Daily Archives: May 30, 2018

May 30: In Season and Out of Season

1 Chronicles 26:1–27:34; 2 Timothy 4:1–8; Psalm 89:23–52

I like to operate when I feel like I’m in control. When I haven’t gathered enough information or I feel uncertain of my circumstances, it’s tempting to avoid making a decision or taking action.

Paul knew that this type of outlook was detrimental to Timothy’s ministry. He tells Timothy that regardless of his circumstances, he was required to act: “Preach the word, be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all patience and instruction” (2 Tim 4:2).

Paul uses the certainty of Christ’s return to motivate Timothy to stick to his task (2 Tim 4:1). Although Timothy experienced times when it was not always convenient for him to act on his calling, he had been admonished by Paul about the importance of the work they were doing together: their calling. He also knew the urgency of that calling. Christ’s return and the appearance of His kingdom was their motivation (2 Tim 4:1).

We can’t follow God only when the timing is right for us. We also can’t rely on our own strength. When doing God’s work, we can never plan well enough or anticipate all the potential kinks; our plans will never be foolproof. It’s not the mark of a Christian to be certain of how everything will play out in every circumstance. The mark of a Christian is reliance on Christ as Savior, God, and guide. Through the clear and calm and through the fog, we’re required to trust, act, and follow on the basis of our certainty in Jesus. Like Timothy and Paul, we must be certain of our standing in Christ and the coming of His kingdom. And that changes everything.

Whatever the task and in every circumstance, we’re required to simply follow Jesus. We are charged to act for the gospel now, regardless of whether it’s convenient.

How are you trusting in your own strength instead of Jesus’? How can you be ready in the right way, in every season?

Rebecca Van Noord[1]

[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

May 30 Learning from Judas (Judas Iscariot)

The twelve apostles included “Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him” (Matt. 10:4).


God can use even an apostate like Judas to teach us some important lessons.

Judas is history’s greatest human tragedy. He had opportunities and privileges known only to the other disciples, but he turned from them to pursue a course of destruction. Yet even from his foolishness we can learn some important lessons.

Judas, for example, is the world’s greatest example of lost opportunity. He ministered for three years with Jesus Himself but was content merely to associate with Him, never submitting to Him in saving faith. Millions of others have followed his example by hearing the gospel and associating with Christians, yet rejecting Christ. Tragically, like Judas, once death comes, they too are damned for all eternity.

Judas is also the world’s greatest example of wasted privileges. He could have had the riches of an eternal inheritance but instead chose thirty pieces of silver. In that respect he is also the greatest illustration of the destructiveness and damnation greed can bring. He did an unthinkable thing, and yet he has many contemporary counterparts in those who place wealth and pleasure above godliness.

On the positive side, Judas is the world’s greatest illustration of the forbearing, patient love of God. Knowing what Judas would do, Jesus tolerated him for three years. Beyond that, He constantly reached out to him and even called him “friend” after his kiss of betrayal (Matt. 26:50).

If you’ve ever been betrayed by a friend, you know the pain it can bring. But the Lord’s pain was compounded many times over because He knew ahead of time that He would be betrayed and because the consequences were so serious. Yet He endured the pain, because He loved Judas and knew that His own betrayal was a necessary part of the redemptive plan.

The sins that destroyed Judas are common sins that you must avoid at all costs! Use every opportunity and privilege God gives you, and never take advantage of His patience.


Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank Jesus for the pain He endured at the hands of Judas. ✧ Pray that you will never cause Him such pain.

For Further Study: Read 1 Timothy 6:6–19. ✧ What perils await those who desire wealth? ✧ Rather than pursuing wealth, what should you pursue? ✧ What attitude should wealthy people have toward their money?[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 163). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

America’s ‘Educated Elite’: Not Educated, Not Elite | National Review

As American academia has increasingly become an ideological monolith, it’s created a generation of strivers who don’t know what they don’t know.
— Read on www.nationalreview.com/2018/05/american-educated-elite-not-educated-not-elite/

STUPID IDEAS: Church of England Pushes For More Transgender Priests In New “Radical Christian Inclusion” Drive To Increase Membership — The Gateway Pundit

Maybe it shouldn’t come as a major surprise that a church that was founded just because King Henry VIII wanted to bang a woman other than his wife is still going through moral crises… but here we go…

Bishops in the Church of England have just begun to ramp up efforts to recruit women who claim to be men and men who claim to be women as new leaders of the church in an effort to present the church as a place of “diversity.”

A newly released guidance by the Diocese of Lichfield begins, “you may have heard about initiatives happening nationally in the area of human sexuality and gender identity”, before diving straight into SJW Territory.

“Bishop Michael has convened a listening group,” the document continues, “the group consists of a range of people, identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, same-sex attracted, and heterosexual; single and partnered; celibate and married” (don’t ask me for a second what the difference between gay and same-sex attracted are, not sure I want to know).

Calling it out for what it is, before delving into bullet points, the document proclaims “This, we believe, is the starting point of that radical Christian inclusion for which the Archbishops have called.”

Oddly enough, the Diocese claims “Intrusive questioning about someone’s sexual practices or desires, or their experience of gender, is almost always inappropriate. It is also unacceptable to tell or insinuate to people that sexual orientation or gender identity will be changed by faith, or that homosexuality or gender difference is a sign of immaturity or a lack of faith.” You’d think that questioning some of the proclivities of future church leaders IS necessary to determine moral character; it is one thing to say homosexuality itself is not a sin, it is another to say potentially dangerous notions of sex or gender are no business of the church (wasn’t it that same blind-eye to sexual impropriety that gave us the pedophile scandals a decade ago?).

The fourth and last bullet points lay out their objective far more clearly: “We wish to affirm that LGBT+ people can be called to roles of leadership and service in the local church. We very much hope that they, like everyone else, feel encouraged to serve on PCCs, or as churchwardens and worship leaders, for instance, and are supported in exploring vocations to licensed lay and ordained ministries. Nobody should be told that their sexual or gender identity in itself makes them an unsuitable candidate for leadership in the Church.

The reason for this shift? Because they believe “the perception that the Church is homophobic and transphobic is harming our mission.

And therein lies the problem here, it is one thing to work towards more acceptance of all people and individuals, but what does become dangerous (and is an unfortunate symptom of our time) is to base leadership roles on meeting diversity quotas; to work so hard to breed the notion of “acceptance” within an organization that you end up with people destroying the organization itself. We’ve seen this across the private sector in America time and time again (not to mention what happened when the Boy Scouts decided to go this route and their membership halved), I think we can guess who this will play out within a religious organization…

via STUPID IDEAS: Church of England Pushes For More Transgender Priests In New “Radical Christian Inclusion” Drive To Increase Membership — The Gateway Pundit

‘Clinton & Obama conspired to weaponize US intelligence agencies for years’ – RT’s Crosstalk debates

As the ‘Russiagate’ investigation continues in Washington, despite zero evidence presented that Trump colluded with Moscow, RT’s Crosstalk guests have discussed collusion of another kind – that of US intelligence agencies.

Read Full Article at RT.com
— Read on www.rt.com/usa/428237-us-intelligence-agencies-collusion-trump/amp/

Alexander: The Obama/Clinton CIA/DOJ Co-Conspiracy

The Trump Investigation: Origins and Motives

The genesis of the Trump/Putin collusion investigation from the perspective of a seasoned federal prosecutor.

Mark Alexander

“We should be unfaithful to ourselves if we should ever lose sight of the danger to our liberties if anything partial or extraneous should infect the purity of our free, fair, virtuous, and independent elections.” —John Adams (1797)

Among the many resources we use to complement our analysis of news, policy and opinion is National Review, founded by William F. Buckley in 1955. NR has always been the intellectual standard for the conservative movement, though its editors sometimes get it wrong, as in the case of the candidacy of Donald Trump.

As with many “old guard” conservative publications, NR was befuddled both by Trump’s appeal and his ultimate election on November 8, 2016, and its editors still demonstrate some confusion about Trump’s populist support. That perplexity is rooted in the fact that many conservative intellectuals, most of whom reside inside the DC Beltway or in other equally high-brow protectorates like New York City, are disconnected from both the grassroots American Patriots who elected Donald Trump and those who didn’t initially support Trump but have since boarded the Trump Train to Make American Great Again.

Its grassroots disconnect notwithstanding, National Review still has, in my considered opinion, the best stable of political writers on the planet, far superior to those at The Atlantic, The New Republic and the rest of the Leftmedia propaganda machine.

There are a few NR writers whom I follow closely. One of those is Andrew McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. A few of his more notable prosecutions include the 1995 conviction of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and 11 others responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (and who planned additional attacks against other New York City landmarks). McCarthy was also key to the prosecutions of the terrorists who bombed our U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

For the last 15 years, McCarthy has been a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

He’s also my go-to guy for legal insights and analysis on the collusion to entrap Trump by Barack Obama’s CIA director, John Brennan; Obama’s FBI director, James Comey (and his high-ranking co-conspirators); and their candidate, Hillary Clinton, and her corrupt campaign. This cadre of Obama’s deep-state operatives has endeavored to frame Mr. Trump for “colluding with Russia” to throw the 2016 election, or to at least create the false impression that his election was illegitimate.

The fate of that investigation, and possibly Trump’s presidency, has, for a year, been in the hands of Comey’s FBI predecessor, special prosecutor Robert Mueller, and his team of “hard-core Democrats.”

The integrity of Mueller’s evidence was undermined again last week with revelations that the Obama administration, ostensibly to protect Trump’s candidacy from Russian meddling, planted at least one “spy” within his campaign. In fact, this was just the latest chapter of the Obama/Clinton Trump/Putin collusion charade to be exposed.

I profiled that last week in my column, “From ‘Crossfire Hurricane’ to ‘Backfire Tornado’.”

This week, I’m providing you with some of Andy McCarthy’s more erudite observations about the investigation of Trump.

His analysis, “In Politicized Justice, Desperate Times Call for Disparate Measures,” focused on the Justice Department’s double standard in handling the Clinton email subterfuge and Trump/Russia investigations:

The 2016 presidential election, we’re to believe, was stolen from Hillary Clinton by disparate treatment. As Democrats tell it, the FBI scandalized their candidate while protecting Donald Trump. You might think peddling that story with a straight face would be a major challenge. But they figure it may work because it was test-driven by the FBI’s then-director, James Comey, in his now infamous press conference on July 5, 2016 — back when the law-enforcement and intelligence apparatus on which we rely to read the security tea leaves was simply certain that Mrs. Clinton would win.

