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Pastor Scott Markle

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Shepherding The Flock - Audio Sermon - The Battle Over The Gospel

Today, 12:39 PM

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Shepherding The Flock - Swift To Hear, Slow To Speak, Slow To Wrath – James 1:19

19 August 2014 - 02:01 PM

Weekly Sermon

James 1:19 reads, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”

As we have previously noted, the word “wherefore” with which James 1:19 begins indicates that the instructions of this verse are connected to and flow out from some truth in the previous paragraph (verses 12-18).  Even so, we have concluded that this connection is with the truth of verse 14.  This connection is with the truth that the cause of sinful temptation in our lives is the selfish desires of our own corrupt hearts.  The principle of selfishness is a natural characteristic of our hearts; and that principle of selfishness often corrupts our thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions.  This is especially true in our relationships with others.  For this very reason, the three-fold exhortation of verse 19 is delivered in quick succession in order to reveal our need to deny our selves and our selfishness in our relationship with others.  In our selfishness, it is natural for us to be slow to hear the opinions and concerns of others.  In our selfishness, it is natural for us to be swift to speak our own opinions and concerns to others.  In our selfishness, it is natural for us to be swift to wrath when things do not go our way.  Thus we are exhorted to deny our selfishness by being “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” 

Grammatically, James 1:19 begins with a loving address from a pastor’s heart -- “Wherefore, my beloved brethren.”  James employed this loving address both to obtain the attention of his readers for his exhortation and to open the hearts of his readers unto his exhortation.  Thereby he expressed his pastoral love for them as brethren in Christ and his pastoral burden for them concerning their growth in righteousness.  Then verse 19 continues with a three-fold exhortation for right relations -- “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”  Finally, verse 20 concludes with a Biblical explanation concerning selfish wrath -- “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”  In this message we shall focus our attention upon the three-fold exhortation for right relations.

Be Swift to Hear.

The first exhortation of verse 19 concerns the manner in which we listen to others -- “Let every man be swift to hear.”  Clearly this exhortation is delivered to every child of God.  Whereas the phrase, “my beloved brethren,” narrows the focus of this exhortation to God’s own children, the phrase, “let every man be,” extends the focus of this exhortation to all of God’s children.  So then, every one of us who are God’s own children have the responsibility before God our heavenly Father to be “swift to hear” in our relations with those around us.  Indeed, we have the God-given responsibility to be quick to listen and pay attention to the thoughts, suggestions, concerns, and input of others.  In our selfishness, we find it far easier to express our own input than to listen unto another’s input.  In addition, we find it far easier simply to ignore another’s input that to listen with concentration and patience.  Yet God’s holy Word commands us to be swift to listen unto the other’s input and slow to express our own.  In relating to others, the Lord our God desires that we give priority to the practice of listening over the practice of speaking.

Even so, the opening half of Proverbs 15:28 declares, “The heart of the righteous studieth to answer.”  A heart that is governed by our Lord’s righteousness is wise in communication and considerate toward others.  Such a righteous heart studies a matter through careful listening and then responds with a well-considered answer.  Such a righteous heart is diligent first to listen, to understand, and to consider.  Then such a righteous heart is careful to respond considerately, lovingly, and helpfully.  A heart that is governed by righteousness is clothed with humility, and in that humility it recognizes how little it truly knows and understands.  Thus a heart that is governed by righteousness will be slow to make judgment calls against others and slow to express personal opinions before others.  Rather, a heart that is governed by righteousness will be swift to seek after greater understanding through careful and attentive listening.  Even so, Proverbs 18:13 gives the warning, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.”  Responding before careful and attentive listening is the way of selfish foolishness.  Such a practice will not enhance our testimony for the Lord, but will only bring shame upon our lives.  Such a practice will not help, but will only hinder the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ.  On the other hand, careful and attentive listening before responding is the way of righteous wisdom and will bring glory unto our Lord’s name.

