(Continued from last month)
4. Verses 7-10.
The Holy Spirit now gives the corrective of the sorry condition of the churches described in verses 1-6. Those so sharply rebuked, understanding now the wickedness of their ways, might cry out whether there were any hope for them and any way in which they and the churches might be changed. James says there is a way out and admonishes them to take that way out. Basically, he admonishes them (and us) to repent. Verses 7-10 are a call unto repentance, repentance considered as the act of fleeing sin in sorrow over the sin and seeking after God in love for God. They are to submit to God and to resist the Devil. The implication is that up until now, the Devil has been having his way with them both individually and as churches. As the confusion and warfare in the churches showed, it was the Devil himself who was busy in their midst ruining everything. And they did not have the strength to resist him because they were not in submission to God, that is, they were not humble but proud. The way of salvation for them is the way of drawing near to God. In communion with God is strength, safety and blessedness. They must “draw near” because they have been far away — in friendship with the world. Drawing near to God is an act of the whole man, body and soul, which begins in the heart. And this is the way in which one “draws near” to God: First, he sorrows over his sin (vs. 9). The pleasure he once had in sin is changed into sorrow over that sin. Secondly, he is moved by that sorrow to cleanse his heart. What this consists of, the address, “doubleminded” (literally, “double-souled”), shows. A “double-souled” man is a man who tries to live two lives, one life in the kingdom of heaven and another life in the world. To cleanse the heart means that he renounces the world and seeks only to live the life of a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. Thirdly, having cleansed his heart, he cleanses his hands. This refers to his changing of his outward behavior, his deeds and speech as rooted in his mind and will. Repentance begins in the heart but, if sincere, always includes a change in one’s outward behavior and walk. If these people repent, they will stop fighting. This entire spiritual activity is “humbling oneself before the Lord.” The proud sinner who repents humbles himself and he humbles himself deeply because he prostrates himself before the cross of Jesus Christ and confesses that he has no worth and no value except in that crucified Christ. When one does this, he can no longer murder, envy and fight with his brother,
1) Is anyone able to do what James admonishes in these verses?
2) In what way does our drawing near to God precede His drawing near to us? (Some appeal to this text, vs. 8, as proof that man of himself can and must do something — draw near to God — before God can save him — draw near to man. Man’s will and work become conditions unto his salvation. This would be a good place to discuss the whole notion. Long ago, Calvin faced this false doctrine, in connection with James 4:8, and refuted it:
“But if any one concludes from this passage, that the first part of the work belongs to us, and that afterwards the grace of God follows, the Apostle meant no such thing; for though we ought to do this, yet it does not immediately follow that we can. And the Spirit of God, in exhorting us to our duty, derogates nothing from himself, or from his own power; but the very thing he bids us to do, he himself fulfills in us.” (Calvin, Commentary on James)
3) Is the spiritual activity of verses 7-10 something a child of God does once or constantly?
4) Is any peace possible among men who are not humble before the Lord?