If you or I had set up an unauthorized private communications system for official business for the patent purpose of defeating federal record-keeping and disclosure laws; if we had retained and transmitted thousands of classified emails on this non-secure system; if we had destroyed tens of thousands of government records; if we had carried out that destruction while those records were under subpoena; if we had lied to the FBI in our interview — well, we’d be writing this column from the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth. Yet, in a feat of dizzying ratiocination, Director Comey explained that to prosecute Mrs. Clinton would be to hold her to a nitpicking, selective standard of justice not imposed on other Americans.

Regarding the fact that the Trump/Russia investigation did not originate with Carter Page or George Papadopoulos but with the Obama administration, McCarthy notes:

With the revelation last week that the Obama administration had insinuated a spy into the Trump campaign, it appeared that we were back to the original, Page-centric origination story. But now there was a twist: The informant, longtime CIA source Stefan Halper, was run at Page by the FBI, in Britain. Because this happened just days after Page’s Moscow trip, the implication was that it was the Moscow trip itself, not the dossier claims about it, that provided momentum toward opening the investigation. Then, just a couple of weeks later, WikiLeaks began publicizing the DNC emails; this, we’re to understand, shook loose the Australian information about Papadopoulos. When that information made its way to the FBI — how, we’re not told — the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation was formally opened on July 31. Within days, Agent Peter Strzok was in London interviewing [Australian Ambassador Alexander] Downer, and soon the FBI tasked Halper to take a run at Papadopoulos.

I’m not buying it. The real origination story begins in the early spring of 2016 — long before Page went to Russia and long before the U.S. government was notified about Papadopoulos’s boozy conversation with Downer. … From the “late spring” on, every report of Trump-Russia ties, no matter how unlikely and uncorroborated, was presumed to be proof of a traitorous arrangement. And every detail that could be spun into Trump-campaign awareness of Russian hacking, no matter how tenuous, was viewed in the worst possible light.

McCarthy concludes that Obama’s DOJ and its political hacks within the FBI merged the Clinton email case with the Trump/Russia probe:

The mistake is often made — I’ve made it myself — of analyzing the tanking of the Clinton emails case in a vacuum. There are, after all, reasons unrelated to Donald Trump that explain the outcome: Obama was implicated in Clinton’s use of a non-secure email system; Obama had endorsed Clinton; many high-ranking Obama Justice Department officials stood to keep their coveted positions, and even advance, in a Hillary Clinton administration; the Obama Justice Department was hyper-political and Clinton was the Democratic nominee.

But the Clinton investigation did not happen in a vacuum. It happened in the context of Donald Trump’s gallop through the Republican primaries and, just as important, of the Obama administration’s determination to regard the Trump campaign as a Kremlin satellite.

With the pressure to finish MYE [Mid-Year Exam, the FBI’s codename for the Clinton email probe] in the rearview mirror, Hillary Clinton looked like a shoo-in to beat Donald Trump. By mid September, [FBI lawyer and Peter Strzok paramour] Lisa Page was saying as much at a meeting in Deputy Director McCabe’s office. But Strzok was hedging his bets: Maybe “there’s no way [Trump] gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”

Soon, as the campaign wound down, the FBI and the Obama Justice Department were on the doormat of the FISA court, obtaining a surveillance warrant on Carter Page, substantially based on allegations in the Steele dossier — an uncorroborated Clinton-campaign opposition-research screed. Meanwhile, the FBI/CIA spy was being run at George Papadopoulos, and even seeking a role in the Trump campaign from its co-chairman, Sam Clovis.

On the Obama administration’s effort to spy on the Trump campaign, and its absurd pretext for authorizing operation Crossfire Hurricane in order to bolster its effort to frame Trump for the fake collusion delusion, McCarthy observes:

The Obama administration decided to use its counterintelligence powers to spy on the Trump campaign, using at least one covert informant, electronic monitoring of communications, and other intelligence-gathering tactics. It ignored the norm against deploying such tactics against political opponents, not based on evidence of a Trump-Russia criminal conspiracy, but on speculation about the Trump campaign’s Russia contacts and Russia sympathies. Speculation by a government, an administration, and a Democratic-party nominee with their own abysmal histories of Russia contacts and Russia sympathies.

He concludes:

In the end, it is not about who the spies are. It is about why they were spying. In our democratic republic, there is an important norm against an incumbent administration’s use of government’s enormous intelligence-gathering capabilities to — if we may borrow a phrase — interfere in an election. To justify disregarding that norm would require strong evidence of egregious wrongdoing. Enough bobbing and weaving, and enough dueling tweets. Let’s see the evidence.

So, when will we see the evidence or more tangential diversionary charges?

Nelson Cunningham, a decidedly left-of-center former federal prosecutor also from New York who worked for Bill Clinton and the 2004 presidential campaign of John Kerry, insists, “Mueller will want to avoid interfering with the November midterms, and so will try to conclude by July or August.”

Recall that Rudy Giuliani, as Trump’s lawyer, recently predicted Mueller would release his findings by 01 September.

Cunningham believes “Mueller will not indict the president, but will issue a comprehensive and detailed report. … [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein will decide to release the report to Congress and the public. … Rosenstein’s move to release the Mueller report will lead to his firing. … And this is when the Senate and the Congress might finally engage.”

Well, that’s precisely what I’d expect from a Clintonista — and if that’s the team Mueller is pitching for, Cunningham just might be right.

Frankly, I am still holding out some hope that Mueller holds to a higher standard than that of James Comey, the latter being a case study of what happens to once-right-minded government administrators who don’t properly maintain their political immunity against Potomac swamp fever, transforming as through metamorphosis into bureaucratic political hacks.

Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776

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Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.

Psalm 66:16

In my own being, I could not exist very long as a Christian without the inner consciousness of the presence and nearness of God! I can only keep right by keeping the fear of God on my soul and delighting in the fascinating rapture of worship.

I am sorry that the powerful sense of godly fear is a missing quality in churches today.

The fear of God is that “astonished reverence” of which the saintly Faber wrote. I would say that it may grade anywhere from its basic element—the terror of the guilty soul before a holy God—to the fascinated rapture of the worshiping saint.

There are few unqualified things in our lives, but I believe that the reverential fear of God, mixed with love and fascination and astonishment and adoration, is the most enjoyable state and the most purifying emotion the human soul can know. A true fear of God is a beautiful thing, for it is worship, it is love, it is veneration. It is a high moral happiness because God is!

Lord, our world in general has lost any sense of the fear of God. Even some of our churches hold a small view of Your greatness. I pray for a spiritual revival in our country, Lord.[1]

[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

May 30, 2018 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

Consider Your Resources

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. (1:7)

A second means for guarding against being ashamed of Christ is to consider our divine resources. The Greek verb (didōmi) behind has not given is in the aorist active indicative tense, showing past completed action. God already has provided for us the resources.

The Lord may withhold special help until we have special need. Jesus told the Twelve, “When they deliver you up, do not become anxious about how or what you will speak; for it shall be given you in that hour what you are to speak. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (Matt. 10:19–20). But God provided everything we need for everyday faithful living and service when we first believed.

From a negative perspective, we can be sure that any spirit of timidity we might have is not from God. Both testaments speak of a fitting and proper fear of God, in the sense of awe and reverence. But deilia is a timid, cowardly, shameful fear that is generated by weak, selfish character. The Lord is never responsible for our cowardice, our lack of confidence, or our being shameful of Him. The noun deilia (timidity) is used only here in the New Testament and, unlike the more common term for fear (phobos), carries a generally negative meaning.

The resources we have from our heavenly Father are power and love and discipline. When we are vacillating and apprehensive, we can be sure it is because our focus is on ourselves and our own human resources rather than on the Lord and His available divine resources.

Dunamis (power) denotes great force, or energy, and is the term from which we get dynamic and dynamite. It also carries the connotation of effective, productive energy, rather than that which is raw and unbridled. God provides us with His power in order for us to be effective in His service. Paul did not pray that believers in Ephesus might be given divine power but that they might be aware of the divine power they already possessed. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened,” he wrote, “so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:18–20). Through Christ we have the resource of God’s own supernatural power, the very power He used to raise Christ from the dead.

Although Old Testament saints were not indwelt by the Holy Spirit in the same degree of fullness that New Testament believers are (cf. John 14:17), they did have the resource of God’s Spirit providing divine help as they lived and served Him. They understood, as Zechariah declared to Zerubbabel, that their strength was not by human “ ‘might nor … power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).

It is of utmost importance to understand that God does not provide His power for us to misappropriate for our own purposes. He provides His power to accomplish His purposes through us. When our trust is only in Him, and our desire is only to serve Him, He is both willing and “able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20).

God also has given every believer the resource of His own divine love, which, like His power, we received at the time of our new birth. In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul exulted, “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

The love we have from God is agapē, the volitional and selfless love that desires and works for the best interests of the one loved. It is not emotional and conditional, as philos love often is, and has nothing in common with erōs love, which is sensual and selfish. The love we have from God is constant. It does not share the ebb and flow or the unpredictability of those other loves. It is a self-denying grace that says to others, in effect, “I will give myself away on your behalf.” Directed back to God, from whom it came, it says, “I will give my life and everything I have to serve you.” It is the believer’s “love in the Spirit” (Col. 1:8), the divinely-bestowed love of the one who will “lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). It is the “sincere love of the brethren” by which we “fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22), the “perfect love [that] casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). It is the love that affirms without reservation or hesitation: “If we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8). Above all, it is “the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:19).

Our spiritual lives are measured accurately by our love. If our first love is for self, our life will center on seeking our own welfare, our own objectives, our own comfort and success. We will not sacrifice ourselves for others or even for the Lord. But if we love with the love God provides, our life will center on pleasing Him and on seeking the welfare of others, especially other Christians. Godly love is the first fruit of the Spirit, and it is manifested when we “live by the Spirit [and] … walk by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22, 25).

Sōphronismos (discipline) has the literal meaning of a secure and sound mind, but it also carries the additional idea of a self-controlled, disciplined, and properly prioritized mind. God-given discipline allows believers to control every element of their lives, whether positive or negative. It allows them to experience success without becoming proud and to suffer failure without becoming bitter or hopeless. The disciplined life is the divinely ordered life, in which godly wisdom is applied to every situation.

