Calvary Road Baptist Church


James 3.13-18

Every sermon that a well-intentioned pastor preaches is bathed in prayer and study. As well, a pastor ought to desire that every sermon spring forth from the deep recesses of his heart and soul after being taught by God, to be shared with his people. However, it must be admitted that some sermons mean more to a pastor than do others. There are a variety of reasons why this is so. Some sermons are based upon subjects that the preacher is very familiar with or that he is very interested in. Other sermons are related to wonderful memories in his life and they evoke great warmth and emotion when he preaches them, as he hopes they will prove useful as he seeks to minister to his congregation and reach the lost in attendance with the gospel. There are some sermons which are centered around great foundational truths of the Bible such as salvation, the deity of Christ, the Virgin birth, the Resurrection, and the Second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Obviously, the preacher will be devoted to properly presenting these truths to the people he loves and serves for Christ. However, there is another kind of sermon which is close to the pastor’s heart. That is the sermon which is directly related to experiences the pastor is presently being taken through. You might call these experiences advanced education for the under-shepherd which is being personally conducted in his life by the Chief Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is for this reason that this morning’s text is so keen to me. The basic subject has to do with faith in action, which is the theme throughout the entire epistle of James. However, specifically in this text we deal with the kind of genuine faith which trusts God enough to keep his mouth shut. Did you catch what I said? There is a kind of genuine faith which trusts God enough to maintain silence. Allow me to illustrate before continuing: I suppose the best example of this in the Bible is to be found in First Peter 3.4, where the Apostle Peter advised the Christian woman reading his letter how best to influence her husband when he obeys not the Word of God, whether he is a lost man or a Christian man who is disobedient: “But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” Faith is important when you are called upon to meekly say nothing in the face of unbelief, trusting God to answer your prayers. That is what God wants a Christian woman to do in the face of disobedience by her husband.

Back on the main track, we all know Christians who have gripes. We who are Christians are also believers who have complaints, because every Christian has gripes and pet peeves. However, do you know what often separates the spiritual Christian from the carnal Christian? Do you know what often separates the Christian who is presently trusting God to work things out from the one who is presently not trusting God to work things out? Oftentimes, it is only his mouth. I am going to give you another example that will illustrate this. I use a personal example, not for self-glorification, but to avoid offending anyone. When I was a baby Christian and my pastor did something which I did not like, I would sometimes shoot my mouth off and gripe about it. Thankfully, I would speak my mind about my feelings to only one or two people. However, though I spoke my mind to only one or two people, I was still committing sin . . . and worse, in a way, I was loudly proclaiming by my anger and speech my distrust of God to work things out for my personal good. Several years later, under the ministry of a different pastor and in a different church where I had learned the meaning of such words as unity and loyalty, I was greatly wronged by a supposedly very mature and experienced Christian leader. The result was that my pastor removed me from my position of service and I became nothing more than a spectator in that church for over a year. This time around though, I did not complain to anyone. I did, by God’s grace alone, trust Him to work things out. I knew at the time that He was allowing those events to transpire to prepare me for the gospel ministry. The lesson is this: My faith and trust in God to take care of me resulted in me controlling my mouth in that situation. I am by no means perfect with a mouth that is totally under the control and domination of the Holy Spirit. However, throughout that situation I was.

This is the kind of scenario that our text speaks to today. Turn with me to James 3.13-18. When you find that passage, stand for the reading of God’s Word:

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.

What James here teaches his readers is that genuine faith and trust in God will radically affect the way in which a Christian talks. Indeed, from the Apostle Peter and in the situation I found myself in, trust in God was displayed by actually being quiet. Sometimes it is displayed by what the Christian says.

This truth can be seen in our passage in three ways:


We see this truth in faith’s wisdom and works, verse 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.”

James begins with an inquiry of the wise: “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you?” Surely, many people would like to consider themselves wise. How can you tell when someone thinks himself wise? He acts without seeking counsel. He trusts his own uninformed judgment about important matters and issues. He concludes that he has sufficiently mastered the important matters of life and needs no further input from anyone. James challenges his readers on this point. Remember, he has already instructed them concerning wisdom. He has taught them that wisdom comes only from God, something which people of Jewish origin knew and had been taught already. However, we need to think about this issue in our modern context. What kind of a fool denies the existence of God? On top of that, who would deny the wisdom of the all-powerful Creator and Sustainer in comparison to his own paltry grasp of the events and circumstances that profoundly affect his life? As it turns out, many people deny the wisdom of God as evidenced by the fact that they never seek His wisdom, never consider His wisdom, and make all their important life decisions without once taking note of His wisdom. So, you see, what James is in essence doing, is challenging the spirituality and wisdom of his readers. He is recapturing their attention, in case some of them had gone to sleep on him, or in case they were starting to think that his letter was written for someone else’s benefit and not their own.