Furthermore, being swift to hear means that we should be open and receptive to godly counsel and correction from others.  Even so, Proverbs 1:5 states, “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.”  Again Proverbs 15:31-32 proclaims, “The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise.  He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.”  Yet again Proverbs 10:17 declares, “He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth.”  Finally, Proverbs 13:18 warns, “Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction: but he that regardeth reproof shall be honoured.”  Indeed, we should we swift to hear godly counsel and correction; for such is the way to abide in righteous wisdom, to get spiritual understanding, to walk the way of abundant life, and to be honored with our Lord’s favor.  Thus Proverbs 19:20 gives the instruction, “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.”  

Be Slow to Speak.

The second exhortation of James 1:19 concerns the manner in which we speak to others -- “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak.”  Again this exhortation is delivered unto every child of God.  Every one of us who are God’s own children have the responsibility before God our heavenly Father to be “slow to speak” in our relations with those around us.  Indeed, we have the God-given responsibility to be slow to express and speak forth our own thoughts, insights, interests, and complaints.  In our selfishness, we often think more highly than we ought to think of our own thoughts, insights, interests, and complaints.  Thus in such selfish pride, we imagine that our thoughts must be revealed, that our insights must be shared, that our interests must be communicated, and that our complaints must be heard.  Yet Proverbs 29:11 reveals the Biblical truth, “A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.”  

Even so, Proverbs 29:20 gives the warning, “Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words?  There is more hope of a fool than of him.”  It is the way of selfish foolishness to be hasty in uttering our mind.   Yea, to be hasty in uttering our mind will only bring forth sin and un-righteousness; for Proverbs 10:19 declares, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.”  Out of the selfish corruption of our hearts, our tongues will be consuming fire and “a world of iniquity” (James 3:6).  Out of the selfish corruption of our hearts, our tongues will be “an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8).  Thus a multitude of unbridled, hasty words will only bring forth much sin and offense in our Lord’s sight and against those around us.  This is the reason that Proverbs 13:3 proclaims the Biblical truth, “He that keepeth [guards] his mouth keepeth [guards] his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.”  In like manner, Proverbs 21:23 proclaims, “Whoso keepeth [guards] his mouth and his tongue keepeth [guards] his soul from troubles.”  Being hasty in uttering our mind will bring forth sinful iniquity in our lives and spiritual destruction in our relationships.  Yet being “slow to speak” will protect our souls and our relationships from many troubles. 

However, being “slow to speak” is not the same as being never to speak.  Certainly in righteous wisdom we will be slow and careful about our words.  Yet in righteous wisdom we will speak -- the right words at the right times to minister God’s grace unto others.  Again we consider the Biblical truth of Proverbs 29:11 -- “A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.”  Yes, hastily uttering all our mind is the way of selfish, sinful foolishness.  Yet there is a time afterward when a Biblically wise individual, walking in the way of righteous wisdom, may speak forth the appropriate word.  Even so, Proverbs 15:2 declares, “The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.”  Whereas the spiritual fool will speak forth with abundant, selfish foolishness, the individual of godly wisdom will speak forth with careful, righteous edification.  Thus Proverbs 15:23 exclaims, “A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!”  To this Proverbs 25:11 adds, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”  Finally, Proverbs 24:26 states, “Every man shall kiss his lips that giveth a right answer.”

Be Slow to Wrath.

The third exhortation of James 1:19 concerns the attitude in which we relate to others -- “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”  Yet again this exhortation is delivered unto every child of God.  Every one of us who are God’s own children have the responsibility before God our heavenly Father to be “slow to wrath” in our relations with those around us.  Indeed, we have the God-given responsibility to be slow in being provoked unto wrath in attitude and expression toward others.  Now, the word “wrath” that is employed in this exhortation does not necessarily refer to an explosive, passionate outburst of angry temper.  Rather, this word refers to an inner, deeper spirit of resentment, which may reveal itself upon occasion through angry outbursts.  Thus this Biblical exhortation not only concerns our external actions, but also our inner attitude.  Even so, we have the God-given responsibility not only to be slow unto outbursts of anger, but also to be slow unto a spirit of anger. 