In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul uses the verb form of the term, admonishing, “I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment [sōphrone], as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3). In his first letter to Timothy (3:2) and in his letter to Titus (1:8; cf. 2:2), he used the adjective form to describe a key quality that should characterize overseers, namely, that of being prudent and sensible.

When we live by the godly discipline that our gracious Lord supplies, our priorities are placed in the right order, and every aspect of our lives is devoted to advancing the cause of Christ. Because of his Spirit-empowered discipline, Paul could say, “I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:26–27).

The great spiritual triumvirate of power, love, and discipline belong to every believer. These are not natural endowments. We are not born with them, and they cannot be learned in a classroom or developed from experience. They are not the result of heritage or environment or instruction. But all believers possess these marvelous, God-given endowments: power, to be effective in His service; love, to have the right attitude toward Him and others; and discipline, to focus and apply every part of our lives according to His will.

When those endowments are all present, marvelous results occur. No better statement affirming this reality can be found than in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, to whom he said,

For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:14–21; emphasis added)[1]

7 As Paul reminds youthful Timothy (1 Ti 4:12; cf. 1 Co 16:10), “God did not give us a spirit of timidity” (pneuma deilias, GK 1261; only here in the NT; cf. Lev 26:36 [LXX]; Ps 55:5 [LXX]; Sir 4:17; cf. the similar wording in Ro 8:15; see C. C. Ryrie, “Should a Christian Be Afraid?” BSac 110 [1953]: 76–81). Jesus had similarly encouraged his followers not to be afraid (Mt 8:26 par. Mk 4:40; Jn 14:27). John noted that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 Jn 4:18). God has given us a spirit of “power” (dynamis, GK 1539; elsewhere in the PE only in v. 8 and 3:5; cf. Mic 3:8), “love” (agapē, GK 27; v. 13; 2:22; 3:10), and “self-discipline” (sōphronismos, GK 5406; cf. 1 Ti 2:9, 15; 3:2; Tit 1:8; 2:2, 4–5, 12). This triad shows that the power exercised by church leaders must be constrained by love (cf. Eph 4:15) and self-discipline.[2]

Fanning the flame of faith


As this letter is read and studied it will be helpful in getting a clearer understanding of it if one keeps in mind that this is a personal letter written to a very dear friend. Also, that it is—in a very real sense—Paul’s last will and testament, since it was written during the last months before his death.

Persecution of the church was at its height under the Emperor Nero, and we should try to enter into Paul’s feelings of loneliness and isolation as he awaits martyrdom in his cold prison cell.

The greeting

‘Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus’ (2 Tim. 1:1).

Although Timothy is a very dear friend, Paul is concerned at the outset to make it perfectly clear that this letter is not simply ‘a substitute for a friendly confidential chat’. Hence he begins by stressing his apostolic authority because he wants Timothy to understand that he has some very serious matters to bring to his attention as the pastor of the church in Ephesus.

Paul always held a high view of his ministry as an apostle. The meaning of ‘apostle’ is one ‘sent on a mission’, and in Paul’s case that mission was the preaching of the gospel. In the opening verse of his letter to the Galatians he puts it even more forcefully: ‘Paul an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father’ (Gal. 1:1). His apostleship was not a self-appointment, nor did he owe it to the church, but it was solely by the will of God.

This note of authority is often lacking in the church today, mainly because—in many instances—the Bible is no longer given its proper and effective use in the pulpit. For the truth is that it is through the witness of the prophets and apostles in Scripture that the Word of God speaks. The preacher, who is not content simply to give a religious lecture but faithfully expounds the Bible, is therefore in the true apostolic succession.

New life in Christ

Paul also says in this opening verse that the gospel he is commissioned to preach is ‘according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus’. The remarkable thing is that it is because of this gospel that he is facing death in his Roman prison, and yet he has the assurance in his heart that the same gospel promises him life in Christ. It brings us into the very life of God himself. A new life-principle enters into the centre of our being as the Holy Spirit directs our hearts and minds, and enables us to interpret our human existence from God’s view of things.

That is very different from the humanistic interpretation of life that is so prevalent today, and which Paul describes in Colossians as a ‘hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ’ (Col. 2:8). It is hollow and deceptive because it holds out a promise it cannot keep. We have only to look at our world with its violence, corruption, greed and discontent to see where this man-centred philosophy of life has really got us.

The apostolic blessing

‘To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord’ (2 Tim. 1:2).

Much has already been said about Timothy in the introduction to this letter, and the only thing we need to emphasis again is the note of deep affection Paul had for the younger man. He is Paul’s ‘dear son’ or ‘dearly beloved son’ (AV) because it was through the apostle’s ministry that he was brought to birth in Christ. Any Christian who has been used of God in the conversion of another will be able to enter fully into Paul’s feelings of warmth for Timothy, for there is no joy to be compared with that of winning someone for Christ.

In the apostolic blessing of ‘grace, mercy, and peace’, we have three great biblical words full of spiritual meaning.


This is the free, unmerited love of God extended to us in various ways. Common grace is God’s providence in the gifts of his love to all mankind. Jesus put it like this: ‘He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous’ (Matt. 5:45). That kind of love is not dependent on anything in man himself. It is free to all, and totally unmerited.

Keeping grace is the fresh supply of God’s love and power to see us through the circumstances of each day. As John says, ‘From the fulness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another’ (John 1:16). In John Newton’s memorable words,

Through many dangers, toils and snares

I have already come;

’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.

Saving grace is the forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal life through faith in Christ. We cannot save ourselves, or earn our salvation. We can only receive it as the free unmerited gift of God. ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast (Eph. 2:8–9).


All who have received the gift of salvation are the recipients of God’s mercy. As Toplady’s hymn says:

A debtor to mercy alone,

Of covenant mercy I sing;

But it is because we have received God’s mercy that we in turn will show mercy to others. ‘Blessed are the merciful,’ said Jesus (Matt. 5:7). Mercy is an active, not a passive, state. It is not enough to feel merciful and compassionate to those in misery and suffering. We must deliberately bring our will into play by doing what we can to relieve that misery.

Christ’s illustration of this is the parable of the Good Samaritan. The priest and the Levite may have felt pity for the man who was mugged on the Jericho road, but they did nothing about it! The Samaritan, on the other hand, showed he had experienced God’s mercy by acting in a merciful way (Luke 10:25–37).


God’s peace is a treasured possession but to have it we must first be reconciled to God, or be at peace with him instead of being alienated from him. Prior to conversion, a person is the enemy of God, and remains under God’s wrath and judgement. That person’s life, thoughts and feelings are all in opposition to God. ‘The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God’ (Rom. 8:7–8).

Through Christ’s death on the cross to bear the judgement of our sin, we can be reconciled to God, and when that happens, we immediately begin to experience the gift of peace in our hearts. Our conscience is at rest, our relationship with God is settled, and the thought of judgement no longer disturbs us. We can sing with confidence:

We bless Thee for thy peace, O God,

Deep as the unfathomed sea,

Which falls like sunshine on the road

Of those who trust in Thee.

The value of a godly home

With the greeting at an end, Paul strikes the personal note which is the hallmark of this letter.

‘I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy’ (2 Tim. 1:3–4).

The reference to his forefathers reminds us of the continuity between the old and new covenants, for Christ is the fulfilment of all the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament. This echoes his conversation with the disciples on the Emmaus road. ‘And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself’ (Luke 24:27). As for the tears Paul mentions, they were probably occasioned by his parting from Timothy for the last time. This was not simply emotionalism, but an indication of the depth of love we should have for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

But what really rejoices Paul’s heart is the reminder of Timothy’s faith, which owed so much to his spiritual upbringing.

‘I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also’ (2 Tim. 1:5).

Timothy was a third generation Christian and owed his ‘sincere faith’ to the groundwork done in his life by his mother and grandmother who had taught him the scriptures from infancy (2 Tim. 3:15). Throughout the Bible, the role of the family and godly parentage is clearly taught: ‘Honour your father and your mother’ (Exod. 20:12). ‘Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it’ (Prov. 22:6). ‘Children obey your parents in the Lord, … Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord’ (Eph. 6:1–4).

Being a parent in today’s society is a difficult task, especially when there is no father to act as a role model as was true in Timothy’s case. But God gives a special grace for the task as is evident from the good job Lois and Eunice did in bringing up Timothy who was to become a powerful advocate of the gospel and the pastor of the church at Ephesus.

Fanning the flame

Apart from his Christian upbringing Timothy also received a gift directly from God which made him the man he was.

‘For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline’ (2 Tim. 1:6–7).

Timothy’s gift was probably associated with his having been set apart for the work of ministry through the laying on of hands by Paul and the elders of the church. But whatever the gift was, it arose out of his faith, as all God’s gifts do. So when Paul urges him to ‘fan into flame the gift of God’, he is really saying something like this: ‘Keep your faith and ministry alive, Timothy; do not let the demands of ministry and the responsibility of preaching the gospel in a pagan society get you down. Remember you are God’s man, and the Spirit God has given you is not a Spirit of timidity, but ‘of power, of love and of self-discipline’.’

Timothy’s faith had not burnt out, but he needed this encouragement to fan it into a flame because of his fearful and sensitive temperament. He was not a born leader, and he had a tendency to shrink from the demands of ministry. Even his stomach complaint (1 Tim. 5:23) may have been a stress symptom.

The truth is that many of us need a bit of prodding from time to time to fan the flame of faith which can so easily lose its glow and vitality with the passage of time. To re-kindle it, we need to give more attention to prayer, and to the reading of God’s Word, and to regular worship with God’s people. And we are not alone in this, for we too have the Spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

For further study

  1. Look at other epistles where Paul begins by stressing his apostolic authority, especially Galatians. What are the main features of the authority of the apostles in the New Testament?
  1. Try to find other passages in the Gospels and epistles where Jesus is spoken of as the fulfilment of the Old Testament.

