James Chapter 4

English

CHAPTER FOUR

FAITH AS A PURIFIER OF CHARACTER

James refers to failures of a most serious nature, and warns of the consequence of such. He describes wars and fightings as forged by lust and fired by envy. These evils were governing even their prayers, rendering them powerless. The friendship brethren were displaying towards the world, brought them into a state of enmity with God (vv. 1-4). He exhorts his readers to rise above such things, and urges them to repentance (vv. 5-10). He reminds them of the Lawgiver and Judge who can save or destroy, and directs them to a more faithful outlook by calling to their minds the divine providence in life. In the light of such he counsels them to act according to the wisdom of God, limiting all activity to the will of the Lord.

The   Failure:   Wars   and   Fightings  — vv. 1-5

Evil passions are condemned as the source of contention and violence, the cause of unanswered prayer, and the de­velopment of a friendship that invariably places believers in a state of enmity with God.

VERSE 1
"From whence come wars and fightings among you?" — James commences this chapter abruptly thus emphasising the gross evil of the condition he describes. It comprises a vast contrast to the previous verse, and this, together with the stark-ness of his words, emphasises that his readers had not developed the "fruit of righteousness" which is "sown in peace of them that make peace" to which he had just referred. Instead of being united in peace, a state of hostility was being gen­erated, demonstrating that the power of faith had not as yet transformed them. This, possibly, was due, in part, to their environment. The Jews were in a state of growing restlessness at the time. Many insurrections were made against the Romans under the pretence of defending their religion and preserving their way of life. Among the Jews themselves were many factions who viewed each other with the greatest hostility, and were not above resorting to violence. And evident­ly some of this rubbed off on to believers, so that a similar spirit was manifested by them. James' words, therefore, can pro­vide a salutary reminder today of what is expected of believers in an age of hostility and violence. The tendency is for that attitude to be limited in measure in all walks of life, so that the submissiveness demanded of Christ's followers is some­times overlooked.

"Wars" and "fightings" represent the noun and verb of the same word polemeo which we meet in English as polemics. In English it denotes a state of hostility manifested by words as well as by actions. When we speak of polemics, however, it is generally in the sense of bitter argu­mentation aimed to destroy an opponent. Such an attitude is not unknown among Ecclesias today. So the noun represents the state of hostility, and the verb the participation of individuals therein. Doubtless James uses the term hyperbo-lically as expressing verbal fighting and private quarrels, but his expressions re­veal how Yahweh views such mutual hos­tility among the members of His family. The greatest care needs to be exercised that contention is not permitted to de­velop an environment of bitter hostility and unreasoning hatred. There is need to "contend earnestly for the faith" as Jude declares, but the greatest effort must be made to keep such things in proper pers­pective. In defending the faith, one is fighting for God and not for self, and the conduct of such warfare must be in the manner He would approve.

That was not the case with those to whom James wrote, for, as he proceeds to show, their motivation was not that of faith, but its very antithesis: fleshly lusts. This divided them, so that their "fight­ings" were not against error, but against one another. Factions IJad developed by rival teachers seeking a following. In the previous chapter (Ch. 3:1) James had rebuked them. Their mutual and bitter hostility set a bad example for their followers who imitated their ways. Paul, later, sounded a warning against such teachers and leaders (Tit. 1:9-11), and John describes the attitude adopted against him by one named Diotrephes (3 John 9-10).

"Come they not hence, even of your lusts" — As Jude exhorts, there some­times   arises   the   need   "to   contend earnestly for the faith", and this can create a state of hostility. But faith, not personal prestige, must be the motivation of such contention, and the weapons to be used are spiritual and not carnal (2 Cor. 10:3-6; Eph. 6:10-18). But the "fightings" referred to by James came of "their own lusts". They resulted from fleshly desires and ambitions. The Greek word translated "lust" in this place is not the normal one used for this word. It is hedonon, "pleasures". It expresses the gratification of natural or sinful desires, and finds a place in the English language as hedonism. This is the theory, or doc­trine, that teaches the attainment of fleshly pleasure as the greatest good. Hedonism manifests itself in the complete abandonment of any restraint in order to experience fleshly gratifica­tion or pleasure. Among those to whom James wrote were some who wanted to please themselves in that way, and were impatient of any restraint. Others follow­ed their evil example so that a spirit of competition had developed in the pursuit of pleasure and possessions.

"That war in your members?" — The state of evil that had developed gave no satisfaction. Those who indulged them­selves knew inwardly that their atti­tude was wrong. Yet they had become so dominated by desire that they found it difficult to turn from their pleasures. They were afflicted within as conscience warred with desire. They knew the will of God, but had become so addicted to self-gratification and self-righteousness as to create habits of fleshly pleasure they found difficult to break. Paul wrote: "I see a law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members" (Rom. 7:23). He struggled against this law of the flesh, and did so successfully through faith in Christ (Rom. 7:23-25). But those to whom James wrote were permitting sin to gain the ascendan­cy, and, in consequence, a general state of antagonism and wickedness under the cloak of a pseudo-Christianity had deve­loped. Brother competed with brother as each sought to outdo the other in he­donism, whilst setting aside the require­ments of Christ.

In such an environment, it was impos­sible for the fruits of righteousness to develop (James 3:18; Luke 8:14). Righteousness requires self-sacrifice in order that it might be manifested (James 1:23), and hedonism is the very opposite to that. It brought them "into captivity to the law of sin in their members" (Rom. 7:23). It so fed the carnal mind, which is not subject to God as to bring them into enmity with each other and with God (Rom. 8:5-7). How much more satisfying and spiritually elevating was the attitude of Paul who declared: "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content" (Phil. 4:11; See also Luke 12:15; 1 Tim. 6:8; Heb. 13:5). Let Paul's example be followed and there will be greater opportunity for faith to succeed.

