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James 4:4

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Ye adulterers and adulteresses - These words are frequently used to denote those who are faithless towards God, and are frequently applied to those who forsake God for idols, Hosea 3:1; Isaiah 57:3, Isaiah 57:7; 1 John 2:15. The term world here is to be understood not of the physical world as God made it, for we could not well speak of the “friendship” of that, but of the community, or people, called “the world,” in contradistinction from the people of God. Compare John 12:31; 1 Corinthians 1:20; 1 Corinthians 3:19; Galatians 4:3; Colossians 2:8. The “friendship of the world” ( φιλία τοῦ κόσμου philia tou kosmou) is the love of that world; of the maxims which govern it, the principles which reign there, the ends that are sought, the amusements and gratifications which characterize it as distinguished from the church of God. It consists in setting our hearts on those things; in conforming to them; in making them the object of our pursuit with the same spirit with which they are sought by those who make no pretensions to religion. See the notes at Romans 12:2.

Is enmity with God - Is in fact hostility against God, since that world is arrayed against him. It neither obeys his laws, submits to his claims, nor seeks to honor him. To love that world is, therefore, to be arrayed against God; and the spirit which would lead us to this is, in fact, a spirit of hostility to God.

Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world - “Whoever” he may be, whether in the church or out of it. The fact of being a member of the church makes no difference in this respect, for it is as easy to be a friend of the world in the church as out of it. The phrase “whosoever will” ( βούληθῇ boulēthē) implies “purpose, intention, design.” It supposes that the heart is set on it; or that there is a deliberate purpose to seek the friendship of the world. It refers to that strong desire which often exists, even among professing Christians, to secure the friendship of the world; to copy its fashions and vanities; to enjoy its pleasures; and to share its pastimes and its friendships. Wherever there is a manifested purpose to find our chosen friends and associates there rather than among Christians; wherever there is a greater desire to enjoy the smiles and approbation of the world than there is to enjoy the approbation of God and the blessings of a good conscience; and wherever there is more conscious pain because we have failed to win the applause of the world, or have offended its votaries, and have sunk ourselves in its estimation, than there is because we have neglected our duty to our Saviour, and have lost the enjoyment of religion, there is the clearest proof that the heart wills or desires to be the “friend of the world.”

Is the enemy of God - This is a most solemn declaration, and one of fearful import in its bearing on many who are members of the church. It settles the point that anyone, no matter what his professions, who is characteristically a friend of the world, cannot be a true Christian. In regard to the meaning of this important verse, then, it may be remarked:

(1) that there is a sense in which the love of this world, or of the physical universe, is not wrong. That kind of love for it as the work of God, which perceives the evidence of his wisdom and goodness and power in the various objects of beauty, usefulness, and grandeur, spread around us, is not evil. The world as such - the physical structure of the earth, of the mountains, forests flowers, seas, lakes, and vales - is full of illustrations of the divine character, and it cannot be wrong to contemplate those things with interest, or with warm affection toward their Creator.

(2) when that world, however, becomes our portion; when we study it only as a matter of science, without “looking through nature up to nature‘s God;” when we seek the wealth which it has to confer, or endeavor to appropriate as our supreme portion its lands, its minerals, its fruits; when we are satisfied with what it yields, and when in the possession or pursuit of these things, our thoughts never rise to God; and when we partake of the spirit which rules in the hearts of those who avowedly seek this world as their portion, though we profess religion, then the love of the world becomes evil, and comes in direct conflict with the spirit of true religion.

(3) the statement in this verse is, therefore, one of most fearful import for many professors of religion. There are many in the church who, so far as human judgment can go, are characteristically lovers of the world. This is shown:

(a) by their conformity to it in all in which the world is distinguished from the church as such;

(b) in their seeking the friendship of the world, or their finding their friends there rather than among Christians;

(c) in preferring the amusements of the world to the scenes where spiritually-minded Christians find their chief happiness;

(d) in pursuing the same pleasures that the people of the world do, with the same expense, the same extravagance, the same luxury;

(e) in making their worldly interests the great object of living, and everything else subordinate to that.