The exhortation, to be “slow to wrath,” possesses a natural connection with the previous two exhortations, to be “swift to hear” and “slow to speak.”  When in our selfishness we are not careful and attentive to hear the cause of another, we are prone to misunderstanding and to being provoked unto wrath in that misunderstanding.  Also when in our selfishness we are hasty in uttering our mind, yet find that others lack interest therein, we are offended in our selfish pride and are easily provoked unto selfish wrath thereby.  Also when others respond toward us with expressions of anger, for whatever reason, in our selfishness we are easily provoked to return wrath for wrath, especially with hasty and angry words.  Yet Ecclesiastes 7:8-9 declares and instructs, “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.  Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.”  In like manner, Proverbs 16:32 states, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”  On the other hand, Proverbs 25:28 states, “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.”

To be easily provoked unto selfish wrath and anger is the way of spiritual, sinful foolishness.  To be slow to wrath and anger is the way of righteous wisdom.  Even so, the opening half of Proverbs 14:17 declares, “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly;” and verse 29 adds, “He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.”  Whereas an individual of selfish foolishness will quickly express irritation, frustration, and complaint, and that with an angry, despiteful manner; an individual of righteous wisdom will hold his peace and pass over irritation, frustration, and complaint.  Even so, Proverbs 11:12 declares, “He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.”  Again Proverbs 12:16 states, “A fool’s wrath is presently known: but a prudent man covereth shame.”  Yet again Proverbs 19:11 states, “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.” 

Certainly, there is a godly spirit of righteous anger and holy indignation against all defilement of sinful iniquity and against all dishonor of our Lord.  In fact, our Lord Jesus Christ expressed such righteous anger and holy indignation on a number of occasions (See Mark 3:5; John 2:14-17; Matthew 21:12-13).  In only stating that we must be slow to anger and wrath, the exhortation of James 1:19 allows for this truth.  Yet even in this, we must be very slow to anger and wrath; for the Lord our God Himself is slow to anger and wrath (See Psalm 103:8; 145:8; etc.)  Furthermore, we must be very slow to anger and wrath; “for,” as James 1:20 reveals, “the wrath of man [our selfish wrath] worketh not the righteousness of God.” 
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Shepherding The Flock - Audio Sermon - A Parable Of A Good Man And A Bad Man

18 August 2014 - 01:26 PM

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Shepherding The Flock - My Beloved Brethren, Let Every Man Be – James 1:19-25

12 August 2014 - 11:58 AM

Weekly Sermon

James 1:19-25 reads, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.  Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.  But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.  But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”

With James 1:19-25 we come to the fourth paragraph of this epistle.  Again we remember that the Holy Spirit inspired purpose for this epistle is to provide pastoral counsel for a spiritually mature walk in the believer’s life.  Even so, this fourth paragraph gives counsel concerning a right relating toward others out of a heart-character that is being spiritually transformed through a meek reception of and a faithful obedience to God’s Word of truth.  Thus we find in this para-graph instruction to relate aright toward others and to relate aright toward God’s Word. 

