Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Draw nigh to God . . .—God waiteth to be gracious (Isaiah 30:18). Like the father of the prodigal son (Luke 15), He beholds us while we are “yet a great way off,” and runs, as it were, to hasten our return. He has “no pleasure in the death of him that dieth” (Ezekiel 18:32). But who shall come “into the tabernacle of God, or rest upon His holy hill” (Psalm 15:1), except the man “of uncorrupt life”? Surely, the penitent as well; the murderous hands “which all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten,” the hearts polluted with the most abominable lusts, may and must be cleansed; sinners and double-minded (refer to James 1:8) though they be, and both in one, the Lord of mercy will “draw nigh” to them, if they to Him: all their “transgressions shall not be mentioned,” they “shall live and not die” (Ezekiel 18:21-22).2 Chronicles 15:2. This declaration contains a great and important principle in religion. If we wish the favor of God, we must come to him; nor can we hope for his mercy, unless we approach him and ask him for it. We cannot come literally any nearer to God than we always are, for he is always round about us; but we may come nearer in a spiritual sense. We may address him directly in prayer; we may approach him by meditation on his character; we may draw near to him in the ordinances of religion. We can never hope for his favor while we prefer to remain at a distance from him; none who in fact draw near to him will find him unwilling to bestow on them the blessings which they need.
Cleanse your hands, ye sinners - There may possibly be an allusion here to Isaiah 1:15-16; "Your hands are full of blood; wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil." The heart is the seat of motives and intentions - that by which we devise anything; the hands, the instruments by which we execute our purposes. The hands here are represented as defiled by blood, or by acts of iniquity. To wash or cleanse the hands was, therefore, emblematic of putting away transgression, Matthew 27:24. Compare Deuteronomy 21:6; Psalm 26:6. The heathen and the Jews were accustomed to wash their hands before they engaged in public worship. The particular idea here is, that in order to obtain the favor of God, it is necessary to put away our sins; to approach him with a desire to be pure and holy. The mere washing of the hands, in itself, could not recommend us to his favor; but that of which the washing of the hands would be an emblem, would be acceptable in his sight. It may be inferred from what is said here that no one can hope for the favor of God who does not abandon his transgressions. The design of the apostle is, evidently, to state one of the conditions on which we can make an acceptable approach to God. It is indispensable that we come with a purpose and desire to wash ourselves from all iniquity, to put away from us all our transgressions. So David said, "I will wash my hands in innocency; so will I compass thine altar. O Lord," Psalm 26:6.
("To obtain the favor of God, it is necessary to put away our sins" - is somewhat unguarded phraseology. If the favor of God were not obtained but on this condition, none ever would obtain it. The passage is a strong injunction to holiness and singleness of heart: it does not say, however, that by these we obtain acceptance with God. Of his favor, holiness is the fruit, the effect, and not the cause. The sinner must not think of getting quit of his sins to prepare him for going to God by Jesus; but he must first go to Jesus to prepare for laying aside his sins. Yet in every approach to God, it is true there must be a "desire "to be free from sin; and this doubtless is the view of the commentary; indeed it is so expressed, though some words are objectionable.)
And purify your hearts - That is, do not rest satisfied with a mere external reformation; with putting away your outward transgressions. There must be a deeper work than that; a work which shall reach to the heart, and which shall purify the affections. This agrees with all the requisitions of the Bible, and is in accordance with what must be the nature of religion. If the heart is wrong, nothing can be right. If, while we seek an external reformation, we still give indulgence to the secret corruptions of the heart, it is clear that we can have no true religion.
Ye double-minded - See the notes at James 1:8. The apostle here seems to have had his eye on those who were vacillating in their purposes; whose hearts were not decidedly fixed, but who were halting between good and evil. The heart was not right in such persons. It was not settled and determined in favor of religion, but vibrated between that and the world. The proper business of such persons, therefore, was to cleanse the heart from disturbing influences, that it might settle down in unwavering attachment to that which is good.
he will draw nigh—propitious.
Cleanse … hands—the outward instruments of action. None but the clean-handed can ascend into the hill of the Lord (justified through Christ, who alone was perfectly so, and as such "ascended" thither).
purify … hearts—literally "make chaste" of your spiritual adultery (Jas 4:4, that is, worldliness) "your hearts": the inward source of all impurity.
double-minded—divided between God and the world. The "double-minded" is at fault in heart; the sinner in his hands likewise.Draw nigh to God; by faith, which is a coming to God, Hebrews 7:25; by true repentance, which is a returning to God, Hosea 14:1 Malachi 3:7; and by fervent prayer to him for the help of his grace, Psalm 25:1.
And he will draw nigh to you; by the manifestation of his grace and favour to you, particularly giving you strength against the devil and your lusts.
