James Chapter 4
"From whence come wars and fightings among
you? Come they not hence, even of your own lusts that war in
your members?" (v.1).
The way this is phrased implies that the unspiritual
brethren were blaming the evident infighting within the ecclesia
on others- perhaps the group of poor brethren who they spiritually
cursed in 3:9,10. Note how the fightings came out of their lusts-
"come they not hence...?" is the language of physical movement,
cp. "out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing"
(3:10), "drawn away of his own lust" (1:14) (1).
Lusts warring in the members suggests an allusion to Rom.7:23
"I see another 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". The allusions to Romans may be because this letter
too was in circulation amongst the dispersed Jewish believers.
The "members" of James 4:1 are therefore the parts of the evil
human heart. The double mindedness in the hearts of the individual
brethren was inevitably reflected in the members of the ecclesial
body (cp. 1 Cor.12:12; Eph.4:25). Another link with 1 Peter clarifies
that the warfare within the body was also within their own minds:
"Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (1 Pet.2:11).
The Greek for "lusts" here in James 4 is not the normal word so
translated. The only other times it occurs are in 2 Pet.2:13 translated
"pleasure", where it is associated with the Judaist false teachers;
Tit.3:3, where Paul says these lusts were part of his former Judaist
life; and in Lk.8:14 regarding that which chokes the growth of
Their lusts or pleasures may have warred against
each other in the sense that they desired different things which
conflicted within their heart, but the idea of war and fighting
seems more usually used with reference to the spiritual warfare
within the human heart (cp. 1 Pet.2:11), whereby the spiritual
reservoir is under violent attack from the united desires for
the various pleasures to be possessed. The Greek for "fightings"
occurs in Titus 3:9 and 2 Tim.2:23,24 concerning arguments within
the ecclesia over the interpretation of the Law. It would therefore
seem that the justification for gratifying their materialistic
desires was based on misapplication of the word. Again we are
seeing the classic characteristic of apostasy- a mixture of truth
with error until a position of self-justification has been reached.
These reasonings over certain passages began
as a debate within their own heart ("members"), and then spread
to the whole ecclesia.
We have pointed out that the break between chapters
3 and 4 is unfortunate. The mention of "wars" in 4:1 and "confusion"
in 3:16 only 3 verses earlier suggests a connection with the "wars
and commotions" heralding the destruction of Jerusalem (Lk.21:9),
seeing that "confusion" and "commotions" are the same Greek word.
Is James implying that the crazy political situation in the world
that heralded Jerusalem's downfall was going to be reflected in
ecclesial life in the last days, resulting in a similar downfall
of the scattered Jerusalem ecclesia? The situation within the
body in these last days may provide an unfortunate parallel.
"Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire
to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not,
because ye ask not" (v.2).
The Greek for "lust" here is the normal word,
and a powerful parallel is made between this and asking (praying)
in the wrong way. Such prayer is an expression of lust; the very
same word is used concerning lusting after a woman in Mt.5:28.
Prayer to God for personal pleasures that gushes out without the
restraint of the word is truly a serious offence.
The idea of killing in 2:11 was interpreted as
meaning showing lack of love to your brother, after the pattern
of Mt.5:21,22. The word for "kill" here in James is not the usual
Greek word. This one is normally translated "kill" in the phrase
"Thou shalt not kill" when quoting the ten commandments. Thus
James is making an especial appeal to their Jewish minds by implying
that their lack of love really is effective manslaughter. Thus
in order to satisfy their carnal desires they were killing or
hating their brethren. An obvious fulfilment of this would have
been in their withholding of the meagre wages of the poor brethren-
effectively killing them by their lack of love- in order to indulge
their latest pleasures. What parallels with saving for the holiday
home at the expense of struggling ecclesias in the third world?
"Desire to have" is a very emotion-loaded word
in Greek, implying to be moved to jealousy by something or someone.
Such a motivation for prayer is unacceptable. The parallel is
with "and cannot obtain", which means literally 'to chance upon'.
Their semi-spiritual attitude to life is epitomized by their psychology
of prayer- thinking they might chance to get the answer to a prayer,
they expressed their emotional, natural desires for the pleasures
of this life in prayer, justifying this by misapplying Scripture.
They never realized that the love of these pleasures was actually
swamping the growth of the real word seed, which was occasionally
planted in them by the poor brethren reminding them of the word;
so the two references to the sower parable in 3:18 and 4:1 would
Despite all the commotion within their
hearts and the ecclesia, and perhaps also in their strivings in
their misdirected prayers, "Ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye
ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume
it upon your lusts" (v.3). Although they asked in prayer, in God's
sight such words are not prayer: "Ye ask not...ye ask", because
desiring is not praying. Alternatively, this may be looking back
to 1:4,5 about asking for wisdom, as if to say 'You don't receive
answers to your prayers for material things because you don't
pray firstly for the wisdom from the word to be in your heart,
which would have made your subsequent prayers powerful'.
There is a link here with Mt.7:7,8: "Ask, and
it shall be given you...for every one that asketh receiveth".
But "Ye ask and receive not". The reason for such powerful
prayer is given in the surrounding context in Mt.7- if they were
not hypocrites in criticizing their brethren, which 3:17 implies
they were guilty of, and if they did to men as they would like
God to do to them (Mt.7:2,12). Not surprisingly therefore, the
prayers of these brethren were not answered as Mt.7 promised.
There is probably also a reference to Jn.15:7: "If...my words
abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done
unto you". "Done unto you" possibly implies physical blessing.
Because the word was not in them, which is the whole theme of
James, this promise was not fulfilled in them.
"Ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon
your lusts" (v.3).
"Amiss" is from a word meaning to be sick or
diseased, or generally 'evil'. Although it is not the same word
translated "sick" in 5:14-16, there may be a connection with the
idea there of them being struck with physical sickness because
of their sin and being advised to pray for forgiveness and therefore
a cure. Here in 4:3 James is saying that their prayers were for
human things and therefore they and their prayers were sick. "Consume"
means 'to spend' in a financial sense, thus suggesting that they
were asking God to specifically provide money, which they would
then spend on their various pleasures ("lusts"). This would explain
their 'killing' of their brethren by holding back wages from them
(5:4), because they specifically wanted the cash in hand; see
notes on 5:3 too.
