How you Resist the Devil; James 4:7b
It is always important to remember context. One of the key principles of interpretation is that text without a context is a pretext. If you take the text out of a context you are left with a con! We always have to make sure we understand some things about the context. This epistle has been built around three principles, three major points that James is making: quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. Quick to hear was covered from 1:19 down to 2:26. The whole issue there was the priority of listening to doctrine, that learning the Word of God should be the highest priority in the believer's life because it is only through the consistent systematic teaching of the Word of God that our thinking can be renovated. So the issue here is thinking. Then the second section was in 3:1-12 where the issue was slow to speak. One factor is that when you are talking you are not thinking, so you need to be quiet and learn. So thinking is a key principle in the background there. Then a transitional paragraph from 3:13-18 when we saw the contrast between human viewpoint and divine viewpoint. Human viewpoint is also characterized by walking according to the flesh, by arrogance, by sin. The wisdom of human viewpoint is not that which comes down from above but is earthly, natural and demonic. So right there James is beginning to introduce a scene that runs through this section of slow to anger, and that is the external enemy of the world and worldly thinking which cosmic thinking or human viewpoint thinking versus the divine viewpoint thinking of the Scripture. Human viewpoint thinking is characterized in 3:15 by three words: earthly, natural, demonic. That means that human viewpoint thinking is not just the autonomous thinking of man but it reflects at its very core the kind of thinking that characterized Satan's rebellion and the rebellion of the demons against God in eternity past. Natural, of course, does not really mean natural, it means soulish—PSUCHIKOS [yuxikoj]. The unbeliever is the PSUCHIKOS man because he lacks a human spirit, he has not been regenerated. So this characterizes the soulish man, the unbeliever, and is the best that man can come up with.
Then we see the concept expanded when we come to 4:4 where James says: NASB "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." Once again we see this set up in terms of opposites, one of two positions: either in divine viewpoint or human viewpoint, you are either a friend of the world in cosmic thinking or you are a friend of God. If you are a friend of God you are in antagonism to cosmic thinking, if you are a friend to cosmic thinking then at that point you are an enemy to God.
Then we see this taken to a new level in verse 7. The problem that we see in the congregation James addresses is the problem of carnality. This is a problem that often distracts and destroys people's because they get into thinking that just because all our sins were paid for by Jesus Christ on the cross then it doesn't really matter what I do. It is called antinomianism. It is the idea that the mandates of Scripture don't really matter, the prohibitions, the positive commands of the New Testament are not really that important to life, because after all, if I sin all I have to do is confess it and then God wipes the slate clean and I can go forward. Well it may be true, and it is true, that of we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, and at the moment of confession we are forgiven and restored to fellowship and we can go forward in the spiritual life. But there are still consequences to that sin, whatever it might be. There are both consequences in terms of the natural repercussions that come from sin. Grace does not mean you get off Scott free and you get to sin with impunity.
In 4:1-5 James is laying out the problem: their reversionism. They are in reversionism because they are operating according to the sin nature. The sin nature is the source of temptation, it is not the source of sin. The source of sin is our volition. Once we are out of fellowship it is the sin nature that is the primary influence in the life. All of our righteousnesses are as filthy rages, according to Isaiah 64:6, so even though we are doing many good things, religious things, prayer, getting involved in church activities and all kinds of things that we think somehow impress God with our sorrow and remorse over our guilt, it still flows from human good because we have not yet confessed our sins.
No matter how bad life is, no matter how much you have messed up your life, no matter how many bad decisions you have made, the promise of Scripture is that we all have the grace of God. The grace of God means that if you are still alive recovery is possible. It doesn't mean that it is going to be easy or simple, but it does mean that recovery is possible and that recovery is based upon two things: the filling of God the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, and they work together. So you have to spend as much time as possible in fellowship with the Lord under the filling of the Holy Spirit, walking by mans of the Spirit, and then, according to Colossians 3:16, "letting the Word of Christ richly dwell within you"—Bible doctrine. The Holy Spirit never operates apart from doctrine in the soul.
James 4:7 NASB "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." The point is that this is the mandate given to us as believers: "Submit therefore to God." It is a strong statement that we need to recognize the authority of God on our life to dictate how we think, what we think, what we do, how we do it. You are never going to get anywhere in the Christian life if you don't understand the authority of God. Furthermore, you are never going to get anywhere in life if you don't understand authority orientation. Everywhere we are in life there is the principle of authority. The issue here is on thinking. We have to orient ourselves to what God says and we have to say, "As soon as He says do Y, and we want to do X, we need to snap to and say 'Yes, Sir,'" and move out. Authority orientation is not demonstrated when what God wants us to do is also convenient for us to do. The real test is when the CO wants us to do something we really hate to do. When God wants us to do something that runs counter to where our sin nature is driving us at that point, we discover the true issue of submission to authority.
