Calvary Road Baptist Church


James 4.4

Most of you are somewhat familiar with the Old Testament patriarch Abraham. In James 2.23, he is referred to as “the Friend of God.” However, you may not be familiar with the two passages in the Old Testament where Abraham is identified as God’s friend, Second Chronicles 20.7 and Isaiah 41.8. In Second Chronicles 20.7, the ruler of Judah, King Jehoshaphat, lifted up his voice in public prayer saying, “Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever?” More significantly, in Isaiah 41.8, the prophet records the LORD as saying, “But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.”

This evening I want to call your attention to the antithesis of Abraham, God’s friend, which is that person who is not a friend of God but a friend of the world. You cannot have it both ways. My text is James 4.4, which I would like you to turn to at this time. When you find our text, stand for the reading of God’s Word:

“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 before bringing this evening’s message:


The question of spiritual identity is raised by James 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. Sexual sins were what Gentiles were known for, not Jewish people. What do you suppose James has in mind here? Is it likely that he is referring to church going 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. That would leave spiritual adultery as the label he is pinning on some of his readers. The question is, what is spiritual adultery in the Bible? If you keep in mind that the readers James is writing to in this first New Testament book are Jewish Christians, 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.[1] 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.”[2]

James is labeling some of 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 sin, thereby shocking them and provoking great sorrow for what they had done.


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. “This verb is variously nuanced in contexts relating to familiarity acquired through experience or association with [some] pers. or thing.”[3] The second word, the word used here by James, oida, is very frequently synonymous with ginwskw. Where their meanings diverge, this word oida has to do with knowing something by reflection.[4] It is just knowing something without having to consciously learn it. Therefore, James seems to be 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. This verse deals with something the child of God should just know.

The second phrase reads, “that the friendship of the world . . . .” By world, of course, is not meant the globe we live on, but the interconnected system of societies and cultures of mankind. The Apostle John would have been familiar with this verse when he wrote First John 2.15-16 and First John 5.19:

2.15  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.

2.16  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.

5.19  And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.

However illuminating the meaning of “world” is, it is this word “friendship” which is particularly intriguing. “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.[5] Thus, there are things these Christians may have in common with the world, as does every believer to a degree. We live in the world. That common ground, however, is what forms the basis for this illicit friendship that God thoroughly disapproves of because it is not only disloyal to God but also destructive to the cause of Christ and to Christians. Allow me to illustrate: It is one thing to really enjoy going to Disneyland. However, you go too far when you are so much in love with Disneyland that you will skip a church service to go to Disneyland. Though the boat is necessarily in the water, so to speak, you do not want water in your boat. In the world, but not of the world.

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 allowing common ground with the world, so as to produce disloyalty, so as to cause unfaithfulness, “is enmity with God.” Ever have a girl friend or boy friend ditch you for someone else, and then see that person enjoying himself or herself with someone else? Hurts, does it not? How about your ex-husband or ex-wife having ever so much fun with someone else, while you are left to fend for yourself? Ouch. That is a poor comparison to God’s disposition toward Christians who are friendly with the world. Only Christians who are friendly with the world have not formally left God, have not dissolved the relationship. Christians who are friendly with the world, that portion of the human race that rejects God’s Son and rebels against God’s rule, are engaging in profoundly hurtful and disloyal behavior. That understood, what does the word “enmity” mean? It refers to active hostility toward someone, to behaving with animosity.[6] Let me read the other verse in which this same Greek word is used, Romans 5.10: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” Keep in mind that while Romans 5.10 refers to someone’s unsaved condition when he actually was God’s enemy, James refers to Christians who are acting like God’s enemies. Inexcusable.

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, with the likelihood that some among them are already involved in this despicable practice. This is something they should know simply from taking a few moments to think about it. 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. Since life really is all about choosing sides, an adulterer in the sense James uses the term in this verse is a Christian who is friendly with the world, someone who has chosen for God and His Son, Jesus Christ, but is presently by his irresponsible and thoughtless conduct choosing to be friendly with those who are definitely not friendly with God. Of course, this is wrong.


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 translated “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.”[7] One commentator defines the verb, “makes it his aim.”[8] This is a resolute choice of the world over God.

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. However, that is most certainly not what is meant here. That little English word “is” translates the very significant Greek word, kaqistatai. Spiros Zodhiates writes about the word 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.”[9] So, you see that the word translated “is” conveys a very weighty concept. Joseph B. Mayor, in his very highly regarded commentary, writes, “The word kaqistatai literally means ‘is set,’ ‘is constituted.’ It is opposed to uparcw because it implies a sort of adaptation or development as contrasted with the natural or original state; to ginomai because it implies something of fixity.”[10] Thus, when a Christian is a friend of the world (let me call him worldly), he does not need to openly state that he is God’s enemy. That declaration has already been accomplished by his friendship with the world. How irrational it is for the child of God to live as though his God’s enemy is his friend. It is somewhat easier now 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 who walks in with a guy is the wife of one of the two men already there with his buddy. The buddy already eating, who has never even had a girlfriend (much less been married), wonders why his married friend is so upset at seeing his wife enter the restaurant with another man. And not just another man, but with his sworn enemy. Does the woman need to say anything at this point when she notices her husband looking at her? 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 conducting herself as her husband’s enemy. By showing up with her husband’s enemy, she shows her animosity toward the man she is married to.