Friends of the earth
"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"
As the reference to killing in v.2 looks back
to 2:11 in the sense of killing your brother by not loving him,
so the command in the Old Covenant not to commit adultery mentioned
in 2:11 is here interpreted as meaning not having friendship with
the world. James' reasoning seems to be based (yet again) in the
sermon on the mount- this time in the passage about not being
able to serve two masters, which results in loving the one and
hating the other (Mt.6:24). James is putting things in black and
white terms again. By their prayers being based on the human desires
of their heart they were loving the world and thereby hating God.
"The world" is therefore primarily our evil desires- the world
is in our heart (Ecc.3:11,12), and "The lust of the eyes" etc.
is "All that is in the world". The language of adultery invites
us to interpret being a "friend" of the world in a sexual context,
or to see that mere friendship with the world is of the same intensity
as intercourse with it, in God's sight. Serving mammon (the world)
in the two masters parable is due to taking thought for human
possessions (Mt.6:25)- i.e. the service of mammon is a mental
condition in the heart rather than just physically spending time
pursuing these things. This is exactly the context here in James.
"Friendship" (Greek 'philia') is a gentle word, even implying
'fondness'. Being a friend of the world means that, in the light
of the two masters parable, they were not being a friend of God.
This maybe connects with 2:23, which calls Abraham a friend of
God because of his faith and works based on the word of promise
taking hold of his heart. Their friendship or sympathy to the
world and its desires which were in their heart meant that they
had no real faith because the word was not truly influencing their
This friendship with the world is "enmity with
God". This takes us immediately to Rom.8:7: "The carnal mind is
enmity against God", thus again connecting the love of the world
with the unregenerated mind. James is pounding away about the
importance of the mind, and therefore of our attitude to the word
which influences it. This enmity is further defined in Eph.2:15,16:
"Having abolished in His (Christ's) flesh the enmity, even the
law of commandments...for to make in himself one new man...that
He might reconcile both unto God by the cross, having slain the
enmity thereby". The phrase "the enmity" implies that
this is the same enmity as referred to elsewhere, namely in Rom.8:7.
The carnal mind allowed itself to be stimulated by the Law- not
that the Law encouraged sin, but man's response to it encouraged
carnal thinking, e.g. in the form of self righteousness (2).
This again hints that their "friendship of the world" was justified
by their misquoting of the Law. "The world" which they were so
sympathetic towards (so "friendship" implies) may even refer to
the Jewish world, both in its doctrine and its materialistic,
pleasure-seeking attitude to life.
Scripture in vain?
"Do ye think that the Scripture saith in vain,
The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?" (v.5).
This does not appear to be a verbatim quote from
any manuscript- for a comment on the word "scripture" see notes
on 2:23. James is effectively rebuking them for their lack of
sensitivity to the word- by not recognizing the fundamentally
lustful nature of our natural mind, they were effectively saying
that the Scriptures' warnings about our evil human nature were
"vain". They thought that by reason of possessing the Spirit gifts
the evils of the human heart were by-passed an error also made
by evangelical theology today. There appears to be a reference
back to the descriptions of man at Noah's time in Gen.6:5 and
8:21 as having a fundamentally wicked heart. 2 Pet.3, Jude and
the Lord in His Olivet prophecy all interpret Noah's world as
being a type of the Jewish system heading towards destruction
in AD70. So again James is saying that the lustful attitude of
mind within these Jewish believers equated them with the rest
of the Jewish world, which was about to be destroyed as Noah's
world was. The Greek for "vain" is often used about vain Jewish
philosophy that affected the ecclesias (Eph.5:6; Col.2:8; 1 Tim.6:20;
2 Tim.2:16; and Acts 4:25); it also looks back to the description
of the brethren James is writing to as "vain" in 2:20. This would
imply that because of the influence of vain Jewish (Judaist?)
reasoning, they had become vain in their minds, and therefore
Scripture had also become vain to them. The Greek for "dwelleth"
means 'to dwell as an integral part'; the same Greek word for
'dwell' occurs in Rom.7:17,18,20, describing "sin that dwelleth"
within our members; we have seen 4:1 is alluding to this same
passage in Rom.7 concerning the spiritual conflict in our members.
The same word is also used in 1 Cor.3:16 about the Holy Spirit
dwelling in the early believers through their possession of the
gifts- maybe suggesting that James is reminding the Jewish ecclesial
elders that the Spirit gifts dwelling in them did not mean that
the evil human spirit of our own nature did not dwell in them.
The very word "spirit" can refer both to this human spirit and
also to the spirit of Christ in our minds. Thus they had to have
the Spirit truly in their heart by their response to the word
as well as tabernacling in them by reason of their possession
of the gifts. The effort to apply the word to the human heart
is therefore not just something which began after the miraculous
gifts were withdrawn, but which also had to be practiced by their
early possessors. If even those with the gift of prophecy (i.e.
chosen by God to speak forth His word under direct inspiration)
had to make this effort; how much more must we? God yearns that we might have a spirit like His, that we might be spiritually minded: "He yearns jealously over the spirit that He has made to dwell in us" (James 4:5). And be sure that He will be ever working in our lives to try to get us to have this focus.
The particular aspect of our inherent
natural spirit that James draws attention to is its capacity to
envy. We have suggested previously that their desire for wealth
led these brethren to show a lack of love to the others in the
ecclesia, although they justified this by misinterpreting parts
of the Law. James is saying that they should not justify these
envious feelings so quickly, but remember that Scripture generally
warns that these feelings are part of our fallen nature, and they
should not misapply odd passages to justify them as acceptable.
The Greek for "envy" here is always used elsewhere concerning
either the envying of the Jews against the believers, or about
the envyings generated within the ecclesia by Judaist-stimulated
"But He giveth more grace. Wherefore He saith,
God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble" (v.6).
This apparent personality of "the Scripture"
was commented on under 2:23. Having quoted Scripture which states
the pathetic spiritual condition of man, James quickly reminds
us of another Scripture that gives more hope. The context of v.6
is in the earlier verses of the chapter concerning why their prayers
were unanswered. "Grace" means 'gift', and can refer to the answer
of prayer by God's Spirit (See Digression 12). Thus James is saying
'God does actually answer prayer- Prov.3:34 says he gives grace
to the humble, i.e. He answers their prayers, although He resists
the requests of the proud'. Note that James is quoting the Septuagint
version of Prov.3:34 here rather than the Hebrew Old Testament;
for comments on which see Digression 13.
