by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Study # 50 August 19, 1998 Harlingen, Texas
Thesis:The tongue has an enormous potential, both for good and evil.
Introduction:In our study last week we set forth James' understanding of God's standard of judgment, by which He will judge every man--whether at the Judgment Seat of Christ, or at the Judgment of the Great White Throne. We saw that that standard is His requirement that man be verbally aligned with the truth, not just at the sound level of speech, but at the heart level as the root of speech. James introduced the reality of judgment as the inevitable destiny of all men, and the reality of significantly greater liability for those men who obtain (by grant or by grasp) the ability to influence others by way of their speech. The business of our use of our tongues is a serious business, but the use of our tongues to influence the Church is an even more serious business.
This evening we want to look further into James' words in order to see how he viewed the tongue as a metaphor for our use of speech.
I. Theologically, Speech is a Fundamental Concern.
A. In Genesis we are informed that creation exists in its current state by reason of speech.
1. God spoke, and it was done: Hebrews 11:3.
2. Satan spoke and his words introduced the level of corruption that now exits.
3. The confusion of speech at Babel was a gracious imposition that God used to preserve the world until this day.
4. Abraham's turn toward blessing was accomplished by words from God that were enhanced by more words: Hebrews 6:16-20.
5. From those days until now, all of history has been guided by words...
B. In Genesis we are introduced to the fact that God has made everything hang upon the twin issues of faith and unbelief.
1. The problems of this world are all arranged around the issue of whether we believe God or not.
2. The definition of faith is response to God's words.
3. The fundamental attack of Satan is addressed toward the issue of belief in the words.
II. In James 3, James sees the tongue as the most powerful member of the human body.
A. He compares it to the bit which can dominate a powerful horse.
1. In this illustration, James makes use of an interesting word: Peitho.
a. This term refers to 'persuasive power'.
b. In reference to the bit, it refers to the persuasive power of pain.
c. In James' writing, the persuasive power fundamentally exists in words as the initiating element of all persuasion, whether painful or not.
2. In this illustration, the entire abilities of the horse are controlled by the bit.
B. He compares it to the rudder of a large ship which can dominate the direction of the ship.
1. He uses four terms to enhance his meaning.
a. The description "of great size".
b. The description "by harsh winds".
c. The description "the compelling force" of the helmsman.
d. The use of boulomai to describe the helmsman's determination.
2. He seems determined to make us see that the tongue is as powerful as the rudder.
3. But he also introduces the issues of the helmsman's intentions--which correspond to our motives when we speak.
C. He openly declares that the tongue is actually capable of very great things.
III. The Liability of the Tongue.
A. It is not ok to ignore the impact that words have.
B. In fact, it is crucial to understand that we have the capacity of words and we must be aware of that fact as well as the statement by Jesus that men will be brought under judgment for every idle word and that men will be justified or condemned by the words they use.