To think about and discuss

  1. In prison, Paul was calm and serene, and able to speak of life although he was facing death. How should our faith help us to meet the difficulties of life?
  1. Paul had a high view of his ministry as an apostle. We too should have a high view of our Christian calling. How should we express this in our day-to-day life?
  1. Are we guilty at times of being too timid when it comes to witnessing for Christ? How does this passage fortify us in the area of sharing the gospel of Christ’s grace with our fellow workers, family and friends?
  1. What causes the flame of faith to burn low in the first place? Suggest ways and means by which we can fan the flame of faith when it burns low.[3]

1:7 / Although the niv’s translation of “spirit” in this verse with a lower case s is possible (since the definite article is absent in Greek) and follows the traditional English versions (kjv, rsv), it is most highly improbable and quite misses both the relationship of this sentence to verse 6 as well as Paul’s own usage and theology elsewhere. That Paul is referring not to some “spirit” (or attitude) that God has given us (him and Timothy, but ultimately all other believers who must equally persevere in the face of hardship), but to the Holy Spirit of God is made certain by several items: (a) the explanatory for that begins this sentence gives it the closest possible tie to verse 6; (b) the close relationship between charisma (“gift,” v. 6) and the Spirit (v. 7) is thoroughly Pauline (see on 1 Tim. 4:14); (c) the words power and love are especially attributed to the Spirit in Paul; and (d) there are close ties between this verse and 1 Timothy 4:14, where the “gifting” of Timothy is specifically singled out as the work of the Spirit.

Furthermore, the typical Pauline “not … but” contrast, especially the parallels in Romans 8:15 and 1 Corinthians 2:12, is determinative. In each case the difficulty arises from Paul’s first mentioning the negative contrast, which does not in fact fit the Holy Spirit very well (“of slavery,” “of the world,” and “of timidity”). But it is equally clear in each case that when Paul gets to the “but” clause, he intends the Holy Spirit. Thus Paul’s intent goes something like this: “For when God gave us his Spirit, it was not timidity that we received, but power, love, and self-discipline.”

Paul’s concern, of course, ties into what he has just said in verse 6. In light of the appeal to persevere in the face of hardship, he urges Timothy to “fan into flame the charisma from God,” namely, his giftedness for ministry. The basis for this appeal goes back to his original gift of the Spirit, given at conversion. In giving his Spirit to Timothy, God did not give him timidity—a translation that is probably too weak. The word, often appearing in battle contexts, suggests “cowardice” or the terror that overtakes the fearful in extreme difficulty (cf. Lev. 26:36; 2 Macc. 3:24). It is a particularly appropriate choice of words for this letter, given Timothy’s apparent natural proclivities and the suffering and hardship now facing him.

To the contrary, and in the face of present hardships, Paul reminds Timothy that the Spirit has endowed him with power (a thoroughgoing nt and Pauline understanding; cf. e.g., Acts 1:8; Rom. 15:13, 19; 1 Cor. 2:4), love (cf. Gal. 5:22; Rom. 5:5), and self-discipline (sōphronismos; a different word for “self-discipline” from that of Gal. 5:23). This is a cognate, and here probably a synonym, for the “soundmindedness” of Titus 2:2, 5, and elsewhere. In all likelihood Paul intended to call for a “wise head” in the face of the deceptive and unhealthy teaching of the errorists.

Thus Paul begins his appeal by reminding Timothy of his own “gift of the Spirit” for ministry, who in turn has given him the necessary power, love, and soundmindedness to carry out that ministry.[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (pp. 17–20). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Köstenberger, A. (2006). 2 Timothy. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 569). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Williams, P. (2007). Opening up 2 Timothy (pp. 17–25). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[4] Fee, G. D. (2011). 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (pp. 226–227). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Responding to “You Can’t Prove or Disprove God’s Existence”


Over the years I have heard hundreds of objections to the Christian faith on a major college campus. One of the most common objections I hear is that there is no way to ‘prove’ or ‘disprove’ God’s existence. Sadly, this can allow a person to punt to some form of lazy agnosticism. Thus, they are off the hook and and can ignore the God question. When this comes up, I now ask  students what they mean by ‘prove’ and then I ask them if they know the difference between deductive, inductive or abductive proof. Unless they have taken an into to logic course, in most cases, they don’t know any of these terms. I don’t bring this up to be snarky. Nor do I do it to try to show them how smart I am.  Nor am I trying to confuse people with confusing terminology. I am simply trying to…

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How I retained my Christian faith, sobriety and chastity on a university campus


A conflict of worldviews A conflict of worldviews

A couple of years ago, I was talking to a woman who grew up in a Christian home that was very focused on externals. There was a lot of bullying to get her to comply with expected Christian behavior, although the expected Christian behavior was often arbitrary, and had nothing to do with Christianity and more with just appearing “nice”. There was no discussion of the evidence, no talking through objections. No focus on truth at all. She was always very curious about me, and how come I didn’t drink, and how come I was able to stay a virgin through college, grad school, to the present day when so many people she knew who were raised in the church fell away from it in college. My answer was simple. I didn’t grow up in a Christian home so I was never bullied into acting like…

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May 30 Avoiding Temptation

And do not lead us into temptation.—Matt. 6:13a

By itself, the word rendered “temptation” here has a neutral connotation, unlike the English that usually indicates an inducement to sin. But in this context, with its parallel to the term “evil” at the end of the verse, Jesus likely used the word to mean an enticement to sin. Yet elsewhere Scripture tells us that God does not tempt believers to evil, while at the same time we should be thankful for various trials (James 1:2–3, 13). So why did Jesus give us this expression as a pattern for prayer?

The answer to this paradox is not as difficult as it may seem. Jesus is concerned that we truly desire to avoid the danger and trouble sin creates. Saints should so despise sin and want to escape it at all costs that they pray in advance to avoid sin rather than waiting to defeat it when tempted.

Further, we know trials can promote our spiritual growth, yet we do not want to be in a place where we experience an increased possibility of sin. Like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, we should pray, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39). The prospect of taking sin upon Himself repulsed our Savior, but He was willing to do so to fulfill His Father’s will and secure the salvation of sinners. Whatever testing we might have to endure is nothing by comparison.


In addition to asking God not to “lead us into temptation,” we must be aware of instances in which we walk headlong into it ourselves. Ask God for the spiritual strength to avoid those very familiar forms of sin that we too often approach without fear. Aren’t you ready to start gaining victory over them?[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 159). Chicago: Moody Publishers.


And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.

1 JOHN 5:6

When the Holy Spirit is in full control of our lives, He will expect our obedience to the written Word of God.

But it is part of our human problem that we would like to be full of the Spirit and yet go on and do as we please! The Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures will expect obedience to the Scriptures, and if we do not give that obedience, we will quench Him. This Spirit will have obedience—but people do not want to obey the Lord. Everyone of us is as full as he wants to be. Everyone has as much of God as he desires to have. We do not want to meet the conditions.

Let’s use an expensive Cadillac automobile for an illustration. Here is Brother Jones, who would love to drive a Cadillac. But he is not going to buy one, and I will tell you why. He does not want a Cadillac badly enough to be willing to pay the price for it. Certainly he wants it—but he does not want it with that kind of desire—so he is going to continue to drive his old Chevrolet!

Now, it is plain that many people want to be filled with the Spirit, but it is not with that kind of extreme desire that will not be denied. So, we settle for something less! We do say, “Lord, I would like to be full—it would be wonderful!” but we are not willing to proceed to meet His terms. We do not want to pay the price: the Holy Spirit will expect loving obedience to the Word of God![1]

[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

On Fox News of all places, Trump’s ‘spy’ claim is debunked by Trey Gowdy and even Judge Napolitano – The Washington Post

A Fox News guest, commentator and anchor all rebuked claims from the president that the FBI planted a “spy” in his campaign in an effort to undercut his candidacy.

President Trump has made it clear he likes what he hears on Fox News. The network often covers the president favorably, bringing on conservative commentators that push the president’s agenda and, at times, explore far-right conspiracy theories.

But in an unusual shift Tuesday, three different voices on Fox News pushed back against the president’s most recent conspiracy theory. A Fox News guest, commentator and anchor all rebuked claims from the president and his allies that the FBI planted a “spy” in his campaign in an effort to undercut his candidacy.

Outgoing Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the House Oversight Committee Chairman and Trump supporter, said in an interview on Fox that the FBI was justified in using a secret informant to assist in the Russia investigation. Gowdy, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, attended a classified Justice Department briefing last week over the FBI’s use of the confidential source, identified as Stefan A. Halper.

“President Trump himself in the Comey memos said if anyone connected with my campaign was working with Russia, I want you to investigate it, and it sounds to me like that is exactly what the FBI did,” Gowdy told host Martha MacCallum. “I think when the president finds out what happened, he is going to be not just fine, he is going to be glad that we have an FBI that took seriously what they heard.”

“I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got, and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump,” Gowdy said. Asked about the president’s tweets on the subject, he added that such statements could be subject to questioning by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

“If I were his lawyer, and I never will be, I would tell him to rely on his lawyers and his (communications) folks,” he said.

Asked to respond to Gowdy’s remarks, a Fox News commentator known for defending the president also cast doubt on Trump’s “Spygate” claims. Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano (better known and often quoted by Trump as Judge Napolitano) said claims that the FBI placed an undercover spy on Trump’s campaign “seem to be baseless.”

“There is no evidence for that whatsoever,” Napolitano said. The fact that the FBI source spoke with “people on the periphery of the campaign,” he said, “is standard operating procedure in intelligence gathering and in criminal investigations.”

— Read on www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/05/30/on-fox-news-rep-trey-gowdy-and-andrew-napolitano-dismantle-trumps-spygate-theories/

May 30 A Foretaste

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

Ephesians 1:3

Presently we don’t live in heaven physically, but in a sense we do live in the heavenly realm. Though we are not in heaven, we are experiencing heavenly life. We have the life of God within us. We are under the rule of a heavenly King, and we obey heaven’s laws.

As a result, we experience “a foretaste of glory divine,” as Fanny Crosby noted in the hymn “Blessed Assurance.” We are living in a new community, enjoying a new fellowship that will fully come to fruition in a place called heaven.[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 167). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

The Briefing Wednesday, May 30, 2018 – AlbertMohler.com

As Roseanne and Starbucks are both in the headlines, national conversation about implicit bias continues

New York Times (John Koblin) — Roseanne Barr Incites Fury With Racist Tweet, and Her Show Is Canceled by ABC

New York Times (Andrew Ross Sorkin) — Why Starbucks’s Bias Training, Despite Skepticism, Is an Important Start

Wall Street Journal (Daniel Henninger) — Starbucks’ Homeless Problem

Why a secularized doctrine of original sin is not likely to get much traction

New York Times (Crispin Sartwell) — What’s So Good About Original Sin?