This spirit exists in all cases where no worldly interest is sacrificed for religion; where everything that religion peculiarly requires is sacrificed for the world. If this be so, then there are many professing Christians who are the “enemies of God.” See the notes at Philemon 3:18. They have never known what is true friendship for him, and by their lives they show that they can be ranked only among his foes. It becomes every professing Christian, therefore, to examine himself with the deepest earnestness to determine whether he is characteristically a friend of the world or of God; whether he is living for this life only, or is animated by the high and pure principles of those who are the friends of God. The great Searcher of hearts cannot be deceived, and soon our appropriate place will be assigned us, and our final Judge will determine to which class of the two great divisions of the human family we belong - to those who are the friends of the world, or to those who are the friends of God.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Since all wars and fightings come from the corruptions of our own hearts, it is right to mortify those lusts that war in the members. Wordly and fleshly lusts are distempers, which will not allow content or satisfaction. Sinful desires and affections stop prayer, and the working of our desires toward God. And let us beware that we do not abuse or misuse the mercies received, by the disposition of the heart when prayers are granted When men ask of God prosperity, they often ask with wrong aims and intentions. If we thus seek the things of this world, it is just in God to deny them. Unbelieving and cold desires beg denials; and we may be sure that when prayers are rather the language of lusts than of graces, they will return empty. Here is a decided warning to avoid all criminal friendships with this world. Worldly-mindedness is enmity to God. An enemy may be reconciled, but "enmity" never can be reconciled. A man may have a large portion in things of this life, and yet be kept in the love of God; but he who sets his heart upon the world, who will conform to it rather than lose its friendship, is an enemy to God. So that any one who resolves at all events to be upon friendly terms with the world, must be the enemy of God. Did then the Jews, or the loose professors of Christianity, think the Scripture spake in vain against this worldly-mindedness? or does the Holy Spirit who dwells in all Christians, or the new nature which he creates, produce such fruit? Natural corruption shows itself by envying. The spirit of the world teaches us to lay up, or lay out for ourselves, according to our own fancies; God the Holy Spirit teaches us to be willing to do good to all about us, as we are able. The grace of God will correct and cure the spirit by nature in us; and where he gives grace, he gives another spirit than that of the world. The proud resist God: in their understanding they resist the truths of God; in their will they resist the laws of God; in their passions they resist the providence of God; therefore, no wonder that God resists the proud. How wretched the state of those who make God their enemy! God will give more grace to the humble, because they see their need of it, pray for it are thankful for it, and such shall have it. Submit to God, ver. 7. Submit your understanding to the truth of God; submit your wills to the will of his precept, the will of his providence. Submit yourselves to God, for he is ready to do you good. If we yield to temptations, the devil will continually follow us; but if we put on the whole armour of God, and stand out against him, he will leave us. Let sinners then submit to God, and seek his grace and favour; resisting the devil. All sin must be wept over; here, in godly sorrow, or, hereafter, in eternal misery. And the Lord will not refuse to comfort one who really mourns for sin, or to exalt one who humbles himself before him.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Ye adulterers and adulteresses - The Jews, because of their covenant with God, are represented as being espoused to him; and hence their idolatry, and their iniquity in general, are represented under the notion of adultery. And although they had not since the Babylonish captivity been guilty of idolatry; according to the letter; yet what is intended by idolatry, having their hearts estranged from God, and seeking their portion in this life and out of God, is that of which the Jews were then notoriously guilty. And I rather think that it is in this sense especially that St. James uses the words. "Lo! they that are far from thee shall perish; thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee." But perhaps something more than spiritual adultery is intended. See James 4:9.

The friendship of the world - The world was their god; here they committed their spiritual adultery; and they cultivated this friendship in order that they might gain this end.

The word μοιχαλιδες, adulteresses, is wanting in the Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Vulgate, and one copy of the Itala.

