Today’s selected reading continues in and concludes the New Testament epistle written by James the half-brother of the Lord Jesus. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the fourth and fifth chapters of this book. “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:1-10).
“Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another” (James 4:11-12).
“Go to. Now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:13-17).
“Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton: ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just, and he doth. Not resist you” (James 5:1-6).
“Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman, waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth night. Grudge. Not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. But above all things, my brethren, sear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay nay: lest ye fall into condemnation. Is there any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous many availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit” (James 5:7-18).
“Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).
When you come to the final two chapters of the New Testament epistle written by James the half-brother of the Lord Jesus to the twelve tribes which were scattered you will find language you would not expect when reading a letter addressed to brethren. If you begin reading with and from the first and opening verse of the fourth chapter you will find James asking these brethren point blank and without hesitation where wars and fightings came from among them. What makes this question all the more intriguing when you take the time to think about it is when you consider the fact that the question itself reveals that there were indeed fightings and wars among them. I am absolutely convinced that this question would not have been asked of the twelve tribes of Israel who were brethren in the Lord Jesus Christ if it weren’t actually true and present among them. I firmly believe that this question was meant to address something that was very real and very present among them in their midst—something which they perhaps were ignorant to or perhaps even chose to ignore. In all reality the question James asked these dear saints and brethren is a question that could and perhaps should be asked in countless churches and houses of worship within and throughout this nation of ours. If we are truly willing to be honest with ourselves we must needs admit that there are countless churches and houses of worship where fightings, quarrels, wars and the like are and have been present among them. What’s more is many saints and brethren within these churches are either woefully ignorant or willfully negligent when it comes to actually discerning its presence among them.
I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I have to admit they have long fascinated and captivated me—particularly and especially when you consider the fact that they weren’t written to Gentiles and those outside the body of Christ but unto those who were present within the body of Christ. You would expect fights, and quarrels, and wars, and conflicts and the like to be present in the world among those who have not made the personal decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ, however, to find them being present among the saints and brethren in the house of the Lord is something entirely and altogether different. Very rarely would you expect to enter into the house of the Lord and to witness and experience fightings and quarrels present among them and yet when you read the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints you will encounter the tremendous truth that there were strifes, divisions, contentions and the like among them. In fact you cannot read the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints without encountering and coming face to face with this incredible truth and reality among them for the apostle Paul addressed it in the opening chapter of this epistle. In all reality one might very well say that this was one of the first and foremost matters the apostle Paul sought to address among them in this epistle—one which was not merely presented unto them once in the opening chapter but was also found in the third chapter and even in the eleventh chapter of this epistle. It is with this being said I invite you to consider the following words which are found in this first epistle which was written unto the Corinthian saints—one that was meant to bring correction, rebuke, instruction and teaching to them:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of choloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other” (1 Corinthians 1:10-16).
Within this passage of Scripture the apostle Paul writes unto the Corinthian saints and clearly addresses the tremendous reality that there were indeed divisions among them. What’s more is that not only were there divisions among them but the apostle Paul also declared there were contention among them. In light of these realities being present among them the apostle Paul urged them that they all speak the same thing and that they be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. Oh it is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto these dear saints—not merely those words concerning divisions and contentions but the words which he spoke concerning speaking the same thing and being perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment—for this was the reality and atmosphere which the Holy Spirit helped foster and create during the days of the early Church. If you turn and direct your attention to the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts you will clearly be brought face to face with the awesome and wonderful truth surrounding the atmosphere the Holy Spirit helped created in the midst of the early Church from the time of its inception on and after the day of Pentecost. I continue to believe with all my heart that the single greatest witness and testimony present among those in the upper room—and even those initial three thousand souls who were baptized and believed on the name of the Lord Jesus on the day of Pentecost—was not speaking with other tongues but the unity and community that was fostered and created among them.
