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James 4:5

5 Or do you think that the Scripture 1speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires 2the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"?

James 4:5 Meaning and Commentary

James 4:5

Do ye think that the Scripture saith in vain?
&c.] Some think that the apostle refers to a particular passage of Scripture in the Old Testament, and that he took it from ( Genesis 6:3 ) as some; or from ( Exodus 20:5 ) , as others; or from ( Deuteronomy 7:2 Deuteronomy 7:5 ) or from ( Job 5:6 ) or from ( Proverbs 21:10 ) others think he had in view some text in the New Testament; either ( Romans 12:2 ) or ( Galatians 5:17 ) and some have imagined that he refers to a passage in the apocryphal book:

``For into a malicious soul wisdom shall not enter; nor dwell in the body that is subject unto sin.'' (Wisdom 1:4)

and others have been of opinion that it is taken out of some book of Scripture then extant, but now lost, which by no means can be allowed of: the generality of interpreters, who suppose a particular text of Scripture is referred to, fetch it from ( Numbers 11:29 ) but it seems best of all to conclude that the apostle has no regard to any one particular passage of Scripture, in which the following words are expressly had, since no such passage appears; but that his meaning is, the sense of the Scripture everywhere, where it speaks of this matter, is to this purpose: nor does it say this, or any thing else in vain; whatever is written there is to answer some end, as for learning, edification, and comfort, for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness; neither with respect to what is before suggested, that what is asked in a right manner, and for a right end, shall be given; and that the love of the world, and the love of God, are things incompatible; nor with respect to what follows:

the spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
that is, the depraved spirit of man, the spirit of an unregenerate man; that as it is prone to every lust, and prompts to every sin, the imagination of the thought of man's heart being evil, and that continually, so it instigates to envy the happiness of others; see ( Genesis 6:5 ) ( 8:21 ) or this may be put as a distinct question from the other, "does the spirit that dwelleth in us lust to envy?" that is, the Holy Spirit, who dwells in the hearts of his people, as in his temple: the Ethiopic version reads, "the Holy Spirit": and then the sense is, does he lust to envy? no; he lusts against the flesh and the works of it, and envy among the rest; see ( Galatians 5:17 Galatians 5:21 ) but he does not lust to it, or provoke to it, or put persons upon it; nor does he, as the Arabic version renders it, "desire that we should envy"; he is a spirit of grace; he bestows grace and favours upon men; and is so far from envying, or putting others upon envying any benefit enjoyed by men, that he increases them, adds to them, and enlarges them, as follows.

James 4:5 In-Context

3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"?
6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE."
7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Cross References 2

  • 1. Numbers 23:19
  • 2. 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. Or "The spirit which He has made to dwell in us lusts with envy"
  • [b]. Lit "desires to jealousy"