Greetings to you Beloved in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I trust that you are feeding on Christ daily as you read and meditate upon His word and as you approach His throne of grace in prayer. For us that Believe, we live desiring that we would decrease and He would increase. (Jn.3:30-35)
Well, to the end of dying to our self and living to Christ and for His glory we are going to study His word calling us to draw near to God. Please take out your Bible. We will read James 4:7-10. Hear the holy and perfect word of our holy and loving Lord designed to make us holy, read. (Jn.17:17, Rom.10:17, Jas.1:18)
James 4:7. Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. (see Luke 6:20-26)
Beloved this is a duty passage. And I would say that it is a spiritual duty passage. Therefore, we need the assistance of the Holy Spirit to help us understand our duty and to enable us to do our duty as well. So, let’s go to the Lord, Who is Spirit and ask for His help, pray. (Jn.4:24, Ps.139:7, WCF 2.1-2)
Today we are going to look at the duty of submitting to God. I want us to see the other exhortations in this section under the main exhortation of submitting to God.
The negative duty.
Now obviously the section before this one provides us with the context of our passage. Let me remind us of that.
James 4:4. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”
In our previous study in James 4:4-6 we saw that God the Holy Spirit inspired James to correct erring Christians for their friendship with the world. That is what I would call our negative duty. That is a “do not do” passage. Do not make friends with the world. They were submitting to their sin, to their flesh, and to the unbelieving world.
And so, if we disobey this passage we would be committing the sin of commission, as opposed to the sin of omission. Commission is doing something God forbids, committing a breach against God’s law. (I Jn.3:4-8)
The Believer in Christ has been taken out from the power of the fallen world or the dominion of the fallen ‘god’ of this fallen world and out from spiritual union with the fallen unbelieving worldling. And by Spirit-wrought and gifted faith in Christ the Believer is now spiritually united to the Triune God and also to the Body of Christ the Church. (Col.1:13, Eph.2:1-9)
Listen to how the apostle Paul states this truth in Second Corinthians.
2 Corinthians 6:14. Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. 17 “Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. 18 “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.
Therefore, we Christians as new creatures in Christ are forbidden by God to return to our former unbelieving thoughts and affections and actions. In short, Believers are not to act like unbelievers again. We are to be holy and perfect as God is holy and perfect. (2 Cor.5:17-21, Prov.26:11-13, 2 Pt.2:22, I Pt.1:14-15, I Pt.4:1-4)
The positive duty.
In our passage today, mainly I want to focus on our positive duty of living as friends of God rather than as friends of the world. (Jn.15:14-15, Jas.2:23)
To use the language of our passage, Believer are no longer to submit their thoughts and affections to the world, but we are to submit our entire being, our body and our soul to God, and to God alone.
So rather than drawing near to the world and to sin and thus to Satan, God calls us by His servant James to draw near to God.
You remember that I have said at the outset of this study that the book of James is a duty book or a law book rather than a gospel letter. This is God’s word to those that have believed in God’s Christ. So, I would say that the book of James is a very practical book.
God is showing us both what our duty is, negatively and positively. And He also shows us how to do our duty. What an all-providing good God we have. (Gen.22:14)
In my view the best commentary on the book of James is by the English Puritan Thomas Manton. (1620-1677) I highly recommending buying his work on this letter. He says this about our passage and others like it in the book of James, doctrine is but the drawing of the bow, application is the hitting of the mark.
In other words, he is saying that God inspires James to apply the Scripture to us. Believe. Now obey. Be effectual hearers and doers of God’s word, rather than ineffectual hearers only. (James 1:22-25, Rom.2:13, Mt.7:14-29, Mt.25:31-46) Submitting to the revealed will of God is being an effectual doer of God’s word.
Submission to God’s government.
Let’s talk a little bit about submitting to God as an aspect of drawing near to God. Again, remember this is to help us from not submitting to the world and to sin. So, the way to help us from sinning against God is to believe and to obey God, especially in positive duties.
Let me see if I can use a practical example to show you what I mean before we unpack the idea of submission to God. The way to not be unfaithful to your wife is to love your wife. The way to refrain from the negative is to do the positive.
Submission to God’s government as revealed in Scripture and Providence.
James concluded V.6. with an Old Testament quote from the Psalms, from Psalm 138:6.
James 4:6. But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” (Ps.138:6, Prov.3:34)
Psalm 138:6. For though the LORD is exalted, Yet He regards the lowly, But the haughty He knows from afar.
Now James continues that line of thinking. We see he uses parallelism to emphasize his points. V.7. submitting oneself to God and then a similar idea in V.10. humbling oneself before God.
