James 4:5b – Which Spirit?

James 4:4-6

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Yesterday we took a hard look at v.5 and came to the conclusion that it is God who is jealous for the devotion of men. To some this may seem odd, but this is truly this is an act of love. In fact, this desire that men be devoted to Him and glorify Him with their affections is the reason that He sent Christ to redeem the Church. This still leaves us with the question, what spirit is James talking about in v. 5b?

cocreadinglist.JPGThere are two possible answers to this question. First, the Spirit is the Holy Spirit. The second possibility is that the spirit is God’s creative spirit by which he has invigorated humankind (Gen 2:7). Although most English translations capitalize spirit as if it were the Holy Spirit it seems bests to view this spirit as the spirit that God has created man with. There are several reasons to take this view. First of all it does not seem to make much sense that God would desire the Holy Spirit since God is the Holy Spirit. Second, we must remember that the people James directed his comments towards were the enemies of God (v. 4), and thus they were not Christians. This means that the Holy Spirit did not dwell in these people. It is primarily for this reason that I think it best to view the spirit in this verse as the spirit that God has created within all human beings. In other words, God the Creator is jealous for His creation to desire Him whole heartedly. In fact, God has designed His creation to find ultimate joy and satisfaction only in Him. Unfortunately, sin has made us loose sight of this. In Romans 1:25 the apostle Paul acknowledged man’s tendency to seek something other than God for fulfillment.

“For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 1:25, NASB95)

The question is how do we change our perspective from a sinful desire for the pleasures of creation to a biblical desire for the Creator? James gives the answer to that in v.6 (which we will discuss in more detail). For now understand that it is only through the Grace of God in the Gospel that we can desire God, and seek Him for our joy.