Monday, March 24, 2014

James 3:13–18

 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Here the Apostle James begins by challenging any presumptions one may have about themselves or others by saying, "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. "
Now this James is saying against the backdrop of his having already cautioned us against many becoming teachers, where one might consider themselves to be "wise and understanding," and thus think they are qualified to teach the Scriptures because of some level of learnedness or success they have attained too, or even intellect they posses. Yet these things in of themselves verify nothing of ones faith, or calling, if ones life is not being lived in good conduct, via a spirit of meekness. And so the Apostle James says, "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom." vs. 13
For those who are truly wise and understanding not only live Godly lives, doing good as God affords them opportunity to do so, but also know their own faults and frailties, and thus do not presume to be "superior" to others. And so in doing good, they do this in the meekness of wisdom, that is in a spirit of humility, and not in the fleshes pride or through selfish ambition. For the self-centered and directed life pursues goals simply for ones own end. And does not consider God's desires or designs, for themselves or anyone else, all which Jesus Christ did when He willfully became a Man, that He might become God's salvation for all who believe in Him.

And so only when ones life is being lived in obedience to the Gospel, in doing good in the meekness of wisdom can one be said to be wise and understanding. And so here James is giving us all a reality check, emphasizing that first and foremost that the wisdom that comes from God is not measured by degrees of learnedness, or intellect one has attained too, or success attained, but rather is to be measured by ones good conduct and works done via a spirit of meekness or humility. For only when one follows Jesus Christ in a spirit of meekness, is God's wisdom manifested through them. For meekness (praos/prautes) is not only a characteristic of Jesus Christ's Person (Matt. 11:29; 21:5), it is a fruit of the Spirit, and thus is to be manifested by all the people of God who believe in Him (Matt. 5:5; Gal 5:24). And so in contrast to the "wise and understanding" of this world, who through their "wisdom" do not know God (see 1 Cor. 1:18-31). We as the people of God must seek to be the meek and humble people of God, whose meekness is born out of God's love within us (consider Col 3:12-17). For truly the Holy Spirit has given us His "fruit" of meekness/gentleness as a part of our being God's new creations In Christ. So that we might manifest this gracious attribute of God towards each other (Eph. 4:2; Gal. 6:1), and towards all (Titus 3:2). For truly meekness is not only a pre-requisite too receiving true knowledge of God (James 1:21). But is foundational if one is going to effectively communicate true knowledge of God, that leads one and all into the salvation of the Lord (2 Timothy 2:25; 1 Peter 3:15).

Vs. 14-16 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.

In contrast to good conduct and works done through the meekness of wisdom. The Apostle James here warns us against having bitter envy and self-seeking in our hearts. Which can have disastrous results personally, as well as collectively, if such an attitude amongst brethren is allowed to flourish. "For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there." vs. 16
And so coming out of the world and into the new life In Christ, people can very easily transfer the worlds values and ways of doing things into the church community. And so instead of encouraging others to grow in their God given potential, or excel in their God given endeavours (consider 1 Cor 12:20-26, vs. 26), people can eye others with bitter envy, and thus see brethren as rivals, rather then brethren to be loved (consider 1 Cor 13:4). And so James says if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. Because to live in such a manner is not living in accord with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ; nor is it being Spirit led (consider 1 Cor 3:3; Gal 5:16-23, vs. 20, 23). Instead it is only being led by the spirit and wisdom of this world. A "wisdom" which the Apostle James calls, "...earthly, sensual, demonic" (vs. 15). Therefore to do so is only a practical denial of the truth (as the Believers Bible commentary says). For to live in envy towards ones brethren is contrary to loving ones brethren, as Jesus commands of us all (consider Rom 13:8-10). And so in contrast to walking in a spirit of meekness/humility towards one and all. And serving one and all, as Jesus said true greatness is found in following Him there (consider Mark 10:35-45; John 13:1-17, vs. 12-17). Sadly in every generation there are those inside of the household of faith whose focus and agenda is too exalt self, and self interest above all else (consider Phil 1:15).