There would be those who would like to believe that speaking with other tongues as “the initial physical evidence” of being baptized in the Holy Spirit was the greatest work, witness and testimony among those on the day of Pentecost, however, I am absolutely convinced that it takes a special grace and a special working of the Holy Spirit to unite the hearts and minds of more than three thousand souls. Undoubtedly there were a plethora of differences which were present among those three thousand who were added unto the number of the ones who were in the upper room on the day of Pentecost and through the Holy Spirit they were able to walk in fellowship and community with each other. This is something which is entirely and altogether important for us to recognize and understand when considering this for there is indeed a special grace that is afforded unto men and women who are entirely and altogether different and are diverse in their persons. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for to do so would be to negate the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the early Church. We as the saints of God need to recognize and understand just what we find in the days of the early Church for the beloved physician Luke writes and records how they were of the same mind and how they had all things common. Although each and every one of them were entirely and altogether diverse within and among themselves the Holy Spirit fostered a sense and spirit of community among them. This is something we must needs acknowledge and understand for the words which are present in these chapters bring us face to face with the undeniable truth of community and fellowship which was created among those who were part of the early Church.
Having said all of this—and before I bring you back to the words which are found in the third and eleventh chapters of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints—I invite you to consider the spirit of community and fellowship which was present among the members of the early Church. Not only was there a spirit and sense of community and fellowship manifested among those who were part of the early church but there was also a powerful sense of hospitality present among them as none of them considered their own goods as dear unto themselves but sold everything they had for the want and necessity of the saints of God. It is with this in mind I present you with the following words which are not only found in the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts but also the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints:
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:41-47).
“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:32-37).
If there is one thing I can’t help but consider when reading each of these passages it’s that which is found in the fourth chapter of the book of Acts. It is indeed true the multitude of them which believed were of one heart and of one soul, and it is true that none of them said any of them that ought of the things which they were possessed were their own, and not only did they have all things in common but Luke also writes how there was “great grace was upon them all.” Pause for a moment and truly consider the weight and magnitude of these words for if you want to truly understand how this spirit of community and fellowship was indeed manifested and present among those in the early church you must understand that it was indeed a special grace that was given unto and bestowed upon them. There is not a doubt in my mind that for them to be of one heart, for them to be of one mind and for them to have all things common there was not a powerful work of the Holy Spirit present within their hearts and lives. For such a palpable and powerful sense of community and fellowship to be present among them there would indeed have to be a special grace that was bestowed upon them by the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ. Despite man’s best efforts and intentions they cannot foster and create their own spirit of unity, community and fellowship with others. Even over the past almost two years we have seen powerful cries for unity in the streets of our cities and even various attempts which have been made to bring about such a unity and yet the truth of the matter is that such unity is attempting to be created by man and is not a work of the Holy Spirit. Oh there is a great danger when man attempts to manufacture and produce unity within themselves and do not yield to the power and presence of the person of the Holy Spirit.
The more I read the words which are found in the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts the more I am brought face to face with the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints in his first epistle. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of this epistle you will find the apostle Paul writing about spiritual gifts which are manifested among the saints for the edification and benefit of the saints and body as a whole, however, you will also encounter one of the greatest graces present in the midst of the church and body of Christ. There is not a doubt in my mind that one of the greatest graces afforded unto the saints and body of Christ is that of being able to be of one mind and one heart and having all things common. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the truly wonderful reality of that which is so desperately needed within our own hearts and lives as the saints of God. If you take the time to read the words presented in this passage of Scripture you will indeed read of unity, community and fellowship in the midst of the body of Christ, however, I am convinced you must needs read it in light of the work and grace of the Holy Spirit. Oh with this being said please consider if you will the following words which are found in this passage of Scripture beginning with the first verse:
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversiites of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Corinthians 12:1-11).