Cleanse your hands; reform your actions, amend your lives. Hands, the principal instruments of bodily actions, being put for the actions themselves; cleanness of hands signifies the innocency of the outward conversation, Job 22:30 Psalm 24:4 26:6 Isaiah 33:15,16.
Ye sinners; you that are openly and notoriously vicious, whose wickedness appears in your ordinary practices: so such are called, Matthew 11:19 Mark 2:15 Luke 7:37 15:2 John 9:31.
And purify your hearts; your thoughts and inward affections, from whence the evils of your outward actions proceed, Isaiah 60:7: see 1 Peter 1:22 1Jo 3:3.
Ye double minded; either by the former he understands the profane, and by these, hypocrites, or the same by both, viz. such as had wicked hearts, and led wicked lives; only he shows wherein true repentance consists, viz. in the reformation both of the inward and outward man.
cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye double minded; the persons addressed are not the profane men of the world, but sinners in Zion, formal professors, hypocritical persons; who speak with a double tongue to men, and who draw nigh to God with their mouths, but not with their hearts; who halt between two opinions, and are unstable in all their ways: cleansing of their hands and hearts denotes the purity of outward conversation, and of the inward affections; and supposes impurity both of flesh and spirit, that the body and all its members, the soul and all its powers and faculties, are unclean; and yet not that men have a power to cleanse themselves, either from the filth of an external conversation, or from inward pollution of the heart; though a man attempts the one, he fails in it; and who can say he has done the other? Job 9:30. This is not to be done by ceremonial ablutions, moral services, or evangelical ordinances; this is God's work only, as appears from his promises to cleanse his people from their sins, by sprinkling clean water upon them; from the end of Christ's shedding his blood, and the efficacy of it; and from the prayers of the saints, that God would wash them thoroughly from their iniquity, and cleanse them from their sin, and create clean hearts in them: and yet such exhortations are not in vain, since they may be useful to convince men of their pollution, who are pure in their own eyes, as these hypocritical, nominal professors, might be; and to bring them to a sense of their inability to cleanse themselves, and of the necessity of being cleansed elsewhere; and to lead them to inquire after the proper means of cleansing, and so to the fountain of Christ's blood, which only cleanses from all sin.Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Jam 4:8. In contrast to the last exhortation and promise is the exhortation ἐγγίσατε τῷ Θεῷ, united in a similar manner with a promise. Whilst the devil is to be kept at a distance by resistance, we are to draw nigh to God. “ἐγγίζειν is not to be limited to prayer, but is to be understood generally of man’s turning to God” (Wiesinger). Comp. on ἐγγίζειν, Isaiah 29:13; Hebrews 7:19.
καὶ ἐγγιεῖ ὑμῖν] corresponding to the preceding φεύξεται ἀφʼ ὑμῶν. Similar expressions in 2 Chronicles 15:2; Isaiah 57:15; Zechariah 1:3.
But in order to draw nigh to God, conversion from the former nature is necessary; therefore καθαρίσατε χεῖρας … ἀγνίσατε καρδίας. The cleansing of the hands consists in withdrawing them from evil and in employing them in good works; the sanctification of the heart, in contending with impure desires, and in the cultivation of a holy disposition. The external and the internal must correspond; comp. Psalm 24:4 : ἀθῶος χερσὶ καὶ καθαρὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ. Pott erroneously supposes the first expression to be a symbolical designation of μετάνοια, and denies its reference to the externa vitae integritas (Carpzov). The reason why James names the hands is not only because they are the principal organa operandi, but also because that he, with ἐγγίζειν τῷ Θεῷ, does not think exclusively on prayer; see 1 Timothy 2:8. On ἁγνίσατε καρδίας, comp. 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:3.
ἁμαρτωλοὶ … δίψυχοι] This address, designating the present condition of the addressed, shows the necessity of μετάνοια; ἁμαρτωλοί, because instead of God, who chose them for His possession, they serve the lusts (ἡδοναῖς, Jam 4:1) of the κόσμος, corresponding to μοιχαλίδες, Jam 4:4; δίψυχοι, because they would at the same time be Christians. De Wette’s explanation is too weak: ye undecided (between God and the world); Schneckenburger’s remark: hic sensu latiore sumendum quam, Jam 1:8, is incorrect, for διακρίνεσθαι there has its reason in the Christian giving his heart to the world instead of to God; see Test. Aser. III. p. 691: οἱ διπρόσωποι οὐ Θεῷ ἀλλὰ ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις αὐτῶν δουλεύουσι.
Calvin correctly remarks: non duo hominum genera designat, sed eosdem vocat peccatores et duplices animo.
