Bible Study: James 4



What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?

Quarrels – πόλεμος pólemos, occurs 8 times in the N.T.. Translated as wars

Matthew 24:6, “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.” (See also, Mark 13:7; Luke 21:9; Heb. 11:34; Rev. 11:7; 12:7, etc.)
1 Cor. 14:8, “For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?” (NASB “battle” only here)

Conflicts – μάχη máchē, 4 occurrences (2 Cor. 7:5; 2 Tim. 2:23; Titus 3:9; James 4:1), translated as conflicts, quarrels, disputes.

2 Tim. 2:23, “But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.”
Titus 3:9, “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.”

Pleasures – ἡδονή hēdonḗ (hedonism), 5 occurrences in the N.T. (Luke 8:14; Titus 3:3; James 4:1, 3; 2 Pet. 2:13)

Titus 3:3, “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.”
2 Peter 2:13, “suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions as they carouse with you.”

James uses interrogatives a lot. Questions are a great way to examine issues and seek answers.

He asks 21 questions in the book of James.

You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.

The nature of man’s depravity is constantly at war with the truth of God’s holiness.
Lust, murder, envy, fighting, and quarrels are the works of the flesh.
Lust and do not have

Lust and envy are conditions of the heart
Coveting is the root of all sorts of evil. We see what others and what we do not have, so murder is often the result.
This murder can be spiritual. We covet and wish harm upon others to get what they want. We sometimes secretly hate those who have more than what we do. We must be careful.
Matt. 5:21–22, “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 22 “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”
1 John 3:15, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”

Do not have because you do not ask

The present, active, indicative demonstrates the continuous action…of the failure to ask. (present tense means it is happening now. Active voice means the person is doing the action. Indicative means it is a fact.)
Matt. 7:7, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Ask, Seek, and Knock are each the present, active, indicative which signifies the continued state of asking.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

Ungodly prayer

The ‘wrong motives’ are not God-centered andother-centered, but self-centered.
Acquiring things based on ungodly motives in order to seek one’s own pleasure.
Positive confessionists seek to get what they want according to their own pleasures: jets, fancy cars, jewelry. These things perish.

Godly prayer

We should seek what comes from God – which may not be what we expect.
Sometimes what God grants us is painful, disciplinary, or even designed to shape us into better Christians.

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Adulteresses – μοιχαλίς moichalís, occurs 7 times (Matt. 12:39; 16:4; Mark 8:38; Rom. 7:3; James 4:4; 2 Pet. 2:14)

Feminine use here probably refers to the O.T.
Jeremiah 3:20, “Surely, as a woman treacherously departs from her lover, So you have dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel,” declares the LORD.”
Hosea 9:1, “Do not rejoice, O Israel, with exultation like the nations! For you have played the harlot, forsaking your God. You have loved harlots’ earnings on every threshing floor.”
Matthew 12:39, “But He answered and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous [feminine form] generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet.’”

Friend of the world – word κόσμος kósmos, occurs 185 times (Matt. 4:8; Mark 8:36; John 1:9; Rom. 1:8; Eph. 1:4, etc.). Cosmology is the study of the cosmos, the universe.

The word ‘world’, occurs 185 times. It can mean every individual (John 3:16); limited area (Luke 2:1; Acts 11:28; Rom. 1:8); all nations (Matt. 26:13; 1 John 2:2; Rev. 16:14); secular realm (Matt. 5:14; 18:7; John 15:18; 1 Tim. 1:15); earth (Luke 12:30; Acts 17:24; Eph. 1:11)
Here it means the secular realm.

Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us‘?

Scripture – γραφή graphḗ, occurs 51 times in the N.T. (Matt. 21:42; Luke 4:21; John 2:22; Acts 1:16; Rom. 1:2, etc.)
To dwell in us

Exodus 25:8, “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.”
John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John 14:23, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.’

