Lesson Three – The Firstfruits of Creation

First Fruits of Creation 

Text:  James 1:16-18. 

I.   Introduction:  Jas. 1:16, 17.  “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  This statement may be James’ “other side of the coin” from “For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone.”  Jas. 1:13.  It does move his train of thought from the negative to the positive.  Please review the previous lesson.  The question we need to ask of this text is: “What are the “good and perfect gifts” Christians need and receive from God?”  Our clue may be found in how James introduced God as “the Father of heavenly lights.”  Father would suggest Christians are His children (Gal. 4:4-7).  Children need to be enlightened about how to find satisfaction for their innate needs in order to be happy.  Lights in this scripture may suggest Christians need the enlightenment about life our Father has provided for us through Jesus (John 1:3, 4; I Thess. 5:5; Heb. 12:22-24; I John 1:5).  God does not change and neither has the way God created people.

Since James did not elaborate on the “good and perfect gifts” coming down from Christians’ Father in heaven, we assume the recipients of his letter understood what he meant.  One principle for reading a letter:  “We must know what the recipients knew.”  It will be useful to help us to understand other topics James assumed the members of the church understood at the time he posted this letter.  The following are some issues he touched that will help us in the study of the text for this lesson.

A.   Preview:  James explained God’s spiritual liberation principles, or laws of life, and His exercises for Christians’ spiritual growth in the first three chapters of his epistle (Jas. 1:25; 2:12).  Some of the church members had not found satisfaction for some of their inherent needs.  They had become trapped in a battle within themselves and it was overflowing into the church.  See James 4:1-3.  They, like all of us, were trying to engage in real life experiences to satisfy the needs God created within mankind.  They could have asked God for help; however, some had not adopted the habit of asking for His wisdom.  Basically, there was nothing wrong with what they wanted.  Sometimes they would ask God for things they did need; however, their motives were wrong.  Perhaps they, like many people, had become confused about the difference between their inherent needs and their lusts.

Lust often develops around our pursuit of a natural drive.  Eating is ok, too much is gluttony.  Lust cannot be satisfied.  The more we try to satisfy our lust, the more it demands.  This finally becomes a great battleground within our “self.”  This turmoil was active in some church members James addressed; consequently, their inner battles had become public battles in the body of Christ.  They needed the help of the church to satisfy their achievement and social needs, but some members had become “lust driven” instead of “inherent need motivated.”

The needs God created within mankind can be satisfied, but we must have faith in God’s wisdom to be successful.

B.   Two sources for wisdom.  One source will give us peace and help us develop as peacemakers (Jas. 3:18).  The other will bring turmoil and develop fighters, perhaps, even killers.

1.  Wisdom from above.  Jas. 1:5; 3:17.

  • We will never have peace within ourselves until we have found satisfaction, or a hope of satisfaction, for our inherent needs.  Jas. 3:13.
  • We must identify our lust and cease making provisions for unlawful desires.  Jas. 1:13-15, 21.
  • We need to hear the truth and develop faith in the graces of the cross (Jas. 5:20).  However, we must have faith in the wisdom of God that He knows how He created us to develop according to the royal law of life.  See Jas. 1:25; 2:8, 12.  I Cor. 1:20, 21, 30, 31; 3:18-20.

2.  Wisdom of the world.

  • People may hear the word of God and claim it for their religion; however, what they hear may not always be revealed in their habits.  James’ teachings about faith may be missing from their religion.  A Christian’s behavior is a mirror of our personal identity.  Jas. 1:22-26; 2:14-19.
  • The world’s social stratification system for status identification has been developed by the wisdom of societies in order to feed the selfish ambitions of those who claim the “top level.”  Jas. 2:1-4; 3:14.
  • The “I can do it for myself” attitude.  Jas. 4:13-16.
  • Seeking security through material wealth.  5:1-6.

II.  Lesson.

This letter was addressed to Christians.  Christians function only in the church; therefore, let us consider how being a member of the body of Christ contributes to our inherent needs.  The church, functions as Christ’s body.  It must function in God’s evangelism program under the leadership of Jesus Christ, our king (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 8:4; I Cor. 15:58; II Pet. 1:8).  The church also functions in the body of Jesus Christ, the head, to help each member find satisfaction for our inherent needs.  The Apostle Paul said, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  Gal. 6:2.

A.  The following are some ways we help each other by the wisdom of God through Jesus.

1.  Food, clothing and shelter.

  • Temporary help.  2:15-17.
    •     “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”  II Thess. 3:10.
    •     The goal of Christians is to remain independent in the area of physical needs.  I Thess. 4:11, 12.
    •     The first century church had a benevolent program.  Acts 4:34, 35; I Cor. 16:2.
  • Permanent help for certain members is a program of the church Jesus is building for God.  Jas. 1:27; I Tim. 5:3-10, 17, 18.

 2.  Social needs. “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other.”  5:16.

  • Socialization on an equal status playing field.  Jas. 1:9-11; 2:1-11.
  • “Brothers do not slander one another.”  Jas. 4:11, 12.

 3.  Security.  “Humble yourself before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”  Jas. 4:10.

  • Presently.  Sickness and other needs.  Jas. 5:13-18.  See I Cor. 12:25-27.
  • Eternal.  “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming.”  Jas. 5:7.  Inherit the kingdom of God.  Jas. 2:5.
  • James said, “The word implanted in you, (which) can save you.”  Jas. 1:21.  Paul said, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear….”  Phil. 2:12.

