Chapter 4: War Among Teachers
The fourth chapter of James’s epistle makes the prophetic substance of this message crystal clear. Through this inspired message, God is speaking directly to His end-time Church!
Luciano Pavarotti has been called the greatest tenor in the world. He was one of Mr. Armstrong’s favorite performing artists, and he sang at the Ambassador Auditorium several times.
I had an opportunity to hear Mr. Pavarotti perform on his farewell tour in 2005. It was one of the finest performances I have ever heard. His voice is extremely powerful and very beautiful at the same time.
The concert I attended was held on the Oral Roberts University (oru) campus in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Before building his university, Mr. Roberts visited the Ambassador College campus in Pasadena. You could certainly discern some influence there, looking at the oru buildings.
Going to Pavarotti’s concert made me pray more about building a house for God on the Herbert W. Armstrong College campus. His concert brought back many rich memories of what Mr. Armstrong did in Pasadena.
James discussed the rich Laodiceans (James 1:10; 2:6). They were rich because they had a lot of expensive property, including the Ambassador Auditorium, God’s house. When they sold that, they received many millions of dollars.
The Philadelphia Church of God has a lot invested in our property. We are raising up the ruins. Having an auditorium and hosting concerts with great performers—featuring the best that the human spirit can achieve—is impressive to the world. Of course, what is far more important is the spiritual message coming out of those facilities, and what God is giving us through His Holy Spirit.
We want to show the world that our beautiful message comes from God’s magnificent house. The best of the human spirit combined with the best of the Holy Spirit—this gives us and the world a prophetic insight into what is coming in the World Tomorrow. God’s house would become a symbol of the world’s greatest and only hope!
God’s majestic glory is about to fill this Earth.
War Among Teachers
“My brethren, be not many masters [teachers], knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (James 3:1). All ministers should be aware of this: We are going to receive the greater condemnation.
Teachers will be condemned more than anyone if they claim to speak God’s truth, yet don’t know what they are talking about. God judges them very harshly!
James is telling us that something terrible has happened to God’s teachers in this end time. Keep that in mind as we go through the fourth chapter of this epistle.
“From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (James 4:1).
James isn’t talking about wars in this world between countries. He is talking about spiritual wars among the teachers of God! He is also talking about wars between them and their followers. Wars always have casualties. Rather than being unified as they should be, they are warring with each other. When James says “among you,” he is talking about you disciples. He specifically mentions “war in your members”—and “member denotes a limb or member of the body; but it is used in the New Testament to denote the members of the body collectively” (Barnes’ Notes).
James is discussing the Body of Christ. God’s Church is in a state of warfare. The wars are caused by “lusts.” But those lusts have often dragged God’s faithful remnant into these wars. Our court case with the wcg is a good example. We had every right to print Mr. Armstrong’s writings. But because of their lusts, the Laodiceans believed it was their “Christian duty” to keep Mr. Armstrong’s “errors” out of print.
The International Critical Commentary says, “Some have taken the James 4:1 difficulties to be between teachers.” They certainly are just that! That is exactly what God is talking about here. Lange’s Commentary says that this verse could be referring to “dissension among Christians.” That is right: This exposes a spiritual problem of the worst kind in God’s Church! The commentaries can see that.
What a tragedy this is! Even with all the calamities coming on the land of Israel, the greatest calamity ever is occurring among the teachers of God!
What has gone wrong? Satan the devil is causing all kinds of division in God’s Church!
The Apostle John discusses the same problem, and he uses the term antichrist! Among the teachers of God, there are people fighting against Christ!
In Hebrews 5:12, the Apostle Paul says that some ought to be teachers for God, but they haven’t even learned the basics of what God wants us to learn! We are here to teach the world—not to split and break up.
Ask yourself: Where are all the teachers who are supposed to be here when Christ returns? They are in a war over doctrines!
James is giving us essential material on how to become a teacher—a king and priest forever!
All of God’s people should have rallied around us when we fought for the right to publish Mystery of the Ages. Mr. Armstrong called it the second-most powerful book on Earth because it opens our understanding to the Bible; that book changes lives and turns them around! Instead, the Laodiceans either did nothing, or hoped we would lose—and many of them aggressively fought against our cause!
Again, this is the brother of Jesus Christ giving us urgent prophecy for the end time. We have witnessed its fulfillment within the Church of God.
