Summary: Ten commands that enable us to live the genuine Christian life.
LIVING THE REAL LIFE:
CULTIVATING A FAITH THAT WORKS
GRACE FOR TEN
Turn in your Bible to James chapter 4. If you recall, last week we took a look at the end of chapter 3 and the first part of chapter 4. We talked about this worldly mindset of jealousy that James speaks against and the corresponding actions that go along with that way of thinking. James was rebuking his readers for essentially making idols out of themselves and not giving their full devotion to God. And God, he reminded his readers, jealously longed for their full devotion. He was not interested in sharing his control over their lives. Now, on the heels of this rebuke come ten imperatives; ten commands that he gives his readers. We are going to look at these commands in some detail.
But we must start where we left off last time. Before we get to vv.7-10 we must revisit v.6, where James writes:
6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
The latter part of that verse, as I mentioned, is a quote from Proverbs 3:34. James says that God gives more grace and that’s why the Scripture says what it says. Now the question then, is “What does he give more grace for?” And the answer, in this particular case, is that he gives the grace that is needed to overcome jealous, worldly wisdom and living; and pursue godly thinking and living that resists friendship with the world but rather aligns oneself as a friend of God. Now, once he allows his readers a clear view of God’s grace, then he gives them things that they are to do in order to get out of this worldly lifestyle – things that they are only able to do by the great and marvelous grace of God. He writes beginning at v.7:
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Now the first thing he writes is this: Submit to God.
SUBMIT TO GOD (V.7)
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God.
As is often the case, one of the most important words to notice in this phrase is the word “therefore”. I’m sure you’ve heard many times that when you see the word “therefore” in the text the first question you should ask is “What’s it there for?” Because “therefore” always connects the current statement to a previous one. In this case, “therefore” refers back to verse 6. Because God gives grace; and because he gives grace not to the proud, but to the humble; therefore submit to God so that you may receive grace. Now these readers already professed Christ. That’s why there was such a harsh rebuke. If no one was claiming to be a Christian then James doesn’t make any sense in rebuking the readers for non-Christian behavior. But they were claiming Christ; and no doubt some, if not most of the readers, were genuine believers. But James here, as he does throughout his epistle, is encouraging his readers to show that their faith is real by the things they do. This list here is intended to help those readers who were proving to be unbelievers by their selfish conduct. He is telling them how to get out of their current selfish, sinful lifestyle – so that they begin acting like the believers they claimed to be. So James tells these men and women who were dividing the church because of their jealous, ungodly behavior to submit to God.
The word “submit” here is a military term. It means to line up under someone who has authority over you. So the first thing these readers consumed with their own desires needed to do was to line up under God. There had to be an exchange of authority. Who were these readers obeying when they were neglecting God and pursuing their passions? They were obeying themselves. They were their own boss. They were not pursuing the purposes and desires of God and his will; they were pursuing the purposes and desires of their own wills. So there had to be a changing of the guard, so to speak. We must highlight the grace of God in v.6 here again because submission is not the natural tendency of man. Left to themselves, these readers would have never submitted to God. Mankind’s stubborn refusal to submit to someone other than himself is like the captain of a ship that was sailing during the night. The captain looked off into the distance and saw faint lights directly ahead of him. Immediately he told his signalman to send a message: “Alter your course 10 degrees south.” Promptly a return message was received: “Alter your course 10 degrees north.” The captain was angered; his command had been ignored. So he sent a second message: “Alter your course 10 degrees south – I am the captain!” And soon another reply was received: “Alter your course 10 degrees north – I am seaman third class Jones.” Immediately the captain angrily sent a third message, knowing the fear it would evoke: “Alter your course 10 degrees south – I am a battleship!” Then the reply came: “Alter your course 10 degrees north – I am a lighthouse.” And that ended the argument. As men and women we are helpless to submit to God on our own because our sinful nature compels us to reject authority. We don’t like being told what to do, just like the captain of the ship headed toward the lighthouse. So James compelled his readers: by the grace of God; submit to him. Hand over your authority.