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James 1:17 by Robert Dean
Series:James (1998)
Duration:1 hr 4 mins 43 secs

Doctrine of Light; Div. Immutability; Faithfulness; James 1:17

 

God's goal for each of us as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ is not simply to get us into heaven, to have eternal life. Part of His plan is to take every believer conformed into the image of Christ, according to Romans 12:1, 2. We do that that through the renovation of our thinking. The Bible is called the mind of Christ in 1 Corinthians 2. We are to take the mind of Christ and it is to be our thinking. As we renew our minds, renovate our thinking we are to face life as Christ faced life. That is ultimately occupation with Christ.

 

As long as we are filled with the Spirit and applying doctrine growth takes place. We face various tests of doctrine. Every time we hit a test, a situation in life, it gives us the opportunity to make a choice, to make a decision to apply the doctrine in our soul or not. Under the filling of the Holy Spirit is produces divine good and leads to what the Bible calls life. Jesus said, "I came to give life, and to give life abundantly." This is not talking about simply eternal life but the quality of life that we have as believers. It gives us capacity for life, for love, and for happiness, and it produces in our lives evidence of the grace of God and God's goodness. According to Romans 12:1, 2 we demonstrate that the will of God is good perfect.

 

That leads to steadfast endurance, persistence: coming to Bible class when it is hard, when it is difficult, when we have other things to do, when we have worked hard all day and we are tired and worn out and can't concentrate, but you keep coming because you know that is what you need to do, and you build that habit pattern into your life and make that the priority for yourself and for your family. All through life we are faced with all kinds of good and wonderful things to do that are distractions from the main thing, which is learning doctrine and growing in the spiritual life. Steadfast endurance, persistence. That means that when you are in the midst of that trial it is never easy. In the army you constantly go through drill after drill after drill, so that when the pressure comes you don't really have to think, you just go through the motions; they are built into you. It is the same thing in any discipline, you practice over and over again and it becomes boring. That is how it is perfected; that is how you develop those skills, so that when you hit tests you know what to do. It becomes ingrained and becomes more and more second nature to you to respond to those situations in certain ways. Over time character begins to be transformed. This is that transforming process and as time goes by you no longer have to think about what promise you need to claim in a situation. You find yourself trusting God, you find yourself responding with impersonal love toward people, and that leads to maturity in the adult spiritual life.

 

In verses 2-18 of this chapter we have this prologue where James urges us to respond to trials through application of doctrine and not to react by blaming God. We learn from looking at these verses that the purpose of testing, the purpose of adversity, the purpose of suffering, is to give us opportunities to apply doctrine and grow because frankly there is no other way. You cannot get from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity without learning to apply doctrine, and what happens as a result of this process, as we grow to maturity, is that whatever level of maturity we have in our souls, whatever doctrine we have in our souls at the point that we are absent from the body and face to face with the Lord, is what we take with us into heaven. So the thrust of this entire prologue is to respond to trials through application of doctrine and not by reaction and blaming God. In verses 2-11 we see the first part of this, that the correct response to tests of faith is to consistently apply doctrine stored in the soul. We do this by relying on the faith-rest drill, by doctrinal orientation, by grace orientation. Then the second section starting in verse 12 deals with the incorrect response to trials. We are warned about becoming self-absorbed, moving into self-pity and blaming God for the difficulties we encounter in life. The believer must recognize that responding to trials on the basis of the sin nature is is the source of death and is self-destructive in the spiritual life.

 

The conclusion in verse 16 is the warning not to be deceived. By what? The sin nature. When you encounter the suffering, the tests, the hardship, and you feel all that pressure on your soul from the outside, it is so easy to succumb to worry, to fear, to be anxious, to be bitter. Human viewpoint, trying to solve problems on your own apart from doctrinal principles and under the filling of the Holy Spirit leads to carnal death.

