James 1:18: God as the Unchangeable Author of All Good, Part 2

Verse 18: (John 1:13; 3:3; 1 Cor. 4:15; 1 Pet. 1:23) Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, (Eph. 1:12) that we should be a kind of (Jer. 2:3; Rev. 14:4) firstfruits of his creatures.[1]

[Willingly, etc., βουληθεὶς ἀπεκύησεν ἡμᾶς, etc.] He proves the preceding doctrine, showing how good and beneficent God is toward us (Estius). That God is the giver of every good, he proves from the example of regeneration (Gomar, similarly Calvin, Gataker); which he excellently opposes to concupiscence, which begets death, and here he describes it by its causes (Gomar). God makes us good, by regenerating us, which is the beginning of every good. Therefore, He does not desire us to be evil (Grotius). [They thus render the words:] Being willing (or, of set purpose [Castalio]; because He willed [Pagnine, Beza, Piscator, Gataker, Grotius, Estius], because it pleased Him [Grotius]; by His own will [Ethiopic]: Here he sets will over against, either, 1. necessity; that is to say, not of necessity [certain interpreters in Estius, Menochius, Tirinus], as He begat His own Son [certain interpreters in Estius, Tirinus], or, as the sun illuminates [Menochius], but of free good will [Tirinus]: with His will fixed [Erasmus, Tigurinus, Zegers]: Or, 2. merits; that is to say, not moved by any of our works or merits [Estius out of Bid., Tirinus, Grotius], or induced by an external cause [Calvin]; indeed, us undeserving and unworthy [Tirinus], of His own will [Calvin], impelled by love and benignity [Menochius]; of His own special and gracious will [Vorstius, similarly Gomar, Estius, Beza, Calvin], which is called εὐδοκία, good pleasure, in Ephesians 1:5 [Vorstius]: Will is taken by Synecdoche for a favorable will [Gomar]: otherwise His βούλημα/will, taken broadly and generally, intervenes in all things, since nothing at all happens with God being unwilling [Vorstius]: of a favorable will [Illyricus], understanding, He [Erasmus, Illyricus, Tigurinus, Tremellius, Pagnine, Beza out of the Syriac, Piscator]) begat (that is, by spiritual generation [a great many interpreters in Estius, Tirinus, thus Calvin, Gomar], whereby the children of God are born [Estius], having been made new men [Calvin]: concerning which it is evident he here speaks from a comparison with 1 Corinthians 4:15 and 1 Peter 1:3, 23: Formerly God is said to have begotten the Israelites when He liberated them from Egypt, Deuteronomy 32:18: But now He begat them much more excellently unto eternal life [Grotius]: He alludes to our adoption, concerning which see John 1:12, 13: Ministers also are said to beget, Galatians 4:19; Philemon 10, but as God’s instruments [Beza]) us (us and you are notes, both, 1. of extension: that is to say, both me, and you to whom I write, concerning whom he says this according to the judgment of charity, which is not mistrustful: and, 2. of restriction, that others might be excluded: us, that is, the elect, the believing, those united and conformed to Christ; the Church, as it is evident out of John 1:12; 15:1, etc.; Romans 8:29, 30; Ephesians 2:5, 6; 5:25, 26, 30 [Gataker]) by the word of truth (Montanus, etc.), that is, either, 1. by the Word incarnate, who is consummate truth (Zegers); or, 2. through the Gospel (Grotius, Tirinus, thus Estius, Menochius, Gomar, Castalio, Piscator, Vorstius, Zegers), 1 Peter 1:23 (Grotius), which is κατ᾽ ἐξοχὴν, preeminently, called the word of truth (Vorstius, Gomar), that is, of salvation (Gomar). Compare Ephesians 1:12, 13 (Vorstius, Laurentius); Colossians 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:15 (Laurentius). Now, it is understood that this word is received by faith (Estius); or, instilled within; suppose through the illumination of the intellect and the stirring of the will (Tirinus). Hence our sanctification is ascribed sometime to the word, sometimes to faith (Estius).

Of his own will; out of his mere good pleasure, as the original cause, and not moved to it by any dignity or merit in us, Ephesians 1:9; 2 Timothy 1:9. Begat he us; by a spiritual generation, whereby we are new born, and are made partakers of a Divine nature, John 1:13; 1 Peter 1:3, 23. With the word of truth; i.e. the word of the gospel, as the instrument or means whereby we are regenerated: why it is called the word of truth, see Ephesians 1:13.

[That we simus, should be (or, essemus, should be [Erasmus, Beza, etc.]) a beginning, etc., ἀπαρχήν, etc.] Certain first-fruits suarum, of His (or, ejus, of His [Valla, Erasmus]) creatures (Erasmus, Pagnine, Piscator, etc.), that is, either, 1. of men (Dieu), as it is evident from a comparison with Hebrews 12:23 and Revelation 14:4. The language of creature is [often] restricted to the human race, [both, in the Sacred Scripture, as] in Mark 16:15; Colossians 1:23 (Estius); from the usage of the Hebrews, and of the Arabs (Dieu). [See Dieu.] The sense: That we migh be certain first-fruits of the human race (Estius), that is, chosen out of the mass of the rest of men (Beza), and consecrated and offered to God (Piscator), as the first-fruits formerly were[2] (Piscator, similarly Beza); or, first-fruits, that is, the most excellent and choice portion, which is offered to God. Thus he calls the believing and elect (Estius). [The sense:] That we might hold the first place among His creatures, as the sons of God[3] (Tirinus, thus Menochius), and heirs of eternal life[4] (Tirinus). Or, 2. of creatures, namely, new (Gomar, Grotius, Vorstius); which is not always expressed, but is understood from the nature of the matter (Grotius), as in Ephesians 2:10; 3:9 (Grotius, thus Vorstius). He speaks of believing Jews (Gomar, thus Grotius); of the Apostles and others similar to them (Vorstius); who, as προηλπικότες, those who first trusted, Ephesians 1:12, are called elect from the beginning in 2 Thessalonians 2:13; thus here and in Romans 11:16, first-fruits (Grotius), either, 1. because they were adorned with the better gifts of the Holy Spirit; or, 2. because to Christ (Vorstius) were they called before others (Grotius, Vorstius), Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:15 (Grotius). In this way the force of the Metaphor is preserved, which, if you take it of all the faithful, is enervated. For, as, with the first-fruits consecrated to God, the use of the rest of the fruits of the earth was holy and lawful; so, with the Jews consecrated by God through the preaching of the Gospel, the calling of the Gentiles was lawful. But this opinion is not quite satisfying, because the doctrine of the Apostle is general, pertaining to all the regenerate. Consult what things were said on Hebrews 12:23 (Gomar).

That we should be a kind of first-fruits; i.e. most excellent creatures, being singled out and separated from the rest, and consecrated to God, as under the law the first-fruits were, Revelation 14:4. Of his creatures; viz. reasonable creatures; the word creature being elsewhere restrained to men: see Mark 16:15; Colossians 1:15.

[1] Greek:  βουληθεὶς ἀπεκύησεν ἡμᾶς λόγῳ ἀληθείας, εἰς τὸ εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἀπαρχήν τινα τῶν αὐτοῦ κτισμάτων.

[2] See Exodus 23:19; 34:26; Leviticus 2:12-16; 23:10-22.

[3] See Romans 8:19.

[4] Romans 8:17; Titus 3:7; Hebrews 1:14; 1 Peter 3:7.

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