But He gives a greater grace. Therefore, it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Gives greater grace – grace is χάρις, cháris, occurs 155 times in the N.T. (Luke 1:30; 4:22; Acts 11:23; Rom. 3:24; 1 Cor. 1:3, etc.)

We ought not think that grace is a substance that is bestowed by God upon us.
Catholicism says, “The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1999)
Eastern Orthodoxy – Eastern Christendom regards grace as the energies of God which are communicated to people, and which deify them – not that they become divine, but Christlike. “Grace is Christ’s uncreated energy given to us through His love and mercy.” (Nelson, Thomas. The Orthodox Study Bible, p. 1467. Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.)

Opposed to the proud

Pride – ὑπερηφανία, huperēphanía, occurs 5 times in the N.T. (Luke 1:51; Rom. 1:30; 2 Tim. 3:2; James 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5)
Pride is excessive confidence and self-exaltation.

Its source of pride is Satan (Isaiah 14:12-15), the heart (Mark 7:21-23), the world (1 John 2:16)

Satan Isaiah 14:12–15, “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations! 13 But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ 15 Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit.”
The heart Mark 7:21–23, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

The world 1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”

Pride leads to many sins, including destruction (Prov. 16:18), hopelessness (Prov. 26:12), not seeking God (Psalm 10:4), self-deception (Jer. 49:16)

Destruction Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling.”
Hopelessness Proverbs 26:12, “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
Not seeking God Psalm 10:4, “The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him. All his thoughts are, ‘There is no God.’”
Self-deception Jeremiah 49:16, “As for the terror of you, the arrogance of your heart has deceived you…”

Gives grace to the humble

Grace is χάρις cháris and occurs 155 times in the N.T. and, in the NASB, is translated as blessing (2 Cor. 1:15), grace (Luke 2:40; John 1:16-17; Acts 14:3; 1 Cor. 1:3), favor (Luke 1:30; Acts 7:46; Rom. 4:4), credit (Luke 6:32-34), thank (Romans 6:17; 7:25; 2 Timothy 1:3)
This is a phrase to show God’s graciousness to us. But, it is not that we earn it by being humble.
God does respond to the condition of our hearts. If we are arrogant, He doesn’t hear. If we are humble, He does.
Those who are already walking with God and are seeking to be humble before Him (and others) receive more of His gracious kindness.

Pericope worth examining

Luke 18:11–14, “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Submit, therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Because God is gracious to the humble, then submit yourself to God.
This submission to God is voluntary. It is an act of our will. Therefore, it is a choice that we can carry out.
How do we submit to God?

Confess our sins and receive forgiveness through Jesus.
Know your place before God, that you are saved and kept by His grace.

Resist the devil

To submit to God means also means to resist the evil one. We have one Lord, not two.
The banner under which the devil operates is pride, selfishness, and self-righteousness. Therefore, we must be careful not to be prideful, selfish, or self-righteous.
You can resist the devil. Remember spiritual CPR.


Resisting the devil means he will flee

To resist the devil, we must focus on the Lord Jesus. When we do this, the devil will flee.
Two resist the devil means that we resist temptation.

James 1:14–15, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Draw near to God

We draw near to God by faith (Heb. 10:22)
We draw near to God by repentance (Ezek. 14:6; Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21)
We draw near to God by prayer (Job 33:26; Psalm 5:2; Matt. 6:9–13)

He will draw near to you

This is perhaps one of the most important facts for the Christian to understand. If you want to be close to God, then seek Him, and you will find him.
1 Chronicles 28:9, “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.”
Psalm 145:18, “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”
Hebrews 10:21–22, “and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

Cleans your hands

Hands represent our deeds, our interactions with people, with society, etc.

Job 22:30, “He will deliver one who is not innocent, and he will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.“
James 4:8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
Isaiah 33:15, “He who walks righteously and speaks with sincerity. He who rejects unjust gain and shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe. He who stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking upon evil.”

