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James 4:11-12 by Robert Dean
Series:James (1998)
Duration:56 mins 48 secs

Joy, Arrogance, and Judging; James 4:11-12

The theme of this whole epistle is how we can have that inner happiness. When James uses the term "joy" he uses that as a technical term for the kind of tranquillity, contentment, peace and happiness that Jesus Christ bequeathed to every church age believer. John 15:11 NASB "These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and {that} your joy may be made full…. [17:13] But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves." There are a couple of observations that we need to make about these two verses.

Joy here is not the emotional happiness which is common to any and every member of the human race, believer and unbeliever. This is a particular kind of joy. There is an interplay between what goes on in the mentality of our soul and the emotions. Emotions are usually defined as the appreciator of the soul or the responder of the soul. God created Adam and Eve perfect and they had emotions, so we know that emotion in and of itself is not sinful. Furthermore, we know that Jesus in His humanity demonstrated His emotions. He wept as he looked upon the crowd at Lazarus' funeral and saw their grief. What does become sinful, though, is the way we utilize emotion and start operating on the basis of emotion. Emotion as a responder responds to something. To what does emotion respond? It does not respond to external stimuli. We may think it does, but remember the old saying: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This means that in conjunction with the value system, the norms and standards and the conscience, the mentality is going to look out and perceive a set of circumstances which are going to be interpreted on the basis of the value system of the conscience. If that mentality says, okay this is good, then there is going to be a positive emotional response. If the mentality interprets the circumstances as bad then the emotions are going to be destructive emotions, maybe harmful emotions such as anger, hatred or whatever, and this is going to produce negative emotions. The emotions are responding to the interpretation that the mentality gives to the circumstances.

We have all this interplay going on between the value system that we develop, the mentality that interprets this, and we have to determine as believers what we are going to operate on in the mentality of our soul. What are we going to think about? So from one day to the other, depending on whether we are applying doctrine, whether we are advancing in the spiritual life, filled by means of the Holy Spirit and operating on doctrine, or whether we are in carnality and run by the sin nature, is going to determine how our mentality is going to interpret and respond to certain events. We may go through some extreme adversity one day and we may look at it and say, 'This is a test from the Lord, I have to respond with divine viewpoint. Let me see." Under the filling ministry of the Holy Spirit we immediately recall to mind a couple of pertinent doctrine, apply that to the situation, and the result is that we go through it with stability. But next day the exact same thing happens and we find ourselves all torn up, yelling, screaming, completely out of fellowship, we wonder at the language that just came out of our mouth, and we realize that we do seem a little schizophrenic at times. Paul talked about that in Romans chapter seven. That is just the normal process of the spiritual life as we are growing and advancing. Some days we operate on doctrine and some days we don't, and hopefully as we spend more and more time learning God's Word the days we do outnumber the days that we don't. But that is just the process of growth in time and it doesn't happen in a matter of days or weeks, it takes years, if not decades.

So when we think about joy it is not the kind of emotional happiness that is common to believer and unbeliever alike. Everybody can be happy. Furthermore, it is not personality. So often when we think of joy we think of certain people who are always just so optimistic and kind of bouncy and bubbly and they are just always up. But they may not even be a believer, so it is not personality. It has to do with what is going on inside the soul, it has to do with the doctrine that is there, and it produces a stability and a positive peace and contentment in the soul of the believer that doesn't get rocked by the external circumstances. That can only come because we have occupation with Christ. We have our mentality loaded with doctrine, we are operating on positive volition under the filling of the Holy Spirit, divine viewpoint norms and standards, and the emotions are followed but joy is not there, joy is what flows out of the stability that comes from knowing Bible doctrine. The interpretation of external events is going to be determined by the doctrine that is in our soul.

The joy that Jesus speaks of in John 15:11 and 17:13 has a little word in front of it, the first person singular possessive pronoun, "my." It is a joy that is uniquely related to deity. It is not simply the joy that Jesus had in His humanity but it is His joy, His stability that He has, and that is a legacy that he bequeathed to every member of the body of Christ. This is the kind of joy that we have. This inner happiness that we speak about is particularly the joy of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has left it to us.

This joy is based on something. Both of these verses say almost the same thing. This joy is based on "these things I have spoken." The "these things" are all the principles and precepts of Bible doctrine that the Lord Jesus Christ taught and which are further developed in the New Testament epistles. So the joy that Jesus bequeathed to us. The joy that James is talking about that surpasses all circumstances of adversity, heartache, whatever the problem may be, is a joy that is based upon Bible doctrine dominating the thinking of the soul. That is why the Christian life is a life of thought; it is not a life of feeling. That does not mean that it is wrong to have emotion. What is wrong with emotion is making emotion the criterion.

