James 3:17,18


Bible Study Notes
Wisdom From Above
James 3:17,18


The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh, Senior Pastor at Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, NE. The text has been edited and condensed by IHCC staff for use as a Bible Study aid.

Intro -
In verses 13-18 James addresses the subject of wisdom and understanding. He is concerned with demonstrating the sharp contrast which exists between the wisdom of this world and the wisdom that God gives.

He begins in verse 13 by raising a question and then giving a challenge to demonstrate true wisdom in the works we do.

True, godly wisdom will be characterized by gentleness or meekness, rather than by arrogance and self-assertion.

The wisdom that does not come from God is described in verses 14-16. It is characterized by a heart that is selfish and determined to have its own way. This wisdom is "earthly, natural, demonic." This ungodly wisdom produces nothing but turmoil and evil.

James now wants to turn our attention to the sharp contrast between this "earthly, natural, demonic" wisdom and the wisdom that God gives.

3:17 -
The wisdom from above is a reference to the wisdom that God gives. This wisdom is generously given to all who ask (cf. 1:5). He now proceeds to give an eight-fold description of the wisdom that God gives.

pure (hagnos) - This wisdom is undefiled and free from the corruption that characterizes ungodly wisdom. It is free from selfishness and the determination to have one's own way.

This describes both the condition of the heart and the manifestation of that condition in behavior. This is another quality of Christ produced in the heart and life of His children (cf. I John 3:3).

By being listed first, this quality is set apart from those that follow. This is the foremost and basic characteristic of the wisdom that God gives.

Proverbs 1-9 speak extensively of God's wisdom as pure (cf. Prov. 2:10-16. Note also the repeated emphasis on sexual purity in these passages: 2:16-22; 5:1-23; 6:20-35; 7:1-27; 9:13-18).

peaceable - (eirenike) - The wisdom that God gives produces peace among people, not strife. Worldly wisdom brings disorder, strife and conflict (v. 16). Where God's wisdom is operating, there is freedom from strife and conflict.

One writer noted that this means God's wisdom "never starts quarrels, strife, dissension, and turbulence." The Scripture puts strong emphasis on peace as a characteristic of the believer, not just personally, but also in all of his relationships (cf. John 14:27; 16:33; Rom. 3:17; 14:1719; 1 Cor. 14:33; Eph. 4:3; Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 3:8-12).

This characteristic is of utmost importance and will be stressed again by James in verse 18.

gentle (epiekes) - This word is somewhat difficult to translate into English. Some suggested meanings are: "considerate in the demands it makes upon others," "not insisting on strict rights," "willing to yield."

The world places a strong emphasis on personal rights and the demanding of those rights. God's wisdom gives a willingness to yield our rights and give way to another (cf. Phil. 4:5; Titus 3:2).

reasonable (eupeithes) - In many ways, this word is similar in its emphasis to the preceding one. The preceding word often referred to someone in a superior position, while this word speaks of a person in an inferior position.

The word carries the idea of "obedience" or "willing to yield." It is the opposite of obstinate or disobedient. God's wisdom gives a readiness to obey or yield to another.

full of mercy - The idea here goes beyond feelings to actions. This is compassion that moves a person to act or aid the other person. This is true even when the person in trouble has brought it upon himself.

We serve a God who is rich in mercy (cf. Eph. 2:4; 1 Pet. 1:3). His mercy is to characterize us in our dealings with others (cf. James 2:13).

good fruits - This may indicate either the actions that flow from mercy or the actions carried out in meeting the needs of the other person. This stands in sharp contrast to the wisdom of the world that produces every evil thing (v. 16).

unwavering (adiakritos) _ There is no vacillation or instability in the wisdom that God gives. The person manifesting this characteristic was condemned in 1:6-8.

without hypocrisy - The wisdom that God gives produces sincerity and honesty. There is no attempt to play a role or pretend to be what we are not (cf. Rom. 12:9; 1 Pet. 1:22).

The picture that emerges here is that the wisdom which God gives is characterized by love for others. It involves taking the attention off of ourselves and placing it upon the other person and his needs (cf. 1 Cor. 13:4-7).

3:18 -
Righteousness is produced in an environment of peace by those who promote peace.

The key idea in this verse is peace in contrast to the disorder and conflict that exists in the presence of worldly wisdom.

The seed that will produce righteousness in the life is sown in peace by those who are peacemakers. These are the ones who have wisdom from above.

Peace does not exist in the context of hearts that are full of bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. The result is that lives are not characterized by righteousness. Our churches and our marriages testify to the tragedy of worldly, natural, demonic wisdom influencing our lives and our thinking.

As sinful human beings we have hearts that are full of selfish ambition and the determination to have our own way. We are occupied with ourselves in pride and stubbornness (cf. Jer.17:9).

Only God can change the heart and make us new on the inside (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17). It is by faith in Jesus Christ and His death for our sins that we can have forgiveness and be given new hearts.

As God's children we must be careful that we are not allowing the world to influence our thinking and conduct. The flesh always wants to emphasize self and selfish goals. I must seek wisdom from God and submit myself to His Word so that I can function with wisdom from above. The result will be righteousness in the life.

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.

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Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.

Tony Capoccia
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