The Truly Humble Response to God’s Gracious Offer of Salvation

by Mike Ratliff

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6 ESV)

Despite what those say who insist that the only attribute of God that ever comes into play is His Love, the only ray of hope in man’s spiritual darkness is His sovereign grace. It alone can rescue man from his propensity to lust for evil things. The passage above (James 4:6) tells us that God gives “more grace.” What does this mean? It shows that His grace is greater than the power of sin, the flesh, the world, and Satan (cf. Romans 5:20). Who obtains God’s grace? Do the proud? 

Here is James 4:6 from the NA27 Greek text: μείζονα δὲ δίδωσιν χάριν; διὸ λέγει· ὁ θεὸς ὑπερηφάνοις ἀντιτάσσεται, ταπεινοῖς δὲ δίδωσιν χάριν.

The words the ESV rendered as “opposes the proud” translate ὑπερηφάνοις ἀντιτάσσεται. The first word, ὑπερηφάνοις, is the dative, plural, adjective form of ὑπερήφανος or huperēphanos, “haughty, proud, or arrogant.” How does God respond to the proud? Some English Bibles say He opposes them. Some say He resists them. The verb ἀντιτάσσεται is the Present tense, Indicative mood, Middle voice, 3rd person of ἀντιτάσσομαι or antitassomai, “sets in order against, to range oneself against, oppose, resist.I saw one definition of this verb being used to describe a battle array of an army against an enemy. The present, indicative, middle asserts something that is occurring while the speaker (or writer) is making the statement. In other words God is always resisting or opposing the proud. What about the verb tense where James is describing God giving grace to the humble? That is Present tense, Indicative mood, Active voice my brethren. The word James used to describe these who receive His giving (δίδωσιν)  of grace (χάριν) is the dative, plural, adjective ταπεινοῖς from ταπεινός or tapeinos. “The sinner is ταπεινός when he or she recognizes the sinfulness which is their true condition.

The proud are those who do not recognize their sinfulness before our Holy, Righteous, and Sovereign God. They are opposed to His right to hold them accountable to His Law. They attempt to create another form of god in their own image that is all love and will never exercise His judgment nor pour out His wrath thereby satisfying His perfect Holiness and Righteousness. On the other hand, the humble are those who do recognize their true standing before our Holy, Righteous, and Sovereign God and in their humility obey the following ten imperatives that James gives us in James 4:7-10 that reveals how to receive saving grace. In these verses we will see man’s response to God’s gracious offer of salvation, and disclose what it means to be humble.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7 ESV)

James via the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is telling us that we must line up under the authority of God. We are to have a willing, conscious submission to God’s authority as sovereign ruler of the universe. A truly humble person will give his allegiance to God, obey His commands, and follow His leadership (cf. Matthew 10:38).

We must resist the devil. Those who are truly Christ’s are under His Lordship. Those who are not, are under the lordship of our enemy (John 8:44; Ephesians 2:2; 1 John 3:8; 5:19). My brethren, there can be no compromise here. I turned away a commenter today who was upset with my post on Drawing Near Unto God because she insisted that God isn’t into all this Lordship stuff. All we need to do is just love each other and that’s enough. She quoted some Rob Bell stuff, but no scripture. Nope, sorry, there is no middle ground. You are either under the Lordship of Christ or you are under the lordship of Satan.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8 ESV)

Here we are again at the vital need of drawing near unto God. We must pursue an intimate love relationship with God (cf. Philippians 3:10). Salvation involves more then submitting to God and resisting the devil; the redeemed heart longs for communion with God (Psalm 27:8; 42:1, 2; 63:1, 2; 84:2; 143:6; Matthew 22:37).

The term “cleanse your hands you sinners” means this is referring to unbelievers being called to repent of their sins and be saved. They must recognize and confess their sin to God.

The term Purify your hearts refers to the inner thoughts, motives, and desires of the heart. Again, this is what the “sinner” being drawn to Christ must do as they recognize and confess their sin to God.

Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. (James 4:9 ESV)

The term “Be wretched” could also be translated as “lament.” It means to be afflicted, wretched, and miserable. This is the state of those truly broken over their sin.

To Mourn is the internal experience of brokenness over sin (Psalm 51:17; Matthew 5:4).

To Weep is the outward manifestation of inner sorrow over sin (Mark 14:72).

The statement, “Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom” describes the signs of denial; the flippant laughter of those foolishly indulging in worldly pleasures without regard to God, life, death, sin, judgment, or holiness. Think of those people who refuse to take the preaching of the Law and Gospel together seriously because they know it will “seriously bum people out.”

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:10 ESV)

Here we have the summary statement of the previous 9 commands. As we saw earlier, the humble are those who make themselves low and recognize their sin and their place before God who is Holy, Righteous, and Just. Those conscious of being in the presence of the majestic, infinitely holy God are humble (Isaiah 6:5).

Soli Deo Gloria!

