Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye doubleminded.James 4:8 ASV
DRAWING NEAR TO GOD
Draw nigh to God … The exact equivalent of this expression, “Let us draw near,” as used in Hebrews 10:22ff, has a marked application to conversion, faith, repentance and baptism, all three being specifically referred to.
See full comment on Hebrews 10:22 below.
It is of special importance that Hebrews was also written to Christians and yet contains this very pronounced paragraph on the conversion of alien sinners; and there is no good reason for supposing that James did not do the same thing here.
Who is there among men who would not like to draw near to God?
Even the privilege of drawing near to some great man, such as a president, a prince or a king excites and challenges men, and how much greater is the privilege of drawing near to the Almighty God himself!
Only God has the right to prescribe the terms upon which men may approach him, and these are outlined in Hebrews 10:22ff, where faith, repentance and baptism are laid out as preconditions of drawing near to God “in Christ.”
The wonderful benefits of drawing near to God are beyond all calculation:
It provides safety. The only true safety is in nearness to God. “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe” (Psalms 119:117).
It gives unspeakable joy. Joy is the keynote of the New Testament. For those who have been “made nigh in the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13), there is joy unspeakable and full of glory.
It provides strength against temptation. When a great storm moves through a forest, the branches farthest from the trunks of the trees are the first to fall.
If men would succeed against temptation, let them remain near the Lord, as did John, and not follow afar off, as did Peter.
The most important blessing of all is that God “will draw near” to them who draw near him.
This is in keeping with God’s law as seen in the whole universe.
The attraction for each other of bodies in space is inversely proportional to the square of the distances separating them; and there is a movement of both toward each other when that distance is reduced.
God magnifies the sacred influences that bless the souls that come to him.
There can be little doubt that James was familiar with the New Testament theology of drawing near to God; and it is not amiss, therefore, to see a reflection of it in this verse.
The last portion of this verse has a parallel in it, thus: Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; And purify your hearts, ye double-minded. The New Testament usage of “purify your hearts” is seen in this verse:
Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren, love one another from the heart fervently: having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which liveth and abideth.1 Peter 1:22-23 ASV
It is clear that Peter used “purify your hearts” in the sense of being obedient to the gospel, being born again, in short, being converted; and it would be strange indeed if James used this same expression in any other sense here.
We have repeatedly noted his amazing familiarity with the whole spectrum of Christian doctrine.
let us draw near with a true heart in fulness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience: and having our body washed with pure water,Hebrews 10:22 ASV
The drawing near enjoined in these words is drawing near to God, the very concept of such a thing suggesting what a wonderful privilege is involved.
God is not like some head of a mere earthly state but is the eternal and all-powerful Ruler of Creation.
In all times and places, the heads of human states have enforced the strictest conditions and requirements upon persons seeking admittance into their presence.
Kings, prime ministers, and presidents throughout history have laid down specific rules to be followed by those seeking interviews.
The verse at hand reveals the divinely imposed preconditions to be fulfilled by them that would draw near to God. The importance of these things demands that specific attention be given to each one of them.
With a true heart shows that no insincere person or hypocrite can ever really draw near to God. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
The Holy Spirit says, “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
Success is promised the obedient. “And thou shalt find him, when thou searchest after him with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29).
In the parable of the sower, the seed which produced the good fruit was that which fell upon the good ground, the honest and good heart.
“Fullness of faith” means true and wholehearted faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and with full confidence in his power and Godhead.
Although it is a fact that people are saved “by faith,” there are many degrees of faith, such as little faith, weak faith, vain faith, and dead faith.
One should make sure that he has enough faith to be saved.
The doctrine which has stripped the heart out of most modern religion is that old standby of the Protestant Reformation which announced justification by FAITH ALONE.
Such a doctrine is a perversion of scripture, an addition to scripture, and a flat contradiction of scriptures (James 2:24).
It is not believing, merely, but believing WITH ALL THE HEART that is needed.
The Christian confession from earliest times was never made without regard to this emphasis, as attested when Philip required of the eunuch, “If thou believest WITH ALL THINE HEART, thou mayest” (Acts 8:37).
Yes, that verse is omitted from the English Revised Version (1885) and other versions, but it is still in the margin where it bears eloquent testimony to the practice of the primitive church, the same requirement being retained to this day in the universal practice of churches of Christ throughout the world.
Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience is a reference to penitent acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice through knowledge and contemplation of it and also a humble willingness to accept as our own what Christ has provided.
The scriptural heart, of course, is the mind, as implicit in the words of Christ to the Pharisees, “Why reason ye thus in your hearts?” (Mark 2:8).
And our body washed with pure water is beyond all doubt a reference to Christian baptism, making it, therefore, a precondition of salvation, or drawing near to God.
That such is true is attested by the vast majority of modern scholars and by the near unanimous testimony of the ancients.
Only among writers in the post-Reformation period, when writers were influenced by the popularity of the “faith only” thesis, does one find any strong views to the contrary.
There can be no reasonable doubt that this clause refers directly to Christian baptism.
The bath of water (Ephesians 5:26), and the bath of regeneration (Titus 3:5), are analogous expressions; and the express mention of BODY here, as distinguished from HEARTS before, stamps this interpretation with certainty.
To deny such an obvious meaning would be to pose an impossible alternative; because in the entire Christian religion, there is absolutely nothing else, other than baptism, to which this could have any possible reference.
The entire analogy here is drawn from the activities of the ancient worshiper as more fully elaborated above.
For more on the subject of “Baptism,” see our blog post: “The Six Fundamentals”
In keeping with the analogy are Paul’s instructions from Ananias to “Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
All of the instructions, or preconditions, for drawing near to God as set forth here stand for that portion of the plan of salvation which brings people into Christ; which to be sure is not the whole duty, but the beginning.
This verse tells HOW to be enrolled as a Christian.
Draw near to God:
(1) with a true heart
(2) in full assurance of faith
(3) having the heart sprinkled from an evil conscience
(4) the body washed with pure water.