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James 3:13-18 - The Two Wisdom

Pastor Cedar Bibiolata
Walking in Wisdom: True Faith That Works  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  39:38
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James 3:1-12 focuses on the nature of the tongue and its influence. Analogies are used to clearly picture the vileness of the human heart, as evidenced by the tongue: “from the same mouth come blessing and cursing” (James 2:10). “These things ought not to be so”-- such is the exhortation of James to those who have been given a new heart.

What follows appears at first glance to be a new topic. Such, however, is not the case. Chapter 3:13-18 actually continues the exhortation for fellow believers to not be too quick to teach, as the Word of God should be accurately handled-- “for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1). In a similar vein, those who desire to teach should not think that they are qualified because they think they are intellectually endowed. Some, perhaps, may even rationalize that they should be able to teach given their skill, no matter their manner of life. James, however, makes clear that this ought not to be.

Consistent with the teachings in Proverbs, James’ thrust in 3:13-18 is to define true wisdom. The emphasis is not head knowledge but the condition of the heart. The truly wise is one who lives a godly life. As James indicates, “If you are wise and understand God's ways, prove it by living an honorable life doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom” (James 3:13 NLT). Again, this exhortation is consistent with his message concerning the tongue: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26).

James, then, describes the opposite of true wisdom--that is, “earthly wisdom,” which is actually unspiritual and demonic. See 1Cor 2:14 for a description of the natural man who “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God.” Significantly, “earthly wisdom” is characterized by selfish ambition and bitter jealousy. Jealousy, in Scripture, although used in a positive sense in some instances, is often used in a negative sense, as in this passage. This “jealousy” James refers to is “bitter,” and is hand in hand with an ambition that is “selfish.” Where these exist, “there will be disorder and every vile practice.”

James, in making clear what earthly wisdom looks like, reminds the brethren “not to boast and be false to the truth.” He, then, provides a vivid picture of the true wisdom “that is from above.” Primarily or of essential importance, it is, first, “pure.” Then, it is peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”

Clearly, James’ call is for believers to live consistently with what they profess to believe-- both in the use of their tongue and in their daily conduct. Remember: who can live purely but one who has been MADE pure? Indeed, only the sinner who has been washed in the blood of the Lamb can have the wisdom that is from above. Heavenly wisdom is the byproduct of a relationship with God through Christ, whose death and resurrection makes forgiveness of our sins possible. Through Christ, we are given a new heart. God’s Spirit indwells us to give us wisdom and understanding. Paul’s words to the saints at Philippi is on point here as we pray for one another as believers: “My prayer [is] that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11).

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