4:1 Control of the Passions
SUMMARY OF JAMES 4:
Strifes from the War of Passions. Fornication with the World. Seeking the Grace of God. Humbling Ourselves Before the Lord. Evil Speaking of Brethren. The Uncertainties of This Life.
From which [come] wars and fightings? Peace has been spoken in Jas 3:18, but the world is full of strife. Whence is it? James shows it is due to human passions.
Among you? James was so Jewish, though a Christian, that sometimes he looked beyond the church to his fleshly brethren. He here seems to address them like another Amos or Jeremiah.
[Even] from your own lusts. They are due to insatiate desires.
4:2 Ye lust, and have not. This inordinate desire unsatisfied leads to murder, or to hatred and envy, which are murder in embryo. Even then not obtaining they
fight and war in order to satisfy their greed. Still they are not satisfied.
Ye have not, because ye ask not. They should have humbly gone to God with their reasonable requests, but the lustful cannot truly pray.
4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss. Some even have prayed for the things which would satisfy their lusts, but God hears not such prayers.
4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses. Adulterous spouses of Christ who commit fornication with the world. It is spiritual adultery that is meant.
The friendship of the world is enmity with God. Since the prince of this world is opposed to Christ and the spirit of the world is also opposed, one cannot love the ways of the world and love God also. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (Mt 6:24).
4:5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain? The reference is to De 32:1-47, where God's love and jealousy of his people are described.
The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? Long unto envying (Revised Version). Long for our love even to the envy of the worldly objects which have secured it. The Revised Version suggests the idea, which harmonizes with the thought in Jas 4:4. A freer translation will make it plainer. The spirit that he (God) hath placed in us desireth us jealously, that is, desires we should not commit adultery with the world, but be wholly devoted to God, as those espoused to God in Christ, and even envies the world which has secured our love.
4:6 But he giveth more grace. To enable us to overcome our love of the world.
Wherefore he saith. Quoted from Pr 3:34.
God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. The passage is quoted to show that the way to secure grace more abundantly is to be humbled before the Lord.
4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. To secure his grace abundantly.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. He always flees before stout resistance. See the Temptation of Christ (Mt 4:1-11). If not hurled back, he presses the attack.
4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw night to you. If we wish God very near to us, we must seek to dwell very near to him. Only sin keeps us afar off.
Cleanse [your] hands. Of evil doing.
Purify [your] hearts. Of evil thoughts.
4:9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep. Mourn over your sins and sincerely repent of them.
4:10 Humble yourselves. See Mt 23:12.
4:11 Speak not evil one of another. The subject of the tongue is resumed. To speak evil is to make harsh, censorious judgments.
Speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law. The royal law requires love of a brother, and when this law is thus violated by a harsh judgment the law itself is condemned. But when a man sets himself up as a judge of the law, he is no longer an humble and faithful doer of the law.
4:12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. The lawyer is God, the Almighty. Shall man judge him?
Who art thou that judgest another? In disobedience to God who made the law which forbids it.
4:13 Go to now. Presumptuous judgments have just been rebuked. Shall we presume on an uncertain future? The folly of laying plans as if we could command life is exposed.
4:14 Your life... is even a vapour. Who knows that he will have a tomorrow, since life is like a vanishing vapor?
4:15 Ye [ought] to say, If the Lord will. The proper way is to plan everything subject to the Lord's will.
4:16 Ye rejoice in your boastings. It was a boastful manner to use such a language as that of Jas 4:13 in stating plans.
4:17 To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth [it] not, to him it is sin. The connection of thought is probably as follows: I have warned you that such boasting is wrong, and that the right way is to speak submissively. If you know how to do the right and yet do it not, the sin is the greater on account of your knowledge. See Jas 4:15.