 The word “wherefore” with which James 1:19 begins indicates that the instructions of this verse are connected to and flow out from some truth in the previous paragraph (verses 12-18).  Because of the instructions that follow in verses 21-25 concerning our reception of and obedience to God’s Word, many see this connection as being with the truth in verse 18 that God our heavenly Father has begotten us “with the word of truth.”  Thus they conclude that the instructions of verse 19 are intended to reveal the response that we ought to have toward the truth of God’s Word.  Yet when this conclusion is applied to all three of the instructions in verse 19, it lacks Biblical validity.  Certainly it is Biblically valid to say that we should be “swift to hear” the message of God’s Word.  However, is it also Biblically valid to say that we should be “slow to speak” forth the message of God’s Word, or from a different perspective that we should be “slow to speak” against the message of God’s Word?  No, it is not Biblically valid to say that we should be “slow to speak” forth the message of God’s Word.  Rather, we should be ever ready to speak forth God’s Word of truth in love to evangelize lost sinners and to edify the fellow believers.  It is also not Biblically valid to say that we should be “slow to speak” against the message of God’s Word.  Rather, we should never speak against the message of God’s Word.  Furthermore, is it Biblically valid to say that we should be “slow to wrath” toward the message of God’s Word?  No, it is not Biblically valid; for we should never respond in wrath toward the message of God’s Word.

What then is the connection between the instructions of verse 19 and the truths of verses 12-18?  The primary truths of verses 12-18 are that those who endure temptation faithfully shall be blessed with the crown of life, that we should never falsely accuse the Lord our God of being the cause of sinful temptation, that the true cause of sinful temptation is the selfish desires of our own corrupt hearts, and that the Lord our God is the Source of every good and perfect gift, the great example being our spiritual new birth.  Verse 19 then indicates that we should behave in a manner of self-control and self-denial, being “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”  What primary truth of verses 12-18 would lead to such instruction?  It is the truth that the true cause of sinful temptation is the selfish desires of our own corrupt hearts.  Because even as the children of God, we retain the selfish influences of our sinful flesh upon our hearts (See Romans 7:17-21; Galatians 5:17), the desires of our hearts are often motivated and corrupted by selfishness.  Therefore, as we relate to others, we must deny our selfish inclinations to listen unto others’ opinions little, to speak forth our opinions much, and to be provoked unto selfish wrath quickly.  Even so, James 1:19-25 provides a four-fold counsel concerning the manner by which we are to deal with the selfish, sinful corruption within our hearts.

We must relate toward others with self-denial.         

James 1:19 gives the exhortation, saying, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”  As we have noted, this three-fold exhortation may be summarized in the requirement that we must relate toward others with self-denial.  Through the selfish influence of our sinful flesh, the character of the thoughts and intents of our hearts is corrupted by selfishness.  Thus in relating to others, our natural inclination is toward selfishness.  In such selfishness we are slow to hear others’ thoughts, opinions, feelings, and interests.  In such selfishness we are swift to speak forth our own thoughts, opinions, feelings, and interests.  In such selfishness we are swift to wrath when our thoughts, opinions, feelings, and interests are not honored and when we do not get our own way.  Therefore, in order to combat such selfishness from corrupting our relations toward others, we are exhorted to deny ourselves and our selfishness.  Indeed we must deny our natural selfishness by being swift to hear others’ communication.  Indeed we must deny our natural selfishness by being slow to speak our own mind.  Indeed we must deny our natural selfishness by being slow to be provoked unto wrath.  Selfishness must not be allowed to reign in our relations with others, whether it be with God or with others.  Selfishness must be denied.  Yea, selfishness must be put to death.

In verse 20 the explanation for the three-fold exhortation of verse 19 is revealed, “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”  When in selfishness we are slow to hear others’ communication, we often develop misunderstandings and are often provoked thereby unto selfish wrath.  In addition, when in selfishness we are swift to speak our own mind, yet are not heard and honored and do not get our own way, we are easily provoked unto selfish wrath.  Yea, when in selfishness we are swift to wrath, we are often swift to speak forth our wrath and are even less inclined to hear others’ communication.  Yet our selfish wrath does not produce God’s righteousness, either in our behavior toward others or in our influence upon a given situation.  When we do not deny our selfishness in relating to others, we are easily provoked unto selfish wrath; and through selfish wrath we bring forth unrighteousness in great offense against the Lord our God and in the overthrow of our spiritual influence upon others.  Where selfish wrath abounds, unrighteousness abounds.  Certainly this is not the will of our Lord.  On the other hand, James 3:17-18 declares, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”

We must put away from ourselves all sinful behavior.

