The Wisdom from Above

“The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” —James 3:17,18

WISDOM IS THE proper application of knowledge. One might know a great deal about many things and yet be very unwise in the use of that knowledge. This is particularly true of the Christian with respect to his knowledge of God’s plans and purposes as they are revealed in his Word. It is a blessing to be able to quote many texts of the Bible, and to know where they are found. It is a further blessing to be well acquainted with the beautiful and meaningful stories of the Bible. And every Christian should endeavor daily to become better acquainted with the life and teachings of Jesus; in fact, we should ever seek to become more and more fully acquainted with every part of the Word of God. However, all of this would merely be the acquiring of increasing knowledge, and regardless of how important that may be—and it is important—we would be very unwise if we did not properly apply our knowledge as the governing factor in our lives.

On the other hand, one cannot be wise toward God—blessed with the wisdom from above—without doing all he can to acquire a knowledge of God’s Word. It is exceedingly unwise to decide that it is not important to become very familiar with his Word and plan, that it does not make any difference what we think or believe as long as we endeavor to live righteous lives. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” the psalmist tells us, and a proper fear or reverence for the Lord will lead us to study his Word, which he has given to us for our instruction and guidance. (Ps. 111:10) In Jeremiah 8:9 we read of a class who rejected the Word of the Lord, and of these the prophet asks the question, “What wisdom is in them?” The obvious answer is that they have no true wisdom.

In I Corinthians 1:21 the apostle tells us that “the world by wisdom knew not God.” The world’s sources of knowledge, as well as its methods of applying knowledge, lead away from God rather than toward a better understanding of him. In reality the world desires to forget God, and because of this their foolish hearts become darkened. (Rom. 1:21) There are many brilliant minds in the world, minds which can philosophize on many matters, but because they reject the Word of the Lord, their reasonings are of little value, since they lead away from God and away from an understanding of his plans and purposes.

Paul speaks of praying for the Ephesian brethren that the Lord might give them the “spirit of wisdom and revelation,” and as translated in the Margin, this would result in “the acknowledgment of him.” (Eph. 1:17) True wisdom manifests itself in an acknowledging of the Lord as the king of our lives. Any other viewpoint of life and its meaning is unwise. A refusal to give recognition of God’s right to rule our lives may seem wise to the world, but the Scriptures tell us that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.”—I Cor. 3:19

First Pure, Then Peaceable

The apostle says the “wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable.” (James 3:17) To express this in another way, we could say that the application of the teachings of God’s Word must first of all be along the lines of divine righteousness, and that strict adherence to these standards must be considered ahead of living peaceably with those around us. The Apostle Paul admonished that so far as possible we should endeavor to live peaceably with all men. (Rom. 12:18) In writing thus he placed peace in the same relative position that the Apostle James does in our text.

To get along amicably with the world, or even with the brethren, as desirable as that may be, should not be the first consideration of a Christian. There are a number of scriptures which should help us make a wise application of the truth in this connection. Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on the earth: … but a sword.” (Matt. 10:34) Jesus is not here advocating the use of the sword, but is explaining rather that those who follow his teachings faithfully will find themselves at enmity with the world, that the world will despise and oppose them. To try to please the world and please God at the same time would be very unwise.

And it is not always possible to live peaceably with those who profess to be followers of the Master. Among these there are varying degrees of knowledge and experience; and while all may profess to be fully consecrated to the Lord, a great deal of self-will often manifests itself. These factors sometimes make it impossible to live peaceably with the brethren. Regardless of consequences, every truly consecrated Christian must take a stand on the side of truth and righteousness; for the ‘wisdom from above is first pure’.

But even though it might be necessary to take a stand that is contrary to the wishes of others, we should not be contentious about it. “The servant of the Lord must not strive” (II Tim. 2:24), wrote the apostle, setting forth one of the qualifications of teachers in the church, and all the Lord’s people are teachers in the sense that they are all ambassadors for Christ. If we make our position clear and take a stand on the side of right, we can leave the rest with the Lord, knowing that in ways far better than we can even imagine he manifests his blessing toward those who walk humbly with him.

Then peaceable’—from the standpoint of the ‘wisdom from above’, living peaceably is a secondary consideration. And we should not think of this only as it relates to our association with others. The life which is wholly devoted to God, endeavoring faithfully to be guided by heavenly wisdom, will have much opposition from within. We will be at war with our flesh, and often the struggle will be a bitter one. There will be times when we may long to take the easy, the tranquil road; but if to do so means compromising the will of God, the deciding factor must be, ‘first pure’.