Church members should be getting out the most important message in the universe, not warring against each other!
Lusting for Things
“Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4:2). This scripture is talking about prayer.
James says these individuals are prioritizing objects ahead of God—and it is killing them spiritually. The expression “desire to have” means covet. They are lusting and simply trying to take whatever they want.
“Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (verse 3). If you are not getting answers to your prayers, you need to examine your prayers! That is just as true for Philadelphians as it is for Laodiceans. God says people are asking “amiss,” or asking evilly. It is talking about selfish, wrongly focused prayer.
“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” (verse 4). Again—this isn’t about physical war: It is about “friendship of the world”—that is, the people of God becoming too close with the ways of this world!
If you look at the original Greek words of this verse, you will see that the word adulterers shouldn’t even be there. The Companion Bible and other sources verify that. Why is that word included? Clarke’s commentary explains that some scribes were surprised James spoke only to “adulteresses” and thought the verse was incomplete somehow. So they just added it! That is quite audacious.
God isn’t just talking about physical adultery here. If He were, He surely would have included both genders in the verse.
Who are these “adulteresses”?
The Bible always uses a woman as a symbol for a church. This verse is talking about the churches of God in the end time. James is directing this severe condemnation to churches that are spiritual adulteresses!
We live in a period of monstrous apostasy. The people of God are turning from Him and splitting into various groups. They have demonstrated enmity, or hatred, toward God and become His enemy. In doing so, they have willfully rejected their marriage vows and trampled on their marriage covenant with God!
When James uses terminology like “royal law” (James 2:8), he is trying to show us how royal those people are who keep that law. No one on Earth is more royal than Christ’s Bride. There isn’t even a close second, in Christ’s eyes! But most of God’s people don’t even consider that calling worthy of thinking about! They have rejected God’s royal law and become spiritual adulteresses.
God’s Word Speaks Not in Vain
James continues to talk about human nature and how it has hurt God’s people. “Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” (James 4:5).
Commentaries admit that this subject is confusing to them.
James is saying, Do you think the Scripture says in vain that we have human nature that gets us to lust? Look at what has happened to most of God’s people: They lust after this world. They want God and the world both! God thunders to them, Don’t you realize that lust will destroy you spiritually? Have you forgotten that your heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked? Do you think God inspired those words in vain? Does God say such things lightly or casually?
Look at God’s people! Many are going to lose their eternal lives because they do not take God’s Word seriously! We must take it seriously! There is no stronger warning in the Bible!
James is speaking directly to the disciples of Jesus Christ: Do
Never take a single word of God casually!
A Call to Repentance
“But he giveth more grace. …” (verse 6). This expression provides yet more evidence that this isn’t talking about wars transpiring in the world. God is speaking about those to whom He gives grace.
James continues, “Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (verses 6-7). If you submit to God, Satan will flee—because he knows the power of God! But he also knows the weakness of humans. With his cunning, he has taken most of God’s own people captive!
But you have the power to make the devil flee. In order to drive this powerful and evil being away, we need only submit to God. The Laodiceans have failed to do that. So Satan has gotten to them—and he knows how to use them for his purposes.
If we don’t use the power of God, Satan will get us.
“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded” (verse 8). You can’t have both the world and God. You can appear to be righteous, but in truth you either hate the world or you hate God.
Tragically, most of God’s own people hate God!
Vincent’s Word Studies says this verse’s use of the word purify is one of the few instances that is not talking about ceremonial purification. God is speaking spiritually.
“Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” (verse 9). God is making a stern appeal here. He is looking for grief that is manifested and visible: Laughter that has been transformed into mourning—joy that has been changed into heaviness. God wants His people to get serious about repentance! The casual love of the world must end. The Almighty God wants to visibly see repentance and conversion. He wants to see continual and substantial changes in us. He wants His people to begin to think like Him! That is no small challenge.
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (verse 10). This is an iron-clad promise. When we humble ourselves in repentance before God, He will always lift us up. Look how God has lifted up this Church! As the world goes down and troubles intensify, our power rises to the point where everyone can see it! God orchestrates and synchronizes these events for a great purpose.
But as God’s faithful remnant Church grows in power, the teachers in the Laodicean churches are in turmoil, and war with each other. They are shamefully unaware of what God is accomplishing. Their contentiousness and small-mindedness cannot be justified or excused. God flatly condemns it.
