All posts by Disciples Church

Saturday Study

Saturday Study

2 John, 3 John & James 1-3 (9.21.19)

Let’s dig into James 1 verse 17 today as we look to who our good God is.

Let’s start with the first part of the verse:

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

King David sings of God’s goodness in Psalm 100:5 saying, “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” Jesus helped his listeners understand this truth when he said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11)!

We have to see that goodness is God’s nature. He is the measure of good.   All that God is and does is perfectly good, and He alone is the final standard of good. Jesus said in Luke 18:19, “… No one is good except God alone.” No one in their nature and very being is good and perfect like God is.  Now, not only is God the very definition and standard of what is good and holy, everything He does is perfect and good. Everything He creates is perfect and good.

1 Timothy 4:4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving

It is sin and pride and selfishness in man and fallen angels that have caused us to take the good creation and gifts of God and turn them into things for sin and addiction and pain and suffering. So, money is not evil, it’s man’s craving for money that is evil.  Alcohol is not evil, it is man’s overindulgence in it that is sinful and hurtful.  Food is not evil, it is our over desire to over consume or to comfort ourselves with it that is sinful. Even the things God ordains and/or does with our sinful broken world that could seem by us to be wrong cannot be wrong for God to do because it is God who does them.

William Perkins maybe said it best (really listen to this and I pray its truth begins to really sink in and shape how you think about God), “We must not think that God does a thing because it’s good and right, but rather the thing is good and right because God does it.”  Before we move on, do we give God the thanks He deserves for all that He constantly gives us? Do you see how God is constantly providing in all that He is entrusting to us? Do you see all that He is sustaining?

James is saying “every” good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

Are you thankful to God for “every” good gift?

When you get into your car and it starts … that is a good gift from God.

But how often are we only thinking about the new car we want?

When you get to eat fresh and hot food … that is a good gift from God.

But how often are we only critical about something in that meal that we don’t like?

When you get to hug or hold a loved one … that is a good gift from God.

But how often do we miss the gift of loved ones and are focused on other things in our busy day?

When you get to open your Bible and study God’s word in your language … that is a good gift from God.

But how often do we simply leave it sitting on the shelf or in the car neglecting all that it offers us?

When you wake up for a new day or stand up from your seat … that is a good gift from God.

But how often are we simply bitter at the responsibilities before us that day and not grateful at all for God’s good gifts of a body and mind that allows us to get up and live life!

Psalm 106:1 “… Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good …”  

In Psalm 34:8-10, David declares, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”

If your heart is constantly looking for and longing for the next thing, the next event, the next encounter, you are probably missing out on the good and perfect gifts of God. For those who seek the Lord lack NO GOOD THING!

Let’s look at the next part of the verse.

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James presenting God as “Father of lights” is another way of saying He is the Father of all good things. God is the Creator.  He is the source of all that we have and enjoy.

Psalm 136:4-9 to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who spread out the earth above the waters, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who made the great lights, for his steadfast love endures forever; the sun to rule over the day, for his steadfast love endures forever; the moon and stars to rule over the night, for his steadfast love endures forever

Consider with me the disrespect creation shows to God with our utter lack of awe and worship for all that He has made and done.  We are so guilty of making our days and our focus about us. We are utterly bathed in the goodness of His mighty hand and yet lack a resounding and ongoing praise for His creative and sustaining power.

Job 38:4-12 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone,

when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’? Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place”

He is God, He is power, He is love, He is life, He is worthy, He is the Father of lights!

As if that wasn’t enough. James is not done laying this massive foundation for who God is and for how He works. Maybe his biggest declaration in this verse is saved for last. Let’s read it.

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

In a world that is always changing, the One who sits on the throne over it all is unchanging. God is constant. He is not swayed or moved or unsettled ever or in any way. Nothing surprises Him, moves Him, or causes Him to shift.  This is the very important doctrine of the immutability of God. Immutable is a Latin word that means “not changeable”. God, in His being, perfections, will, purposes, ordinations, and promises does not change in any way. He has always been and will always be exactly the same.

God Himself declared this most specifically in Malachi 3:6 “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”

Think about that. If there were ever a people who are unfaithful, who are unable to deliver and finish and stay the course, it is us. If God was moved and swayed by our actions and lack of action, we would all be consumed in His righteous judgment. But God set out to deliver a people of His choosing, to save them from their deserved death and to secure them in His ever steady and eternal grip!

Hebrews 13:8 says,Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Why is this good news? Because in a world where nothing is certain, God is certain.  In a world where people and circumstances shift on a dime, where promises are made and then broken without any delay, God is faithful. God is constant. God is certain and stable. He is unmoved. He is dependable in every way.

The immutability of God is one of the very core foundations of what makes God to be God. He is eternal, necessary, free from all composition and devoid of all potential for He is complete. He is pure and complete. He is unmoved and never altered. Consider it this way: Any improvement or shift in conviction would mean He was ever-so-slightly wrong and needing of improvement.  True change means a shift from what was. This cannot be God’s way for God was, is and always will be perfect, complete, satisfied, and holy.

