More thoughts drawn from Sunday before last's sermon on James 1:17-20:
James 1:18a: Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth….
This statement addresses the work of the Father of lights in salvation.
Notice what this verse does not say. It does not say, According to the free will decision of man, begat he us….
The stress here, as always in the NT, is on the sovereignty of God in salvation: Of God the Father’s own will, begat he us….
This is the same thing John recorded in John 1:13 when he wrote that the redeemed “were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
And it is exactly what Paul declared in Romans 9:16 when he wrote, “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”
Notice three more things that are said here about salvation:
First, notice the language of begetting: “begat he us.” God the Father of lights made us, by grace, to become his sons and co-heirs with Christ. We are begotten of the Father, born from above.
Second, notice the pronoun “us.” Who is encompassed in this? James the apostle, the first recipients of this letter, the “brethren” (vv. 2, 9, 16), and all other Christian readers down through the ages. If you are a believer James is addressing you!
Third, notice the divine means of God bringing about salvation for us according to his will: “the word of truth.”
This could be a reference to Christ, who is described by John as the Word (logos) (John 1:1) and who declared himself in John 14:6 to be the truth.
It could also be a reference to the apostolic preaching in the apostolic Scriptures which point to Christ. See:
1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God (logon theou), which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
Of course, these two things do not need to be mutually exclusive. How does the Lord save men in this age? By the preaching of Christ as he is set out in the Gospels and in the writings of the apostles.