Whosoever - will be a friend of the world - How strange it is that people professing Christianity can suppose that with a worldly spirit, worldly companions, and their lives governed by worldly maxims, they can be in the favor of God, or ever get to the kingdom of heaven! When the world gets into the Church, the Church becomes a painted sepulchre; its spiritual vitality being extinct.

Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5 (EGW), 1086

16 (ch. 9:16). Manufactured Religion Not Life and Light—There are times before us that will try the souls of men, and there will be need of watchfulness, of the right kind of fasting. This will not be like the fasting of the Pharisees. Their seasons of fasting were occasions of outward ceremony. They did not humble their hearts before God. They were filled with bitterness, envy, malice, strife, selfishness, and self-righteousness. While their heads were bowed in pretended humiliation, they were covetous, full of self-esteem, self-importance. They were oppressive, exacting, proud in spirit. 5BC 1086.1

Everything in the Jewish service had been misinterpreted and misapplied. The purpose of the sacrificial offerings had been perverted. They were to symbolize Christ and His mission, that when He should come in the flesh, the world might recognize God in Him, and accept Him as the world's Redeemer. But their lack of true heart service for God had blinded the Jews to a knowledge of God. Exactions and ceremonies and traditions were the sum total of their religion. 5BC 1086.2

The Pharisees had yet to learn that righteousness exalts a nation, that form and ceremony cannot take the place of righteousness. Christ was teaching the people as verily when enshrouded in the pillar of cloud as when seated on the mount. The same compassionate consideration for the poor was enjoined as in the lessons given to the disciples. But the responsibility of every individual in the sight of God, His mercy, love, and compassion, were not included in the lessons given to the people by the rulers in Israel. Said Christ, “No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.” The truth, the life, the light, which should characterize true godliness could not be united with the manufactured religion of the Pharisees (Manuscript 3, 1898). 5BC 1086.3

24 (Luke 16:13; James 4:4). Double-minded Men Satan's Allies—[Matthew 6:24 quoted.] Those who begin their Christian life by being half and half, will at last be found enlisted on the enemy's side, whatever may have been their first intentions. And to be an apostate, a traitor to the cause of God, is more serious than death; for it means the loss of eternal life. 5BC 1086.4

Double-minded men and women are Satan's best allies. Whatever favorable opinion they may have of themselves, they are dissemblers. All who are loyal to God and the truth must stand firmly for the right because it is right. To yoke up with those who are unconsecrated, and yet be loyal to the truth, is simply impossible. We cannot unite with those who are serving themselves, who are working on worldly plans, and not lose our connection with the heavenly Counselor. We may recover ourselves from the snare of the enemy, but we are bruised and wounded, and our experience is dwarfed (The Review and Herald, April 19, 1898). 5BC 1086.5

28, 29. Toil Cannot Duplicate Simplicity—Here He shows that notwithstanding that persons may toil with weariness to make themselves objects of admiration, that which they value so highly will not bear comparison with the flowers of the field. Even these simple flowers, with God's adornment, would outvie in loveliness the gorgeous apparel of Solomon (Manuscript 153, 1903). 5BC 1086.6

An Idea of God's Regard—If the lilies of the field are objects upon which the great Master Artist has bestowed care, making them so beautiful that they outrival the glory of Solomon, the greatest king that ever wielded a scepter; if the grass of the field is made into a beautiful carpet for the earth, can we form any idea of the regard which God bestows upon man, who was formed in His image (Letter 4, 1896)? 5BC 1086.7

Every Flower Expresses Love—The great Master Artist calls our attention to the soulless flowers of the field, pointing out the beautiful tints and the wonderful variety of shades one flower may possess. Thus God has revealed His skill and care. Thus He would show the great love He has for every human being. 5BC 1086.8

