Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Hamburg Bible Study material on James 4:1-7
James 4 continues from the previous chapter that deals with some dangers of an uncontrolled tongue and ungodly wisdom. This lesson on James 4 focuses on dealing with personal and practical issues that in the opinion of the writer brings about conflicts and divisions in our relationship with God and other people. It is important to observe that as it did happen in the churches of James’ day, so it is in contemporary churches and any human society. Wherever people come together, conflicts, that is wars and fightings, quarrels, factions, and forms of evil deeds are present. This study on James 4:1-7 identifies three enemies of true love that we must deal with.
1. Overcoming the enemy of the fleshly desires (James 4:1-3)
In James 4:1-3, James identifies a sensual or carnal battle that believers are to deal with. The fact that James wrote to believers of his time suggests that this is a battle that we are all to deal with, even after we are being saved (James 4:1). To James, fights and quarrels come from their desires that battle within them. James’ reference to desire (lust) here does not necessarily mean sexual passion. Instead, it denotes fleshly desires. That is the fallen nature of humankind. Strife, war, fight and many conflicts throughout history come from these carnal desires.
James’ use of the phrase, to kill, figurately means to hate. Being envious and jealous of others can lead us to kill our relationship with them and to gossip about them. This serves as our tendency to kill their reputation in that we become so unhappy because they are ahead of us. Also, to James, the reason his readers do not have is because they do not ask or they ask with wrong motives of having their passions satisfied.
It is important to remind ourselves of Paul’s antidote to fleshly desires in Romans 6:11-13. To Paul, as believers of Christ, we are to count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. We are, therefore, exhorted not to allow sin to reign in our mortal body so that we obey its evil desires.
2. Overcoming the enemy of the world (James 4:4-5)
In James 4:4, James addresses his readers as adulterous people. By that, he meant those who have been spiritually unfaithful because of their friendship with the world. By friendship with the world, James seems to mean those who love the world rather than God. In view of the fact that we as believers of God are the bride of Christ, when we devote ourselves to the things of the world, we inevitably become guilty of spiritual adultery.
The believers’ relationship with the world could be developed through three main stages. The first stage is being in friendship with the world (James 4:4). In this stage, and in the view of James, friendship with the world is enmity with God. The second stage is the love of the world. In 1 John 2:15, John cautions that we are not to love the world nor the things of the world. The third stage is the conformity of the world. According to Paul, in Rom. 12:2, we are not to be conformed to this world. Rather, we are to be transformed.
3. Overcoming Satan as the enemy of true love (James 4:6-7)
The third enemy of our genuine love is Satan and so believers are to be aware of the Satanic warfare confronting us. In this warfare, the tool that the enemy uses is pride. Thus when Christians live for the world, they become proud and arrogant. It is important to remember that since pride brought about the fall of Satan, it seeks to do the same for every believer who permits it (Proverbs 16:18).
On the other hand, to James, humility is God’s tool against the devil. God gives grace to the humble. Thus submission precedes victory in that by that we are able to resist the devil (James 4:7).
Today’s lesson has focussed on discovering the causes of conflicts and division among Christians. They have been described as enemies of true love and peace. It is important to remind ourselves that as Christians we are in continuous warfare with our fleshly or carnal desires, the world and Satan. Thus when we begin to love and live like the world and so lose our identity and testimony, it becomes difficult to tell whether we are truly saved. In this light, James advises us to humble ourselves before God.
1. State three main enemies of our true love and peace.
2. Identify three ways that Christians can overcome the enemy of envy and jealousy?
3. Explain three steps of developing a relationship with the world.
4. The way up is down. How far do you agree?