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James 3 & 4

May 15, 2010
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James 3:1-18

3:1 NOT MANY [of you] should become teachers ( self-constituted censors and reprovers of others), my brethren, for you know that we [teachers] will be judged by a higher standard and with greater severity [than other people; thus we assume the greater accountability and the more condemnation].

1.       There were many teachers or rabbis among the Jews, each claiming to have “THE” truth, and to draw disciples after him; James cautions us against such persons.

2.       There are many who are “self-called”; they weren’t called by God, and there are others that have a lack of knowledge and propose to teach others.

2 For we all often stumble and fall and offend in many things. And if anyone does not offend in speech [never says the wrong things], he is a fully developed character and a perfect man, able to control his whole body and to curb his entire nature.

1.       To understand this, we must refer to the caution James gives in the preceding verse: do not teach, or speak if you are not qualified, (teaching the truth of the Gospel) for in the speaking comes accountability and condemnation.

2.       A man that can control his tongue is a proof that he has every passion and appetite under control.

3 If we set bits in the horses' mouths to make them obey us, we can turn their whole bodies about.

4 Likewise, look at the ships: though they are so great and are driven by rough winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the impulse of the helmsman determines.

1.       The tongue must be bridled as the horse, and governed as the ships; because, though it is small, it is capable of ruling the whole man, and of irritating and offending others.

5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and it can boast of great things. See how much wood or how great a forest a tiny spark can set ablaze!

1.       The little tongue can do great things, good or evil.

2.       He seems to refer here to the powerful eloquence of the Greek orators; they could carry a great mob wherever they wished, calm them to peacefulness, or excite them to rebellion.

3.       What a flame of discord one man, merely by his persuasive tongue, may kindle among the common people.

6 And the tongue is a fire. [The tongue is a] world of wickedness set among our members, contaminating and depraving the whole body and setting on fire the wheel of birth (the cycle of man's nature), being itself ignited by hell (Gehenna).

1.       World of evil: World signifies a great mass, a great collection, an abundance: we use the term in the same sense- a world of troubles, a world of toil, a world of anxiety, etc.

2.       A world of iniquity is represented as inflamed by the wicked tongues of men; the world being fuel, and the tongue a fire.

3.       The tongue has been the instrument of confusion and misery through all the ages of the world.

7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea animal, can be tamed and has been tamed by human genius (nature).

8 But the human tongue can be tamed by no man. It is a restless (undisciplined, irreconcilable) evil, full of deadly poison.

1.       Only the grace of God, having it cut out, or death, can bring it under subjection.

2.       Full of deadly poison: the tongues of serpents convey their poison into wounds made by their teeth.

3.       James must have the tongue of the slanderer, backbiter, whisperer, and tale-bearer, particularly in view; vipers and rattlesnakes are not as dangerous to life, than these are to the peace and reputation of men.

9 With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who were made in God's likeness!

10 Out of the same mouth come forth blessing and cursing. These things, my brethren, ought not to be so.

1.       The tongue is capable of rehearsing the praises of the eternal King and proclaiming the Gospel of peace and good will among men; what a pity it can also be invoked in lies and infidelity.

2.       Curse men: in the true Satanic spirit, many pray to God to destroy the objects of their displeasure and while man is made after the image of God, He can sing the high praises of God, and wish harm on those who offend them, or with whom they choose to be offended.

11 Does a fountain send forth [simultaneously] from the same opening fresh water and bitter?

12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine figs? Neither can a salt spring furnish fresh water.

1.       A fountain cannot produce sweet water and bitter.

2.       A fig tree cannot produce olive berries.

3.       A vine cannot produce figs

4.       Salt water cannot be made sweet.

5.       These are all contradictions, and impossibilities, in nature; It is a depraved man alone that can act the part this Scripture refers to.


13 Who is there among you who is wise and intelligent? Then let him by his noble living show forth his [good] works with the [unobtrusive] humility [which is the proper attribute] of true wisdom.

1.       Genuine wisdom is accompanied with meekness and gentleness.

2.       Those proud and overbearing men who pose as great scholars and eminent critics, may have learning , but not wisdom.

