Tuesday, April 26, 2016

James Chapter One, Part 4

1:15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (16) Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

We have a morbid progression laid out for us of sin as it works in us to produce death. Return to verse 14 where we read "each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desire and enticed." We are, each of us, "drawn away" from a faithful walk of obedience with our Lord in the Holy Spirit when our special sin rears its head. Each of us who are saints through faith in Christ have it; we each have "hot buttons," certain sinful things or behaviors that entice us more than others'. Our flesh knows well what each is, and so does Satan, who hardly needs to prompt us at times for us to fall flat on our faces. To run our race, to continue forward with God (the only direction he desires for us to go in our maturity and faith) we must "lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us," Hebrews 12:1.

James begins using terminology any adult can easily associate with; that of a conjugal union resulting in pregnancy, culminating in birth; finally growing as sin matures until it yields death. John writes: "There is sin leading to death...all unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death," 1st John 5:16, 17. James, in his final comments on this epistle agrees and adds "Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins," James 5:19-20. Early in the epistle it is expressed that one is drawn away, while at the end James writes that such a sinful saint wanders from the truth. God's word is truth, and Jesus Christ is in fact the Word of God, so we know of a surety that the saint in question has wandered from his or her walk with our Lord, John 17:17; Revelation 19:13. The idea of someone being in a "way" denotes a lifestyle choice. This is more than simple sin; this is an unrepentant, hardened decision to embrace or endorse what the believer knows to be sinful. It is cultivated and practiced sin, which is why James is authorized by the Holy Spirit to employ the phraseology he uses. Desire engages with our temptation and produces sin; we continue in the habit of sin and harden our hearts to the Holy Spirit's leadership and warnings. Sin matures in us as every spiritual fruit withers and dies, and with it all hope of reward at Christ's judgment seat, Romans 14:12; 1st Corinthians 3:15. It may ultimately lead to the actual, physical death of the sinner, as both John and James intimate at the end of their respective epistles. Ananias and Sapphira would be a prudent example of chastisement unto death for a servant of the Lord, Acts 5:1-11. It would appear that husband and wife were so emboldened as to casually lie to the faces of the apostles, but we must understand that we aren't answerable to men. I don't answer to a pastor, elder, or other human being. I answer to God, and He knows me inside and out. When I practice a lie to another saint (or even the unsaved) I am ultimately lying to God and sining against Him. We can and should agree with David about the nature of sin and how it impacts our relationship toward our Savior and Creator: "For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight," Psalm 51:3-4.

James continues with a simple warning not to succumb to deception about this extremely relevant and important topic. The same language is again employed under similar circumstances by the apostle Paul when he is inspired to write: "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life," Galatians 6:7-8. Paul is impressing upon us how we ought to conduct our walk in this life, for in the next two verses he writes "And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith," Galatians 6:9-10. We find a similar warning elsewhere in Paul's writing. "Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise," 1st Corinthians 3:18. This counsel follows Paul's admonition about the foundation of our faith and how we choose to build upon it, 1st Corinthians 3:5-17. Worldly wisdom makes us fools for the things of God; James and Paul eschew this type of wisdom. Worldly wisdom also leads us into sin, which is why Paul counsels us to "become fools" so we might receive from God genuine wisdom.

1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (18) Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

James follows his admonition to us about not being prone to deception (either deception by false teaching or self-deception that we too-often enjoy indulging in) by defining the nature of what a heavenly gift would be and who has administered it. It is not carnal and God does not bring us gifts through the medium of temptation, leading to spiritual disaster. To emphasize this point James tells us that God's method never changes (no variation) because God's character does not alter (no shadow of turning). In the Old Testament we read: "I am the Lord, I do not change," Malachi 3:6. In the New Testament we also find: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever," Hebrews 13:8. The passage we are examining I believe refers back to James 1:13 when he writes "Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone." There is a choice for each of us to make as Christians. We can opt to follow the carnal gratification of sin, which forms a pattern, growing into a habit, and finally a lifestyle that leaves us alienated from Christ; or we can endure temptation, waiting for the good and perfect gifts God wishes to give His children that are ready (by patient continuance in the faith) to receive them. Such saints can be trusted with His finest. Those of us who refuse to enter into this relationship cannot be trusted with said gifts. We are cautioned not to be deceived in such a way.

We are then unequivocally informed about two things regarding our salvation in Christ. First: it is the providential decision of a gracious God. God willed to save us and make us His children and so provided salvation for us in the person of Christ. His gift to mankind is not base on human merit, but by sovereign choice on His part. Second: we are who we are in the Lord by "the word of truth" or the Bible. More specifically, the gospel that saves, Romans 1:16-17; 1st Corinthians 1:17-24; Galatians 3:1-9, etc. The term "firstfruits" in either the KJV or the NKJV means something akin to "the beginning of sacrifice" and is a clear reference to the produce of the field offered to God in the temple when the land yielded food. The Jews had been the first to receive Christ's message of salvation and from there the gospel fanned out to the farthest corners of the earth, but those first believers were likened by James as an initial reaping with much more to come. Jew and Gentile alike were the field, worked by the prophets, and then the apostles, who had entered into their predecessors' labors, John 4:38. It is a continuing command of Jesus our Lord to evangelize in the threefold name of God and to make disciples who will obey Him, Matthew 28:18-20. We should all, who call ourselves Christian, strive to enter these labors and win souls.

3 comments:

  1. Great post, Ian. As you pointed out, there is a difference between sin as the result of temptation, and sin as a lifestyle. It is this last that indicates a person will not be in heaven.

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  3. Thank you kindly. I am getting great blessings from this study of James; and an occasional slap upside the head as a stern reminder of who I am in Christ. The truth hurts sometimes, but constant reminder of it is a good safeguard against error.

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All Scripture is taken from the King James Bible (KJV) or New King James Bible (NKJV). Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.