Only a very sick society would sacrifice its own children on the altar of the sexual revolution

Wall Street Journal (Editors) — Suffer the Little Children

The post Wednesday, May 30, 2018 appeared first on AlbertMohler.com.
— Read on albertmohler.com/2018/05/30/briefing-5-30-18/

Lessons from the Bible on Roseanne Barr’s sacking | Christian News on Christian Today

Roseanne Barr’s tweet is a walking, talking object lesson in the truth of what the New Testament says: ‘Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body’

Oh, Roseanne, what have you done?

Well, sadly we all know, don’t we? You sent out a tweet about a former aide to Barack Obama which was racist, derogatory and unpleasant. And now your show has been cancelled by ABC, even though it had been a massive hit.

Now let us all watch, listen and learn. Roseanne Barr’s tweet is a walking, talking object lesson in the truth of what the New Testament says: ‘Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body’ (James 3:5-6).

Wikimedia CommonsRoseanne Barr

In this particular case, that small spark of a tweet has set a fire which resulted in hundreds of people losing their jobs. All those little-known staff workers involved with Roseanne’s hit show now suddenly find themselves without work. And, in turn, all their families are wondering how they will make ends meet. No wonder Roseanne has apologised to them all today. The spark, indeed, became a raging and consuming fire: and real people have been burnt.

No wonder James uses such a stark picture to speak of the power of words. No wonder, also, that as well as comparing the tongue to a fire, he likens it to a bit (the small piece of equipment put in a horse’s mouth to direct the whole animal) and to the rudder of a ship – again something small with a big impact, in this case steering the course of the boat.

The more we think about words, the more we realise they are in fact the most powerful force in the universe. Not for nothing does Genesis portray God as ‘speaking’ the universe into existence. Not for nothing does the New Testament speak of Jesus as ‘sustaining all things by his powerful word’ (Hebrews 1:3).

Your words can be an immense power for good, or power for ill. There’s an old saying which claims, ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me’. But that’s not true, is it? How we address others – our spouse, our children, our colleagues, the cashier, the bus driver, the cold-caller – can have a massive impact. Not for nothing do we speak of ‘cutting remarks’ because words can wound and cause lasting mental and emotional scars.

A former clergy colleague of mine once shared with me the simple acronym he tries to remember when speaking to people or writing something. It’s ‘THINK’. We have to ask ourselves, he said, are our words Truthful, Helpful, Intelligent, Necessary and Kind?

And this is a challenge for all of us. Yesterday after lunch at a particularly inconvenient time I had a phone call from someone trying to sell me a different broadband deal. I hadn’t asked for the call, I wasn’t interested in the offers, and I think I made that clear. But I did so in a way which had less of the graciousness in it than that to which I aspire.

So who will we speak to today? To whom will we send an email? What will we tweet about? What will we write about? What will our work colleagues take from our words? And our loved ones? And those we encounter in shops or as we go about some other form of leisure?

All this, needless to say, is a particular challenge for Christians. No wonder the Apostle Paul exhorts believers to ‘let your speech always be gracious [and] seasoned with salt’ (Colossians 4:6). He’s talking within the context of knowing how to explain our faith, of course – but I can’t believe he just wants us to turn on the graciousness in those situations while neglecting it the rest of the time!

Jesus, of course, was rather blunt in his language sometimes. He described some of the religious leaders of his time as ‘like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and all kinds of filth,’ (Matthew 23:287). But we need to remember he spoke with a unique divine authority – an authority which could see directly into the hearts of others and thus pronounce the authoritative judgement of God in a way that we, as his disciples, simply cannot. Some of the other blunt passages in the New Testament function in a similar way.

For most of us the problem is that we simply do not, as my friend advised, stop and THINK. The Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament reminds us: ‘The mouths of fools are their undoing, and their lips are a snare to their very lives’ (18:7). But, conversely, ‘The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit’ (18:21).

Roseanne Barr’s tweet is a lesson for us all. But then again, let’s be honest, there but for the grace of God go any of us. Life and death: what will our words bring today to those who hear us?

David Baker is a former daily newspaper journalist now working as an Anglican minister in Sussex, England. Find him on Twitter @Baker_David_A

— Read on www.christiantoday.com/article/lessons-from-the-bible-on-roseanne-barrs-sacking/129472.htm

May 30 Wednesday: If God Does Not Go with Us

By James Boice on May 30, 2018 12:00 am

We do not know specifics of the defeat that came to Israel at this time, but the opening verses of Psalm 60 portray it as a great disaster. It was so great that two powerful images are used to describe what it was like.

Read more…

May 30, 2018 Morning Verse Of The Day

Taming the Tongue

(James 3:1–12)

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh. (3:1–12)

The tongue is you in a unique way. It is a tattletale that tells on the heart and discloses the real person. Not only that, but misuse of the tongue is perhaps the easiest way to sin. There are some sins that an individual may not be able to commit simply because he does not have the opportunity. But there are no limits to what one can say, no built-in restraints or boundaries. In Scripture, the tongue is variously described as wicked, deceitful, perverse, filthy, corrupt, flattering, slanderous, gossiping, blasphemous, foolish, boasting, complaining, cursing, contentious, sensual, and vile. And that list is not exhaustive. No wonder God put the tongue in a cage behind the teeth, walled in by the mouth! Using another figure, someone has observed that because the tongue is in a wet place, it can easily slip.

The tongue is of great concern to James, being mentioned in every chapter of his letter (see 1:19, 26; 2:12; 3:5, 6 [twice], 8; 4:11; 5:12). In 3:1–12 he uses the tongue as still another test of living faith, because the genuineness of a person’s faith inevitably will be demonstrated by his speech. James personifies the tongue and the mouth as representatives of the depravity and wretchedness of the inner person. The tongue only produces what it is told to produce by the heart, where sin originates (cf. 1:14–15). “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders,” Jesus declared (Matt. 15:19).

Scientists maintain that once a sound wave is set in motion, it continues on a never-ending journey, and that, if we had sophisticated enough instruments, each wave could be captured and reproduced at any time. If that is true, every word spoken by any person who has ever lived could be retrieved! God, of course, needs no such instrument, and Jesus states plainly that “every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36–37).

Nowhere is the relationship between faith and works more evident than in a person’s speech. What you are will inevitably be disclosed by what you say. It might be said that a person’s speech is a reliable measure of his spiritual temperature, a monitor of the inner human condition. The rabbis spoke of the tongue as an arrow rather than a dagger or sword, because it can wound and kill from a great distance. It can wreak great damage even when far from its victim.

The first sin committed after the Fall was a sin of the tongue. When God questioned Adam about his eating of the forbidden fruit, Adam slandered God by suggesting that He was indirectly responsible, saying, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate” (Gen. 3:12). In describing man’s total depravity, Paul says, “Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness” (Rom. 3:13–14; cf. Pss. 5:9; 140:3). As he glimpsed God’s glory and holiness, Isaiah, convicted of his own sinfulness, related it to his mouth, exclaiming, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:5). Scripture says much about the tongue’s evil (Pss. 34:13; 39:1; 52:4; Prov. 6:17; 17:20; 26:28; 28:23; Isa. 59:3).

On the other hand, that a righteous heart is manifested by righteous speech is nowhere more beautifully portrayed than in the Psalms. David exulted, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth, who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!” (Ps. 8:1). He declared, “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (19:7); and he testified, “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (19:8). Doubtless one of the reasons David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14) was his being able truthfully to say, “My tongue shall declare Your righteousness and Your praise all day long” (Psalm 35:28).

When a person receives Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, he becomes a new creation. His whole being is transformed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Consequently, Paul says,

If you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.… Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.… But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.… Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (Col. 3:1–2, 5, 8, 15–17)

A transformed nature will produce transformed behavior. And new behavior involves new speech, speech that corresponds to a saved and sanctified life and that reflects the holy nature of the One who has given the new life.

Scripture contains many inscrutable truths which, on the surface, seem to be contradictory or inconsistent and not able to be reconciled with each other by finite minds. For example, believers are chosen for salvation by the sovereign grace of God before the foundation of the world; yet they must exercise faith in order to be saved. As believers, we are kept secure in Christ by God’s sovereign decree; yet we must persevere. We can live a holy life only through the power of the Holy Spirit; yet we are commanded to obey. As James has pointed out in the first chapter of his letter, we will endure trials; yet we must endure them. We will receive the Word; yet we must receive it. We will be gracious to the needy without partiality; yet we must be gracious to them without partiality. We will produce good works; yet we must produce them. Where there is genuine living faith and spiritual transformation, those things, and many others, both will be the result and must be the result.

Here James mentions another of these incomprehensible realities: True believers will possess a sanctified tongue; yet they must maintain a sanctified tongue. In 3:1–12, he gives five compelling reasons for controlling the tongue: its potential to condemn (vv. 1–2a); its power to control (vv. 2b–5a); its propensity to corrupt (vv. 5b–6); its primitiveness to combat (vv. 7–8); and its perfidy to compromise (vv. 9–12).

Its Potential to Condemn

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. (3:1–2a)

Didaskaloi (teachers) was often used of rabbis and any who functioned in an official teaching or preaching role (cf. John 3:10), suggesting that James was speaking of the teaching office in the church (cf. 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). Above all else, rabbis were master teachers and were accorded great honor and respect by their fellow Jews. As reflected in the gospels, many rabbis relished their prestige and privilege. Jesus said of the scribes and the Pharisees, many of whom were rabbis, that they “have seated themselves in the chair of Moses.… But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men” (Matt. 23:2, 5–7).

In some Jewish circles, rabbis were held in such high regard that a person’s duty to his rabbi was considered greater than that to his own parents, because his parents only brought him into the life of this world, whereas his rabbi brought him into the life of the world to come. It was written that if a man’s parents and his rabbi were captured by an enemy, the rabbi was to be ransomed first. Although rabbis were not allowed to take money for their services but were to support themselves with a trade, it was considered an especially pious act to take one into your house and support him in every way possible.

The self-seeking motives that characterized many rabbis were anathema to Jesus and have no place in the lives of His people. But obviously there were some among those to whom James wrote who had such motives and who desired to become teachers for the wrong reason.

Besides official rabbis, any respected Jewish man might be given opportunity to speak in a synagogue service. Although Jesus was not an official rabbi, He frequently read Scripture and gave an interpretation on the Sabbath, at least once in His hometown of Nazareth (Luke 4:15–21, 31; Matt. 4:23; 9:35). Similarly, Paul and Barnabas, also not sanctioned rabbis, frequently spoke in synagogues when they visited a city (e.g., Acts 13:5, 14–15; 14:1). Apparently it was also common in the early church for a mature Christian man to have opportunity to speak in a service. Paul regulated the church at Corinth by writing, “When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification” (1 Cor. 14:26). Throughout the history of the church, and certainly in churches today, there are many people—such as counselors, Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, and such—who are not called and ordained to ministry but who have a rightful contribution to make in teaching God’s Word.

