Thoughts on James: 1:16-18 (Part IV)

There are three more purposes to address so, let’s get right to it: (For further explanation, see previous post)

 

The third purpose is to choose a people to commune with God and enjoy him forever; this was done before the foundation of the world:

1:4 For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. (Eph. 1:4 NET)

This should not be a surprise, since Christ was chosen before the foundation of the world:

20 He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. (I Pet. 1:20 NRSV)

All of this was in the plan of the Father, who loved Christ and therefore, loves us:

24 “Father, those whom you have given to me—I want that those also may be with me where I am, in order that they may see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (Jn. 17:24 LEB)

This sets those who believe in Christ apart, just as God in his holiness is set apart:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (I Pet. 2:9-10 ESV)

Clearly then, those who are in Christ are called out from the world and separated from sin and holiness, by the blood of Christ, so that we may serve the Lord and that we glory in his name and his goodness.

 

The fourth purpose is to conform us all to the image of Christ; this is after all the destiny of all who have been chosen in Christ in the aforementioned manner:

29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Rom. 8:29 NIV)

Many get hung up on predestination and election; it seems to be a very unfair and well, inhumane doctrine. However, we are not responsible for understanding how election works but rather that it works and what the purpose of election is. From this verse, the purpose of election is to guarantee that someone will be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. The next verse gives further insight into this claim:

30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Rom. 8:30 NIV)

Those who will be conformed to the image of Christ are those who were called, justified, and ultimately will be glorified. What is this “calling?” That is a subject for a study of another book and way beyond where we need to go.

However, the idea that we are to be conformed to Jesus Christ’s image is echoed by Paul in Philippians:

But whatever things were gain to me, these things I have considered loss because of Christ. More than that, I even consider all things to be loss because of the surpassing greatness of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for the sake of whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and consider them* dung, in order that I may gain Christ and may be found in him, not having my righteousness which is from the law, but which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God on the basis of faith, 10 so that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, 11 if somehow I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phi. 3:7-11 LEB)

Paul knew that true wholeness and happiness was only to be found in communion with Christ, becoming conformed to his likeness and being remade in his image. As Adam was the symbol of our old creation, so Christ is the symbol of the new:

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (II Cor. 5:17 NKJV)

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

(I Cor. 15:20-23 NRSV)

This interestingly ties back into James 1:18:

18 In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures. (NRSV)

Christ is the first fruit of a new creation ruled by life and resurrection; James was speaking of his current flock of believers as part of the first fruits of the new creation because of the fact that they were tied to Jesus Christ as the First Fruit.

 

The fifth and final purpose is that of restoring the broken, maligned creation; Paul writes about this in Romans:

19 For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation  for God’s sons  to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected  to futility —not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it —in the hope 21 that the creation itself  will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains  until now. 23 And not only that,  but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits —we also groan within ourselves,  eagerly waiting for adoption,  the redemption of our bodies. (Rom. 8:19-23 HCSB)

The creation was subjected to our colossal rebellion; when we ate the fruit we, because we are its stewards, plunged creation into sin and disorder. This will be corrected completely with the return of Jesus Christ; but look at what I found in this verse! Once again the word (or it should be words) “first fruits” appear. We are, in Christ, the first fruits of the new creation, which is free from bondage to sin and death! It will be fully revealed at the revealing of the sons and daughters of God at the consummation of the age.

Still, even though creation is ailing and broken; it is still held firmly together by Christ:

16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Col. 1:16-17 ESV)

So then, the plan of God includes our redemption but it is so much bigger than that! The purpose of God is five-fold: 1) to bring salvation to the nations through his covenant with Abraham, 2) to display his holiness, love, might, and power to the nations, 3) to call us in Christ before the foundation of the world, 4) to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ in this life, and 5) to redeem and restore the created order through a new creation under Jesus Christ.

How does this purpose of God come about in us?

Through the word of truth, but that is for next time.

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