In order to deal with the selfish, sinful corruption within our hearts, the opening portion of James 1:21 gives the second exhortation, saying, “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness.”  Herein the word “filthiness” refers to any type of spiritual defilement and impurity, whereby we are made spiritually filthy and offensive in God’s sight, like as a disgustingly filthy garment.  Even so, this filthiness flows directly out of the selfish corruption of our hearts.  Furthermore, the word “superfluity” refers to that which over flows in abundance.  Finally, the word “naughtiness” refers to a malicious spirit that motivates us to behave against others.  In fact, the Greek word that is here translated as “naughtiness” is most often translated as “malice” or “maliciousness” throughout the rest of the New Testament.  In this light, this naughtiness overflows directly from the selfish wrath that so often floods our hearts.  Now, the word “wherefore” with which this exhortation begins indicates that this exhortation is necessary because our selfish wrath does not produce God’s righteousness.  Selfishness is our natural inclination.  Selfish wrath is a common product of that selfishness.  Thus the sinful filthiness that flows from our selfishness and the abundant naughtiness (maliciousness) that overflows from our selfish wrath have already taken hold within every one of our hearts and lives.  If we would deal with this spiritual corruption, we must “lay apart” that which has already taken hold.  We must cast it aside.  We must put it away.  In broken-hearted repentance, we must confess all such filthiness and naughtiness unto the Lord our God.  This we must do that He, through the almighty power of His abundant grace, might cleanse away the filthiness and cut away the naughtiness.  Then by this very means, we prepare ourselves for the transforming work of God’s Word upon the character of our hearts.

We must receive with meekness all Scriptural truth.

In order to deal with the selfish, sinful corruption within our hearts, the closing portion of James 1:21 gives the third exhortation, saying, “And receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”  Now, the word “wherefore” with which verse 21 begins also encompasses this exhortation, indicating that this exhortation is also necessary because our selfish wrath does not produce God’s righteousness and because we need deliverance from the selfish corruption of our hearts that produces such selfish wrath.  Even so, it is through the power of God’s holy Word that the character of our souls may be delivered from the selfish, sinful corruption that exists therein.  “Wherewithal shall a young man [or, any individual] cleanse his way?  By taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Psalm 119:9).  God’s holy Word, the Law of the Lord, the perfect and powerful “law of liberty,” is that which is able to liberate our hearts and souls from selfish corruption and to convert our hearts and souls unto God’s righteousness (Psalm 19:7).  Indeed, our spiritual character needs to be transformed step-by-step, “from glory to glory,” unto the righteous image of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).  This spiritual transforming is accomplished by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2), and it is the truth of God’s holy Word, as employed by God’s Holy Spirit, that is able to renew the spirit of our mind in order that we may be spiritually transformed thereby.  Therefore, we are exhorted to receive the truth of God’s Word with meekness.  First, this means that we must receive the truth of God’s Word with all conviction of heart, whole-heartedly believing that every word thereof “is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16).  Second, this means that we must receive the truth of God’s Word with all diligence of effort, daily studying its teaching that we may know our Lord and His ways (Proverbs 8:34-35; 2 Timothy 2:15; Acts 17:11).  Third, this means that we must receive the truth of God’s Word with all readiness of mind, attentively ready to learn its wisdom that we may grow spiritually thereby (Proverbs 2:1-9; 1 Peter 2:2; Acts 17:11).  Fourth, this means that we must receive the truth of God’s Word with all meekness of soul, humbly submitting ourselves unto its authority without contradiction or complaint (James 1:21; Psalm 25:8-10, 12, 14; 32:8-9).  Yet only receiving the truth of God’s Word is not enough to deliver our souls from selfish corruption and to transform our souls unto God’s righteousness.

We must be doers of God’s Word with settled obedience.