Giving grace in the sense of a gift
also recalls 1:17,18 and 3:17 concerning the gift of the word-
as if to show that God would hear prayers for the wisdom of the
word to be revealed to them (cp.1:5), but not answer a 'wants
list' of worldly pleasures. The context of the quote from Proverbs
is that the humble man is the one who has wisdom- i.e. who has
taken note of the word in his heart. For more connections between
the word and humility, see Digression 10. Being humble is parallelled
with being submissive to God and resisting our evil nature (v.7)
and drawing nigh to God acceptably (v.8); thus humility born of
the word is revealed by both our attitude to God's holiness and
to our own innate sinfulness. The brash prayers and self justification
of these brethren was in sharp contrast to all this. The same
verse from Proverbs is also quoted in 1 Pet.5:5 in the context
of the elders showing loving care to the flock, because God "giveth
grace to the humble". This context of commands to elders is the
same as in James, whose intended readership appears to have been
the same group of elders in the Jewish ecclesias. Peter's argument,
if it follows that of James, would therefore be that their prayers
would be hindered, i.e. grace would not be shown- if the elders
proudly oppressed the flock. Note that these same elders are warned
not to exact money from the flock as a reward for their shepherding
in 1 Pet.5:2, which we have seen was a problem mentioned by James
in the form of them holding back wages from their brethren-employees.
This would mean that this was being done under the spiritual pretext
of keeping the money back as the wages of the elders, no doubt
backed up with some misinterpretations from the Mosaic Law.
"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist
the devil, and he will flee from you" (v.7).
"Submit" means literally to put oneself under-
i.e. to keep under these evil human desires, which is the same
as resisting the Biblical devil. Bearing in mind the Jewish background
of this letter and the other connections with Romans, this idea
of submission to God may be referring back to Rom.10:3: "They
(the Jews) being ignorant of God's righteousness, (through
a lack of open-hearted Bible study), and going about to establish
their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the
righteousness of God". Thus one of the root causes of their pride
and lack of recognition of their own sinfulness was that they
were influenced by the Jewish concept of self-righteousness. Note
the importance of doctrine in having very practical effects on
a man's way of thinking and thereby his standing with God. There
is a clear parallel between these verses in James 4 and 1 Pet.5:2-9.
After making the quotation from Prov.3:34, Peter warns them to
"be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion,
walketh about, seeking whom he may devour". This primarily refers
to the Jewish and Roman authorities seeking occasion to criticize
and therefore persecute the Christians. However, the parallel
in James 4:7 is "resist the devil", which corresponds with 1 Peter
5:9 "Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same
afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the
world". The devil of Peter refers to the Jewish/ Roman systems
as well as to the flesh. The Greek "pathema" translated "afflictions"
means both physical persecution and 'an emotion or influence'
(Strong), thus showing that both types of 'devil' are referred
to here, although the emphasis in Peter's case is on the devil
as a civil power. 'Pathema' is used concerning physical persecution
by the civil 'devil' in 2 Tim.3:11; Heb.10:32; 2 Cor.1:6; 1 Pet.5:1;
and concerning our evil desires in Rom.7:5 (the "motions" of sin
within us), and the "affections" of the flesh in Col.3:5; Rom.1:26;
Gal.5:24. Thus the parallel passage in James 4:7 concerning resisting
the devil is about both the Roman/ Jewish system and the evil
desires of the flesh, although the latter is the context in James,
whilst the former provides the backdrop to Peter's use of the
Again, we see that the Jewish thinking influencing
the ecclesia was encouraging the 'devil' of their evil hearts,
whilst a conscious resisting of the Judaizers' inroads and of
the fleshly heart would lead to those things fleeing. More comment
upon 1 Pet.5:8 and the relationship between physical and spiritual
trial will be found in Digression 1.
Draw nigh...draw nigh
"Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to
you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts,
ye double minded" (v.8).
The Greek phrase for "draw nigh" is used in the
Septuagint- the N.I.V. for first century Christians- to describe
the priests drawing near to God in the offering of sacrifices
and prayers. The elders were being reminded that they were equivalent
of priests in the new Israel (3)
and therefore had a responsibility to acceptably and reverently
draw near to God on behalf of the congregation, as well as to
accurately expound the word publicly (Mal.2:7; Hos.4:6; see too
comments on 2:9). This drawing near to God in prayer was only
possible through a pure heart and therefore pure hands or actions.
God would only hear their prayers if these things were in order;
which is why the feeling we should have that our prayers are heard
should give us confidence that spiritually we are going the right
way (1 Jn.5:14).
"Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord of hosts, and
I will turn unto you" (Zech.1:3) and "Return unto me, and I will
return unto you" (Mal.3:7) must be the basis for these words of
James. Both these passages are in the context of Israel's restoration
at the time of the second temple; there are a number of other
connections between James and the restoration prophets:
As it was the duty of the priests to convert
the people of Israel by the word (Mal.2:6), so it was too for
the ecclesial elders of the New Israel (James 5:20). But as the
temple was neglected due to bickering, materialism and fleshly
living among the priests, so was the ecclesia of the first century.
The problems of Malachi's time and also those of James were solved
by a coming of the Lord (Mal.3:1,2). Living on the brink of Christ's
return, there must be similarities with the present ecclesial
position. All these types highlight the key position of elders
in influencing the ecclesia, and therefore the standards required
of them. A fair degree of our current ecclesial problems may be
traceable in some measure to our inattention to the importance
of elders' qualifications.
The idea of drawing near may have feint connections
with the day of the Lord in AD70 drawing near; the same Greek
phrase is used in Mt.24:32; Lk.21:20,28; and see notes on 5:8.
The Greek root is 'to squeeze close', which we can do to God by
prayer, and which He will therefore do to us. The parallel in
1 Pet.5:6 says that in response to humbly drawing near to God,
He will "exalt you in due time"- i.e. answer your prayers eventually,
and especially with a place in the Kingdom (cp. "friend come up
higher" at the judgment seat). God's immediate drawing near to
us as a result of our drawing near to Him is therefore not necessarily
in the immediate answering of prayer, but in the sense of peace
with God which we have after acceptably placing our requests before
Him- "by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests
be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all
understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds" (Phil.4:6,7),
even before we receive the answers.
