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Sermon #20 — James Series
Title: Preachers, Tongues, and Wisdom
Text: James 3:1-18
Subject: Taming the Tongue
Date: Tuesday Evening — July 21, 2015
Readings: Merle Hart and Lindsay Campbell
As it is today, so it has been from the beginning. In the early church, as today, there was much harm done by the misuse of the tongue. James deals with this problem sharply (James 1:19, 26; 3:1-18).
(James 1:19) “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”
(James 1:26) “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.”
Then the whole of chapter 3 is taking up with this subject. The title of my message is Preachers, Tongues, and Wisdom. Our text will be James 3:1-18. — Preachers, Tongues, and Wisdom — (James 3:1-18).
(James 3:1-18) “1 ¶ My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. 2 For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. 3 Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. 4 Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. 7 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: 8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
13 ¶ Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. 14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 18 And the frDivisions:uit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”
Proposition: If we would honor God, help one another, and serve the interests of God’s Church and Kingdom in this world, we must seek grace from God to bridle our tongues.
Divisions: There is much in this chapter by which God the Holy Spirit teaches us to conduct our lives. In this message, I want to call your attention three things...
1. Preachers (v. 1).
2. Tongues (vv. 2-12).
3. Wisdom (vv. 13-18).
First, James gives us a word of instruction about preachers. The word “masters” in verse 1 refers to preachers and teachers.
“My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” (James 3:1)
I want to be very careful here. The Scriptures are crystal clear. We ought ever to pray that the Lord will raise up, call, and send our men from our midst to preach the Gospel (Luke 10:2); and saved men rightly desire that office (1 Timothy 3:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). There is no greater work on earth. This is the means by which God saves his elect (1 Peter 1:18-25).
(Luke 10:1-2) “1 ¶ After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. 2 Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.”
(1 Timothy 3:1-7) “1 ¶ This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:12-13) “12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; 13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.”
(1 Peter 1:18-25) “18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, 21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. 22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: 23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. 24 ¶ For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: 25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”
God saves sinners through the preaching of the Gospel; and there is no greater work to be done on this earth than the work of the Gospel ministry. But in the opening verse of James 3, God the Holy Ghost warns us that there is a great danger of men thrusting themselves into this work and of us thrusting men into this work who are not called, gifted, and sent of God. James is about to write a good bit about the abuse of the tongue. As he begins to do so, he tells us that one of the greatest possible abuses of the tongue is the preaching of a man who is not called and sent of God to be a preacher.
“My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” (James 3:1)
How quick men are to rashly put forth their ideas and opinions about sacred things! How quick men are to put themselves forward as preachers! What a dangerous thing this is! Uncalled, unsent, unqualified preachers, those who put themselves forward as God’s messengers who are not, are the primary causes of corrupt practices and corrupt doctrine in churches.
I would do nothing to discourage men from preaching the Gospel; but we must urge restraint and avoid ordaining novices for the work of the ministry. We must pray that God will call and make known to us who should preach and teach his Word (Acts 13:1-3; 1 Timothy 5:22).
(Acts 13:1-3) “1 ¶ Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. 3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.”
(1 Timothy 5:22) “Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.”
Preaching the Gospel requires not only a fluent tongue, knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures, and a sincere heart, but also the anointing of the Lord. No one is called of God to preach the Gospel…
· Who is not a Man.
· Who does not Understand the Scriptures — (T.U.L.I.P.).
· Who is not Gifted to Preach.
“We shall receive the greater condemnation.” — Yes, preachers and teachers are judged by a higher standard and with greater severity than others, and with good reason. — When a man assumes the responsibility of speaking to eternity bound sinners in the name of God, and assumes the responsibility of expounding to others the Word of God, he assumes the responsibility of doing so faithfully (Jeremiah 23:28; Matthew 5:19).
(Jeremiah 23:28) “The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD.”
(Matthew 5:19) “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Second, James gives us very clear and needful instruction about the use of our tongues. He opens verse 2 with a statement that needs to be emblazoned upon our hearts and minds by the Spirit of God. — “For in many things we offend all!” — What a sad fact! What an undeniable fact!
· Let no preacher forget this. — “In many things we offend all!” — We have many infirmities. We sin much. And, at some point, at one time or another, we offend all we touch!
· Let no child of God forget this! — — “In many things we offend all!” — We have many infirmities. We sin much. And, at some point, at one time or another, we offend all we touch!
