James 3 - Outline of James (MENU page)
I. The Testings of Faith (1:1- 2:26)
II. A true faith will control the tongue. 3:1-18
1. The powerful influence of a teacher's tongue. 3:1-4
2. The fiery poison of an untamed tongue. 3:5-12
3. The humble wisdom of a heaven tamed tongue. 3:13-18
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1. The powerful influence of a teacher's tongue. 3:1-4
1. My brethren, be not many masters {teachers},
knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.
...be not many masters {ie., not many of you should become teachers}...
This seems like strange counsel, because the church is commissioned to teach God's Word. However, many desire a teaching 'position' for the wrong reasons (eg., Mat 23:8-12). The Lord Himself appoints His servants to their ministries (eg., Eph 4:11; 2Tim 1:11).
...we shall receive the greater condemnation {ie., more severe judgment}...
A servant, who has been given greater responsibility, is held to a higher level of accountability.
cp. Mat 23:14; Luk 12:42-48; 2Cor 5:10; Heb 13:17
2 For in many things we offend all {ie., we all offend, we all stumble}.
If any man offend
{stumble} not in word, the same [is] a perfect man,
[and] able also to bridle the whole body.
{cp. Jam 1:26}
3 Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us;
and we turn about their whole body.
{cp. Psa 32:9}
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
{ie., wherever the will of the pilot directs}.
...in many things we all offend {stumble}...
As in v.1, 'we' refers (first) to teachers. While we hold great responsibility, we are not immune to error or hypocrisy (cp. Rom 2:20-22).
...if any man offend not in word...
A teacher has great influence. Like the small bit that directs a horse, or the small rudder that steers a ship, the teacher's tongue persuades his hearers for good or ill. Mat 18:6; 23:15
The tongue, of the godly teacher, must declare God's Word, clearly and fully. Acts 20:27-30; 1Pet 4:11; Titus 1:9; 2:1
II. A true faith will control the tongue. 3:1-18
2. The fiery poison of an untamed tongue. 3:5-12
5 Even so the tongue is a little {GK=mikros} member,
and boasteth great things
{GK=mega-laucheo, talks big}.
Behold, how great a matter
{GK=hule, a forest} a little fire kindleth!
6 And the tongue [is] a fire, a world of iniquity:
Like a fire, the tongue can initiate widespread and uncontrollable destruction. Prov 16:27; 26:20,21
As a world {GK=kosmos, arrangement, order} of iniquity {injustice, unrighteousness}, the tongue can express an immense variety of corruption. Rom 3:13,14; Psa 73:9; Jer 9:3-8
so is the tongue among our members,
that it defileth the whole body,
and setteth on fire the course
{wheel} of nature;
and it is set on fire of hell
{GK=gehenna, the place of burning}.
Though it is a small member, a vile tongue defiles, not only the whole man, but also the whole body (the church), and the whole circle of human interactions. Therefore, believers are counseled to guard their tongues (eg., Col 3:8-10).
     Satan gladly kindles ungodly tongues, with blasphemy, false teaching, gossip and slander. eg., Joh 8:44; 2Cor 11:13-15; 12:20; 1Tim 4:1,2
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.
{Psa 58:3-5; 140:3}
The word for 'unruly' differs in some MSS:
Some have GK=akatastatos, 'unstable,' 'unsettled' (as used in Jam 1:8).
The Textus Receptus has GK=akataschetos, 'unrestrainable.'
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.
{cf. Rom 12:14; 1Pet 3:9}
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.
{cp. Prov 12:18; Mat 7:15-20}
Although men cannot tame their own unruly tongues, the Holy Spirit is able to re-purpose the tongues of God's children, as they allow Him to change them. Gal 5:22,23; Col 3:16,17; 4:6
II. A true faith will control the tongue. 3:1-18
3. The humble wisdom of a heaven tamed tongue. 3:13-18
13. Who [is] a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? {cp. v.1}
let him shew out of a good conversation
{conduct, behavior} his works {cp. Jam 2:18}
with meekness
{humility} of wisdom. {Eph 4:1-3; Col 3:12-15}
14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife
{selfish ambition} in your hearts,
{boast} not, and lie not against the truth. {Rom 16:17,18; 2Pet 2:2}
15 This wisdom descendeth not from above,
but [is] earthly, sensual
{soulish, natural, 1Cor 2:14}, devilish {demonic, v.6}.
16 For where envying and strife
{selfish ambition} [is],
there [is] confusion
{instability, disorder} and every evil work.
17 But the wisdom that is from above
{cp. Jam 1:5,17}
is first pure
{GK=hagnos, undefiled, uncontaminated}, {cp. Php 4:8; 1Tim 5:22; 1Joh 3:3}
then peaceable,
{Rom 12:18; Heb 12:14}
{patient, forbearing}, {Php 4:5; Titus 3:2}
[and] easy to be intreated
{persuadable, reasonable},
full of mercy
{kindness, compassion} and good fruits {Php 1:11; Col 1:10},
without partiality
{GK=adiakritos, without uncertainty, not indecisive;
(but cp. GK=diakrino, partial, in Jam 2:4, re: respect of persons, Jam 2:1},
and without hypocrisy {pretense, insincerity, cp. Rom 12:9; 1Pet 1:22}.
18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
{by (or) for} them that make peace. {Jam 1:20; Mat 5:9}
In v.13-18, the "wisdom that is from above" is constrasted with wisdom which is "earthly, sensual and devilish." However, the contrast concerns the conduct of those who dispense such wisdom, rather than the content of their teaching.
     Obviously, it is essential for the teacher to present doctrinal truth (2Tim 4:1-4). But the godly teacher's manner of life and speech must be in agreement with his message. cp. v.1,2; 2Cor 4:1-5; 1The 1:5; 2Tim 2:24-26

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