Wonderful Words of Life

Bible Book: James  1 : 18
Subject: Salvation; Life, Words of
Series: James - Owen

Philip P. Bliss, who in his early thirties became an associate to D. L. Moody. He was a prolific hymn writer, and he also wrote the tune for Horatio Spafford’s song “It Is Well with My Soul.” Today, as I have studied James 1:18, I have thought of one of Philip Bliss’ songs entitled “Wonderful Words of Life.” The song says…

Verse 1

Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life,

Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life;

Words of life and beauty teach me faith and duty.

Verse 2

Christ, the blessed One, gives to all wonderful words of life;

Sinner, list to the loving call, wonderful words of life;

All so freely given, wooing us to heaven.

Verse 3

Sweetly echo the Gospel call, wonderful words of life;

Offer pardon and peace to all, wonderful words of life;

Jesus, only Savior, sanctify us forever.


Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life,

Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.

James wrote some wonderful words of life when he wrote concerning the heavenly Father…

Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

(James 1:18)

As J. Vernon McGee said, “This is definitely a reference to the new birth.”

The transition from verse 17 to verse 18 is best explained by Matthew Henry who said…

‎As every good gift is from God, so particularly the renovation of our natures, our regeneration, and all the holy happy consequences of it, must be ascribed to Him.

As we consider James’ great statement here about the new birth and regeneration, let us consider that…

I. Salvation Is A Personal Process

(James 1:18) Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

Usually, when we talk about the personal and individual aspect of salvation, we are referring to our partaking of it personally. But I am referring here to God’s personal involvement in salvation.

A. Notice The Part Of Divine Will Here

Again to quote J. Vernon McGee…

There are two wills involved here —“?Of his own will begat he us.?” Again, you have in conception two coming together — there is no other way for a conception to take place. Therefore, when His will is joined with your will, you will be born again.

(Revelation 22:17) And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

I think we can understand the concept of yielding our will in salvation. But here we are reminded that God’s will was vital and necessary. Peter shows us the negative side of this…

(2 Peter 3:9) The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

If He was not willing that we should perish, then He was willing that we should live. And that’s what James is magnifying. As we discovered recently in Isaiah 43, it is wonderful when God says, “I will.” And James said it was “His own will.” He wasn’t coerced into this. He wasn’t forced to do this against His will. Redemption’s plan was His own decision. As Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says, it was “‎of His own free will He brought us forth.”

Listen to what John’s gospel says…

(John 1:11-13) He came unto his own, and his own received him not. {12} But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: {13} Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

B. Notice The Part Of Deliberate Will Here

‎Matthew Henry said…

It is of God’s own will; not by our skill or power; not from any good foreseen in us, or done by us, but purely from the good-will and grace of God.

But what is the “will”? What does it mean that He begat us “of His own will”? This word “will” means…

will – Greek 1014. boulomahee, boo’-lom-ahee; mid. of a prim. verb; to “will,” i.e. (reflex.) be willing:--be disposed, minded, intend, list (be, of own) will (-ing).

‎Thayer’s indicates that the word means “to will, wish; and commonly, to will deliberately, have a purpose, be minded.”

A. T. Robertson said, “‎God as Father acted deliberately of set purpose.” Adam Clarke said, “God’s will here is opposed to the lust of man (in) James 1:15.”

‎Barnes said…

‎The fact that we are “begotten” to be His children is to be traced solely to His will. He purposed it, and it was done. … By His mere will, without any external power to control Him, and where there could be nothing but benevolence, He has adopted us into His family

He was willing (and I might add – able) to beget us. He was disposed to do this; He was of a mind to do this; He intended to do this, and do it deliberately!

II. Salvation Is A Procreation-al Process

(James 1:18) Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

A. James Mentions The Conception And Birth

Our spiritual conception can be favorably compared, I think, to the physical conception of Christ. It was miraculous, and accomplished without human instrumentality.

begat – Greek 616. apokueo, ap-ok-oo-eh'o; from G575 and the base of G2949; to breed forth, i.e. (by transf.) to generate (fig.):--beget, bring forth.

