Calvary Road Baptist Church


James 1.18

Let me begin by laying a solid foundation of truth upon which we can build. To do that, please turn in your Bible to James 1.1: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.” Of course, James was the well-known half-brother of the Lord Jesus Christ, a son born to Joseph and Mary after the virgin birth of the Son of God, who was not converted until after our Lord’s resurrection. From the book of Acts, we know that he eventually became the senior pastor of the church in Jerusalem. Keeping in mind that the first Christians were overwhelmingly, though not exclusively, Jewish believers, and that persecution arose to scatter the Jewish Christians from Jerusalem, it becomes clear from the phrase “to the twelve tribes that are scattered abroad” that James is writing a letter to be circulated among the men and women he had once pastored who had fled for their lives.

Drop your eyes down to 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.” In other words, our heavenly Father gives only good gifts to His children, to Christians. That is something to remember at all times. This means that our Father is always the same toward us. He never changes in His gracious and tender attitude toward us. With that in mind, what could be the precious gift James is moved by the inspiring Spirit of God to deal with those scattered Jewish Christians about?

James 1.18, is the next verse, and is my text for this morning: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” What does James bring to his readers’ attention here? Four truths for us to realize before this morning’s message:


Our text begins, “Of His own will . . . .”

Boulomai is the Greek word used here, the noun form of the word used in ancient times to express the will and determination of the gods of ancient Greece.[1] In our text, it refers to the free sovereign, creative will, decision, and decree of God.[2]

Turn to John 1.12-13:

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.

See anything in this passage indicating that a sinner’s conversion to Christ is something that originates in his own mind or heart? Is there anything in this passage that suggests that your salvation originated in your mind or heart, Christian? Of course not.

Now, look at John 15.16: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” We have the same thing here, do we not? The Lord Jesus Christ informed His disciples, those very special men, that He had chosen them. Since we know that God is no respecter of persons, there is no basis whatsoever for anyone to believe that his salvation could possibly be his idea that he decided to become a Christian independently of the will of God affecting his will.

Next, Back At Our Text, Realize That SALVATION OCCURS AT THE NEW BIRTH

“Of his own will begat he us . . . .”

If you are a Christian, your salvation occurred when you were born again. The word “begat” refers to being birthed, to being born again.[3] We also see this in First Peter 1.18-25, where Peter writes to Jewish Christians:

18     Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;

19     But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

20     Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,

21     Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.

22     Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:

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

24     For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:

25     But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

Notice First Peter 1.21 in passing. It begins, “Who by him do believe in God . . . .” People cannot really believe in God unless and until they believe in God by Him, meaning by Jesus Christ. Thus, no one who is not a Christian really believes in God. At least, not the right way.

The point that I wanted you to see in this passage is how salvation is tied in with this event called the new birth, verse 23. Salvation and the new birth are not precisely the same thing, and I do not have time today to clarify and explain the distinction between the two concepts. Just know this to be true from our text as well as this passage: Salvation occurs at the new birth. A person is saved from his sins when he is born again. Unless and until you are born again you will never be saved, you can never be saved. Keep in mind that Jesus said, “Ye must be born again.”[4]


“Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth . . . .”

We know that the phrase “the word of truth” refers to God’s Word, the Bible, because of what the Lord Jesus prayed the night before His crucifixion. Listen to some of the words He spoke to the Father when He was in the garden of Gethsemane: In John 17.17, He pleaded, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” The Lord Jesus Christ then urged the Father to sanctify, or cleanse, sinners with His truth, which is to say, with His Word.

Since we just read First Peter 1.23, look up Romans 1.16 and then Romans 10.17:

1.16      For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

10.17    So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

From Romans 1.16, we see that salvation comes through belief, which is faith. However, Romans 10.17 shows us that the faith by which the sinner believes the gospel comes by means of hearing the Word of God. As James 1.18 declares, and other portions of the New Testament show, there is an undeniable and necessary link between the Word of God, the Bible, and being born again. God uses His Word to bring about the new birth.


“Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”

The phrase “that we should be” reveals that God had a purpose in begetting James’ readers with the Word of truth. The phrase “a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” shows us what God’s purpose is. Those first Christians, the Jewish Christians, were saved in part to be a kind of firstfruits of God’s creatures. To put it another way, those early Jewish Christians were born again to become the first in a long line of people to be born again. They were supposed to be like the first ripe fruit of a tree, good tokens of what would come after them.

