Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. – James 4:7
Meaning of James 4:7
The book of James was written by an Apostle called James. The verse James 4:7, ‘Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,’ has twin aspects of submission and resistance. The first is submission to God and the second is resistance to the devil. The first verbal form implies that Christians should be obedient entirely and remain that way. The second part of the verse means that the believer must combine submitting to God, which is active participation, and resist the devil (the enemy) wholeheartedly. Only then will the devil run away from the reader (you)! In simple words, James wants everyone to surrender to the authority of God and, at the same time, be on alert and turn away from the devil. Here, James is seen talking about his experiences.
Interpretation of James 4:7
The verse discussed here is considered as an instruction to the Christian and even a warning. It is easy to misinterpret this verse often. In churches, the second part of the verse is emphasized more than the first.
Interpretation #1 Reliance on God
In this interpretation, the first part of the verse, ‘Submit yourselves therefore to God,’ indicates reliance and dependence. When you submit to someone, it means that you are giving them complete and total control over you and your life. According to the Christian perspective, it is believed that it is safe to hand over your worries, troubles, and life to God and allow him to lead and guide you. The verses before James 4:7 it is written about how his Christian readers were living a life of self-reliance, possibly leading him to advise them to submit to God. By asking the reader to submit, he also asks them to give up their habits, lifestyles, etc. willingly.
Interpretation #2 Do not let the enemy influence you
When it comes to Bible, there is a clear sense of right and wrong, the good and the bad. The verse hence has two sides to it. In this interpretation, one side expects a person to submit to God, and the other is demanding or commanding the reader to save themselves from evil thoughts and actions. When speaking of the enemy, the author of the verse does not ask the reader to fight the enemy but rather to avoid it or run from it. So it is implied that resistance will also lead to the enemy’s fleeing.
Interpretation #3 Humans should not be independent
Another way of looking at the first part of the verse is that humans cannot be trusted on their own. Human nature, as many call it, has been known to give in to temptations and make mistakes. Therefore, James might have come to the conclusion that submission to God is the only way to lead a good life rather than leaving human beings to their own devices. It also brings attention to how weak humans can be when navigating life on their own. In this interpretation, the reader thinks that the solution to winning over life is to be submissive to God, as well as elders and authorities.
Interpretation #4 Humans have the power to chase the enemy away
Although James spoke about submitting to God in the first part, he asked the Christian reader to resist the devil. He does not speak about seeking God’s help for that. Thus in this interpretation, in a way, the author suggests that humans escape the situation before so the devil will not be able to find that person and run away or merely stay impervious to it. Hence, the burden falls on the individual to keep the enemy away.
Interpretation #5 Using self-control and surrendering to God
In this final interpretation of James 4:7, it is important to connect the two sentences. James might be telling a Christian reader that submission to God comes with self-control and discipline, which will give them the courage and power they need to withstand the enemy’s advances. Thus, he is also asking the individual to remove themselves from tempting situations, which will give them strength to avoid tricky situations. Thus the devil will be afraid to touch a strong person who derives his or her power from God.
Historical Background of James 4:7
The traditional author of the book of James is believed to be James, “a servant of God and brother of the Lord Jesus Christ.” The Letter of James also, according to most scholars, is among the earliest New Testament works. It has no reference to the events in Jesus’ life, but it has a striking testimony to Jesus’ words. Jesus’ sayings are rooted in James’ exhortations in a form that is clearly not dependent on the other Gospels. As it is written by James, brother of Jesus, it could have been written anytime between 62 AD and 69 AD) before James was beheaded. The earliest existing manuscripts of James usually date to the mid-to-late 3rd century.
Literary Devices in James 4:7
The book of James was addressed to the entire Israel tribes’ new Christian believers who were in hiding during the Roman invasion. As this verse is similar to the letters or epistles written by Paul, it is not poetic but contains a few literary devices that make the verse unique.
Irony – The verse here uses irony as it allows the reader to choose what they want to do when they are tempted into making wrong choices but also adds that the devil flees or runs away from a strong person and Christian believer.
Antithesis – The entire verse can also be considered an antithesis as there are contrasting ideas in the same verse. The author calls the reader for self-control by resisting the devil or situations that are harmful but ends the verse by saying that the devil will run away from them.