Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Of His Own Will (James 1:18)


Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. [James 1:18, ESV]

Normally, I begin essays like this with some kind of example of how the passage has impacted me, how the meaning of the passage has become clearer as I studied it, or how the passage helps us to understand something about life that we would otherwise fail to take notice of. I do not know of a situation where James 1:18 has directly impacted my life, but I can say how encouraging and helpful it is to have another reminder of how much God loves us. There are many writers who have tried to explain the meaning of the verse in question, but many writers do not spend much time on this verse. I am just a person, but I want to do my part in examining the Bible, explaining it, and helping other Christians understand how to apply God’s Word to their lives. I believe that this verse can be interpreted in several different ways, but this essay will describe the way I interpret this verse.

Of his own will he brought us forth…

In other words, God created us intentionally. As James explains in verses 16 and 17, God is good, God does good, all God does is good, and all good is from God. It was by the same will that God brought us forth into creation, and it was by God’s will that we have been given the gift of eternal life through Christ Jesus. One can interpret this part of the verse to be a reference to creation, or of the salvation that we have received as part of God’s will. Regardless of how one interprets this part of the verse, both interpretations are based in Scripture.

…by the word of truth,...

This is the part of the verse where the interpretations begin to go in different directions. If one holds to the interpretation that preceding part of the verse is referring to creation, then this part of the verse could be about the way God spoke the world into existence (literally), and how, given that everything that God says is true, God brought us into existence by way of speaking the word of truth.

If one leans more toward the other interpretation of the previous portion of this verse, then this part would be referring to Jesus Christ. It was through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that He brought us forth, into eternal life. One could also interpret that “word of truth” is a reference to the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of a person, but the most common understanding of this verse (among those who believe that James 1:18 is about our salvation) is that the “word of truth” in question is a reference to Jesus.

…that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

The end of verse 18 tells us about where we stand among God’s creation. The meaning of this verse is not tied to one’s interpretation of the previous parts of verse 18, as the word “creatures” tells us that our position among God’s creations is the subject of this part.

The meaning of “firstfruits” is incredibly important. In the Old Testament, the firstfruits are what God called the Israelites to give to Him. The firstfruits were the first part of the harvest, and were traditionally viewed as being of the highest quality. Just as a Christian tithes from the first ten percent of their income, the Israelite would give the first part of his harvest. This offering was made to God in order to give thanks for His blessings, and to show God reverence, and the Levites would receive the offerings made by the other tribes of Israel, as their inheritance from the Lord [Numbers 18:24].

My understanding of this part of the passage is that we are the “firstfruits” of God’s creation, we are set aside for the purposes of God, brought into existence by His good will, and we are loved by God in a way that surpasses His love for His other creations. Humans were the only thing that God created in His Image, and we have been placed above all else the God created.

In conclusion, I believe that James 1:18 is, in part, a reference to James’ description of God’s goodness, as well as a reminder that we are loved by God in a way that is unlike the way He loves any of His other creations. It was by God’s good will that we were brought into existence, it was by God’s good will that we have been given the gift of eternal life, He accomplished this by speaking and by Jesus Christ, respectively, and we stand above all else that God created. God loves us, He has always loved us, we were brought into existence because of His love for us, and we have received the gift of eternal life because of His love for us.

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