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. Just because you have some things in common with the world does not mean you should therefore become so fond of the world that you are disloyal to God.


In Proverbs 6.20-35, 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:

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.

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. This is understandable. Imagine the husband of an adulterous wife.

In like manner, 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 would, this cultural and social system of unsaved and God-opposing mankind openly competes with God for your affections. Look at how often they knowingly schedule birthday celebrations and other family events to conflict with church and ministry. This is because, as we noticed earlier, “the whole world lieth in wickedness.” As the Christ child was once described as lying in a manger, so this cesspool of lost humanity that we call mankind (and the Bible refers to as the world), just as certainly lies in the terrible mire of the wicked one, the devil himself.[11] 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 as though it is a safe haven. How does the world work to oppose God? Again, the apostle’s warning, 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,” already pointed out, is the devil. 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. Thus, 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 animosity 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 the notorious city of Sodom, and then lived in the notorious city of Sodom, but finally rose in rank to be one who kept the gate in Sodom. These days, the allure and the siren call of the world is much more subtle, calling out first for your attention, then for your involvement, and then for your commitment.

In short, how can you tell when you are a friend of the world? Let me suggest three practical 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 absolutely 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 lipstick and eye 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, their colored handkerchiefs, and their various tattoos, are we to suppose that by their appearance they are making no statement of any kind? Try walking into a place where they are gathered wearing their accoutrements without actually being one of them and see how they react. 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 wannabe. Notice that I have not passed judgment on whether one’s appearance choices are good or bad choices, only that it is obvious they are statements. 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, or backsides), or any other such thing.

The Christian’s concern should be to reflect virtuous characteristics of personality or behavior. Therefore, you see, there is wide latitude for expression by a Christian without appearing to look like the world. I am not suggesting a personal style strait jacket, but rather that the child of God not be a follower in the sense of visually identifying with anything that betrays Christian values. As well, please note that this is a process that develops over time. I dare say there is no one in this auditorium who has been approached by me with respect to his or her appearance in a church service who has not first expressed to me a desire for guidance in that area, unless it was someone who ought to have known better. I think this has happened twice in the last ten years.


Whereas your appearance has to do with the lust of the eyes, those aspects of your lifestyle other than your personal appearance are likely more related to the lust of the flesh. Suppose a Christian makes a great deal of money. There is nothing wrong with being successful, even wildly successful. Once upon a time a Baptist pastor was the wealthiest man in England. The question is, should it show? Is there scriptural justification for a ten bedroom mansion for a couple with two kids? Is there scriptural justification for owning a $500,000 automobile, just because you can afford it? What about such things as gambling, night clubbing and smoking?

“But pastor, the Bible does not say such things are wrong.” For the sake of our discussion, let me for the moment suggest your observation is correct. 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 expressly 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 spiritual responsibilities. The worldling also focuses attention upon himself, his individual goals and pleasures. And 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 doesn’t really take much thought to figure out 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 supposed to be about.

Our Savior was meek.[12] Our Savior was humble.[13] Our Savior concerned Himself with the Father’s will more than His Own.[14] In like manner, Christians should not have self-confidence, should not have self-esteem, should not have faith in ourselves. I speak not of false modesty here, since a strong man knows he is strong, a smart woman knows and should not deny she is gifted.

My hope is built on nothing less

than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

I 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.

The things over which you have control, and the personal attributes that the world seems to take great glory in, are simply not reliable when it comes to crunch time and the important matters of life and eternity.

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. And no friend of the world is a friend of God. That is why God works in the life of every Christian, according to Romans 12.2, to so renew our minds that we can prove what is the good, the acceptable, and the perfect will 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 fallen and spiritually blind 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. And though God is calling individuals out of this world to faith in Christ, the vast majority of people, and the uniform consensus of mankind, are 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 legitimate offer. The entire world was, and is, at Satan’s disposal. That is why the world hates the Lord, John 7.7, and everything He stands for. Therefore, think about what a professing Christian is actually doing when he sides with the world against God, when she identifies with the world by her immodest attire and by his behavior, instead of Christ. That person 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 Christ suffered and 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 and into our own homes, where they will be urged to come out to Christ. Let us make sure we each do that day in and day out.

Okay, what about you who are not a Christian? If you have not forsaken your sins and trusted Christ, realize that though God is not your enemy, you most certainly are God’s enemy. You oppose Him, according to the Word of God. Oh, how important it is for you to be saved from your sins, and to become God’s child rather than continuing as His enemy.

[1] Jeremiah 5.7; 7.9

[2] John Gill, The Baptist Commentary Series Volume I, John Gill’s Exposition Of The Old And New Testaments, Vol 9 (Paris, Arkansas: the Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., reprinted 2006), page 515.

[3] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 199-201.

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

[5] Ibid., page 241.

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

[7] Ibid.

[8] Joseph B. Mayer, The Epistle Of James, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1990), page 140 (450).

[9] Zodhiates, page 243.

[10] See note on James 3.6 in Mayer, pages (425-426) 115-116.

[11] Samuel Eyles Pierce, An Exposition Of The Epistle of 1 John, (Springfield, MO: Particular Baptist Press 2004 facsimile edition of 1835 original), page 320.

[12] Matthew 11.29

[13] Philippians 2.5-8

[14] John 8.29

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