New Defender's Study Bible Notes
4:3 receive not. The problem of unanswered prayer in spite of Jesus’ apparently unlimited promise of answered prayer (see John 14:14) is involved in the implications of prayers made “in my name.” One of the implied conditions, as indicated here, is that the prayer be unselfish—otherwise it would not really be in His name, for He would never pray such a prayer. There are other conditions also (e.g., I John 5:14; James 1:5-7). One’s motive in praying must be to the glory of God—that is, for God to get the glory from the answer.
4:4 enemy of God. Compromising with the present world-system—whether in philosophy, dress, behavior, or whatever—is surely one of the most prevalent characteristics of modern Christianity, even evangelicalism. This indictment of such compromise urgently needs emphasis today. See also I John 2:15-17; Galatians 1:4; John 15:19; 17:14; Romans 8:6-8; II Corinthians 6:14-18.
4:5 scripture saith in vain. This is a difficult passage, and interpretations have varied widely. There is no single Old Testament Scripture from which James is quoting, and he could not be referring to any New Testament Scripture, because the other New Testament books had not yet been written. He must, therefore, be referring to the general prophetic sense of those passages in the Old Testament that speak of God’s Spirit as desiring the faithful love of His people and as opposed to any spirit of covetousness or adultery (whether spiritual or physical) in their hearts. See, for example, such Scriptures as Genesis 6:3; II Samuel 23:2; Psalm 51:11; Isaiah 63:10-11; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Micah 2:7: Zechariah 7:12; 12:10; and others of the same general import. The verse can probably be best paraphrased as follows: “Do ye think that the Scriptures are speaking in vain when they testify that God’s Holy Spirit [who is now actually dwelling in us] is longing for us to envy [that is, to covet after] God’s love and friendship, rather than that of the world?” This rather free paraphrase seems to fit the entire context best but, in view of the wide variety of translations and interpretations of this verse, it is not feasible to be dogmatic.
4:6 he saith. This verse is quoting Proverbs 3:34. Peter also quotes this verse in rebuking pride, whether in elders or others in the church (I Peter 5:5).
4:7 Resist the devil. The devil is far more intelligent and powerful than we are, so we cannot resist him in the strength of the flesh. Our example in combating Satan is the Lord Jesus, who defeated the devil’s temptations by citing appropriate passages from God’s Word (Matthew 4:1-11). Note also I Peter 5:8-10, urging us to resist the devil by being “steadfast in the faith,” not by compromising the faith.
4:10 Humble yourselves. Pride is the sin of the devil (I Timothy 3:6), and the most difficult human sin to overcome. One can even become proud of his humility! Note also I Peter 5:5-6.
4:14 vapour. Even Job, who lived perhaps two hundred years, said: “My life is wind” (Job 42:16; 7:7), and Moses, who lived 120 years, said that “we spend our years as a tale that is told” (or, perhaps, “as a sigh of mourning”) (Deuteronomy 34:7; Psalm 90:9).
4:15 If the Lord will. Thus, the Lord indicates that He does have a will as to whether we “do this or that.” We act presumptuously—and possibly calamitously—when we leave God and His will out of our plans.
4:17 doeth it not. Sins of omission (failing to do what God wants us to do) are sins just as surely as sins of commission (doing what God has told us not to do). Although eight of the ten commandments forbid specific acts, two of them (commandments four and five) require certain specific acts.