The language of physical movement in verses 7
and 8 paints a fascinating picture of a man walking towards God
("drawing near" is often used in the sense of literal walking),
thereby resisting the devil, and therefore the devil turning tail
and fleeing in the opposite direction. As we walk towards God,
he walks towards us- perhaps alluding to the parable of the prodigal
son, where the man's walking towards the Father is matched by
His running towards him (Lk.15:20), so eager is our God to respond
to any real spiritual effort on our part. The context here in
James 4 is of prayer- the drawing near to God is in prayer.
The idea of cleansing the hands suggests
a link with Is.1, which has other connections with James: "When
ye spread forth your hands (in prayer), I will hide Mine eyes
from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear (as
was happening to these brethren): your hands are full of blood.
Wash you, make you clean (cp. "cleanse your hands"); put away
the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes...seek judgment,
relieve the oppressed (what the brethren had not done- James 2:14-16;
5:4), judge the fatherless, plead for the widow (cp. James 1:27-
what they didn't do)...if ye be willing and obedient, ye shall
eat the good of the land (i.e. inherit the Kingdom): but if ye
refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword" (AD70;
Is.1:15-20). These scattered members of the Jerusalem ecclesia
were therefore being equated with the "sinners in Zion" at the
time of Sennacherib's Assyrian invasion; it was in their capacity
to enable the Kingdom to be established in AD70, but if they continued
in sin both they and Jerusalem along with natural Israel would
be destroyed. Sadly they chose the latter, and their counterparts
in Hezekiah's time made such a shallow reformation that they only
succeeded in deferring judgment. The Greek word 'katharizo' is
often used for the 'cleansing' of leprosy; the Lord likened the
Pharisees to cups that needed cleansing, i.e. the cups were defiled
by leprosy and needed purification; His description of Jerusalem's
destruction stone by stone recalled the method of destroying a
leprous house. The Jewish system was leprous because inwardly
it was defiled; externally it looked fine (Mt.23:26). It was their
fleshly way of thinking that was the real leprosy, and this is
also the context here in James 4:6; the cleansing of actions is
parallel to purifying a double-minded heart, because in James
the thoughts of the heart and actions, especially words, are treated
Washing the heart
Cleansing or purifying ('washing')
the heart suggests Jer.4:14, which is also in the context of the
impending destruction of Jerusalem: "O Jerusalem (ecclesia!),
wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How
long shall thy vain (cp. 2:20 "vain man") thoughts lodge within
thee?". The parallels between these belieevers and apostate Israel
areunmistakable. "Purify" is often used about Mosaic purification
(Jn.11:55; Acts 21:24 etc.)- cp. the idea of cleansing being associated
with the Law's commandments about leprosy. This purification by
washing comes from "the wisdom that is from above (that) is...pure"
(3:17)- i.e. the word, "the washing of water by the word" (Eph.5:26),
which is the new covenant's equivalent to the purification process
performed in the laver. For this reason John Thomas translates
Titus 3:5 as "the laver of regeneration", cp. "the washing of
regeneration...of the Holy Spirit", in the word.
"Purify your hearts, ye double minded" implies
that having a mind which was only semi-spiritual was as bad as
being totally defiled and needing cleansing. It looks back to
the description of those who had only semi-faith in prayer as
"double-minded" in 1:8. Here in chapter 4 the context is the same
(see notes on 4:1-3). Thus James is saying in 1:6-8 'Ask for wisdom,
the spiritual strength from the word, in full faith, not the double-minded
prayers you have been making for your pleasures ("lusts", 4:3)'.
See notes on 1:8 for more on "double minded".
"Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your
laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to heaviness"
This exhortation to weeping and the general theme
of making a repentance from the heart recalls Jesus' desperate,
11th hour call to repentance to avoid judgment on Jerusalem. "Turn
ye even to me (cp. "draw nigh to God") with all your heart (cp.
"ye double minded"), and with fasting, and with weeping, and with
mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments (cp. their
hypocrisy- James 3:17)...who knoweth if He will turn and repent
(of the planned judgments on Israel, natural and spiritual)?...let
the priests (cp. the ecclesial elders of James)...weep" (Joel
2:12-17). Joel 2 goes on to describe the judgments of AD70 in
verses 30-32- according to Peter's quotation of them in Acts 2.
The double emphasis on mourning in this verse
suggests reference to Mt.5:4 "Blessed are they that mourn, for
they shall be comforted". This would mean that James interpreted
this group of people as those mourning in repentance for their
sins, receiving the comfort (Greek 'parakleo'- drawing near) of
closeness to God. The idea of God drawing near has been seen in
the preceding verse- "Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to
you". Again, the encouragement James' readers got from his words
was proportionate to their ability to pick up these definite connections
with other passages. To him that has spiritual talents of understanding
the word, more will be given. James could have said 'Jesus basically
said, "mourn and I will draw near to you", so mourn in repentance
and this is how God through Christ will draw near to you, as I
have just spoken about in v.8'. But instead we have to be sensitive
to the two mentions of mourning here in v.9, recognize this is
one of the many references back to the sermon on the mount, and
appreciate the similarity of meaning between 'comforted' in Mt.5:4
and "draw nigh" in v.8. That the connection with Mt.5:4 is valid
is confirmed by the Greek word for "joy" in James 4:9 only occurring
elsewhere in Lk.6:25, which is effectively repeating Mt.5:4: "Woe
unto you that laugh now! For ye shall mourn and weep". "Mourn
and weep" is repeated in James 4:9.
Emblems- of what?
There seems fair reason to believe
that the riotous merry making mentioned here occurred at the Breaking
of Bread. 1 Cor.11 rebukes some at the Corinth ecclesia (which
included Jews, and was probably in receipt of James' letter, therefore)
for getting drunk at the communion service. Similarly Peter and
Jude warn of those brethren who 'feasted' at the love feast (Breaking
of Bread). The Greek in Jude 12 means to revel or be sumptuous,
and describes those guilty as "feeding themselves without fear".
This word for "feeding" specifically means to shepherd- as if
it were the ecclesial elders or shepherds who were particularly
guilty of these abuses. Thus James is saying that they ought to
be mourning and weeping in repentance at the Breaking of Bread
rather than revelling.
If this is what James is meaning, some important
practical issues emerge. Firstly, sorrow and an apparently long
face are to be expected from many of us who inevitably feel the
need for repentance burning keenly as we face the supreme dedication
and holiness of Christ on the cross. There seems far too much
criticism of those who do "weep and mourn" in their souls with
a spirit of heaviness (cp. Is.61:3; James 4:9) at the memorial
service. How can any of us tell another to be more happy or look
more cheerful without knowing the nature of their relationship
with God in the past few days? For such an intensity of self-knowledge
and repentance to occur, there must be a fair period of time for
reflection and self-examination- not just the odd minute as we
wait for the emblems to reach us. The "feast of charity" referred
to in Jude 12 would have been a replica of the last supper- a
whole meal of fellowship followed by the specific taking of the
bread and wine.
