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Bible Commentaries

Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

James 4

Verse 1

A large part of this and the following chapter is addressed to that portion of the Jewish Christian community who had departed from "the doctrine that is according to godliness," and become conformed, in their spirit and conduct, to the exceedingly corrupt and turbulent mass of unbelieving Jews among whom they lived.

Wars and fightings ; contentions and quarrels, from those of individuals and neighborhoods, to those of provinces and states. The age in which the apostle wrote was one of the most turbulent and seditious on record; and the unworthy members of the Christian community here addressed did not escape its defilements.

That war in your members ; have their seat in your members, and impel you to fight and war for their gratification. Compare Romans 7:23 .

Verse 2

Have not ; real satisfying enjoyment, because you do not seek it in the right things or in the right way. Wars are the fruit of human wickedness. Let all men be at peace with God, and obey the command, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them," and wars will cease.

Verse 3

Receive not ; because you do not ask of God with a right spirit, or for the right end. You seek to gratify yourselves; whereas you should seek to glorify God and do good to men.

Verse 4

Ye adulterers and adulteresses ; the sin of adultery stands here as the embodiment of all the fleshly lusts in which these unworthy professors of Christianity indulged. The same sin is charged by the apostles Peter and Jude upon the false teachers and their followers, 2 Peter 2:10 ; 2Pe 2:14 ; 2 Peter 2:18 ; Judges 1:4 ; Judges 1:7-8 .

The world ; the men of the world, with all the worldly objects to which they devote themselves, "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." Compare 1 John 2:15-16 .

Verse 5

In vain ; without any urgent necessity of warning us.

The spirit that dwelleth in us ; the human spirit that belongs to us as a fallen sinful race.

Lusteth to envy ; to the exciting of envious desires. It is the constant doctrine of the Old Testament, that men naturally desire what others have, and that this spirit in the form of envy, jealousy, and covetousness, produces immense evil. Ecclesiastes 4:4 ; Job 5:2 ; Proverbs 14:30 ; Proverbs 27:4 ; Genesis 26:14 ; Genesis 30:1 ; Genesis 37:11 ; Psalms 73:3 ; Psalms 106:16 . The conduct of men in all ages has shown this doctrine to be true. You therefore ought to take warning, and earnestly strive against its power. Some prefer to read this passage as two questions, thus: "Do ye think that the scripture speaketh in vain? Doth the Spirit that hath dwelt in us"-the Holy Spirit whom God has given to dwell in our hearts-"lust to envy?"-excite lusts that lead to envy?

Verse 6

He ; God; or, according to the second of the above interpretations, the Holy Spirit.

Giveth more grace ; to those who humbly seek him, to overcome this evil propensity.

Resisteth the proud ; repels those who come in pride and self-sufficiency, trusting in themselves and despising others.

Verse 7

Submit-to God ; be resigned to his will, be content with the allotments of his providence, and lay aside all envious desires.

Resist the devil ; by refusing to do wrong, for the accomplishment of any object. The devil is a living and busy agent, exciting and increasing human wickedness, tempting men to envy, violence, and fraud. But he may be, and he ought to be effectually resisted, by refusing to comply with his temptations.

Verse 8

Draw nigh to God ; in prayer for all needed wisdom and strength to resist temptation and to persevere, whatever be the consequences, in doing right.

He will draw nigh to you ; to sustain, comfort, and provide for you.

Cleanse your hands-purify your hearts ; be outwardly and inwardly pure.

Double - minded ; those who are drawn different ways by conscience and passion, and are halting between two opinions.

Verse 9

Be afflicted ; in view of your sins, and the judgments of God that are hanging over you. See note to chap James 5:1 .

Verse 10

Humble yourselves ; instead of fighting and warring for worldly emoluments, honor, and pleasure, commit yourselves quietly to God, and he shall lift you up to true honor in his own time and way.

Verse 11

Judgeth the law ; he practically condemns it. It is the royal law of love which the apostle has specially in mind, which forbids slander, and every thing else that can injure our neighbor.

Verse 12

One lawgiver ; Jesus Christ, and only one. All therefore are bound to yield cheerful, prompt, unwavering obedience to him.

Who are thou ; frail, sinful, dying man, that thou usurpest the place of Christ, and pronouncest sentence of condemnation on his servants, when thou must thyself soon stand before him in judgment and be treated for eternity according to thy works? Christ is the only rightful Lord and Lawgiver of his church. His disciples are all brethren; and when any one undertakes to lord it over others, he rebels against Christ, and exposes himself to be destroyed.

Verses 13-14

A year-the morrow ; all our plans should be made in view of the uncertainty of human life.

Verse 15

Ye ought ; to feel your dependence on God for the continuance of life and for every blessing, and to act accordingly. In forming plans for the future, we should never forget our dependence on God, or neglect to seek his guidance and blessing.

Verse 16

In your boastings ; of what great things you will do, as if you were able of yourselves to accomplish your plans.

Is evil ; because it is treating God and yourselves contrary to truth.

Verse 17

It is sin ; because it is neglect of known duty. Knowledge of duty increases obligation to perform it; and the neglect of known duty is sin.

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Bibliographical Information
Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on James 4". "Edwards' Family Bible New Testament". American Tract Society. 1851.