James 4:4-6


A Cal to Spiritual Wholeness

James 4:4 KJV 1900
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
Verse 4 James calls the Church or believers adulterers and adulteresses. Actually, there is only one word in Greek, that is feminine in gender. However, James is not talking as if women in the Church became adulterers. Rather, he is talking about the spiritual adultery lifestyle of the members.
This gives us an Old Testament picture (keeping in mind that the book of James is Jewish in flavor), where Israel and Judah lived in spiritual adultery.
Know ye not – indicates that these people were aware of the issue. What is the issue? Their friendship with the world.
From the ancient perspective, friendship indicates a “lifelong pact between two people with shared values and loyalties.”
So, friendship with the world is to cling on to the world, fall in love with the world and its values. This is against to the Lord and His values.
Therefore, James is saying, friendship with the world is identifying oneself with the world. It is setting one’s heart towards the world and its things.
Therefore, he makes a logical statement that because of one’s love towards the world, one cannot be a friend of God.
By being friends with the world, one is establishing themselves to be an enemy of God. (Very dangerous thing).
James 4:5 KJV 1900
Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
This is one of the most complicated verses in the entire New Testament.
There are two possible ways to understand this.
Moo states:
1.James is referring to God’s jealousy for his people: “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us” (NRSV).
2.James is referring to the human tendency to be envious: the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely (NIV).
So, how are we to understand this verse?
Jim Samra says, “The meaning is that even though God has given us life, because of our sin natures we are filled with envious desires.”
Scott Mcknight says, “The teachers’ infidelity is causing division in the messianic community, but God yearns jealously for the spirit he has placed in his people—and this yearning, we are led to infer, is for a spirit that will be set loose to create peace, love, and good works.”
He further states, “The teachers addressed by James were using God’s bestowal of the spirit not for God’s glory but for their own glory; they were letting the spirit of envy rule their hearts.”
James 4:6 KJV 1900
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
The term “but” indicates a contrast. In verse 5, it shows us that the human spirit desires envy, but in verse 6, we see that one can overcome that envy by relying upon God’s grace. Therefore, the text says, “he gives greater grace.”
He then quotes from Proverbs 3:34. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
James 4:7–10 KJV 1900
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
In verses 7-10, we learn about the call to humility.
In verse 6, the text tells us that God gives “greater grace” to those who are humble. However, he opposes those who are proud.
Based on this, James calls the believers to humble themselves.
Note that “Submit to God” in verse 7 and “humble yourselves before God” in verse 10 are conceptually similar. Therefore, this forms a “bookend” from James’s view. Within this bookend, there are several other commands that were given.
Submit to God means to put ourselves under God’s sovereign rule and authority; to put ourselves under his lordship which should lead us to obey him in all things.
The first command that comes after this call to submission is to “resist the devil and draw near to God.”
What does it mean to put ourselves under Almighty’s sovereign authority?
It means to strongly refuse to bow to the devil’s authority.
James is saying that God has given them and us all the ability to refuse and resist the devil, we can all “stand against” the devil and his schemes. And he promises that the devil will certainly flee.
In verse 8, the emphasis is just as strong as in verse 7. That is, in verse 7, the text tells us to “resist.” Here in verse 8, the text tells us to “draw” – to draw close to God.
The idea of drawing near to God often indicates an Old Testament thought of coming closer to God in worship (Lev. 21:3, 21, 23; Isa. 29:13).
However, the call to worship is not a theme that we see in this passage. Rather, it is a call identical to what was said in Hosea 12:6 – “Therefore turn thou to thy God: Keep mercy and judgment, And wait on thy God continually.”
They are commanded to “wait” on their God “continually.” We are commanded to draw closer to God and He would come closer to us only when we repent of our sins and seek Him by submitting to His lordship and authority, according to verse 7.
Note: God is not drawn near to the unbelievers, but we must keep in mind that this is talking about the believers. This drawing near to God is to restore the broken relationship of Christians with God.
In verse 8 he also says, “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded.” The call here is to repent, a call for radical change and repentance. We also see the theme of “double-mindedness.”
