The General Epistle of James (Part 17)

Chapter 4. vs. 1-5. A. Consider the dynamics which James addressed in this epistle relative to class differential. 1. There were rich of high degree and poor of low degree. JAM 1:9-10. 2. Partiality was being shown to the rich. JAM 2:1-4. 3. The wicked rich were oppressing the poor at law and in employment. JAM 2:6; 5:4-6. 4. The worldly-wise were given to envy and strife. JAM 3:14-16. 5. The worldly-wise who were not rich wanted a bigger slice of life but rather than acquire it by godly means like prayer, godliness and diligence for God's glory, they were doing whatever they thought necessary, including fighting, warring, killing. vs. 2-3. 6. Love of riches is a problem for both the worldly rich and the worldly poor. 1TI 6:9-10. 7. Too many had their affection set on earthly things, not heavenly. COL 3:1-2. a. Their mentality was hedonistic (the satisfaction of human desire is the highest good). b. The word “lusts” in v. 1 and v. 2 translates “hedone” (Strong's G2237) which means “sensual delight, pleasure” and is translated “pleasures” in LUK 8:14; TIT 3:3; HEB 11:25. 8. In the rat-race to get ahead in life at any cost, some were laughing about their success (vs. 8-9) and rejoicing in their boasting of future gain. JAM 4:13-16. 9. In view of the warnings of Christ and the apostles about coming judgment for the Jewish people at large, and that judgment begins at the house of God (1PE 4:17) the prophecy of ISA 22:12-14 would have been still appropriate. 10. “It seems not unlikely, when we remember the low and carnal conceptions of the nature of the Messianic kingdom which had taken possession of the Jews universally, that something of this evil leaven wrought still even among the converts to Christianity, and that thus, here and there, among the poorer members of the churches, there was discontent with their position, as being unsuitable for the friends of Messiah the Prince, and consequent murmuring both against God and against their wealthier brethren.” (Rev. Robert Johnstone, LL.B., Lectures Exegetical and Practical on The Epistle of James, pp. 295-296) B. James continues with his theme of relating things to their appropriate source: “From whence come wars and fightings among you?...” (v. 1). 1. Strife amongst brethren is obviously not born of the heavenly wisdom which is pure and peaceable. JAM 3:17. James 8-24-14 Page 41 2. Their strife was born of earthly wisdom which was sensual and devilish (JAM 3:14-15), the way of natural man, the way of the world with which they were too friendly. v. 4. 3. Mind that James is writing to the Christians of the “...twelve tribes which are scattered abroad...” (JAM 1:1), and therefore the turmoil which was concentrated in Jerusalem and Judea in that season (LUK 21:20-21) was not a wholly satisfactory reason for their strife as brethren. a. This not to say that some of the Jewish Christians could not have been caught up in the factious zealotry and sedition of the times and this ended up being dragged into the churches. b. However, James does not attribute their wars and fightings to love of God and country. 4. Neither were their wars and fightings owing to circumstances or class differential. The spirit of Christ overcomes social differences. COL 3:9-15. 5. The source of their unbrotherly wars and fightings were “...even of your lusts that war in your members” (v. 1). a. These lusts war in the members of our mortal body or flesh wherein dwells the law of sin. ROM 6:12-13; 7:18, 22-25. b. Our fleshly lusts war against the renewed inward man or the soul which delights in God's law. 1PE 2:11. c. The desire for things to which we have no right is the cause of much strife among brethren. C. “...ye kill, and desire to have...” (v. 2). 1. This may have been by manipulation of the legal system by speaking evil against a brother (v. 11) and acquiring a judgment against him (JAM 5:6) so as to seize his wealth, similar to what Ahab and Jezebel had done to Naboth centuries earlier. 1KI 21:12-15. a. In the volatile political climate of the times, it would have been easy for unscrupulous men to betray a brother who had spoken privately against the Roman oppression, receive his estate as a reward, and justify it in their own minds as being for the good of the people. c/w MAR 13:12. b. Such a ploy would have been especially easy where corruption was afoot such as was noted in MIC 7:3. c. That “the law” puts to death an innocent man who has been set up for a fall does not excuse the wicked of the charge of responsibility for the killing. ACT 7:52. 2. This may have been by suing a brother at law to have him cast into debtor's prison where he perished. c/w MAT 18:28-30. a. Brethren are straitly warned against suing one another in the courts of the unbelieving world. 1CO 6:1-8. b. Brethren are also warned against merciless treatment of brethren. JAM 2:13. 3. This may have been by outright murder. Where there is envy, murder is close by. ROM 1:29; GAL 5:21. 4. Much killing is rooted in inordinate desire or greed. PRO 1:10-19; PSA 10:3-11. 5. (MIC 2:1-2) Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand. And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage. 6. There is no sin of which we are not capable when we walk according to the flesh. Paul said that sin wrought in him ALL manner of concupiscence (evil desire). ROM 7:8. D. They wanted to obtain a “better” life (as the flesh measures it) but rather than pursuing that by James 8-24-14 Page 42  godly means, they lusted, fought, warred, killed. 1. They could have asked God for it but they didn't, “...ye have not, because ye ask not” (v. 2). a. Prayer is more effective than carnal warfare. MAT 7:7. b. Prayer avails much to a good end (JAM 5:16); they travailed much to a bad end. 2. When they did ask of God, they did so for the wrong reasons and did not obtain. v. 3. a. This was not seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness that the stuff of life might be added (MAT 6:33) and the kingdom of God is not material. ROM 14:17. b. This was seeking to gratify lusts and doing so is a major hindrance to answered prayer, especially if the request is really looking for God's blessing upon sinful methods. ISA59:1-2. c. Prayer is not a tool to manipulate God to do our will; it is for seeking and submitting to His will. MAT 6:9-13. d. When we reconcile prayers with God's will, we are assured of good answers. 1JO 5:14-15. e. Faith says, “Give us this day our daily bread” (MAT 6:11) and then proceeds to work diligently, live affordably, avoid debt, save industriously, set aside for God, and give Him the glory. This is correct obtaining. 3. Woe unto those whose lust-oriented prayers are answered! PSA 106:14-15. D. Their way of going about life was friendship of the world. v. 4. 1. Recall that the corruption that is in the world is through lust (2PE 1:4). The way of the world is the pursuit of lusts. 2. We are to not apply but deny worldly lusts. TIT 2:12. 3. Their way was enmity with God since the world is at war with God. ROM 8:7. a. When we do things according to our will, according to the carnal, sensual ways of the world, we make God our enemy. And He fights! ISA 63:10. b. The world will love us and be our friend but not God. c. Doing God's will makes us God's friends. JOH 15:14; JAM 2:23. 4. They were appropriately charged with being adulterers and adulteresses after the sentiment of MAT 12:39. a. As the adulterer is unfaithful to a spouse, so they had been unfaithful to God in seeking fullness in the friendship of the world. b. It is impossible to be friends of both God and the world. MAT 6:24; 12:30. c. The world hates God, Christ and His disciples (JOH 15:18-19, 23) and will not accept you if you do not likewise. d. How foolish it is for churches to court the world's favor by being conformed to it, rather than conforming themselves to God's will! ROM 12:2. E. (JAM 4:5) Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? 1. This is a general conclusion of Scripture's message, like GAL 3:22. 2. Self-willed religion is vain (JAM 1:26) but not the warnings throughout Scripture against lust and envy. 3. Lust of the eyes invited sin's entrance (GEN 3:6); envy invited the first murder. 1JO 3:12. 4. Remember, “...who can stand before envy?” (PRO 27:4). 5. This is the spirit of the world with which we should not be friends. 1CO 2:12.
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