Turn to Ephesians 1.4-14, where Paul speaks to the same point:

4      According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

5      Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

6      To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

7      In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

8      Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;

9      Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:

10     That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

11     In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

12     That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

13     In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

14     Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Notice in verse 4 the phrases “he hath chosen us” and “that we should be holy,” in verse 5 the phrase “having predestinated us,” in verse 6 the phrase “wherein he hath made us accepted,” in verse 7 the phrase “in whom we have redemption through his blood,” in verse 8 the phrase “he hath abounded toward us,” and in verse 9 the phrase “having made known unto us the mystery of his will.” My friends, the word “us” in those six verses does not refer directly to all Christians. In Ephesians 1.4-9, Paul is very specifically speaking to the salvation of Jewish Christians like himself. Those first Christians were the firstfruits. In like manner, the word “we” in Ephesians chapter one verses 5, 7, 11 and 12 refers to Jewish Christians, who were the firstfruits. Gentile Christians are referred to beginning in verse 13, where he writes, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.” From Ephesians 1.13, where we see that Gentiles are saved after hearing the Word of truth, we see that Gentile sinners are saved the very same way Jewish sinners are saved. In each case God’s purpose is for those who were saved before to be firstfruits of those who will be born again later.

What is accomplished when a sinner, whether Jewish or Gentile, is born again, trusts Christ after hearing the Word of truth? Verse 5 tells us that “the good pleasure of his will” is fulfilled. Verse 9 reads “his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself.” Thus, we see that salvation, from start to finish, is all of God. He thought of it. He implements it. He transacts it. He consummates it. And He does so to fulfill, to accomplish, His “good pleasure.”

Our text reads, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” To this point I have made reference to the fact that your salvation, if you are ever saved, will originate in God’s will, not your own. That salvation will occur at your new birth, if you are ever born again, and it will be obtained by the Word of God. Finally, it will all be ordered by God’s purpose.

The prophet Jonah said it all in a few words in Jonah 2.9, from the belly of the fish that had swallowed him: “Salvation is of the LORD.” What the prophet Jonah did not say, but which James did write by inspiration of God, is that when God brings His salvation to a man, or to a woman, or to a young person, He does so by means of His Word. It is about God’s Word that I will speak this morning. My friend, you are going to live your life, die your death, and experience your eternal destiny “according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” Young people, you may grow up to adulthood, and then you will live your life, die your death, and experience your eternal destiny “according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” Frankly, the idea of God being in control of your birth, of your growing up, of you living your life, of you dying your death, and of you experiencing your destiny, absolutely terrifies most people. The fact remains that God is sovereign Lord of all, and He has decided that when He works in some poor sinner’s life to deliver him from his sins and make him a new creature in Christ, to prepare him for heaven while the Lord Jesus Christ prepares a place for him in heaven, He will use the Word of God to do it.

Think about that, my friend. That which I hold in my hand, and that which many of you hold in your hand, is the means by which God deals with men who have been physically born so that they may be spiritually born again. Our text reads, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth . . . .” To paraphrase, God decided, without consulting with anyone, that He would use His Word, the Bible, to spiritually birth people. Those who were first begotten by means of the Bible were lost Jews, who thereby became the first Christians. Later, Gentiles experienced the same thing and became the overwhelming majority of those comprising the Christian community.

Consider the implications of what I am saying. Quite apart from the personalities of preachers and their charisma, whenever sinners are coming to Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, whenever the eternal destinies of undying souls are being altered, whenever those who are dead in trespasses and sins are being brought to life, the Bible is in play. To put it yet another way, God always uses the Bible to work in people’s lives to bring them to saving faith in Christ. If you want to know whether God is working in someone’s life, look for the influence of scripture, because God never draws sinners to Christ, never summons men to salvation, apart from some use of His Word. Why is this so? Because God has decided that it should be so. Because God has purposed that it should be so. Because it pleases God. Because it fulfills His will. It should surprise no one that the Bible plays such a central role, figures so prominently in God’s plan of salvation. After all, has He not magnified His Word above His very name, Psalm 138.2?

With these things in mind, and in consideration of the profound significance of God’s Word in all of His workings and in all of His doings in the lives of those who have been or who will be saved from their sins, allow me to suggest a wise course of action for you this morning:


In the long run, it is a person’s actions that determine his attitude. However, in the short run, and I am presently talking about right here and right now, a person can change his attitude toward anything as an act of will. Therefore, I suggest that you change your attitude toward the Bible, unless you are so foolish that the notion of spending an eternity in the lake of fire, where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched, does not bother you.[5]

Why should you change your attitude toward the Bible? For two reasons that I can think of off the top of my head: First, because of whose the Bible is. You see, the Bible is God’s Word. In scripture we read of God’s men acknowledging to God that it is “Thy Word.”[6] Therefore, because it is God’s Word, and because how you treat God’s Word indicates your reverence toward God, let me suggest an attitude adjustment with respect to your Bible. As well, change your attitude toward the Bible because of what the Bible is. Remember when I referred to the Lord Jesus Christ’s prayer, where He asked the Father to “Sanctify them through thy truth”? To sanctify someone is to set them apart and to dedicate them for service to God.[7] How can the Bible be useful to accomplish such an end? In Romans 1.2, Paul makes reference to “the holy scriptures.” The Bible is the only thing you will ever in this lifetime behold and hold which is genuinely holy, and God uses it to consecrate sinners. Thus, because it is God’s, and because it is holy, imagine what your attitude toward the Bible ought to be. Yours should be an attitude of reverence, an attitude of wonder, an attitude of expectation, and an attitude of gratitude. This is God’s Word, which He uses to save men’s souls and change their lives forever. Most people alive today and who have ever lived have never seen a Bible, much less held one.

