“Submit. Resist.” - Notes on James 4:7
The verses prior to James 4:7 remind us that we all need God’s grace--favor which cannot be earned, but which can be received only by faith through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (See Romans 3:9-31 and Ephesians 2:1-10). Saint Paul himself testified as an apostle, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor. 15:10).
In James 4:7-10, James gives several imperatives: 1) submit to God; 2) resist the devil; 3) draw near to God; 4) cleanse your hands; 5) purify your hearts; 6) be wretched; 7) mourn; 8) weep; 9) let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom; and, 10) humble yourselves before the Lord.
Let’s look more closely at the first two imperatives:
- “Submit to God”— to submit to God means to place yourself under His control. All the other imperatives hang on this command. Submission means obedience, a picture of a soldier acting under the command of his superior. See 1 Peter 2:18, where the same root word for submission is used when servants are commanded to be subject to their masters. Ephesians 5:24 speaks also of the same root word when wives are commanded to submit in everything to their husbands as the church submits to Christ. In Luke 2:51, we see Jesus as our ultimate example-- He, being fully God, submitted himself, being born in the likeness of men, to the authority of his earthly parents. Jesus humbled himself, as Paul so aptly described in Philippians 2, taking the form of a servant. His submission to the Father was to the point of death, even death on a cross. Praying in the garden of Gethsemane, his soul being very sorrowful, Jesus prayed to the Father, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matt. 26:39).
- “Resist the devil”—to resist the devil is to withstand him, to oppose, or to set yourself against him. This act of resistance is dependent upon your submission to God’s will first of all. After all, how can you resist the enemy unless you first become subject to God’s control? Consider Matthew 26:24 where we are told as a matter of fact that “no one can serve two masters.” Also, note Paul’s question to the saints in Rome: “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? (Romans 6:16).
How are you? Are you trying to resist the devil without first yielding yourself to the control of God? Prayerfully read and meditate today on Romans 5:12 - 6:23. Remember Christ’s words as written in John 8:31: “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”