By giving the caution Let not many of you become teachers, James does not, of course, mean to discourage such people from communicating their scriptural insights. Nor does he want to hinder in any way those who are genuinely called by God to be official teachers of His Word. He is saying rather that those who believe they have such a divine calling should first test their faith to be sure they are saved. He has made it clear that, “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless” (1:26). If that principle applies to everyone in the church, how much more does it apply to teachers who presume to stand before God’s people to interpret and explain God’s Word?

It is God’s will for all of His people to articulate His truth as accurately and thoroughly as they are able. When Joshua objected to the godly prophesying of Eldad and Medad, Moses mildly rebuked him, saying, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” (Num. 11:29). In the Great Commission, all Christians are called to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20). Paul said, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer [a preacher-teacher], it is a fine work he desires to do” (1 Tim. 3:1). Of himself he wrote, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16).

James’s point is that no believer should begin any form of teaching God’s Word without a deep sense of the seriousness of this responsibility. To sin with the tongue when alone or with one or two other persons is bad enough; but to sin with the tongue in public, especially while acting as a speaker for God, is immeasurably worse. Speaking for God carries with it great implications, both for good and ill.

The grave responsibility of declaring God’s Word is presented twice in the book of Ezekiel. Through that prophet, the Lord said,

Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. When I say to the wicked, “You shall surely die,” and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet if you have warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself. (Ezek. 3:17–19)

That warning is repeated in 33:7–9. The writer of Hebrews speaks of preachers, teachers, and other church leaders who “keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account” (Heb. 13:17). With godly satisfaction, Paul was able to tell the Ephesian elders who met him at Miletus, “I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:26–27).

The teaching of erroneous, misleading, and confusing theology was a problem in the church at Ephesus while Timothy ministered there. Paul therefore told him to

instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions. (1 Tim. 1:3–7)

Some were even teaching outright blasphemy and had “suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith” (vv. 19–20).

Peter and Jude give the severest possible warnings against heretical teachers. Peter said,

False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (2 Pet. 2:1–3)

Jude wrote,

Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties.… But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed.… These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage. (Jude 8, 10, 16)

Paul’s warning to the church at Ephesus, given through Timothy, applies to teachers in every church:

If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth. (1 Tim. 6:3–5)

Not only false teachers, but also those who ignorantly and carelessly interpret the Word in order to impress others with their knowledge and understanding are a great danger to the church—and are in danger themselves from God. Many teachers in the church today are poorly grounded in Scripture and ill-equipped to teach it. Such teachers who misrepresent God’s Word can do more spiritual and moral damage to God’s people than a hundred atheists or secularists attacking from outside. That is why it is so foolish and spiritually dangerous to have newly converted celebrities, or any other new convert, as well as untrained and unaccountable preachers, speaking and teaching. Paul warned that an overseer should not be “a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6). When the apostle himself was converted, the Lord trained him in the Arabian desert of Nabatea for some three years before he began his apostolic ministry (Gal. 1:17–18; see also Acts 9:19–22).

James does not intend to restrain those who are called and gifted by God to teach, those who are genuinely qualified, knowledgeable, and prepared. But he admonishes everyone who has opportunity to teach to take great pains to consider the seriousness of teaching the Word of God and to make sure that he has an accurate understanding of any truth he attempts to teach. Like Moses, he should make every effort to be sure that what he says corresponds to “what the Lord spoke” (Lev. 10:3). Even after careful study, he should pray with utmost sincerity, “Lord, let me say only what You are saying in this passage and help me make that truth clear to those who hear.”

The great Scottish Reformer John Knox was so awed and burdened by the responsibility to declare God’s Word faithfully that, before his first sermon, he wept uncontrollably and had to be escorted from the pulpit until he could compose himself. One pastor reportedly said of preaching what could also be said of teaching: “There is no special honor in preaching. There is only special pain. The pulpit calls those anointed to it as the sea calls its sailors; and like the sea, it batters and bruises and does not rest.… To preach, to really preach, is to die naked a little at a time and to know each time you do it that you must do it again.”

My brethren indicates that James is addressing those who name the name of Christ, including those whose faith is genuine beyond question, admonishing them to make sure that their desire to teach is truly according to the Lord’s will, not merely their own. Because right speech is such a critical mark of true faith, teachers are held to a higher standard in what they say, for the obvious reason that what they say exerts a powerful spiritual influence on others. Teachers are in special danger of misusing their tongues and thereby incurring stricter judgment by God. As James has earlier cautioned, they should be “quick to hear [and] slow to speak” (1:19). In that context, he is referring especially to hearing and speaking about God’s Word.

It is important to note that James includes himself [we] with those who are subject to that stricter judgment. Not even the apostles and writers of Scripture were exempt. Every teacher, without exception, is to be “diligent to present [himself] approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15; cf. 1 Tim. 4:6–16).

The Greek noun krima (judgment) is neutral and can be either positive or negative. But in the New Testament it is most often used negatively as a warning, and that is clearly the kind of judgment James has in mind here. For unbelievers, the future tense (will incur) refers to the Great White Throne judgment spoken of by John in Revelation 20:11–15. Believers, on the other hand, will incur … judgment in the form of chastening in this life and at Christ’s bema seat for eternal reward, when “each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12), and

each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Cor. 3:13–15)

The teacher’s eternal reward will reflect the faithfulness of his teaching (Acts 20:26–27; Heb. 13:17).

James’s statement that we all stumble in many ways reinforces the truth that no one is exempt in regard to the dangers of the tongue and other forms of sin against God. Stumble refers to any moral lapse, a failure to do what is right. In many ways is self-explanatory. The writer of Proverbs asks rhetorically, “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin’?” (Prov. 20:9), and the chronicler states emphatically that “there is no man who does not sin” (2 Chron. 6:36), anticipating Paul’s well-known and oft-quoted statement that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) and John’s that “if we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8; cf. v. 10).

Its Power to Control

If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. (3:2b–5a)

The tongue has extraordinary power to control, even to the extent that if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man. Teleios (perfect) has two possible meanings. One carries the idea of absolute perfection, of being without any flaw or error. If that is James’s meaning here, he is obviously speaking hypothetically, since no human being but Jesus would qualify for that sort of perfect speech.

But the term can also mean complete, or mature. If that is the sense intended here, the idea is that a person who does not stumble in what he says gives evidence of a purified and mature heart, which is the source of his righteous speech. It seems probable that James has this second meaning in mind. We could never be perfect in the sense that Jesus is perfect, in speech or in any other way, but we can, in the Holy Spirit’s power, have a spiritually mature and sanctified heart that is expressed through mature, sanctified, God-honoring speaking and teaching. The idea is that only spiritually mature believers can control their tongues. To the degree that our holiness approaches that of Christ’s, to that degree we are spiritually perfect or mature. As in all else, He is our supreme and glorious example. “For you have been called for this purpose,” Peter reminds us, “since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet. 2:21–23).

James then makes a remarkable claim, declaring that a Christian who can bridle his tongue is able to bridle the whole body as well. In this context, body seems to refer to the person in general, to his whole being. In other words, if we can control our tongues—which respond so readily and limitlessly to sin—then controlling everything else will follow. If the Holy Spirit has control of this most volatile and intractable part of our being, how much more susceptible to His control will the rest of our lives be? That principle also supports the second meaning of perfect (mature, complete), which, if it carried the idea of absolute perfection, would have no practical significance here. When a person’s speech is Christ-exalting, God-honoring, and edifying, one can be sure the rest of his life is spiritually healthy—and vice versa.

Warren Wiersbe tells the story of a pastor friend who told him of a woman in his congregation who was a terrible gossip. One day she said to him, “Pastor, the Lord has convicted me of my sin of gossip. My tongue is getting me and others into trouble.” When he guardedly asked, “Well, what do you plan to do about it?” she replied, “I want to put my tongue on the altar.” Because she had said the same thing so many times and yet never changed, he told her, “There isn’t an altar big enough” (The Bible Exposition Commentary [Wheaton, Ill.: Victor, 1989], 2:358).

There is, of course, an altar that is more than big enough, because our Lord assures us that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). But the pastor’s underlying frustration is understandable. The problem was in the woman’s unwillingness to actually lay her tongue on the altar. She knew very well what her sin was and what was required for its remission. She was simply unwilling to pay the price. She loved her gossip more than she loved righteousness. She was unwilling to determine with David, “I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle while the wicked are in my presence” (Ps. 39:1).

James uses two analogies to show the power of the tongue to control. First he points out that if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. This illustration is particularly appropriate, because the bit lies on top of a horse’s tongue, and when attached to the bridle and reins, it is possible for the rider using that bit to easily make the horse obey. Controlling horses’ mouths controls their heads, which, in turn, direct their entire body as well.

Even gentle horses, which have been ridden for many years, are not controllable without bits in their mouths. As long as they are expected to perform service, whether for riding or for pulling a wagon or plow, they require that control. So it is with believers. To be useful to God, we will need our tongues controlled, with everything else following in submission.

The second illustration is that of a ship. Look at the ships also, James continues, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. The largest ships of that day were small compared to the gigantic ocean liners and warships of modern times. But the ship in which Paul traveled on his voyage to Rome had a total of 276 persons on board, including the crew, soldiers, and prisoners (Acts 27:37), indicating it was a fairly large vessel. In any case, James’s point is that, compared to its overall size, a ship’s rudder is very small, yet can easily steer the vessel wherever the inclination of the pilot desires.

So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. Like the bit in a horse’s mouth and the rudder of a ship, the tongue has power to control the rest of us. It is a master control for the whole body, directing virtually every aspect of behavior. Commentator J. A. Motyer writes,

If our tongue were so well under control that it refused to formulate the words of self-pity, the images of lustfulness, the thoughts of anger and resentment, then these things are cut down before they have a chance to live: the master switch has deprived them of any power to “switch on” that side of our lives. The control of the tongue is more than an evidence of spiritual maturity; it is the means to it. (The Message of James [Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1985], 121)

James gives no specifics in saying that the tongue … boasts of great things. But he obviously has in mind man’s natural inclination to boast, to be self-centered, and—contrary to the claims of much popular psychology—to have a high self-image. Whenever and however the tongue boasts, it leaves a wake of destruction. It tears down others; it destroys churches, families, marriages, and personal relationships. It can even lead to murder and to war.

