Scripture Notes


James 3:18.

It would seem that there are three possible translations of this scripture; viz., "The fruit of righteousness in peace is sown for them that make peace," or, "The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by them that make peace," and the rendering of the Authorised Version. But there is no great difference in the meaning; indeed the second given is practically the same as that in our Bibles. Before seeking to explain it a passage in Isaiah may be cited, which may throw light upon its significance. It is, "The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever." (Chap. 32:17.) That this refers to Messiah's reign is clear; but the statement contains a similar principle to that in the scripture in James, as may be seen from the context. James contrasts man's wisdom with that which is from above. The characteristics of the latter are, first of all, it is pure; then it is peaceable, gentle, and yielding; next, combined with mercy, it is full of activity in good; and, finally, it is unbiased and sincere. But this "is the reproduction, in the walk of a man, of the peace and love of God as it was manifested in Christ down here." He was the great Peacemaker, and it was He who pronounced the blessing upon all who should tread in the same path, that they should be called the children of God, inasmuch as they would thereby present moral likeness to Himself, and thus exhibit the divine nature. All such, those who make peace, sow in peace (for peaceableness is a mark of the divine wisdom of their conduct in opposition to the envying and strife of the earthly wisdom of the natural man - vv. 14, 15) the fruit of righteousness. Or if we take the other rendering, "The fruit of righteousness in peace is sown for them that make peace," it will mean that in the path of peacemaking the fruit of righteousness will be produced and enjoyed in peace. The term, "The fruit of righteousness," may be understood from Phil. 1:11 and Rev. 19:8 in both of which scriptures holy activity is seen as flowing from righteousness. Indeed, if believers are the righteousness of God in Christ, their lives are to be in moral agreement with this character; and hence every good deed or holy action, of which the Holy Spirit is the source and power, is a fruit of righteousness. Psalm 97:11 may be compared with these scriptures where we read, "Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart." That is, those who are practically righteous and upright in heart before God will find a crop, as it were, of light and gladness, so that every activity of the new nature is like a seed sown to produce further blessing. (See 2 Cor. 9:10.)


2 Timothy 2:12.

It is scarcely a question here of suffering with, or for, Christ. In fact, it is not the usual word for suffering, as, for example, in Romans 8:17. It means rather to endure, or, as it has been well put, "to go through suffering patiently." Consequently it must include suffering with Christ, as every Christian does this, although the measure of it will depend upon his fidelity to Christ, upon his walking in the Spirit, and it may also include suffering for Christ. Still the meaning of the word is that which has been given. To deny Christ, we understand to mean, not a sudden fall into temptation, like Peter, but a total and absolute denial, evincing, whatever the profession previously made, that there had never been any reality in the soul. The use of the word "we" will be understood when it is remembered that the Spirit of God always takes us up on the ground of our profession. The question therefore is not raised whether a believer can finally deny Christ, but the teaching is rather that an absolute denial of Him is the unmistakable evidence that the soul had never been converted. It is as the Lord Himself said, "Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." So here those who deny Christ will also be denied; that is, they will be finally and entirely rejected. Then it is solemnly added, "If we believe not" (that is, not, as some have contended, if we are unfaithful as Christians, but if we are positively without faith; for we see no reason for departing from the usual significance of the word), "He abideth faithful (not to us, but to Himself and to His word): He cannot deny Himself." Whatever our vacillation and changeableness He must ever act in accordance with His own nature, His holiness, and His truth. Therein indeed - in His immutability - lies the eternal security for all who, through grace, have been led to put their trust in Him. That He cannot deny Himself is therefore a precious word of consolation for His feeble, tried, and afflicted people.