James, the brother of our Lord, had just delivered a series of exhortations to submit to God, resist the devil, and draw near to God. The psalmist wrote, “My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Ps 84:2).
Then James gave two additional commands for the believer-priest as he draws near to God: “cleanse your hands” and “make your hearts pure.” As the believer goes to prayer, it is with the expectation of understanding the will of God in order to practice His word and show God’s care for people.
Let us beware lest we abuse the grace and forgiveness of God to the point that we are no longer conscious of our sins and lose interest in His word and in others.
Although James is confident that God has already planted His word in these readers, who were “brought forth by the Word of truth” (James 1:18), he is addressing this command to “sinners.” It is sin that separates man from God. David wrote, “The wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous” (Ps 1:5).
Believers often lose sight of the awfulness of their sins and their desperate need for constant cleansing. Thankfully, “if we [are continually confessing] our sins [Gk. “missing the mark, wandering from the commands”], He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). May we never lose our need for constant cleansing for acceptance in His presence!
This Hebraic parallelism between “cleanse your hands” and “make pure your hearts” reminds us of Psalms 24:3–4: “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.”
Repentance is not just from outward offenses but also from inward corruptions. Jesus said, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness [lies], slanders” (Matt 15:19). The “double-minded” are those who pretend to be spiritual yet still love the flesh. They are living a lie.
To be priests unto God, we need to continually be cleansed from our actions of selfishness and disobedience and to purify our motives from self-centered desires so that we are perpetually being transformed into the image of the most wonderful person in the universe, the Lord Jesus. Do you sincerely want to be like Jesus?
“Dear Lord, since I am only a sinner saved by Your wonderful grace, it is vital that I remain humble before You. Give me understanding and a willingness to be continually confessing my sins as Your Spirit points them out in me.”