To have this joy, this unique inner happiness that Jesus promised and that James mandated, we must have doctrine in our souls. We can't just think that it will happen automatically. You can't apply what you don't know and you can't really know something unless you take the time to make it a priority, concentrate, think, and meditate on those doctrinal principles so that the thinking in your soul is renovated. So only by learning the doctrine and having our thinking renovated can we have this kind of joy. Then, on the basis of these principles in our mentality when we face adversity, suffering and stress, we can call upon the proper doctrine, the proper problem-solving devices and stress-busters to put into place at that particular time.

When we look at these two verses in John we see that there is a relationship to what James has been saying. Jesus said: "These things"—the doctrine that He has been teaching; James started off laying the groundwork: that we are to be quick to hear. That means doctrine is the number one priority in our life. James' hearers had completely failed at that and the result is that the church has fallen apart. There are only two ways to handle life's problems: divine viewpoint and human viewpoint. There may be a thousand different manifestations of human viewpoint but they are all human viewpoint; they are all wrong. Proverbs says twice: "There is a way that seems right to man, but end thereof is death." The congregation that James is addressing is not handling the problems on the basis of divine viewpoint. When you reject the divine viewpoint you are converting the outside pressure of that adversity into stress in the soul and the soul begins to fragment. It may not be noticeable at first, there may just hairline fissures that take years to develop into major fractures, but nevertheless stress develops. Stress is the result of sin nature control of the soul. What we have seen is that this group of believers has been operating from a very evil and destructive mental attitude base. Their thinking is dominated by bitterness, jealousy, self-absorption, and they have demonstrated a mastery of the arrogance skills.

In James 4:11 James changes tack again, and comes back to the underlying problem that is disrupting the congregation: NASB "Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge {of it.} [12] There is {only} one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?" If we just look at this superficially in the English we will notice that this is an example of repetition. He uses the word "judge"—"judges his brother, judges the law." Four times he uses the word for judging in v. 11, then he uses the noun, then the verb, in verse 12. So we are talking about judging and about other believers. This is just the opposite of loving one another.

The mandate starts off with a present active imperative of prohibition from KATALALEO [katalalew]—KATA is a preposition meaning against; LALEO is a verb meaning to speak, and the word means to speak against, but it really talks about slander, gossip, judging, maligning, running someone down, trying to destroy their reputation, getting involved in character assassination. It is a present active prohibition, the present imperative always indicates a standard operating procedure in the believer's life. It is continuous action, something that should characterize it. The fact that it is a prohibition means that they need to stop doing this, that they are engaged in this activity at this time. Then prohibition is, Do not speak against one another. The genitive plural, a)llhlwn, means one another as believers. This is just the opposite of the royal law of love which is laid down in James 2:7; John 13: 34, 35 and is to be the chief characteristic of the believer's life. But notice, he says: "Do not speak against one another, brethren." He is still talking to believers.

"He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother." This shows by the use of KRINO [krinw] here, the verb for judging, that speaking against is synonymous with judging. This is just the sins of the tongue operating on a malignant view of another person; "speaks against the law and judges the law." So by engaging in gossip or slander, maligning someone, what we are doing is we are speaking against the law—NOMOS [nomoj]. The word is used a number of different ways in Scripture so we have to make some interpretive decisions here. It is used of the Mosaic law, the entire Old Testament Scripture, the entire canon of Scripture, and also for all of the absolutes of Bible doctrine taken as a whole, or for individual ones such as the law of liberty, the law of love, these kinds of things. Here it lacks the article in the Greek, it is just NOMOS. The lack of the article generally indicates quality or essence.

The second thing we need to note is the context. In James 1:25 we find the phrase: "the perfect law," and then in 2:12 we find: "{the} law of liberty." These are terms used by James to refer to the absolutes of doctrine to the church age believer. Then we need to note is that the law of freedom/liberty in 2:12 emphasizes the principle that freedom derives only from the secure foundation of Bible doctrine. Fallen man is born enslaved to sin, and after salvation through negative volition and carnality we can put ourselves right back in bondage to the sin nature. But fortunately because of the grace recovery procedure of 1 John 1:9 we can get out from under that. NOMOS in 4:11 represents the entire body of doctrine, all of the mandates and prohibitions for the spiritual life of the church age. So whenever we judge a believer we are speaking against the Scriptures, against the law. The law of freedom, the law in the New Testament, is based upon grace. Grace also runs throughout the Old Testament, but in a special way grace predominates as the modus operandi in the church age. It is more evident and more manifest than it was in the Old Testament. God has always dealt with man on the basis of grace, never on the basis of man's works or on the basis of law. So what underlies the law that James is talking about here is the grace of God. When we run down another believer what we are doing essentially is saying: God, you didn't have any business dealing with that obnoxious believer in grace.

"but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge {of it.}" A doer [POIEO/poiew] of the law means to be an applier. He is saying that if you are judging the law you are not an applier but a judge of it. You have set yourself up as the absolute standard rather than letting the grace of God and God's revelation be the absolute standard. What has happened here in this congregation is that the reversionist believers have completely failed to use the stress-busters that God has provided for them.