Every flower is an expression of the love of God (Letter 24, 1899). 5BC 1086.9

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 265-6

It is the work of the Christian to mend, to restore, to heal. This healing process saves many a soul and hides a multitude of sins. God is love; God is, in Himself, in His essence, love. He makes the very best of what appears an injury, and gives Satan no occasion for triumph by making the worst appear and exposing our weakness to our enemies. The world must not be introduced into the church, and married to the church, forming a bond of unity. Through this means the church will become indeed corrupt, and as stated in Revelation, “a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” TM 265.1

Through association with the world our institutions will become unsubstantial, unreliable; because these worldly elements, introduced and placed in positions of trust, are looked up to as teachers to be respected in their educating, directing, and official position, and they are sure to be worked upon by the spirit and power of darkness; so that the demarcation becomes not distinguished between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not. The parable is given by Jesus Christ in regard to the field in which it was supposed had been sown pure wheat, but the entrusted ones look upon the field with disappointment, and inquire, “Didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?” The master of the vineyard answers, “An enemy hath done this.” TM 265.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, 143

Those who pursue such a course show that they cannot be trusted. After the evil has been done, they may confess their error; but can they undo the influence they have exerted? Will the “well done” be spoken to those who have been false to their trust? These unfaithful workmen have not built upon the eternal Rock, and their foundation will prove to be sliding sand. When the Lord requires us to be distinct and peculiar, how can we crave popularity or seek to imitate the customs and practices of the world? “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4:4. 6T 143.1

To lower the standard in order to secure popularity and an increase of numbers, and then to make this increase a cause of rejoicing, shows great blindness. If numbers were an evidence of success, Satan might claim the pre-eminence; for in this world his followers are largely in the majority. It is the degree of moral power pervading a school that is a test of its prosperity. It is the virtue, intelligence, and piety of the people composing our schools, not their numbers, that should be a source of joy and thankfulness. Then shall our schools become converted to the world and follow its customs and fashions? “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye ... be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:1, 2. 6T 143.2

Men will employ every means to make less prominent the difference between Seventh-day Adventists and observers of the first day of the week. A company was presented before me under the name of Seventh-day Adventists, who were advising that the banner, or sign, which makes us a distinct people should not be held out so strikingly; for they claimed that this was not the best policy in order to secure success to our institutions. But this is not a time to haul down our colors, to be ashamed of our faith. This distinctive banner, described in the words, “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus,” is to be borne through the world to the close of probation. While efforts should be increased to advance in different localities, there must be no cloaking of our faith to secure patronage. Truth must come to souls ready to perish; and if it is in any way hidden, God is dishonored, and the blood of souls will be upon our garments. 6T 144.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, 47

Those who have but small capacities, sanctified by the love of God, can do good for the Master; but those who have quick, discerning minds may employ them in His exalted work with grand results. To wrap in a napkin the talents God has entrusted to them, and hide them in the earth, thus depriving Him of their increase, is a great wrong. We are probationers. The Master is coming to investigate our course, and He will inquire what use has been made of the talents lent us. 4T 47.1

Brother E, what use are you making of the talents God has placed in your care? Have you done what you could to enlighten the minds of men in regard to truth, or have you found no time from your business cares and perplexities to devote to this work? It is a crime to use the bounties of God as you have done, to diminish your physical strength and separate your affections from God. “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” You cannot love this world and love the truth of God. “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” You are not a happy man. Your family is not a happy family. Angels of God do not come in and abide with you. When the religion of Christ rules in the heart, conscience approves, and peace and happiness reign; perplexity and trouble may surround, yet there is light in the soul. 4T 47.2

Submission, love, and gratitude to God keep sunshine in the heart, though the day may be ever so cloudy. Self-denial and the cross of Christ are before you. Will you lift the cross? Your children have been blessed by a mother's prayers. They have loved religion. They have tried to resist temptation and to live lives of prayer. Sometimes they have tried very hard; but your example before them, your love and devotion to the world, and your close application to business, have withdrawn their minds from spiritual things and turned them to earth again. Satan has been upon their track to lead them to love the world and the things of the world. They have gradually lost their confidence in God, have neglected secret prayer and religious duties, and have withdrawn their interest from holy things. 4T 47.3

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