14 But if you have bitter jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry, selfish ambition) in your hearts, do not pride yourselves on it and thus be in defiance of and false to the Truth.

15 This [superficial] wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual (animal), even devilish (demoniacal).

1.       This wisdom has only this life in view.

2.       It’s sensual: seeks to gratify the passions

3.       Inspired by demons and maintained in the soul by their influence.

16 For wherever there is jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry and selfish ambition), there will also be confusion (unrest, disharmony, rebellion) and all sorts of evil and vile practices.

17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure (undefiled); then it is peace-loving, courteous (considerate, gentle). [It is willing to] yield to reason, full of compassion and good fruits; it is wholehearted and straightforward, impartial and unfeigned (free from doubts, wavering, and

1.       Pure: Gr. Hagnee: Chaste, holy, and clean

2.       Peaceable: Gr. Eireenikee: living in peace with others and promoting peace among men.

3.       Considerate: Gr. Epieikees: Meek, modest

4.       Submissive: Gr. Eupeithees: not  stubborn or obstinate

5.       Full of mercy: Ready to pass by a transgression and granting forgiveness to those who offend.

6.       Impartial: Gr. Adiakritos: Rendering to every man his due and never swayed by self-interest, worldly honor, or the fear of man.

7.       Sincere: Gr. Anupokrotos: without pretending to be what it is not; Seeking nothing but God’s glory.

18 And the harvest of righteousness (of conformity to God's will in thought and deed) is [the fruit of the seed] sown in peace by those who work for and make peace [in themselves and in others, that peace which means concord, agreement, and harmony between individuals, with undisturbedness, in a peaceful mind free from fears and agitating passions and moral conflicts].

1.       When the peace of God rules the heart, all these virtues and graces grow and flourish abundantly.

2.       He who labors to live peaceably shall have peace for his reward.


James 4:1-17

4:1 WHAT LEADS to strife (discord and feuds) and how do conflicts (quarrels and fightings) originate among you? Do they not arise from your sensual desires that are ever warring in your bodily members?

1.       There was continued striving and dissension among the different sects and parties of the Jews at this time. (i.e. the Sadducees & Pharisees)

a.       Many times this led to scenes of violence, and to popular outbreaks among themselves.

2.       He is warning the Christian converts that they were in great danger of participating, by being drawn into their controversies and taking part in the spirit of strife which existed among their countrymen.

3.       The solution which the apostle gives as the causes of the strifes prevailing then, will substantially apply to all the wars which ever existed on the earth.

4.       Desires: Gr. Heedonee: pleasures of sense, appetite, lust, sensual appetites.

5.       Rom 7:23 But I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.

6.       Gal 5:17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

2 You are jealous and covet [what others have] and your desires go unfulfilled; [so] you become murderers. [To hate is to murder as far as your hearts are concerned.] You burn with envy and anger and are not able to obtain [the gratification, the contentment, and the happiness that you seek], so you fight and war. You do not have, because you do not ask. [1 John 3:15.]

1.       You kill: not exactly that they killed or committed a murder, but to have a covetous desire of the possessions of others as to produce a murderous temper.

a.       The spirit of murder was at the bottom of the whole.

2.       Cannot have what you want: By any fair and honest means. (All wars might have been avoided if men had been content with what they had, or could rightfully obtain, and had not desired to have what was in the possession of others. (Satan started this whole thing because he wanted what God had!!!!!!(to be worshipped!!!!!)

3.       If you sought from God what you truly need, you would obtain it, because He will give all that is necessary. (If you seek it by contention and strife, you have not security of obtaining it.


3[Or] you do ask [God for them] and yet fail to receive, because you ask with wrong purpose and evil, selfish motives. Your intention is [when you get what you desire] to spend it in sensual pleasures.

1.       Many pray for worldly things which are based on covetousness.

2.       Wrong motives: self-indulgence and carnal gratification.

3.       Pleasures: lusts, sensual gratifications; same word used in James 4:1.

4.       When you ask God for such things, you will not receive.

4 You [are like] unfaithful wives [having illicit love affairs with the world and breaking your marriage vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world's friend is being God's enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God.