Supporting references: 1 Tim. 6:3-6; 1 Pet. 2:11; 4:2-3; 2 Pet. 2:18-19; Jude 16-18.

VERSE 2
"Ye lust and have not"
— Here the word lust is epilhumeite. It denotes a strong desire for something not possess­ed. This form of lust is developed through the doctrine of hedonism which advo­cates complete self-indulgence whilst pro­claiming the evil of self-denial. Such an attitude is a latter-day characteristic, for Paul predicted that men would be "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God" (2 Tim. 3:2-4). The danger is that believers, living in such an environment, might be influenced by it. The doctrine is very seductive and insidious. Press advertise­ments are charged with it. They attempt to create in the minds of readers, desire for something not possessed. In a ma­terialistic, hedonistic age, "success" is measured in terms of personal posses­sions or of fleshly indulgence, rather than in the attainment of truth or the mani­festation of spiritual standards. The philosophy of hedonism is diametrically opposed to the teaching of Christ: "Life consisteth not in the abundance of things possessed" (Luke 12:15). Again: "Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewith-all shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteous­ness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:31-33). The "doomed fool" of Luke 12:16-21 acted contrary to this. He set about establishing his own security, of pulling down his barns and building greater, and succeeded, but only at the very moment of death! And the Lord added the comment: "Then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?"
Faith is necessary to recognise the real purpose of life, to realise how temporary and limited are present things, and how permanent and glorious are those of the Truth's future. It makes a reality of hope. It has "promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come" (1 Tim. 4:8).

Those to whom James wrote not only lusted for things that they did not possess, but, foolishly, for things that were be­yond their reach. They forgot the great joy, benefit, and incredible riches, to be discovered in Christ. They ignored the example of Christ who "though he was rich, yet for their sakes became poor, that they through his poverty might be rich" (2 Cor. 8:9). They failed to recognise the spiritual riches that faith can reveal, en­abling a poor man to attain unto extra-or­dinary wealth (2 Cor. 6:10). Instead of contentment, there was a feeling of dis­satisfaction felt by those to whom James wrote. They envied others because they wanted the things that they had but did not have the means to obtain. The answer to that restless spirit (so common today) is the calming spirit of faith manifested in contentment. Notice that many of the men and women of faith, commended in Hebrews 11, had little of this world's goods (vv. 36-37), but of them it is de­clared: "the world was not worthy" (v. 38).

"Ye kill" — The Greek word pho-neuete denotes to murder. The expres­sion, common to many throughout this chapter, is a figure of speech; an hyper­bole. An hyperbole is an obviously exag­gerated statement not meant to be taken literally. The killing was not done by plunging a knife into the heart of an­other, but by manifesting the spirit of hatred towards him. John warns that "he that hateth his brother is a murderer" and has no hope of eternal life (1 John 3:5. See also 1 John 3:9,11; 4:20). Such a one will kill the reputation of his brother, even  though  he  might,  hypocritically, feet him with a handshake and a smile! nvy and hatred go hand in hand. The envious person intensely desires what others possess, but realising it is beyond his grasp develops a jealous dislike for those who have what he cannot obtain! It is a common, though unreasonable, fail­ing. There is a tendency to despise and derate wealthier brethren as the Satan did Job (Job 1:9-11). In that case envy soon turns to a murderous hatred.

"And desire to have and cannot ob­tain" — The verb "desire" is not strong enough for the original word which is zeloute, "are zealous". They strongly coveted what others had but they could not obtain, and this fired their zeal to acquire their wants. They soon mistook their "wants" for their "needs".

"Ye fight and war" — The RSV ren­ders this: "So ye fight and war". Their zeal to "have" was such that they were driven by an insane desire to obtain their "wants". They failed to realise tnat with use, these temporary things soon wear out whilst the resultant restless atti­tude blinds one to the value of things eternal. Ruthlessly they set about gratify­ing their lusts, even at the expense of others. They envied and hated those wealthier in material possessions, and were prepared to fight and war (i.e. keep on fighting) to obtain what others had but which they did not possess. They became a ruthless, quarrelling community striving and fighting for unimportant things.

"Yet ye have not, because ye ask not" — They became frustrated by their failures. Their hopes were for present success, and in the absence of it they were "of all men most miserable" (1 Cor. 15:19). The Truth ruined them for this age, and their deep-seated lusts ruined them for that which is to come. They were like the Jews of Haggai's time who strove for personal advantage, but failed to realise that blessings, both now and in the future are dependent upon perform­ing the will of God (Cp. Hag. 1:5-11).
Those to whom James wrote did not obtain the very blessings they could have received: peace with God (John 14:27), contentment of mind (Heb. 13:5), the joy of anticipating future glory (2 Cor. 4:13-18), because they failed to ask for or seek those things. They did engage in prayer, but not in the correct manner, nor with the proper motive. See James 1:7; 5:16; Isa. 59:1-2.

Supporting references: Prov. 1:19; Ecc. 4:8; 1 Tim. 6:9-10.

