Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry


Christian Living

Faith In Action-Adulterers and Adulteresses?

faith in action

James 4:4

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.

Read all of James Chapter 4 here

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?


Faith In Action-Unanswered Prayers

faith in action

 James 4:3

 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

Read all of James Chapter 4 here

Previously we discussed the issue of people’s unfulfilled desires and lust causing them to act in inappropriate ways. Specifically, we discussed that these unmet perceived needs were causing the members of the churches to which James was writing to argue and quarrel among themselves. The root of this particular issue came from the source from which these believers were seeking their wisdom. As we learned, their desires were not being met because they were not asking God.

Suddenly James says something which on the surface seems to be contradictory. First, he basically says: “You don’t get because you don’t ask.” Now, James is telling us: “You ask, but you still don’t get.” Why on earth would this be so?

James, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, has been kind enough to answer that question in a very direct way. We ask, but do not receive because we ask wrongly, “that ye may consume it on your lusts.” Here, again, lust has nothing to do necessarily with a sexual lust, but merely the presence of a strong desire for something. Some versions say, “so you can spend it on your pleasures.

The problem is, God is not a giant cosmic candy machine where we put in a prayer quarter and get a wish granted. How are we to pray? We are to pray for God’s will to be done. Jesus taught us that in the Model Prayer. (Matthew 6:9-13) In Verse 10 of this passage, Jesus instructed us to pray saying, “Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus Himself prayed this way; as He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion, even though the man Jesus certainly wished to not die the horrible death he was facing said, “nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”(Matthew 26:36-56)

If we pray for what WE want and not what God wants, our prayers will go unanswered. If we pray to be released from some calling God has clearly revealed to us, that prayer will go unanswered. If we pray to obtain something God’s Word has clearly revealed to be sinful, that prayer will go unanswered.

Faith In Action-Fights and Quarrels Again?

faith in action

James 4:2

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.

Read all of James Chapter 4 here

In some Bible translations, the phrase “desire to have” is translated “you are envious.” Personally, I think that phrasing does a better job of conveying the meaning of what is being said here. The verb from which the phrase comes also happens to be the origin of our English word “zealous,” or “zealot.” This puts a quite strong emphasis on the intensity of the wants and desires James is speaking of here. Back in James 3:14, 16 the word is actually the one that is translated “envying.”

The NASB renders this phrase as follows: “You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.

Those two little “so s” in that rendering seems to have big importance, as they show the relationship between the wanting, the denial, and the fighting and quarreling. We fight because we do not get what we want.  In other words, out of the reflection of our hearts come our actions.

Do we fight and quarrel in our churches today? Have you seen any news reports concerning splitting bodies of believers suing each other over church property? Have you, in your own communities, seen churches divide over what color carpet to put in a new building? Of course, churches fight and quarrel!

We fight because we are not getting our desires ( according to us) met. The question is, why do OUR desires matter? Is our objective in this Christian life to get our needs met? Of course, the answer to that question is a resounding NO! Our objectives should be God’s objectives. Actually, God’s objectives and plans should be ours as well.

I think the way James closes this verse is significant. We have not, because, “ye ask not.” To take a trip back to the source of our wisdom, we glean that if our desires are, in fact, ours then our actions will be wrong. What is the solution? We ask. Who do we ask? We all know that answer, don’t we?

Faith In Action-Killing Because We Have Not?

faith in action

James 4:2

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.

Read all of James Chapter 4 here

Here, James takes a pretty harsh turn in his language. We have been discussing what happens as a result of unfulfilled desires and wants, particularly among the body of believers.

Were these believers literally murdering and killing each other? Well, the answer to that question is probably, “No.” It seems fairly evident that this term was being used to represent an idea rather than an act.

It seems that, in light of the overall context of what James has been telling us, he is referring to killing as a reflection of what is in our hearts. One of James’ big lessons has been that our actions reflect what we feel in our hearts. So, this seems to be describing what the people James was writing to were feeling. The fact that they were desiring and striving for things and not obtaining them was causing them to feel inappropriate things. Likely what we see here in feelings of intense hatred, animosity and dislike. Perhaps these feelings were being directed at the people perceived as standing in the way of other people’s goals and objectives.

