God:

1 Kings 8:30, “…then hear in heaven Your dwelling place…”

Psalm 11:4, “The Lord is in His holy Temple. The Lord's throne is in heaven.”

Psalm 14:2; 33:13; 53:2, “The Lord looks down from heaven.”

Isaiah 63:15, “Look down from heaven and see Your habitation, holy and glorious.”

Isaiah 63:1, “Oh, that You would tear open the heavens, that You would come down.”

“The Father of lights.” God is the source of all light. “Then God said, ‘Let there be light;’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).

God’s gift of light (the sun) was perfectly planned. The sun is 93,000,000 miles from earth, exactly the right distance to provide us with what we need for life.

It is the power of the sun that lifts water from the earth in the form of vapor and makes rainfall possible over the earth. It is the power of the sun that drives the winds of the world that carries rainclouds over then land.

The sun's enormous energy heats our planet just enough so that Earth's surface is the right temperature for liquid water, without which we could not live.

If the sun disappeared, Earth, along with all the other planets, would go flying off into space, and we humans would be lost in space. It would be complete and utter chaos in our solar system. Earth's oceans would grow ever colder, eventually freezing over,

So the Sun is the center of our solar system. Everything in our solar system revolves around the Sun. It's impossible to understand fully how crucial the Sun is to life on Earth and the very existence of all the other planets around us. And God created the sun!

“Then God said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years. Let these lights in the sky shine down on the earth.” And that is what happened. God made two great lights—the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set these lights in the sky to light the earth, to govern the day and night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:14-18 MSG).

And, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the “Light of the world.”

Colossians 1:17,18 MSG, “We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment.”

1 John 1:5, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”

John 8:12, Jesus is, “The light of the world.”

1 Timothy 6:15,16). “He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light…”

Light, in the Scriptures is the emblem of knowledge, purity, happiness; and God is often represented as light.

James Nisbet give us 4 thoughts about God as light:

1. God is, the light of the natural world, the sun and moon and stars shining brightly in the heavens own Him as their Lord, and bear testimony to their Creator by their unfading beauty and their wonderful order from generation to generation.

2. God is, the light of reason and the light of conscience speaking with a still, small voice within the soul of man compel him to turn his eyes heavenward, if he would learn in comfort and in hope the secret of his origin and his destiny.

3. God is, the light of the prophets of old and the precepts of the law, sometimes obscured by clouds, sometimes hidden by darkness, bursts into a perfect blaze of splendor in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

4. God is, the light, that shines from the heavenly city to guide the pilgrim as he toils along; and if, sometimes, the clouds and mists that arise from earth cause its rays to be indistinctly seen, yet still, if eagerly and enthusiastically welcomed, they are bright enough to guide him to his home. (edited by Dr. John)

The Father of Lights is not too far above His creation to take care of His children. It is in His good pleasure to give freely to His children. And He is the all-wise and all-loving, so all of Hos gifts are perfect, that which supplies our e very need. And He knows what we need!

The old-time evangelist, Reuben “Uncle Bud” Robinson (1860-1942) was holding a revival meeting when a woman told him her husband had died, she said, “God told me to give you all of my husband’s suits, would you come to my house and try them on?” Uncle Bud responded with, “God knows my size.” God never gives us any gift that’s not just the right size!

Verse 17c: “…with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

James represents God as the “Father (Creator) of lights,” diffusing His radiance through all of His creation. But, unlike our sun, moon and stars, which change as the day progresses, and as they turn, they cause shadows on the earth, God does not change! God is the constant and ever present source of good, not dealing it out at one time with a sparing, at another.

“Not only is God good in the gifts He gives, but in who He is. In Him there is no variableness or shadow of turning. That is, He’s not moody. He doesn’t have bad days. He’s not generous with me one day, but grouchy the next—as I can so often be. We’re variable. We go up and down. God doesn’t. He can be nothing but good. He doesn’t react to me according to how I’m doing with Him. He is faithful when I am faithless (2 Timothy 2:13). He is good when I am grumpy. He doesn’t change. He’s locked into His nature. That’s why I love the Lord so much. He’s solid as a Rock. And I can just enjoy Him without worrying about Him being ticked with me or tired of me. He gives nothing but good gifts, for He is a good God.” –John Courson

Life is pretty uncertain, change is inevitable, we change with every wind. Our lives change, people leave us, and relationships end. Our homes change, Marlena and I have moved more times than she likes to think about! Our health changes, there was a time when I could walk, actually run, and play football, basketball, volleyball, et al. Our jobs change, very few of us stay at one job for an entire life, and our clothing changes, there was a time when I wore a suit and tie every day, most pastor’s did, but now, it seems t is rare to wear a suit. So everything in life changes, but aren’t you glad there is someone whom we can look to for sustenance, and help for all of life’s problems who is always the same? We are thankful and blessed that our God never changes?

He is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Psalm 102:27, “But You are always the same; You will live forever.”

Malachi 3:6, “I am the Lord, and I do not change.”

Abide with Me

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;

the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.

When other helpers fail and comforts flee,

Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;

earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away.

Change and decay in all around I see.