VERSE 3
"Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" — This describes a fur­ther failure on the part of Jewish con­verts: that of selfish prayer; prayer that demands of God things that He is not prepared to grant. They asked "amiss". The word is kakos, and signifies "evil". They asked with evil intent. They did not despise the power of God to grant re­quests, but they misjudged His character. Prayer to them became an act of self-indulgence, seeking personal wants only. They viewed prayer as a convenient short-cut to satisfying their fleshly desires and pleasures. Prayer must be according to the will of Christ (1 John 5:14). How can we determine his will in any matter? Through the teaching of the Word. This will help to make prayer powerful. Paul wrote: "Through him (Christ) we both (Jew and Gentile) have access by one Spirit (the Word) unto the Father" (Eph. 2:18). That means that the petitioner, the spirit-word, and the Mediator in heaven all unite to present the prayer. The be­liever desires to express himself in prayer, the Word instructs how it can best be done, and Christ, as mediator, en­dorses and presents it. Such a prayer will be both powerful and acceptable, for it will be according to his will. The spirit-word can filter prayer, can teach pray-ers for what they should make request. Paul recognised the limitations of the flesh in the matter of prayer. He wrote: "We know not what we should pray for as we ought" (Rom. 8:26). In the Greek the de­finite article is given: "We know not the what we should ask for", that is, the particular thing for which we should be praying. But he continued, "the Spirit it­self maketh intercession for us ..." The Spirit-word will teach us for what we should pray. It will reveal to us our deficiencies, teach us the will of the Father, bring to mind that which is desir­able in life, and so help to make prayer powerful. See Making Prayer Powerful.

Those to whom James wrote were not seeking the will of the Father, but their own pleasures. They wanted to recruit "God in their service of self-seeking enjoy­ment. In their prayers they asked "amiss". They should have studied the Lord's prayer, forthat pattern prayer sets out the essential things for which we should pray. It is not self-centred; but God-centred. It elevates Him in the heavens, not drags Him down to the level of earthly desires as did the prayer of those to whom James wrote. And though the picture that James draws is so frightful that one shudders to contemplate a com­munity worshipping in that way, it is easy to delude oneself and use prayer merely for selfish interests.

VERSE 4
"Ye adulterers and adulteresses" — And now a further mark of declension: unfaithful practices. The best texts, we are told, exclude the reference to adulter­ers and leaves only the feminine form of the word. Why? Because, irrespective as to sex, believers constitute part of a com­munity, likened to a virgin espoused to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2). The same figure is frequently found in the O.T. (see Isa. 54:5). The responsibility that this imposes is indicated by the responsibilities of marriage. When a man takes to himself a bride, he expects her to be faithful and loving. Through Jeremiah, Yahweh said of His bride, Israel: "I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown, Israel was holiness unto Yah­weh ..." (Jer. 2:2-3). The nation was separated unto Him. But she did not remain faithful, and hence she is indicted as an adulteress (see Jer. 3:1-4,8,20; Ezek. 16:23; Hos. 2:2). The bitterness and an­tagonism that adultery causes in a marriage is indicative of the feelings of Yahweh towards His people when they prove unfaithful. An adulteress was put to death, and that, too, is to be the fate of those of Christ's bride who are unfaithful to him, though they may be very moral in normal relationships. Those to whom James wrote would doubtless be appalled at the expression he used as descriptive of their conduct. They probably considered themselves as hard-working, conscien­tious people, striving to be a success in life whilst worshipping God.

"Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?" — What is meant by the "world" is summed up by John as "All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof . . ." (1 John 2:16-17). The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life comprise the three most persuasive and potent argu­ments for a person to please himself. They are compelling in their sophistry and insistent in their demands. The flesh claims that giving expression to them is both relaxing and healthful. The Bible teaches that a person becomes a friend of the world when he is prepared to sacrifice the requirements of the Truth in order to serve or satisfy the lusts of the flesh. Those "lusts" declared John, "are not of the Father". They comprise the serpent in the flesh; they are part of the sin-proned condition of nature that resulted from Adam and Eve coming under the spell of the serpent doctrine and partaking of the forbidden fruit. "I will put enmity be­tween thee and the woman," God said on that occasion, and James taught that such enmity still exists. Those to whom James wrote were governed by the mind of the flesh, or "the carnal mind", which, Paul declared, "is enmity against God" (Rom. 8:7). Believers need to rise above such by developing the mind of the Spirit through the influence of the Spirit-word

"Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" — In contrast to a "friend of the world" Abra­ham is described as "the Friend of God" (Ch. 2:23) because he denied himself to obey God. We can be classified as either a Friend of God, or a friend of the world. The tragedy is that some swap friend­ships. Hence Demas, who previously laboured effectively with Paul (Col. 4:14; Philemon 24), finally deserted him, "hav­ing loved this present world" (2 Tim. 4:10). He provides a classic example of the truth of Paul's statement: "Therefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall. . ." (1 Cor. 10:12).
Supporting references: Psa. 73:27; Jer. 2:3; 3:2; 9:2; Matt. 12:39; 16:4; John 7:7; 15:19,23; 17:14-17; 1 John 2:15-16.

VERSE 5
"Do you think that the Scripture saith in vain" — The A. V. gives this statement as preliminary to what follows, and most interpret it in that way. But there is no specific Scripture answering to the words that follow. It seems better to conclude this statement as a question as does The Diaglott. "It then summarises what has already been stated: "Do you think that the Scripture speaketh in vain?" What Scripture? That which emphasises the need of separation, and therefore the principle advanced in v. 4 that friendship of the world invites the enmity of God. All Scripture witnesses to that doctrine. It was proclaimed at the beginning, in the statement: "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed" (Gen. 3:15). It was because the Sons of God cultivated the world, and made affinity with it through marriage, that Yahweh's wrath arose to such a pitch that He destroyed that generation by flood. Separation was re­quired of Abraham. The promises to him were conditional upon obedience to God's command: "Get thee out . . ." (Gen. 12:1). The Mosaic covenant demanded the separation of Israel: "That ye may know that Yahweh doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel" (Exod. 11:7). It required of the people a state of holiness, or separation, unto Yahweh (Lev. 11:44). This was dramatised by dividing the lower creation into two categories of animals described as clean and unclean: the former typifying Israel, the latter typifying the Gentiles. Thus separation is shown to be absolutely es­sential for the establishment of a proper relationship between Yahweh and His people (2 Cor. 6:16-18; 1 Pet. 1:14-16).
Now this separation is described in terms that also relate to marriage (see Isa. 54:4; Jer. 2:2-3), giving point to the criticism of v. 4. In marriage a man takes unto himself a bride separating her from all others, and bestowing upon her his name. That is exactly what God is doing through the call of the Gospel (see Acts 15:14). If a bride, instead of remaining true to her husband, becomes pro­miscuous in her favours, will she not be described as an adulteress? And will not her action excite the bitter enmity of any husband worthy of the name? Undoubt­edly! And that is how Yahweh looks upon those whom He has drawn to Him­self in a covenant as binding as marriage. What motivates the action of the unfaith­ful wife? Is it not lust? And that, too, constitutes the draw of the world. For the world, in its philosophy, its religion, its politics is governed by what the flesh wants and thinks, and not what God desires or commands. Hence John's com­ment quoted above.

