War Among the Saints
Robert Wurtz II
Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? (James 3:10-4:5 ESV)
I have taken the unusual step of quoting the entire context in James as an example of what I am calling “War Among the Saints.” The book of James is traditionally attributed to James the brother of Jesus (James the Just), and the address is generally considered to be Jews who believed in Jesus who were part of the diaspora. Nevertheless, it should be regarded in my view as general truths much like the wisdom literature of the Old Testament.
James begins our context by referring to a mouth that speaks both blessing and cursing and then moves to the term “double-minded” in James 4:8. He also characterizes them as “adulterers and adulteresses,” meaning they are not faithful to God but have allowed something else to rule their lives. Moreover, this is an “if the shoe fits, wear it” type of message. If you find yourself guilty of the behavior described in this passage, then you should follow the instructions at the end.
Our first paragraph brings to mind wells and trees. Fortunately, wells cannot bring forth both fresh and saltwater, which is the point of James’ analogy. In the Old West in America, unsuspecting travelers would happen upon what some call “A Deadly Oasis,” which consisted of a shallow pool of water with high concentrations of the deadly poison arsenic. When people or animals drank the water, they died. James’ analogy demonstrates that a person cannot have the freshwater of the Holy Spirit and salty (or even deadly) spirit at the same time. Neither can one type of tree produce the fruit of something else.
This analogy relates to the use of the term “double-minded,” which is the Greek dipsuchos meaning two souls. James first used this word in James 1:8 to describe a person who doubts God and is “unstable in all of their ways.” John Bunyan created “Mr. Facing Both Ways” to illustrate the hypocrisy of double-minded people. One cannot “howl with the wolves and bleat with the sheep” and be a Christian, though this hasn’t stopped many from trying. James tells us that disbelief in God’s word or disobedience of God’s word is a root problem. James also refers to them as “sinners,” a stinging term in Greek meant to awaken the conscience (A.T. Robertson). All of these facts demonstrate that the person is either completely backslidden or they were never born again.
The double-minded among the saints move in the wisdom that is earthly, sensual, and demonic (James 3:15). In other words, they yield to demonic forces that conspire to create war among the saints. Understand that when James says “war” he uses the Greek word polemos, and it is always translated as war, battle, or fight. Of the sixteen times it’s used in the New Testament, three relate to wars in the last days, and nine are in the Revelation to describe Satan and his demons warring against God, His people, and the elect angels (Revelation 9:7, 9:9, 11:7, 12:7, 12:13, 13:7, 16:14, 19:19, 20:8). Thus, much of the “wrestling” with the enemy forces that Paul described in Ephesians 6 comes from double-minded people.
The Enemy in the Camp
James then explains how these demonic forces infiltrate to cause these wars. He tells us that where bitter envy and strife exist, there is commotion (akatastasia) and every evil work. He says to the self-seeking perpetrators, “do not boast and lie against the truth” (James 3:14) while you’re motivated by bitter envy and strife. In other words, don’t act spiritual and sanctimonious with envy and strife in your heart because your “wisdom” is demonically inspired. Counterfeit and diabolical wisdom leaves the churches wrecked. Paul agrees by saying that God is not the author of commotion (akatastasia) but peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). If you have people drawing lines, fighting, and warring, in the churches one or more people are moving in the demonic.
Counsel and Caution
Be careful who you allow to counsel you in this life. Many men have come under the spell of a demonized counselor who controlled them like a puppet. The enemy infiltrates churches by demonic counsel, and nobody is immune to it. Pride says, “I would know the devil’s voice if I heard it.” No, you wouldn’t! If it were easy to detect, James wouldn’t have given us eight criteria to test it. “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:15). Does the wisdom or counsel you are following pass James’ eight questions?
- Is it pure? (holy, and NOT half good and half bad)
- Is it peaceable? (will this action lead to peace or war in the churches?)
- Is it gentle? (promotes an attitude of gentle conduct)
- Is it willing to yield? (reasonable and well-received)
- Is it full of mercy? (overflows with mercy)
- Is it full of good fruits? (the outcome promotes godly fruit)
- Is it without partiality? (is it partial to family or friends?)
- Is it without hypocrisy? (does this action make me a hypocrite?)
James says that friendship with the world and its method of operation leads to people fighting and warring to get what they want. They are adultresses and adulterers spiritually because they have followed the devil and not God. In their pride, they inquired at the prophets of Baal for direction and lied against the truth, leading people to believe it descended from above. It provokes the Spirit of God to jealousy (James 4:5). The world has nothing to say to the churches, and its methods are repulsive to God. The enemy implements his counterfeit and diabolical counsel through self-seeking, double-minded, and envious people. He then uses this “wisdom” or “counsel” to wage war on the saints.
The High Cost of War
The result of this activity is commotions, wars, and fights in and among the churches. If WWI and WWII taught us anything, it’s that war destroys lives and property. What an understatement! Yet when wars are fought “among you” (James 4:1), the kingdom and precious souls are destroyed. Understand that there have always been agents of destruction among God’s people who wage war through demonic wisdom. The actors in this warfare have one option, repent or perish.
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. (James 4:6–4:10 NKJV)