This should not surprise us, as being denied what we want often results in irrational behavior. Remember the crowd outside the door of Lot’s house in Sodom clamoring to be let in so they could violate the visiting angels? Even after being struck blind by the angels, they were so set on meeting their perverse desires they groped blindly for a way in. (Genesis 19:11).  Remember Absolom, David’s son? He so desperately wanted to rule Israel he was willing to kill his own father to obtain that objective.

Are anger and unreasonable hatred towards our brother really that serious? Well, let’s see what our Lord Jesus had to say about it.

Matthew 5:21,22  Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

If there are those still maintaining the position that these are just thoughts and therefore harmless, James goes on next to show what these thoughts will cause to happen.

Faith In Action-Unfulfilled Desires

faith in action

James 4:2

 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

Read all of James Chapter 4 here

This thought requires some linguistic background before beginning. The word, “lust” here is not the same original word as was used in Verse 1. As we discussed, the lust in verse 1 was referring to hedonistic, sensual, worldly desires; It referred to a lifestyle of inappropriate desires and wishes.

This particular word in and of itself has neither negative or positive connotations. It simply means here, “a strong desire.”This is actually the same word for a desire that Paul used in 1 Timothy 3:1 in reference to a man desiring to have the office of pastor.

What is being described here is an ongoing, continuous state of unfulfilled desire. The object of the desires is not so much the topic here, but the fact that the desires exist and are constantly not being fulfilled. Having said that, however, it seems the context of this passage overall indicates that the desires in question here are worldly, fleshly desires rather than Godly ones. But, again, the specific object of the desire doesn’t really matter; what matters is what happens as a result of these unfulfilled desires.

Before we progress onward into what James has to say, let’s think about how we react to our own unfulfilled desires. I think we all know how the world reacts; the world fosters a real, “I’m going to get mine,” mentality. The business world is replete with a “dog eat dog” mentality. The world of social mobility is packed those willing to step on the person ahead of them on the ladder to get ahead themselves. What do we see in the world when people do not get their desires met on an ongoing basis? Is that what we are seeing in our churches today?

Faith In Action-Lusts In Your Members

faith in action

James 4:1,2

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.

Read all of James Chapter 4 here

Lust is normally considered a word with extremely negative connotations, but that is not necessarily so. In some cases in the New Testament, the word “lust’ simply describes a strong desire for something, which is neither inherently good or bad. In this case, however, the word has only a negative meaning. In fact, some Bible translations render this word as “pleasures” rather than “lusts.” Given the actual meaning of the word, this may be a better rendering of it.

This particular Greek word is where we get the English word “hedonism.” Simply put this describes “devotion to pleasure and self-gratification as a way of life.” Based on the word used, clearly, only a negative thing is being described here. In fact, in every case in the New Testament, this word is used, it is used in a negative fashion.

Again, James is taking us back to analyze what motivates us. Our motives can be good or bad; they can be Godly or worldly. The source of our motivations and wisdom can be from above, or from the world. The choices we make in these areas have very real consequences here on Earth.

James does not mince words here. He just finished talking about the state of conflicts which apparently existed in some of the churches he was writing to; In the concluding half of Verse 1 he plainly states what the source of these wars and fightings are. The source of these internal conflicts is pleasures.

We learned back in Chapter 3 that envying and strife cause confusion and every evil work in the church; now we learn that internal conflicts in the church come from the pursuit of our own pleasures.

This is hardly a new phenomenon. Of course, it was selfishness and desire for worldly pleasure that leads to the condemned state of mankind in the first place; we see this back in Genesis Chapter 3, when Eve gave in to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. (1 John 2:16)

It did not stop with Eve, however; selfish desire has caused conflict since the Fall in the Garden of Eden. In Numbers 12 we can see that jealousy of Moses’ authority caused Miriam and Aaron to rebel against their brother. In Mark 10:35-45, we see the Disciples. James and John asking for special thrones in the Kingdom of Heaven; it seems pretty obvious that what they were really seeking was some recognition here and now.