Arousing their interest in this subject, James informs them concerning the indication of wisdom. Three things about wisdom which everyone should know, and which the truly wise already know: First, know that wisdom is to be shown, is to be demonstrated. “Let him show,” James writes. Wisdom and instruction are described by Solomon in Proverbs 1.9 as “an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.” Are you wise? If you are, you will not be able to conceal it. If you are, you will not want to conceal it. If you are wise, you will also possess the wisdom to thank God for giving it to you. Second, know that wisdom is shown particularly in good conduct: “Let him show out of a good conversation his works.” Just as faith is not passive in the life of a child of God, so wisdom is not passive in the life of a child of God. Regarding this matter of wisdom, allow me to caution you against thinking someone is wise merely because he is clever or experienced. That is not true. People so often have the misconception of a wise man sitting cross-legged and doing nothing but allowing younger men to come to him asking for advice. This is man’s concept of wisdom. God’s concept of wisdom is to have an understanding of situations from God’s perspective and then to act upon those situations in a spiritual way. Of course, the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God. Ancient Job rightly said, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom.”[1] As well, the psalmist declared three thousand years ago, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”[2] No man has wisdom until he has first the wisdom to fear God. He knows nothing of real value until he knows that. Third, know that wisdom is always accompanied by meekness, “meekness of wisdom.” When you think of it, this makes a great deal of sense. What is meekness? You should think of meekness as power that is under control. A man who is meek is never weak. It is he or she, the meek one, who has true strength. Meekness will be produced in the heart of any child of God who really is confident that his Father in heaven is sovereign and on the throne of the universe, and that meekness will be reflected in the speech patterns of that one who is wise.


Three things for us to consider:

First, we consider what sin’s wisdom is like, verse 14: “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.” Internally, it is bitter envying and strife in your hearts. Bitter envying is bitter jealousy, the fierce desire to promote your own opinion to the exclusion of others.[3] We know from Hebrews 12.15 that bitterness defiles many Christians, so bitter jealousy affects many, as well. It may arise for a variety of reasons, but one sure reason is the absence of genuine love. First Corinthians 13.4 says that charity envieth not. Have you ever extended yourself to be loving to someone and then you see him directing his interest or affections toward someone else? If you become jealous of his affections for another person, then you do not really love him. If you try to stop him from getting closer to someone else, then you are showing bitterness. Strife is the other internal trait of sin’s wisdom. It, too, is an internal trait which will show externally. This word means to be selfishly ambitious.[4] It, too, can only occur when there is an absence of love for others. When something does not go the way this person wants it to go, he or she will begin to connive and manipulate things and people in a self-seeking way to achieve what he wants and desires. Even spouses can be this way with the person they are married to. Externally, James deals in a negative way with sin’s wisdom. A person who has the supposed wisdom of sin, or the wisdom which is not of faith and not from God, will do two things observably: He will glory and he will lie against the truth. James urges his readers to stop doing these things. To glory is to boast against or to boast arrogantly.[5] This is the person who is always promoting himself. Children do this when they say, “Look at me, look at me.” With adults, it is lying against the truth so as to act like you or I have anything to be proud of. To the braggadocios Corinthians, the Apostle Paul wrote, “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?”[6] To be truly wise and exhibiting faith in God, a Christian will not only be quite unconscious of his own spirituality, but he will also be very conscious of his own sinfulness. In being this way, he will heed James’ plea to “glory not and lie not against the truth.”

Knowing something of what sin’s wisdom is, let us now examine where sin’s wisdom originates, verse 15: “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.” Where does sin’s wisdom, that wisdom which is not of faith in God, that so-called wisdom that brags and boasts, come from? First, we know that sin’s wisdom, the kind which has a jealous mouth and a mouth of strife and contention, the mouth that is unfamiliar with silence, is not from above. It is not from heaven, which is to say, it does not come from God. Not being from heaven as a gift from God, it is, therefore, earthly or earthbound. It is sensual or natural, and not therefore spiritual. It can be possessed by unsaved people, and is in fact the only kind of wisdom that unsaved people do possess, as well, sadly, as many Christians. It is also devilish, which means demoniacal. This is not to say that people with this kind of wisdom are always demon possessed or always demon influenced, but it does mean that this is the kind of wisdom which the demons possess and use. If things do not go your way, you respond with the kind of wisdom possessed by demons, if you react in a way that is bitterly jealous over loved ones, striving to work things out to only your benefit, and without bowing to the providential hand of God in life’s affairs.

We know some of what sin’s wisdom is and where it originates. We even have a couple of specifics concerning what sin’s wisdom does, but what about its general behavior? Verse 16: “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” We already know about envying and strife. These are specific byproducts in the lives of folks who do not trust God to work in their lives and for their benefit. However, the next two words describe the general conduct of a mouth not governed by faith in God. Confusion. First Corinthians 14.33 says that God is not the author of confusion. Confusion is what you have when there is no unity. Confusion is what you have when there is no followship behind the leadership. I once read in a magazine of a sign on the desk of a successful businessman. It said, “Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.” We must realize that confusion is anarchy, and while God has not called us to a life of lockstep legalism, He likewise has not called us to a life of free-lance spiritual anarchy either. What inevitably results from the confusion and anarchy that springs from rebellious worldly wisdom and inappropriate conversation? Every evil work. Literally, deeds which are good for absolutely nothing. I want my life to mean something for God. I want my efforts to be a blessing to others. I have no interest in living my life to no eternal end and without profound spiritual benefit to others. I am persuaded those with wisdom not only think along this line, but are conscientiously devoted to making sure what comes out of their mouths serves the same purpose.


