God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble

by Mike Ratliff

6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “ God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6 NASB)

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 NA28 Greek text:

6 μείζονα δὲ δίδωσιν χάριν; διὸ λέγει·
ὁ θεὸς ὑπερηφάνοις ἀντιτάσσεται,
ταπεινοῖς δὲ δίδωσιν χάριν. NA28)

The words the NASB rendered as “is opposed to 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.

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

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, no middle ground. You are either under the Lordship of Christ or you are under the lordship of Satan.

8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double. (James 4:8 NASB)

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.

9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. (James 4:9 NASB)

The term “Be miserable” 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.”

10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. (James 4:10 NASB)

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!

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