The Epistle of James --Part 1

The Epistle of James

Earl Miller

The Genuine Christian
James 1:17-27

Are you a Christian? Are you satisfied with your Christian life? Or do you feel that there is something lacking in your Christian life? Would you like to know what a genuine Christian really is? Then, let James writing by inspiration tell in the above text what a true Christian really is.

What Is A True Christian?

In the preceding verses, James had written about temptation as a solicitation to evil. He had exonerated God of any charge of evil or of tempting man. Evil comes from a source entirely apart from God, and it is everywhere present in this world. The Christian lives in this world of iniquity, yet he is not engulfed in this sea of wickedness. Why is this so? What is there in his nature that makes him so different from other men? James in the last ten verses of the first chapter, teaches what a true Christian is, and why he functions as he does.

Having just spoken about evil, James launches out on the opposite of evil, and writes about good. He says, “Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above.” The word gift is used twice in the English text, yet there are two entirely different words used in the Greek text. The first word is “dosis,” and refers to the act of giving. The second word “doreema” refers to the gift itself. So the act of giving and the gift itself come from above. James, in this way, draws attention first to the Giver. Why does God give? Simply, because it is His nature to give. He cannot do otherwise. God is not a Receiver; He is a Giver. Man has nothing that God needs or wants other than his love and life. But God is delighted to give gifts to men.

The gift, we are told, is perfect. The word perfect in the original Greek has the meaning of, “accomplishment, achievement, completion or reaching a goal.” The gift is designed to reach a definite goal. One can say then, “Every act of giving that is good and every gift designed to reach a goal are from above.”

The Father of Lights

This noble act of giving and the gift designed to accomplish a definite purpose come down from the “Father of Lights with whom there is no variableness neither shadow of turning.” Shadows change because of the turning (rotation) of the earth. Sometimes they are long and sometimes short, hence they are called “shadows of turning.” This is in contrast to the Father of Lights for He changes not. James alone uses this unique title of God. God created light; He commanded “Let there be light, and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). This is, no doubt, the reason James uses this title.

The Christian, A Miracle

Now what does this noble act of giving and the gift designed for perfection have to do with the true Christian? The answer is, “Much in every way.” Here stands the Christian in the midst of moral decay, but he is untouched by the filth of this world. There he stands as a testimony, nay more, as a display of purity in the midst of corruption. How can this be possible? What makes him so impervious to the evil around him? God’s noble act of giving and the gift designed to reach this goal, have come down from the Father of Lights and have wrought the miracle here displayed.

The Inter-Deistic Covenant

This miracle of the Christian in the world is clearly brought out in the next verse. “Of His own will begat He us with the Word of Truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” James plunges right into the heart of that which makes a Christian. The words “of His own will” are the translation of one Greek word “bouleetheis,” which is a first aorist participle, and is more correctly translated “having willed it.” This participle with its cognate noun “boulee,” according to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament denotes “the final result of inner deliberation, the official machinery of counsel and resolution.” This dictionary further adds, “the willing is also accomplishing.” Zodhiates, in his excellent book The Work of Faith - page 85, states, “This participle comes from the noun “boulee” which in ancient times was used to express the will and determination of the gods of ancient Greece.”

This word is, therefore, highly suggestive of the council among the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the remote Eternity before ever time or the world were brought into existence. Glimpses of this council may be had in the first and third chapters of Ephesians. There man’s salvation was willed, planned and accomplished. The inner deliberations of the eternal Godhead in that remote Eternity, took in every aspect of man’s salvation: his creation, his fall and subsequent ruin, the cost of redeeming him, and the worth of such salvation. The final outcome of that Council was, “having willed it.”

The aorist tense indicates a past action accomplished once for all.

The Cost of Salvation

Do we catch the significance of this council of the Triune God in that remote Eternity? The creation of man in the image of God, his fall and resulting ruin, and his restoration again into favor of God are tremendous issues. God Himself in the person of the Son, had to become man; sovereignty had to stoop to subjectivity, and the incarnate Son had to take on Himself man’s sin and bear the judgment due to sin on the cross. “The wages of sin is death,” and He tasted death for every man. The full import of these tremendous issues lies beyond the comprehension of the finite mind.

What Are We Worth To God?

Was man’s salvation worth such an enormous price? To man salvation is a free gift. He cannot buy it, nor can he work for it; it costs him nothing. Because this is so, there is a tendency to depreciate the cost of salvation. But salvation is a very costly thing; it cost God a tremendous price. This aspect of salvation was inwardly deliberated in the counsels of the Infinite, and, praise God, the decision reached was that salvation was worth the cost. An old axiom goes, “The purchase price determines the value of the purchased possession.” The price you pay for a home, determines the value of that home. What is true in the material realm is just as true in the spiritual. The price God paid for our redemption, determines our worth to God. Are you able to estimate your worth to God? Can you estimate the value of the blood of Christ? No finite being can estimate the value of that blood. Then, you cannot possibly estimate your own worth to God. The thought is staggering! When we look at our own puny selves, we wonder what we can be worth to God. But God can see what we cannot see, and to Him we are worth the price He paid for us. Perhaps when we are with Him in bodies like Christ’s own glorious body, we may be able to understand what we cannot now.

Is Salvation Secure?

Now, since God has invested so great a price for our redemption, do you suppose He would leave the keeping of that purchased possession in our own hands? Perish the thought! God is wiser than to leave so valuable a possession in the hands of puny man for safe keeping. No, He has sealed us with the Holy Spirit of promise unto the day of redemption (Eph. 1:13, 14). The thought there is that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit from the time we believed until we are with Him in Heaven, But, someone may say, “What if I do not remain faithful to Him to the end, am I still secure?” Shall we let Paul answer that question, “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12). What have you committed unto Him against that day? If you have committed your whole Christian life to Him, why worry? He is able. You would never be able to keep yourself faithful, but He is able to keep you. Just rest secure in His hands.

A Spiritual Birth

The 18th verse bears out the truth that when God wills something, it is as good as accomplished. Having willed it; He brought us forth. The Greek word translated “He begat us” is “apokueoo” which means “to be, or to become pregnant.” Why should the Holy Spirit use this word in connection with salvation? Simply because salvation is a birth, a spiritual birth. In the physical realm, pregnancy takes place by the union of two like-minded persons. Just so spiritual pregnancy takes place by the union of two like-minded persons. In the first place, God has finished a work which makes a spiritual birth possible, and He is willing that all should come to repentance. On the other hand, the sinner has a will of his own, and God will never force him into salvation against his own will. But when the sinner wills to take Christ as his own personal Saviour, then two like-minded persons come into union resulting in the new birth.

The means by which the new birth takes place is the “Word of Truth.” “He brought us forth with the Word of Truth.” This clause has direct reference to Christ Himself. He is the Word, and He is the Truth (John 1:1; 14:6). Jesus Christ is the only channel through which salvation can come.

Mr. Miller continues his exposition of the Epistle of James. His treatment of this section continues next number.