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body: is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body: but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
It is absolutely necessary we call and draw our attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for within it the apostle Paul clearly speaks of the unity and community of the body of Christ. Within this passage the apostle Paul emphatically declares that although there are many members within the body of Christ they are all one united together under one head who is the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more is there is one Spirit who unites the hearts and minds of the saints of God as one under the Head who is the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is absolutely impossible to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and wonderful truth surrounding the apostle Paul emphatically declaring concerning the saints of God and how despite the fact they are different and diverse they are indeed united together under one head who is the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Despite the fact the body is made up of many members and each member is unique in their own individual way they makeup one body united together by the Spirit under one Head who is the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular truth for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the body of Christ and how it is the Holy Spirit who fosters the unity and fellowship that is present and manifested among us. If you want to truly understand the unity and fellowship of the body of Christ you must needs recognize and understand that it is a grace of the Spirit bestowed upon the saints of God as it is the Spirit that knits and unites and joins their hearts and souls together as one in the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh we know that in reference to marriage the two shall become one and are united in body, soul, mind, spirit and heart, however, we must also recognize and understand that when it comes to the body of Christ the many become one and are united—not in themselves but in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
WHEN THE MANY BECOME ONE! WHEN THE MANY ARE UNITED TOGETHER AS ONE! It is with this being said I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the third and eleventh chapters of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints. The words which we find here in this passage of Scripture bring us face to face with the divisions, the contentions, the strifes and the like which was present among the saints of God in the Corinthian church. It is with these words we are brought face to face with the awesome and tremendous truth surrounding the division, the strife and the contention that was present among them. The words we find here show just how real contentions, strife and divisions can indeed be within and among the saints of God in the midst of the body of Christ. In an epistle when the apostle Paul not only wrote unto these dear saints concerning charity and unity we also find a very powerful and palpable sense of division, strife and contention which was present among them. Oh having said this I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the following two chapters in the midst of this first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints:
“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).
“Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I Praise you not. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which. Is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink of it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come” (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).
If you take the time to read the words which are found in the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints you will find the apostle Paul writing and speaking unto them concerning divisions, contentions, strife and the like among them. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular truth for it helps us to understand the words which James the half-brother of the Lord Jesus wrote in this epistle unto the twelve tribes of Israel which were scattered abroad. James begins the fourth chapter by asking where fightings and wars come from among them and then goes on to answer this very question by declaring how they come of their own lusts that war within their members. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for it calls and draws our attention to the source of fightings, strivings, contentions, conflicts and quarrels which are present among us as the body of Christ. James emphatically declares unto the twelve tribes of Israel which were scattered that fightings and wars were present and manifested among them and originated of and from their own lusts which warred in their members. Not only this but James would also go on to write how they lust and have not—and not only lust and have not but also kill and desire to have and cannot obtain. Moreover, James goes on to write unto these brethren how they fight and war and yet despite all their fighting and warring they have not because they ask not. This would be followed by James going on to write unto them how they asked and received not because they asked amiss that they might consume it upon their lusts.
I am absolutely convinced we must needs recognize and pay attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for James goes on to write concerning those whom this epistle was addressed to how they were adulterers and adulteresses. Moreover James would go on to write and speak unto them how friendship with the world was enmity with God and how that one who would be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Please do not miss the incredible importance of what is found within this passage of Scripture for within it we find language of fighting and war among the saints and brethren of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only this but we also find James writing unto these brethren concerning their lusting and having not and how they kill and desire to have and yet cannot obtain. When writing unto these saints and brethren James speaks unto them as adulterers and adulteresses who enjoyed friendship of the world which was enmity with God. What makes this truly intriguing and challenging when you consider it is that earlier on in the epistle James wrote of Abraham concerning his being the Friend of God. What a stark and strong contrast is found within this epistle as you will not only encounter one who was considered a Friend of God but you will also consider the danger of being a friend of and enjoying friendship with the world. Within this epistle James made it very clear that friendship with the world was enmity with God and whosoever therefore would be a friend of God is an enemy of God.