In order for the tongue to control our lives in the right way, we must resist the ever-present inclination and temptation to boast and brag. We should speak only gracious words, kind words, words that build up rather than tear down, that edify, comfort, bless, and encourage. They should be words of humility, gratitude, peace, holiness, and wisdom. Such words, of course, can only come from a heart that not only is indwelt by the Holy Spirit but is also wholly submitted to His control.

Its Propensity to Corrupt

See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. (3:5b–6)

James’s next point focuses on the tongue’s tremendous potential to corrupt and destroy. Whereas the tongue’s power to control is neutral, being capable of working either for good or for evil, the emphasis here is entirely negative. No specific problem areas are mentioned, but since the tongue is able to talk about any conceivable issue, it has the power to corrupt every conceivable issue. Whatever subject it speaks of it can damage and pervert.

Although the verb eidon literally means simply to see, the imperative mood and middle voice used here (idou) almost give it the force of a command. Consequently, this form is often rendered “behold,” especially in dramatic narratives, in order to call special attention to what is about to be said or about to happen (see, e.g., Matt. 1:20, 23; 25:6; John 4:35; Rev. 1:7, 18; 22:7, 12). The idea is, “Pay close attention.”

James is here calling attention to the great destructive power of hateful, false, heretical, or simply careless words. Like commercials produced by forestry services today, he calls attention to the well-known truism that a great … forest can be set aflame by … a small fire! The smallest match or spark can grow exponentially into a conflagration that destroys thousands of acres of forest, killing countless animals and often destroying human life and property.

Fire has the amazing and virtually unique capacity to reproduce itself in an almost unlimited way as long as it has fuel to burn. Like the vast majority of things, water cannot multiply. When it is poured out, no matter where or on what, it never expands into a flood. But fire feeds on itself. If there is sufficient flammable material and enough oxygen to sustain combustion, it will burn on indefinitely.

On October 8, 1871, at about eight-thirty in the evening, a lantern in Mrs. O’Leary’s barn, presumably kicked over by her cow, ignited the great Chicago fire. Before it could be contained, 17,500 buildings were destroyed, 300 people died, and 125,000 others were left homeless. In 1903, a pan of rice boiled over onto a fire, spreading coals across the room and starting a blaze that eventually consumed a square mile of a Korean city, burning some three thousand buildings to the ground.

The writer of Proverbs observed that “the heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things” (Prov. 15:28); that “a worthless man digs up evil, while his words are as a scorching fire” (16:27); and that, “like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife” (26:21). He also notes that “for lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer [gossiper, or slanderer], contention quiets down” (26:20).

David lamented, “My soul is among lions; I must lie among those who breathe forth fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows and their tongue a sharp sword” (Ps. 57:4). Of evil, boasting men, he wrote, “Your tongue devises destruction, like a sharp razor, O worker of deceit. You love evil more than good, falsehood more than speaking what is right. You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue” (Ps. 52:2–4). Job asked Bildad, his so-called comforter, “How long will you torment me and crush me with words?” (Job 19:2).

Some years ago, Morgan Blake, a sportswriter for the Atlanta Journal, wrote the following satire:

I am more deadly than the screaming shell from the howitzer. I win without killing. I tear down homes, break hearts, and wreck lives. I travel on the wings of the wind. No innocence is strong enough to intimidate me, no purity pure enough to daunt me. I have no regard for truth, no respect for justice, no mercy for the defenseless. My victims are as numerous as the sands of the sea, and often as innocent. I never forget and seldom forgive. My name is Gossip. (Cited in George Sweeting, Faith That Works [Chicago: Moody, 1983], 76–77)

In verse 6, James gives what is doubtless the strongest statement in Scripture on the danger of the tongue: And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. Using the figure of fire, this overwhelming declaration presents four major elements of the tongue’s danger.

First, it is the very world of iniquity. Kosmos (world) does not here refer to the earth or universe but rather to a system, scheme, or arrangement. In this case, it is a system of iniquity, of evil, rebellion, lawlessness, and every other form of sin. It is the source of unrighteous, ungodly behavior within sinful man. It breeds and gives vent to every sort of sinful passion and desire. One commentator describes it as the microcosm of evil among our members. It is a vile, wretched, and wicked scheme of fleshly humanness. No other bodily part has such far-reaching potential for disaster and destruction as the tongue.

Second, an evil tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body. The system of evil spreads out and contaminates the rest of the body. To modify the metaphor somewhat, the destructiveness of the tongue is like smoke that penetrates and permanently contaminates everything that is exposed to it. Whatever fire itself cannot destroy, its smoke will permeate and ruin.

When I was in college I took advantage of a department store fire sale, buying a sport coat for just nine dollars. I was sure that a few days hanging outside in the fresh air would remove the smell of smoke. Because of a limited wardrobe, I wore the coat often, but it never lost its distinct odor, and many people probably thought I was a heavy smoker. In a similar way, evil words, symbolized by the tongue, will stain and damage what they do not entirely consume. A filthy, defiled tongue stains the whole person.

Jesus said,

That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man. (Mark 7:20–23; cf. Jude 23)

Third, the evil tongue sets on fire the course of our life, expanding the principle still further. Like physical fire, the destructive effects of evil speech expand, not only contaminating ourselves but also everything we influence throughout the course of our life.

To a large extent, we are known by the way we talk. Over the long haul, what we say gives others a pretty good idea of who and what we really are. That principle applies to good things as well as sinful, but James’s emphasis here is entirely on the negative aspects of our speaking—such as gossip, slander, false accusations, lying, filthy language and stories, and other sins of the tongue—that can destroy individual lives, families, schools, churches, and communities.

Fourth, and most horribly, the sinful tongue is set on fire by hell. The present active form of the verb phlogizō (is set on fire) indicates a continuing state. That idea is reinforced by the term James uses for hell. Except for its use here, gehenna (hell) is not found in the New Testament outside of the synoptic gospels, where, in each case, it is used by Jesus. The word literally means “valley of Hinnom,” a deep gorge southwest of Jerusalem, where trash, garbage, and the bodies of dead animals and executed criminals were dumped and continually burned. The location had originally been used by Canaanite and even some Israelite worshipers to sacrifice their children as burnt offerings to the pagan god Molech. When that heinous practice was permanently halted by the godly King Josiah of Judah (see 2 Kings 23:10), the place was considered to be unclean and wholly unfit for any decent usage. It therefore came to be used as a garbage dump, where all the filth of the city of Jerusalem and surrounding areas was taken to be burned. Because the fire burned all the time and maggots were always present, the Lord used gehenna to represent the eternal, never-ending torment of hell, “the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:43–44; cf. Isa. 66:24; Matt. 5:22). Hell is Satan’s place, prepared for him and his demons (Matt. 25:41). As such, it is used here as a synonym for Satan and the demons.

That it is said to be set on fire by hell indicates that the tongue can be Satan’s tool, fulfilling hell’s purposes to pollute, corrupt, and destroy. It is unbelievably dangerous and destructive. Using another figure of death and destruction, the psalmist says of those who misuse their tongues, “His speech was smoother than butter, but his heart was war; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords” (Ps. 55:21); “Behold, they belch forth with their mouth; swords are in their lips” (59:7); and as those “who have sharpened their tongue like a sword. They aimed bitter speech as their arrow” (64:3).

Even mature believers know that in their remaining fleshly humanness, their tongues still have great power to devastate and therefore need constant guarding and control.

Its Primitiveness to Combat

For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. (3:7–8)

James’s point in these two verses is simply that the human tongue is innately uncontrollable and untamable. It is wild, undisciplined, irresponsible, irrepressible, and savage. In what might be called its primitive or intrinsic evil, it combats every effort to control and direct it.

Every species includes animals that walk and fly, beasts and birds, as well as those that crawl and swim, the reptiles and creatures of the sea. Animals from each of those categories are being tamed and have been tamed by the human race. The wildest, smartest, fastest, most powerful, and most elusive of creatures are subject to man’s taming. Even after the Fall, Noah was able to bring every kind of animal into the ark in pairs without serious incident. Although the task of Noah and his family to take care of those thousands of creatures was surely daunting in the extreme, there is no record of any of the animals attacking or harming their keepers, or each other, in any way. For centuries, the major attraction of circuses has been the wild animal acts, in which lions, tigers, and other powerful and dangerous animals do tricks at the command of a human trainer. In that regard they are less primitive and more civilized and controllable than the unregenerate, unsanctified tongues of their masters.

But no one, that is, no human being in his own power, can tame the tongue. Even in believers, the tongue can easily slip out of its sanctified cage, as it were, and do great harm. Its work can be so subtle that it sometimes escapes notice until the damage is done. Well aware of that danger, David prayed, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Ps. 141:3). Even the godly Paul confessed: “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not” (Rom 7:18). He could not trust himself to keep his tongue, or any other part of his unredeemed flesh, in check. “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh,” he reminded believers in Galatia; “for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Gal. 5:17).

As noted earlier in this commentary chapter, Adam’s first sin after the Fall not only was slander but slander against God, indirectly blaming his own disobedience on the Lord for having given him Eve, who tempted him to eat of the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:12). By contrast, the first act of the new creations in Christ, who became the church, was to praise God with their purified tongues, “speaking of the mighty deeds of God” (Acts 2:11).

Restless translates akatastatos, the same word rendered “unstable” in 1:8. In this context, the meaning goes well beyond that of restless, suggesting the idea of a wild animal fighting fiercely against the restraints of captivity. This evil chafes at confinement, always seeking a way to escape and to spread its deadly poison. Its “venom” is more deadly than a snake’s because it can destroy morally, socially, economically, and spiritually.

