Shelby G. Floyd
Credit: Google Images
I thought it would be good at this time of the year to talk about “The Gift and the Giver.” God is a loving and lavish giver to all mankind. The golden text of the Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” This affirms how much God loves us by sending his only begotten and unique Son to die on the cross for us. God has many sons, but he only has one unique Son—Jesus Christ.
GOD THE GRACIOUS AND GENEROUS GIVER
Our main text is in James 1:17-18, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of His creatures.” God is the source and origin of every good and perfect gift. If you get a gift and it is not good, therefore it is not from God. When you get any gift that is good it comes from God. God’s gifts are not only good but they are also perfect. And that means they are complete. To illustrate what that means just think about Christ—Christ is good and perfect.
Good and Perfect Gifts
All of God’s gifts that are good and perfect come from above, not down here on this earth. God’s good gifts come from above. And that simply means that they come down from God out of heaven where God dwells. The best of God’s gifts that come down from heaven are spiritual gifts. Paul declares, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). All of these spiritual gifts are to be found in Christ Jesus. So if we want these gifts then we must find out how to be in Christ to take advantage of these spiritual gifts.
God’s Gifts Keep “Coming Down”
Did you notice that James declares that these gifts are “coming down” from the Father of lights? The phrase “coming down” is a continuous present participle and denotes the continued action of God in providing these gifts to his people. At this time of the year when we go to the shopping mall we note that everyone is carrying a shopping bag with gifts. When we think of God’s gifts, just look up into heaven and realize that they are coming down continuously at all times. This is what the continuous present means. This statement reveals how generous and good and loving our God is to his people. No one can say that God does not give us enough, because his wonderful gifts just keep on coming down from heaven.
GOD IS THE FATHER OF LIGHTS
In our text, James declares that these gifts that come down from heaven come from the “Father of lights.” At this time of the year we decorate our houses with lights, the mall and business establishments decorate with lights and we see lights in the center of our city of Indianapolis with the tallest lighted Christmas tree in the country.
God Originates All Physical, Moral and Spiritual Light
When I think of heaven where God the Father dwells I think of light or lights. I do not claim to know very much about astronomy. It is not something that I have spent a lot of time studying. I like to go out sometimes and see the full moon or when there is an eclipse of the sun or moon. We have so many lights in our cities that you can hardly see the twinkling stars at night. The physical lights of the stars and heavenly planets are constantly changing. The northern lights are there but they change also. God is a God of light but he does not change. He does not vary. He is not changeable. He is constant in his love and in his gifts to mankind.
God is the Father of lights. This means that he is the originator and source of all physical, moral and spiritual light. Let us notice a few verses of Scripture that reveal how the Father dwells in light that does not change like the light of our physical universe.
Daniel the prophet declared in his prophecy that God dwells in light and light dwells with him:
He reveals deep and secret things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And light dwells with Him
We have all heard about Pleiades and Orion which are large groups of stars. The prophet Amos declared that the God of lights can turn blackness into light and can also darken day into night: “He who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns midnight into dawn and darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land—the Lord is his name” (Amos 5:8 NIV). So God created Pleiades and Orion and they change and vary but God does not.
Most Christian people love David’s Psalms, especially what he said in the eighth chapter. David, the Royal Bard of Israel and an inspired poet and prophet often gazed into the heavens while he was a little shepherd boy. When he considered how vast the heavenly creation was, he wondered how God would even take note of man: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him” (Psalms 8:3-4 ESV). God set all of these stars in their place and we are just a small little person on this terrestrial globe. Even though God created this vast universe, he cares for us by sending all of those good gifts down from the heavenly lights. He is always mindful of us.
And then in one of the great sermons that Jesus preached to the people, he made a bold statement when he declared, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). And in the same vein, John said in his first epistle, “this is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5 NIV).
