The General Epistle of James (Part 14)

Chapter 3
A. This chapter has the most concentrated discourse in Scripture on the government of the tongue.
B. Outside of this chapter, this epistle addresses speech issues many times (1:6; 1:13; 1:19; 1:26;
2:3; 2:7; 2:12; 2:16; 2:18; 4:3; 4:11; 4:13; 4:15; 4:16; 5:12; 5:13; 5:14; 5:15; 5:16; 5:17; 5:18).
C. James is continuing his warning against vain religion, the tongue being very central to that.
JAM 1:19, 26.
D. James continues his theme about worthless superficialities in religion.
1. Hearing without doing is worthless. JAM 1:22.
2. Wealth without godliness is worthless. JAM 2:1-5; 5:1.
3. Faith without works is worthless. JAM 2:26.
4. Knowing good without doing it is worthless. JAM 4:17.
5. Knowledge without governed speech is worthless. JAM 3:1-13; 1:26.
E. James' discourse was very relevant in view of the “bad fish” problem amongst the Jewish churches
discussed earlier in this series. TIT 1:10-11.
F. Man's tongue is his glory. PSA 30:12; 16:8-9 c/w ACT 2:25-26.
1. With his tongue he can praise and thank God.
2. With his tongue he can confess Christ.
3. With his tongue he can pray out loud to God.
4. With his tongue he can teach others about God and Christ.
5. With his tongue he can warn, edify, exhort, admonish or comfort others.
6. With his tongue he can defend others. PRO 31:8.
7. Death and life are in its power. PRO 18:21.
a. How many have died because a commander gave an order to attack?
b. How many have been saved because a commander gave an order to attack, or an
order to lay down arms, or an order to pursue diplomatic resolutions?
c. Sapphira sealed her doom by what she said. ACT 5:8.
d. Abigail and Esther spoke and saved many lives. 1SAM 25:33; EST 7-8.
e. (PRO 13:3) He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide
his lips shall have destruction.
f. (1PE 3:10) For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue
from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:
G. Sin corrupted the use of man's glory (tongue). ROM 3:13-14.
1. By nature, our first action following birth is a perverse use of the tongue. PSA 58:3.
2. The tongue has a capacity for many different sins and errors including:
a. inappropriate cursing. JAM 3:9 ct/w JER 48:10; 1CO 16:22.
b. blasphemy. LEV 24:11.
c. lying (including false witness, false accusation, deceit, seduction, guile).
EPH 4:25; 1TI 4:2.
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d. railing (uttering abusive language). MAR 15:29.
e. backbiting (slander, defamation of character). 2CO 12:20.
f. whispering (malicious insinuation, secret slander). 2CO 12:20.
g. improper debate (ungodly dissension, quarrelling, wrangling). ROM 1:29.
h. talebearing/tattling (unsolicited spread of private matters for malice or
idle curiousity). PRO 20:19; 1TI 5:13.
i. flattery (false or insincere praise). PRO 20:19; 29:5; PSA 5:9.
j. boasting (bragging, extolling oneself). ROM 1:30; JAM 4:16.
k. inconvenient (unsuitable, inappropriate) jestings/foolish speech. EPH 5:4.
l. filthy communication. COL 3:8.
m. murmuring/complaining. JUDE 1:16.
n. praising the wicked. PRO 28:4.
o. praising devils/false gods/idols. DAN 5:4 c/w 1CO 10:20.
p. gainsaying (denying, contradicting) the truth. ROM 10:21.
q. heresy. GAL 5:20.
r. betraying (treacherous informing). MAT 10:4.
s. prating (purposeless chatter, blabbing, tale-telling). 3JO 1:10.
t. babbling (meaningless iteration). ECC 10:11; 2TI 2:16.
u. bewildering speech. 1CO 14:9.
3. Peter sums up all such errors as evil speakings that should be put away. 1PE 2:1. H. James' instruction here is especially appropriate for assembly in God's house. ECC 5:1.
vs. 1-2.
A. James combines here a warning against unqualified mastery over others with an exhortation to bridling the tongue.
1. This ties in well with his earlier words about the perfecting (completing, maturing) of the believer. JAM 1:4.
2. The believer is not perfected as long as his tongue is ungoverned. v. 2.
3. He may be striving to bring the rest of his body under subjection (per 1CO 9:27) but what
about the tongue?
B. The master in this context refers to one who instructs others.
1. master: A teacher; one qualified to teach. A man to whose care a child or children are committed for purposes of instruction; a tutor, preceptor....He whose disciple one is; the teacher (in religion, philosophy, art, science, or scholarship) from whom one has chiefly learned, or whose doctrines one accepts. The (our, my, his, etc.) Master: often applied to Christ...
2. The relationship is one of master and scholar (MAL 2:12), teacher and student.
3. The rule of the church is entrusted to its teachers. HEB 13:7.
4. There is therefore an implication of dominion over others in being such a master.
5. Someone who has no dominion over his tongue would make a poor choice for mastery in
teaching in the church.
6. A good reason for “not many masters” is that not many can govern the tongue.
C. vs. 13-14 in this context indicate that there were some who were assuming that their knowledge was the only qualification for mastery in teaching.
1. Knowledge alone can puff up a man but not to the betterment of others. 1CO 8:1-2.
2. Immature believers awash in the sudden flood of knowledge of the truth can fall prey to the
pride of life and are therefore inappropriate for the ministry in the church. 1TI 3:6.
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3. We are warned against imprudent desire to teach (1TI 1:7) and loving to have the preeminence. 3JO 1:9.
D. A good reason to be wary of striving for mastery in teaching is the weighty responsibility that comes with it: “...knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (v. 1).
1. “The highest hills are most exposed to lightning.”
2. Since the teacher has greater knowledge, more is expected from him. LUK 12:47-48.
3. A little folly can ruin his reputation. ECC 10:1.
4. Hypocrisy particularly condemns the teacher. ROM 2:18-21.
5. Because of the influence the master/teacher has over others, an ungoverned tongue may
cause them to go astray, for which God will judge the master/teacher. MAL 2:7-9.
6. If the inspired apostle was not immune to censure, how much more the unqualified
or unlearned who may not only be charged with hypocrisy for personal inconsistency, but also through pride-filled ignorance be held accountable for leading others astray?
1TI 1:3; 2TI 2:16-18.

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