Read James 1:18 (ESV)
Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
What do you think it means to be “born again” and why is this necessary?
Have you ever wondered why Christians sometimes call themselves “born again”? What do we mean by that and how does it happen?
In John 3, Jesus was talking with a Pharisee named Nicodemus. Jesus told him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). But Nicodemus was confused. How is it possible for grown humans to be born again? Jesus went on to explain that it is not a physical rebirth but a spiritual rebirth: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6). Because in Adam all have sinned (Romans 5:12), all of us were born into sin. Our physical flesh is corrupt. That’s why we can’t enter the kingdom of God unless we are born again by His Spirit. But how can we be spiritually reborn?
In today’s verse, James gives us some important information about being born again. James said “of his own will he brought us forth.” The NIV translates it this way: “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” In other words, it was His decision to do this for us and it is a work of God, not something that we can accomplish on our own.
James also said that we are “brought forth by the word of truth.” We know from what Jesus said in John 3:6 that we are born again by the Spirit of God. Now James is saying that we are born again by the Word of God. Spiritual rebirth is a work of both the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Warren Wiersbe explained, “Just as human birth requires two parents, so divine birth has two parents: the Word of God and the Spirit of God.” Anyone can hear the Word of God, but the Holy Spirit has to be at work in our hearts to understand and accept the Gospel in order to be saved. Likewise, the Spirit may be working in our hearts, but if we don’t hear the Word of God, we don’t know how to be saved. We need both.
Finally, James tells us why God chose to give us new life in Christ—so that we can become the “firstfruits” of all his creatures. But again, what does this mean? Well, the language may sound confusing to us but it would have made sense to the Jews. God had commanded the Jews in the Old Testament to give the firstfruits of their harvest as a sacrifice to the LORD. We read of this in Leviticus 23:10 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, when you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest.” The point was that God deserved their first and their finest in faith that God would continue to provide for them.
Now, James is calling those of us who have been born again by the Word of God and through His Holy Spirit the “firstfruits” of all of His creatures. We know that someday, He is going to return and make all things new. Out of all of God’s creatures, those of us who have been spiritually reborn through Jesus Christ are the only ones who get to experience and enjoy a foretaste of that beautiful future reality right now. In Christ, we are His first and His finest.
Friends, if you have placed your trust in what Jesus did for you on the cross and have accepted His invitation to come to Him to be saved, then you are spiritually reborn. If you have been born again, you are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). If you are a new creature in Christ, you are not subject to your old way of life. Through Him, you can experience victory over the temptations of your old sinful flesh when you choose to walk by the Spirit. You aren’t your old self anymore. You’ve been born again!
Lord, thank You for making me new. You chose to bring forth new life in me when I was still a dead sinner and did not deserve it. Help me remember that in You, my old nature is dead and gone! I don’t have to be ruled by my sinful flesh anymore. Show me how to walk out my new life by Your Spirit. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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