The word “begat” has the idea of giving birth to, and producing, and bringing forth from the womb. And in this context, it is that “new birth” and being “born again” that Jesus mentioned to Nicodemus.

A. T. Robertson indicated that the act of bringing forth is referring “‎only here of the father, not of the mother.” And it points to “regeneration, not birth of all men, though God is the Father in the sense of creation of all men.

The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary notes that…

Begat he us, [apekueesen] (means) spiritually: a once-for-all accomplished act (1 Peter 1:3,23).

In other words, once we have been genuinely born again, we will not have to be born again, again.

Albert Barnes said…

[Begat he us] The Greek word here is the same which in James 1:15 is rendered “bringeth forth,” – “sin bringeth forth death.” The word is perhaps designedly used here in contrast with that, and the object is to refer to a different kind of production, or bringing forth, under the agency of sin, and the agency of God. The meaning here is, that we owe the beginning of our spiritual life to God.

B. James Mentions The Children In The Brood

C. F. Deems said, “He emphasizes ‘us’ in addressing Hebrew Christians.” (From The Biblical Illustrator)

But The Pulpit Commentary mentions a larger objective…

‎Us … to whom does this refer? … To all Christians; To Christians of the apostolic age; To Jewish Christians, to whom the Epistle is specially addressed.

Warren Wiersbe said…

James used birth as a picture of desire leading to sin and death (James 1:15). He also used it to explain how we can enjoy victory over temptation and sin. The Apostle John used a similar approach in 1 John 3:9, where “his seed” refers to the divine life and nature within the believer. Note the characteristics of this birth. It is divine. Nicodemus thought he had to re-enter his mother’s womb to be born again, but he was wrong. This birth is not of the flesh: it is from above (John 3:1-7). It is the work of God. Just as we did not generate our own human birth, we cannot generate our own spiritual birth. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, it was God who performed the miracle.

III. Salvation Is A Possible Process

(James 1:18) Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

A. It Is Made Possible Because The Word Has The Quality Of A Seed

A. T. Robertson said that the word for “word” is logoo, and it is in the instrumental case. In other words, this is what God used to set in motion the act of begetting. This power of the word is best seen in the seed analogy through which the “word of God” is so often seen in the New Testament.

In explaining the parable of the sower, Jesus said…

(Luke 8:11) Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.

Peter also said…

(1 Peter 1:23) Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

Wiersbe said…

Since the Word of God is “living and powerful” (Hebrews 4:12) it can generate life in the heart of the sinner who trusts Christ; and that life is God’s life.

Barnes said that the begetting is “by the instrumentality of truth. It was not a mere creative act, but it was by truth as the seed or germ.”

A seed brings forth after its kind. So if the seed of salvation is the word of truth and the word of God, then that seed grows into more of God’s word. Have you ever heard someone described as “a walking Bible”? That is what all of us should become. His word should become more and more a part of our life. And as Paul said in Ephesians 4:15, we “may grow up into Him (Christ) in all things.”

B. It Is Made Possible Because The Word Has The Quality Of Sincerity

‎A. T. Robertson said of this phrase “the word of truth,” that this is “the message marked by truth.”

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says that “truth” refers to “what is true in any matter under consideration (opposed to what is feigned, fictitious, false).”

Matthew Henry points to…

‎The means whereby this is affected are pointed out: the word of truth, that is, the gospel, as Paul expresses it more plainly, 1 Corinthians 4:15, I have begotten you in Jesus Christ through the gospel. This gospel is indeed a word of truth, or else it could never produce such real, such lasting, such great and noble effects. We may rely upon it, and venture our immortal souls upon it. And we shall find it a means of our sanctification as it is a word of truth, John 17:17.

Adam Clarke said…

The word or doctrine of truth, what Paul calls the word of the truth of the Gospel (Colossians 1:5), is the means which God uses to convert souls.

