chapter 1:13-17, cont.
No one may say when he succumbs to temptation, “I am tempted of God.” The reason no one may say that is: “for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” Literally the text reads: “for God is untemptable of evil.” That is contrary to His very Being and Nature as God. God is pure and holy, righteous and good; He is the light in whom is no darkness at all (cf. vs. 17, I John 1:5). Because God is untemptable of evil, it follows that He never tempts a man. God never entices anyone to sin. The source of our sinning must never be sought in God. That would be to shift the blame of our sins from ourselves to God and make Him the author of sin. That is blasphemy.
This, however, does not change the fact that God is sovereign over evil. Evil is not some kind of eternal force alongside of God. It, too, according to the eternal counsel of God and under His sovereign power serves His purpose in Jesus Christ. God says in Isaiah 45:7; “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” The inspired Apostle Paul in the famous ninth chapter of his Letter to the Romans speaks of God’s raising up of Pharaoh to show His, power and concludes: “Therefore bath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” (vs. 18) In answer to the objection, of unbelief to God’s sovereignty the Apostle quotes fromIsaiah 45: “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?” (vss. 20, 21)
God, therefore, the Bible teaches with unmistakable clarity, is sovereign over evil; it must serve His purpose. At the same time we may never say that sin has its origin in God. Ultimately this is beyond our puny, human, and sinful comprehension. And there we leave the question. God is sovereign, and we may not question that! We may not ask, “Why doth he yet find fault?” And at the same time we must insist with the Scriptures that God is untemptable of evil and tempts no man. Man always sins willingly and because he wants to sm. He never sins because God forces him to sin.
James explains the whole terrible process in verses 14 and 15. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” This is the first step. The sinner is drawn away by his own lusts. Lust is that terrible, powerful craving for that which is forbidden by the Word of God. By that man is enticed. That term is really “to bait, catch by bait.” The idea then is that the sinner’s own lusts are the bait by which he is caught in the trap of sin and drawn away from God.
“Then,” (vs. 15); this is now the second step. Having been drawn away and enticed by his own lust; “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sm.” When lust has conceived or seized hold on us, it brings forth or produces sin. That sin is the willful missing of the mark of the glory of God. And that sin, that missing of the mark is the product of our own lust, our craving for that which God’s Word forbids. Lust produces the sm. The original fall into sin illustrates the truth of this exactly. Having heard the lie of Satan and conversed with him, “. . . the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, . . .” Notice the lust here. “She saw that the tree was good for food”; that’s the lust of the flesh. “It was pleasant to the eyes”; that’s the lust of the eyes; and “a tree to be desired to make one wise”; that’s the pride of life. Therefore “she took of, the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.” (Gen. 3:6, I John 2:15-17). Lust took hold of Eve and produced her missing of the mark. God said, “Thou shalt not eat of it,” but she ate and gave to Adam, and he ate.
The third and concluding step in the process is stated in the last part of verse 15: “and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” “When it is finished,” that is, when sin has come to full maturity; when it has fully developed and reached its full potential, it brings forth death. Sin may, be compared to a cancerous growth in the human body. It grows and spreads and pervades our entire system, finally killing us. Sin, when it is finished, gives birth to death. And death is the expression of the wrath of God. Death is banishment from the favor and fellowship of God. Death is to be expelled from the paradise of communion with God. And that death is experienced now by the sinner. He is like the troubled sea; he finds no peace, no rest, no lasting satisfaction or happiness. Rather, his life is characterized by a frantic search for meaning and comfort, unrest, turmoil, discontent, anxiety, and fear. Death is the punishment of the sinner, his final alienation from God. The process is complete: the child of lust is sin, and the child of sin is death.
“Do not err, my beloved brethren” (vs. 16). Do not be deceived or led astray or fooled, my beloved brothers. This is the origin and the working out of sin and death. Do not say then, when you fall into sin, “I am tempted of God.” Say rather, “God be merciful to me, the sinner.” Confess your sins, pray for grace to resist temptations, fight the good fight. But, whatever you do, never say that your sin is the fault of God. That is a one-way street to hell. Lust is the cause of our being drawn away and enticed; and that lust produces the sin, and the sin gives birth to death. Do not err! Sin does not come from God.
The inspired James expresses that positively in verse 17: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”God gifts and perfect gifts come from God, the Father of lights! Every good gift comes from Him. Every gift which is beneficial to us, which serves to prepare us for glory. In a word, every saving gift comes from God. And every perfect gift. That word “perfect” means complete in all its parts. Every gift then which serves to make the child of God complete, fully mature, in the service of his Lord comes from God.
Those gifts come from above James writes. That means they come from heaven. They are heavenly gifts. The contrast is all too obvious. Lust comes from within us, and sin comes from that lust. But from above, descending from the Father of lights come only good and perfect gifts!
That is always, invariably the case. The source of these good and perfect gifts is the Father of “the lights.” The Lights here must mean the sun, moon, and stars. God is the Father of them in the sense that He is the. Creator of them, Light as such is always the symbol of moral, ethical perfection in the Scriptures. That is the idea in the text, too. The sun, reflected by the moon, and the stars are the lights of creation. But as the earth turns in relation to the sun, shadows of darkness are cast. That is never true of God. He, as the Father-Creator of the lights, is infinitely greater than these. With God, the Father of the lights there is no variableness. That is, with God there is no variation. He is always the same, always the giver of every good and perfect gift.
Still more, with God the Father of the lights there is no “shadow cast by turning.” What a blessed comfort that affords the child of God who finds himself in divers temptations! His God is the Father of the lights, with Whom is no variation, neither shadow cast by turning. His God never changes! He is Jehovah, the I Am That I Am. The never-changing, always faithful God of His children.
Blessed, then, is the man that endures temptations. Blessed is he who does not say when he is tempted, “I am tempted of God.” Blessed is that man who confesses his sin and goes to His heavenly Father, with Whom is no variation or shadow cast by turning. From Him he receives the good and perfect gifts of salvation in Jesus Christ; the faith, the wisdom, the grace, the hope, the love, the strength to endure. Blessed, supremely blessed, is that man. “For when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”
Endure, soldier of the cross. Find your strength in the Father of lights.