v. 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.
v. 18. Of His own will begat He us with the Word of Truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures.
v. 19. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;
v. 20. for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
v. 21. Wherefore, lay a part all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted Word, which is able to save your souls.
The first sentence serves as a transition between the two paragraphs: Make no mistake about this, my beloved brethren. It is a solemn and touching appeal which the apostle makes, since so much depends upon the proper understanding of these facts. To think that God can in any way be made responsible for sin is a thought which so strongly savors of blasphemy that all Christians must flee the very suggestion. Man alone is responsible for the evil which is found in his heart and which comes forth in the various transgressions of the divine will.
So far as God is concerned, we must always maintain: Every good gift and every perfect endowment is ever coming down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is not existing a change, nor shadow-casting of a turning. God is the Source, the Father of Lights; everything that is truly light and brings light comes from Him. There is no spiritual enlightenment nor anything that has value in a spiritual manner possible without His almighty power. The continual bestowing of good things, the ceaseless shower of spiritual endowments and blessings wherewith He blesses the hearts of men, comes down from Him. Thus He is the Author of all that is excellent and perfect. He can, therefore, not deny Himself; He cannot change His essence and properties; in His case the peculiar entering into part-shadow or loss of brilliancy as it takes place in some of the heavenly bodies is out of the question. The moon may have her phases and the sun his eclipses, but our God shines upon His spiritual children in undimmed glory, 1Jn_1:5. God's merciful countenance is never hidden from His children, without change and interruption He causes His face to shine upon us.
Of the many splendid gifts of God the apostle names that which is highest and best: Because He willed it, He begot us through the Word of Truth, to be a kind of first-fruits among His creatures. God's good and gracious will, according to which He wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, we Christians have experienced. He begot us, we became His children through the Word of Truth, the Gospel, 1Pe_1:23. When the Gospel was proclaimed to us, the merciful will of God, through this means of grace, took us out of our natural, sinful life, and placed us into a new, divine life. By faith we have been regenerated, born anew, become the children of God. And one of God's purposes in working this change in us was to have us be a kind of first-fruits among His creatures. Just as the first-fruits of every harvest in Judea were consecrated to the Lord, thus we Christians have been set apart from the sinful world to be creatures of God, in whom the image of God is being renewed, through whom God is truly honored. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, Eph_2:10.
In view of this grace, however, of which we have become partakers, the apostle admonishes: You know that, my beloved brethren; but let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, for the wrath of man does not promote the righteousness of God. The facts which the apostle had just laid before them were truths with which the Jewish Christians were familiar, and of whose soundness they should always assure themselves again, since upon this knowledge and understanding rested their whole Christianity. The fruit of such knowledge would be sure to follow, for a person realizing what he owes to the Word of Truth would certainly always be ready and eager to hear the Word, finding it impossible to learn too much of its glorious message. Just the opposite behavior, however, is expected of a Christian, so far as his neighbor is concerned. He should be reluctant to speak, he should hold back from saying anything in wrath. If he finds that anger is arising in his heart, he should control himself, lest his wrath get the better of his new spiritual nature and cause him to sin. For while there is a righteous indignation over sin which will cause persons in positions of authority to rebuke every form of trespass with all holy severity, it remains true of every form of wrath that it does not work and promote the righteousness of God; its outbursts do not meet with the approval of God, but rather with His condemnation, since they cannot be made to agree with His holy and righteous will.
Knowing the danger of unwarranted anger, the apostle adds the general warning: Wherefore, laying aside all foulness and excess of malice, receive in gentleness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls. As new creatures, as children of God, the Christians have a continual battle with their old evil nature, which insists upon rearing its head and endeavoring to lead them into every form of uncleanness and sin. But foulness of every kind and manifold wickedness is incompatible with that condition of heart and mind which God expects from His children, just as is all anger and violence. The disposition of the believers rather is this, that they daily and ever again receive the implanted Word, accept anew the message of their salvation and sanctification as it is brought to them in the Gospel. The seed which has sprouted in their hearts is supposed to grow into a strong, healthy plant, and therefore it is necessary that they hear and learn the Word, which alone is able to save their souls, day after day, never growing weary of its wonderful truths. This action on the part of the believers requires meekness, gentleness, humility, because the pride of man's heart, his self-righteousness, and his general disinclination to the way of salvation will always insist upon standing in his way. But the prize held out to the believers, the everlasting bliss in the presence of God, is of a nature to inspire them with ever new thoughts of their home above and thus to enable them to combat the attacks of their carnal nature successfully.