4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? (James 4:4–5, NKJV)
One cannot help but see the parallel of apostasy for the sake of covetous pleasures with the actual sin of adultery (Jas. 4:1-3). The inspired writer openly rebukes Christians who befriend the world (v. 4; 1 Jno. 2:15-16). They have conflicts with others, and their ultimate conflict is with God. The danger of unfaithfulness to the Lord and the blessing of faithful devotion to Him are described by the psalmist, “For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry. But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works” (Psa. 73:27-28). God is a jealous God who yearns intensely that we honor Him for His glory and faithfulness (v. 5; Gen. 6:5; Exo. 20:4-6). When we spurn Him for other pleasures (false gods) we provoke His jealous wrath. Yet, He will give grace and forgive us when we humble ourselves, submit to Him, resist the devil, and draw near to Him by purifying our hands and hearts (Jas. 4:6-8). We cannot be faithful to God while being unfaithful against Him with the world. Faithfully following God marks true friendship with Him, but unfaithfulness makes us His enemy (Jas. 2:22-23).
1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:1–3, NKJV)
Is your life full of conflict with others? If so, you may be unaware of the war that is raging within you. Today’s passage says the desire for pleasure and personal satisfaction fuels our fights with others. Hedonism is “the belief that pleasure or happiness is the most important goal in life” (Merriam-Webster). This philosophy suggests a satisfying life is about fulfilling personal pleasures, desires, and sensual delights. Yet invariably, this leads to selfishness and ill treatment of others, not kindness and love. The pursuit of such worldly desires makes one an enemy of God (Jas. 4:4). By contrast, Christians are to “pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). James had just taught that “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (Jas. 3:17). If you want peace with God and with others, then reject fulfilling your own desires as the true course to joy. A good dose of humility will help us win these battles in our war against the devil (Jas. 4:6-7).
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17–18, NKJV)
Just as the wisdom that is “earthly, sensual, and demonic” has identifiable traits (bitter envy, self-seeking, pride, lies, and confusion, Jas. 3:14-16), so does the wisdom from above. God-approved wisdom is marked by dignified purity, and so is “consecrated to the service and glory of God” (Lange). With God as its object, wisdom from above has a social character that reflects innocence toward men and women. This wisdom is peaceable (not warring, Jas. 4:1). It is gentle – mild, moderate, fair, and just in its judgments and treatment of others. Approved wisdom is “willing to yield,” it is easily entreated, “open to reason” (ESV). Wisdom hears all the evidence instead of entrenching itself without reason against it. It is full of mercy and it bears the impartial, genuine fruit of compassion. Because of its nature, heavenly wisdom plants the seeds of peace (not hostile confusion, Jas. 3:14-16), and so produces peace (Matt. 5:9). Let us pursue the wisdom that is from above and bear the fruit of righteousness.
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” (James 3:13–16, NKJV)
Wisdom and understanding are traits much needed by every Christian. These are observable character traits – shown by one’s good and meek conduct (v. 13). Wisdom is the skillful use of knowledge; it is excellence in the application of knowledge. Understanding is akin to this, as it is the evaluation, comprehension, perception, or discernment that gives knowledge its skill and usability. Understanding evaluates and wisdom actuates knowledge. We must avoid the false wisdom that is generated by selfish conceit. Measuring itself against others and elevating itself over others, earthly wisdom works on the basis of self-interest instead of truth (v. 14, 16). Its selfish, sensual instinct of survival leads to bitterness, envy, confusion, and evil. It is fleshly, faithless, futile, and demonic. We remember those became fools while professing to be wise. They plunged into the darkness of sin’s depravity and death by refusing to recognize, honor, and thank God (Rom. 1:20-23). The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). To leave God and His truth out of your life is exceedingly foolish.
14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:14–16, NKJV)
The “natural” man is not guided by divine revelation (v. 14). He “does not receive the things of the Spirit of God” – the gospel – that was revealed to Christ’s apostles and spoken by them through inspiration (1 Cor. 2:10-13). Reminiscent of Proverbs 14:12 (“there is a way that seems right to a man…”), he lives according to human reasoning (“the wisdom of this age,” 1 Cor. 2:6) instead of divine truth. His carnal way of thinking prevents the spiritual discernment he needs to receive truth (1 Cor. 3:1-3). To him, “the message of the cross is foolishness,” and he perishes in his sins (1 Cor. 1:18). By contrast, the “spiritual” person “judges (evaluates) all things” in the light of God’s revelation (v. 15). This person refuses to tell God what His will is (or should be, v. 16; Rom. 11:34). The spiritual person trusts and obeys the gospel – the revealed mind of Christ. Those who rely on themselves attempt to instruct God, but the spiritual receive His instruction. Let us be the spiritual person who receives the things revealed by the Spirit of God.