1.       The comparison of adulterous people to an unfaithful spouse and Idolatry: unfaithful to “The One True God”

2.       As deep as the crime of breaking a vow of marriage is, it pales in comparison to the deeper crime of unfaithfulness to God.

3.       Friendship to the world is the love of the things of the world: it’s passions, its vanities, pleasures, its pastimes and its friendships.

a.       To seek after the favor of the world vs. the favor of God.

4.       A friend of the world cannot be a true Christian.

5.       To love the physical universe as a wondrous creation of God is not what the writer is referring to, but to the world system,(that which is under Satan’s control).

5 Or do you suppose that the Scripture is speaking to no purpose that says, The Spirit Whom He has caused to dwell in us yearns over us and He yearns for the Spirit [to be welcome] with a jealous love? [Jer 3:14; Hos 2:19 ff.] 

1.       The NIV says that the “spirit he caused to live in us.”

2.       The KJ says: “do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?”

a.       The Old Testament is clear that in man’s nature lies envy, and this, (As Satan’s original sin against God) has caused the contentions, wars, fraud, robbery and the want to have what others have.

3.       On the other hand, the AMP version listed above says that the spirit is not the spirit of man, but the Holy Spirit, who is jealous over us.

4.       The spirit of both ideas is born out in the Old and the New Testament.

6 But He gives us more and more grace ( power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency and all others fully). That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it). [Prov 3:34.]

1.       God is against those who think more highly of themselves than they ought, or are full of themselves.

2.        Prov 3:34 He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble. NIV


7 So be subject to God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you.

1.       Yield to what God has judged necessary for our welfare in this life and the life to come.

2.       All these are for our good and submission to them is required by a spirit of true humility.

3.       The object of God’s command here is to show us how we might obtain the promises given in the New Covenant.

4.       We are to yield to God in all things and in no things to the devil.


8 Come close to God and He will come close to you. [Recognize that you are] sinners, get your soiled hands clean; [realize that you have been disloyal] wavering individuals with divided interests, and purify your hearts [of your spiritual adultery].

1.       Approach Him in the name of Jesus and he will come close to us.

2.       Let our whole conduct be changed; cease to do evil, learn to do well.

3.       Washing or cleansing the hands was a token of innocence and purity.

4.       Purify your hearts: separate yourselves from the world and consecrate yourselves to God.

a.       The true notion of “qaadash” in Hebrew, and “hagiazoo” in Greek: to sanctify : to separate ourselves from the world and dedicate ourselves to God.

5.       Double-minded: can’t be set apart for God and also in the world.

9[As you draw near to God] be deeply penitent and grieve, even weep [over your disloyalty]. Let your laughter be turned to grief and your mirth to dejection and heartfelt shame [for your sins].

1.       It appears that many of those to whom James addressed this letter had lived a very irregular life; he had already spoken of their lusts and pleasures, he called them adulterers and adulteresses, and had lived a life loose in morals and conduct.

2.       What a strange view James must have had on the nature of primitive Christianity, and it’s hard to suppose that he addressed people professing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who were few in number and were persecuted both by their brethren the Jews and the Romans.

10 Humble yourselves [feeling very insignificant] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up and make your lives significant].

1.       They were exhorted to submit to God.

2.       Mourners and penitents lay on the ground, and rolled themselves in the dust. When comforted and pardoned, they arose from the earth, shook themselves from the dust, and clothed themselves in their better garments.

a.       God promises to raise these from the dust, when sufficiently humbled.


11[My] brethren, do not speak evil about or accuse one another. He that maligns a brother or judges his brother is maligning and criticizing the Law and judging the Law. But if you judge the Law, you are not a practicer of the Law but a censor and judge [of it].

1.       This exhortation may refer to slander and backbiting in general, the writer having no particular persons in view.

a.       It may , however, refer to the contentions among the zealots and different factions that prevailed among this people, and their slander against their brethren who had embraced the Christian faith.

2.       The law condemns all evil speaking; He who is guilty of these, and allows himself these vices, in effect judges and condemns the law; i.e. he considers it unworthy to be kept, and that it is no sin to break it.