"Afflicted" means 'to realize ones own misery'
(Strong) and only occurs elsewhere in Rom.7:24 and Rev.3:17. Romans
7 and 8 have been alluded to previously in the letter, and Rom.7:24
is describing the wretchedness Paul felt due to appreciating how
sinful his innate evil desires really were. This marvellously
fits the context of James 4, where he is advising them to analyze
their own evil hearts more and appreciate their inherent sinfulness.
By doing so they would feel "wretched" or "afflicted". The Laodiceans
were perhaps another ecclesia with a Jewish element to whom James
was also writing; they certainly had the same problems of materialism
and a lukewarm, semi-spirituality. The Lord criticized them for
not knowing that they were wretched, i.e. not examining the wretchedness
of their own evil desires enough. The idea of wretchedness is
similar, although not linguistically connected, to the descriptions
of the rejected at the day of judgment, writhing in the pain of
self-hate, realizing for the first time the degree of their inherent
sinfulness. If we judge ourselves now, i.e. examine ourselves
and realize we are worthy of condemnation (judgment- Mt.7:1),
then we will not be judged (1 Cor.11:31).
They were to "turn" their revelling into sorrow;
a word which means basically 'to pervert'- e.g. the Judaizers
perverted (same word) the Gospel of Christ (Gal.1:7). This would
imply that as they had perverted the Gospel, they were to 'pervert'
it back again; they had spiritually justified their laughter and
revelling by this perversion.
"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord,
and He shall lift you up" (v.10).
The parallel in 1 Pet.5:6 indicates that this
lifting up is at the judgment seat: "Humble yourselves therefore
under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you (same Greek
as "lift you up" in James) in due time", i.e. in the future, at
the judgment (cp. "come up higher" in the wedding feast parable).
Thus if we examine ourselves to the degree of wretchedly feeling
that we in our own strength will be only worthy of condemnation,
then as we will be lifted up from our grovelling before Christ
at the judgment, so He will lift us up now. Luke 21:36 seems to
refer to this lifting up at the judgment: "Pray always...to be
stood before the Son of man"- by the Angel gently lifting us up
from the ground at Christ's feet, as He did to Daniel in his acting
out of our experience at the judgment (Dan.10:8-19).
The humbling of self spoken of in verses 6 and
7 was in the context of being humble in prayer. The lifting up
which comes as a result of this we have shown to be our exaltation
in the Kingdom. Thus by reason of having our prayers heard, especially
those for the gift of the understanding of the word (4:6 cp. 1:17,18;
3:17), it is as if we are exalted in prospect into places in the
Kingdom. Thus 1 Jn.5:14 says that the confidence we have of acceptance
at the judgment is based on our prayers being answered now.
James 1:9 spoke of the humble brother rejoicing
in that he is exalted ("lifted up" in 4:10). The context there
was of having prayers for wisdom heard (1:5,6). The rich man's
wavering prayers (1:6 cp. 4:14) were unheeded compared to those
of the poor. Thus the poor brother being "lifted up" was through
his prayers being answered. Now in 4:10 James is again telling
the rich elders to humble themselves like the poor brethren so
that they too could be lifted up. The emphasis in 1:9 and 4:10
is on God lifting us up (same word as "exalting"). This must look
back to the repeated warnings in the Gospels about exalting oneself
(Lk.14:11; 18:14; Mt.23:12), often referring to the Jews who did
this. The man of sin, which must have reference to both Jewish
and Roman systems of apostasy, also "exalteth himself" (2 Thess.2:4).
The Jewish characteristic of spiritual self-exaltation was therefore
seen in these Jewish brethren.
There is a parallel between verses 6 and 10;
God "giveth grace unto the humble" (v.6) and lifts them up (v.10).
The giving of grace we have interpreted as giving the answer to
prayer, and especially in the gift of wisdom from the word; this
equates with being lifted up with a place in the Kingdom. Thus
to an extent we are in the Kingdom now in prospect (See Digression
4), through experiencing the gifts of the word and answered prayer.
"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" (v.11).
James now speaks specifically of one particular
manifestation of their evil desires and the things which militated
against their prayers being answered, namely evil speaking and
condemning the poor brethren. This is the same thing as noted
in 3:9,10, where we saw that they cursed these brethren with the
excuse that they were doing it under the inspiration of God.
Their evil speaking was due to not letting the
word curb their evil desires; they were thus effectively judging
the word, saying that their own natural spirit was superior to
that holy Spirit provided by a humble response to the word. Similarly
they effectively thought that the Scriptures' warning against
the natural lust of our heart was "vain" (4:5). Note that speaking
evil of the brother and speaking evil of the law are equated,
implying that the brethren they were slandering had the word in
them. The parallel passage in 1 Pet.2:1,2 says that the antidote
to "evil speakings" was to "desire the sincere milk of the word"
as newborn spiritual babes- strong medicine for ecclesial 'elders',
who probably had the gift of prophecy. Possession of the miraculous
gifts did not force them to desire the true spirit of the word
(4). Speaking evil is equivalent
to condemning or spiritually killing a brother, according to James-
no doubt basing his reasoning on that of the Lord, that to hate
your brother was to kill him (Mt.5:21,22).
James saw the Mosaic command not to kill your
brother as meaning 'do not condemn' under the New Covenant. Therefore
to do so was to speak evil of "the law" both of Moses and Christ.
The Lord also said that to call your brother a "Fool" was as bad
as condemning or killing him. The Greek for "fool" implies someone
who has been shut out of a certain knowledge; the word is invariably
used in the New Testament regarding someone lacking in the true
knowledge of God. There does seem to be a definite reference to
Mt.5:21,22, and therefore James would be implying that the Jewish
elders were accusing the others of not having their true knowledge
of God (due to their gift of prophecy, they may have argued?)
and therefore being condemned by God. By doing so they were speaking
evil of the word which the other brethren had received, which
was enough to make them spiritually wise ("the wisdom that is
from above", 1:17,18 cp. 3:17) and not fools, as the elders accused
them of being. The elders were not denying that the others had
received part of the word, but were saying that without having
the knowledge which they claimed to have, these brethren were
fools, i.e. 'judged' or condemned. This spiritual superiority
due to supposed additional revelation is a common characteristic
of the descriptions of the Judaizers and their followers: Rev.