Cf. (Colossians 1:5) For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;

IV. Salvation Is A Purposeful Process

(James 1:18) Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

A. T. Robertson said that the words “that we should be” are a “Purpose clause.”

A. There Is An Anticipated Purpose Involved In The Word “Should”

This is what God anticipated for us when He begat us!

B. There Is An Actual Purpose Involved In The Word “Should”

This is what we are and should be.

V. Salvation Is A Prioritized Process

(James 1:18) Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

A. There Is A Great Truth Wrapped Up In The Firstfruits

firstfruits – Greek 536. aparche, ap-ar-khay'; from a comp. of G575 and G756; a beginning of sacrifice, i.e. the (Jewish) first-fruit (fig.):--first-fruits.

Barnes said…

The phrase here does not primarily denote eminence in honor or degree, but refers rather to time – the first in time; and in a secondary sense it is then used to denote the honor attached to that circumstance. (So) The meaning here is, either that, under the gospel, those who were addressed by the apostles had the honor of being first called into his kingdom as a part of that glorious harvest which it was designed to gather in this world, and that the goodness of God was manifested in thus furnishing the first-fruits of a most glorious harvest; or the reference may be to the rank and dignity which all who are born again would have among the creatures of God in virtue of the new birth.

John MacArthur said…

When James writes we (“we should be”), he is applying the term to the believers of that time, perhaps especially Jewish believers who were the first of the harvest of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They were the first of many more to come in the spiritual harvest God was beginning. Paul spoke of the household of Stephanas as being “the first fruits of Achaia” (1 Corinthians 16:15). … In an immeasurably greater way, those who are regenerated through Christ in this present age will be the first fruits among His creatures in His ultimate re-creation of the new heaven and new earth after the present heaven and earth have been destroyed. … Believers are the first installment on God’s new creation that is to come (cf. 2 Peter 3:10-13).

(Revelation 14:4) These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.

Matthew Henry said…

‎The end and design of God’s giving renewing grace is here laid down: That we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures—that we should be God’s portion and treasure, and a more peculiar property to him, as the first-fruits were; and that we should become holy to the Lord, as the first-fruits were consecrated to him.

B. Notice The Great Typology Wrapped Up In The Firstfruits

The Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says of the word “kind,” that…

‎It indicates that the thing with which it is connected belongs to a certain class and resembles it.

In other words, we are like the firstfruits.

The Pulpit Commentary says…

Probably, just as Israel of old was Jehovah’s firstborn (Exodus 4:22), so now the germ of the Christian Church, as found in these Judaeo-Christian communities, was to be “a kind of firstfruits.” … Transfer this from the Jewish to the Judaeo-Christian communities, and we have the very thought of the apostle. … A kind of firstfruits of his creatures. The image is taken from the wave sheaf, the firstfruits of the harvest, the earnest of the crop to follow. St. Paul (according to a very possible reading) has the same figure in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, “God chose you as firstfruits.”

See Phillips, page 52.

See also Leviticus 23

Jesus corresponds to the wave sheaf in Leviticus 23:9-11

(1 Corinthians 15:20) But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

And we correspond to the loaf (made from the grain of the sheaf) in Leviticus 23:15-17

(James 1:18) … we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

Alexander Maclaren said…

According to the Levitical ceremonial, the first sheaf of the new crop, accompanied with sacrifice, was presented in the temple on the day after the Passover Sabbath. No part of the harvest was permitted to be used for food until after this acknowledgment that all had come from God. A similar law applied to the first-born of men and of cattle. Both were regarded as in a special sense consecrated to and belonging to God. Now, in the New Testament, both these ideas of “the first-born” and “the first-fruits,” are transferred to Jesus Christ. In His case the ideas attached to the expression are not only that of consecration, but that of being the first of a series, which owes its existence to Him. That which Jesus Christ is, primarily and originally, all those who love Him and trust Him are secondarily and by derivation from Himself. (From The Biblical Illustrator)


Of all the created things in God’s universe, the redeemed are the firstfruits. First in rank, in recognition, in relationship, in His regard towards us.