Resisting the Proud: James 4:6

God Resist the Proud: James 4:6

This past March, Hearts For The Lost held the Compelled Conference in Lexington SC which was comprised of teaching on evangelism and powerful preaching from men like Mike Gonzalez, Todd Friel and Emilio Ramos. The messages were both convicting and challenging. Some of those challenges have caused some chatter on blogs, Facebook, and radio. In particular, was a statement regarding a verse well known in the Way of the Master circles from the book of James.

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”[1]

Before we hit the blogs and other sources for answers to challenging thought-provoking discussion, we should hit the scriptures. Many of our issues with passages or interpretations could be solved by knowledge of the word that comes from consistent study over many years.

[pullquote]Here in the book of James we need to understand first that the audience he is speaking to are Jewish believers that have been scattered among the known word of that time attributable to persecution. He was not speaking to unbelievers.[/pullquote]

The second thing that is needed is to capture the context of what the issues is with these believers that James is addressing.  That issue is adultery…not the physical kind, but of a spiritual nature. This theme would have been very familiar with the Jews. It is a reoccurring problem with Israel though out the OT that resulted in their exile from the land. There is a relationship between God and His people that is illustrated as a marriage where unfaithfulness is akin to adultery. James 4:4 uses this figure of speech for spiritual unfaithfulness.[2] The Jewish believers had drifted from their first love and towards the world.

It is here that James reminds them that God resists the proud of heart. But who is “the proud”? We need to understand a concept of how the Bible uses the term “the proud” to help understand this. One way to define pride is as improper and excessive self-esteem known as conceit or arrogance.[3] Another is as an unbeliever. It is in this latter context I believe that Proverbs 3:34 uses it. But here in James he is speaking to believers. These Jewish believers are drifting from God and James is warning them that as a result, God will oppose them. So what is the solution? It is, just as James says, “to submit to God” (Jas 4:7) or another way to say it, humble yourself.

So what is the application for us? For one thing, we need to recognize that as Christians we are not immune to pride. We all suffer from this and as James warns, God opposes the proud. But it is grace that allows us to submit to God in repentance. This is an area in our lives we may not want to examine, but it must. Pride can destroy a person’s work, marriage, family, and ministry. It is a gross sin that we must be continually killing and actively at war with. If you think you have conquered this sin or that pride is not something you are tempted with, then my friend you are fooling yourself.

But what is the application for evangelism you may be asking. Well, in this regards I believe others have addressed it better than I could. But notice in the verse following James 4:6 it says “submit to God.” There is your application and antidote for the proud of heart. The gospel: the full and unconditional surrendering to the mercy of the cross. This is the remedy and the message we must preach.

[1]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jas 4:6.

[2] Donald W. Burdick, “James,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 12 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 193.

[3] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1752.

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