God’s Nature Does Not Change
We have learned from God’s word that the Father of lights keeps on sending gifts down to us from heaven. These lights in our universe vary and are changeable. But the God who is the Father of lights does not change or vary. He is immutable and does not change in his love, grace and gifts to man.
Moses declared in the Pentateuch:
God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
If God speaks, he acts. If he promises, he keeps his promises
God later on, affirmed by the last prophet of the Old Testament, that “I the Lord do not change” (Malachi 3:6). And in the New Testament in the book of Hebrews, written to Jewish people who converted to Christianity, the writer says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:7-8). A. W. Pink wrote, “God cannot change for the better, for his already perfect; and being perfect, he cannot change for the worse.”
GOD’S GOOD, PERFECT AND COMPLETE GIFTS
Now I want us to look at some of God’s good and perfect and complete gifts. Every good and perfect gift is coming down from God the Father of the heavenly lights. He does not change like shifting shadows. One writer has said that “Nothing good comes except from God, and nothing except good comes from God.”—Blanchard. Let us notice the scope of God’s good gifts – “every good gift and every perfect gift!” “Every good gift and every perfect gift” denotes the act and the result of giving that comes from God. The act of giving is good and the gift of giving is good. God is good. God is great.
All of God’s Works and Ways are Perfect
1. God’s work is always perfect. In the second giving of the law in Deuteronomy Moses declared to Israel that their God:
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he”(Deuteronomy 32:4 NIV).
When we look at all of the works of God, everything he has done is perfect. How does that compare with our work? We can do some things that come near to perfection. Apple Computer produces products about as perfect as man is capable. But they have their problems also, because they are not perfect. But the works of God are completely perfect.
2. God’s way is also perfect. Again in one of David’s Psalms he declared that the way of God is perfect: “as for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless” (Psalms 18:30 NIV). God has no way that is bad or imperfect. And people who take issue with the word of God, it does not matter on what subject it might be, they need to remember that God’s way is always perfect. When God says something man can rely upon what he said to be perfect and true. There is no blemish; there is no shortcoming, for his way is perfect.
3. Not only is God’s way perfect but his will is also perfect. Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (NKJV). Paul the apostle is challenging us here to test God’s will. It will always be found to be pleasing and perfect. It will always stand the test.
4. Finally, God’s word is perfect. David the inspired poet declares, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalms 19:7 KJV).
We have looked at those gifts that just continually come down from the Father of lights and there is no variableness, there are no shifting shadows with God. And we found out that God’s work is perfect, is way is perfect, his will is perfect, and his word is perfect. And just as God’s work, way, will, and word are all perfect, so in like manner all of God’s material and spiritual gifts come from his generous and gracious love for us and they are also good and perfect.
WHAT IS GOD’S GREATEST GIFT?
What is God’s greatest gift to man? I think my greatest gift from God is a good wife and a good family. I thank God for the spiritual gift he gave me to preach the gospel. I thank God for the gift of good health that has allowed me to preach the gospel for almost 54 years. These are all wonderful gifts for me, but what is God’s greatest gift to mankind?
God’s greatest gift to all of us is Jesus Christ. Paul exclaimed, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15). In the fourth chapter of John we read of Christ in countering a woman at a well in Samaria. Jesus knew everything about this woman before he even met her. He said to her, “Go call your husband.” She replied, “I don’t have a husband.” Jesus knew her life because he said “You have spoken truly for you have had five husbands and the man you are living with now is not your husband.” Her marital situation looked a lot like the marriages that are falling apart in America. Because Jesus knew everything about her, she went into town and told the people about the great man that she had met who knew all about her before he even talked to her. The people flocked out to hear Jesus Christ and they believed his message because they heard him with their own ears and not because of the testimony of the woman.
Jesus asked the woman for a drink of water. It was unheard of in that age for a Jew to ask a Samaritan for a drink of water. And it was even stranger that a man would ask a woman for a drink of water. She was perplexed because the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus replied to her, ““If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (John 4:10 NKJV). Jesus the gift of God to mankind was the living water that the woman needed as well as all of us.
