James Rightly Divided and Verse-by-Verse
Session 10 | James 4:6-10
James 4:6-10 | Kingdom Humility
Verse 6 —
In the previous verse, Proverbs 21:10 was alluded to (see note, v.5). But now James says that God gives more grace to overcome the problem. He then gives the remedy empowered by grace: humility. In verses 6-10 James gives instruction for humility, which is a key character trait in the age of the Kingdom offer. Consider Matthew 5:5, for example.
Giving support to the argument for Proverbs 21:10 as the reference in verse 5, James now quotes Proverbs 3:34. Once again, it is my contention that the book of Proverbs has a prophetic overtone and is more related to the last days than is commonly recognized. In those last days, humility rather than pride will be a key factor in enduring to the end.
This passage parallels with the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 23:12, And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. “wisdom for the tribulation," then this is especially true.
Verse 7 —
The natural response to verse 6 would be to submit yourselves therefore to God.
Will the devil flee from you if you resist the devil? In Ephesians 6:13 Paul instructs us to put on the whole armour of God in order to withstand the devil but says nothing about whether the devil will flee from you. In fact, the tone of the Ephesians 6 passage seems to be that the devil will keep on coming.
There comes a time in the last days in which the devil will be defeated, and this seems to be hinted at here. In fact, the Greek word translated flee is φεύγω [pheugo] carries the idea of escape. Why would the devil want to run away from those in the last days who resist him? Likely because after Revelation 12:9 he can no longer be the accuser of our brethren (Rev. 10:10) because they overcame him by the blood of the lamb...(Rev. 12:11). In fact, Revelation 12:9-11 fits so perfectly with James 4:7 that the burden of proof seems more on those who apply James to today rather than to the days of Revelation 12.
Verse 8 —
The concept of drawing near to God so that He will draw nigh to you is consistently found in the Hebrew Scriptures (2 Chron. 15:2, for example). It is interesting that there is no equivalent Pauline statement for the Body of Christ. This is likely because we are in an age of silence in which our own actions are not the basis for God's reaction. Because we are in the Age of Grace, it means we cannot do something that draws us near to God, for that would be works (Eph 2:8-9). In the Body of Christ, we want to do all we can to be near to God through His Word, but do we have a promise that He will be near to us when we do so? The best we can do is take specific promises like Psalm 145:18, which is a millennial promise, and apply them generally. To do so makes us feel good but does not change the fact that we serve a Savior who is at the right hand of God, being sealed in the Spirit.
James then calls for a spiritual cleansing that is at least voiced in words of Levitical purification.
Verse 9 —
These words sound like instructions to a group of people living in days of a forthcoming tribulation and judgement rather than an age of grace. One wonders what circumstances in the age of grace would this be advisable information.
The closest connection to the Body of Christ would be 2 Corinthians 7:10, but an examination of that context would require the conclusion that Paul was not talking about salvation by grace and through faith, and that he also had a Jewish audience needing Kingdom information.
In context here James is teaching Kingdom humility. In the light of being judged based on meekness, a haughty person should Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep.... But for any kind of evangelistic presentation, to introduce James 4:9 would simply instill a works-mindset into a grace-offer.
A typical evangelical answer can be found by Douglas Moo who says,
““mourn" for their spiritual state. They can wait to mourn until it is too late, when God has brought his judgment on the earth. Or they can mourn now, turning sorrowfully from their sin so that they will have no occasion to mourn when the Lord returns."
Such an interpretation does damage to the gospel of Grace.
Verse 10 —
To conclude this segment, James instructs his audience to humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and presents this as the requirement for being lifted up by Him. It is certainly a works requirement.
But what does it mean that the Lord will lift you up? It is clearly speaking in a spiritual sense (in fact, Greek has a different word for lift when referring to making a load higher, see Matt. 12:11). The word used here is most often translated exalt, as it is used in an almost identical sense in 1 Peter 5:6.
In this light, what James says aligns perfectly with the words of Jesus in Matthew 23:12. And such is, not surprisingly, a Kingdom promise, as seen in Luke 1:52.
verses 6-10 is the need for Israel to humble herself for eschatological purposes. As consistently through his epistle, this aligns with prophetic passages like Psalm 37:10-11. The problem comes when Christians try to apply the prophetic to those who belong in the mystery.