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Life-Study of Jamesby Witness Lee

ISBN: 0-7363-2047-4
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry

Currently in: Chapter 9 of 14 Section 1 of 4

LIFE-STUDY OF JAMES

MESSAGE NINE

PRACTICAL VIRTUES OF CHRISTIAN PERFECTION

(9)

Scripture Reading: James 4:1-10

In this message we shall consider what James says in 4:1-10 concerning dealing with pleasures, the world, and the Devil. However, before we consider these matters, I would like to give a further brief word on the contrast between wisdom as it is revealed in the writings of James and wisdom as revealed in the writings of Paul.

TWO LEVELS OF WISDOM

In 1:5 James says, “If anyone of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and does not reproach, and it will be given to him.” Then in 3:13 James says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by his good manner of life his works in meekness of wisdom.” Then in 3:17 James tells us, “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, forbearing, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, unfeigned.” All these are characteristics of practical Christian perfection according to James’ view, which may have been somewhat under the influence of Old Testament precepts concerning man’s behavior, morality, and ethics (Prov. 4:5-8). What James says concerning wisdom is on the level of human character. This wisdom does not attain to the height of the wisdom concerning the hidden mystery of God’s New Testament economy regarding Christ and the church (1 Cor. 2:6-8; Eph. 3:9-11).

In his writing regarding wisdom, James does not say a word concerning Christ as life or concerning the church being built up through the experience of the riches of Christ for His expression. Furthermore, in the entire book of James the Spirit of God is mentioned only once (4:5), and that in a negative way. The human spirit is not mentioned at all. By this we see that three crucial matters are not touched by James in his Epistle: Christ as life, the building up of the church through the riches of Christ, and the human spirit. James’ only mention of the Holy Spirit of God is in relation to striving against lust (4:5). Because of the shortage in these matters, there is no possibility for James to attain the height of wisdom that we see in the Epistles of Paul.

In his Epistle James seems to present wisdom as something given to us by God once for all. Paul’s understanding of wisdom is much higher. According to Paul, wisdom is actually Christ Himself, the embodiment of God, who has been installed in us and who is now being continually transmitted into us. The installation was made once for all, but the transmission is not once for all; it is continuous. We may use electricity as an illustration. Electricity is installed in a building once for all. But once electricity has been installed, there should be a continuous transmission of electricity from the power plant to the building.

The wisdom taught by James is something given by God. But the wisdom taught by Paul is Christ continually transmitting Himself into us. This divine transmission is the divine dispensing. For electricity to be transmitted into a building means that it is dispensed into the building to be used in different ways by those in the building. The principle is the same with Christ as wisdom.

As the embodiment of the Triune God, Christ has been installed in our tripartite being to be transmitted, dispensed, into us all the time so that we may live a life to express Christ and so that the church, the Body of Christ, may be built up as His fullness. What heights Paul reaches in his writing concerning Christ as our wisdom from God!

It is of the Lord’s sovereignty that the Epistle of James comes after the fourteen Epistles of Paul. In Paul’s Epistles we see a wisdom that is on the highest level. In James’ Epistle we see a wisdom that is on another level, a level of human living.

As we consider the picture of these two levels of wisdom, we shall know where we should be. We should be in God’s economy and in practical Christian perfection. On the one hand, we must be for God’s economy. God’s economy is to dispense Christ as the embodiment of the Triune God into us for the building up of the church as the fullness of Christ. Practical Christian perfection is related to being complete and entire in our conduct, character, and behavior so that we may have a positive testimony before others and even in the sight of angels and demons. If we have such practical Christian perfection, no one will be able to blame us. For God’s economy, we need to be those with the practical Christian perfection portrayed by James in his Epistle. Now we can see why these two levels of wisdom—one in the Epistles of Paul and the other in the Epistle of James—are unveiled in the New Testament.


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