Purify your hearts

Purify your hearts means to purify your inner attitudes.

1 Peter 1:22, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,”
1 John 3:3, “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.

In the process of being humble before God, we are to recognize our sin and the conditions of our fallen hearts.
The context is James speaking about those who are quarrelsome (v. 1), lustful (v. 2), have wrong motives (v. 3), commit spiritual adultery (v. 4), and who are proud (v. 5).
From this context, he tells people to mourn, weep, and let their laughter (mocking laughter) be turned into gloom.
This is because they need to be made aware of their condition. People often mark God and Christians in their sin due to their impurity and hostility towards God (v. 4).
Don’t be like them.

Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

James tells us that instead of being full of quarrels, lust, wrong motives, spiritual adultery, and pride, we should humble ourselves before God.
Notice it says to humble ourselves before His presence. This means we should spend time in prayer. Those in prayer are changed because we are in the presence of God.
In God’s presence, we are naturally humbled in our hearts and open to Him all the more.

Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.

Do not speak against one another

Gossip in condemnation of others is easy for us to do because we often feel justified in doing it. When we are wrong, we want justice for them and grace for ourselves.

We can speak against one another in righteousness.

Lev. 5:1, “Now if a person sins after he hears a public adjuration to testify when he is a witness, whether he has seen or otherwise known, if he does not tell it, then he will bear his guilt.”
1 Cor. 1:11, “For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you.”
2 Tim. 4:14, “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.”
1 Cor. 2:15, “But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.”

Speaks against the law

We can speak against the law by doing what it does not tell us to do, or doing what it condemns.
We can do this by being overly legalistic and overly gracious.

Legalism is too much law.
Overly gracious means to not condemn unrighteousness.

Rom. 14:1, “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.”

There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?

We are not to judge the law by contradicting it because in so doing we are setting ourselves above the law.

But James tells us there is One Lawgiver and One Judge. Leave the judgment to Him.
Be careful about what you willingly harbor in your heart against someone.
It is easy to retain resentment, and with that comes anger and judgment.

Heb. 3:13, “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

As Christians, we are called not to judge people, but to leave judgment to God.
This includes the judgment in the attitudes of condemnation and anger we may have in our hearts towards others.
But, even righteous indignation must be carefully experienced lest we turn it into sin.
Though we may be legitimately wrong, how we handle that offense determines whether or not you are usurping the position of God or not.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.”
Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

James is reminding people of their proper position in the world and thus in relation to God who made the world. Even though they proclaim what they will do and what the outcome will be, James reminds them that they are but vapors.
Our lives are fleeting. One day we will face God.
Therefore, we should prepare our hearts for the future presence of God because, in His presence, we will not boast. In His presence, we will have wished we had done more to humble ourselves while here. We will want to have trusted in Him more than we did.

Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

We must not make rash decisions or proclamations and boast about what we will do.
Furthermore, we must recognize that God is the sovereign king who works all things after the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11). We must submit to His will and not push our own will upon others – or God.
If the Lord wills

‘lord’ = κύριος, kúrios occurs 714 times in the N.T. (Matt. 1:20; John 13:6; Rom. 1:4; Col. 3:23, etc.)
Both our words in the attitudes of our hearts should be , “If the Lord wills.”
Acts 18:21, “but taking leave of them and saying, “I will return to you again if God wills,” he set sail from Ephesus.”
Rom. 1:10, “always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.”
1 Cor. 16:7, “For I do not wish to see you now just in passing; for I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits.”

But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.

People often both in their arrogance. They cannot see their own foolishness, and so they exalt themselves.
They do not see the futility of their desires because they do not have the light of Christ upon their hearts.

Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

In light of what James just said, about the futility of our own sin the guilt of those people who are lustful and prideful and judgmental, they are now without excuse because they know what’s right.
The same with us. We have the light of God’s word and we know what is right.
If we do not do what is right, then we sin.

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