When Jesus came into this world the wise men from the East honored him with gifts. At this time of the year we give gifts to each other and to our children. The greatest gift that God has given any of us is our Lord Jesus Christ. And the greatest gift that we can give to Jesus is to give him our life of service and obedience. Christ and the spiritual blessings for his children just keep on coming down from heaven to bless all of us with forgiveness and the hope of everlasting life. Jesus is God’s perfect gift.
THE NEW BIRTH IS THE GIFT FROM GOD
In the last verse of our text James wrote, “Of his own will he gave birth* to us by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures” (James 1:18 WEB). The greatest spiritual gift that God can give us now is the new birth. Adam and Lauren know how wonderful it is to have the new birth of twins – a boy and a girl. We all have experienced the joy that the new birth of children brings into our family. We ourselves have experienced the new birth of children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren. It is wonderful and we love them unconditionally.
Since we feel that way about our children, can you imagine how God feels about the new birth of his children into the spiritual family – the church? Every time a person is baptized into Christ God has a new child who has been born again – a new birth.
We want to expound upon the new birth because that is a great gift from God. He has a new child and we have a new member of the spiritual family. This gift is conditional as are most of God’s good gifts. In John chapter 3 we read of an interview that Jesus had with Nicodemus. He was a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night. It would be useless to speculate why he came by night and not by day. Jesus said to him, “Except a man is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. And Nicodemus didn’t understand what he was talking about. Jesus was using figurative language. Most of the Bible is in plain language. But there are sections in both the Old and New Testament that use metaphorical language. This language is symbolic. Nicodemus didn’t understand and so he asked, “How can a man be born when he is old, can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus said, “Nicodemus, truly, truly I say unto you, except a man be born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
Jesus explained to him, “The wind blows where it will and you hear the sound of it but you cannot tell from where it comes or where it will go.” The wind is invisible but it does its work nevertheless. The same word that is translated wind is also translated spirit. The word of God is the seed of the kingdom (Luke 8:11). The seed has the germ of life within it both in the physical and spiritual world. The Spirit of God – the Holy Spirit indwells the word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63 NKJV). Once Jesus explained to Nicodemus that the new birth was a spiritual birth of water and the spirit he understood that he meant faith and baptism. But we do not need to rely solely upon figurative language to understand the new birth.
The new birth of water and the Spirit is explained in many places in plain language that even a child can understand. For instance Jesus said in the great commission, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved. He who does not believe shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). This is an inspired commentary on what it means to be born of water and the Spirit. Faith and baptism equals water and Spirit!
And then we have in the New Testament and example of how the plain and figurative language was obeyed in order to become a child of God. Philip the evangelist explained the new birth to the Ethiopian noblemen. The subject of conversion was reading Isaiah 53 and he did not understand who the prophet was talking about. Philip the evangelist began at that same Scripture and preached unto him Jesus. They came to a certain water and the Ethiopian said, “See here is water, is there anything hindering me from being baptized?” This demonstrates that you cannot preach Jesus Christ without preaching water baptism. Philip replied, “If you believe with all of your heart you may be baptized.” The Ethiopian made the good confession that Jesus is the Christ the son of the living God. They stopped the chariot in which they were riding and the Bible says, “They went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:28-39).
This is the gift of the new birth—“Of his own will he gave birth to us by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures” (James 1:18 WEB). We give each other gifts, but what would the giver think if we never opened their gift to us? What does God think if we never open and obey the gift of the new birth? **
*“He gave birth” is from the Greek verb apokueo, and literally means “to bring forth from the womb, and give birth to.” Figuratively it means “to produce.”—Thayer, page 64. This verb is only found in James 1:15-18.
Copyright © 2014 Shelby Floyd All Rights Reserved
**Shelby G. Floyd delivered this sermon December 22, 2013 at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142