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James 1:16–17

“Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

In affirming God’s sovereign providence, we are careful to note that He is in full control of all that happens, directing everything according to His purposes. We must affirm this because Scripture affirms it. There is nothing that falls outside the scope of His decree (Eph. 1:11). “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Ps. 115:3). Nothing takes place that is contrary to His eternal, sovereign decree, and what He does with His creation He does because it brings Him ultimate pleasure.

This understanding of divine sovereignty raises some important questions regarding the moral decisions of the Lord’s creatures. Since God is actively in control of all things, does this mean that He can do what is evil? The basic answer to this question is no. We will speak more about the Lord’s involvement with evil in our next study, but for now we will say that while God ordains evil, He does not actually do evil Himself. It is, in fact, utterly impossible for the Lord to act unrighteously because God is good by nature. He is the very definition of good, and without Him, goodness would not even be possible.

From Genesis to Revelation, Scripture teaches the inherent goodness of God and the impossibility of His acting wickedly. Today’s passage, however, gives some of the clearest instruction on the subject. The Apostle James affirms that all good things come to us from God (James 1:16–17). There is no good that does not originate in Him, and all good that we enjoy comes because He has done it. This does not rule out the role of secondary causes, but it does highlight the reality that God is directly and explicitly involved in bringing good about in ways that He is not when it comes to evil.

James affirms that in God, the Father of lights, “there is no variation or shadow due to change” (1:17). This is vital. If every good gift comes from God and He cannot change in His essence, then He cannot do evil. To go from being capable of doing only good to being capable of doing evil would be a change in the Lord’s very being, and God cannot change. His immutability—inability to change—is a great comfort, for it tells us that He can do only what is good. We agree wholeheartedly, then, with what John Calvin says in his commentary on today’s passage: “To do good is what properly belongs to [God], and according to his nature; and from him all good things come to us.”

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Our great God does only what is good, and He is the source of every joy in our lives. Think on some of the greatest joys you have experienced and thank the Lord for bringing them to pass. Remember that He is good to you and eager to bring blessings into your life.


For Further Study
  • Psalm 84:11
  • Romans 8:28

Flowing Together

Abiding in the Vine

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From the March 2017 Issue
Mar 2017 Issue