Pause for a moment and consider the true significance of what is found in this epistle for within it we find a stark and strong contrast between friendship with the world and friendship with the living God. Not only this but we also find a stark contrast between being an enemy of God and one who was indeed a Friend of God. If there is one thing we must needs recognize concerning Abraham being considered a friend of God it’s his willingness to leave everything he knew behind in pursuit of the call, the voice and presence of the living God. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis as well as the words which are found in the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews you will find a powerful narrative concerning Abraham and how he not only left his country, but also his father’s house and all that he knew. The voice of the living God had spoken unto him—and not only spoke unto him but also called and invited him to leave everything he had known in pursuit of the voice and presence of the living God. This is something we must needs acknowledge when considering the words written in the epistle written by James for when writing and speaking of faith without works being dead James would appeal to the testimony and witness of Abraham and how he was not only considered righteous in the sight of the living God but also how he was considered a friend of the living God. Oh with this in mind consider the following words which are found in the Old Testament book of Genesis, the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews and the New Testament epistle written by James:
“Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came. And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him. And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Beth-el, and pitched his tent, having Beth-el on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD. And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south” (Genesis 12:1-9).
“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed: and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:8-10).
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:13-16).
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and trembled. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:14-26).
If there is one thing these passages reveal it’s that Abraham heard the voice of God calling him to arise and depart from his country, from his kindred, from his father’s house and from everything he knew. Abraham heard the voice of God and departed looking for a city which had foundations whose builder and maker was the living God. It is in the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews we find out that it was by faith Abraham departed according to the word of the living God—and not only depart but depart unto a country which he had not yet seen with his own eyes. In the second chapter of the epistle written by James we find the half-brother of Jesus describing how Abraham believed God and it was imputed unto him for righteousness. Not only this but we also find written here how in addition to Abraham’s faith being counted unto him as righteousness he was also considered to be the Friend of God. This is a stark contrast from what we find in the fourth chapter of this same epistle when James writes and speaks of one who is an enemy of God. What we must needs recognize within our own hearts and lives is that there is a choice and decision we must needs make—namely whether or not we are going to be a friend of God or whether we are going to be an enemy of God. What’s more is that we must needs determine within our heart and mind whether or not we are going to pursue friendship with the world or whether we are going to forsake the world and all its lusts that we might pursue the living God.
Having said this I invite you to consider if you will the following words which are found in the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle John unto the saints which were at Ephesus. It is within this epistle the apostle John writes and speaks to us even further concerning the world and everything that is in it—and not only what is in the world but how we have been called to forsake and abandon it. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the second chapter of this first epistle beginning to read with and from the fifteenth verse:
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15-17).
Pay attention to the words found in this passage of Scripture for the words we find here serve as an addendum and additional frame of reference for what is presented in the epistle written by James the half-brother of the Lord Jesus. It was James who declared that friendship of the world is enmity with God and that whosoever would be a friend of the world would be an enemy of the living God. It was the apostle John who would instruct and admonish his readers and audience to love not the world neither the things which are in the world. What’s more is the apostle John would go on to write how those who love the world have not the love of the Father in them. John would further write how all that was and still is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. Oh please don’t miss and lose sight of the apostle John’s use of the word “lust” for it would also be used by James. It would be James who declared that the wars and fightings among them came from the lusts which warred among them in their members. What’s more is James would also go on to write how they ask and receive not because they ask amiss that they might consume it upon their lusts. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for James directly linked and connected lust to temptation and sin in the opening chapter of this epistle. We find in this passage of Scripture james writing concerning fightings and wars being present among them because of the lusts which warred among them in their members and yet in the opening chapter of this epistle James speaks of temptation and sin and their inherent and intrinsic link to sin within our lives. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the opening chapter of this epistle:
“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: For God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will began he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:13-18).
Within this passage we find James speaking of lust and how a man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. When lust has indeed conceived it brings forth sin—and sin when it is finished brings forth death. This is something we must needs understand when reading the words found in the fourth chapter of this epistle for James not only writes and speaks of friendship with the world but also speaks of the lusts which war among us within our own members. James writes and speaks of friendship of the world being enmity with God and whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. James would then go on to declare that the Spirit which dwells in us lusts to envy and how the living and eternal God gives more grace. Please pay close attention to the words which are found here for it brings us face to face with the grace that is needed within our hearts and lives. It would be James who would write how God gives more grace and then goes on to declare how God resists the proud but gives grace unto the humble. This is something we have great need of paying close attention to for what we find within this passage of Scripture we find a wonderful and powerful sense of the humility that is needed within our hearts and lives. James made it very clear when writing unto these dear saints that God not only gives more grace but gives grace to the humble while resisting the proud. Oh this is something which must needs be acknowledged within our hearts and lives for directly linked and connected to our pursuit of being a friend of God we must needs recognize that humility is at the very heart and center of it.
