James 4 Bible Commentary

B. W. Johnson’s Bible Commentary

(Read all of James 4)
Control of the Passions.

SUMMARY.--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.

      1-3. Whence come wars and fightings? Peace has been spoken at close of chapter 3, 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 of your own lusts. They are due to insatiate desires. 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. They should have humbly gone to God with their reasonable requests, but the lustful cannot truly pray. 3. Ye ask, and receive not. Some even have prayed for the things which would satisfy their lusts, but God hears not such prayers.

      4, 5. Ye adulteresses. Adulterous spouses of Christ who commit fornication with the world. It is spiritual adultery that is meant. The friendship of the world. 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" (Matt. 6:24). 5. That the scripture saith in vain The reference is to Deut., chapter 32, where God's love and jealousy of his people are described. Long unto envying. Long for our love even to the envy of the worldly objects which have secured it. The Revision suggests the idea, which harmonizes with the thought in verse 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.

      6-10. God giveth more grace. To enable us to overcome our love of the world. Wherefore the scripture saith. Quoted from Prov. 3:34. The passage is quoted to show that the way to secure grace more abundantly is to be humble before the Lord. 7. Submit yourselves therefore to God. To secure his grace abundantly. Resist the devil, etc. He always flees before stout resistance. See the Temptation of Christ. If not hurled back, he presses the attack. 8. Draw nigh to God. 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. 9. Be afflicted, and mourn. Mourn over your sins and sincerely repent of them. 10. Humble yourselves. "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Matt. 23:12).

      11, 12. 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. 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. 12. There is one lawgiver. The lawgiver is God, the Almighty. Shall man judge him? Judgest another? In disobedience to God who made the law which forbids it.

      13-17. Go to now, ye that say. 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. 14. What is your life? Who knows that he will have a to-morrow, since life is like a vanishing vapor? 15. Ye ought to say. The proper way is to plan everything subject to the Lord's will. 16. Ye rejoice in your boastings. It was a boastful manner to use such a language as that of verse 13 in stating plans. 17. To him that knoweth to do good. 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 (as in verse 15). If you know how to do the right and yet do it not the sin is the greater on account of your knowledge."