On the other hand, Abraham was call­ed "the friend of God" (James 2:23) be­cause faith motivated him to act in accor­dance with the will of the Father. It properly follows that those who seek the friendship of a system of things from which Abraham had to separate himself will not be called friends of God, but His enemies, and friends of the world. That being the general teaching of Scripture, we would place a question mark after the statement above, reading it as follows: "Do you think that the scripture speaketh in vain (i.e. concerning the enmity re­ferred to in v. 4)? If you do think that way, analyse your motives in case the spirit that dwelleth in you lusteth to envy."

"The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy" — The AV gives this as part of a question, and thereby relates the spirit to the spirit of god. The RSV follows this by reading: "Do you suppose it is in vain that the scripture says, 'He yearns jea­lously over the spirit which he has made to dwell in us'?" This, however, is a very "free" and unreliable rendition of the Greek. Moreover, where does the Scrip­ture say such a thing? There is no citation to that effect. In view of this, others who have supposed that the word spirit here relates to the Holy Spirit, or the spirit generated by the Word, read the state­ment as "the spirit that dwells in us lusteth against envy." Others, again, bend the words to mean as the RSV renders, to "yearn jealously". But the word phthonos rendered "envy" is in­variably used in Scripture in a bad sense, and it seems wrong to change the mean­ing here to apply it to the Holy Spirit, or the spirit generated by the word. Again, the word "lusteth" epipothei signifies a great longing for something; a longing that excites envy. It is not the Spirit of God that does that, but the spirit of the flesh. And the consistent teaching of Scripture is that this spirit in man does stimulate envy: "a man is envied of his neighbour" (Ecc. 4:4); "envy slayeth" (Job 5:2); "envy is rottenness of the bones" (Prov. 27:4). Examples of the envious nature of man's disposition or spirit are found in Gen. 26:14; 30:1; 37:11; Psa. 73:3; 106:16, and so forth. They reveal that there is a strong pro­pensity in human nature to envy, and in drawing attention to this, James describ­ed the cause of failure on the part of the Jewish believers. Scripture clearly wit­nesses to this propensity, and experience teaches that it does not do so in vain. The term "spirit" is frequently used in the sense of disposition: "Blessed are the poor in spirit . . ." (Matt. 5:3); "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:41); and see the notes on 1 Pet. 3:19. Accepting this explana­tion, James' statement constitutes a re­petition of the Scriptural warning against being led astray by the natural dis­position of the flesh, to lust and envy. The sins he has already described are those that, arising out of lust, manifest themselves in envy.

The Diaglott, in rendering this state­ment as a question, gives it a slightly different slant which conforms in measure to our suggestion above. In aligning the "spirit" with the spirit of God, it enquires: "Does the spirit that dwells in us strongly incline to envy?" Then answers: "Indeed, it bestows superior favour ..." This treatment of this difficult verse warns the Jewish believers not to mistake their at­titude as resulting from God's spirit, for His spirit provides greater favours than that of the world. We feel, however, that our suggestion above is more con­sistent with the facts of Scripture.

Supporting references: Gen. 4:5-6; 6:5; 8:21; 30:1.

The Corrective: Seek The Gift of Grace — vv. 6-10

The failings of those to whom James wrote were of such a nature as to jeopar­dise their eternal salvation. Hence a re­medy was imperative, and could be ob­tained by the grace of God manifested through the Gospel.

VERSE 6
"But he giveth more grace"
— The conjunction, but, introduces a note of contrast to the spirit that dwells in us exciting envy, and this supports our sug­gestion above. It is further endorsed by the Greek which renders "more grace" as a greater grace. James refers to a grace, or favour, greater than the world can give. That grace is divine favour which is manifested in many ways. It is the complete answer to the spirit of the flesh that excites envy, for the grace of God supplies all our needs and more. Paul declares God is "able to do exceed­ing abundantly above all that we ask or think . . . ." (Eph. 3:20). The religious world speaks of grace as "unmerited favour," and in doing so introduces a wrong idea. If grace is unmerited favoui it should be given to all indiscriminately, otherwise God is revealed as being un­just. Scripture clearly teaches that in order to become the recipients of such favour a person must do something on his own account. True it is that nobody can buy eternal life for it is the gift of God (Rom. 6:23). But it is also true that the gift will not be granted to those who do not seek it by "patient continuance in well doing" (Rom. 2:6-7). Divine grace (charts) is the favour, or goodwill, that Yahweh extends towards those whom He calls to the Truth and grants justification by the forgiveness of sins (Rom. 3:24). As this is through the Lord, John de­clares that the fulness of "grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17) through whose grace men will be saved (Acts 15:11; Eph. 2:8). Believers are called upon to "grow in grace" (2 Pet: 3:18), which they can do by developing characteristics pleasing to Yahweh. By that means they can receive a "greater grace" or favour.
The word charts (grace) is used in the Greek O.T. about 60 times as an equi­valent for the Hebrew chen, also translat­ed grace. The Dictionary Of New Testa­ment