O Lord who changes not, abide with me.

–Henry Francis Lyte (1847)–

Verse 18a: “Of His own will He brought us forth…”

“Brought us forth…” The Greek word is apekueo, from apo, “to cease from,” and kueo, “to swell,” so it means to cease from being pregnant. This describes the birthing process. To bring forth from the womb, to give birth. It is notable that apekueo is never used for creation, so that James is not explaining the creation of a living human race in general, but the re-creation (redemption) of a spiritually dead human race. “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins…” (Ephesians 2:1).

James continues his discussion of the generous goodness of God as he associates it with the best gift of all, our salvation. Our salvation is a gift form God! “For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many” (Romans 5:15). “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8). the new birth or our regeneration by the Spirit. Our salvation had to nothing do with our merit. It is a reflection of His marvelous, magnanimous grace…“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”

Verse 18b: “…by the word of truth…”

John 17:17, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”

Colossians 1:5, “…because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel…”

2 Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

2 Corinthians 6:4;7, “But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God…by the word of truth, by the power of God…”

Psalm 119:160, “The entirety of Your word is truth.”

“The word of truth” is a direct reference to the Gospel, “…because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel” (Colossians 1:5)., “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16). “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). God's “word of truth” message effects regeneration in the hearts of those who hear and receive the truth.

1 Thessalonians 2:13, “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

1 Peter 1:23, “…having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.”

There is no paradigm shift in the Word of God, it has not changed! The Holy Spirit has not changed! Jesus is still the same! “Yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). And the anointed word has not changed! Psalm 119:160, “The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.” Psalm 119:89, “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.”

“…that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”

Throughout the Bible, the harvest carries spiritual significance. The “firstfruits” symbolism would be familiar to Paul’s Jewish converts. Just as the “firstfruits” herald a new season, so those who are brought to salvation by the word of truth declare a new order in the spiritual world. God is calling a spiritual harvest out of the world and into eternity!

God instructed His people to give God the best of the animal sacrifices (Leviticus 1-5). The land is also viewed as a gift from God its “firstfruits,” were to be given to him: crops (Exodus 23:16; 23:19), wheat (Exodus 34:22; Leviticus 2:14; 23:20), olive oil (Numbers 18:12; Deuteronomy 18:4), new wine ( Numbers 18:12; Deuteronomy 18:4), honey (2 Chronicles 31:5), sheep wool (Deuteronmy18:4), and fruit (Nehemiah 10:35). The Old Testament makes it clear that everything that God's people had was to be viewed as from God and gained through his providence (Psalm 50:10 ).

“Firstfruits” is related to the Jewish term that refers to that which is set apart to God before remainder could be used. Under the Mosaic Law Israel was to bring the first fruits of the grain to the Lord and in this act they were acknowledging that all produce was God's. The “firstfruits” of a harvest of grain was an indication of a greater harvest to come. The “firstfruits were considered holy and were to be set aside and considered as belonging specifically to the Lord. The first portion of the harvest was regarded both as a first installment and as a pledge of the final delivery of the whole and were offered to God in thanksgiving for His goodness in providing them.

As the firstfruits of a harvest was a foretaste of the harvest to come. So the Holy Spirit in His work, is God’s assurance of the greater blessings to come. The Holy Spirit is the pledge of our full adoption as God’s children, when our bodies are redeemed.

“The Holy Spirit, indwelling the believer, is the “firstfruits” of the full harvest of the Cross…The phrase “the firstfruits of the Spirit” does not mean that believers possess a part of the Holy Spirit now and will possess Him entirely hereafter. He Himself is the earnest of the liberty of the glory hereafter to be enjoyed both by the children of God and by creation. So Christ is spoken of in His resurrection in relation to all who have fallen asleep in Him.” –W.E. Vine

1 Corinthians 15:20-23, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.”

Basically the “firstfruits” is the promise of more to come, a greater harvest. Israel was described as the “firstfruits of God's harvest” (Jeremiah 2:3). Israel was to be a pledge of a greater harvest inasmuch as she would experience God's redemption and witness of this redemption to the nations, that they too might come to know the God of Israel.

God said, “Everything under heaven is Mine” (Job 41:11). “All the world is Mine and everything in it” (Psalm 50:12 NLT). “For everything comes from Him and exists by his power and is intended for His glory” (Romans 11:36 NLT). “Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out” (Romans 11:33 MSG). Whatever we may think we give to Him, it is simply a matter of returning to Him what is already His. “If you start thinking to yourselves, “I did all this. And all by myself. I’m rich. It’s all mine!”—well, think again. Remember that God, your God, gave you the strength to produce all this wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17,18 MSG).

A church was in need of more parking, so they asked the business man next door if they could use his lot on Sundays. The man agreed that they could use the parking lot for 51 Sundays, when asked, “Why 51 Sundays? The man replied, “just so you won’t forget, the lot is mine!”

Remember what happened to Nebuchadnezzar when he boasted, “’Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?’ While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.’

That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws. ‘And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’

At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down’” (Daniel 4:34-36).

Be careful what you brag about!

Giving God our “firstfruits.” Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9,10).

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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