Thus in order to deal with the selfish, sinful corruption within our hearts, James 1:22 gives the fourth and final exhortation, saying, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”  Being “hearers only” of God’s Word is not enough to deliver and transform the character of our hearts.  We must be doers also of God’s Word.  In fact, being “hearers only” will not lead down the path of spiritual transformation, but down the path of self-deception.  We are deceiving ourselves when we are hearers only, without faithful obedience, and yet convince ourselves that we are being transformed in heart-character, growing in spiritual maturity, and walking in our Lord’s fellowship.  We are like a man who beholds “his natural face” in a mirror, observing the defects that need to be fixed, and then goes on his daily business without fixing anything, completely forgetting how offensive his appearance is to those around him.  Indeed, when we are “hearers only,” and not doers also, we may be convicted of the sinful faults in our character; and yet we go on our way without correcting these sinful faults, completely forgetting how spiritually offensive we appear in the sight of the Lord our God.  This is self-deception, and this will produce spiritual destruction.  On the other hand, when we are both hearers and doers of the Word, we will look into the truth of God’s holy Word each day with attentiveness and will continue in the truth of God’s holy Word throughout the day with obedience.  Then being not forgetful hearers, but doers of our Lord’s work, we shall be blessed in our work of righteousness.  When we delight and meditate day and night in the truth of God’s Word, so that we may “observe to do according to all that is written therein,” then we shall make our way prosperous and have good, spiritual success (Joshua 1:8).  Then we shall be transformed unto spiritual maturity and be “throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:17).
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Shepherding The Flock - Every Good Gift And Every Perfect Gift – James 1:16-18

29 July 2014 - 12:46 PM

Weekly Sermon

James 1:16-18 reads, “Do not err, my beloved brethren.  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.  Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”

James 1:16-18 brings the third paragraph of the epistle to its conclusion.  As we have not-ed, the subject matter of this paragraph is arranged in order to move our focus and understanding from the outside toward the center.  Even so, verse 12 & verses 17-18 give counsel concerning our right motivation for endurance in godliness.  Then verse 13 & verses 16-17 give counsel concerning our right attitude toward the Lord our God.  Finally, verses 14-15 give counsel concerning our right understanding of temptation to sin. 

James 1:16 serves as a turning point in this paragraph with the loving, pastoral admonition, “Do not err, my beloved brethren.”  This admonition renews that of verse 13 and returns the focus of the paragraph to the counsel concerning our right attitude toward the Lord our God.  Yet with this admonition the focus of this counsel turns from the negative truth that the Lord our God never tempts anyone with sin and turns to the positive truth that the Lord our God provides every good and perfect gift.  On the one hand -- “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (verse 13).  On the other hand -- “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (verse 17).  On the one hand, we must never attribute to the Lord our God or accuse Him of any sinful temptation.  On the other hand, we must acknowledge and appropriate the truth that He is eternally good and that He is the Source of all good.

This truth concerning our Lord God’s eternal goodness is revealed in the declaration of verse 17 and illustrated in the declaration of verse 18.  Grammatically, verses 17-18 provide two separate declarations of truth, wherein verse 17 may be divided into three parts and verse 18 may be divided into two parts.  First in verse 17, there is a revelation of our Lord God’s care through the opening declaration -- “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.”  Second in verse 17, there is a revelation of our Lord God’s character through the second verb phrase -- “And cometh down from the Father of lights.”  Third in verse 17, there is a revelation of our Lord God’s constancy through the adjective clause -- “With whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”  Then in verse 18, there is the illustration of our Lord God’s good provision through the main clause -- “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.”  Second in verse 18, there is the illustration of our Lord God’s good purpose through the adverb clause -- “That we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Our Lord God’s Perfectly Good Care