We are to submit to God’s Lordship over our lives as He reals it in two ways, in providence and in Scripture. What comes to pass in our lives we willingly and meekly and obediently submit to it. And God’s will as expressed in the Bible we are to believe it, love it, and obey it.
Now, let’s define submission a little bit more.
This word (hupo-ta-gay-te) means to put in subjection to, or to subordinate oneself, to obey, to be under the authority of, or take a subordinate place (1 Cor 14.34) So there is an inward element or disposition and then an outward expression of submission. This is how it would sound; I agree and love your authority over me, therefore I obey your rule for me in word and deed.
The notion is to take the place of an inferior. This may seem self-evident; of course we are the inferior before God who is “The” Superior. But we need to be reminded of this in God’s word, because even as true Believers our corrupt flesh hates to be inferior to anyone, sadly even to God, especially to God.
Submit yourself describes a voluntary act on the part of the Believer. We place ourselves under the authority of someone else. We willingly show that person respect and obedience.
Now the particular form of this verb is in the imperative and in the second person plural. That means this is a command, a “you all must” submit to God.
Let’s look at various venues in which we are to submit to God’s government over our lives.
Submission to God exemplified in His rulership in the family.
We are to submit to God’s rule over us in the family. For extra study on this look at the Westminster Larger Catechism on the 5th Commandment. (WLC 123-133)
Luke uses the same Greek word when he describes Jesus submitting or obeying Mary and Joseph.
Luke 2:51 And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
Submission to God exemplified in His rulership in the state.
We see a similar idea with citizens and the state obeying governing authorities. This one is so hard for us, isn’t it?
Romans 13:1. Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. 5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
Remember, by submitting to these civil rulers we are submitting to God, because He gave us the rulers and He has told us to obey them in His Scriptures. (I Pt.2:13)
Submission to God exemplified in His rulership in the church.
The church is the kingdom of Christ and the family of God upon the earth. And kingdoms and families have rule – His rule. Paul told Christians to obey their leaders in the church. (I Cor.16:16)
Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.
Some other examples of God commanding us to submit to Him by submitting to those He placed over us are: The Bible tells younger people they should be submissive to older people, especially children to parents. (I Pt.5:5) Wives submit to husbands (Eph.5:22, Col.3:18, Titus 2:5, I Pt.3:1). And also, servants submit to masters. (Titus 2:9, I Pt.2:18)
Submission to God is an answer to our prayers.
Also when we yield our will to God’s revealed will we are living out what we regularly pray, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Mt.6:10)
As an aside, is it honest for us to pray to God that we desire His will to be done in everything and then moan and groan against His will? Food for thought. 😊
Submission to God is an imitation of our Christ.
The best example of submission to the will of God is obviously Jesus Christ. The Son perfectly yields to the will of His Father. Christ always did the things that pleased His Father. Jesus perfectly fulfilled the will and the work the Father gave Him to accomplish. And think of the kind of work Christ submitted to – Calvary’s Cross and a lifetime of suffering and shame and opposition. (Isa.53) Oh, what an example Christ left for us to follow in His footsteps.
Remember, in the Garden of Gethsemane Christ said, not My will Oh Father, but Thy will be done. (Mt.26:42, Lk.22:42) Christ came to do the will of His heavenly Father. (Heb.10:7-9).
Beloved, when we submit our wills, our lives to God’s will we are humbling ourselves, we are putting down our carnal pride, and we are imitating Christ. And this pleases and honors Him. And this helps us and others.
Submission to God is devotedness to God.
The idea is to be a God-centered Christian. Make a willful break with self, and sin and the world and actively commit yourself into Gods hands, put yourself under God’s Lordship. By our submission to His government over us we truly express that our chief purpose in life is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. (WSC 1)
This is not forced submission we want to yield to God.
He is our Creator.
Why should we submit to God? And why do we as Believers want to submit to Him. Because He is our Creator, and we are His creatures.
Daniel 4:34. But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation. 35 “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’
He is our Savior.
And since God is our Father in Christ Jesus we are bound to obey Him. (Rom.8:28) In Christ God is our Father and we are His beloved children. In Christ, Jesus is our blessed Savior-Shepherd and we are His beloved lambs.
In Christ we know that God’s Lordship, His government over us is good.
And that means submitting to God when His government over our Life is difficult or painful, in various trials and so on. (I Cor.11:32, Heb.12:5-14, Rom.5:3-5, Heb.10:32-34, Jas.1:2) What is this but being conformed into the image of Christ Jesus.
Submission to God exemplified in opposing those that oppose Him.
He is our Lord.