Why is James giving these commands? Because there are believers who need a strong exhortation to return to the Lord and change their attitudes and behavior.
James 4:9 KJV 1900
Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
Verse 9 indicates a call for purity. This is the language of prophets (Isa. 15:2; Jer. 4:13; Hos. 10:5; Joel 1:9–10; Mic. 2:4).
Why would James use such a language? James believed that an eschatological coming of the Lord was imminent (5:8)
James 5:8 KJV 1900
Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
Therefore, the language he uses is clearly a wake-up call for them to be ready for the imminent return of the Lord; they must prepare themselves. The language is similar to Joel 2:12, where the text says;
Joel 2:12 KJV 1900
Therefore also now, saith the Lord, Turn ye even to me with all your heart, And with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
Change your attitude from laughing to mourning. Why this language? Because the person who scorns the idea of right living goes on to life mocking. Laughter is often a mark of a fool (Prov. 10:23).
A believer can slip into a life of pleasure and carelessness. But one must watch out. We cannot take God for granted, that God is forgiving and therefore, we can live however we want to live.
James is saying, take sin seriously! If you do not, you will face consequences; you will face disasters in your life.
and your joy to heaviness” – What does this mean? This seems like James is contradicting what Paul was saying. Paul said in Phil. 4:4, rejoice in the Lord always! Here, James says, no, let your joy turn to gloom. How is this possible?
There is no contradiction! Paul was talking about one’s rejoicing in salvation; James is talking about the superficial joy that comes when one indulges sin. True Christian joy doesn’t come when we tolerate sin; it comes when we bring our sins to the Lord and confess them.
James 4:10 KJV 1900
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
In verse 10, we learn the call for humbling ourselves. To humble before God means to acknowledge that we are in desperate need of God in our lives. This humility and humble attitude before God will make God exalt us.
James 4:11 KJV 1900
Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.
Until verse 10, we see the harsh voice of James addressing his people as adulterous people (4:4), sinners (4:8), and double-minded people. But from verse 11, the tone has changed. However, the rebuke or exhortation has not changed.
James comes back to his familiar way of addressing his congregants as “brethren.” From a call to “repentance” of their evil acts to a call to “refrain” from sinful acts is what we will see from vv. 11-17.
In verse 11, he begins by saying, do not slander, or speak against one another. It denotes many kinds of speech. Such as questioning the legitimate authority of a leader (Num. 21:5), speaking about someone in “secret” (Ps. 101:5), false accusations (1 Peter. 2:12; 3:16), etc.
The command is very clear – do not speak evil against one another. However, what is interesting is his inclusion about the law – he that judgeth is speaking evil against the law. What law was that? Probably referring to Lev. 19:16
Leviticus 19:16 KJV 1900
Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the Lord.
Are we under the Old Testament Law? Of course, no. So then, what Law is James talking about? In James 2:8, he talked about the kingdom law or the royal law.
Perhaps he was addressing or referring to the royal law, which is the law of love. And, what is the Law of Love? That we must love our neighbors as we love ourselves! (Matt. 22:39).
James continues to say that if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge! This is even more dangerous. If you and I do not keep the law then we are placing ourselves above the law, thus becoming the lawgiver! We are making ourselves a “god.”
So the point of this verse is that one is tested by the measure of obedience to the law of Christ – to the Word of Christ. If we obey the Word of God, we will humble ourselves to submit to the authority of the Word of God.
James 4:12 KJV 1900
There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?
There is one lawgiver! With this statement, James is coming to the point that he intends to share with his congregants.
James’ point is that no one has the right to become God. No one can become a Judge. There is only ONE Judge, and that is God. By judging another (baseless judgments), one is claiming to be what they are not – one is claiming to be God. And therefore, this is a sin.
The law was given by God, not by men. Even though the law was given by Moses, and the law was called to be the Law of Moses, this very law of Moses was understood by the ancients as the Law of God!
Furthermore, James says, this lawgiver is the “one who is able to save and destroy.” This is none other than God! What does Jesus say in Matthew 10:28
Matthew 10:28 KJV 1900
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
One writer says, “usurping his judging authority by judging a person is really a blaspheming of God.”
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