Speaking Evil of Family
“Speak not evil one of another, brethren” (James 4:11). This instruction applies to everyone in all of the churches of God. We should never speak evilly of any of God’s people. Of course, God instructs His Philadelphians to warn them—to knock on their door (Revelation 3:19-20). But that effort must be motivated out of genuine love, and we must not speak evil of our Family.
Here James calls the adulteresses “brethren.”
Most of the Laodiceans say it’s all right to visit other Laodicean churches. But they warn each other not to have anything to do with the pcg.
Why is that? It is because they hate God and His law! Only the pcg teaches God’s law and government. We are the only Church of God that implements God’s law.
So they speak evil of their brethren—the pcg—which the law forbids. We warn them because we love them God’s way. However, we do not love them perfectly. Verse 11 is profound. We must not speak evil against the Laodiceans and the Philadelphia brethren. If we do, we are breaking God’s law.
James keeps getting back to God’s law and government of love. He often uses the law and God’s Word interchangeably. We must look to the Bible and let God judge how we should speak toward our brethren. Too many people talk about the Bible to feel religious, but they don’t live by every word as Christ commanded!
We are God’s Family, and we are called now so we can help God bring everyone who has ever lived into that Family. We must teach all of them not to speak evil against each other or they can’t enter into God’s Kingdom.
Look how this world is filled with hatred. We have a towering job ahead of us.
God just took the way He thinks and made it into a law for us. We must all learn to think like God!
James is getting very specific about human nature! In order to follow this command, we must conquer our human nature and allow the love of God to flow from us. God rebukes and chastens—He corrects. But He always does that out of love.
James 4:11 continues, “He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law ….” God’s law says we are to love! “[B]ut if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.” Again James returns to the theme of controlling our tongues. This epistle says more about this subject than any book in the Bible. Watch what you say, James says, because what you say is what you are! If we are not careful, we can flagrantly break God’s law just by our words!
God wants His people to obey His law in spirit and in detail.
If you love people, that shows that you love God’s law. If you speak evil of God’s Family, you are speaking evil of God’s law. Yes, God’s Church must deliver God’s message—including His prophecies about the Laodicean Church and His words of warning—but we ought never speak against people in an evil way.
We do not condemn the Laodiceans.
“There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” (verse 12). The Lawgiver is God. We ought never condemn anyone, particularly those whom God has begotten. Watch gossip! That was a major part of what drew the Laodiceans away from God—what they were saying and continue to say about God’s Spirit-begotten people! Anyone who condemns God’s people is going to stir His anger. You may say harsh things about other people, but it’s you whom God will judge harshly for it!
Think about these extremely sobering words. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and destroy. If we speak in a condemning way, we are acting like the Lawgiver. Only He can save us spiritually or cast us into the lake of fire.
We must become humble and realize that God is perfect. Arrogance will cause us to make serious mistakes.
Who are we to condemn another person?
The Theme of James
“Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (verses 13-14).
We don’t know what tomorrow will bring—only God does. We are totally helpless.
Your life is like a vapor, here a little while and then gone. Look at movies made in the early days of Hollywood. Most of the actors are dead. That was only a few years ago.
It is hard to reproduce these words from Greek to English: You are like “a passing mist” or “steam from a pot … appearing and disappearing” (International Critical Commentary). We are like the smoke from a fire apart from God. There is nothing to this life. So we must view our lives as God does.
Allow God to take that mist, or vapor, and turn it into eternal life!
God’s perspective changes everything. We must exchange our human view for His eternal perspective.
“For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (verse 15). We all need a certain humility about the plans we make, recognizing the fragility of our lives. Everything depends on God’s will.
“But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (verses 16-17). One translation reads how you “boast in your illusions and haughtiness.” We must surrender to God through inspired Bible study and prayer. Then God will remove the illusions and haughtiness.
Verse 17 should be locked in our memories. It is aimed both at Laodiceans and Philadelphians! If you know to not do something, you must not do it. The transgressors are going to die! The Laodiceans know what is right—they know what Mr. Armstrong taught! They seem to be religious—but they are twisting the truth, and they know better! And God rebukes them harshly for it!
We could view this as the theme of the whole epistle of James: We can’t escape what we know—and we know a lot!
That verse leads into the final chapter of James, which contains God’s most direct and thunderous words of rebuke—as well as some wonderfully inspiring prophecy!