James 3.17-18:   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.

Notice the origin of genuine wisdom. We already know this, but is it not nice to be reminded that God gives wisdom? When I do something and it turns out right, I am thankful that God blessed me in such a way that I could do something His way. Whenever the child of God does something right . . . it is God’s wisdom that is used.

That understood, what about the nature of God’s wisdom? We know about the nature of faithless and worldly wisdom, now let us look at God’s wisdom. God’s wisdom is first pure. It is sincere, moral, and possessing spiritual integrity.[7] It can be objective. At the expense of all else, God’s wisdom will be pure. It is then peaceable. It will not pursue peace at the expense of purity, and it will not sacrifice purity by compromising with sin in order to obtain peace. God’s wisdom seeks peace with God. This comes when a sinner receives Christ. God’s wisdom then seeks the peace of God. This comes through obedience and seeking to persuade others to be obedient to God. It is next gentle. Reasonable in judging.[8] With this we see that God’s wisdom never seeks to use truth as an instrument of pain. Sometimes truth does cause pain, to be sure, but wisdom does not seek occasion to hurt or harm, but rather to be tender. Then it is easy to be entreated. This means easy to be persuaded, willing to yield.[9] As a pastor, this seems particularly important to me. This is a major factor in someone allowing me to minister to him. I have never sought blind allegiance from anyone. I strongly desire that each Christian study his own Bible. However, when a member’s reaction to my instruction is to always question or to reject, and not to hold their opinion while I am presenting the truth, then that person commits sin and disobeys God, #1, and makes it very hard for me to pastor him, #2. It is hard to get close to someone who is constantly pulling against your lead, Hebrews 13.17 instructs, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” God’s wisdom is full of mercy and good fruits. Mercy is compassion in action. This wisdom would not say something bad and then say, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.” Mercy would have considered the other person and then kept quiet rather than cause needless pain. Good fruits refers to the three kinds of fruit produced in a Christian’s life; the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of new converts, and the fruit Paul referred to when writing Romans and Philippians, which is giving.[10] God’s wisdom is without partiality. Partiality has to do with vacillating back and forth. Do you know someone who hates you one minute and then loves you when he gets to feeling guilty about hating you? That is partiality. Being without partiality comes when you resolve your inner conflicts with a person and thereafter enjoy a very steady relationship with him. Of course, this is sometimes very hard for immature Christians to do. Finally, God’s wisdom is without hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is the Greek theater word which means to put a mask on your face. It refers to someone pretending to be what he is not. It is the opposite of genuine and sincere. James says that the wise person takes the masks off and allows people to see him the way he really is.

That is the nature of the wisdom produced by faith and trust in God. The bar is set very high for us, is it not? Now we look at the activity of this wisdom that is produced by faith, verse 18: “And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” We can seek to understand this verse in one of two ways: Either James is saying that wise people sow seed which produces righteousness, or righteousness is the seed which is sown. Either way, it is done in a peaceable way by them that make peace. I rather think that James was somewhat ambiguous on purpose. Wise people sow seed which produces righteousness because the Bible says that he that winneth souls is wise.[11] On the other hand, and at the same time might I add, when we live righteous lives before a lost world we are showing what God does in the lives of His children.

The right kind of mouth comes from having the right kind of heart. The wrong kind of mouth merely reflects the wrong condition of one’s heart. The condition of every man’s heart in his natural state is awful. Jeremiah 17.9 is very clear: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” “Who can know it?” Only God, really. Jeremiah 17.10: “I the LORD search the heart.” Once the sinner’s heart has been cleansed of its sins, forgiven by God of all wrongdoing, and made new through faith in Christ alone, the Christian then faces the lifelong struggle against his sinful nature, struggling by God’s grace to subdue our sinful tendencies. This understood, the faith that is present in the life of the real Christian is a faith that will increasingly exhibit wisdom as the Christian grows and matures, and as he becomes more experienced and seasoned.

No one can see faith. It is invisible, an abstraction. However, genuine faith, saving faith, faith that originates with God and is given through the preaching of Bible, Romans 10.17, will not only result in the salvation of the sinner’s soul, but also the transformation of the Christian’s patterns of speech. With some, that change comes suddenly, with God dramatically altering a once wicked man’s patterns of speech. With other Christians, it is a long struggle to replace a limited and blasphemous vocabulary, or a hurtful and unconstructive type of talking, with words that minister grace to the hearers. Thus, faith is the explanation behind a change in behavior, when one stops bragging about his own accomplishments and credentials and begins a lifetime of praising God and exalting God’s Son, Jesus Christ, the Savior of sinful men’s souls.

[1] Job 28.28

[2] Psalm 111.10

[3] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), pages 734-735.

[4] Ibid., page 735.

[5] Ibid.

[6] 1 Corinthians 4.7

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5.22-23), the fruit of converts (John 15.2-8), the fruit of giving (Romans 1.13; 15.28; Philippians 4.16-17)

[11] Proverbs 11.30

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