And we must also expect to have enemies without. Even among our own brethren in Christ we will find that at times they will misunderstand our position and unwittingly deride us for being ‘narrow minded’, or ‘sectarian’, or ‘intolerant’, or ‘self-seeking’, or ‘jealous’. It frequently happens that when a brother or sister, or a group of brethren, take a definite stand for what is right, others will attribute a wrong motive for the stand instead of examining their own course of life to find out why they do not see the matter in the same light as those they criticize.

One of the most severe trials which can come upon any Christian is to have his motive impugned; and to avoid the pain that this causes there may be a great temptation to compromise the truth and its application for the sake of peace. We all like to be well thought of, and it requires real courage and a full reliance on God’s grace deliberately to take a stand which we know will cause us the loss of prestige among our friends.

And when we use that word ‘friends’, another point is raised for consideration. It is very easy to permit friendship to blind us to real and important issues of the truth and our responsibilities in connection with them. “We have been friends for years,” we say to ourselves concerning brethren whom we feel are taking a wrong course, “and why should I take a stand now that will cause them to feel badly toward me, or break friendship’s ties?” The flesh reasons us into a compromising position, and while we may maintain a good standing with our friends, we have permitted an earth-born cloud to come between us and the bright smile of God’s full favor.

Easy to Be Entreated

The ‘wisdom from above’—that is, a knowledge of the truth properly applied in our lives—results in a wonderful balance of Christian character. It causes one to be firm and resolute in his stand for the truth, and for all the divine principles of righteousness represented in it, yet it teaches one to give all due consideration to the viewpoints of others. A true Christian, in other words, will not be austere and unapproachable. If we find that we have such a tendency, we should realize that the mind of the flesh has reasoned us into taking a wrong viewpoint of what it means to take a stand for truth and righteousness.

We should recognize the difference between being firm for the truth, and being conceited and intolerant. If we find that the moment a brother attempts to approach us with a view that is different from ours, we refuse to listen, and give the impression that he is ignorant of what really is the truth, then we should take ourselves in hand, realizing that we have not yet come wholly under the influence of heavenly wisdom, which is ‘easy to be entreated’.

To give ear patiently to a brother’s viewpoint does not mean that we agree with him. It does mean—if we are good listeners—that we will get to understand his viewpoint better, and be in a better position to help him over his difficulties. Probably one of the most frequent causes of misunderstanding among people—and the Lord’s people are no exception—is failure to listen to what the other fellow has to say.

The whole world is living under strained conditions in this “Day of the Lord.” Nervousness, irritability, and lack of patience are on the increase everywhere, and we are no exception. One of the ways this manifests itself is in our failure to listen to one another politely in ordinary conversation. Where there may be a slight difference of opinion, we will frequently be thinking up ‘our side of the argument’ while our brother is trying to state his. The result of this is that we probably interrupt him before he has finished; and, without knowing what it was he was trying to say, we endeavor to present our answer. Then, he, in turn, treats us the same way, so it is no wonder that we continue to disagree!

Let us learn to be good listeners. This is undoubtedly one of the elements involved in the statement that we are to be ‘easy to be entreated’. No one can entreat us about anything unless we are willing to give them a respectful and sympathetic hearing. To be a good listener means more than to refrain from interrupting while someone is explaining a point to us. We should give earnest attention, and make a sincere effort to understand the viewpoint being expressed, and not ‘jump to conclusions’. A little more self-discipline along this line on the part of all the consecrated will contribute mightily to richer blessings in our meetings, and a greater degree of understanding and unity—and without compromising the truth.

Full of Mercy and Good Fruits

A proper application of the truth should lead us to be merciful in our dealings with others. While the truth gives us a greatly enhanced appreciation of divine righteousness and of the high standards which God sets for his people, it also reveals how much we are indebted to divine mercy through Christ which has made it possible for us to be called the Sons of God. If we are unmerciful in our dealings with others, and in our judgment of them, it indicates that we have not yet come to realize as fully as we should how far short we come of the glory of God.

The fact that we have experienced God’s great favor in receiving the truth could lead to a sort of spiritual pride. We might reason that God has given us the truth and invited us to joint-heirship with Christ because he saw that we were a little better than others. Any semblance of this sort of reasoning will lead us to be unmerciful toward others. It was to remind us of our own need of mercy that the Lord taught us that “if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14) If we follow this counsel sincerely it will help us to realize our own need of God’s mercy, and that if we are to be godlike we must, from the heart, exercise mercy toward others.