If you continue reading within this passage of Scripture you will find James going on to instruct his readers and audience to submit themselves unto God and to resist the devil and he would flee from them. What’s more is that James would go on to declare unto them how if they drew near unto God He would draw near unto them. This is something we have a great need of recognizing and understanding when considering the words in this passage of Scripture for more often than not we think it is simply about resisting the devil and he will flee from us. While it is indeed true that Scripture promises that if we resist the devil he will flee from us we must also recognize that directly linked to this is our submission unto the living God. There are those among us who would like to think that they can simply resist the devil and he will flee from us, however, what we must realize is that true resistance of the devil has at the very heart and center of it submission unto God. What’s more is that I am convinced that true resistance of the devil is indeed submission unto the living God and the more we submit ourselves unto the living God the more we will by nature resist the devil. Show me a man or a woman who is faithful and devoted in their submission to the living God and I will show you a man or a woman who is able to resist the devil and he flees from them. What’s more is that to the degree and measure you submit yourself to the living God is the same degree and measure you will be able to resist the devil. You cannot expect to resist the devil and he will flee from you if you have not submitted to the living God. The single greatest means of resisting the devil is through our submission unto the living God—and not only through our submission unto the living God but also through humility.
There is a great need—when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture—to pay close attention to the words which James wrote for within it we find him not only speaking of resistance of the devil but also submission unto the living God and humility. We as the saints of God must needs acknowledge and understand this tremendous truth for only to the degree we are willing to humble ourselves can we truly submit unto the living God. What’s more is I am absolutely convinced there is a core progression found in this passage for first comes the humility within our hearts and souls and secondly comes our submission unto the living God. Just as the degree and measure of our resistance of the devil is based on the degree and measure of your submission unto the living God so also is your submission to the living God based on the degree and measure of the humility within your heart and spirit. What we find in this passage of Scripture is James inviting his readers and audience to forsake any type of friendship with the world and to pursue humility in the sight and presence of the living God. What’s more is that directly linked and connected to this humility in the sight of the living God is submission before Him in His sight. I am absolutely convinced that only to the degree and measure of our humility before and in the sight of the living God will we be able to submit ourselves to Him and only to the degree and measure of our submission to the living God will we be able to resist the devil. It is from this place of resistance to the devil we will be allowed to draw nearer and closer to the living God knowing that He draws nearer unto us. Moreover it is from this place we are able to have cleanse hands and pure hearts in His sight as David wrote in the Old Testament book of Psalms:
“LORD, Who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. >He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved” (Psalm 15:1-5).
“The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof; The world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a purse heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah” (Psalm 24:1-6).
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in this epistle for James would go on to emphatically declare and instruct them to humble themselves in the sight of the Lord and promised that He would lift them up. If we want to truly understand the words and language that is found in this passage of Scripture we must needs recognize the need to be a people of humility in the sight of the Lord knowing that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. It is this grace given unto the humble that allows us to truly submit ourselves to the living God as we make Him the ultimate authority within our lives. Only to the degree and measure of humbling ourselves in the sight of the living God can and will we be able to resist the devil knowing that he will flee from us. What we must needs recognize within this passage is that we have not only been called to be those who humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord and submit ourselves therefore unto God but we are also those who forsake the world and the lusts therein and resist the devil. If you truly want to be those who are able to draw near to God and experience His drawing near(er) unto you there must be a willingness to forsake the world and the lusts therein and to resist the devil knowing that he will flee from you. Oh that we would be a people who would be able to humble ourselves in the sight of the living God and submit ourselves to Him knowing that the more we do the more we will be able to resist the devil and he will flee from us. Not only this but we will be a people who will indeed be friends of the living God as we forsake any and all types of friendship with the world that we might indeed be those who are clean and pure in His sight—those with clean hands and a pure heart who are able to stand in His presence and in His holy mountain.