James 3:17, 18
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits…
These two verses exhibit, with much terseness and beauty, the features of the true or heavenly wisdom, i.e. the characteristic qualities of the state of mind, which is produced by a sincere reception of saving truth. The picture here presented forms a direct contrast to the description of false or earthly wisdom given in vers. 14-16.
I. THE NATURE OF TRUE WISDOM. (Ver. 17.) In origin it is "from above." It is not the product of self-culture, but altogether supernatural and gracious. And, being a gift of God, it is "good" and "perfect" in all its characteristics (James 1:5, 17). James here represents the heavenly wisdom as possessed of seven great excellences. Seven was the perfect number among the Jews; and there are, so to speak, seven notes in the harmony of Christian character; or seven colors in the rainbow of the Christian life, which, when blended, form its pure white sunlight. Of these seven, the first is marked off from the others, because it refers to what a man is within his own heart; while the other six deal with the qualities shown by true wisdom in connection with one's deportment towards his fellow-men.
1. In respect of a man himself. Here true wisdom is "pure. This word means chaste, unsullied, holy. Purity is the fundamental characteristic of everything that is from above." Righteousness lies at the foundation of all that is beautiful in character. Christian wisdom leads a man "to keep himself unspotted from the world," and to "cleanse himself from all defilement of flesh and spirit." Every person, therefore, who lives a sensual, selfish, or openly sinful life, shows himself to be destitute of the heavenly wisdom. For its chief element is holiness - that purity which is obtained through the blood of Christ and by the indwelling of his Spirit.
2. In respect of his demeanor towards his fellow-men. The expressions, "first," and "then," do not imply that the wise man must be perfectly "pure" before he begins to be "peaceable." They indicate the logical order, and not merely the order of time. The phrase, "first pure, then peaceable," has often been sadly abused in the interests of the "bitter jealousy and faction" which belong to false wisdom. But surely, even in doctrinal matters, we are to be peaceable with a view to purity, as well as pure for the sake of peace. "Peaceable;" indisposed to conflict or dissension. "Jealousy and faction" are characteristics of earthly wisdom. The heavenly wisdom deprecates disputatious debate, and labors to quench animosities. "Gentle;" forbearing, courteous, considerate. Gentleness is just the outward aspect of the grace of peaceableness, the vesture in which the peaceable spirit should be clothed. "Easy to be entreated;" accessible, compliant, open to conviction, and willing to listen to remonstrance. The wise man thinks more about his duties than his rights. "Full of mercy and good fruits;" overflowing with feelings of kindness and compassion, and finding a healthy outlet for these in acts of practical beneficence. "Without variance;" steady, persistent, unmistakable, never "divided in its own mind" (James 2:4; James 1:6), and therefore never halting in the fulfillment of its mission. "Without hypocrisy;" perfectly sincere always really being what it seems and professes. Wisdom's ways are not tortuous. It knows that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points.
II. THE RESULTS OF TRUE WISDOM. (Ver. 18.) The fruit of the earthly wisdom is "confusion and every vile deed" (ver. 16), but the fruit of the heavenly wisdom consists in "righteousness." "Peace" is the congenial soil in which this wisdom takes root and grows; the seed "sown" is the precious Word of God; they "that make peace" are the spiritual farmers who scatter it in hope; and "righteousness" is the blessed harvest which shall reward their toil. The eternal recompense of the righteous shall be their righteousness itself. The heavenly wisdom shall be its own reward in heaven.
1. The harmony between this doctrine and the teaching of our Lord in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), as well as that of Paul in his portraiture of love (1 Corinthians 13.).
2. The excellency and attractiveness of the true wisdom.
3. The rarity of its acquisition, especially as regards its choicest features, even on the part of professing Christians.
4. The necessity of asking this wisdom from God himself.
5. The character of Jesus Christ our Model in our endeavors after it. - C.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.