By Earl E. Robertson
James wrote, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lust that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:1-3).
This seems so strange and ironical that followers of the Prince of Peace need such divine reprimand. People, supposedly having peace that “passeth all understanding” (Phil. 4:7), rather, are condemned for having “wars and fightings” among themselves. The Lord knew that total commitment to him no longer existed among these people. The pleasures of the body had now taken over the things of the spirit. The philosopher Plato wrote, “Wars and factions, and fightings have no other source than the body and its lusts. For it is for the getting of wealth that all our wars arise, and we are compelled to get wealth because of our body, to whose service we are slaves.”
There is no question as to the origin of the wars experienced among God’s children: “even of your lust that war in your members.” Within the body one finds the source. Moses knew something of the “pleasures” of sin (Heb. 11:25). Rather than engaging one’s own body in the pleasures of its own will, the Bible teaches the need for perfecting holiness by the sanctification of flesh and spirit (2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Cor. 6:20).
The same wars condemned in James 4 are also condemned in 1 Peter 2:11 and Titus 3:3. The lusts or pleasures that war in our members do not necessarily mean sensual pleasures but that which is sweet and leads to sinful strife (such as ambition, love of money, power, prestige). All Christians must, therefore, be on constant guard. Many churches have been destroyed through this very process. Churches with great ability often become a hiss and by-word with all influence for good gone simply because some brother or sister (working behind the scenes) sought the pleasure of preeminence. It was, with them, a power struggle. Perhaps they got the power but the congregation was (after the wars within) lost! What price for power! The good name the congregation once enjoyed is now gone; the wonderful character and influence the church once had is now destroyed. It has now become an empty hull.
No congregation can engage and tolerate internal fleshly pleasures and continue to be identified with the Lord. Let none be so naive as to think this cannot happen to the church you worship with. Such can happen and often times does. History continues to repeat itself. Preventive measures begin with each Christian. “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Cor. 9:27).
Truth Magazine XXII: 4, p. 77
January 26, 1978