Every time you open your Bible to read, or turn your mind to its truths, your attitude should be reflected by thinking, “I wonder what God will show me from His Word? What truths will I understand from His Book? Will God affect me in some way with His Word? How will God affect me by means of the holy Book?”


Consider four simple steps:

First, since God always and in every case uses His Word to work the miracle of the new birth, you need to read the scriptures. To be sure, reading God’s Word is not the most immediate means by which most sinners come to Christ, but it is the immediate means by which I came to Christ . . . so, I recommend reading the Bible. If you do not read the Bible, or if you consciously refuse to read the Bible, it reflects not only your attitude toward the Bible, but also your attitude toward God and His Son, Jesus Christ. If you will not read the Bible . . . it is not at all likely that you will be saved from your sins, or from God’s wrath.

Next, since God always and in every case uses His Word to work the miracle of the new birth, and since faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, you need to sit under preaching. You need to sit under preaching when not only it is convenient to you, but also when it is inconvenient to you, because preaching is the means by which most sinners are saved.[8] Will you acknowledge that you are in no position to dictate terms to God, or to decide when and under what circumstances He will deal with you about this matter of salvation? Therefore, you need to get the preaching whenever it is available to you. That means, you need to get preaching on Sunday morning and Sunday evening, and if at all possible you need to get preaching Wednesday night and Saturday night. You see, only God works the miracle of the new birth. And God works the miracle of the new birth in conjunction with the preaching of His Word. Therefore, you need to be where the preaching is when the preaching is. “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe,” First Corinthians 1.21.

Third, you need to think upon, ponder, consider, reflect, and meditate upon the truths of God’s Word that are related to sin and salvation.

·         Psalm 119.9: “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.” You need to be cleansed from your sins to escape the wrath of God and the damnation of Hellfire. Therefore, you need to know what God’s Word says and you need to do what God’s Word says to do.

·         Psalm 119.11: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” To hide God’s Word in your heart does not mean to memorize verses. When you memorize Bible verses, you are only taking the first step of placing the Bible into that place where it needs to be so you can think about its meaning, considering its application, pondering its implications. In short, you need to put the Bible where it is handy, in your mind, a piece at a time, hoping it will eventually come to reside in your heart. Make sure they are the right pieces. Memorize appropriate verses from scripture.

·         Psalm 119.105 declares, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” In the midst of your spiritual darkness, God’s Word will show you not only where you are, but also where you need to go and how to get there.

Finally, commit yourself to obeying the dictates of the Bible. Of course, wisdom is required in this, since some portions of the Bible obviously contain directives that do not apply to you or me. For example: We are not required to sacrifice animals to atone for sins, as the Jews were required to do for centuries before our Lord’s crucifixion. This is what pastors are for, to preach and teach God’s Word, and to make appropriate application of those portions of God’s Word that apply directly to your situation. However, you should make up your mind ahead of time, that when you come to realize a need to obey God’s Word you will take it, for to obey God’s Word is to obey God, and to disobey God’s Word is to disobey God.

God’s Word, the Bible. How wonderfully well off we are to live in this country and at this time in history, where we can each have a copy of God’s holy Word, that wonderful gift He has given and that which He uses to bring about the eternal salvation of undying souls.

Read the Bible.

Listen to the Bible being preached.

Think about the Bible and what pertinent portions of it mean.

And then purpose to do what the Bible says to do.

It is your Google maps directions through life, your Map Quest to heaven, and the instrument God will use to bring you to faith in Christ and work the miracle of the new birth. Without the Bible, there is no help. Without the Bible, there is no hope. Without the Bible, you have no clue. For it is on the pages of this book that God reveals Himself to sinful men. As well, it is on the pages of this book that God draws the word pictures that enable us to see His blessed Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shed His blood for our sins and rose from the dead, with eyes of faith. Finally, this book is the mirror of scriptural truth in which we see reflected to us our sinful nature, our spiritual deadness, and our desperate need to be saved from our sins by the risen and enthroned Jesus Christ.

Change your attitude to the Bible, God’s holy Word, and then change your actions. Read it. Listen when it is preached. Think about its message to you. And decide right now to do what God says in it to do.

[1] Spiros Zodhiates, The Behavior Of Belief, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973), page 85.

[2] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 725.

[3] Ibid.

[4] John 3.7

[5] Mark 9.44, 46, 48

[6] 1 Kings 8.26; 18.36; Psalm 119.9, 11, 16, 17, 25, 28, 38; Jeremiah 15.16; Luke 2.29

[7] Rienecker, page 255.

[8] 1 Corinthians 1.18

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

[email protected]