4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, 5 that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:4–8, NKJV)
God’s grace, given by Christ Jesus, came to the Corinthians in the same way it goes to the four corners of the world, through gospel preaching and its acceptance (Mk. 16:15; Titus 2:11-12). In “all utterance and all knowledge” the “gospel of the grace of God” enriches souls who believe it and obey it (Acts 20:24, 32; Col. 1:5-6). Notably, the gospel (“the testimony of Christ”) was confirmed (verified, settled) in the Corinthians (undoubtedly, a reference to the miraculous gifts they received through the apostle (v. 6-7; Mk. 16:17-20; 1 Cor. 12:1). This had enriched them in Christ, but their faith still needed to be confirmed (settled, strengthened, v. 7-8). Like them, the Lord settles (verifies, stabilizes) our faith when we live by His settled gospel (“the testimony of Christ,” v. 6). We may correctly say the Lord uses the confirmed gospel (v. 6) to confirm Christians (v. 8). Our task in being strengthened is to take His gospel into our hearts and live it. By doing so we will not be blamed (be “blameless”) but settled when Christ is revealed in the day of judgment (v. 8).
51 “Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” 52 Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ 53 Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” (John 8:51–53, NKJV)
Jesus confidently taught that anyone who keeps His word will not die (“never see death”). Later, Jesus comforted Martha with this same truth following the death of her brother Lazarus: “And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:26). Jesus was talking about escaping spiritual death, but His accusers could only think in physical terms. So, they charged Him with being possessed and controlled by a demon. It is false and futile to separate obeying Jesus from having eternal life, since Jesus linked obedience with victory over death. (Even His enemies understood Him to say people who obey Him would not die.) Why do so many teach that people “shall never see death” with faith only? This doctrine convinces millions that obeying Jesus is not necessary for salvation. Yet, Jesus said it is. We know who Jesus is, even though His enemies rejected Him and His teaching. He is the Christ, the Son of God (John 8:49, 54-55). Therefore, we believe what He said, and endeavor to keep His word to escape eternal death (Rom. 6:23).
40 And He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was baptizing at first, and there He stayed. 41 Then many came to Him and said, “John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this Man were true.” 42 And many believed in Him there. (John 10:40–42, NKJV)
In reaction to His teachings, the enemies of Jesus took up stones to stone Him and tried to seize Him (Jno. 10:31, 39). But, it was not yet time for Jesus to lay down His life, and so He escaped them and went beyond the Jordan where John had taught and baptized (Jno. 10:17-18). Many of the people believed in Jesus because of what John said about Him. John had testified the truth about Jesus (Jno. 5:33). He proclaimed that Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jno. 1:29, 36). In addition to John, the words and miracles of Jesus and the Old Testament Scriptures bear witness that He is the Christ (Jno. 5:34-39). The gospel calls on us to assess the body of evidence left in the pages of inspiration to also believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (Jno. 20:30-31). The gospel calls on us to believe in Jesus Christ because of the word of truth that proclaims Him to be the Christ, the Savior of the world (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:18-25).
“submitting to one another in the fear of God.” (Ephesians 5:21, NKJV)
Submitting to one another in the church grows out of our fear of God. Submission means to “subordinate” or “subject oneself” to another. This requires yielding up our will to the will of the other person. Sometimes that is easy (when our wills agree). The challenge comes when we are called on to subordinate our will and our preferences to another person’s will and preferences. (Of course, we are discussing non-sinful things here. The Scriptures do not teach us to submit to sin and error, Gal. 2:4-5.) To successfully submit to one another requires that we fear God. Honoring and yielding to His desire and will must be paramount to us. When we fear God we are equipped to “be submissive to one another” and to “be clothed with humility” (1 Pet. 5:5). If we think of ourselves as better than others we are being driven by “selfish ambition or conceit” instead of humble love and the fear of God (Phil. 2:3-4). In today’s verse, “fear” is translated from phobos (“to be put in fear, alarm or fright,” Strong’s). As we revere and respect God, we dread displeasing Him because of its terrible result (Matt. 10:28). The fear of God compels us to respect one another and submit ourselves to each other in genuine efforts to seek each other’s salvation and spiritual blessings (cf. 1 Cor. 10:31-33).
22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:22–23, NKJV)
Without quoting a specific prophetic reference, Matthew summarized the lowly estate of the Christ by telling of Joseph moving his family to Nazareth (Matt. 2:13-21). The prophets foretold the Messiah would be lowly, despised, and rejected by men (Isa. 53:3-6; Zech. 9:9-10). To be called a “Nazarene” meant more than someone was “from Nazareth.” It was a derogatory label of bias drawn from this insignificant town on the northern outskirts of the nation. (Only those of no consequence (like a carpenter) ever came from Nazareth.) Nathaniel expressed the prevailing contempt toward Nazarenes when Philip told him of finding the one of whom Moses and the prophets wrote – Jesus of Nazareth. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” was his retort (Jno. 1:45-46). Prejudice is an ugly thing, and in this case, it led some to reject the Son of God, by using His upbringing in Galilee as proof Jesus was not the Christ (Jno. 7:41-43). Yes, Jesus was “hated without a cause” (Jno. 15:24-25). We must never be driven by prejudice toward anyone, including Jesus. Instead, we should follow the advice Philip gave Nathaniel to “come and see” that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ (Jno. 1:46).