2:24, "the (pseudo) depths of (the Jewish) satan"; Jude 10; 1
Cor.1:17-21; 2:1-7; 3:18,19; 2 Cor.11:19; Rom.1:22; 12:16. Jude
19 describes these brethren as separating themselves, falsely
claiming to have the Spirit, although they still attended the
communion service to spread their false ideas (v.12); thus their
separating of themselves was not in a physical sense, but an elitism
due to their claim to have superior Spirit-given knowledge. Even
today it is possible for there to be spiritual elitism from thinking
that we have a deep understanding of the Spirit word which others
are not yet able to appreciate.
This verse 11 seems to consciously refer back
to 2:5-16. Speaking evil of "the law" by evil speaking about the
brethren is probably based on 2:8,9: "Respect to persons (breaks)...the
royal law according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour
as thyself". The chapter 2 passage mentions the oppression of
the poor brethren before the "judgment seats" of the eldership
(2:6), and the subsequent turning down of their welfare requests
(2:16), as examples of breaking the royal law. That same law was
being broken by the elders falsely accusing and condemning their
brother, according to 4:11. Thus these elders were trying to act
like Christ in His role as judge, and were bringing false accusation
against the brethren and subsequently condemning them, as an excuse
not to provide them with their basic needs, and to withhold their
legitimate wages (5:4).
Law makers and breakers
The judges of Israel under the Mosaic
Law were those "to whom the word of God came", and yet they were
condemned for judging unjustly, accepting the persons of the wicked
(cp. saying to the well dressed man 'sit here', 2:3), not defending
the poor and fatherless (the Jewish ecclesial elders also neglected
these; 1:27) and not delivering the poor and needy (cp. 2:15,16;
4:5). Despite being inspired with the word of God "they know not,
neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness" (Jn.10:34-36;
Ps.82:1-5). James is making a very apt comparison between these
judges and the Jewish eldership, who had become so obsessed with
being the equivalent of these judges in the new Israel that they
had come to think that their personal doing of the law was not
important. Similarly those today who publicly expound the word
can become 'judges' rather than doers. That they judged the law
may even imply that they set up their personal ideas as being
greater and more inspired than the word of God itself, and maybe
even 'judged' or condemned part of the word which conflicted with
their personal 'wisdom'. Being a doer of the law must be another
allusion to Romans: "not the hearers of the law are just before
God, but the doers of the law shall be justified" (Rom.2:13).
This is again in the context of Paul's rebuke of the Jewish thinking
that by being Jews and having heard the Law they were justified;
and this also connects with the argument in James 2:20 that holding
"the faith" must be accompanied by works, and being "doers of
the word, and not hearers only" (1:22,23).
"There is one lawgiver, who is able to save
and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?" (v.12).
The stress on one lawgiver suggests,
in harmony with our previous comments, that the elders were making
new laws under the claim of inspiration, and were using these
to condemn their brethren. Note how the evil speaking which began
as a result of the word not controlling their thoughts led them
to condemn others, contrary to the clear law of Christ (Mt.7:1),
and having effectively disregarded the word their next step was
to literally add to it. They had already done this in effect by
trying to Biblically justify their wrong actions (5).
The phrase "there is one lawgiver" would have rung bells in every
Jewish mind concerning Moses the lawgiver. Again their likening
of themselves to Moses is being condemned (see notes on 3:10).
However, the ultimate lawgiver is God, who is "able to...destroy"
soul and body (alluding to Mt.10:28). The fact that God's ability
to save and destroy in Gehenna at the judgment (n.b. the Mt.10:28
allusion) is chosen out of all His powers, shows that the elders
were specifically claiming that they had the power to make the
decision of salvation or destruction, and that the judgment panel
which they formed to judge the poor brethren was rated by them
as an exact equivalent to Christ's judgment seat at the second
coming. The extent of their blasphemy of the word of God which
they claimed justified them in all this is hard to comprehend.
This verse has clear reference to Rom.14:4:
"Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? To his own master
he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is
able to make him stand". We have seen in 4:10 the idea of being
lifted up at the day of judgment. Thus Paul in Romans is also
using 'judging' in the sense of spiritually condemning, and is
saying that the brethren doing such judgment were usurping Christ's
position as the judge, saying they were the master of
the servants. Therefore Paul says that such condemned brethren
will be justified by being lifted up to acceptance at the true
judgment seat. The similarity of the situation suggests strongly
that Romans and James were written to the same readership, and
that their writers expected the readers to make connections between
the letters- due to the same spirit inspiring both writers. The
context in Rom.14:3 is judging (i.e. condemning) your brother
due to his attitude to the Mosaic food laws and the Sabbath. Those
who were doing the judging were "him that eateth not"- i.e. the
Judaizers who wanted a move back to the Jewish laws. The connections
between Romans and James are such that we can safely say that
the group who were doing the judging in James are identical to
the group of Judaizers in Romans. Thus the group of Jewish elders
James writes to were almost definitely either Judaizers or Judaist
influenced. The connections with James would explain why Rom.14:10-13
stresses so much that the judge at the judgment seat is God through
Christ, rather than men. The importance of this can be appreciated
far more once it is recognized that the Jewish eldership were
claiming to have an inspired command from God to set up judgment
seats and judge to condemnation on Christ's behalf.
The situation is made the more fascinating when
we appreciate that the power of the Spirit was available to the
apostles and possibly some elders to inflict physical sickness
as a punishment- e.g. Peter could strike Ananias and Sapphira
dead, Christ would threaten to strike down false teachers (Rev.2:23;
22:18); Peter could threaten many (unrecorded) physical curses
that he could bring upon Simon for his blasphemy (Acts 8:24);
Paul could make Elymas blind (Acts 13:9-11) (6).
It is probable that the gift of healing was largely used to cure
such people after their repentance, and this is the basis of James
5:15 (see note there). It would appear that the Jewish elders
were claiming some kind of similar authority.
"Go to now (N.I.V. "Now listen"- i.e. to the
true word of God), ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will
go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and
sell, and get gain" (v.13).