Vs. 17-18 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
 In contrast to the wisdom of this world which only seeks to gratify ones sinful desires and or forward ones own self interests and ends. The wisdom that is from above, that is from God, is first pure (1 John 3:3). That is Morally pure and thus it does not tread all over God's commandments in exercising the glorious liberty that we have in Christ to live freely, richly, abundantly. Second it is Spiritually pure: meaning it does not knowingly align itself with forces that are hostile to God's Person or His purposes in the earth (2 Cor 6:14-7:1).
Third it is Ethically pure: which means it is pure in motives, in actions, in speech. And thus is honest and genuine with one and all. It is the antithesis of duplicity and falsehood. Thus it abhors lying and every false or questionable way. And so these three basic attributes of purity may be summed up in Jesus Words when He says, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Matt. 5:8

Next the Apostle James says that the wisdom that is from above is peaceable. In Hebrews 12:11 this word is used to describe the peaceable fruit of righteousness that is worked in us through God's chastening us, so as to remove those undesirable traits that we have spent a lifetime unwittingly acquiring. And so what is being exhorted here is our exemplifying a peaceable nature with one and all, rather than an activity per say. And so being free of aggression, conflict, and strife. It is a disposition that puts others at ease.

Gentle: That the Apostle James says that the wisdom from above is gentle is not only making a statement about God's dealings with us, but rather about His whole Person in Christ. For in Jesus Christ God's forbearance, clemency, and love is exercised towards us all who believe in Jesus through His Gentle Disposition and Spirit. And so being the recipients of God's grace, and having the Divine nature within us by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:4), we are commanded as both individual believers, and as a collective community or Body, to exemplify this attribute of the wisdom that is from on High. As the Apostle Paul says: "Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand." Phil. 4:5
For Gentleness is not only a fruit of the Spirit and thus an essential quality of the Divine nature. It is as James expounds here foundational to exemplifying the wisdom that is from on high. And so if the individual Christian or the collective Christian community is going to manifest or reveal the Divine Wisdom and Person to anyone, it must be in accord with His Nature, which is dealing with one and all in the gentleness of Christ. 

"willing to yield": In the original this phrase is actually one word. It implies an easiness with which one maybe entreated, also a willingness to obey, or be compliant. And thus it describes one who can be reasoned with. Rather then one who is unyielding, hardened and fixed in their position or person. For truly the wisdom from on High is not only peaceable and gentle, but is always open to every reasonable discussion or counsel. And so hearing another's opinion, and or yielding to their position when they are correct, is to live in harmony with the wisdom from on high.
"full of mercy and good fruits" Mercy is not only what we all need and receive through Jesus Christ, by our faith in His Person and trusting His death on the cross for us all. But mercy is to be a staple of how we live as His citizens of the Kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:5). And so mercy has its origins on High, and frankly is the manifested Wisdom from on High, and thus must be shown by us all who believe, towards each other (Matt 18:21-35) and towards all (Matt 9:13; Luke 10:29-37; James 2:13). Louw-Nida says of this word translated mercy that it is "to show kindness or concern for someone in serious need—‘to show mercy, to be merciful toward, to have mercy on, mercy.’ And so there is no greater attribute of God that we can manifest to one and to all, then to freely extend God's mercies, that is His pardoning grace to all, who like ourselves, once dead in our own sins and transgressions, and thus separated from the life and love of God. Yet in our own time of need, instead of finding His just judgment and punishment, we found Him readily embracing our person in all of our brokenness and dirtiness and sinfulness. So that we having partaken of His exceedingly great kindness In Christ, whose blood has washed and cleansed us of all our sins, we might become His ministers of reconciliation and peace, to all who are seeking Him in their time of need as well (consider Luke 15:11-32; 2 Cor 5:20-21).  And so the Apostle James says that the wisdom from on High is "full of mercy and good fruits." Therefore God's mercy is never to be extended half heartedly, or reluctantly, but rather it must be given freely, joyfully, abundantly. For if seeing sinners reconciled back to God, or His disenfranchised children returned to Him, does not give you or your church the greatest joy, or purpose for existing, then what does? (consider Luke 15:1-10, vs. 7, 10). Now that's one aspect of being full of mercy, extending the saving mercies of God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ to one and to all, who seeing their need for Him, repent and believe in Him. The other is, as the Apostle James links being full of mercy with "good fruits" (i.e. good deeds or works) is to be actively doing good and or seeking to do good to one and to all. Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan clearly reveals, that is the heart of God. That wherever and to whomever there is a genuine need or cry for help, so should there be a willing Christian to meet that need. And so being full of good fruits means as we have opportunity, we do good to all.

