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Sermon Notes - James 4:5-6
Sermon Notes - James 4:5-6

NorthsideHBC • October 19, 2020

James 4 speaks against spiritual adultery, citing the history of Israel’s idolatry by using the phrase, “Ye adulterous people,” as appears in similar terms in the book of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Hosea. James calls the believers to faithfulness or fidelity to the Lord, and not to be “a friend of the world.”

James 4:5– “Do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’?”— This verse is one that is challenging, for even Greek scholars differ somewhat in how the original is translated: 

(1) James attributes his statement in verse 5 to “the Scripture.” James’ exact quote, however, cannot be found in the O.T. Nevertheless, the sense of what James is conveying is undeniably laid in the O.T., which is referred to in the N.T. as “the Scriptures.” James directs the believers’ attention in this verse to the whole of the Scriptures! 

(2) The word, “spirit,” in James 4:5 is not capitalized in some translations (eg., ESV, NLT), but capitalized in others (eg., NASB). Here are two differing translations:

  1. The NLT translates verse 5 in this way: “What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the spirit God has placed within us is filled with envy?”
  2. NASB translates verse 5 as: “Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’?”

On the one hand, the NLT is in keeping with the context, as James did rebuke the quarreling that is occurring in the congregation, the cause of which is bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, characteristic of an unregenerate heart— that is, James is speaking to those who profess belief but whose works deny their profession of faith.

On the other hand, the NASB is in keeping with the context, too, for James does speak against spiritual adultery, which is committed by those who are considered the people of God. In this context, James is speaking to genuine believers-- reminding them that the Spirit of God dwells in them. Therefore, they are to walk in fidelity to the Lord. 

In sum, James’ words in verse 5 speak to both groups-- those in the congregation who merely profess faith but deny it by their works; and, those in the congregation who possess genuine faith but are in need of reminder to walk worthy of their calling. (Such is God’s Word— described in Hebrews 4:12 as “sharper than a double-edged sword,” able to judge our innermost thoughts and intents of the heart.)

James 4:6– “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”— To oppose signifies to rage against, as in a battle! James makes this truth explicit-- “God opposes the proud.” Therefore, his call is for humility-- “God gives grace to the humble.” 

Therefore, for the sinner who humbles himself in repentance before a holy God, there is grace! For the believer who humbles himself before His Father, confessing his sins, there is grace! He is faithful and just to forgive! Consider listening to the words of these hymns: 1) He Giveth More Grace; 2) Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord; 3) The Lord is My Salvation. Ponder upon the truths on which these songs are based; and marvel again at God’s Amazing Grace

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Fidelity and Friendship - Notes on James 4:4,5
Fidelity and Friendship - Notes on James 4:4,5

NorthsideHBC • October 12, 2020

In the prior verses, we are reminded against the works of the flesh, reflective of the famous saying—“The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart” (Oswald Smith). Consider Romans 6:14-25. This passage is not meant to be an excuse for committing sin against God, as evident in the beginning verses of Romans 6. The point of Paul is to recognize the apparent struggle within. This point brings light to the verses we focus on today: James 4:4-5.

James 4:4– “You adulterous people.”— In the Old Testament, this description is one that is used repeatedly of Israel for committing idolatry against or of breaking covenant with Yahweh. God alone is worthy of worship. Read Deut. 6:4-5, which can be considered to be Israel’s statement of faith. Time and time again, Israel broke faith with the One true God and they were disciplined. Prior to judgement, they were warned by God who sent to them prophets to call them unto repentance. Read Jeremiah 3 and the book of Hosea, where we read of God providing Israel with an actual, real-life demonstration to Israel of her unfaithfulness as a nation in committing adultery and of God’s steadfast love in calling her to “return.”

James point is as was communicated to Israel in Old Testament times—that is, unfaithfulness to God is spiritual adultery. Consider reading the Amplified Version of James 4:4. 

James 4:5a— “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?”— James is making a serious pronouncement here of the adulterous nature of “friendship with the world.” This phrase does not mean isolation from personal contact with unbelievers. What this phrase does mean is evident in   1John 2:15-17– “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him;” Matt. 6:24– “You cannot serve God and money; John 15:18-19– “I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” 

James 4:5b— “Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God”— How can we be friends with the system of the world if it means being God’s enemy? For a believer to desire friendship with the world is contradictory to what he professes! Matthew 6:24 is clear— “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” 

James’ call is to remain faithful to the true God, not looking unto other things for hope and comfort. Guard your heart against the things of this world! We cannot serve God and wealth at the same time. Read and meditate on Rom.12:1-2!

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The Issue of the Heart - Notes on James 4:1-3

NorthsideHBC • October 06, 2020

Review: The prior passage provided for us a contrast between earthly wisdom and wisdom that is from above. The first is characterized by jealousy and selfish ambition; the other is characterized as, first of all, pure. The latter cannot be attained by mere human effort, for to be first pure, one must be MADE pure by God through Jesus Christ.

James 4:1-3 

These three short verses reflect the truths that James has already presented to us concerning earthly wisdom. Thus, this passage is a continuation of James’ discourse, but from a different angle, which can summarized in this way—“The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart” (Oswald Smith). 

The core of the issue: 1) What is the source of conflict among you? Sagaciously, James provides the answer in the form of another question: Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 

Evil desires or “lust,” as some translations put it, is used here by James to speak of the kind of craving for which one would be willing to kill, so that the object craved would be obtained.

How can a believer have such evil desires? James, after all, is writing to “brethren.” It must be remembered that within the community of believers, there are those who merely profess belief. In Galatians 5, the Apostle Paul calls believers to stand fast in the “liberty wherewith Christ has made us free…. only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another…. Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh…. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry...and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

How are we? What characterizes our life— the works of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit? Paul says it well: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Gal. 5:22-26 ESV).

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