Submitting to God and resisting the devil go hand and hand. It is impossible to serve two masters or two Lords, we will love the one and hate the other.
James 4:7. Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
The idea is that we are to yield to God’s Lordship being aware that the devil and the devil led world are seeking us to yield to his and their (lower case “L”) lordship.
Satan labors to make us unsubmissive to God in His revealed will, the Bible.
Therefore, James does not want us to be ignorant of the devil’s schemes against us. (2 Cor.2:11, Eph.6:11) The devil is a prowling lion seeking to devour us. (I Pt.5:9) This is why Jesus teaches us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, deliver us from evil or from the evil one. (Mt.6:13)
Some of Satan’s schemes against us, which we need to resist are his temptations for us to cater to self, self-expression, self-indulgence, self promotion, and the like.
And now James gives us God’s directions on how to deal with the devil and his temptations – positively submit to God. And negatively resist him, fight back with the armor of God. (Eph.6:11-180, Mt.4:1-11)
We resist Satan and sin by faith. (I Jn.5:18, Eph.6:16, I Pt.5:8)
Then we are assured by God’s Word that the devil will flee from us.
The devil is not fleeing from our power or authority, but he is fleeing from divine authority, from God. Christ, as our King, is ruling and defending us, and restraining and conquering all of His and our enemies. (WSC 26)
The basis of this victory then is the blood of the Lamb of God. Christ has cast Satan down. (Col.2: 15) Christ will put Satan under His feet. (Rom.16:20)
Martin Luther once said, if we sing psalms and hymns or read Scripture, Satan will flee from us lest he scorch his wings.
Submission to God exemplified in drawing near to Him in the means of grace.
Draw near to God.
Let’s say a few things about drawing near to God. Or course we can only draw near to God the Father through God the Son our Mediator and our High Priest.
James 4:8. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Here too, we draw near to the Lord by faith. (Lam.3:57, Hos.12:6, Zech1:3, Mal.3:7)
Here are a few scriptures that speak to this.
Deuteronomy 4:7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our God whenever we call on Him?
Hebrews 4:16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
The idea here is deliberately seeking God’s presence, deliberately cultivating God’s friendship.
The person in the OT that drew near to God particularly was the High Priest. And because of the work of the True High Priest we draw near to God as a nation of priests.
We draw near to God in reading His word and hearing His word preached, and in prayer. (Ps.145:18, Isa.58:9)
Cleanse your hands and purify your heart.
In drawing near to our holy God in Christ we also want to be aware of the remaining sin in our lives. We want to sanctify God as we draw near to Him. We want to treat holy God as holy. (Lev.10:1-10)
James uses OT pictures, cleanse your hands sinners.
Exodus 30:20. when they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, so that they will not die; or when they approach the altar to minister, by offering up in smoke a fire sacrifice to the LORD. 21 “So they shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they will not die; and it shall be a perpetual statute for them, for Aaron and his descendants throughout their generations.”
Psalm 24:3. Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully.
Notice he says, cleanse your hands meaning cleanse your sinful actions. Obviously, this is a call to cleanse our hearts from the filth of sin.
He calls his audience sinners (Mt.9:10, Lk.7:37-39) and double-minded or undecided people. This is people that waver between two opinions. This is a person that says he loves God but also loves the world. (I Jn.2:15, I Cor.7:31)
James wants to shock the Believers out of the ugliness of living like an unbeliever. It is like saying, oh saint, why are you acting like a sinner?
The scripture speaks to erring Believers in a number of places like this.
1 Kings 18:21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word.
Jeremiah 4:1 If you will return, O Israel,” declares the LORD, “Then you should return to Me. And if you will put away your detested things from My presence, And will not waver.
Mourn for your sins.
Part of our submission to God is holding His view on sin in general and our sins in particular. He hates sin. Because He is so holy. And so we are to hate sin and to put it to death.
For using the pictures of the OT, now James speaks much like an OT prophet calling the people to repent and mourn for their sin, to cover themselves with sackcloth and ashes, as it were.
James 4:9. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
God tells those Christians that have not submitted to Him and instead have submitted to the world to make themselves miserable! Imagine saying that in a sermon!
This word (alai-poe-ray-satay) is imperative active 2nd person plural. It means you all must be sorrowful, or lament. Literally to wretch-oneself, to afflict oneself as to get a deep sense of one’s sin, to see one’s miserable condition.
True Christians are people that have turned from their sin to Jesus Christ. And we daily turn from our sins. (Rom.6:6, Gal.2:20, Gal.5:24, Gal.6:14)
The entire book of James and certainly this section is not a call for unbelievers to be saved, but a call for Christians to seek greater holiness. (Heb.12:14) Similar to Christ’s letter to the church at Laodiceans. (Rev.3:14-22)
Humble yourselves and wait for His exaltation of you.
