2019-10-06 Two Wisdoms Contrasted

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          October 6, 2019

James 3:13-18

Psalm 1 gives us an excellent contrast between two ways: the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked.  The summation of that contrast is this verse: “For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:6).  We have another contrast before us, namely, a contrast between two wisdoms.  James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus, writes by the Holy Spirit’s leading of the wisdom from above, and the wisdom not from above.  Let’s examine each of these in turn—its source, its marks, and its fruit—and then let’s apply what we learn today.


We look first today at the wisdom of this world.  Its source, according to God, is the pit of hell.  James, never one to mince words in the Spirit, calls this so-called wisdom demonic, unspiritual, and earthly.  This form of alleged wisdom, therefore, rises from the depth of the abode of the ancient opponent to our God.  Hence, it is not from on high, where our Lord dwells, but it from beneath.  It embraces no vertical outlook toward God, but it values only the horizontal outlook.  Figuring things out with God’s given intellect and wisdom is good, but to do this apart from consulting Him Who is the fount of all wisdom is folly and arrogance.

We find in today’s text the marks of such a wisdom.  The evil one marks such wisdom with jealousy.  Jealous ones find themselves miserable at others’ good providence—and lives consistently displaying jealousy reveal the command of the demonic so-called wisdom within them.  Another mark of such an infernal wisdom is selfish ambition, which is simply a me-first attitude—an attitude that demands what it wants at all costs, no matter who endures inconvenience or who gets hurt.  We also see the fruit of such wisdom in today’s text: disorder and every vile practice.  We who are in Christ—or who want to be—have seen enough.  We know, and long, to flee from this so-called wisdom.  Let’s now look at something far better.

The wisdom from above has for its source the triune God, Who is the fount of every good.  It has numerous welcome marks that point to its presence.  This wisdom is pure.  It is marked unmistakably by Christ’s purity and is devoid of sin’s stains.  This wisdom is next peaceable.  Those embracing this wisdom, and controlled by it, are considerably (even remarkably) free from worry.  The wisdom from above is gentle.  It is not harsh in its dealing with others, and it is of great ministry to hurting folks.  This wisdom also is open to reason.  It is not implacable.  It will listen to others and amend its view when another’s view more nearly conforms to God’s will and ways.  The wisdom from on high is full of mercy and other good fruits.  By mercy we mean kind deeds done for needy folk—no matter if their needs be tangible or intangible.  Other good fruits include especially the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  Finally, such wisdom is impartial and sincere.  James already has spoken elliptically for impartiality by condemning favoritism (James 2:1-7).  Sincerity, of course, is genuine.  It is real.  It is neither duplicitous nor bogus.  These lovely traits testify to the control of God’s wisdom from above in a person’s life.

Its fruit is, first, a harvest of righteousness.  This is a bounty of good things coming from right standing before God and right dealing with others.  Second, the fruit of the wisdom from above is peace—peace both between persons and within a believer’s soul.  Good things come from walking in God’s good wisdom.

The Apostle Paul, reflecting upon the Christian ministry, writes, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:15).  Truly, who is sufficient for what we hear today?  Who of us walks in uninterrupted, perfect wisdom from above?  Who among us finds himself occasionally walking too closely to that vile, so-called wisdom—the wisdom not from above?  The flesh, the world, and the devil inveigh against us to decline from God’s wisdom in favor of the demonic so-called wisdom.

May God have mercy upon us.  May He show us His mercy by forgiving our failures and consequent sins.  May He show us His mercy by empowering our obedience, our conformity to the wisdom from above, and our display of said wisdom to Church and world.  Above all, may He have His rightful glory in this discharge and receipt of this preaching even, in our right application of what we hear, and in all things everywhere for all time.  AMEN.