 

In contrast to the death that the sin nature provides, in verses 17 and 18 we have what God provides. NASB "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures." Where we have to start to understand this is to focus on what comes down from above. There are two things here in the Greek. In the English we have "good thing," which doesn't mean a whole lot, and secondly, "every perfect gift." We need to challenge the translation of both of these because they are a little weak. The word translated "perfect" in the Greek is from the adjective TELEIOS [teleioj]. That means to complete, to bring to completion, to make mature. In secular Greek it did have the connotation of perfection, something being flawless, related to virtue; but we have a hard time finding that meaning anywhere in the Scriptures. Generally it is used in relationship to spiritual maturity. We need to understand it that way here in verse 17: "every maturing gift." The word that is translated "gift" here is the Greek word DOREA [dwrea], the strongest word in the Greek to represent undeserved, unmerited presents. This is a very strong word for grace. So these are the maturing gifts, those gifts of God that are related to our maturity. What James is talking about here is contingent blessings in time. These are the blessings that God has designed for us in eternity past that He withholds until we are mature enough to handle them.

 

So the second category relates to maturing gifts which are contingent blessings in time related to maturity and spiritual growth. The first is "every good thing." In the Greek this is the word DOSIS [dosij] which also comes from the same root as DOREA, but it is a weaker word. So it is "every good act of giving" related to logistical grace blessings. So you have to make sure you never think that the reason you get the blessing is because you did the deed. You get the blessing because you have been learning doctrine, have been applying doctrine, and the result is spiritual growth, and now you are ready for those blessings so God gives them to you. 
 

"Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…" "Coming down" is from KATABAINO [katabainw], an aorist passive participle indicating that it is the result of the Father's volition in giving it to us. Here the Father is referred to as "the Father of lights." Why? Here it is thought James is taking a page out of the Gospel of John and John's use of the double entandre. When we think about what Father of lights means we have to go back to a basic hermeneutical principle that the first two or three times a word is used in the Scriptures provides the basic definition. What is the first time that light is mentioned in Scripture? Genesis chapter one, referring to heavenly objects, which means that right way the term drives us to the doctrine of creation, that God is the creator. So one meaning that James is driving us to here is that God created all of the heavenly bodies and stretched out the universe, and He has so much power that He can create everything in the universe. So don't you think that God has enough power to handle the problems in your life? But there is also another level of meaning here, and that is that light refers to the whole concept of illumination of truth and revelation. Psalm 119:130 NASB "The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple." God is the source of all revelation; He is the one who gives light; He is the one who gives His Word to us, and that is the source of illumination on how to handle our problems.

 

The pastor-teacher teaches, then the Holy Spirit takes that—and the Bible uses the word PNEUMATIKOS [pneumatikoj] to describe it—and makes it spiritual phenomena. Note: He makes it understandable but He doesn't make it understood. That means there is a potentiality here. It means a potential that you can now understand it; this is grace. It doesn't matter what your background is, your education is, or what your IQ is. But you also have to exercise a little volition here and you have to think about it. That is why we have all of these passages in the Scripture that talk about meditate, think, think, think about these things. Then you understand it. This is a process. It takes time, it is line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little. That is the process of illumination and this is what God is doing in our lives. It begins with the Word of God.

 

Psalm 27:1 NASB "The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?" – problem-solving device, handling fear. What is the focus? The focus is on the Lord.

 

Psalm 36:9 NASB "For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light." The only way you are going to have objectivity in your soul and in your life is to start with the Word of God and let that transform your thinking.

 

Psalm 43:3 NASB "O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill And to Your dwelling places." Notice the connection between light and truth. That is what leads us.

 

Summarizing what the Scripture says about light

1)  The Bible tells us that God is light. That is a metaphor in 1 John 1 for His pure character.

2)  God also is said to emanate light. Light flashes forth from the throne room of God, and that is a metaphor for revelation and illumination. Constantly we see the contrast between light and darkness. In reference to the kingdom of God the Scripture says that at salvation we are transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. Sin is in the realm of darkness; light is the realm of God.