The two references to "Go to" in James (here
and 5:1) suggest immediately the one other place where this idiom
is used- it occurs three times in five verses in Gen.11:3-7 concerning
the building of Babel. There is good reason to believe that Babel
represented the apostate Jewish system of worship. "A city and
a tower" of Gen.11:4 points forward to Jerusalem and the Jewish
system having a tower in the midst of its vineyard (Is.5:2; Mt.21:33).
All Jewish temples were built with the help of Gentile labour,
as Babel was built by all nations collected together in one purpose.
Babel and Shinar are the basis of Babylon in Scripture, and the
descriptions of Babylon in Revelation have many echoes of the
Jewish system. The scattering abroad of Babel all over the earth
corresponds to God's Angelic 'coming down' on Jerusalem in AD70
and the subsequent scattering of the Jews world-wide. We have
seen previously that James very much has the events of AD70 in
mind, and the use of the phrase "go to" would be another reminder
that unless the Jewish believers repented of their materialism
and other unspirituality, then both natural and spiritual Jerusalem
would be severely punished- as indeed happened to both of them.
We have shown earlier that this verse primarily
refers to the itinerant Jewish traders within the ecclesia. 2
John 7-11 (also written to a Jewish audience?) also speaks of
itinerant preachers who were likely to have serious doctrinal
errors. The Jews with whom they mixed in such travelling would
not have been wholesome spiritual company. Indeed, it was "Vagabond"
(Greek 'strolling') Jews who stirred up trouble for the believers
(Acts 19:13). These brethren blatantly, proudly talked of their
business plans, glorying in not saying 'God willing' (so v.15,16
implies). This was probably because they believed that they no
longer personally had to keep the law (v.11), and that they were
justified by reason of knowing the truth and being Jews by birth
(2:20 and cp. Romans 6:1).
Sections of the letter?
The sudden switch of subject away from
judging brethren to that of crazy materialism calls for an explanation.
It seems that the letter of James criticizes the believers for
increasingly serious things, with a corresponding increase in
punishment from God. The sections can be categorized as follows:
1:1-12 Semi-faith in prayer from lack of attention
to the word due to materialism
1:13-27 Falsely blaming God for temptation,
hard speaking to brethren, and neglect of the fatherless and
widows in the ecclesia due to brief, meaningless self-examination
and not being sensitive to the word.
2:1-13 Preference to the rich in the ecclesia,
condemning the poor brethren, saying some parts of the word
2:14-26 Saying external works and technical
holding of the Truth justified a man, and that lack of real
spiritual effort can be Biblically justified.
3:1-4:12 Total unrestraint of the evil heart
and its words, saying this was unnecessary for them. Claiming
to be inspired with new revelation from God which replaced parts
of the Bible and justified them totally.
4:13-5:6 Sinking into total materialism, throwing
off all sense of subjection to God, effectively crucifying Christ
5:7-20 Subsequently being struck with physical
sickness to try to lead them to repentance; final destruction
at the Lord's 'coming' in AD70 and the holocaust for natural
and spiritual Israel which followed.
If this analysis is correct, then these separate
parts of the letter would have been sent at different times- hence
4:13 "Go to now". How many of us are in the first category
discussed in 1:1-12? If our attention to the word continues to
slip, it is only a matter of time before the ecclesia of the last
days drops into the categories lower down the list. It has been
suggested (7) that the letter
of James is a series of exhortations given to or at the Jerusalem
ecclesia and then circulated. This would fit in with the pattern
One day at a time
"Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow.
For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for
a little time, and then vanisheth away" (v.14).
In view of the Jewish and Christian persecution
which the parallel letter of Peter speaks of, they especially
could not plan on predicting the future without God's help. Their
travelling from city to city trading was probably enforced by
the persecution. The Greek for "buy and sell" in v.13 means specifically
to trade whilst travelling around, as a pedlar. Thus in their
spiritual arrogance they were saying that their travelling around
was done by their own spiritually correct decision, which obviated
the need to say 'God willing'. They probably showed off their
plans to the poor labouring brethren, as if they knew by direct
inspiration what would be on the morrow. There must also be reference
back to Christ's commands about not worrying about tomorrow because
God would provide- "take therefore no (anxious) thought for the
morrow" (Mt.6:34). If James had this in mind, then he was saying
that he knew that in their evil heart they were worrying in a
God-forsaking way about tomorrow, which they justified by saying
that they had inspired knowledge of the future and the profit
they would make, and therefore showed this off with a false air
of confidence to the poorer brethren. Again, these brethren are
reminded of the need to remember their true nature: "For what
is your life?" (cp. 4:14).
The description of life as a vapour appears to
be an allusion to Job 7:7: "O remember that my life is wind".
Thus James is asking them to learn the lesson of Job, as he does
in 5:11; to come to a true understanding of the weakness of human
nature through responding in humility to the trials of life, and
to the knowledge of God directly provided by Him. Again , as in
2:3 (see notes there) these brethren are being compared to Job,
as they are again in chapter 5; as with him, physical trial was
brought upon them in order for them to learn humility and the
lessons concerning human nature and its relation to a holy God,
which previously they had been unwilling to learn. Digression
6 further explores the links between Job and Jewish believers.
"For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will,
we shall live, and do this, or that "(v.15).
"To say" implies that there should have been
a verbal statement, publicly heard, of their recognition of the
Lord's will in their lives. Their need to say that they would
live if it was the Lord's will shows the extremely temporary nature
of their lives at that time of persecution. Despite such tribulation,
their hearts were so hardened against the true influence of the
word that they were not made more sensitive to God's hand in their
lives, but rather were hardened into thinking that in their own
strength and wisdom, which they imagined was God-given, they would
weather the present crisis.
The Lord's "will" here is the Lord's desires
and wishes, not necessarily the pre-determinate "will" of God
(8). The parallel letter of
Peter emphasizes that the will of God was what controlled their
present persecution (1 Pet.2:15; 3:17; 4:19), and that they should
seek to do God's will by overcoming the natural will of the flesh
(1 Pet.4:2,3) by the word of God, which contains the will of God
(1 Pet.1:23; 2 Pet.1:21 cp. Jn.1:13). Putting together these ideas,
the message seems to be that it was the same will of God that
they needed to get inside their hearts, to overcome the will of
the flesh, which was also bringing their tribulations, implying
that God was developing their response to the word through their
persecutions. James is therefore saying that they should recognize
the will, the desires, the purpose of God behind their persecution
from city to city, which was to develop in them a more truly spiritual
mind. But by effectively saying that God's will or desires were
irrelevant to them, they were denying themselves the opportunity
to be spiritually developed by their sufferings. Lack of attention
to what God is willing or desiring in our own trials can similarly
lead to them being in vain for us too.