Theology states:
"The use of the word chen clarifies the meaning of 'grace' in history and actions. It denotes the stronger coming to the help of the weaker who stands in need of help by reason of his circumstances or natural weakness. He acts by a voluntary deci­sion, though he is moved by the depen­dence or the request of the weaker party. A typical expression used to describe such an event from the standpoint of the weak is the formula to find favour in someone's eyes, i.e. to acquire the favour, liking, benevolence, condescension and understanding. The action itself is what makes the weaker party acceptable: e.g. Jacob to Esau (Gen. 32:5); Joseph and Potiphar and Pharaoh's men (Gen. 39:4; 50:4); the Egyptians to Joseph (Gen. 47:25); Ruth to Boaz (Ruth 2:2,10,13); a young wife to her husband (here in the negative, Deut. 24:1); Hannah to Eli (1 Sam. 1:18); David to Saul and Jonathan (1 Sam. 16:22; 20:3); Joab to David (2 Sam. 14:22); Esther to the king (Est. 8:5 etc.). This acceptance is desired (Zech. 4:7) or experienced (Ecc. 9:11) as fortune or salvation. Often it can only be understood as the result of the special intervention of God who supplies grace to the weak (Gen. 39:21; Exod. 3:21; 11:3; 12:36)."

Noah found grace in being isolated from a world which was sentenced to de­struction (Gen. 6:8); Moses pleaded for help on the basis of his grace (Exod. 33:13); David surrendered himself in a moment of crisis to the providence of Yah­weh, expressed as His grace (2 Sam. 15:25). Grace, therefore, denotes the fa­vour of Yahweh in extending Himself to assist those who have put themselves in such relationship to Him as to receive it. In the passage before us, it is set in con­trast to that spirit of covetousness and envy that hungers to acquire, and regard­less of possessions is never satisfied. Faith seeks grace in the goodness of Yahweh; whereas the fleshly spirit that envies knows none of these qualities.

The grace of Yahweh as manifested through the Gospel is of greater power than the spirit within us that lusts to envy, for it is capable of controlling and con­quering that spirit.

"Wherefore he saith" — The Diaglott gives this in the neuter gender, "it saith", so aligning it with the Scripture.

"God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble" — This is a citation of Prov. 3:34 to which Peter also directs his readers (1 Pet. 5:5 — see notes). The citation is according to the LXX. The proud are those who have an inordinate self-esteem, a high and un­reasonable conceit of their own excel­lence or importance. It can result from such influences as personal ability, af­fluence, status, even religion as exhibited by the Pharisees. On the other hand, a person may have any or all of these attri­butes and yet remain humble. Humility neither expects nor seeks acclaim, whilst conceding to others what is their due. True humility recognises the unapproach­able holiness of God, whilst being unap­proachable to man. Pride goes beyond this, and gives to one a degree of self-esteem entirely unwarranted. Yahweh re­sisteth the proud (Lev. 26:19; Psa. 59:12; Prov. 8:13; 16:18; 29:13; Isa. 23:9; 28:1; Dan. 4:37; Zech. 10:11). He uses many means to that end: business reverses, sickness, disappointments, death.

On the other hand He gives grace unto the humble. He shows them favour, but a necessary adjunct to the receiving of such benefits is humility towards God and man. Those to whom James wrote were seeking the favour of Yahweh, but not finding it (w. 1-3) because they sought only to satisfy their selfish lusts thereby. Divine favour will be received by those who render humble service in submission unto Yahweh (Isa. 57:15; Phil. 1:6; 2:21-23). It will not come from prayer in the absence of effort on our part. It will be those who are sufficiently humble to seek God in prayer who will receive and enjoy the grace of Yahweh. Supporting references: Exod.   10:3-4; 15:9-10; 1 Sam. 2:3-9; 2 Chron. 32:26; 33:12,19,23; 34:27; Psa. 9:12; 138:6; Prov. 3:34; 6:16-17; 15:33; 18:12; 22:4; 29:23; 30:8-9,13; Isa. 2:11-12; 57:15; Dan. 4:37; 5:20-23; Matt. 23:12; Luke 1:52; 14:11.

VERSE 7
"Submit yourselves therefore to God"
— This is essential to the enjoyment of divine grace or favour. The Greek word hupotasso is a military term signifying to rank under another; thus to endorse the higher status of the one above, and to submit to the discipline and orders he commands. See how Paul describes the requirements of faith as a spiritual war­fare (Rom. 6:13 mg. 2 Cor. 10:3-5; Eph. 6:10-18; 1 Tim. 1:18).

"Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" — Again James uses a military term in ordering believers to resist. As a soldier resists the enemy, so Christ's fol­lowers are required to submit to the requirements of God, by resisting the attacks of the devil. Similar words are used in 1 Peter 5:8-9 where the devil is defined as an opponent at law. There the term relates to the Roman authorities who were arresting Christians on charges of sedition, and subjecting them to all kinds of persecution. But the devil is not limited to legal opponents, or false accusers. It also relates to sin in the flesh (Heb. 2:14; Mark 7:21; Rom. 7:24). In what sense will this form of the devil flee from those resisting it? As noted above the expression is military in its concept. James has described how lust was war­ring in the members of the Jewish-Christian community. The only way to conquer such inordinate desires, he sug­gests, is to view them as a bitter enemy, and so resist them as a soldier would his opponent on the field of battle. Let that be done in faith, and victory is assured. The devil (be it the lusts of the flesh, or any other form of opposition) will re­treat, or flee, leaving the faithful in pos­session of the field. The Greek word signifies, to range in battle against. It is in the Middle Voice signifying to set one­self against; that is to prepare oneself to resist. The word "flee" is used figurative­ly of fleeing fornication (1 Cor. 6:18), idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14), other evils (1 Tim. 6:11), youthful lusts (2 Tim. 2:22). In this fight of faith we are instructed to "arm ourselves" with the mind of Christ (1 Pet. 4:1). In fighting the lusts ot the devil, we are instructed to "mortify" or put to death fleshly inclinations. The first move towards that end is to resist the devil (sin in the flesh — Rom. 7:5, 15-23; Heb. 2:14) with the ultimate objective of putting the lust of the flesh to death entirely (Col. 3:5).

