Peacemakers and Fractionaries
Continued studies in the Epistle of James
Scripture Reading: James 3:17-4:10
James throughout his Epistle, in his teaching of practical Christian behavior, continues to use contrasts and to raise questions. Here he contrasts the spiritual peacemaker with the carnal fractionary.
The entire portion (3:17-4:10) indicates a community of Christians. Behind the unfavourable exposure of carnality and unrest, James suggests that there should be among the Lord’s people peace, impartiality, unity, love, consideration and prayer. Alas, this was not so.
It seems incredible that the author of this letter to Jewish believers of the dispersion should have to describe some of the early Hebrew churches as being characterized by antagonism, factionism, rivalry and hypocrisy. How quickly after Pentecost deterioration sets in.
As has been noticed, this Epistle was probably the earliest of all New Testament writings, being distributed among those first churches in apparently A.D. 45; that is, within 15 years of the ascension of Christ to the Father’s right hand (Acts 1:9-11; Heb. 1:3). It seems clear that James was presenting not only a cure for the condition he diagnosed but a preventative.
Wisdom from Above (3:17-18)
This wisdom in its quality is refined in its purity, peaceable in its results and available at all times. In its activity it is merciful and productive. In its essence it is true and genuine. Well might James conclude this short paragraph by intimating that the fruit of righteousness is cultivated by the peacemakers.
Such a positive delineation of wisdom should lead to a ready appropriation of this supreme gift. The believer is encouraged by the earlier advice of our author to ask this great blessing from the Lord: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering” (1:5-6).
There are few, if any, who do not feel a deficiency of heavenly wisdom. Each should humbly pray for it and then seek grace to use it in the different situations which develop in the home, the business and in the assembly.
Friendship from Below
The general understanding of the fourth chapter is that James is speaking allegorically, that the fightings, wars and battles, adulteries and friendships with the world are experiences of the individual and are spiritual rather than literal. This does not minimize the intensity of the charges. An inward conflict may be very devastating. Mental and spiritual strife have brought defeat and disaster into many a Christian’s life.
Disloyalty to the Lord and spiritual infidelity brought ruin, defeat and captivity to God’s ancient people Israel. The Apostle Paul asserts: “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Cor. 10:11).
The assertions of James concerning the world are very terse: “The friendship of world is enmity with God. Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is an enemy of God” (4:4).
The apostle John gives us more details relevant to the relationship of the Christian and the world: “Love not the world neither the things that are in the world.” Then he follows with that which has been called “the avenue of moral action.” “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15-16) .
Grace Rules Within
Irrespective of their moral condition, God loves His people and in their weakness makes full provision for them; “He giveth more grace.” He “giveth grace unto the humble.” God is ever the God of Recovery. James maps the pathway back into fellowship with God and His beloved people. First, the employment of the Word of God. Through His Word the Lord reveals the wickedness of the human heart: “The spirit (the fallen nature) that dwelleth in us lusteth to envey” (4:5). Many, many centuries ago, God said, “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:2).
The Word of God is quick (living), and powerful (energetic, active), and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner (a critic) of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). It is surely not without purpose that the Word of God acts upon our moral nature.
Second, there must be a submission to the Lord: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.” This is the only way to divine exaltation.
Third, we must also “resist the devil, and he will flee.” He goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” We must resist him and remain firm in the faith. He also appears at times as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). It would appear that he uses this approach more frequently today than ever at any time. Subtly he perverts Christian doctrine and thereby deceives many. This is the only way in which may be explained the phenomenal growth of modern cults.
Finally, there must be a purging of the entire personality: hands, heart and mind of all known sin: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteous” (1 John 1:9).
It has been said that if the Apostle John had been a painter, he would not have used any shades of gray; he only would have used pure white and jet black. There never was any compromise with John. The very same may be said of James.
Some men are so diplomatic and clever that they can make what seems to them to be a very suitable compromise between alternatives. No Christian can afford to make a compromise between God and the world. “To be a friend of the world is to be an enemy of God.”