"without partiality and without hypocrisy"
Finally the wisdom that is from above is "without partiality and without hypocrisy". Thus there is no favoritism, nor racism, nor any other "ism" in true expressions of Godly wisdom and faith. For to show partiality to anyone is only to sin (see James 2:8-9). And so just as God Himself does not show partiality (consider Deut. 10:17; Acts 10:34-35; Rom 2:11; Col 3:25 etc.) so must we also be impartial in judgment and administering justice, towards one and to all (consider Lev. 19:15; Psalm 82:1-4; 1 Tim. 5:20-21), again showing partiality or favoritism to no one (Lev. 19:15; Job 32:31). For when one does show partiality, inevitably perverse judgment and injustice prevail, something that guarantees ones own downfall (consider Malachi 2:9). Now the Apostle James here links not showing partiality with not being hypocritical. For truly you cannot be one and not the other. And so rather then being either; non-hypocritical love is to be the backbone of all true Christian obedience and faith (Rom. 12:9). Indeed the Apostle Paul gives it as verifying his own ministry and faith in 2 Cor 6:6 where it is translated sincere there (see 2 Cor 6:3-10 for full context). And so Godly wisdom is neither feigned love, faith, or obedience. Nor does it show partiality. Instead Godly wisdom is both impartial and genuine towards one and all in. And so Godly wisdom doesn't envy other peoples success, nor does it need to boast about it's deeds or accomplishments. Instead Godly wisdom is free to do what is just and right in the eyes of God, while walking in Christ's love, towards one and all. And so the Apostle James concludes his exhortation by saying:
"Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." And so in contrast to the strife and conflicts and self-seeking ambition that marks this world, and those pursuing their own gain within it. The Apostle James gives us here a profound spiritual truth as to the way into  peace. Indeed there is no truer link then to link peace with righteousness and righteousness with peace, for without either, neither one is attainable (consider Isaiah 32:17-18; 48:18). For the fruit of righteousness, whether for individuals or nations, is born in peace out of those who make peace. Now no greater or lasting peace and righteousness can we have than that which the Lord Jesus Christ Himself first purchased for us all through His own death on the cross. Where He paid the debt for all of our sins and transgression, so that we being justified by faith in His Person, could have remission of all our sins, and new and everlasting life the moment we believe in Him. And so with the work of our atonement done, Jesus now freely offers peace with God, to one and to all, who repent and believe in Him (John 14:27). Therefore I urge you, if have not yet received the gift of God's salvation for you, by placing all of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to both save you from your sins and the judgment to come. Please do so now! Don't wait another minute, because new and everlasting life is being offered right here to you! Therefore if you believe, then invite the Lord Jesus Christ into your heart and life, confessing Him alone as Lord and Savior (Rom. 10:9-10, 13). For the Bible promises that all who do so will not only have God's peace in this life, but will have peace for all eternity.

Scripture Citations
The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982

Additional Resources Consulted
MacDonald, William. Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. Edited by Arthur Farstad. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995.
Word Studies
Wisdom: Str 4680; GK 5055; TDNT 7.465; TDNTA 1056; LN 28.9, 32.33; DBL-Hebrew 2682
Understanding: Str 1990; GK 2184; LN 32.37
Pure: Str 53; GK 54; TDNT 1.122; TDNTA 19; LN 88.28
Peaceable: Str 1516; GK 1646; TDNT 2.418; TDNTA 207; LN 25.249; *Quote taken from TDNTA
Gentle: Str 1933; GK 2117; TDNT 2.588; TDNTA 243; LN 88.63
"willing to yield": Str 2138; GK 2340; LN 33.305
Mercy: Str 1656; GK 1799; TDNT 2.477; TDNTA 222; LN 88.76; DBL-Hebrew 2834

Excursions on Wisdom:
 In antiquity the idea of being wise was not restricted to acquiring philosophical knowledge, or  academic wisdom, but rather encompassed the mastery of a certain skill or trade through it. And so this premise carries over into the affairs of every day life where one is considered "wise" because of their *experience and competent mastery of life (TDNTA). And it is in that sense that the Apostle James uses it here, of one who has mastery over their bodies impulses, and thus lives a morally upright and just life (consider 1 Cor 9:27). While the word translated understanding though similar describes one who is not only intelligent or learned, but one who via knowledge and experience has insight and understanding into the affairs of life, and thus is discerning, and thus the ability to evaluate circumstances and situations and people. * Gleaned from TDNTA from their article on sophia (wisdom)

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