Draw Near to God

James 4:8-12 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you 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. Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speak evil of his brother, and judge his brother, speak evil of the law, and judge the law: but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who are you that judge another? 

Cleansing the hands was a symbol of innocence and purity (Mat. 27:24), but here it means to separate yourself from the world and consecrate your life to God, renouncing all sin.

For those who do not dwell in the secret place of the most High, that does not abide under the shadow of the Almighty (Psa. 91:1), in reconciling with Him, you have to draw near to God again so that He can come near to you. But certain conditions are commanded to restore to your previous state. You must have no double-mindedness which refers to doubting God (Jas. 1:6-8) and you must be afflicted – mourn and weep – which shows of a true repentance that will always bring the mercy of God if done in time–that is now (1Jn. 1:7; Heb. 9:27).

Ten types of sin and pleasure are mentioned in James 4:1-9: Wars and fighting; lusts of sin (Eph. 2:1-3); murders and killings; desires – covetousness; adulteries and other sexual sins; friendships with worldly men; envies and jealousies; pride and haughtiness; laughter prompted by sin; joy founded on sin. True followers of Christ would not be guilty of those as stated repeatedly in 1 John 3.

To speak against; backbite; rail at; slander (1Pet. 2:12; 3:16)refers to slandering among the different factions of Jews and the Jews against their brethren who had accepted Christ and God is the one lawgiver and judge who is able to save or destroy. Man has no right to usurp this authority when we judge those who choose to stay in sin.

Answer to Prayer

James 4:1-4 From whence come wars and fighting among you?  Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war, yet you have not, because you ask not. You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts. You adulterers and adulteresses, know you 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. 

About this time in Judea the Jews made many insurrections against the Romans under the pretence of defending their religion and procuring their way of life. Many factions among the Jews also fought violently, massacring and plundering one another. In some provinces, Jews killed many heathens and brought destruction upon themselves. These wars were undertaken through a spirit of covetousness and zeal, trying to convert the heathen and destroy idolatry.

This passage should never be taken by the Christian as an excuse for unanswered prayer. By so doing he automatically classes himself as lustful, murderous, covetous, adulterous, worldly, proud, sinful, and blasphemous. Is it any wonder that God does not answer the prayers of such people? No man can ask amiss if he is in Christ and asks according to the promises (John 15:7; Heb. 11:6; Jas. 1:5-8). The reason Christian prayers are not answered is because of their unbelief.

For a Christian to get answers to prayers, we must be free from the cares of the world (Mat. 13:22; Lk. 21:34-36); not gain the world at the expense of our souls (Mat. 16:26); not offend others as the world does (Mat. 18:7); not be of the world – partake of it and be like the world (John 15:19; 17:14, 16); not love our lives in the world (John 12:25); be delivered from the world (Gal. 1:4); be crucified to the world (Gal. 6:14); shine as a light in the world, no darkness in us (Php. 2:15); deny worldly lusts; live godly in it (Tit. 2:12); be unspotted from the world (Jas. 1:27); not be friends with the world (Jas. 4:4); escape the pollution and corruption of the world (2Pet. 1:4; 2:20); not love the world, neither the things that are in the world (1Jn. 2:15-17); be like Christ in the world (1Jn. 4:17); overcome the world (1Jn. 5:4-5); be not conformed to it (Rom. 12:2); and be dead to its ways (Col. 2:20).

Who Is Wise?

James 3:13-18 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descends not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. 

One who can bridle his own tongue and is qualified to teach others are seen in the Word as a wise man. True wisdom is always accompanied with meekness and gentleness. Scholars however are sometimes proud, overbearing, and disdainful. Such men have education, but not true wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and strife in your heart – someone always seeking recognition and are quick to argue to prove your point, you don’t have true wisdom. Even if you defend religion, you are false in your profession and lie against the truth.

There are eight characteristics of false wisdom mentioned: Bitter envying, strife in the heart (v14, 16), glory in profession (v14), earthly-minded, having only this life in view, sensual, living only to satisfy the animal appetites, devilish, inspired by demons (v15), living in constant confusion and every evil work (v16).

And eight characteristics of divine wisdom mentioned: to be pure – chaste, holy and clean; peaceable (Heb. 12:14); gentle – meek, modest, and kind; easily entreated – not stubborn or obstinate, but yielding to others. To be full of mercy – always forgiving and performing acts of kindness; full of good fruits; without partiality – having no respect of persons (Jas. 2:1-10); without hypocrisy – open, honest, genuine, and true.

And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace refers to those living in right-standing with God that will always abide in His peace no matter what your circumstances are (John 14:27; Php 4:7).

The Tongue

James 3:5-6,8 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boast great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindle! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defile the whole body, and set on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 

The tongue is a little member that boasts of great things (v5); it is a fire,a world of iniquity that defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of nature (v6); It is untameable; an unruly evil; full of deadly poison (v8); It is used to bless God and curse men (v9); Capable of good conversation (v13) and of bitter strife (v14).

The circle of human life is continually excited by the tongue unless it is kept sanctified. Evil surmising, misrepresentations, falsehoods, jealousies, envying, wrath, and malice, all form part of the destroying flames of fire from the tongue of the ungodly.

The whole course of life is set on fire of hell. This refers to the anger and violent passions of wrath related to the vile language of the tongue. It also pictures the confusion and misery caused by the tongue – like the misery of hell.