VERSE 8
"Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you" — This is in contrast to being "drawn away" of one's own lusts (James 1:14). To draw nigh to God, is to draw upon His aid in the battle described in the previous verse. Hence, whilst per­sonal determination is necessary to effec­tively resist the devil, the battle will not be won in one's own strength. Weak, human nature needs the help of God to succeed. The development of faith, which comes by hearing the Word (Rom. 10:17), brings us nigh unto God and will enable us to be victorious in the struggle against the flesh (1 John 5:4). It is the constant promise of Yahweh that He will move to our help if we draw near to Him in the proper manner. To disobedient Judah, He declared through Jeremiah: "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith Yahweh, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to make your latter end an object of hope. Then shall ye call upon Me, and ye shall go and pray unto Me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:11-13 alternate rendition). See also 1 Chron. 28:9; 2 Chron. 15:1-4; Zech. 1:3; Jhn. 6:44; Heb. 7:19; 13:5-6. It is His love that draws us (1 John 4:10,19) and which He commends to our attention (Rom. 5:8). He desires our spontaneous affec­tion, not our forced obedience.
"Cleanse your hands, ye sinners" — This is a necessary prelude to drawing nigh to God. There was little use James' readers doing so whilst they were engag­ed in internecine strife (v. 1). Indeed, they had attempted to draw nigh to God in prayer, but only in order that they might obtain that which would enhance their fleshly pleasures. There was a need to cleanse themselves from such an atti­tude. "Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord," is the admonition of Scripture (Isa. 52:11), and again, "without holiness no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14). The priests were required to undergo ceremonial washing of hands and feet at the laver before approaching Yahweh (cp. Exod. 30:17-21), typifying the cleans­ing power of the Word (John 15:3; Eph. 5:26). Clean hands figuratively denote actions that conform to the requirements of Yahweh as outlined in the Word. To wash or cleanse the hands was emblematic of putting away transgression (Matt. 27:24. See Deut. 21:6; Psa. 26:6). David declared: "Yahweh is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works. Yahweh is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth" (Psa. 145:17-18). To call upon Him in truth is to match words with actions. Yahweh will refuse those who call on Him otherwise. Isaiah warned: "Wherefore Yahweh said, Forasmuch as this people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour Me, but have removed their heart far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the precept of men ..." (Isa. 29:13), He would cast them off.

"Purify your hearts ye double minded" — Whereas sinners were exhorted to re­form, the double minded were urged to purify their hearts, or their mode of thinking. They needed cleansed hearts such as David sought (Psa. 51:6), or such a heart as is described in Prov. 3:5-6. James described those Jewish Christians as "double-minded" because they were seeking the friendship of the world whilst claiming to serve God. They could not do both, and hence they had to cleanse their hearts, and become single-minded in their devotion to Him. The heart was consider­ed as the seat of motives and intentions. If the heart was wrong everything was wrong. Motives and intentions must con­form to Yahweh's will.

Supporting references: "Draw nigh" — Gen. 18:23; 1 Chron. 28:9;2Chron. 15:2; Psa. 73:28; 145:18; Isa. 55:6-7; Hos. 6:1-2; Zech. 1:3; "Cleanse" — Psa. 18:20; 24:4; 73:13; Isa. 1:15-16. "Purify" — Psa. 51:6-7,10; Jer. 4:14; Ezek. 18:31; 36:25-27; Acts 15:9; 2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 3:3.

VERSE 9
"Be afflicted" — The word rendered "be afflicted" means to endure toil or hardship in labouring at a matter, and so endure affliction or distress in accomp­lishing it. James called upon his readers to afflict themselves by considering their shortcomings. This would cause them dis­tress, and thereby humble them. Such an attitude was demanded of the children of Israel on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:27-29), or at times of national reform (see Ezra 8:21). They were expected to review their state, and to sorrow over their shortcomings. The verb here used appears as an adjective in Rom. 7:24: "Oh wretched man that I am!" What caused Paul to make such an exclama­tion? The grief of mind induced by a contemplation of his failings as he labour­ed over his problems. But that very grief of mind, and the wretchedness to which he referred, so humbled him as to fit him for the forgiveness and help he could obtain in the Lord Jesus. So he con­tinued: "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 7:24). On the other hand, the Laodiceans did not re­cognise the wretchedness of their self; righteous attitude, and so were rebuked (Rev. 3:17). By ruthlessly analysing our own failings, rather than those of our fellows, we will be afflicted, and caused to utter words similar to those of Paul.

"Mourn and weep" — This is the natural reaction of one who is made wretched by mental affliction in the man­ner described above. But Christ promises comfort for such (Matt. 5:4). The woman "who was a sinner", and who was humbled by the realisation of this, bowed before the Lord Jesus, and in the extreme emotional state to which she was re­duced, bathed his feet with her tears. Her action illustrated the words of James. The consciousness of her state caused her to mourn and weep. For this she received the gracious words: "Thy sins are for­given . . . Thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace" (Luke 7:38-50). With those kindly words the Lord quietened her agitation, and established a precedent for others. If failings are recognised for what they are, the acknowledgment will cause those who sin to go through the process outlined by James in this verse.

