The Tongue

James 3:5-6,8 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boast great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindle! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defile the whole body, and set on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 

The tongue is a little member that boasts of great things (v5); it is a fire,a world of iniquity that defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of nature (v6); It is untameable; an unruly evil; full of deadly poison (v8); It is used to bless God and curse men (v9); Capable of good conversation (v13) and of bitter strife (v14).

The circle of human life is continually excited by the tongue unless it is kept sanctified. Evil surmising, misrepresentations, falsehoods, jealousies, envying, wrath, and malice, all form part of the destroying flames of fire from the tongue of the ungodly.

The whole course of life is set on fire of hell. This refers to the anger and violent passions of wrath related to the vile language of the tongue. It also pictures the confusion and misery caused by the tongue – like the misery of hell.

Those saved and sanctified can love life, and see good days, by refraining their tongues from evil, and their lips that they speak no guile (1Pet. 3:10).

Many Masters

James 3:1-2  My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. 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. 

When we ‘master’ others – teach – from the Word of God and we cannot contain our tongues (Jas. 1:26) and offend others by telling them what to do or how to live, we do more damage and no good whatsoever.  Our lives, not our words, should set the correct example, that is why our feet must be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace (Eph. 6:15) not our mouths. When we teach or reprove those who disrespect or dislike God’s Word, we bring shame on our testimony as followers of Christ (Pro. 9:7-9; Mat. 7:6) and cause others to stumble.  The Holy Spirit is the one to reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:8).  Matthew 23:10 says that we have one Master, Jesus Christ, and we must learn from Him – the Word (John 1:1, 14). Study the Word, not what others say about it, read your Bible so that you can develop faith, which comes through hearing (Rom. 10:17).  It is through prayer that we can contribute to change in others lives, and by walking in Christ’s footsteps: the life He lived while on earth (1Pet. 2:21-23) by setting a Christ-like example and not one we think is correct because of our own interpretations of the Word (2 Tim. 2:15).

True Saving Faith

James 2:19-20, 24, 26  Thou believe that there is one God; thou does well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. 

Believing in God is no proof that you are justified by faith alone, for even devils believe without justification. Abraham is used as an example in verse 21 to 23 of someone justified by works when he had gone to offer Isaac his son upon the altar. See then how his faith shaped with his works and by works was faith made perfect. It was faith that led him to this act of obedience. Had he refused to obey, it would have demonstrated that he had no faith in God or His Word. Verse 25 speaks of Rahab the harlot who was also justified by works when she had received the messengers and had sent them out another way.

Are you willing to be instructed as to the nature of true saving faith?

The body without the spirit is dead: Only the body dies at the time of physical death. This is caused by the soul and spirit leaving the body. The body returns to dust and the soul and spirit of the righteous go to heaven to await the resurrection (2Cor. 5:8; Php. 1:21-24). The soul and spirit of the wicked go to hell to await the resurrection (Lk. 16:19-31; Isa.14:9; Rev. 20:11-15). The soul and spirit are spiritual and immortal. They cannot go back to dust. Just as surely as the inner man leaves the body at physical death and is no longer with the body, so faith without works is dead (separated) and is powerless.

Christian Consecration

James 2:14, 17-18 What do it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? Even so faith, if it had not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou has faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. 

This statement refers to those who say that they have faith and the works are not necessary for Christian living. It does not say they have a real and active faith, but they say they have. Can faith alone save? The Word is not referring to initial justifying faith but to the demonstration of Christian faith before men. Christianity demands of its followers’ good works to all men (Mat. 5:16; 16:27; 1Tim. 6:18; 2Tim. 3:17). One is not justified by works (Rom. 3:25-31; 4:1-6; 9:11; 11:6), but justified ones must do them – the works that follow obedience – to prove their Christian consecration (Jas. 2:14-18, 20-26).

Faith without works is dead; works without faith is dead (Jas. 2:17, 20, 26). Neither is complete in itself. It is like fire-burning without fuel and fuel-burning without fire. One can say that this is possible, but it is not; it is contrary to the creative makeup and the laws that govern fire and fuel.

By the Gospel

James 2:10-13  For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak you, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy; and mercy rejoice against judgment. 

Guilty of all means that one sin is enough to damn the soul (Rom. 5:12-21). The obligation to law is total (Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:10). This applies to all laws that have the death penalty (Rom. 1:32; 1Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21). One is guilty of lawbreaking whether he breaks one or many laws. The authority which gave one commandment gave all of them and the one who resists Him by breaking one law is guilty of the whole. Do not commit adultery … Do not kill: These commandments are in both covenants, the old and the new (Exo. 20:13-14; Mat. 5:21-32; Rom. 13:9). We are not now under obligation to obey them because they are part of the old covenant which is abolished, but because they are part of the new.