The exercise of mercy is not necessarily concerned with great issues in our lives. It is a touchstone by which we may gauge our progress in heavenly wisdom when concerned merely with the little things of life—in the home, the office, the ecclesia, or wherever we come in contact with others. Do we find ourselves tolerant of the little mistakes people make; are we inclined to take the blame ourselves for those little irritating things which should not have happened? If so, it is an evidence that we are looking upon others with mercy. On the other hand, if we constantly find ourselves endeavoring to excuse our own mistakes, or to pass the blame to others, and are irritated by the ‘slips’ which others make, it is well to take ourselves in hand, for this would be an indication that the quality of mercy is not filling our hearts as it should.

The Marginal Translation of our text states that the wisdom from above is “without wrangling.” The Greek word used means literally, ‘undistinguished’. The thought may be that of contending over points not clearly defined, or even unimportant. In any event, how foolish it is to wrangle over the truth! And it is even more foolish to wrangle over other things, such as our meetings, and our service of the truth. We are to “earnestly contend for the faith,” yes, but wrangling is no part of a mature Christian’s life. (Jude 3) Where wrangling exists among the Lord’s people it means either that they are mere babes in Christ, or have permitted jealousy, envy, and strife to enter in among them.

Wrangling evidences a lack of faith in God and in the outworking of his plans and purposes. When a Bible study meeting or a business meeting is given over to wrangling, one could get the thought that those involved think that the Lord will direct his plan according to who wins the argument. How foolish! How far short of the wisdom from above! Let us all endeavor to realize the importance of a humble approach to the sacred truths of God’s Word, and manifest a great desire to be taught of him. Let us not be like those the poet described as wanting to “teach the Book instead of being taught.”

Without Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is claiming to be that which we are not. The proper application of the truth precludes the possibility of a false position of this kind. It is a lack of sincerity. One who is wholly sincere is not a hypocrite, and we should endeavor to keep our hearts pure and sincere before the Lord. To be sincere does not mean that we necessarily attain the goal of righteousness for which we strive, but it does mean that we do not give assent to our failures—that while we may fall over and over again, we will keep trying, and continually look to the Lord for his grace and strength.

If we know that a certain course is wrong, but willfully decide to follow it, while pretending something else, then we are not sincere; and if the Lord continues to deal with us at all, we will sooner or later experience severe chastening to correct the wrong way in which we are walking. Sincerity is a very important element of Christian character. But, as we have noted, to be sincere does not mean that we never transgress God’s law.

If we should say that we have not sinned for twenty years, we would be hypocrites; but we can claim to be trying our utmost to please God in our every thought and word and deed, and if we are sincere in this claim, the Lord will continue to bless us. How wonderful is the mercy of the Lord, through Christ, which he so gladly extends to those who cry out to him for forgiveness of those imperfections against which they sincerely struggle, but often fail to overcome!

The Fruit of Righteousness

The wisdom from above, our text declares, is full of mercy and good fruits, and, as the apostle further states, “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” (vs. 18) Those who make peace are referred to by Jesus as peacemakers—“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matt. 5:9) The word ‘peace’ is a translation of a Greek word, the basic meaning of which is ‘to join’, or ‘to make a pact’. The Sons of God, those who are to be with Christ in the kingdom and ‘see him as he is’, are invited to joint-heirship with Christ for the very purpose of being associated with him in making a ‘pact’—even the New Covenant—between God and man.

This, then, is to be the ultimate ‘fruit of righteousness’ which will be produced by the wisdom from above. The apostle explains that this fruit of righteousness is sown in peace. The entire period from our consecration until we make our calling and election sure by being faithful unto death is the sowing time. Paul wrote, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Gal. 6:7) From another standpoint we could say that we are now in training for the future work of making peace between God and men. Because of this, we must now learn and apply all the principles of righteousness represented in the wisdom from above which will be taught to the world and used as a basis of the covenant to be made with the people.

Those who will make progress in the Millennial Kingdom along the “highway” (Isa. 35:8) will not be able to compromise in their obedience to the laws of the kingdom. With them it will be ‘first pure’, even as with us; hence the importance of our learning well this lesson now. For this same reason every element of divine wisdom will need to become a very part of our lives during this training period. This means that there will be ‘good fruits’ in evidence even now—the fruits of joy and peace, kindness and love—which give evidence of our own heart-harmony with God and his will.

And if our harmony with God’s will and our union with Christ are complete, and the divine will is manifesting itself in our daily words and deeds, those around us will have an opportunity to partake of the ‘good fruit’ of our lives, and themselves to be blessed. Our service as peacemakers is by no means limited to the next age, when, if faithful, we will be united with Christ in glory, honor, and immortality. It begins now. And to be wholly under the influence of the wisdom from above means that we will be active in telling all, as we have opportunity, God’s great plan of the ages, and encouraging all who have a hearing ear to surrender themselves to God, and to the doing of his will.

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |