THE NEW TESTAMENT
Epistle from James #3
Chapters Four and Five
The Greek word "war" in verses one and two, also
proves James was writing to a large general population of
the scattered twelve tribes of Israel (chap.1:1) -
scattered throughout the Roman Empire.
The word "war" in verse one is "polemos" - number
4171 in Strong's Concordance. The ENGLISHMAN'S GREEK
CONCORDANCE shows this word as used everywhere in the NT.
It is used in Mat.24:6; Mark 13:7; Luke 14:31; 21:9; 1
Cor.14:8; Heb.11:34; Rev.9:7;,9; 11:7; 12:7,17; 13:7;
16:14; 19:19; 20:8. It is translated as "war" - "fight"
- "battle." in the KJV. In every case in the NT, it is
used as meaning the literal fighting, battles, warfare,
among armies. There should be therefore no reason to try
and make it mean something else in James 4:1.
The Greek for "war" in verse 2 is akin to "polemos"
- it is "polemeo" number 4170 in Strong's Concordance -
and is used in the NT in only these places: Rev.2:16;
12:7; 13:4; 17:14; 19:11. Once more it means the literal
war, fight, fought, as armies warring against each other.
There should be no reason to try and say it means
something else here in James 4:2.
Using only the NT to interpret itself, the NT uses
the words to literally mean warfare as we think of it in
the normal sense - groups of people or angels or God
against man, in literal battles and warfare.
All of verses one to ten prove James was now
addressing a majority people of the tribes of Israel, who
were at times, fighting, warring, and battling, either
each other or other nations around them where they were
scattered. They had a form of religion only, but no real
substance, their fightings were from their basic lustful
nature. They maybe asked God this or that, but it was an
asking based on their lusts. They were asking amiss, they
didn't receive, and so their lustful desires led them to
warfare. James says they were part and parcel of the
world around them, they were a friend of the world, they
walked in the ways of the world, hence they did what the
world does - get what you think you need even if it means
going to war over it. They were allowing the bad side of
our natural spirit in us, to lead them off into wars,
fighting, and battles. There religion led them to ask,
but they were asking for the wrong things.
A whole new mental attitude was need on their part.
They needed HUMILITY! They needed to get rid of their
vain proudness, and if they were to receive the grace of
God, meekness and humility was surely needed from their
hearts and minds. It was just a fact of recorded
Scripture that God resists the PROUD, but gives GRACE to
the HUMBLE (verses 1-6; and see Job 22:29; Ps.138:6;
According to James through the next verses those
Israelites needed DEEP repentance, mourning, weeping, and
humility. He pulls no punches, puts the cards on the
table, calls it like it clearly was, and gives them the
changes they needed to make in their lives.
"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, you
SINNERS; and PURIFY your hearts, you 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 (verses 7-10, KJV).
Truly James' words are a call to DEEP REPENTANCE.
Truly many in scattered Israel needed to hear that call.
Indeed sometimes the servants of the Most High have to
cry aloud and spare not, and have to show the people of
God their sins.
Many of those Israelites were also speaking evil
against one another. This is the evil of malice, gossip,
hurtful words, words that edified no one. There is a kind
of talk that Christians should not partake in. When
talking about someone is done to cut them to pieces, to
trample them into the dust, to falsely accuse, to blame
of sinning against the law of God, when there is no clear
evidence .... such evil talk, is condemning, and you are
being judge over someone, when you have no right to be
their judge. There are some situations that you should
have nothing to do with or nothing to say about, because
you simply do not have the facts. You should be busy
doing the law, and not being a judge using the law to
speak against someone in a wrong way.
There are times to judge. Paul did so in 1
Corinthians 5, which we have looked at already, when we
went through that epistle of Paul's. Jesus said we are to
judge RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT. It is an important topic, that
of judging. I have written an in-depth study on the
matter. Please look it up and take the time to fully
study the matter.
God is the final judge of everyone. He is the one who
gave the law - He is the GREAT lawgiver. He is the one to
save or destroy. James is addressing people who were
judging and condemning incorrectly and un-righteously.
Yes, this matter of judging is a serious and
important issue that the Bible has much to say about, so
please take the time to read and study my article
covering this subject (verses 11-12).
To finish this chapter James addresses those
individuals who are self-pompous, overly self-confident,
arrogantly proud, who think the world revolves around
them. They think and plan as if they are immortal flesh,
the attitude they have is what is to be blamed here. Of
course it is not wrong to look ahead, and have some basic
outline of what you want to accomplish in life, but it
should all be in a humble frame of mind, with an attitude
of "God willing" I would like to do this or that. We are
to remember our life is like a vapour, we are only here
for a relatively short span of time in the eternity of
Some, James knew, were rejoicing in their cocky mind-
set concerning life, they were in a wrong boastful
attitude, and James said that kind of living was evil
He also knew that many he was writing to, KNEW
BETTER! And when a person has been enlightened, then to
turn from the light and carelessly ignore it or throw it
away, or set your mind to NOT walk in the light, then it
is SIN indeed for that person. As Jesus said, "To whom
much is given much is required."
It is a wonderful prize to have, is the prize of
having more light revealed to you, having more "good"
manifested to you, but once it is given it is your grave
responsibility to DO that which is right. To NOT do so is
sin, and as we have heard from James, sin, when it is
finished, brings forth DEATH (verse 17 with chapter
Verses 1-6 of this chapter are also proof that James
is writing to a large population - the twelve tribes of
Israel scattered. His scathing remarks towards the
physically wealthy are blunt and pointed. We would hope
that they are addressed towards un-Godly and un-Christian
people. Although Paul had to pointedly address the sins
of some Christians in his epistles, James here gives no
hint that he is talking to some in the Christian church.
It is best to conclude James is talking to the general
"wealthy" population of the twelve tribes, many or most,
of which were not following godly principles of living.
It would seem that there was a major "task-master"
attitude by the rich to take advantage of the poor, many
of which were Christians.
Look at how James starts: "Come now, you rich, WEEP
and HOWL for your miseries that are coming upon you."
Then he proceeds to tell them their riches have rotted,
and their garments moth-eaten, their gold and silver is
corroded. Now it really takes something mighty drastic to
corrode gold, but I suspect it is a figure of speech
James uses to nail home how bad things are with the rich,
and the corrosion within their heaped up treasures, will
be their witness against them, of their attitude towards
their riches and the abuse of the poor that made them
These greedy task-masters of the poor, had not done
what was right and proper concerning the wages to be paid
to their poor workers. Whatever the fraud was that they
enacted as they manipulated the wages of those they
employed, that fraudulent sin had reached up to heaven,
along with the cries of the poor who were being
James tells them that they have lived on earth in
pleasure and luxury (margin - indulgence). They lived
lives of continual feasting, maybe literally, but
figuratively for certain. What they have done towards the
poor amounted to the likes of condemning and murder, yet
those just and righteous ones did not resist them (verses
Obviously there was a large problem out there among
the scattered twelve tribes of Israel. The rich by and
large were taking great advantage of the relatively poor
people that they employed.
James admonishes those Christians employed by the
rich: "Therefore be patient , brethren, until the coming
of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious
fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it
receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient.
Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at
hand" (verses 7-8).
At the time of James' writing the early apostles
thought the coming of the Lord in glory to establish the
Kingdom of God on earth, was not far away. By the time
Paul wrote some of his epistles certain prophetic
passages had been revealed to him and they knew some
events had to yet take place before Jesus was to return.
But still, I doubt any of them would have expected the
past two thousand years to have gone by, and still we
expect the coming of the Lord is at hand. Such is the
nature of time in the presence of God, two thousand years
to Him is but a twinkling of an eye in endlessness
The Christians were not to complain and grumble
against one another. When you are being mistreated by
rich employers, it is easy to complain and grumble, even
to the point of grumbling between each other, finding
fault in this way or that way with each other. We are not
to get into that bad attitude with one another because we
shall be judged by THE judge of the universe who is
standing at the door, a way of saying He is standing near
James points them to the prophets of old, who came in
the name of the Lord. He points them to the suffering
they had to endure at times, and how they patiently bore
it all. He reminds them that we counted them very
blessed, those who set us that example of patient
endurance. We think of the great Job and his endurance
under mighty trials, and we have seen the end intended,
the finished product, of the Lord - that the Lord is very
compassionate and great in mercy (verses 9-11).
It was Paul who wrote that the Lord will not allow
trials and tests to come upon us that we cannot endure,
but will with those trials and troubles, make a way of
escape, give us the strength to bear with them. Again the
classic example is that of Job. I ask the reader to read
the book of Job in a modern translation, which will bring
to light that book in a much more revealing way than the
James gives instructions as Jesus did, about
"swearing" and "oaths" (verse 12). Under the New
Testament swearing by oaths for Christians has indeed
been "done away with." Some people like to think that
just about everything under the Old Covenant has been
"done away with" under the New Covenant. That is of
course far from the truth, but on the other hand SOME
things under the Old have been abolished under the New.
This one of them (swearing and taking oaths by this
method or that method) - oath swearing should not be
practiced by Christians. You can "affirm" - say YES or
say NO, but things like swearing on the Bible should not
be done by Christians. Many of you may be surprised that
our laws of the Western world allow for "affirmations" in
the courts of the land.
I once needed to be in court as a witness (nothing
drastically serious, I've even forgotten what it was all
about now), and whoever they are, handed me the Bible to
put my hand on and swear that I would tell the truth and
nothing but the truth so help me God. I told the person
I would affirm, but not with any hand on the Bible. They
blinked their eyes, and repeated their words again as
they handed me a Bible. I said the same thing, that I
would affirm. The person hesitated for a moment this
time, looked a little puzzled, and then again started to
repeat their speech as they hand me the Bible once more.