James 1:17 opens with a declaration of our Lord God’s perfectly good care, saying, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.”  In direct contrast to the false idea that the Lord our God sends forth sinful temptation and thereby spiritual corruption into our lives, the truth is revealed and declared that “every good gift and every perfect gift” comes down from Him.  Thus our attention is focused upon our Lord God’s perfect goodness to-ward us.  Indeed, all His works are done in perfect goodness; and all true goodness finds its source in Him as gifts given out of His abundant grace.  “The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD” (Psalm 33:5).  “For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness” (Psalm 107:9).  “The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works” (Psalm 145:9).  Yea, everything in our lives that can be Biblically defined as a good and perfect gift has come down to us from the good and gracious hand of the Lord our God.  Furthermore, these good and perfect gifts from our Lord God’s good and gracious “cometh down” to us in a continual manner.  “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).  Surely, our Lord God’s goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives (Psalm 23:6).  Even so, let us join with David from Psalm 103:1-5, saying, “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.  Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

In James 1:17 the phrase “every good gift and every perfect gift” encompasses both the manner of the giving and the gift that is given.  Herein the two uses of the word “gift” are each translated from a different Greek word.  The first word “gift” is translated from a Greek word that refers to the act of giving.  The second word “gift” is translated from a Greek word that refers to the gift itself.  Thus in the goodness of the Lord our God, it is not simply the product of every one of His gifts that is perfect, but also the process by which He gives His gifts that is good.  This is the nature of our Lord God’s care that comes down from Him to us.  In the motives and means of the giving as well as the measure and material of the gift, our Lord God’s care is perfectly good toward us.  Furthermore, the two-fold description of our Lord God’s giving and gifts emphasizes that His care is perfectly good toward us.  The descriptive word “good” refers to that which is beneficial and profitable, without any characteristic of destruction.  The descriptive word “perfect” refers to that which is complete and perfect, without any lack in provision.   Indeed, the giving and gifts of our Lord God’s perfectly good care toward us is without any characteristic of destruction and without any lack in provision. 

Yet although the declaration of this verse encompasses every manner of giving and gift in our Lord God’s perfectly good care toward us, the context of this verse directs our attention especially upon our Lord’s God’s perfectly good care in the spiritual realm.  The context of this declaration concerns the matter of sinful temptation and spiritual corruption.  The absolute truth is that the Lord our God is never at any time in any way, directly or distantly, the source of sinful temptation and spiritual corruption.  Rather, the absolute truth is that the Lord our God always and continually sends forth influences in the spiritual realm that will be good and perfect for our spiritual health and growth.  Thus every influence that truly leads toward our Lord God’s fellowship and righteousness is from His perfectly good care toward us.  Yet any influence that leads us toward unrighteousness and spiritual corruption is contrary to His perfectly good care toward us.  Even so, the truth of our Lord God’s perfectly good care toward us is a great barrier against sinful temptation and a great encouragement to righteous endurance.  The Lord our God pours out the gifts of His perfect goodness unto our spiritual growth, whereas sinful temptation draws us away and entices us with deceptive pleasures unto our spiritual destruction.  When we apprehend the perfectly good care of the Lord our God toward us, we will not be spiritually drawn away from Him unto the deceptive pleasures of sinful temptation.  However, when we begin to doubt the perfectly good care of the Lord our God toward us, we will be selfishly attracted to the deceptive pleasures of sinful temptation.  “Do not err, my beloved brethren.”  Let us never doubt our Lord God’s perfectly good care toward us.  Rather, let us wait on the Lord and believe “to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13-14).  “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.  O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.  The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing” (Psalm 34:8-10).

