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.
This is an interesting phrase to have just right out of the blue in James’ writing, and it probably is worth some explanation. James is about to launch into a discussion of who our primary relationship is going to be with: Will that be with God, or will it be with the world.
James is not making a reference here to an actual act of committing adultery here. He is not accusing the believers he is writing to of cheating on their husbands and wives. It seems evident that a reference to that subject would seem slightly out of place. What, then, is James saying?
What Jame is referring to here is spiritual rather than sexual infidelity. Specifically he is addressing Jewish believers who were violating their covenant relationship with God by loving the world rather than Him. Are there parallels for the church today? Probably there are, as the church today is what? The Bride of Christ.
At any rate, the Jewish believers that James was writing to would have understood his reference immediately. The covenant relationship of Israel with God is in many ways a picture of the Covenant relationship a man and woman have in marriage. The nation of Israel had a history of violating this covenant and turning to other idols and gods rather than the One True God whom they were, in essence married to.
Let us look at some Old Testament passages where we see this.
Jeremiah 3:8 And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.
2 Chronicles 21:11 Moreover he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled Judah thereto.
Psalm 73:27 For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee.
Ezekiel 16:32 But as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband!
Jesus also referred to the Jews of His day as the equal of a cheating wife:
Matthew 12:39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
Clearly, James was trying to make a point here; the point he was making was very serious. If we choose a relationship with the world, we are, in effect, cheating on God as a husband or wife who had a relationship with another would also be cheating.
We today are supposed to be the Bride of Christ. If we are, what is our relationship with our Bridegroom? Are we faithful, or are we adulterers?