Beloved, it is no grievous thing for us to humble ourselves before the Lord. He is so good, so kind, so loving. (Ps.149:4, Prov.3:34, Ezek.21:26, Mt.23:12, I Pt.5:6, Rom.12:3, Phil.2:3)
By faith, let’s keep ourselves unspotted from this evil world. Remember you are God’s blessed and holy son or daughter. You are the Bride of Christ. Don’t give your heart to the world. Give you heart wholly to Jesus. Submit your will to God’s will. His will is always best. Very soon God Himself will exalt us in Christ and with Christ.
- Interact with 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. What does it mean to be separated from the world? What does it mean to be separated for God? (WCF 20.1, James 4:1-10, Num.16:21, 2 Thess.3:6, 2 Jn.1:10-11, Eph.5:11, I Cor.15:33, 2 Tim.3:5, I Pt.2:9, I Jn.2:15-17)
- How does God reveal Himself and His will to us in nature? By this what does God teach us about Himself and us by what comes to pass in life? How does God reveal Himself to us in Scripture? What does the Bible teach us? What is our rule or guide for life as Believers? (Ps.19:1-6, Mt.5:45, Acts 14:15-17, Rom.1:18-32, Ps.19:7-14, Jn.3:16, 2 Tim.3:14-17, WSC 2-3, 11, 20)
- What is the definition of submission? How does submission teach the realities of superiors and inferiors or subordinates in a relationship? Does our flesh like the idea of being an inferior? Why? Why not? Why is our submission especially tested and proved when we are confronted with something contrary to our will? What are some things the Bible teaches about submission to God’s will? (James 4:7-10, Ps.40:8, Ps.143:10, Mt.6:10, Mt.12:50, Jn.5:30, Jn.7:17, Acts 21:14, Rom.12:2, Eph.6:6, Heb.13:21, James 4:15, I Jn.2:17)
- Who are the superiors, inferiors, and equals in family relationships? Give some examples from the Bible where God governs family relationships? Give examples of submission to the government of God in our family life. (WLC 123-133, Gen.2:18-25, Exod.20:12, Lk.2:51, Mal.2:13-16, Eph.5:21-33, Eph.6:1-8, Prov.23:22, I Tim.5:4-8)
- Who instituted civil government? Who are the superiors and inferiors in civil government? How do we submit to God by submitting to those He placed over us in civil government? Are there limits to our submission to civil government? How did Jesus submit to civil government? How does this inform our duties? (Rom.13:1-7, I Pt.2:13, Lk.2:1-6, Mt.17:24-27, Mt.22:17-21, Lk.3:12-13, Exod.1:15-22, Dan.3:8-18, Acts 5:29, Jn.19:9-11, WCF 20.4, WCF 23.1-3, 30.1, 31.5)
- How does God govern those within His church? Ruled with what? By whom? What are some of our respective duties as regards to submission in His church? (2 Tim.3:14-17, I Cor.16:16, Heb.13:17, 1 Tim.3:1-13, Mt.28:18-20, Eph.4:11-13, I Pt.5:1-5, Eph.6:19, WLC 158-160)
- How does the submission to the government of God in all venues of our life as revealed in providence and scripture honor God? As our Creator? As our Savior? As our Lord. (Ps.19:1-14, Job 1:21, Job 19:25-27, Job 14:14, Jn.14:15-31, Lk.6:46-49)
- What does it mean to resist Satan? How does Satan and the unbelieving world tempt you to renounce submission to God? How do you resist obeying Satan and the world? (Gen.3:1-8, I Jn.5:18, Eph.6:16, I Pt.5:8, 2 Cor.2:11, I Cor.15:33, Rom.6:16, Rev.2:18-25, Eph.6:10-18, 2 Cor.10:5, 2 Cor.11:14)
- How do you drawn near to God? Do you need a mediator to draw near to God? In what ways do Bible reading, praying, the sacraments, and public worship help you draw near to God? (James 4:8, (Lam.3:57, Hos.12:6, Zech1:3, Mal.3:7, Dt.4:7, Heb.4:16, Ps.145:18, Isa.58:9, Lev.10:1-10)
- Describe how you would cleanse your hands and purify your heart and mourn for sin. What do these duties teach us about God? And about us as true Believers in Christ? (James 4:7-10, Exod.30:20-21, Ps.24:3-4, I Kg.18:21, Jer.4:1, Rom.6:6, Gal.2:20, Gal.5:24, Gal.6:14, Heb.12:14, Rev.3:14-22)