Historic Orthodox Christian theologians have held that God is immutable. That He is unchanging in essence, knowledge, and will. Modern thought and theology have made many attempts to soften the immutability of God and wrongly interpret His creation, His incarnation, and the handling of a changing world as being linked to His nature to shift or change. But He cannot and does not shift.

As James says so poignantly here, with “God” there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Herman Bavinck was a Dutch Reformed theologian and professor in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. He is considered one of the greatest reformed scholars.

Bavinck says it so well in his famous work, “Reformed Dogmatics” (2:156), “The difference between the Creator and the creature’s hinges on the contrast between being and becoming.” This means God eternally is what He is, never changing. He cannot change. But the created (you and I and all other things created) come into being at a point and is subject to and experiences change.

Bavinck goes on to say: “Those who predicate any change whatsoever of God, whether with respect to his essence, knowledge, or will, diminish all his attributes: independence, simplicity, eternity, omniscience, and omnipotence. This robs God of his divine nature, and religion of its firm foundation and assured comfort” (Bavinck, 2:158).

Bavinck says it well again in describing this reality: “There is change around, about, and outside of him, and there is change in people’s relations to him, but there is no change in God himself” (Bavinck, 2:158).

Finally, he says, Though eternal in himself, with no before or after, God engages the temporal world, condescending as transcendent God to dwell immanently in all created beings” (Bavinck, 2:158).

So, there might be perceived changes in God and in how God interacts with His creation in several scriptures He gives us in His word.In scripture, we see some examples whereby it looks as if God is changing or shifting or adjusting His position. In places like Genesis 6:6, “And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”  And in places like Exodus 32:10-14. Verse 14 says that after Moses pleaded with God to not put His wrath on the people, the Lord relented from the disaster that He had spoken of bringing on His people.

But how do these perceived testimonies among others stand in the midst of other passages that are clear to say that God doesn’t change His mind and has no regrets?

For example:

Numbers 23:19 “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”

1 Samuel 15:29 “And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.”

What we must take away here is that we cannot make God like man in how these things happen.

Now, God has chosen to use a type of speech called anthropomorphic language in Scripture that helps us understand better the ways in which He works, but we must rightly understand that it is not literal. Our Word of Truth Catechism describes anthropomorphic this way: Ascribing a human body, appearance, functions, or parts to something that is not human. We must understand that the description of God regretting in Genesis 6:5 is not the same thing as we experience as created man.

Where we, created man, do feel regret and often experience change of our mind and in our actions, the anthropomorphic language used in Scripture about God is portraying His righteous anger and wrath on the sin of man. It is metaphorical and is not intended to portray the same way we FEEL/EXPERIENCE regret.

Remember, Scripture didactically/definitively says “God is not man … that he should change his mind …” (Numbers 23:19) and “…[God] is not a man, that he should have regret.” (1 Samuel 15:29) And our passage from today, James 1:17 says with God “… there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

These statements are firm in defining God so we must read other scriptures that are metaphorical as God choosing to use human terms to communicate another reality beyond the human concept for the terms. To say that God has regrets is to say that God made mistakes and, therefore, is not God. For He is holy, all-knowing and perfect in all His ways.

These places in Scripture that seem to portray change in God is not an actual change, but from our angle, from our human view, a perceived change based upon all that has changed (in creation) in relation to that which is unchanged (in the Creator).

Oh, we are guilty of thinking about God as if He were like a human and framing Him up to fit into our box, our way of thinking, our way of perceiving the world and how things work for creation. We must repent of this for it makes us, the created, big and it makes God, the Creator, small. It pulls God down to our level.

Instead of undoing what God’s word makes clear here in James 1:17 about that fact that with God “… there is no variation or shadow due to change.” We should celebrate it. 

We are in His mighty and eternal grip. In a world that is coming at us from all sides, in bodies that are breaking down every day, in a first creation that will not maintain as it is forever a culture that doesn’t know truth and who’s normal operation is lies and deceit, we are saved and secured by a God that is unchanging.

God, in His being, perfections, will, purposes, ordinations, and promises, does not change in any way. He has always been and will always be exactly the same. This means He will not change His mind about who He has or will save.  This means He will fulfill all of His promises. This means He will finish what He started and not stop or change course.  This means nothing can overcome Him or pursue Him to be or to do other than He perfectly is and set out to do. If your soul is longing for faithfulness, for dependability, for certainty, for victory, God is your only hope! 

Psalm 46 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. ‘Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!’ The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

I pray you are greatly moved in your soul today by our study of this verse and that you would depend on God and trust Him with your entire life.

He is the Father of lights! Every good gift and every perfect gift is from Him.

He is worthy of our praise, our trust, our lives. AMEN. 

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Joshua Kirstine

Disciples Church

James 3

James 3

3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

(ESV)

James 2

James 2

2:1 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

(ESV)

James 1

James 1

1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:

Greetings.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

(ESV)

3 John 1-14

3 John 1-14

Greeting

1:1 The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers1 came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Support and Opposition

Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.

I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. 10 So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.

11 Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. 12 Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.

Final Greetings

13 I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. 14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

Footnotes

[1] 1:3 Or brothers and sisters. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, the plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters; also verses 5, 10

(ESV)