I again told them I would affirm ..... this time they
really were confused, looked down, looked up, and looked
over at the Judge. With a sigh from the Judge like "Don't
you know he is allowed to affirm and not swear on the
Bible" the Judge said out loud, "He will AFFIRM, he's
allowed to do this."
Oh, interestingly, the Judge did ask me where I got
this from, not swearing on the Bible. I was able to tell
all present the passages of James and of Jesus (Jesus
instructed it in Matthew 5:34-37).
Kind of simple really, but many Christians just do
not take the words of Jesus and James in any serious
practical daily manner. I'm not sure what they think
Jesus and James were teaching, if it was not plainly DO
NOT SWEAR OR TAKE OATHS, PERIOD!
Some things HAVE CHANGED from the Old Covenant to the
New Covenant, but you need to be very careful about WHAT.
I have an in-depth study called "LIVING BY EVERY WORD OF
GOD - HOW?" You need to look it up and study it
If we are suffering from anything, James tells us to
pray about it. If we are cheerful, to sing psalms or
songs of praise. A psalm is words of praise, a way of
telling god you are thankful. This can be done with many
types of songs, they do not have to be so-called
"religious songs" - many songs can have words of praise
and joy and thankfulness in them. It is much harder today
find those songs outside of the religious world, as so
many of today's songs are full of this trash and that
trash, this moaning and this bad experience or
heartbreak, "She done left me, and my dog ran away and
I'm now so blue, so blue, as I cry in my bear, away from
If people are sick, they are to call for the ElderS
(note the plural) of the church and they are to come and
anoint them with oil and pray for them. Again, kind of
simple, but few churches practice this admonishing
teaching today (verses 13-14).
Verse 15 has given some people a hard time, they are
practically smashed to bits when God does not heal, and
let's the person die. The words say, "And the prayer of
faith WILL save the sick, and the Lord WILL raise him up,
and if he has committed sins, he WILL be forgiven."
Looking at the whole Bible, if we are reading ALL of
it, we shall see that at times people are not healed,
they must endure with their sickness of what ever sort it
is, or they may not be raised up but do indeed die. Paul
had a thorn in the flesh that he asked the Lord three
times to remove, but God did not remove it, and told him
that His grace was sufficient for him - God would give
Paul the strength to endure his thorn in the flesh.
The answer to this verse in James is understanding
the Bible uses, over and over again, GENERAL STATEMENTS!
We use this language even today in our speech. "What a
lovely day it has been" we may say at the end of the day,
even though there was a few times a dark cloud came over
and dumped a good rain shower on us, while enjoying a
I refer the reader to my in-depth study called
"General Statements" which will show you how the Bible
uses the speech tool known as general statements.
James is using a general statement here. Quite often,
probably most of the time, God does heal after anointing
with oil and prayer, BUT NOT EVERY TIME. For whatever
reasons God may choose not to heal that person, they may
have to live with their sickness, as Paul had to live
with his thorn in the flesh, or they may even die! We do
look to God in faith, that He will answer in the way He
decided to answer our prayer.
All this does not say we should not fervently pray,
for James in the next verse (verse 16) says we should
talk to each other about our weakness and sickness and
pray for each other that we will be healed. The effectual
fervent pray of a righteous man does avail much.
You will notice the confessing of our faults and sins
to each other here mentioned, is in the CONTEXT of
physical sickness - James is not teaching the spiritual
"confessing box" to a church priest, that one particular
denomination once used (and maybe still does in some
parts of the world).
The example James gives is that of the prophet
Elijah. He was a human man, as we are, with the same
pulls of the flesh as we have. But he EARNESTLY prayed
that it would not rain in Israel, and it did not rain for
three and one half years (1 Kings 17:1; 18:1). And he
prayed again and the heavens gave rain (1 Kings 18:1,42).
So, fervent prayer can bring mighty results. We
should use earnest heartfelt prayer, but remember God is
the one to give His answer WHEN and HOW he sees fit
James end his epistle with a reminder of TWO things.
One, it is possible for someone to TURN FROM the truth.
They had the truth, but they have now wandered from it.
And it is good for someone to try and bring them back to
that truth, to save their lives once more, to help them
re-direct their way of life BACK AGAIN to the truth of
Paul talked about this in Galatians 6:1-3. The person
trying to restore someone back to the faith should be
doing it all in MEEKNESS, HUMILITY, and not in some vain,
arrogant, self-righteous mind-set.
Yes, at all times we need to NOT think of ourselves
MORE than we should, we need to live and walk, and act in
words and deeds with HUMILITY, and if we do, then God can
use us to serve and help people, bring salvation to
people, and what greater work can there be than to help
people find eternal truth and salvation. May it be what
we are all about (verse 19-20).
Written May 2007