Submission to God (James 4:7) ~ A Daily Devotion for February 19, 2014

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” ~ James 4:7

Explanation of the Text: This section begins a lengthy list of imperatives from James in which he is issuing commands on the lives of every believer. Beginning here in verse 7, the first command is to submit yourselves to God. Note the word therefore, which indicates a connection to the previous verse. That connection is to the concept that God gives grace to the humble. Therefore, what results as one who is humble before God, should be submission to Him. There is a direct link between humility and submission to God. Also in this verse, the word ‘yourselves’ is plural. This makes sense because James is writing to more than one person. However, Sprios Zodhiates notes “that the idea behind it is that there is no one who is exempt and who can say, ‘This commandment does not apply to me.’ It is addressed to the proud and to the humble, for no one can ever be humble enough.”[1] Whether believer or unbeliever, there will be a day in which all will bow before God (Isaiah 45:23; Romans 10:9, 14:11; Philippians 2:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Revelation 4:1-11) because none are above God.

What then does it mean to submit to God? The word submit was used as a military term that meant ‘to rank under.’[2] It refers to one coming under the sovereign authority of God, which means obeying His word, following His word, and denying self. However, we can only submit ourselves to God, when we are first humble (as verse James 4:6 indicates a need for) because it is then that we recognize not just our need for Him, but also that He is worthy of more honor than we are.[3]

The second part of the verse is the second in the series of commands, which is to resist the devil and he will flee from you. This particular Greek word (ἀνθίστημι anthístēmi) which is to stand against.[4] If one is not submitting to God, they are then a child of the devil (John 8:43-44). As a result, submitting to God and resisting the devil go together. As one who is called to submit to God, one must seek to resist the devil, fleeing from his enticements and ways. “What are we to do? The answer is as clear as the noonday sun: stop submitting to the devil and start submitting to God! If we will resist the devil, he will flee. If we draw near to God, he will draw near to us!”[5]

Examination & Application of the Text: It is easy to ask, “How do I stand against the devil?” If we work backwards in the text, we learn some steps to how we can resist him. The flow of logic goes something like this:

1)       How can one resist the devil (verse 7b)? By submitting to God (verse 7a).

2)       How does one submit to God (verse 7a)? By being humble (verse 6b).

3)       How can one be humble (verse 6b)? Through God’s grace (verse 6a).

4)       How does one find God’s grace (verse 6a)? By denying self (verse 5) and denying the world (verse 4).

These steps probably oversimplify the information of these verses. There is much that is intertwined, working together to bring each of us before the Father in submission and humility. However, the idea to recognize is that in order to resist the devil, you must draw near to God in submission. This aspect requires that a person deny themselves and come before God in humility, recognizing the sovereignty of God over the world, and thus denying the world’s ways.

[1] Spiros Zodhiates, Faith, Love, & Hope: An Exposition of the Epistle of James, Exegetical Commentary Series (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1999), Jas 4:7.

[2] John MacArthur Jr, James, MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998), 204.

[3] Thomas D. Lea, Hebrews, James, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 321.

[4] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000), Entry #436.

[5] Roger Ellsworth, Opening up James, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2009), 132.

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