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James 4

Overcoming Evil in Various Forms
James 4

Draws on thread of temptations to sin (ch.1). Centers around “slow to wrath”, then various forms of evil, the sources and remedy.

The Root and Remedy for Sin (4:1-10)

The Flesh and Its Results (vv.1-3)

Three enemies. the flesh (vv.1-3), the world (vv.4-6), and the devil (v.7)

v.1 Internal Source. What is the root of strife? Wars are continuous, fighting is short term. Root is the flesh; desires of fallen human nature from Adam. “Pleasures” at work in bodies, a hostile force. Solemn to realize sin comes from within, desire to please self. Contrast perfect law of liberty.

vv.2-3 How the Flesh Works. Various streams emanate from lust (2 Tim. 3:4). Most basic form is the root of all kinds. “The flesh lusts” (Gal. 5:17; see Rom. 7:7). Flesh is never satisfied: emptiness & dissatisfaction. Feel needs or desires not wrong, but to pursue them in independence is essence of sin. We need dependence, expressed in prayer (v.2). Asking from standpoint of lust is a wrong motive (v.3). Is it for selfish motives? Searching questions.

The World and Separation From It (vv.4-6)

v.4 Adulteresses and Enemies. Broader system associated with lust; the world: set up by men, energized by Satan, men may live independently. Not literal; spiritual adultery. The believer in the subject place (2 Cor. 11:2). God and the world mutually exclusive. God is jealous (Ex. 34:14).

v.5 Scriptures and the Spirit. Scripture forbids the lusts of the flesh God must be serious about it! Spirit indwells, no envy or lust in Him! Offensive to the Spirit.

Five reasons to be separate (v.4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6).

v.6 Government and Grace of God. God makes His mind known by resisting the proud (characteristic of the world), and giving grace to the humble. Whatever the temptation, He gives more grace. Government of God.

The Remedy For Sin: Six Exhortations (vv.8-10)

The Aorist. Once when converted, yet a repeated exercise.

v.7a Subjection to God. The first step. Sin is independence or insubjection. The secret of strength.

v.7b Resisting the Devil. Great enemy. Defeated (Heb. 2:14) yet permitted. Finds flesh “in us”, can act on it, (c.p. John 14:30). Be sober, watchful (1 Pet. 5:8), not afraid. “Resist”, he meets Christ in us. We “flee lusts”, Devil flees us.

v.8a Nearness to God. We draw, He draws, result is communion. Enjoying it preserves from spiritual harm (Ps. 91:1).

v.8b Sanctification. Unbelievers included, forsake sin. Also practical sanctification; moral cleansing. Inside and out.

v.9 Repentance. Begins in a moment, then continues (Luke 15:7). Taking God’s side against ourselves. Effects are described (2 Cor. 7:9-10). A moral change, not intellectual. Taking sin seriously, getting into God’s presence.

v.10 Humility. Not seeking our glory. Pride leads to failure (Prov. 16:18). God will lift us up as objects of His love.

vv.11-16 Two Kinds of Sin

The Sin of Criticizing and Judging (4:11-12)

vv.11-12 Criticizing and Judging. Anything to hurt another, lies or truth. Adds “brethren”, obligation to care. Root is judging: imputing evil motives in what is hidden, usually hypocrisy. He who judges sets himself as judge of the law, because the law is fulfilled by love. Who are we to judge our neighbor when our motive violates God’s standard? We put ourselves in place of the Law-giver. Not putting saints under law, showing their spirit contrary to the spirit of the law. We are to judge (1 Cor. 5:12; 6:2 10:15; 14:29), not to judge (1 Sam. Jn. 7:24; Rom. 14:3; 1 Cor. 4:3).

The Sin of Independence or Boastfulness (4:13-16)

vv.13-16 Independence and Boasting. Faith very practical. Dependence acknowledges the Lord’s will. Boasting betrays independence: leaving God out (Luke 12:18). Sin is independence. We don’t know if we have tomorrow. Parenthesis on the brevity of life. How foolish for mortal man to boast about events a year from now! Make plans, but say, “If the Lord will”. A scriptural expression (1 Cor. 4:19; 16:7). Men celebrate boastfulness. A rebuke for boasting, also for glorying in it. “The world” is characterized by celebration of human independence (c.p. Phil. 2:5-9).

A General Conclusion (4:17)

v.17 Knowledge and Responsibility. Sin is not just doing bad things; also not doing the good you know. “To him it is sin”, responsibility is personal. The more light, the more responsible. Knowledge without practice incriminates.