This Week's Focus Passage

James 1:18 ‘Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth.’

Great is the number of men that have, not only imagined but, taught that salvation is a product of the human will. These ‘Free-Willers” insist that ‘We must decide for Christ,’ they say; “God has done all that He can do toward our salvation. He has sent us His very, and only-begotten Son to make it possible for us to be reconciled with our Creator.” Through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, man has been afforded the opportunity of being right with God, if only he will simply exercise his free will to do so. This is the very reason that one as astute as Charles Haddon Spurgeon made the asseveration that all mankind are born Arminians. In other words, it is the very part of our human, our Adamic, nature to believe that we are able to save ourselves by the activity of our wills. Does this not fly in the face of this statement from James? James definitely speaks of free-will, but it is in no way such any free-will of man that he has referenced in our focus passage. It is manifestly clear that when James wrote, Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, he was giving the truth to the concept of free-will. The only One who’s will is free is God Himself. This bringing forth, of which James speaks, by the word of truth, is conspicuously ‘of His own will,’ that is, of the will of God Himself. ‘God makes His people willing in the day of His power.’ James is referencing the new birth even as does the ‘sweet Psalmist of Israel’ in psalm 110:3.   

‘The doctrine of grace here set forth is of a piece with that in Paul’s writings (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 1:5), those of Peter (1 Pet. 1:3), and John (1:13). Indeed, Jesus Himself is quoted as saying: “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). As the seed of sin produces death, so the seed of God produces life (1 John 3:9). It is interesting to not this piece of fundamental theology in so practical a writer as James, who lays special emphasis on works as proof of life. But James has no such idea as some careless and shallow theologians who think that a man can galvanize himself into spiritual life by imitative ethics. The man must be born again, as Jesus said so impressively to Nicodemus (John 3:3). Births precedes growth and development.’—A. T. Robertson.

We would do well to follow Robertson’s lead and investigate what it was that Paul, Peter, and John taught regarding this matter of the new birth. Jesus evidently pointed Nicodemus, the Pharisee who had come to Him by night, to the promise of the New Covenant found in Ezekiel 36:26, where the reader finds that God has surely promised that He will perform this ‘new birth’ when He said,

A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep mine ordinances, and do them.

This is nothing less than the ‘radical change’ that comes about when God, the Holy Spirit, arrests the rebellious sinner, convinces them of their sinfulness, convicts them of their just desert apart from His mercy, and through the grace of regeneration gives the new heart, making them willing in the day of this power to flee unto Him for mercy through the forgiveness by the sprinkled blood of Jesus Christ. Christ spoke of this in a manner that this night-time visitor did not immediately grasp. By way of explanation, the Savior of the world added,

Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born anew. The wind bloweth where it will, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knoweth not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

The word for spirit, in both Hebrew and Greek, is a word that may be, and often is, rendered breath, air, or wind, as well as spirit. The figure employed by our Lord, is therefore, very apt. This may also well be an illusion to the vision given Ezekiel in the chapter following the announcement of the New Covenant. In Ezekiel 37, we may read the fairly well-known account of the dry bones in the valley. It is really a very exciting demonstration of the faithfulness of God to His promises. We read:

So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and, behold, and earthquake; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I beheld, and, lo, there were sinews upon them, and flesh came up, and skin covered them above; but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.

Christ’s insistence to Nicodemus was, in no uncertain terms, a rebuttal of any so-called synergism with regard to salvation from the bondage of sin. Very clearly, was it expostulated to this Pharisee that man can do nothing to bring about his salvation. He can do nothing whatever toward it; he contributes not one thing to the mix apart from the sin that he is guilty of, and requires forgiveness for, in order to be right with God. Job famously uttered those renowned words; that well-known interrogatory exclamation, How can man be just with God? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Of course not! Yet he must be born again, or he must be born anew, or yet again, he must be born from above. Each of these are viable translations of the teaching given Nicodemus by the Rabbi, Christ. Well it would be if the attention given to John 3:16 by many professed believers, and it must be said, by many pretenders, were given to John 3:3, Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God. How vain and how shallow is the supposed one-covers-all proposition of John 3:16. Peter informs us that God, according to his great mercy begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The means; the resurrection of Christ, which presumes the death and burial of our Lord. His death, paying the penalty due us, is the basis for our forgiveness and justification. We were raised because Jesus Christ was raised! Of His own will!


David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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