“Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, ‘The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously’?”
Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain,
For the third time, James uses the word “Scripture” (2:8,23). The mention of Scripture here does not refer to a specific passage but to the general gist of teaching on God’s jealousy (Ex 20:5; 34:14; Ps. 42:1; 84:2; Zech. 8:2).
The Bible never speaks in “vain” in its pronouncements. The declarations of James in the previous verses are not arbitrary. Some of his readers might have thought that he was too categorical and absolute; “James should be more moderate in his writing. He should be more qualifying and relative in his message.” James argues strongly that he takes his points from the Scripture and not from the mere dead words of man.
‘The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously’?
This sentence is one of the most difficult to interpret in James, so we cannot come to a definitive meaning.
The first possibility may be the idea that the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer does not create the sin of jealousy in him. In this case, we should not capitalize the word “Spirit” because this term would refer to the human spirit (the Greek does not use capitals). The idea of this sentence would be that the friendship of the world breeds envy.
The body cannot sin by itself; it requires a “spirit” to commit acts of sin. Jealousy is the sadness that grieves over the success of others. This is a selfish sin. Jealousy murdered Able. Jealousy put Joseph on a course of bondage to Egypt. Jealousy put the Lord to death.
The second possibility may be that we can make the Holy Spirit jealous by our sin. The idea behind “jealously” in this interpretation is the feeling of displeasure about hearing something grievous. The Holy Spirit is jealous that we might be wholly devoted to God.
The word “yearns” is a strong term meaning to long after or desire something greatly. This is a term of huge passion. The human spirit wholly lusts after things contrary to the will of God.
Ro 7:17, “But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.”
1 Co 2:12, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.”
The word “dwells” means to cause to dwell, to put within. The Holy Spirit’s jealousy longs for fellowship with the spirit that dwells in us. He is jealous of our love. Some believers committed spiritual adultery (4:4), so they needed to understand how God longs for His people.
1 Co 6:19, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”
We immobilize God’s Word in our hearts when we rationalize it for our own ends.
Our propensity to sin (Ps 51:5) does not reduce the responsibility for our sin. If we rationalize sin away, we put ourselves in serious spiritual jeopardy. We need to grasp how God the Holy Spirit longs to fellowship with us.
How we underestimate the passion of the Father for His children’s heart to be wholly His! An earthly bridegroom instinctively senses when the heart of his beloved is divided in her affections! How much more does the Holy Spirit of the Sovereign God, Friend of the Eternal Bridegroom burn with holy jealousy when our hearts are drawn away to the mean and base things of this corrupt and godless world! May our hearts burn with the same righteous indignation!
Is the simple meaning of this passage is the Spirit is jealous of our love for the world instead of a relationship
with God and truly wishes for our (grateful) love.
And that this is the war that we do not recognize in our attempt to find happyness, not realizing that peace begins
in our relationship with God and not the world.
I think of the 23rd psalm, verse:1, the Lord is my shepard
and provides all my real needs, that is until I look to the
other side of the fence thinking I see greener pasture.
Can I know if this passage is to be interpreted as
1. man’s spirit “lusteth to envy” in KJV, where the greek word for envy is phthónos that are used in negatively in the New Testament
“He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us” in NASB where the use of phthónos is used positively for the first time in New Testament?
Both hinges on what the word spirit refers to.
And it is difficult to under why God jealously desires the Holy Spirit, which does not seem to fit in context of James 4.