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James 4:1-10

Posted by Matt Postiff June 22, 2018 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Theology  Interpretation  Bible Texts 

How shall we interpret James 4:1-10? The entire book of James seems to be directed toward believers, at least generally so. But there is some very strong language in chapter 4 that seems to indicate readers who were heavy into sin, so much so that they might seem like unbelievers:

  • Wars
  • Fights
  • Desire for pleasure
  • Lust
  • Murder
  • Covet
  • Not asking God
  • Asking amiss
  • Spending on personal pleasures
  • Adulterers
  • Friendship with the world
  • Enmity with God
  • Spirit that yearns jealously
  • Proud
  • Sinners
  • Double-minded

This sounds suspiciously like the worldly wisdom mentioned in James 3:14-16. Where does this stuff come from? James identifies the source in verse 1: an internal heart problem where desires for pleasure are in control of the person's behavior.

Whether this is a description of a believer or not, none of this is good or acceptable. If a member of the church behaved consistently like this and without repentance, what would the church do? It would have to conclude that the person is not acting like a believer should act. It should then call the person to repent. The call would look something like this:

  • Submit to God
  • Resist the Devil
  • Draw near to God
  • Cleanse your hands
  • Purify your heart
  • Lament
  • Mourn
  • Weep
  • Turn laughter into mourning
  • Turn joy into gloom
  • Humble yourself before God

If the person responds properly with humble repentance, all will be well. If the person does not, then they are giving off strong evidence that they are not genuine in their profession of faith.

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