James 4 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of James 4)

Verse 1

[1] From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?

From whence come wars and fightings — Quarrels and wars among you, quite opposite to this peace? Is it not from your pleasures - Your desires of earthly pleasures.

Which war — Against your souls.

In your members — Here is the first seat of the war. Hence proceeds the war of man with man, king with king, nation with nation.

Verse 2

[2] 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.

Ye kill — In your heart, for "he that hateth his brother is a murderer." Ye fight and war - That is, furiously strive and contend.

Ye ask not — And no marvel; for a man full of evil desire, of envy or hatred, cannot pray.

Verse 3

[3] Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

But if ye do ask, ye receive not, because ye ask amiss - That is, from a wrong motive.

Verse 4

[4] 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.

Ye adulterers and adulteresses — Who have broken your faith with God, your rightful spouse. Know ye not that the friendship or love of the world - The desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, and the pride of life, or courting the favour of worldly men, is enmity against God? Whosoever desireth to be a friend of the world - Whosoever seeks either the happiness or favour of it, does thereby constitute himself an enemy of God; and can he expect to obtain anything of him?

Verse 5

[5] Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy

Do you think that the scripture saith in vain — Without good ground. St. James seems to refer to many, not any one particular scripture. The spirit of love that dwelleth in all believers lusteth against envy - Galatians 5:17; is directly opposite to all those unloving tempers which necessarily flow from the friendship of the world.

Verse 6

[6] But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

But he giveth greater grace — To all who shun those tempers.

Therefore it — The scripture.

Saith, God resisteth the proud — And pride is the great root of all unkind affections. Proverbs 3:34

Verse 7

[7] Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Therefore by humbly submitting yourselves to God, resist the devil - The father of pride and envy.

Verse 8

[8] Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

Then draw nigh to God in prayer, and he will draw nigh unto you, will hear you; which that nothing may hinder, cleanse your hands - Cease from doing evil.

And purify your hearts — From all spiritual adultery. Be no more double minded, vainly endeavouring to serve both God and mammon.

Verse 9

[9] Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.

Be afflicted — For your past unfaithfulness to God.

Verse 11

[11] 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.

Speak not evil one of another — This is a grand hinderance of peace. O who is sufficiently aware of it! He that speaketh evil of another does in effect speak evil of the law, which so strongly prohibits it.

Thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge — Of it; thou settest thyself above, and as it were condemnest, it.

Verse 12

[12] There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?

There is one lawgiver that is able — To execute the sentence he denounces.

But who art thou — A poor, weak, dying worm.

Verse 13

[13] Go to 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:

Come now, ye that say — As peremptorily as if your life were in your own hands.

Verse 15

[15] For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

Instead of your saying — That is, whereas ye ought to say.

Verse 17

[17] Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

Therefore to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not — That knows what is right, and does not practise it.

To him it is sin — This knowledge does not prevent, but increase, his condemnation.