That they should say "we shall live" if the Lord
will suggests that they thought that their lives were protected
from harm, or that they had some inherently indestructible element
to them; hence the reminder in the previous verse that their life
was only a brief vapour, as opposed to the more permanent 'immortal
soul' they perhaps almost believed in as a result of the Roman/
Judaist philosophical influence upon them.
The amazing thing is that despite these brethren's
progressively worse problems in their doctrine and way of life,
James continues to patiently reason with them, leading on towards
his final appeal for repentance in Chapter 5.
"But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all
such rejoicing is evil" (v.16).
We have previously commented on how their blatant
rejoicing in their sin was due to their reasoning that it was
impossible that they could sin- hence "all such..is evil".
Similarly the Judaist element at Corinth rejoiced in the fact
that there was a division in the ecclesia between the Paul and
Apollos factions (1 Cor.4:6,7), and that they retained in fellowship
a brother who had brazenly committed incest for all to see (1
Cor. 5:6); this all shows the same mentality, of openly rejoicing
in the freedom that they believed they had from all moral and
spiritual constraints. "Rejoice" really means to glory or boast,
which means that it had to be done to someone else. To boast that
they did not need to say "If the Lord will" about their plans
would not have made many eyes turn in the world generally; therefore
it is more likely that they were boasting to the poor brethren
whom they had spiritually condemned, saying that the superior
revelation which they had received enabled them to have freedom
from that kind of spiritual requirement which the poor brethren
needed to obey.
"Boastings" occurs only three times elsewhere,
and each time it is in the context of false Judaist reasoning.
Rom.1:30 describes how Israel in the wilderness (see Digression
11, 'Israel and Romans 1'), and also the last day Jewish ecclesias,
were "boasters". If this means spiritually boastful, then it implies
that the rejected generation in the wilderness thought up ways
to spiritually justify themselves; hence Rom.1:30 goes on to describe
"inventors of evil things", i.e. the alternative tabernacle system
of worship that they created and carried with them, based around
their idols (Acts 7:43,44). 2 Tim.3:2 describes the boastful infiltrators
of the ecclesias in the last days (2 Tim.3:6), who had once known
the Truth (2 Tim.3:5 cp. Rom. 2:20; 2 Tim.1:13) but through their
claims to superior knowledge and revelation ( 2 Tim.3:7) and giving
way to their corrupted natural mind ( 2 Tim.3:8) were "reprobate
concerning the faith". This very well describes the Judaist brethren
to whom James was writing.
"Boasting" also occurs in 1 Jn.2:16 translated
"pride": "All that is in the world (the Jewish world- so the phrase
normally means in John's writings), the lust of the flesh, and
the lust of the eye, and the pride (boasting) of life, is not
of the Father (as the Judaists were claiming?), but is of the
world. And the world passeth away" (in AD70). We have suggested
that this boasting of life was a spiritual boasting by the Jews
that they were blessed with superior wisdom and justification
with God. 1 Jn.2:16 is looking back to Eve's sin in Eden (Gen.3:6)-
she saw that the fruit of the tree of knowledge was good for food
(the lust of the flesh), pleasant to the eyes (lust of the eyes)
and to be desired to make one wise (pride of life). The Jews'
desire for worldly wisdom was like Eve in Eden (9).
Her motivation for taking the fruit would therefore have been
that of spiritual pride, the desire to boast to her husband that
she was now under no restrictions at all and had a wisdom equal
to that of God. Exactly the same was true of the first (and twentieth?)
Knowing the good
"Therefore to him that knoweth to do good,
and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (v.17).
This indicates that these elders knew what they
should be doing but consciously chose not to. In the light of
their false claims to inspiration and the despicable doctrine
and practice which they followed, it seems incredible that they
could still have a knowledge of the real truth within them; and
yet such is the deceit of the human heart that such doublemindedness
can easily occur.
There may be a reference here back to Lk.12:47:
he that "knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither
did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes".
James 4:15 has spoken about their conscious disregard of their
Lord's will. Thus v.17 is saying 'You know God's will and you
know that you should show your recognition of it publicly- but
you don't'. Lk.12:48 goes on to say that knowing the Lord's will
is the same as being given much- which the Jewish elders had been
by having the miraculous Spirit gifts.
The phrasing of "to him that knoweth..to him
it is sin" implies that not all James' readership did have that
knowledge- because they had become so hardened in their belief
that their attitudes were correct, that they no longer had the
knowledge of the truth? "To him it is sin" implies that there
were some without knowledge to whom their lack of doing good would
not be reckoned as sin- i.e. although all unrighteousness is sin,
no matter who commits it, "sin" is reckoned to the person who
has the knowledge of what he ought to be doing. This is another
of the many indications that an ongoing record is kept of our
actions or lack of them, so that our failure to do an action that
we know we should is counted as sin to us at a certain moment
The language of physical movement is often used concerning temptation
and our natural desires.
There are several examples of the Mosaic Law being associated
with the 'devil' in the sense of our evil desires; it is even
spoken of as "the law of sin and death"; by the very fact that
it was perfect, it condemned man as a sinner worthy of death.
also notes on 2:1 and 5:2,4.
Compare this with Saul's possession of the gifts, and also the
judges of Israel: Jn.10:34-36 cp. Ps.82:1-5.
disobeying the law of God is effectively adding to it was clearly
brought home to Israel: "What thing soever I command you, observe
to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it" (Dt.12:32).
The command to Joshua to "observe to do according to all the law...turn
not from it to the right hand or to the left" (Josh.1:7) is probably
reiterating the command not to add ("to the right") or subtract
("to the left") from the law. Cp. also Rev.22:18,19, which is
based on these passages.
Similarly in the Old Testament Zechariah had power to kill three
false shepherds (priests) of Judah in one month (Zech.11:3,8).
Note too the equation of repentance and deliverance from physical
illness in Is.33:24: "The inhabitant shall not say, I am sick:
(because) the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven".
H.A.Whittaker, 'Seven Short Epistles', Biblia, 1990.
are different original words used for these two types of "will"s.
also how Eve's covering of glossy fig leaves that would soon fade
points forward to the inadequate sin covering of the law, replaced
by the slaying of the lamb. See also 2 Cor.11:3.