Journeying through James 1:13-18 – Scripture Interprets Scripture

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. James 1:15‑18 (NIV)

Scripture interprets Scripture is a necessary principle for understanding the Bible. Let me give you an example of how it works. James uses the expression “word of truth,” but what is the word of truth?

In the book of Ephesians, Paul uses the exact expression: “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:11‑14, ESV).

By letting Scripture interpret Scripture, you end up seeing some beautiful truths:

  • God has something good waiting for you in heaven, an inheritance. We draw from it now. Think about it; for example, in saying the Lord’s Prayer we’re asking God to shower down on us the blessings and power that Christ has won.
  • This has been God’s plan from the beginning. That’s meant to give you great confidence. We should leave sin behind and put our faith and trust in what God says and calls us to do.
  • It’s really by faith alone. Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins is so complete and full that the Holy Spirit not only seals us, but takes up residence in us.

Now, this is just a little of what I see in comparing these verses, and I might see something different the next time I compare the two. What do you see? This is a really productive and safe way to understand the Word of God. It’s keeps us safe so that we “will not be influenced by every new teaching we hear from people who are trying to fool us” (Ephesians 4:14, NCV). And Jesus used this method with His disciples too. For example, two of Jesus’ disciples were really sad and overwhelmed after the crucifixion when all of a sudden Jesus appeared to them. They didn’t recognize Him at first, and later they said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us” (Luke 24:32, NIV). Jesus did the same thing with His disciples again in Luke 24:44-45 before He ascended to heaven.

So, returning to what James says, “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth” (v. 18). The Christian life is one of growth and development in Christ. With Scripture interpreting Scripture there’s a process of transformation that God intends to happen. The desired outcome is that we learn more about God and become more like Jesus Christ in the process.