Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: Wisdom: Wisdom from Above

Monday, May 28, 2007

Wisdom: Wisdom from Above

13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. 14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (James 3:13-18).

There is worldly wisdom and there is godly wisdom. These two different kinds of wisdom manifest themselves by the way people live and interact within their corporate ethic (our peer group, friends, and the people we influence and the people that influence us). Perhaps the best word to describe worldly wisdom is the word politician. The politician always knows the right words to say or the right things to do that gain him the largest following. The politician weighs every action on the scale of public opinion. What is best, what is right, or what is just may enter into his decision-making, but ultimately he will only act upon those things that will promote himself in the eyes of others. Politician is just another word for hypocrisy.

Worldly wisdom is a complete opposite to the “wisdom that is from above.” James tells us godly wisdom “is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” When we think of a person with wisdom, we think of someone sure of himself, under control and usually having the right answer to almost any situation or question. To some degree that is true. We will see that God defines wisdom, not by what we know, but by what we are. God defines wisdom by character.

From a Biblical perspective, wisdom is the heart and mind of God operating in the life of a believer. That is purely a supernatural event. A person’s first act of wisdom is to reject the world and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. The instant a person does that God supernaturally indwells him and, from that moment on, God becomes a partner in everything he does. As the believer begins to co-operate with the indwelling Holy Spirit by actively yielding his body to the Holy Spirit and to God’s revealed will, something else is supernaturally produced, BIBLICAL WISDOM.

Is there a formula for Biblical wisdom? If there is one, it might be something like this: Illumination of the Word of God = Knowledge and Understanding. Knowledge of God’s Word + Yieldedness to the Holy Spirit = Wisdom as the by-product. Therefore, wisdom and spirituality are essentially the same things.

God says real spiritual wisdom shows in our behavior towards others in real tangible and visible ways. Wisdom and “knowledge” (James 3:13) are much more than mere intellectual possessions. Wisdom and “knowledge,” like faith (James 2:18), are evidentiary; they are visible, life changing practical possessions. Wisdom and “knowledge” are not intellectual trophies. Like faith that does not do what God commands, wisdom and “knowledge” are worthless if they are not lived.

17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:17-18).

According to James 3:15, being bitter, contentious, and dividing; an I want my way spirit is right out of the pit of hell (James 3:14). “Strife” is focusing on finding fault (blame) in order to force an issue and continue a quarrel. This attitude is not intent on finding a solution or resolving the problem. In this situation, pride is so controlling and dominating that factions begin to form cliques. They promote schisms and partisanship and people start gathering together in sides. It is all done in secret until one group thinks they have enough to wage war and win. This is not wise.

“From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members (James 4:1)?

According to James 3:17, spiritual wisdom is a visible reality that “is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” There are seven evidences of a person with spiritual wisdom listed in James 3:17.

1. Wisdom is “first pure.” It is undefiled by any admixture of pride and selfishness that leads to strife, contention, bitterness, wrath, factions, and discord among brethren. True Biblical, spiritual wisdom is “pure” of all of these carnal attributes.

2. Wisdom is “peaceable.” It is intent on reconciling differences. It is motivated to resolve problems and restore relationships. The person who is unwilling to resolve problems and restore relationships is neither “peaceable,” spiritual, or wise.

3. Wisdom is gentle.” It is considerate, courteous, and reasonable when dealing with others. This person is approachable and not harsh when dealing with others. Lacking in this area manifests itself by being harsh and critical expecting more of someone else than we expect of ourselves.

4. Wisdom is “easy to be entreated.” It is easily persuaded of any wrongdoing even to the extent of looking for the source of the problem in one’s self. This person is not stubborn or hardhearted toward someone by which they might have been offended. They are willing to give a fair hearing to the matter and to do whatever they personally can do to resolve the problem.

5. Wisdom is full of mercy” and it is “full of . . . good fruits.” To be “full” of something is to be under its control (compare Eph. 5:18). Mercy is the willingness to help someone out of a difficulty even if that difficulty is the result of his own failures, and may cause harm to you or cost you personally. “Good fruit” is the beneficial outcome of the practical application of Biblical principles. It relates to the dormant potential for good that lies in the principles of the Word of God until at which time a person puts those principles into action.

6. Wisdom is without partiality. It lacks the desire to divide people into factions or wrangle people into a dispute. This person refuses to rank people by class or position; i.e., by the degree such a person can provide promotion, esteem, or benefit to you.

7. Wisdom is without hypocrisy. Literally, this means that this person does not wear a mask of pretense. He does not play politics by manipulating people. He is absolutely honest about what he believes is the truth about himself and others. He is an authentic person who does not need to hide behind the mask of being a friend, because he truly wants God’s best for everyone. He is a true friend who loves you enough to be honest with you and gentle enough to try not to discourage you.

One of Satan’s central attacks against the establishment of the practice of truth (wisdom) in the world is subtle influences that lead a person to self-deception about our motives for doing the things we are told to be the righteous things to do. Wisdom that is “first pure” must be pure of selfish motives. This is a very difficult area of discernment. Wisdom that is pure of selfish motives wants all the glory for the good one does to go to God. Yet, because we have a fallen nature, there is always the desire for personal recognition for the good things we attempt to do. This is critical area of self-examination in that God is very jealous of the glory due Him for what He does through our lives. He wants us to be constantly conscious of the fact that apart from the workings of His indwelling Spirit, we can do no good thing.

16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:16-17).

Spiritually wise people understand that only God can accomplish good things through the lives of people. Paul speaks of the stealing of God’s glory by the believers in Corinth who were giving undue glory to men by raising their spiritual leaders to degrees of status in a competitive way. The glory for the spiritual accomplishments in their lives belonged solely to God, not to spiritual leaders.

18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. 20 And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. 21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; 22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; 23 And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (I Corinthians 3:18-23).

As James 3:13 says, true spiritual wisdom is always accompanied by “meekness.” Meekness and wisdom always come together as a pair. “Meekness” is from the Greek word prautes (prah-oo'-tace) meaning mildness or humility. If God gives us wisdom and “knowledge” as part of His working in and through our lives, what is there to be proud about? Intellectual pride is a manifestation of foolishness, not wisdom. The person “endued with knowledge” understands the gift comes with overwhelming responsibilities. If God has qualified a man to teach (endued him with knowledge), that man is responsible to teach others the truths God has taught him. Teaching/ preaching is no position for the politician. Paul gave explicit warning regarding this to the pastors from Ephesus.

25 And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. 26 Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. 28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” (Acts 20:25-31).

James has already warned in James 3:1, “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. Wise people do not seek positions of prominence to which they are not qualified to hold. The word “masters” in James 3:1 is from the Greek word didaskalos (did-as'-kal-os). It refers to a doctor, an expert in a subject who is able to teach what he knows to others. So often people covet a position because of the prominence or prestige it offers without ever really considering the enormous weight of responsibility that comes with such positions. That is not a wise thing to do!

1 comment:

Jerry Bouey said...

Brother Lance, this is an excellent study. I am facing some situations at work, which basically involve personality conflicts between coworkers (a little more to it than that, but this seems to be the heart of the problem) - and I was praying to the Lord for wisdom and asking Him for passages that would help address these problems. This passage from James and your explanations of the terms really helped. These coworkers are creating strife through their worldly wisdom and self-seeking.

Thank you for the effort you took to put together this study. God bless.