"Let your laughter be turned to mourn­ing and your joy to heaviness" — The laughter and joy of those to whom James wrote came from them courting the world (v. 4), and therefore were completely out of place. They had need to cease their activities in that direction (cp. vv. 1-4), and to recognise the true wretchedness of their state in the sight of God. Such a need rests on all such worldly pleasure seekers. Mourning and weeping induced by a consciousness of sin will be turned into comfort and joy as forgiveness and reformation are found in Christ.

Supporting references: Psa. 119:67, 71, 136, Ecc. 7:2-5; Isa. 22:12-13; Lam. 3:27; 5:15; Zech. 12:10; Matt. 5:4; Luke 6:21, 25; 2 Cor. 7:10.

VERSE 10
"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up" — Humility will develop by the recognition of personal failures, by acknowledging that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. This should govern one's attitude towards others. A recognition that all are in need of the mercy of the Judge, should rule out mutual condemnation of each other. The Scriptures teach that "before honour is humility" (Prov. 15:33; 18:12; 22:4; 29:23). Christ endorsed this: "He that shall humble himself shall be exalt­ed" (Matt. 23:12). The Lord illustrated this doctrine. In life he was meek and lowly (Matt. 11:29), humbling himself "even unto the death of the cross", "wherefore," adds Paul, "God also hath highly exalted him" (Phil. 2:8-9). He demonstrated the truth that the cross must come before the crown. In this he set an example for believers to follow (1 Pet. 2:21-24; 5:6).

Supporting references: 1 Sam. 2:9; Psa. 30:1; 113:7; 147:6; Zech. 4:6,10; Luke 14:11; 18:14; 2 Cor. 12:7-10; 1 Pet. 5:6.

The Principle As Manifested Towards Man — vv. 11-14

The recognition of personal failure de­velops a humility which should govern one's attitude towards others. There will follow a reluctance to condemn in the knowledge that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. At the Judgment Seat all will be in need of mercy.

VERSE 11
"Speak not evil one of another breth­ren" — It is convenient to justify one's failings by noting those of others, and even broadcasting them. The fleshly mind is comforted when one's shortcom­ings are shared with others. A compari­son seems to deceptively veil the gravity of one's own sins. In fact, it adds sin to sin. See Eph. 4:31; 1 Pet. 2:1.

"He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law" — In so writing, James endorses the teaching of the Lord. See Matt. 7:1-4. Paul makes the point that brethren are Christ's  servants,   not  the  servants of fellow-believers, and therefore, Christ alone has the prerogative to condemn (Rom. 14:4). He told his detractors in the Ecclesia in Corinth, that it was a matter of small concern to him that they unjustly judged him, for even though he "knew nothing of himself to justify their con­demnation, "it is Christ who judges" (1 Cor. 4:2-5). In these places, the term is used in regard to a decision of absolute condemnation. It is important that we discriminate between good and evil, or right and wrong, and in that regard to "judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24). James did not hesitate to condemn the practices of those to whom he wrote (James 5:1-4), but the final decision as to whether they would be granted an inheri­tance in the Kingdom must await the decision of the Judge.
Those who acted in the manner con­demned by James, in effect, spake "evil of the Law", for by their evil speech they set aside the requirements of the Law, establishing their own conduct as the rule of acceptable action. This revealed a con­tempt for the teaching of the Law, and constituted a usurpation of the preroga­tive of the Judge. To what Law does James refer? To the Law of God, that was expressed through Moses, and mani­fested in its fulness by Christ. He "magni­fied the law and made it honourable" (Isa. 42:21) by himself revealing perfect obedience to its requirements, and enab­ling his followers to likewise fulfil its re­quirements (see Matt. 5:17; Rom. 3:31). This he did by providing for the forgive­ness of sins unto eternal life (Rom. 4:25). "For the law was given by Moses, but grace (including mercy) and truth (the ful­filment of all that had been promised, the reality of sacrifice as foreshadowed by the Law) came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). Therefore, in Christ, the Law of God becomes the Law of Liberty, because the divine grace and truth manifested in him "frees" from the bondage of sin (John 8:31-36; Rom. 6:16-18). Seeing that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23), all are in need of redemption in Christ Jesus. What right, therefore, has any to adversely judge another as being unworthy of an inheri­tance in the Kingdom. It ill becomes those who hope to be judged by the Law of Liberty, knowing how dependent they are upon its grace and mercy to forgive their sins. We have no right to condemn others because of their failings. Such conduct is a negation of the basic principles of divine law.

"And judgeth the law" — Those mani­festing such conduct as James described set aside the Law, and therefore, in effect, condemned it as being wrong. They became its judges, making them­selves arbiters of what it required of wor­shippers.

"But if thou judge the law, thou art not a a doer of the law, but a judge" — A judge of the Law is one who sets up his own standards instead of those required by it. This will condemn him in the Day of Judgment. Both Paul and James em­phasise that it is only "doers of the law" who will be justified (Rom. 2:1,13). Meanwhile, whilst James taught that we must not unduly judge others, he is out­spoken in condemning censorious gossip, and similar unwise use of the tongue. Therefore he was not prepared to wink at error, or close his eyes to evil. There is a need to "judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24); in other words to clearly distinguish between right and wrong.

Supporting references: Psa. 140:11; Matt. 7:1-2; Luke 6:37; 14:3-4,10-12; 1 Cor. 4:5; Eph. 4:31; 1 Pet. 2:1.

