Calvary Road Baptist Church


James 4.4


In my first sermon of a series of messages leading up to our big Friend Day on October 8th, I spoke to you about Abraham, the Friend of God. This morning I want to balance last week’s message by calling your attention to the antithesis of Abraham, God’s friend, which is that person who is a friend of the world.

My text for this morning is James 4.4, which I would like you to turn to at this time: “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.”

There are three issues raised by this verse that I would like to discuss during my exposition, before this morning’s sermon.




James raises the question of spiritual identity at the outset. The verse begins, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses.” This is pretty strong language, especially considering his audience of Jewish Christians, whose cultural context would make them very sensitive to any charge of adultery.

What do you suppose James has in mind here? Is it likely that he is referring to people who are actually guilty of literal adultery? I think we can rule out literal adultery, the betrayal of marriage vows by a husband or by a wife. There is nothing in our text that would suggest the readers are actually in violation of their marriage vows. Of course, that would leave spiritual adultery as the label he is pinning on them. However, what is spiritual adultery in the Bible? If you keep in mind that the readers James is writing to are Christian Jews, then it is certain that James is alluding to the Old Testament references to the spiritual adultery God accused Israel of when they abandoned faithful worship of the one true and living God in favor of idolatry. Therefore, this is a very serious charge James is leveling.

Listen to old John Gill, 18th century Baptist theologian and pastor, on this: 

“. . . he is an adulterer that removes his affections from his own wife, and sets them upon another woman; and she is an adulteress that loves not her husband, but places her love upon another man; so such men and women are adulterers and adulteresses, who, instead of loving God, whom they ought to love with all their hearts and souls, set their affections upon the world, and the things of it.”[1]


James is labeling his readers as adulterers because they are not spiritually faithful to God, because they do not love Him with all their hearts and souls, but have allowed someone else (or some thing else) to capture their affections. So much of the time we would call something like this backsliding, or perhaps cooling off. However, James, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, labels them adulterers who are guilty of this condition.




Who would be described as an adulterer? James continues, “know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?” Three phrases in this question clarify what is seen to be spiritual collaboration.

The first phrase, “know ye not,” is quite telling. There are two common Greek verbs that mean “to know,” the word ginwskw and the word oida. The first word, ginwskw, has to do with knowing as the result of some type of observation. The second word, the word used here by James, oida, has to do with knowing by reflection.[2] Therefore, James is questioning his readers about an issue they ought to be able to think their way through, not something they need to learn by experience or by practice.

The second phrase reads, “that the friendship of the world . . . .” The world, of course, is not the globe we live on, but the interconnected system of societies and cultures of mankind. However, this word “friendship” is particularly intriguing. This word “friendship” translates the Greek word filia. Derived from one of the Greek words for love, it has to do with more than what we normally think of as friendship. To the Greeks of James’ day, it referred to the love that is based on common interests and concerns.[3] Thus, there is something these Christians may have in common with the world. That common ground is what forms the basis for this illicit friendship.

The final phrase of this question we are looking at reads, “. . . is enmity with God?” Therefore, by the process of thinking and reasoning, a person ought to be able to figure out that falling in love with, and having common ground with the world, “is enmity with God.” But what does the word “enmity” mean? It refers to active hostility toward someone, to behaving with animosity.[4]

How, then, are we to understand this question? James is challenging his readers to think something through without having to learn from painful and sinful experience. If you are a friend of the world, which is to say that your heart and the world are knit together (since this word “friend” refers to a form of love), you are behaving in a manner that is hostile toward God. In other words, you are collaborating with the enemy.




The final portion of the verse, as if there was some doubt at this point, sums it up with, “. . . whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”

It does not matter what your profession of faith happens to be. It does not matter what is expected of you from past behavior or reputation. Whoever you are, if you will be a friend of the world, you are the enemy of God. That seems to be a very strong statement to us, but it is even stronger in Greek.

Notice that small word “will be.” It is not such a small word in the Greek New Testament. It happens to be the Greek subjunctive verb boulhqh, meaning to will, to want, or to desire. “The word has the connotation of preference or choosing one thing before another.”[5]

Now notice that small word “is” in the phrase, “a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” If you do not study this through you might conclude that if you prefer to be a friend of the world you also happen to be an enemy of God. That is most certainly not what is meant here. That little English word “is” translates a significant Greek word, kaqistatai. Spiros Zodhiates writes about this word here in this verse, “. . . the man who attaches himself to the world by his own will and choice takes his stand and position as an enemy of God.”[6] So, you see that the word translated “is” conveys a very weighty concept.

