By Al Stoner
"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, 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" (Jas. 4:4).
Some Alternate Translations of this Admonition. ". . . the friendship of the world is hatred of God" (ACV). " Don't you know that if you love the world, you are God's enemies?" (CEV). "If you want to be the world's friend, you make yourself God's enemy" (GNB). "friendship with the world is hostility toward God" (NASB). "Friendship of the world" (WNT). "Friendship with the world" (YLT).
James is addressing this word to those who, at least by their profession of faith, had "begun in the Spirit" (Gal. 3:3), but afterwards had prostituted their heart's affection and devotion to the domain where Satan is prince (cf. Jn. 12:31). It is as though he is reasoning with his hearers in the following manner. Have you failed to come to this obvious conclusion from the consistent representations of Scripture? After all that the Lord, and His Apostles, and Prophets have said about God being a jealous God, about faithfulness, unfaithfulness, sin, chasteness, holiness, and sinful defilements, ought not this to have been the resounding conclusion that would be arrived at?
In consideration of the great cost of our redemption to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the great lengths to which all three Members of the Godhead have gone to save us, is it possible not to arrive at this conclusion? Having believed the record that God has condemned sin in the flesh in the death of His only begotten Son, and that the world is now passing away, along with its base lusts, one could not reason otherwise, unless, perhaps, the person has been ensnared by the Devil and deceived. And that is a veritable possibility. As it is written, "the deceived and the deceiver are His [and in His power]" (Job 12:16, AMP). And "Babylon has been a golden cup in the Lord's hand" (Jer. 51:7).
An Adultery Worse than the Violation of the Marriage Bed. The Devil has sold the masses of religious people today a lie of unfathomable proportions. In one way or another, he has convinced them with subtlety that friendship with the world and friendship with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can be maintained simultaneously, and that affection for the accursed thing can be mingled together with affection for Him who is blessed forever. Nothing could be farther from the truth!
In the realm of nature, only a fool would reason and act in this manner. Taking up the language of the Prophet Malachi (cf. Mal. 1:8), let all those who labor under such delusion, offer now to their spouses the same kind, and degree, of devotion that they render to God, and see if they will accept it. Can she that is "espoused" "to one husband" (II Cor. 11:2) flirtatiously give her affection to another with impunity? This would certainly not take place in the natural realm (under normal circumstances, at least), and it is far more certain that it shall not take place in the realm of the Spirit! One of the old time writers once said, "The church is the bride of Christ, and for a bride to fail in love is to fail in all things." From one perspective, at least, a man's or an assembly's love for, and devotion to, the risen and glorified Christ, the One declared in the Scripture, is the only thing they have to commend themselves to Him.
This indictment of James is not against those who are "of this world" and who never "have known the way of righteousness" (cf. II Pet. 2:21), but rather against those who have known it, at least by profession. Characteristically, among countless religious devotees today, "wickedness arrays itself in fair garments, and imitates the language of holiness; but the precepts of Jesus, like his famous scourge of small cords," must "chase it out of the temple, and will not tolerate it" (C.H. Spurgeon). In Babylon, which is the world pretending to be the church, more often than not, those who are uncompromisingly living by faith in the Son of God will find themselves being chased "out of the temple." "Away with such ones from the earth," are the sentiments of those who are of this world towards those who are seeking a better country, that is, an heavenly one.
New Creatureship and the World to Come. Those who are in Christ Jesus through obedience to the gospel have been made new creatures in Him. With such ones, "old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (II Cor. 5:17). They have, by God's grace, made the passage from death unto life. This passage has imparted to them new loves, new affections, and new hatreds, of which they were not capable prior to their being in Christ. They now love things that are true and righteous, and they hate every false way. They have come to love the ways of God in Christ Jesus, and to despise the ways of this world.
They are new creatures, in deed and in substance, and not only in their doctrine or religious profession. New creatures acutely sense the contrariness and animosity of this present evil world towards them. They have been "enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and" have been "made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come" (Heb. 6:4-5). Things of a temporal nature, and things that are contrary to the will of God, are things which now trouble, distract, and even cast them down, whereas things which pertain to the truth of the gospel, and things that are eternal, greatly comfort them, assuaging their griefs, and which also invigorate their spirits Godward. They have learned the inseparable connection between "the sufferings of this present time" and "the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18).
Making the Best of Both Worlds??? The old adage of making the best of both worlds is false through and through, but it has been adopted as the "philosophy" of myriads of religious devotees. The Apostle's lamentable indictment of some of the younger women that "some are already turned aside after Satan" (I Tim. 5:5), is also a truthful representation of many professing faith in Christ in our day. Such turning aside does not necessarily entail engaging in base immorality, or becoming involved in a religious cult. It simply means that one has surrendered one's heart's affection (and allegiance) to the world, and its prince. It means that men have departed from "the way of holiness" (Isa. 35:8) and are now governed by "the lust of the flesh," "the lust of the eyes," and "the pride of life" (I Jn. 2:16). It means that their flesh and blood relations are esteemed above those who are living by faith in the Son of God. With them things which are true and everlasting have become eclipsed by things which are passing away. It means that the Lord Jesus Christ is no longer to them personally, as evidenced by their manner of living, "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (Jn. 14:6).
After the Lord’s notable discourse in John chapter 6 where He spoke of the necessity of men eating His flesh and drinking His blood, if they would live forever, and not die in their sins, it is recorded that “many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.” In our generation, and in every generation since that early time, the Lord Jesus Christ has had disciples who have gone back, and walk no more with Him. However, in Babylon men are able to not walk with Jesus, and at the same time, keep their religious profess to save face. But all such ones shall be exposed for who they really are by the Lord in the last day.
Incidentally, hereditary orthodoxy appears to be one of the greatest menaces to the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is where a second generation of those professing the faith takes on the orthodoxy of a former generation, but not the all-essential vibrancy which comes from faith in the living Christ. They have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof. Such hereditariness can take place within a family, a congregation, or even a generation, where the love of many has waxed cold, due to abounding iniquities, and failure to come to grips with the sin issue, as God represents it in Scripture.