Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology
Friendship Of The World Is Enmity With God
by James D. Slopsema
"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be the friend of the world is the enemy of God. -James 4:4"
You adulterers and adulteresses!
This is how James addressed the church of his day.
I wonder whether he would be compelled to address the church today in the same manner?
James was probably writing to the Jewish Christians scattered by persecution into Syria. It becomes apparent that, in spite of the persecution they had experienced, these Christians were characterized by infighting. This internal fighting and warfare James attributed to their sinful lusts that warred in their members.
Nor is it difficult to see how these evil lusts and passions would also lead the saints into friendship with the world.
Hence, James was constrained by the Holy Spirit to remind them that friendship with the world is enmity with God. One who will be the friend of the world is the enemy of God! In fact, friendship with the world makes the saints to be adulterers and adulteresses!
How important it is that we shun the friendship of the world that we may be the friends of God.
By addressing the members of the church as adulterers and adulteresses James suggested that saints of God are married. For adultery is unfaithfulness to one's marriage partner.
The marriage that is called to our attention is not earthly but rather heavenly and spiritual. The Scriptures frequently describe the relationship between God and the church or between Christ and the church in terms of marriage. Old Testament Israel was the wife of God. The New Testament church is the bride of Christ. In Jesus Christ we have been joined to God in a most blessed and eternal marriage. The marriage we enjoy as men and women on the earthly level is only a faint picture of this higher, spiritual marriage that is presupposed here.
Our spiritual marriage to God is a most delightful relationship of love and fellowship with the living God.
Consider the earthly marriage of a man and a woman. In that case marriage is a love relationship in which man and woman live one life together in close fellowship. In fact, there is no closer love relationship in all of life. In marriage a man and a woman become one flesh.
In like manner must we understand our spiritual marriage to God. Those who are married to God have entered into a love relationship with Him. They love Him dearly and in love delight to serve Him as their God. In this way of loving devotion and service those who are joined in marriage to God also enjoy God's love for them. This mutual love comes to expression in a most intimate fellowship and companionship. Those who are married to God are able to walk with Him and talk with Him. They live one life with the ever blessed God.
The wonder and beauty of this marriage is that it exists at all. For we did not seek this marriage with God. By nature we hate and oppose God. The thought of living in a close relationship of friendship and fellowship with God was far from our mind.
Nor is there anything attractive in us that would incline God's heart to us and to seek our hand in marriage.
Yet God loved us anyway! He has loved us with an eternal, unchangeable, elective love. In this love He has irresistibly drawn us to Himself in marriage. At great sacrifice to Himself He paid for all our sins in the person of His only begotten Son, thereby removing all the offense of our many sins. In His grace He has purified our hearts and lives. He has even created love for Himself in our hearts and thus has drawn us to Himself in marriage.
Married we are to the living God in Jesus Christ. This marriage is our very life and salvation.
But now we must deal with the world.
This world is the world of fallen, sinful mankind. With this world we are very familiar, for we live right in the middle of it. We meet the world when we go to our place of work. We are confronted with this world when we turn on the TV, listen to the radio, go to the news' stand and bookstore. Everywhere we go, wherever we turn, we are confronted with this world.
This world is the enemy of God. The world has nothing in its heart but hatred for the living God. It hates God's righteousness; it hates God's revelation; it hates God's commandments. All that is God's the world hates and despises. Consequently, the world not only tramples under foot the commandments of God, it also opposes God and the cause of God in every way it can. This great enmity arises out of a fallen nature not saved by the grace of God.
What is your relationship to this world?
It becomes apparent that many of the saints in James' day had cultivated a friendship with the world and had become the friends of the world.
Sorry to say, the same is also true of many in the church today.
Friendship involves especially two things: attraction and companionship. Friendships develop when two or more find in one another something that is mutually attractive and that draws them together. This can be a common interest, a common goal, even a common problem. But for some reason they are attracted to each other. And because they are attracted to each other they also seek each other's company. They delight to be with each other and to do things together.
These same elements apply to friendship with the world.
Those who are friends of the world are attracted to the world. That which they find attractive about the world is the sin and corruption of the world. They are tantalized by its immorality, its high living, its high-sounding philosophy that elevates man. Inevitably they seek out the world. They begin to live like the world, talk like the world, act like the world. More and more they fill their souls with the pleasures of the world. Inevitably this brings them into close, personal friendships with worldly, profane people. More and more their time is spent with worldly people; less and less with the saints of God.
Are you the friend of the world?
Let it be known that the friendship of the world is enmity with God. Whosoever will be the friend of the world is the enemy of God.
There is a basic principle that underlies this teaching of God's Word: when two are enemies of each other, one can not be the friend of both. This is not very difficult to understand. One of the basic elements of friendship is that one takes the side of his friend and champions his cause over against that of his enemies. If friendship means anything, it means that. Consequently, when two are enemies, you can not be the friends of both. You must choose which will be your friend. And that will necessarily make you the enemy of the other.
Especially is this true when it comes to God and the world. The world and God are enemies. The world hates God, and as the enemy of God seeks to destroy the cause of God. God, in turn, hates the world with an eternal hatred. As the world's enemy God opposes the world and will one day destroy the world.
In light of this, will you be the friend of the world?
Friendship with the world implies that in your heart you have essentially repudiated God: His perfection, His law, His cause in the world. It means that you long after the world rather than after the living God. And it requires that you join with the world in its opposition to the living God.
Yes, indeed, the friendship of the world is enmity with God. Whosoever will be the friend of the world is the enemy of God. And the saint who cultivates the friendship of the world becomes unfaithful to the marriage he or she has with the living God. He is an adulterer. She is an adulteress.
Should we discover, upon examining ourselves, that we are,, in fact, adulterers or adulteresses, let us in godly sorrow seek forgiveness of God. This can be found in Jesus Christ and in His blood.
And let us be faithful in our marriage to the living God.
Let us repudiate the world and become its enemies.
Let us develop and cultivate our friendship with the living God. This is done through prayer and the diligent, proper use of God's Word.
And to motivate us, let us remember the great love God has shown to us in making us His bride. He loved us who were unlovable. He has married us at great sacrifice to Himself. It cost Him His only begotten Son, Who died for us on the cross. In the marriage into which He has brought us He has blessed us richly with every good thing.
Shall we despise this great love by cultivating a friendship with His enemies... by becoming adulterers and adulteresses?
Shall we not rather, in humble gratitude, be faithful to our God, loving Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength?
The Rev. James D. Slopsema was ordained in September of 1974 and was installed into the ministry at Edgerton, Minnesota. In 1982 he accepted a call to the Randolph Protestant Reformed Church in Randolph, Wisconsin. In 1986 he accepted ethe call to Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Walker, Michigan. In 1995 he accepted the call to the First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan. In July of 2014 he accepted the call as Emeritus Minister of the Protestant Reformed Church. His wife is Joan.