10 thoughts on “The Truly Humble Response to God’s Gracious Offer of Salvation

  1. Dear Mike,

    When we begin to even superficially understand the depth of our depravity it is obvious that there is not anything in us “good” apart from Christ. This is why my motto is usually “Kept only by His grace”. Because my constant battle with sin is too much for me, but not for my wonderful Savior! Which is why I sing to myself beautiful songs like “Before the throne of God above” I love the verse “Because the sinless Savior died . My sinful soul is counted free. For God the just is satisfied, to look on Him and pardon me.”

    This was a stirring post focusing our attention on the utter Holiness of God.

    May God continue to strengthen you in this ministry.

    In Christ alone, charisse


  2. Mike, thank you for taking the time to spell out carefully what these biblical words mean. The words love and grace get talked about alot, but when they are let us ask ourselves: is this the biblical meaning of these words? Define your terms! Because often when people speak of love today, what they really mean is complacency. They mean hallmark-card-syrupy-love. Sentimentality. They do not mean the full-orbed robust gut-level eternal love of God. For instance, Jesus said to Peter, one of His beloved disciples, “Get behind me satan.” Whoa! Loving? Yes. Biblical love speaks the truth in love. Biblical love rejoices in the truth. God’s love cannot be separated from His justice, His holiness, His righteousness, His truth.

    Many Christian people are so anemic in their understanding these days. We have been dumbed down by false notions of things, given a politically correct view of the world. We desperately need to read through Isaiah or Jeremiah or one of the other prophets and write down what we learn about God and about His attributes. Because often the ideas that we might have about Him fall far short of the truth. He gave us His word that we might know Him. If we do not know Him just as He has revealed Himself in the scriptures and in Christ, we do not know the true God!! We are worshiping a god of our own imaginations at that point. Some people need to stop relying on what they read in a book, what somebody told them, what they thought “God said to them”, what they “feel” is right. This is what they must do: they need to humble themselves before the word of God and believe it, not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God. Thessalonians 2:13


  3. You are welcome Julie and you are right. The push back I have received against these posts have been from that direction you described. They say God is Love, et cetera, but they mean something totally different than what the Word of God means in saying that. Again, Amen my sister.


  4. Amen Julie…they don’t love God…they love themselves, they love their intellect and their good works based on mystic delusion.

    Mike…yes, by love…they mean something totally estranged from the Word of God. They are in love with a sappy love that requires nothing but talk. Talk is cheap.

    Spend some time with God in His Word and you will find out an entirely different standard of love, as you have been describing.

    2 Samuel 23 – David’s last words and his tribute to his 30 bravest warriors. I just read it again and a smile spread over my face and a sense of just how great their loyalty and complete devotion to their commander was. And how his admiration for their quality of faithfulness was returned with the greatest of regard, esteem and deference.
    In one description:
    So the three mighty warriors broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the LORD. 17 “Far be it from me, LORD, to do this!” he said. “Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?” And David would not drink it.

    They had such a respect and awe for David that they were willing to risk their life to go beyond the call of duty to, by faithful action, put their lives in the hands of God in order to execute strategic maneuvers of sacrifice and service.

    To put Christ, as the Emergents do, in this category of sacrifice and servanthood, with regards to his death on the cross…is spiritual suicide!

    As David, he holds the title of King, High Priest in the order of Melchizedek, without beginning or end, he has the position of Commander of the armies of heaven, he is the source of hope for God’s dealings with us.

    We are the ones to be categorized among those who perform their sacrifice and service on the basis of Who He is, with unconditional gratitude and reverence and worship.

    To bring Christ down to our level, to attribute his death and resurrection to a mere sacrifice and servitude for us, is stark rebellion against a Holy God.

    These Emergent guys would never make David’s list of the brave and faithful, and will never make Christ’s list of His “Chosen and Faithful”. They would rather sail their own ships of greatness into the sea of mystical, subversion, exalting their own intellectual fiction above his eternal wisdom.

    1 Cor. 1: Christ Crucified Is God’s Power and Wisdom
    18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”


  5. ‘In Testaments of Love, Leon Morris asks, “How do we
    harmonize the assurance that ‘God is love’ with the assertion that ‘our God is a consuming fire’? Most of us never think about such problems, and in the end our idea of love is ndistinguishable from that of the world around us.”’ [quoted in Love, Prayer and Forgiveness: When Basics Become Heresies, see amazon ]

    THAT was thirty years ago! And in the decades since, it has only gotten worse. We need ‘Back to Basics’ teaching so that the everyday Christian can discern false teaching.


  6. Amen Michael, hence we must always walk and worship with God, Christ, and the Word of God all elevated as they should be with us fully recognizing our sinfulness and utter dependence upon the Grace of God for spiritual life. We experience the Love of God via His grace alone and that is through the Gospel and that is by those who believe and obey it. It is all about God and His glory. God is high and lifted up, we are His to do with as He pleases. When we humbly submit to that, then no matter what our circumstances, we are content and are edified. To God be the glory.


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