Authority orientation is an important aspect of recovery. Grace recovery was first introduced in verse 6 where James says, "But he gives a greater grace." So the emphasis here is going to be on God's grace. The comparative "greater" was in contrast to the sin nature in verse 5.
There are three enemies in the spiritual life. So far in James we have specifically addressed the first two. Number two is the cosmic system; number three is the internal enemy of the sin nature. The first enemy is Satan, and that becomes the subject of verse 7. So they are the three enemies of the Christian in life: Satan, the world system which he is behind and which he oversees, and our own internal sin nature. What verse 6 is saying is that God's grace is sufficient. It is the same principle that Paul stipulates in 2 Corinthians: "My grace is sufficient for you." That means we don't need anything else, God's grace is all we need to handle any and every problem. God's grace is greater than any problem, and difficulty, any testing, any heartache that we will ever face in life, but in order to avail ourselves of His grace we have to be submitted to His authority, and that is humility. Humility is authority orientation in practice.
The whole issue underlying this is that if you are going to advance in the spiritual life, if you are going to handle the outside pressure of adversity in the soul, then one of the first things you must master is grace orientation. Second, what goes hand-in-hand with that is humility. Humility is in two categories: enforced humility and genuine humility. Enforced humility is when you find yourself in a position where you have a boss, you have parents, you have a coach, you have an officer over you in the military that enforces authority over you. There you learn humility. That produces in your soul the response of genuine humility which then begins to characterize your life. A third characteristic of grace orientation is a relaxed mental attitude, because you realize that God is in control, that the issue is God's plan and procedure and policy and not your agenda. So you begin to relax in the plan of God. All of this is part of grace orientation and it results in teachability. If you do not have authority orientation, humility and a relaxed mental attitude, you will not be teachable. If you are not teachable you will not advance in the spiritual life because we all have to realize that our entire thinking process, not only what we think but how we think, needs to be completely renovated by the Word of God. When this is all in place, then we can learn doctrine and start renovating the thinking in our souls. This is why James says that we are to "submit therefore to God." This is the recovery procedure. It starts off with recognition when we are out of fellowship that we are in disobedience to the authority in our life, which is God, and that we have to turn around and to submit to His authority.
There is a flip side to this. On the sides of the coin we have on one side we have submission to God, on the other side we have resisting the devil. How do we know that this is not just a progressive list? Because there is a word in the Greek text that is completely left out of the English text. The English text just says, "Submit therefore to God." The Greek text adds a conjunction. After the command to resist, which is ANTHISTEMI [a(nqisthmi], it is followed in the postpositive position by the conjunction DE [de] which means "and" or "and then," or it can even mean "but." Here it is a conjunction and we have "Submit to God and resist the devil." They are two sides of the same coin. We see this because throughout this section James has been emphasizing two spheres of operation: the divine sphere and the human sphere. The human sphere is called earthly, natural, and demonic. Paul in Galatians says it is the operation of the law or legalism, it is walking according to the flesh, human viewpoint thinking, demonic thinking, earthly thinking, cosmic thinking, the thinking of the world's system. In contrast there is divine viewpoint thinking which is based upon grace, upon the power and the work of God the Holy Spirit, it is characterized by divine viewpoint, God's thinking as opposed to demonic thinking, and it is based upon the categorical instruction of Bible doctrine. So we are either operating in one of these two arenas, it is not a both-and. What James is saying is that, on the one hand, if you submit to God you are resisting the devil. How do we resist the devil? By submitting to God, by grace recovery, getting in fellowship, being filled with the Spirit, and walking according to the norms and standards of Bible doctrine.
The origin of the angelic conflict
1) Angels were created in eternity past, perfect and sinless.
2) Each angel was created individually, there is no angelic race. Angels are immaterial, creatures of light. But each angel was created with volition, which is the ability to choose for or against God. This was the only test the angels had in relation to eternal salvation—whether or not they would consistently be positive to God and obey God. Each angel was created with volition and at some point one of these angels, the highest of all the angels, Lucifer became arrogant and said he would make himself like the Most High. Satan's goal is to rule the universe as God. He thinks that he can do it on his agenda, his modus operandi, just as good as God. But God is saying that the modus operandi is grace ands is built on humility and the concept of being a servant. In contrast Satan wants to operate on a works system, the essential core motivation is arrogance, and instead of being servant he wants to rule and exercise authority on his own terms. What this is showing is that Satan has an entire modus operandi that God is going to demonstrate is a complete and total failure. The only for success in life is to follow God's grace policy and the procedures built on humility and being a servant.