When a person is a friend of the world, let me call him worldly, he does not need to state that he is God’s enemy. That declaration has already been accomplished by his friendship with the world. “My enemy’s friend is my enemy.” It is somewhat easier to understand why James uses the word “adulterers” when addressing his readers, now that we follow his logic and reasoning.

I suppose it is something like two guys who are out at a restaurant grabbing a bite to eat, when they notice a couple walk in. However, it turns out that the woman is the wife of one of the two guys already eating. The other guy already eating, who has never even had a girlfriend (much less been married), wonders why his buddy is so upset at seeing his wife enter the restaurant with another man. And not just another man, but also his sworn enemy. Does the woman need to saying anything at this point? Obviously not. The fact that she has chosen to entangle herself to a degree with her husband’s enemy is in itself a clear declaration that she is now her husband’s enemy. By showing up with her husband’s enemy, she shows her animosity toward him.

We are now in a better position to understand James 4.4, and to see what each Christian’s proper relationship with this world we live in ought to be.




Turn to Proverbs 6.20, and read along with me silently while I read aloud:


20     My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother:

21     Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.

22     When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.

23     For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:

24     To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.

25     Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids.

26     For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adulteress will hunt for the precious life.

27     Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?

28     Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?

29     So he that goeth in to his neighbour’s wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent.

30     Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry;

31     But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.

32     But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.

33     A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.

34     For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance.

35     He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts.


In this passage, the son is urged to keep his father’s commandment and to forsake not the law of his mother, particularly with respect to yielding to the enticements of a woman and committing the terrible sin of adultery. As you cannot walk on hot coals without burning your feet, so you cannot avoid catastrophe when you enrage a man with jealousy over his wife. No matter what you do, he will not spare in the day of vengeance.

Imagine the husband of an adulterous wife. Therefore, God is greatly grieved by the unfaithfulness of His people. However, who would dare to compete with God for the affections of His children? The world, this cultural and social system of unsaved and God-opposing mankind. This is because “the whole world lieth in wickedness.” The apostle John tells us this.[7] As the baby Jesus was once described as laying in the manger, so this cesspool of lost humanity we call mankind just as certainly lies in the terrible mire of the wicked one, the devil himself.

The world is Satan’s puppet, manipulated by him to oppose in every conceivable way the plan and purpose of God, to restrict and stifle the spread of the gospel, and to squelch and stamp out any smoldering embers of truth that would be a light to the blind in this place of profound spiritual darkness. In short, the world is a festering and putrid environment that no Christian has any business frolicking in.

How does the world work to oppose God? Again, the apostle tells us by warning us. First John 2.14-16:


14     I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.

15     Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

16     For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.


The “wicked one,” of course, is the devil. However, while the child of God has overcome the wicked one through faith in Christ, we can still be enticed and tempted by the lust of the flesh, by the lust of the eyes, and by the pride of life. Therefore, when you succumb to its enticements and to its allure you are befriending the world, which James 4.4 shows us is a display of hostility toward God. What practical lessons can be learned from our text for today? How can we get down to where the rubber meets the road to find out whether or not the Christian is being distracted from his first love to something else that is appealing to him?

It is usually not as obvious as was the case with Abraham’s nephew Lot, who first lived near Sodom, and then lived in Sodom, but finally kept the gate in Sodom. These days the allure and the siren call of the world is much more subtle, calling out for your attention, then your involvement, then your commitment.

In short, how can you tell when you are a friend of the world? Let me suggest three ways:




There is a crazy notion floating through the ether that would have you think that there is no connection between a person’s appearance and his spiritual condition, that real Christianity on the inside has no manifestation by which characteristic patterns of appearance or attire on the outside are seen. Does this make sense, or is it just the devil’s way of creating confusion among mush brains?

When Goths wear black make-up, are we to suppose that by their appearance they are making no statement of any kind?

When gang bangers wear their characteristic clothing, are we to suppose that by their appearance they are making no statement of any kind?

How about when fashionistas wear the latest fashions? Do you seriously think people spend huge amounts of money to acquire a certain look, when all the while that look means nothing?

It is an insult to intelligence to claim that the way a person looks, the way the hair is worn, the kind of clothes worn, the revealing of the midriff, the tattoos and gaudy jewelry, the dog collars, the spiked hair, the body piercings, the exposed bra straps, the pants worn low to reveal boxer shorts, the biker or skater look, is not a public statement of values, is not a public statement of identity, is not a public statement of at least a wannabe.