VERSE 12
"There is one lawgiver"
— Some Mss include the words and Judge. The R.V. renders: Only one is the lawgiver. There­fore, in acting as they did, those erring brethren were usurping the position of Judge (see Isa. 33:22).

"Who is able to save and to destroy" — The context of this statement implies that God is able to save those whom their censorious brethren would verbally de­stroy; and destroy those whose harsh judgment put their own lives in jeopardy. Christ, as the great legislator, called upon his disciples to pray: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matt. 6:12). How can any consistently pray for forgiveness, whilst refusing to extend a like consideration to others! (see Matt. 18:21-35; Mark 11:25-26; Luke 11:4). The description James gives of the Judge as being both Saviour and Destroyer, is also that of Paul in 2 Cor. 2:15-16. Christ is a "savour of life unto life, or of death unto death". Paul warns that God is not mocked, and as we sow we shall reap (Gal. 6:7). If mercy has not been shown, justice will be meted out accordingly (see James 2:12-13).

"Who art thou that judgest another?" — Those guilty of the conduct described in vv. 1-2 should have been the last to be so. In view of Yahweh's position as Judge, fallible man has no right to usurp His authority, no matter how righteous he may be.

Supporting references: Matt. 10:26-33; Luke 12:3-10.

The Principle: Towards God — vv. 13-17

In view of man's fallibility and the un­certainty of life James exhorts against boasting regarding future intentions: the future may not be ours so to use. Those who condemn others are often forgetful of their dependence on God.

VERSE 13
"Go to now"
— This is a phrase de­signed to attract attention by command­ing attention. The modern equivalent is: Come now!

"Ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain" — The statement suggests a definiteness about the planning: city, time, and pur­pose are expressed in terms that make no provision for the over-riding purpose of Yahweh.

Supporting references: Prov. 27:1; Luke 12:16-31.

VERSE 14
"Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow" — The continuance of life on the morrow is uncertain; how much more uncertain is a year hence!

"For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away" — This state­ment is similar to James' description of the rich man in Ch. 1:10. The previous statement has directed attention to life as being something frail so that we cannot depend upon its continuance for a day. Now James describes it as a vapour. The word used signifies a mist that arises in the morning, floats for a time in the air, and then is dissipated by the rising sun. The analogy represents life as being very insubstantial, swept this way or that by the breeze, and very limited in duration. It is the theme of the Book of Ecclesiastes which sums up all of life's activities, apart from those relating to Yahweh, as "vani­ty of vanities" (Ecc. 1:2). The Hebrew word   hebel  denotes   "breath".   Metaphorically, it represents anything frail, particularly that which passes away com­paratively quickly, and thereby fails to satisfy the craving of man for something more permanent. Note Jacob's lament (Gen. 47:19). "Our days on earth are as a shadow", declared David (1 Chron. 29:15). "My life is wind", declared Job (Ch. 7:7; 8:9; Psa. 102:11; 144:4). "We spend our years as a tale that is told" declared Moses (Psa. 90:6-9). The Heb­rew word used by Solomon to describe the fleetness of life was named upon the second son born to Adam and Eve: Abel. His name signifies that which is fleeting and insubstantial, and its significance was illustrated by the manner in which his life was cut short through the murderous action of Cain. The continuance of all in life is similarly uncertain, as James notes. That being the case, we need to recognise in time our most valuable possession and use it wisely. That is the exhortation of Scripture (See Psa. 90:12; Eph. 5:15-17; Col. 4:5).

Supporting references: Psa. 39:5; 89:47; 90:5-7; 102:3; Isa. 38:12; 1 Pet. 1:24; 1 John 2:17.

VERSE 15
"For that ye ought to say" — In view of life's uncertainty, a less dogmatic as­sertion of intentions should be adopted, recognising the imminence of the Lord's return, our absolute dependence on God, and that the success or failure of any venture is subject to His will.

"If the Lord will we shall live, and do this or that" — James does not mean that his phrase should be repeated in so many words, for such repetitive use of a mere formula can rob it of its meaning. He meant that careful thought should be given to the planning of future intentions, so that Yahweh is never left out of ac­count. "My times are in Thine hands " declared David (Psa. 31:15). "Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth" declared

Solomon (Prov. 27:1). And Apostolic precept is similar: Acts 18:21; 1 Cor. 4:19; 16:5-7; Phil. 2:24.

Supporting references: 2 Sam. 15:25-26; Prov. 19:21; Lam. 3:37; Rom. 1:10; 15:32; 1 Cor. 4:19; 16:7; Heb. 6:3.

VERSE 16
"But now ye rejoice in your boastings" — The word "boastings" is from the Greek alazoneia, and, according to Vine, denotes quackery, or vain pretensions and arrogant claims based upon nothing substantial. Such boasters proclaim they are about to do this or that, but their intentions are governed by time and suc­cess, both of which are out of their con­trol. James has reminded them that they have taken out a mortgage upon some­thing (the future) which has no substan­tial reality. "You boast in your arro­gance," renders the RSV.

"All such rejoicing is evil" — The Diaglott renders rejoicing as boasting. James referred to their boasting rather than to their rejoicing. Such idle boasting is evil.

Supporting references: Psa. 52:1,7; Prov. 25:14; 27:1; 1 Cor. 4:7-8; 5:6.

VERSE 17
"Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin"
— This statement is a general summary of the subject matter of this chapter. Indif­ference to the rights of God or man is sin or a missing of the mark, which is the meaning of the word rendered "sin". (Gr. harmartia). Those to whom James wrote needed to recognise this, and re­form their conduct in relation to all mat­ters expressed in this chapter. If a believer knows the will of God, and deliberately ignores it, even in regard to future in­tentions he sins.

Supporting references: Matt.  7:24,26; Luke 12:47-48; John 9:41; 13:17; 15:22.

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