Our Lord God’s Purely Righteous Character

James 1:17 continues with a declaration of our Lord God’s purely righteous character, saying, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.”  Our Lord God’s perfectly good care is rooted in His purely righteous character.  He pours out the goodness of “every good gift and every perfect gift” because He Himself is good.  The purely righteous character of the Lord our God is revealed through the title, “the Father of lights.”  In this title the plural word “lights” refers to the “lights in the firmament of the heaven,” the sun, the moon, and the stars (Genesis 1:14-19).  Thus the title, “the Father of lights,” refers to the Lord our God as the Source, as the Creator and Sustainer, of these heavenly lights.  Having directed our attention above by indicating that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,” James refers to the Lord our God as the Father, as the Creator and Sustainer, of those lights that we observe above.  Yet the technical meaning of this title is intended to focus our understanding, not upon the creative work of the Lord our God, but upon the righteous character of the Lord our God.  As “the Father of lights,” He is not only the Source of physical light, but also of all spiritual light.  Just as that old serpent the devil is the father of all lies, unrighteousness, and spiritual darkness, even so the Lord our God is the Father of all truth, righteousness, and true holiness.  Furthermore, the Lord our God is the Father of all such because He Himself is purely righteous in character.  “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).  “There is no unrighteousness in him” (Psalm 92:15).  Not only is He the Source of light, but also His very character is light.  Even so, because He is purely righteous in character, the Lord our God is never in any way the source of sinful temptation.  Rather, because He is purely righteous in character, He is always the Source of every good and perfect gift, especially for our spiritual health and growth.

Our Lord God’s Permanently Unchanging Constancy

James 1:17 concludes with a declaration of our Lord God’s permanently unchanging constancy in these things, saying, “With whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”  Indeed, the Lord our God is the Father, the Creator and Sustainer, of the “lights in the firmament of the heaven.”  Yet He is infinitely greater than these lights in His character of perfect light.  From day to day and from season to season, they have variableness in their shining and create shadow in their turning.  Yet the light of our Lord God’s purely righteous character shines with perfect brightness in every day and in every season.  The light of His purely righteous character contains no variableness.  In His purely righteous character, He changes not and turns not in the smallest degree (Malachi 3:6).  Therefore, He does not cast even the smallest shadow of darkness.  In Him there is no spiritual darkness in any form, at all, ever (1 John 1:5).  His purely righteous character is “the same yesterday, to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).  There is no variableness in His righteous purposes, neither any shadow of turning in His righteous practices.  Our Lord God’s purely righteous character is permanently unchanging in constancy, and His perfectly good care toward us is rooted in His purely righteous character.  Thus we can and should always trust in and depend upon His goodness in our lives.  Yea, we can and should trust in and depend upon His goodness toward us even when are suffering under a great trial of affliction.  The Lord our God is good and righteous in His character.  He is always good and righteous in all things.  Thus all His relationship toward us is always good and righteous for us.

Our Lord God’s Personally Loving Choice

As an evidence for our Lord God’s perfectly good care, James 1:18 presents a declaration concerning the greatest of His good and perfect gifts toward us.  Thus the declaration is given, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”  Herein is presented our Lord God’s good and perfect gift of new spiritual birth through faith alone in our Lord Jesus Christ as eternal Savior from sin.  Herein is presented our Lord God’s personally loving choice to save us sinners from the condemnation and corruption of our sins.  “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (1 John 3:1).  Of His own freely loving, merciful, and righteous will, He chose to beget us spiritually through faith in Christ that we might be His own dear children.  As sinners by both sinful nature and rebellious choice, we were spiritually “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).  “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)” (Ephesians 2:4-5).  Whereas our own selfish lust brings forth sinful corruption, our Lord God’s freely loving and righteous will has sent forth spiritual new birth (James 1:15).  Whereas our sinful disobedience and rebellion begets death in us and to us, the Lord our God, out of His personally loving choice, begat us believers unto newness of spiritual life.  Oh, how great evidence is this of His purely righteous character and perfectly good care!  Certainly then, the Lord our God and heavenly Father is never the source of sinful corruption and spiritual death in us.  Such finds its source in sinful temptation through our own selfish lust (James 1:14).  Rather, the Lord our God is the Source of spiritual life and righteous character in us.  Not only does the Lord our God never tempt us with sin, but He Himself, out of His personally loving choice, has granted unto us believers the means to combat our selfish lusts through newness of spiritual life.
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