4.    Achievement.

  • “That we might be a kind of first fruits of all that He created.”  1:18.
  • Spiritual development because of “faith testing.”  1:2-4.
  • Crown of life.  1:12.
  • Doing the righteousness of God.  1:20; 3:18.
  • Leaders in the church.  5:14.  Elders who also may:
    • Teach.  3:1.
    • Preach.  5:19, 20.

B.    The human inherent need for glory.

  • 1.   God created all people through Jesus Christ in His own likeness.  This is our potential.  James 3:9.  See Col. 1:15, 16.
  • 2.   The focal point of the faith of Christians is in “our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.”  James 2:1.  The glory of Jesus is the law of life offered by God in the new covenant.  I John 1:2.  The law of life describes how our spirits develop as sons of God.  Col. 1:27.
  • 3.    Before God created He predestined Christians’ glorious roles as His sons and daughters now in time (I Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:4, 5; Rom. 8:28-30; II Cor. 6:18) – and sons eternally (Heb. 2:10).  Our bodies identify as male or female.
  • 4.   Our reward of the “crown of life” and our inheritance of the “kingdom of God” will satisfy faithful Christians’ innate need for glory.  Jas. 1:12; 2:5; I Pet. 1:7.
  • 5.   The role of a glorious son of God is a free gift only in the fact that Jesus paid the price at the cross for Christians’ new birth and presently our justification by faith.
  • James 1:18; 2:23; Rom. 6:22.
  • 6.   Glory involves two human needs from the list in “A,” see items 2 and 4.   They are achievement and acceptance by others in the goal we achieve.  Please note “others” include Deity.
    • Christians who accept God’s “faith testing” sonship development plan have as our goal the “perfect man.” Jas. 3:2.  We are now seeking “glory, honor and immortality.” Rom. 2:7.  Christians are achievers.
    • Faithful Christians’ inheritance of eternal life, or crown of life, will be awarded on Judgment Day.  Jesus’ teachings will be the standard for judgment (Jas. 4:12; 5:9; John 12:48).  God will accept us as His eternal children and give us what we are trying to achieve: “glory, honor and peace.”  Rom. 2:10.  This is what we receive when we inherit eternal life.  Read again Romans 2:7 and 10.

III.    Moving with James’ thought in 1:18.

James reminded them, and us, that members of the church of God “in Christ” are the “firstfruits” of all of God’s creation.  Christians enjoy this quality of fruit because we “have the first fruits of the Spirit” in the sanctification of our character and personality (John 7:37-39; Rom. 8:23; Gal. 5:16, 17; II Thess. 2:14).  This is understood in context with Joel’s prophecy about the cooperation of the Holy Spirit with Jesus, the Christ, as Lord in these last days of time on earth (Acts 2:17, 36).  We became participants of this elite assembly when God chose to beget us by His word (James 1:18).  The “begetting” process starts by hearing and having faith in the word of God.  James used the Greek word apokueo (kueo means pregnant) in verses 15 and 18.  Therefore, “of God’s own will,” He gives spiritually dead people life (zoe, as in eternal life) for a “kind of firstfruits.”   The twelve tribes* to whom James addressed his letter would have understood “firstfruits” in the context of, “as a church, they themselves are the firstfruits of the harvest of sons of God;” consequently, their lives are a special sacrifice to God (Rom. 12:1, 2).

The Apostle Peter said, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of the imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.”  I Pet. 1:23.  The Greek word translated “born again” is anagennao.  Gennao means born, as John used the word and ana suggests again or from above (John 3:3).  Peter described the “first fruits” as “a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”  I Pet. 2:5.  John said, “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of Him.”  I John 2:29.  John used the phrase “born of God” to express what James meant in this text by “God chose to beget us.”  See I John 4:7.  The last phase of God’s program will be the return of Jesus and the rewarding of God’s faithful children’s inheritances (1:12; 2:5; 4:12; 5:7).

*Note:  James’ use of “the twelve tribes” may have been his way of identifying the church as the “Israel of God.”  Gal. 6:16.  There is nothing in his letter that indicates he had only members with a Jewish background in mind.  The “Israel of God” is spiritual Israel, who is also God’s elect (Rom. 9:6-8; 11:7).  Peter identified the recipients of his letter as God’s elect, the family of God and God’s flock (I Pet. 1:1; 4:17; 5:2).  James wrote to mature Christians who were shepherded by elders (Jas. 5:14).

IV.   Please answer the following questions: 

  1. How does James’ exhortation, “don’t be deceived,” serve as a transitional phrase between the foregoing scriptures and the teachings in this text for this lesson?
  2.  List some good (Gr. agathos – meaning beneficial in its effect) and perfect gifts Christians need “from above.”  While making your list please keep in mind: “The way God created mankind is consistent with His purpose for our being created.”  All people have been created to be God’s children (Eph. 1:4, 5: Rom. 8:29).  In this relationship please consider mankind’s pursuit to satisfy our needs God designed within us.  See James 4:1-3.
  3.  Explain James’ use of the concept about births, or begat (NIV), and bringeth forth (KJV), respectively, in verses 15 and 18.
  4. What is the implication about God in the phrase, “Who does not change like shifting shadows.”
  5. On this day, who are the firstfruits of all God has created?

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