I would suggest to you that a Christian’s attire should not suggest identification with or approval of gross materialism, sensuality, rebellion, overt sexuality, the display of body parts (be it breasts, bellies, biceps, or backsides) or any other such thing.

The Christian’s concern should be to reflect virtuous characteristics, personality, or behavior. Therefore, you see, there is wide latitude for expression by a Christian without appearing to look like the world.




Whereas your appearance has to do with the lust of the eyes, those aspects of your lifestyle other than your personal appearance are related to the lust of the flesh.

Suppose a Christian makes a great deal of money. Should it show? Is there scriptural justification for a ten-bedroom mansion for a couple with two kids? Is there scriptural justification for owning the most expensive SUV money can buy, just because you can afford it? What about such things as gambling, and night clubbing, and smoking?

“But pastor, the Bible does not say such things are wrong.” I will completely agree with you. However, the difference between the Christian and the worldling does not have to do with whether the Bible specifically says such and such is wrong. The Christian’s life is all wrapped up in doing what is expedient, as we see in First Corinthians 6.12: “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” As well, in First Corinthians 10.23, Paul again clarifies the matter for those carnal and very confused Corinthians, who thought Christianity meant doing whatever you wanted, so long as the Bible did not forbid it. Not so, as Paul shows: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.”

Thus, we see that one of the obvious distinguishing differences between the worldling and the Christian ideal has to do with personal liberty. The worldling sees personal liberty in terms of what he is allowed to do and what is not forbidden. The child of God, on the other hand, is guided by the principal of expediency (How does it help to do this? What is the benefit to the cause of Christ?).

To put it another way, the world thinks in terms of personal rights, while the Christian thinks in terms of responsibilities. The worldling also focuses attention upon himself, his individual goals and pleasures. In addition, while the Christian certainly should have worthwhile individual goals and pursuits, he thinks bigger than the worldling does, taking in the great expanse of the cause of Christ and his church in all his thinking.




First John 2.16 declares to us that “the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” It does not really take much thought to figure our why this is so.

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” We find that declaration in both James 4.6 and First Peter 5.5. Therefore, since the world is all about the pride of life, all about self-confidence, all about self-esteem, all about having faith in yourself, it is diametrically opposed to everything the Christian is about.

Our Savior was meek.

Our Savior was humble.

Our Savior concerned Himself with the Father’s will more than His Own.

In like manner, Christians should not have self-confidence, should not have self-esteem, and should not have faith in ourselves. Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. We dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid Rock we stand, all other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.

If your mind has not been so renewed by the sanctifying and consecrating work of the Holy Spirit of God, which is to say that you still think like the world, then you are a friend of the world. In addition, no friend of the world is a friend of God.


My friend, there is a reason why the world is no friend of God and why no child of God should be a friend of the world. You see, the world is all humanity, the entirety and totality of the human race in all its opposition to the plan and purpose of God. Adam’s fall resulted in Satan becoming the god of this world. That is no meaningless label applied to him, but a valid description of the one whose mind is behind all of the motives and energies that drive mankind. Though God is calling individuals out of this world to faith in Christ, the vast majority of people, and the uniform consensus of mankind, is clearly on the other side in this long war against God.

Remember when Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness? When Satan offered the Lord Jesus Christ all the kingdoms of the world in return for His worship, Matthew 4.8-9, that was a real offer. The entire world was, and is, at Satan’s disposal. That is why the world hates Him, John 7.7, and everything He stands for.

So, think about what a professing Christian is actually doing when he sides with the world against God, when he identifies with the world by his appearance and by his behavior instead of Christ. He is opting for wickedness against holiness, for darkness against light, and for death instead of life.

“But how can we reach people with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ if we do not look like them, if we do not live like them, and if we do not think like them?” My friend, our task is to call them out of the hog trough of sin, not to jump into it with them. When Jesus suffered, bled, and died, it was to save sinners from their sins, not to save sinners in their sins. Therefore, our task is not to be friends with the world, to like it or to love it. Our task is to reach out to individual sinners with Christ’s love and to bring them to God’s house, where they will be urged to come out to Christ.

Let us make sure we each do that as Friends Day approaches.

[1] John Gill, The Collected Writings of John Gill - Version 2.0, (Paris, AK: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., 2000-2003)

[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Behavior Of Belief, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973), page 237.

[3] Ibid., page 241.

[4] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 736.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Zodhiates, page 243.

[7] 1 John 5.19

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