In preaching through the book of James at Perryville Second Baptist Church, we inevitably came upon James 4:8. Funny thing about preaching through books of the Bible is that you just so happen to cover every verse in a particular book! I think this particular verse is one of the most important verses in all of the Bible, let alone the book of James. So, I thought I’d spend a few posts sharing about this portion of Scripture.
What this verse is:
This section of James is full of commands actually but consider this imperative in verse 8 – draw near to God. This is not a suggestion or a good idea. The living God commands you to draw near to Him. Christ beckons you to come.
Well, is this verse for believers or unbelievers?
Is James talking to lost people that he is pleading with to come to God for salvation or is he pleading with Christians to come back into the fold so to speak? Contextually I think it can go either way. John MacArthur holds that he is speaking to unbelievers. Others hold that he’s talking to Christians.
I think that theologically we all can agree this command can be used in either scenario.
- Unbelievers need to draw near to God through faith in Christ and repentance from sin
- A believer in conflict (v.1-4) and sin needs to draw near to God through faith in Christ and repentance from sin.
In a sense, of course, Christians are never separated from God, but in another sense, we always need to draw nearer to Him. So, I am fine issuing this command to members of either group who happen to be reading this post:
Unbelievers: God commands you to draw near to Him in repentance and faith. This is stronger than an invitation. God isn’t asking you to RSVP. He is commanding you to come to Him.
Believers: Draw near to God. Lay aside every sin and weight and draw closer to Christ (Hebrews 12:1-2).
This verse isn’t merely an imperative, it’s also a promise. It’s not just a command, it’s also a commitment. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Of course, in James 4:6 we see this is all of grace. But James is not desiring to teach us the mechanics of grace so much so in this verse but rather our responsibility to draw near to God and God’s commitment to draw near to us if we draw near to Him.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Not might. Not maybe. He will. And God does not lie.
God will draw near to you. The One you’ve sinned against. The one you’ve let down. The One you’ve failed time and again. This God will draw near to you. He will comfort you by His love and grace. Your sins they are many, His mercy is more.
There is no other way for God to draw near to you. He will not draw near to you by you drawing near to works. He will not draw near to you by you merely trying to clean up your act. God will not draw near to you simply because you walked through the doors of a church building.
God Himself will comfort those who draw near to Him in faith by drawing near to them. What a marvelous thought this is. And it’s for you too! It’s not just for “those” people. But for anyone who will come to Him through faith in Christ.
God draws near to us by faith alone in Christ alone.
In our next post, we will talk more about what this verse means.