3.       By speaking evil they say that the law that condemns them is improper, imperfect, or unjust.

a.       This would include not only the Mosaic law, but all the commands of God.

b.      In effect, they set up their own mischievous conduct as a rule of life.

12 One only is the Lawgiver and Judge Who is able to save and to destroy [the One Who has the absolute power of life and death]. [But you] who are you that [you presume to] pass judgment on your neighbor?

1.       The man who breaks the law and teaches others to do so, in effect sets himself up as a lawgiver and judge. There is only one, God.

2.       The writer keeps his Jewish creed and form constantly in view, as he should considering the persons to whom he wrote.

a.       Some were Christians, some of them half Christians and half Jews.

3.       The Lord Jesus, under the royal law, and the law of liberty, (the Gospel) is the one who is the lawgiver and judge.

13 Come now, you who say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a city and spend a year there and carry on our business and make money.

1.       God is displeased with the people: “Who, counting on long years of pleasure here, are unprepared for a world to come. (after their death)

a.       It is necessary to consider the shortness and uncertainty of human life.

2.       The custom of those ancient was for them to trade from city to city, carrying their goods on the backs of camels.

a.       The Jews traded thusly to Tyre, Sidon, Caesarea, Crete, Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth, Rome, etc.; and it is to this kind of itinerant mercantile life that James alludes.


14 Yet you do not know [the least thing] about what may happen tomorrow. What is the nature of your life? You are [really] but a wisp of vapor (a puff of smoke, a mist) that is visible for a little while and then disappears [into thin air].

1.       Life is precarious, and God has not given human beings the power to command or know one moment that is in the future.

2.       Life is a smoke, always fleeting, uncertain, with various trials and persecutions.

a.       This is a frequent metaphor with the Hebrews: Ps. 102.11 My days are like a shadow

b.      Job 8:9, Our days upon earth are a shadow.

c.       1Chron 29:15 Our days on the earth are a shadow, and there is no abiding.

3.       There is a parallel with the writings of Homer, the Greek Poet:

a.       Like leaves on trees the race of man is found, Now green in youth, now withering on the ground another race the following spring supplies; they fall successive and successive rise. So generations in their course decay, So flourish these, when those are passed away.

15 You ought instead to say, If the Lord is willing, we shall live and we shall do this or that [thing].

1.       There is an old saying from the rabbis: “The bride went up to her chamber, not knowing what was to befall her there. On which there is this comment; “No man should ever say that he will do this or that, without the condition IF GOD WILL. A certain man said, “Tomorrow shall I sit with my bride in my chamber, and there shall rejoice with her.” To which some standing by said “If the Lord will”; To which he answered, “Whether the Lord will or not, tomorrow will I sit with my bride in my chamber. He did so; he went with his bride into his chamber, and at night they lay down; but they both died. (Possibly James refers to this case, as he uses the same phraseology.

2.       Rather than saying I will go, we ought rather to recognize our dependence on God and that if His will in many cases is not laid out in Scripture, we rely on His guidance.

a.       Paul went and even Jesus had to stop him and had him go in a different direction.

b.      Another case Paul changed his direction after he had a vision and the Lord directed him elsewhere.

16 But as it is, you boast [falsely] in your presumption and your self-conceit. All such boasting is wrong.

1.       Boasting and bragging about what you can do: your reliance on your own skill and prowess rather than on our dependence on God.

2.       We should never boast of any wisdom or skill in regard to the future.

3.       God has given me power to earn money. He has said find what my hands have to do and He would bless it.

4.       Because of Him, I can!!!!!

17 So any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it, to him it is sin.

1.       He who knows what sort of views he should take in regard to the future, and how he should form his plans in view of the uncertainty of life, and still does not do it, but goes on recklessly, forming his plans and confident of success is guilty of sinning.

a.       If he understands what his duty is; if he has the means of doing good to others, he is under obligation to do it; if he doesn’t he is guilty of sin before God.

b.      No man can be released from the obligation to do good to others in this world to the extent of his ability.

c.       This good is supplying inquirers into the way of truth, (the Gospel), sending liberty, knowledge, and salvation to anyone locally or around the world.

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