Jesus’ response to their request was very interesting and telling, and we can see it in Verses 43 and 44 of the above passage.

But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.

What are our goals? What motivates us? Are we seeking what is good for us and our own pleasure? Or, are we seeking first and foremost what God wants, and secondly what is best for another person?

Faith In Action-Wars and Fightings

faith in action

James 4:1,2

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.

Read all of James Chapter 4 here

Well, here we go! Because we often get our wisdom from the wrong places, we have envying and strife among us. And because we have those things among us, other things happen. The first of the things we see that happen are “wars,” and “fightings.”

James uses some very strong language here: wars, fightings, fight, war and kill. These are harsh terms being used to describe what our previously discussed jealousy and strife cause to occur.

In Verse 1, “wars,” and “fightings” sound like just a repetition of the same thought, but it is likely they are actually two quite different things. The word used for wars in the original is the same word we get our English word “polemics.” Merriam Webster defines that as follows:

A strong written or spoken attack against someone else’s opinions, beliefs, practices, etc.  The art or practice of using language to defend or harshly criticize something or someone

That sums it up quite well. Evidently, the word war refers to a more or less ongoing and constant state of conflict within a church literally a “war.” The other word, “fightings,” seems to be used in the sense of more specific, short-term conflicts.

The difference is probably not that critical, except in the sense that James is teaching us of the wrongness of this conduct, whether it be long-term, continuous conflict within a church, or short-term infightings; both are wrong and contrary to what God wants from us.

What, then does God want from us in this area? Well, let’s start with some guidance from our Lord Jesus Himself:

John 13:34,35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

God also inspired other writers of the Bible to share thoughts in this important matter; specifically, we are going to Paul again:

Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

What is happening in our churches? Are we showing through our love for one another whose child we are? Or, are we showing the outside world a different face through wars and fightings?

Faith In Action-More Results of Envy and Strife

faith in action

James 4:1-10

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.

Read all of James Chapter 4 here

At the beginning of James Chapter 4, we can see that this almost seems like a continuation of the last part of James Chapter 3. We know from our previous studies that James had some thoughts on the sources of wisdom we can choose from; they were from above(God), or from the world. We saw that the results of our choice as to the source of our wisdom would produce particular results.

We can see this starting clearly in James 3:14. One thing to consider here is the usage of the word “if.” The meaning of it in the Bible sometimes means “if” and sometimes it means “since.” The context seems to indicate that James is saying here, “‘Since’ ye have bitter envying.”

But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.

So, since there IS bitter envying and strife, the results are almost guaranteed, as we see in James 3:16

For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

When we first talked about confusion and every evil work. we were fairly vague and general. What, then, are confusion and every evil work?  Well, moving into Chapter 4, James is going to get more specific.!

Faith in Action-Wisdom From Above Shows Fruit

faith in action

James 3: 17,18

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

Read all of James Chapter 3 here

Godly wisdom is “full of” mercy and good fruits. One writer described this as being “controlled by.”  A person who is full of mercy and good works, then, is controlled by them. In other words, these things are part of the new person who has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit after his or her salvation. Continuing with James’ overriding thought, we can see that mercy and good works will be the natural result of salvation. No mercy and good works, no salvation could be one way his words be taken.

Our mercy should be in accordance to God’s mercy. We should attempt to show the same mercy to others that God has shown to us. In other words, we show mercy to others not because they deserve it, but because we care. God does not give us what we deserve, therefore we should not give others what we think they might deserve. A wonderful example of this is the story of the Good Samaritan we see in Luke 10:25-37. What we see there is an act of mercy done just because it was merciful, rather like God’s act of mercy towards us in providing His Son as an atonement for our sin.

Every good work. This is a very broad statement and brings to mind the fruits of the Spirit Paul discusses in Galatians 2:22,23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Every good work is a very encompassing sort of guidance and covers a lot of things that should be the natural outpouring of our salvation.

Are we full of the works of the flesh as outlined in the same Chapter of Galatians as above? Or are we full of the Fruits of The Spirit?

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