"Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."
This verse really doesn't seem to fit in context with the rest of James 1 unless what James is saying is that this bringing forth is one of the "good and perfect gifts" that come down from the Father of Lights. And so it is! In the previous verses James is demonstrating to us the outcome of sin in our life. In the following verses he demonstrates the effect of righteousness. And so 1:18 is a pivotal verse that we need to look at very carefully.
HIS OWN WILL (the Agent). All good theology begins with God. This is axiomatic. But LIVING theology also begins with God. The word "brought us forth" is the word to "beget" or to birth. This reminds me of John 1 where God calls us children "who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." In our human relations it is the "will" of husband and wife (in the first century it was considered entirely the husband's will, but studies have proved that a woman CAN sometimes 'shut up her womb' while still having sex because she does not want to love a child into being). And that procreative will -- that incarnational will -- is a very powerful thing. When biology is working correctly, the deep love between husband and wife that draws them into a place of intimacy far greater than just the sex act CREATES. And there is no better home than the womb of a mother who loves the child and has a husband who stands by loving the child they created together. How much more the FORCE of will that brings a soul to life as Christ is formed in the child of the New Birth?
BROUGHT US FORTH (the Action). I was fortunate enough to be present at the birth of both of my children. I can't explain what I mean by what I'm about to say, but I KNEW them from the womb. I knew what they looked like as surely before they were born as after. The only difference in my mind is that after the birth, they were physically present. Before the birth they were already 'born' in my mind and heart. This is the begetting of election from the Father. It is only from our limited perspective that we wait and watch as Christ is formed in a child of God. From God's view the task is already accomplished in eternity. Psalm 139 testifies to this.
THE WORD OF TRUTH (the Apparatus). The Word, the logos that God spoke is the machinery he uses to bring forth the new birth in us. In the evangelical church of the 20th century we have liked to flatter ourselves with the idea that a person could find Christ totally in the absense of a single verse of Scripture. Surely we have fallen into the trap of Humanism, if not the following and more insidious trap of Postmodernism. The Humanist said that REASON would answer any question of life. We, by our great and evolving reason would be able to find God. And so Scripture was of only limited value. And the Postmodernist tells us even our reason has no value. Only what we feel inside has any meaning, if that. But even if the actual verses of Scripture aren't used, no person has ever found the living Christ absent the truth of who He is. In this Lewis was wrong: someone who loved Tash did not also love or know Aslan by a different name.
FIRST FRUITS (the Appearance). There is a moment in any birth when the child first appears in bodily form. The minor Jewish Feast of First Fruits was celebrated to recognize the first appearance of harvest after the winter. I say "appearance" of harvest because the whole harvest has yet to follow and this was a celebration in advance. It was a recognition that God was going to bring about a full harvest based on the first appearances of the things to be harvested. So it is with us. Not sequentially, but rather visibly, we believers are the FIRST of our kind. There will be many, many more, but we're the first ones.
The overview of all this is important: the Agent of his own will causes the Action of the new birth in each believer through the Apparatus of his preached (gk: evangelion) Word in the Appearance (the first fruits of Incarnation) in those who believe. This is a somewhat mystical approach to this text, and yet I think it points out very well that there is no program we can point to that if you fill in these particular blanks in your workbook and do this or that you will be saved. Rather it is the working of Almighty God upon the individual that accomplishes all this. Thank God he did not leave it up to us!
Pastoral Relief and Retreat
- Wethersfield, CT, United States
- I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.