James the Just
Introduction – In this Session, we will conclude James chapter 3, and explore verses 13-18. In these verses James re-engages the Teachers or Leaders in the Church that he began to address at the beginning of James chapter 3. Like a wise Apostolic Father, James addresses the Regional Judean Church, and exhorts the leadership to evaluate the condition of their hearts, examine the fruit of their ministries and to walk in the operating system of heaven.
There are 3 movements in the text in verses 13-18.
1 – Teachers who claim to walk in God given wisdom prove it by the course of their lives.
2 – Ministers who thrive on ambition, religiosity and competition are ministering from the wrong source.
3 – James builds a contrast between the fruit of ungodly ministers and ministries and the fruit of ministers and ministries that operate in the wisdom that proceeds from God.
While the exhortation in James 3:13-18 is directed towards Teachers and Leaders in the Church, we can all benefit from living in the patterns put forth by James. Lastly, I want to mention that Jesus, regarding His humanity is the example of a life lived in God, manifesting the fullness of godliness, purity, righteousness, grace, mercy and love. As we read James 3:13-18, we should read these verses with Christ being the backdrop and source for the things that James writes the Jewish Church in Judea, Samaria and Syria.
a) In verse 13, James re-addresses the Teachers that he exhorted at the beginning of James 3. See James 3:1-2. We know this because of the Greek word sophos, which is a common term for describing Jewish rabbis in the First Century. The Epistle of James follows Hebrew literary style, which begins with a subject, fast forwards and then re-addresses the subject. We see this style in Genesis, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and among other books of the Old Covenant Scriptures. This would make sense since James’ audience are First Century Jewish believers in Messiah in Judea, Samaria and Syria.
b) In verse 13, James gives those who teach and lead the Church a measure by which we can evaluate ourselves to see if the wisdom we possess is from heaven or from our own understanding. Wisdom from God is not simply head knowledge or education. Wisdom from God produces a pattern of living that reimages the core values of the kingdom of God.
c) Notice that the fruit of godly wisdom is a well lived and congruent life, with an attitude of humility/gentleness (NASB), Greek – praÿtēs – mildness of disposition, gentleness of spirit, meekness. If we have wisdom we do not need to prove we are right or exert control over others because we do not have a spirit of competition or control. Jesus, our Teacher, possessed this quality, Matthew 11:29 – Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
a) Bitter envy (Greek – pikros zēlos – harsh, bitter, an envious and contentious rivalry, jealousy) and selfish ambition (Greek – kä-tä-kau-khä’-o-mai – to glory against, to exult over, to boast one’s self to the injury – of a person or thing) are the polar opposites of gentleness and humility. James is addressing a spirit of competition and harsh religiosity that contends with others based on their own perceived self-worth, harsh religious stances, or desire to be important. b) It is beneficial to evaluate your life in the light of 1 Corinthians 13 and Galatians 5:22-23.
a) James identifies the origin of ungodly wisdom, or carnal ministries and motives. Earthly – Living for this life, in the here and now, and not with an awareness of eternal life or the supernatural eternal realm of God. Unspiritual – Living from purely fleshly emotions and animalistic passions or desires. Demonic – Inspired by the thoughts and values that proceed from satan and demons, that re-image the operating system of hell.
b) Heavenly wisdom reflects its origin, the Godhead, and agrees with God’s emotions, nature, character and His Word.
a) James begins to build a contrast between the 3-Fold ungodly wisdom (earthly, unspiritual, demonic) and the wisdom that proceeds from God. b) Where there is envy and selfish ambition in a leader, the manifestation will be chaos/disorder, disorganization and ungodliness and an ungodly way of living (ethically bad). Paul addressed these same things in 2 Corinthians 12:20, Galatians 5:20, and Philippians 2:3.
a) James gives us a precise description of what heavenly wisdom looks when someone is wearing it like Joseph’s coat of many colors. James takes away all the ethereal mystery of wisdom and the theoretical concepts of wisdom and gives us a very practical guide to evaluate our lives to see if we are producing the fruit of godly wisdom.
b) Pure – exciting reverence for God, sacred, venerable, and pure. This is not addressing sexual purity per se, but is addressing having a pure heart, true motives and having consecrated hearts towards God.
c) Peace-loving – Being at peace, manifesting peace, and desiring peace. This is an allusion to the Hebrew concept of shalom, which is peace with God, peace within ourselves and peace that surrounds us.
d) Considerate – Greek – epieikēs – e-pē-ā-kā’s – equitable, fair, mild, patient, and tolerant of others. The great Scottish theologian William Barklay points out there is not a corresponding English word that properly describes the concept of this Greek word.
e) Submissive – obeys easily to authority, and willing to listen to another person’s heart.
f) Full of mercy – the ability to re-image God’s clemency toward the sins of men.
g) Good Fruit – the measurable benefit of one’s life or ministry.
h) Impartial/Unwavering – without dubiousness, ambiguity or uncertainty – Yes be yes – No be no.
i) Sincere – without hypocrisy, or undisguised motives of the heart.
a) NASB – And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. I believe the NASB is the better translation of verse 18. Since God is at perfect peace within Himself, then peace of the descriptive of heaven’s atmosphere. When we partner with the peace that emanates from God, and allow it to abide in us, that seed of peace within us bears the fruit of righteousness.
b) The ability to re-image Jesus proceeds from relationship and experiential knowledge of God.