3)  Revelation has two categories. The first is general revelation which is the non-verbal testimony of creation. Psalm 19:1 NASB "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands." Cf. Romans 1:19, 20. [Gap in recording here]

4)  We learn from John 3:19-21 that light either attracts of repels, depending on the positive or negative volition of the person. If you are positive you will be attracted to the light, there will be a desire to bring your life to the light so that you can have more light to examine your life by. If you are negative, then when light shines on your life you will be repelled by it and you will want to spend your time elsewhere than in Bible class.

5)  As the Father of lights God is so powerful that He created all things, so He is powerful enough to solve even our greatest problems.

6)  As the source of revelation God has provided us with all the doctrine we need to face any adversity—2 Peter 1:3. There is no problem that you will ever encounter in life that God has not given you the solution to in the Word of God.

 

"…with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." This focuses on the character of God, the attribute of God known specifically as immutability. God never changes, He is always the same today, yesterday, and forever. It relates to God's faithfulness. When we encounter trials and testing and we apply God's promises we know that he is always going to be faithful. He is always dependable. The word here translated "variation" is the Greek word PARALLAGE [parallagh] which means to change, to vary, or to shift. The concept has to do with mutation, shifting, variation. The other word that is used here is PROTES [prothj] and both of these words have technical meanings in Greek related to the movement and the changes of the heavenly bodies. Even though those lights vary God never changes. That is the image here.

 

Psalm 52

This is a time in David's life when he is being persecuted by Saul. Here David is the anointed of God, already designated and picked out to be the next king of Israel and Saul is out to kill him. Look at what David says in response to this pressure. How would you feel in this kind of situation where this man who is your father-in-law, your king, the man that you have had the opportunity to kill on at least two different occasions while he was in the cave that you were in, and that you are so focused on the truth that you would never even harbour a thought of anger or resentment towards this man, yet you are hounded and hounded and hounded by this individual? 

Verse 1 "Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The lovingkindness of God {endures} all day long." Notice how over and again in the Psalms when David has a problem he focuses on the essence of God. The word "lovingkindness" is the Hebrew word chesed, which basically means God's faithful, enduring love. It never changed. It is a combination of the attributes of love and immutability. The faithful, enduring love of God is there all day long. 

Verse 2 "Your tongue devises destruction, Like a sharp razor, O worker of deceit." David is facing sins of the tongue: gossip, maligning, the public lie.

Verse 3 "You love evil more than good, Falsehood more than speaking what is right. Selah."

Verse 4 "You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue." At this time Saul had heard this false report from Doeg the Edomite and so David is just being run down through sins of the tongue.

Verse 5 "But God will break you down forever; He will snatch you up and tear you away from {your} tent, And uproot you from the land of the living. Selah."

Verse 6 "The righteous will see and fear, And will laugh at him, {saying,}"

Verse 7 "'Behold, the man who would not make God his refuge, But trusted in the abundance of his riches {And} was strong in his {evil} desire.'" This is the person who tries to solve the problems in life through their own natural abilities of possessions.

Verse 8, David says, "But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the lovingkindness [chesed] of God forever and ever."

Verse 9 "I will give You thanks forever, because You have done {it,} And I will wait on Your name, for {it is} good, in the presence of Your godly ones." Remember that a name in Jewish culture related to the very essence of something. 'I will wait on your essence.' He understood the doctrine of divine attributes.

Psalm 54

David is in another situation, still persecuted by Saul, still running and hiding for his life, and he cries out.

Verse 1 "Save me, O God, by Your name [essence], And vindicate me by Your power."

Verse 2 "Hear my prayer, O God; Give ear to the words of my mouth.

Verse 3 "For strangers have risen against me And violent men have sought my life; They have not set God before them. Selah.

Verse 4 "Behold, God is my helper; The Lord is the sustainer of my soul." No matter how bad it gets, no matter how oppressive the situation, it is the Lord who sustains us, and it is the supreme court of heaven that deals out retribution, not us.

Verse 5 "He will recompense the evil to my foes; Destroy them in Your faithfulness." So we see this connection throughout the Psalms between the love of God, the character of God, and the faithfulness of God. We can depend on Him, He is the father of lights with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.