(1 John 1:8-10) “8 ¶ If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
That fact alone ought to keep us on guard all the time; but James point here is that our tongues are the primary instruments of offence. We who are God’s injure others by our tongues more than in any other way. Let us pray for grace that we may use our tongues for edifying and not for injuring (Psalm 141:3; Ephesians 4:29-32).
(Psalms 141:3) “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.”
(Ephesians 4:29-32) “29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
(James 3:2) “For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.”
That man or woman who controls his tongue is a mature believer. The person who has learned, by the grace of God, when to speak, what to speak, and how to speak for the glory of God and for the comfort, edification, and benefit of others is a mature believer. — God make me such a man! — He who can control his tongue can control his conduct. He is able to “bridle the whole body!” But the fact is, none of us can control our tongues or our conduct. Of that fact we need to be made aware constantly.
· The tongue is a fire, setting the whole being on fire, as from hell (v. 6).
· The tongue is a world of iniquity (v. 6), defiling the whole of our being.
· The tongue is full of deadly poison, the poison of asps (v. 8).
· The tongue is an unruly evil (v.8).
If we could control our tongues, we could control our whole nature; but that we cannot do. That is what James tells us in verses 3-8. The tongue we cannot tame. That doesn’t excuse us, far from it! But it does tell us much about ourselves! What weak, sinful, destructive creatures we are!
(James 3:3-8) “3 Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. 4 Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. 7 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: 8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”
The tongue is a small member of the body, but it is capable of both astoundingly great and astoundingly disastrous things.
· It can be an instrument of grace and salvation (Romans 10:17).
· It can be an instrument of curse and condemnation (2 Corinthians 2:14-16).
· The tongue is like fire, an instrument of wrath that stirs wrath and bitterness.
· Like fire, an evil tongue is destructive. — Nothing in its path is safe. — Name! — Home! — Church!
· Like fire, a wicked tongue is hard to stop.
The tongue, well-ordered and sanctified, can preach the gospel, comfort, bring happiness, build friendships, and unite people. But the tongue can also do great harm and evil. This small member can destroy friendships that have stood for years. It can destroy homes and churches that have been happy and content. It can destroy character and reputations, plant suspicion and doubt, and turn men from the truth to error.
“But the tongue can no man tame!” — Read verses 9-12 and learn that even God’s saints are in constant need of grace to control our tongues.
(James 3:9-12) “9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.”
“Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing.” It ought not be so, but it is! It is so because you and I are sinners still.
Third, James gives us instruction in wisdom in verses 13-18, reminding us of the difference between carnal, sensual, devilish wisdom, and heavenly, gracious, spiritual wisdom given by the Spirit of God to those who are born of God and taught of God.
Here is God-given, heavenly wisdom (v. 13).
(James 3:13) “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.”
· It has God-given knowledge of God’s ways, God’s work, and God’s Word.
· It causes a person to live unto God, and living unto God to live for the benefit of others (Colossians 3:12-15).
(Colossians 3:12-15) “12 ¶ Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”
Here is carnal, sensual, devilish wisdom (vv. 14-16). It is self-centered, self-promoting, envious, malicious, and contentious, always finding fault, slandering, exposing evil, and dividing friends.
(James 3:14-16) “14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.”
Here is heavenly, God-given, spiritual wisdom, wisdom found in and given by Christ to all who are made partakers of the Divine nature in the new birth (vv. 17-18).
(James 3:17-18) “17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”
· It is pure (Matthew 5:11).
· It is peaceable (Proverbs 15:1-2; Matthew 5:9).
· It is gentle, mild, courteous, kind, and patient. Gentleness is both the fruit of the Spirit and the character of our Savior (Galatians 5:22; 2 Corinthians 10:1); and it is the character of his servants (2 Timothy 2:24).
· It is easily entreated, willing to listen, quick to forgive, and ready to be gracious.
· It is without partiality. True wisdom reaches out to, embraces, highly esteems, and loves all God’s people because they are Christ’s (Philippians 2:1-5).
· It is without hypocrisy. It is straightforward, sincere, and honest in its kindness.
· This wisdom is the fruit of righteousness.
· It is sown in peace of them that make peace.
As James and Paul teach exactly the same thing about our free justification by faith in Christ, James and Paul teach us precisely the same thing about wisdom. — Wisdom in its purest, highest form is but the reflection of the love of God in sinners into whose hearts the love of God is shed abroad by God the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).
(1 Corinthians 13:1-13) “1 ¶ Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4 ¶ Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8 ¶ Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”