 Kern: As James considers man in reference to the divine grace as the receiver, so, on the other hand, he takes into account the free self-activity of man as the condition by which a relation of unity of man with God takes place.Jam 4:8. ἐγγίσατε τῷ θεῷ, καὶ ἐγγίσει ὑμῖν: here, again, we have what to Christian ears sounds rather like a reversal of the order of things; we should expect the order to be that expressed in such words as, “Ye did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). The words before us seem to be a quotation (inexact) from Hosea 12:6 (Sept.), … ἔγγιζε πρὸς τὸν θεόν σου διὰ παντός. The Hebrew phrase נגשׁ אל־ is a technical term for approaching God for the purpose of worship, e.g., Exodus 19:22; Jeremiah 30:21; Ezekiel 44:13. There is an extraordinary passage in Test. of the Twelve Patriarchs, Dan. vi. 1, 2 which runs, “And now, fear the Lord, my children, and beware of Satan and his spirits. Draw near unto God and to the angel that intercedeth for you, for he is a mediator between God and man” (the latter part here is not a Christian interpolation).—καθαρίσατε χεῖρας: Cf. Psalm 24:4, ἀθῷος χερσὶ καὶ καθαρὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ …; in Is. Jam 1:16 we have, λούσασθε, καθαροὶ γένεσθε, and in Sir 38:10, ἀπόστησον πλημμελίαν καὶ εὔθυνον χεῖρας, καὶ ἀπὸ πάσης ἁμαρτίας καθάρισον καρδίαν. In each case it is a metaphorical use of language which otherwise expressed the literal ritual washing; the former, taken from the latter, was in use at least as early as exilic times.—ἁμαρτωλοί: the close connection with this word and the δίψυχοι which follows almost immediately recalls the language in Sir 5:9, … οὕτως ὁ ἁμαρτωλὸς ὁ δίγλωσσος.—ἁγνίσατε καρδίας: the thought of these, as well as of the preceding words, is an adaptation of Psalms 72 (73) 13, Ἄρα ματαίως ἐδικαίωσα τὴν καρδίαν μου, καὶ ἐνιψάμην ἐν ἀθῴοις τὰς χεῖράς μου. The verb ἁγνίζω (התקדשׁ) means originally to sanctify oneself preparatory to appearing before the Lord by separating oneself from everything that might cause uncleanness; the idea of separating oneself is still present in the passage before us, because mourning implied temporary withdrawal from the world and its doings. Mayor quotes in connection with this verse, Hermas, Mand., ix. 7, καθάρισον τὴν καρδίαν σου ἀπὸ τῆς διψυχίας.—δίψυχοι: Cf. Hosea 10:2, and in addition to the passages referred to above, Jam 1:8, cf. Barnabas xix. 5, οὐ μὴ διψυχήσῃς, πότερον ἔσται ἢ οὔ, and the identical words in Did. iv. 4.
8. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you] The “nearness to God,” to which the promise is attached, is primarily that which is involved in all true and earnest prayer, but it should not be forgotten that it includes also the approximation of character and life. We are to walk with God as Enoch walked (Genesis 5:24). The former sense is prominent in the LXX. use of the verb employed by St James, as in Hosea 12:6, where in the English we have “wait on thy God continually,” and Psalm 119:169. An illustration of its meaning in the second clause is found in Job 19:21, where it answers to the English “have pity on me.”
Cleanse your hands, ye sinners …] The words contrast, with an implied reference to our Lord’s teaching in Matthew 15:1-9, the true cleanness of hands, which consists in abstinence from the evil that defiles (Psalm 24:4; 1 Timothy 2:8), with the merely ceremonial cleanness on which the Pharisees laid stress. Comp. Ch. James 1:27.
purify your hearts …] The verb implies the same kind of purity as the adjective used in Ch. James 3:17, primarily, that is, chastity of heart and life. It has here a special emphasis as contrasted with the “adulteresses” in James 4:4, and with the special aspect of the “double-mindedness” which that word implied. See note on Ch. James 1:8.Jam 4:8. Ἐγγίσατε, draw near) The flight of the devil is followed, in the order of nature rather than of time, by an approach to God, in holy prayer, Jam 4:2-3.—ἐγγιεῖ, He will draw near) as propitious. A most joyous word.—καθαρίσατε, cleanse) That you may be able to put to flight the devil.—ἁγνίσατε, purify) that ye may be able to approach God, having laid aside adultery of soul.—δίψυχοι, ye double-minded) who give yourselves both to God and to the world, Jam 4:4. The form of address varies in this Epistle; and at one time they are addressed as holy brethren, at another time as sinners, at another time as waverers. The double-minded man is at fault in heart; the sinner, in his hands likewise.Verse 8. - Draw nigh to God (ἐγγίσατε τῷ Θεῷ). A phrase used of approach to God under the old covenant (see Exodus 19:22; Exodus 34:30; Leviticus 10:3). Equally necessary under the new covenant is it for those who draw near to God to have "clean hands and a pure heart" (Psalm 24:4). Hence the following injunction: "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded."
Compare James 1:8.
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