Those saved and sanctified can love life, and see good days, by refraining their tongues from evil, and their lips that they speak no guile (1Pet. 3:10).

Many Masters

James 3:1-2  My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. 

When we ‘master’ others – teach – from the Word of God and we cannot contain our tongues (Jas. 1:26) and offend others by telling them what to do or how to live, we do more damage and no good whatsoever.  Our lives, not our words, should set the correct example, that is why our feet must be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace (Eph. 6:15) not our mouths. When we teach or reprove those who disrespect or dislike God’s Word, we bring shame on our testimony as followers of Christ (Pro. 9:7-9; Mat. 7:6) and cause others to stumble.  The Holy Spirit is the one to reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:8).  Matthew 23:10 says that we have one Master, Jesus Christ, and we must learn from Him – the Word (John 1:1, 14). Study the Word, not what others say about it, read your Bible so that you can develop faith, which comes through hearing (Rom. 10:17).  It is through prayer that we can contribute to change in others lives, and by walking in Christ’s footsteps: the life He lived while on earth (1Pet. 2:21-23) by setting a Christ-like example and not one we think is correct because of our own interpretations of the Word (2 Tim. 2:15).

Christian Consecration

James 2:14, 17-18 What do it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? Even so faith, if it had not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou has faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. 

This statement refers to those who say that they have faith and the works are not necessary for Christian living. It does not say they have a real and active faith, but they say they have. Can faith alone save? The Word is not referring to initial justifying faith but to the demonstration of Christian faith before men. Christianity demands of its followers’ good works to all men (Mat. 5:16; 16:27; 1Tim. 6:18; 2Tim. 3:17). One is not justified by works (Rom. 3:25-31; 4:1-6; 9:11; 11:6), but justified ones must do them – the works that follow obedience – to prove their Christian consecration (Jas. 2:14-18, 20-26).

Faith without works is dead; works without faith is dead (Jas. 2:17, 20, 26). Neither is complete in itself. It is like fire-burning without fuel and fuel-burning without fire. One can say that this is possible, but it is not; it is contrary to the creative makeup and the laws that govern fire and fuel.

By the Gospel

James 2:10-13  For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak you, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy; and mercy rejoice against judgment. 

Guilty of all means that one sin is enough to damn the soul (Rom. 5:12-21). The obligation to law is total (Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:10). This applies to all laws that have the death penalty (Rom. 1:32; 1Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21). One is guilty of lawbreaking whether he breaks one or many laws. The authority which gave one commandment gave all of them and the one who resists Him by breaking one law is guilty of the whole. Do not commit adultery … Do not kill: These commandments are in both covenants, the old and the new (Exo. 20:13-14; Mat. 5:21-32; Rom. 13:9). We are not now under obligation to obey them because they are part of the old covenant which is abolished, but because they are part of the new.

The law of liberty refers to the new covenant, not the old. It is by the gospel, men of this age will be judged (Rom.2:16). The ones who receive mercy and show mercy rejoice in the fact that they will not face judgment because of obeying the law. They will be exalted by mercy above judgment. There is no mercy in law. The meaning is that mercy through grace will triumph over law because the demands of the law have been met by grace and the lawbreakers are justified by it through faith to escape the judgment of the law (John 3:36; 5:24) until such a person sin willfully after he has received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins (Heb. 10:26).

The Sin of Partiality

James 2:1, 8-9 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. If you fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, you do well: But if you have respect to persons, you commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 

Do not have the faith of Christ with partiality. Do not prefer the rich merely because of riches, and not for their moral, spiritual, and public usefulness (Jas. 2:1-4) or anyone for that matter because of what they look like or what they own or their station in life.

The law of both the old and new covenants demanded that men love their neighbours as themselves (Lev. 19:18; Mat. 22:39; Rom.13:8-9; Gal. 5:14). The new covenant – the perfect law of liberty – is referred to here, which came from God and was emphasized by Christ as being suitable and necessary to all men (John 13:34; 15:12).

If you show any degree of partiality and injustice you break God’s law and you are a transgressor (1Jn. 3:4).

True Religion

James 1:26-27 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridle not his tongue, but deceive his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. 

If someone is a careful follower of his belief or worship, but he cannot control or restrain his tongue, he betrays and misleads himself (and sometimes others) and his faith is in vain and of no value.

Pure and undefiled religion is twofold: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep yourself unspotted from the world. True religion consists of common benevolence and purity of heart and life where we let our lights shine before men, that they can see our good works, and your Father in heaven can be glorified (Matt. 5:16, 44; 2Cor. 9:8; Col. 1:10; 1Tim. 1:5; Tit. 2:7, 14; 3:1, 8; 1Jn. 3:17).

Fade Away

James 1:9-11  Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withers the grass, and the flower thereof falls and the grace of the fashion of it perish: so also, shall the rich man fade away in his ways. 

A poor Christian must rejoice in his hope of heaven, but the rich one in his humiliation, for both are here only for a short while (Ps. 90:10). Lives burdens are compared with the burning heat of the sun that withers us away as we age.

The rich man who is outside of Christ fades away like a flower. Riches in Scripture are considered the cause of much sin and rebellion against God; and, for this cause, there are many warnings to men, especially converted men, to shun all covetousness of such (Mat. 6:19; Luke 6:24; 12:15-20; 1Tim. 6:9-18).