Spiritual Formation: 14 Verses on God’s Intention for Spiritual Growth

God calls all Christians to become more like Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 3:18), and this transformation happens in the innermost part of a person: their heart. This progression is called spiritual formation, which involves learning to hear God in his Word, growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, and bearing lasting fruit. [Read more…]

Last Chance: 4 Ways to Save Instantly on Powerful Resources This October

What problems are you (or your church) facing right now? What are you itching to study in the Scriptures? [Read more…]

J. I. Packer on Why We Still Need the Puritans

This excerpt about the Puritans is adapted from A Quest for Godliness by J. I. Packer.

. . . the suggestion that we need the Puritans—we . . . Westerners, with all our sophistication and mastery of technique in both secular and sacred fields—may prompt some lifting of eyebrows. The belief that the Puritans, even if they were in fact responsible citizens, were comic and pathetic in equal degree, being naive and superstitious, primitive and gullible, superserious, overscrupulous, majoring in minors, and unable or unwilling to relax, dies hard. What could these zealots give us that we need, it is asked.

They were great souls serving a great God. In them clear-headed passion and warm-hearted compassion combined. Visionary and practical, idealistic and realistic too, goal-oriented and methodical, they were great believers, great hopers, great doers, and great sufferers.

[Read more…]

Douglas Moo: Should Christians Be Environmentalists?

For 40 years, Dr. Douglas Moo has been studying, teaching, and writing about Paul and Romans.

These words from theologian Johann Albrecht Bengel hang on his wall: “Apply yourself wholly to the text. Apply the text wholly to yourself.”

It’s with that spirit he studies and teaches New Testament at Wheaton College.  And that’s why we’re featuring him in this month’s author spotlight[Read more…]

The 7 Qualities You Must Nurture for Peace in Your Church

[In James 3:14–16,] James . . . told what heavenly wisdom is not, and now [in James 3:17–18,] he turns and tells what it is. . . . 

Purity

The false wisdom is “earthly [and] unspiritual,” while this true wisdom is “first of all pure.”

The four following characteristics develop aspects of this purity: they all begin with e, and the last two end with kritos. The emphasis is not on the purity laws of the Torah but on moral blamelessness with a clear conscience. Such a person is the opposite of the worldly characterized by verses 15–16. This person entails an absence of sin and defilement, true holiness. There is a spiritual and moral faithfulness to God leading to a divinely directed way of life that glorifies God and serves his people in his messianic community.

Peace 

The other six qualities are introduced by epeita (then) and provide aspects of this moral and spiritual purity. In the context of serious dissension in the community, “peace-loving,” or “peaceable,” is another key attribute of godly wisdom. 

This quality will become the theme of 3:18. 

There is a complete absence of peace in 14–16, while it is central here and builds on Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (see also Ps 34:14; Isa 52:7; Rom 12:18; Heb 12:11). This is the exact opposite of the jealous, combative ambition that produces the “fights and quarrels” of 4:1.

Peace with God is achieved through the cross and the gift of salvation; peace with the people around us is the product of sanctification—that is, the process of holiness.

As the Spirit enters us and draws us to God both in our thinking and our actions, love takes over, and as God’s love infiltrates our being, our relations with those around us change correspondingly.

Self-giving spirit

“Considerate,” or “gentle” (epieikēs), in the Greek mind means “reasonable” or “fair” but for Christians refers to that spirit that refuses to demand its own rights but lives for others (also Phil 4:5; 1 Tim 3:3). So it connotes an empathetic, forbearing spirit that accepts others as they are and is willing to forgive.

Next, this God-sent wisdom is “submissive” (eupeithēs), or “open to reason” (RSV, ESV), or “accommodating” (NET). This “willingness to yield to others” (NLT) is the direct opposite of the narcissistic concerns of verses 14–16 and is the epitome of the self-giving spirit that is supposed to characterize the Christ follower. . . .

This is so needed today, as Christians fight and disrespect each other over every issue imaginable.

Living out godly wisdom

The final three continue this emphasis on godly wisdom lived out in our lives. “Full of mercy and good fruit” reverses the sinful results of the counterfeit wisdom above. Instead of a tongue “full of deadly poison” (3:8), we have a life “full of mercy”—namely, caring and sharing with the needy around us.

Such acts of love and compassion reflect a kind spirit concretely via good deeds, which indicates the presence of the Spirit in our lives. Mercy is known by its “good fruit” and is the natural by-product of the “word implanted in you” (1:21).

Finally, the saint filled with heavenly wisdom is “impartial and sincere.” 

The first (adiakritos) stands opposed both to the double-mindedness of 1:6, 8, and the partiality of 2:4. This person refuses to discriminate and both treats and respects everyone equally. It is immensely difficult to exemplify this godly trait consistently, for we are all sinful, selfish creatures, and only those truly filled with the Spirit and holiness can do so. 

The final trait, “sincere,” or “without pretense and hypocrisy” (anypokritos), is closely connected. Such a person refuses to play-act and consistently exhibits godly qualities. There is no hiding behind a mask for such people, and they live out what they claim to stand for.

The concluding description of godly wisdom (3:18) returns to the beginning of the verse and is an inclusio with the “peace-loving” person described there.

Spiritual victory

Those with true wisdom will always “sow [seeds of] peace” and then through that “reap a harvest of righteousness.” This is not another characteristic of wisdom but the by-product of wisdom. 

So verse 17 defines wisdom, and then verse 18 tells what its effects will be. 

Here we have the antidote for the epidemic of divisiveness and dissension caused by rampant self-centeredness, the main problem of 3:1–4:12. 

If our speech ever begins to sow seeds of peace in our assemblies, the “fights and quarrels” of the next verse (4:1) would never take place. Divine wisdom calls for peace-loving gardeners (3:17) who sow peace rather than discord (3:18) in God’s vineyard (see also Rom. 14:19; Heb. 12:14), producing a life that truly will make a difference.

What is sown in peace produces a “harvest of righteousness.” . . . We will have a bumper crop of spiritual victory and live in a way that greatly pleases God, beginning with peace rather than conflict in our community.

***

This excerpt is adapted from James Verse by Verse (Osborne New Testament Commentaries) by Grant R. Osborne, the last full volume in Osborne’s commentary series, available now through Lexham Press. 

 

The headings and title of this post are the additions of the editor. The author’s views do not necessarily represent those of Faithlife. 

Pastor, Thanks for All You Do

 

The work of preaching is the highest and greatest and most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called. — Martyn Lloyd Jones

 

We can’t say thanks enough.

For this year’s pastor appreciation month, we’re sharing these free gifts to say thank you for serving the Church. [Read more…]

The Pitfalls of One-Sided Biblical Interpretation

Historically the Church has understood the nature of Scripture much the same as it has understood the person of Christ—the Bible is at the same time both human and divine. “The Bible,” it has been correctly said, “is the Word of God given in human words in history.” It is this dual nature of the Bible that demands of us the task of interpretation. [Read more…]

October’s Top Picks—Jonathan Edwards, Anchor Yale Bible Reference & More!

Biblical research is like an ongoing, always-profitable treasure hunt. You can never get into the Word too much, and your Logos library can never be too full.

Now’s your chance to add monumental works at prices kind to your book budget.  [Read more…]

BrillDAG Officially Released on Logos

BrillDAG is fully integrated with your entire Logos digital Library—every entry tagged and linked to citations from ancient and biblical texts.

[Read more…]

One Surprising Question, One Surprisingly Practical Commentary: FLASH Sale Now

It’s easy to imagine a longtime Bible professor and pastor jumping at the chance to edit a Bible commentary.

But John H. Walton didn’t. [Read more…]