God Is So Good
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom 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” (James 1:17-18).
In context, this section culminates James’s point that temptation must not be attributed to God (v. 13). God is the giver of good things, not evil. He has a favorable disposition toward us, one which will help us do right, not urge us to do wrong.
Consider four expressions James employed in making this point.
God is “the Father of lights.” Ancient peoples often worshiped the sun and stars. While they are sources of light, God is infinitely greater: He is the sources’ source, and He provides light both in the physical and spiritual senses. His light is more consistent, too. Due to ever changing angles the sun’s light is more or less direct, resulting in “shifting shadows.” God is always the same, in disposition and will. His light shines on us fully and precisely.
God “brought us forth.” He “gave us birth” (NIV). He did so in creation, of course, but the new birth is in view here. And it forms a vivid contrast. We gave birth to sin by our lust, resulting in spiritual death (v. 15). God gave birth to us through His word, resulting in new life. Could they be a greater evidence of God’s favorable disposition toward us?
God brought us forth by “the word of truth.” This expression occurs four other times in the New Testament. Colossians 1:5 unmistakably identifies it as the gospel. Ephesians 1:13 says it is the gospel of our salvation. 2 Timothy 2:15 emphasizes the importance of handling it accurately, as does 2 Corinthians 6:7 in its proclamation. Our passages identifies the gospel as God’s means of the new birth. The Holy Spirit authors the word, hence we are born Him (John 3:5), and the apostles preached the word, hence we are born of them (1 Corinthians 4:15). In every case, salvation is the result of hearing, believing, and obeying the gospel. This is why it is so vital that we preach it and do so accurately.
God brought us forth as a kind of “first fruits.” The first fruits is an Old Testament concept. When the Israelites harvested their crops they were to bring an offering of the first fruits to the Lord. It was an expression of gratitude, a way of honoring God (Proverbs 3:9), and a reminder that the Lord’s portion always comes first. It also stood as a foretaste of what was to come. This figure reminds us that the proper response to God’s goodness is living our new lives as people completely devoted to Him.