The law of liberty refers to the new covenant, not the old. It is by the gospel, men of this age will be judged (Rom.2:16). The ones who receive mercy and show mercy rejoice in the fact that they will not face judgment because of obeying the law. They will be exalted by mercy above judgment. There is no mercy in law. The meaning is that mercy through grace will triumph over law because the demands of the law have been met by grace and the lawbreakers are justified by it through faith to escape the judgment of the law (John 3:36; 5:24) until such a person sin willfully after he has received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins (Heb. 10:26).

The Sin of Partiality

James 2:1, 8-9 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. If you fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, you do well: But if you have respect to persons, you commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 

Do not have the faith of Christ with partiality. Do not prefer the rich merely because of riches, and not for their moral, spiritual, and public usefulness (Jas. 2:1-4) or anyone for that matter because of what they look like or what they own or their station in life.

The law of both the old and new covenants demanded that men love their neighbours as themselves (Lev. 19:18; Mat. 22:39; Rom.13:8-9; Gal. 5:14). The new covenant – the perfect law of liberty – is referred to here, which came from God and was emphasized by Christ as being suitable and necessary to all men (John 13:34; 15:12).

If you show any degree of partiality and injustice you break God’s law and you are a transgressor (1Jn. 3:4).

True Religion

James 1:26-27 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridle not his tongue, but deceive his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. 

If someone is a careful follower of his belief or worship, but he cannot control or restrain his tongue, he betrays and misleads himself (and sometimes others) and his faith is in vain and of no value.

Pure and undefiled religion is twofold: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep yourself unspotted from the world. True religion consists of common benevolence and purity of heart and life where we let our lights shine before men, that they can see our good works, and your Father in heaven can be glorified (Matt. 5:16, 44; 2Cor. 9:8; Col. 1:10; 1Tim. 1:5; Tit. 2:7, 14; 3:1, 8; 1Jn. 3:17).

Be Doers

James 1:22-25  But be you doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he behold himself, and go his way, and straightway forget what manner of man he was. But whoso look into the perfect law of liberty, and continue therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. 

Those who ‘do’ the Word of God are those who live in continued obedience to its commands and who doesn’t just ‘hear’ the Word and deceive themselves with their own opinion and false reasoning or interpretation of what they think God actually meant.

He sees his blemishes and imperfections and is moved by what he sees. As long as he sees his deformities, spots, and ugliness he tries to do something about them. But when he turns away from the mirror, he forgets and his imperfections no longer bother him. So it is with the Bible. As long as one studies it, he sees himself as he really is and constantly seeks to improve himself and conform to its teaching. If he gets away from the Bible, a man soon forgets the real picture of himself, “what manner of man he was”.

The perfect law of liberty does not refer to the law of Moses, but to the new covenant, the only perfect law (Heb. 8:6). The law of Moses was imperfect and faulty (Heb. 7:12, 18-19, 22; 8:6-7).

The idea is taken from women spending much time in the mirror decorating themselves to the greatest advantage, not leaving one hair or the smallest ornament out of place. Thus, if one will be as careful to take every advantage of the Word of God to keep his soul saved and his life conformed to the gospel, he will “be blessed in his deed.”

Lay Apart

James 1:21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls

So many warnings are written in the Word of what we should not be guilty of or partake in, but so many excuses contradicting God’s Word are still used for those who chose to remain in sin (Rom. 6; 1Jn. 3; 5:18).

We MUST lay apart all moral filthiness and wickedness, impure and unholy affections, baseness, vileness and depravity. Only then can we receive the engrafted Word. It is by the Word of Truth inborn and implanted in the soul that one is saved and begotten (Jas. 1:18; Eph. 5:26). The Word is called seed (1Pet. 1:23; 1Jn. 3:9). When it is implanted in the soul it germinates and springs forth into eternal life. Only the seed that fails to be sown on properly prepared soil and cared for, will fail to bring forth fruit (Matt. 13:3-30).

Be Slow to Speak/Wrath

James 1:19-20 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. 

The wrath of man cannot work the righteousness that God requires. For example, no zeal of doing anything out of anger can be justified before a just God. Therefore, we have been given two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.

One of God’s attributes is that He is slow to anger (Psa. 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13) and we are warned that a wrathful man stirs up strife: but he that is slow to anger appease strife and that he that is slow to anger is better than the might, and he that rule his spirit than he that takes a city (Pro. 15:18; 16:32). The usage of the tongue is the one thing we are warned of the most in the Word of God and something we should all be sufficiently aware of (See Pro. 18: 7; 20-21; 1Pet. 3:10; Jam. 1:26; 3:1-12).