David was a soldier’s soldier, a man of military renown who had fought powerful enemies. But he realized that the most dangerous enemies are those who attack with words. He therefore prayed:

Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from dread of the enemy. Hide me from the secret counsel of evildoers, from the tumult of those who do iniquity, who have sharpened their tongue like a sword. They aimed bitter speech as their arrow, to shoot from concealment at the blameless; suddenly they shoot at him, and do not fear. They hold fast to themselves an evil purpose; they talk of laying snares secretly; they say, “Who can see them?” They devise injustices, saying, “We are ready with a well-conceived plot”; for the inward thought and the heart of a man are deep. But God will shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly they will be wounded. So they will make him stumble; their own tongue is against them; all who see them will shake the head. Then all men will fear, and they will declare the work of God, and will consider what He has done. The righteous man will be glad in the Lord and will take refuge in Him; and all the upright in heart will glory. (Ps. 64:1–10)

The poisonous lies of Laban’s sons against Jacob drove him and his family out of the land and devastated Laban’s own home and family life (Gen. 31). The venomous tongue of Doeg the Edomite lying to King Saul about David and Ahimelech the priest resulted in the brutal massacre of eighty-five priests as well as the entire priestly city of Nob (1 Sam. 22:9–19). The deceitful princes of Ammon also lied about David, accusing him of hypocrisy in honoring Nahash their king and Hanun, his son and successor. Believing the lies, Hanun assembled an enormous force of his own soldiers, along with Aramean mercenaries, of which some seven hundred charioteers and forty thousand horsemen and their commander were needlessly slaughtered by David’s forces—all because of a lie! (2 Sam. 10). When Naboth refused to sell his vineyard to King Ahab, Queen Jezebel conspired to have two men falsely accuse Naboth of blasphemy, which resulted in his being stoned to death (1 Kings 21:1–13). As recorded in the book of Esther, Satan attempted to use the lies of Haman to exterminate exiled Jews in Medo-Persia, but was thwarted by Esther and her cousin, Mordecai. Our Lord Himself was put to death because of lies (Matt. 26:57–60). Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was stoned to death because he was falsely accused of blaspheming Moses and God (Acts 6:8–7:60).

Its Perfidy to Compromise

With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh. (3:9–12)

Finally, the tongue is characterized by what might be called its perfidy to compromise. Perfidy refers to deliberate breech of trust, or treachery, and the unbridled tongue is frequently guilty of such evil. The tongue is not just wild and raging like an animal, but clever, plotting, and subtly deceptive. It is hypocritical and duplicitous, eagerly willing to deceive in order to achieve its own advantage.

Every believer should use his tongue to bless our Lord and Father, just as God desires and expects of those who belong to Him. The Jews to whom James wrote were accustomed to pronouncing blessings on God at the end of each of the eighteen eulogies, or benedictions, they prayed three times a day, saying, “Blessed be Thou, O God.”

After collecting the generous gifts and offerings from the people for building the temple, “David blessed the Lord in the sight of all the assembly; and David said, ‘Blessed are You, O Lord God of Israel our father, forever and ever’ ” (1 Chron. 29:10). At the end of the prayer he “said to all the assembly, ‘Now bless the Lord your God.’ And all the assembly blessed the Lord, the God of their fathers, and bowed low and did homage to the Lord and to the king” (v. 20).

But with the same tongue with which we bless God, James continues, we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. That is its perfidy, its treachery. Even unredeemed mankind retains the likeness of God, which, though utterly marred by the Fall, nevertheless is indestructible. Men continue to be like God in many ways—in intelligence, self-consciousness, reasoning, moral nature, emotions, and will.

How tragically inconsistent and hypocritical, therefore, that from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. Yet every believer has been guilty of that hypocrisy to some extent. It was not only the wicked scribes and Pharisees who claimed to bless God and yet demanded the crucifixion of His Son, accusing Him of blasphemy. Peter confessed that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16); but while his Lord was on trial before the high priest, “he began to curse and swear, ‘I do not know the man!’ And immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, ‘Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly” (Matt. 26:74–75). On one occasion, even the apostle Paul’s tongue slipped and he called the high priest a “whitewashed wall” (Acts 23:3). Even though he did not realize he was speaking to the high priest (v. 5), he uttered words that are not fitting in the mouth of a servant of God.

My brethren, James implores, these things ought not to be this way. Ou chrē (ought not) is a strong negative, used only here in the New Testament. The idea is that there should be no place in a Christian’s life for duplicitous speech. It is an unacceptable and intolerable compromise of righteous, holy living. When God transformed us, He gave us the capacity for new, redeemed, holy speech, and He expects us, as His children, to speak only that which is holy and right. Our “yes” and “no” should be honest (Matt. 5:37).

James explains this truth using three illustrations. First, he asks rhetorically, Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? The obvious answer is no. The same spring, or fountain, does not issue two vastly different kinds of water.

Doubtless alluding to the Lord’s words—“Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?” (Matt. 7:16)—James asks, Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Again, the obvious and expected answer is no. Such a thing is utterly contrary to nature and cannot happen. He then states emphatically, Nor can salt water produce fresh. This also is clearly impossible, and no rational person would think twice about believing anything to the contrary.

A hateful heart cannot produce loving words or works. An unrighteous heart cannot produce righteous words or works. “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit,” Jesus explained, “nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.… So then, you will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:18, 20).

As mentioned above, there is an almost constant tension in the book of James between what is and what ought to be. At one point he says, “This is how it will be if you are a true believer,” and at another point he says, “That is also how it ought to be if you are a true believer.” Because we have been made righteous by Jesus Christ, we ought to live righteously and speak righteously, according to His will and by His power.[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1998). James (pp. 143–161). Chicago: Moody Press.

The Tongue Compared to Bit, Rudder, and Flame (3:3–5)

James uses three analogies to illustrate the influence of the tongue. He says:

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. (James 3:3–5)

The tongue, he says, is like a horse’s bit, a ship’s rudder, and a fire among trees.

  • The tongue rests in the human mouth much as the bit is in the horse’s mouth. In both cases, a small thing moves and controls a large body.
  • The tongue is like the rudder of a ship. Just as a small part of a ship turns the whole, so the tongue has great influence on the whole person.
  • The tongue is like a spark of fire in the woods. Even as a small spark can start a great conflagration, so the tongue can set fire to relationships or communities.

Bits and rudders were common in antiquity, if they are not today. Were James writing today, he might use something familiar, like the steering wheel on a car. But his point would remain: the tongue is most influential. As a bit directs a horse and a rudder directs a ship, so the tongue directs human life. What we do follows what we say. Both our internal speech (our thoughts) and our spoken words direct our actions.

One writer says James’s purpose “is not to warn … against the hasty or impure or lying tongue … but to make the positive point that control of the tongue leads to a master control of ourselves.” Just as bit and rudder “really do master the violence of the horse and of the storm.… [so] the tongue is the key factor in controlled living.” Nothing, on this view, is more vital than control of the tongue. “It is not that a person strong enough to control the tongue is therefore also strong enough for every other battle. It is rather that winning this battle is in itself a winning of all battles.” Therefore we should work hard to master the tongue; it is the key for all self-mastery.

This idea is appealing, in one way, since it directs human effort to one central task. Unfortunately, this view runs against the rest of Scripture. Jesus does not say “control the tongue and you control all.” He says your heart controls your tongue and speech: “A tree is recognized by its fruit.… How can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him” (Matt. 12:33–35).

At first glance, James seems to say the person who controls the unruly tongue can surely control the other, more easily tamed, members of the body. Jesus certainly agrees that control of the tongue is important when he says we will be acquitted or condemned by our words (Matt. 12:37).

But we must distinguish the first glance from the final analysis. Notice that James’s illustrations seem to have two parts: the bit and the horse, the rudder and the ship. Careful review reveals that the analogies assume a third part, an agent that exercises its will through bit, rudder, and tongue.

  • For the horse, a rider uses the bit to direct his mount.
  • For the rudder, the pilot expresses his will through the rudder to guide the ship.
  • For the tongue, the will of a man expresses itself in speech that guides action.

So James agrees with Jesus; the heart moves the tongue. Therefore, we cannot simply decide, by a resolution of the will, to control the tongue. For the heart controls our resolutions. We will return to that thought shortly, but for now James is interested in the tongue and its reckless power. He says, to translate literally, “Behold the size of a fire that sets ablaze what size of a forest” (James 3:5). That is, a small fire can start a great fire that rages through the countryside.

Out in the woods, a little carelessness with fire can cause enormous damage. If a gust of wind blows over the embers of a dying fire and lifts a spark into dry trees or brush, an entire hillside may soon be ablaze. A moment of carelessness can cause terrible damage. The tongue is like a fire when rumors and gossip spread, as we say, like wildfire. The Bible also links gossip and fire:

A scoundrel plots evil,

and his speech is like a scorching fire.

A perverse man stirs up dissension,

and a gossip separates close friends. (Prov. 16:27–28)

Without wood a fire goes out;

without gossip a quarrel dies down.

As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire,

so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.

The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;

they go down to a man’s inmost parts. (Prov. 26:20–22)[2]

3–5a James now addresses the power of the tongue, which though small has a very large effect. This the author illustrates in parallel by pointing to the bits in horses’ mouths (v. 3) and the rudder that turns a ship (v. 4), images used widely in ancient literature as pictures of control (Dibelius, 185–90; Ropes, 231). Horses are large animals, and the point of riding a horse is to get it to go where you want it to go. The rider of a horse puts a bit in its mouth in order that the horse will obediently go in the right direction. Using the bit, the rider can move the whole body of the horse. That which is small sets the direction for something much greater in size. Specifically, references to the horse’s mouth and “body” (sōma, GK 5393) prepare for a fitting analogy to the tongue as a part of the human body in v. 5 (Moo, 153).

In the same way, ships are very large and driven along by very strong or violent winds. Travel by ship was common in the first century (e.g., Ac 13:4; 18:21; 27:1), so the imagery of v. 4 would have been quite familiar. The pilot of a ship is able to direct such a great vessel, which powerful, natural forces drive along, by using a relatively small rudder. That which is small sets the direction for something much greater in size.

Now comes the point. In the same way, the tongue is a relatively small part of the body. Yet its impact is far out of proportion to its size. Both the NIV and NASB indicate that the tongue’s effect has to do with its boasting or bragging (aucheō, GK 902) about great things. From the broader context of James, the author makes it clear he has in mind an evil boasting born of arrogance: “But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil” (4:16 NASB). Thus he highlights an arrogance associated with the use of the tongue, and this may be related directly to those teachers causing strife in the community. The tongue, though small, is the member of the body that manifests our arrogant presumption that we are “big,” or more important than others in the church.

5b–6 The author adds yet another vivid word picture to describe how something so small can cause a great effect, but now the emphasis moves toward the destructive nature of that effect: “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” Forest fires occurred in the ancient world, as they do today, and the devastation was striking for the ancients. Again, James reiterates the principle: something relatively small has a profound impact on something much larger. Yet in v. 6 James focuses our attention on the insidious power of the tongue by using metaphorical language. “The tongue also is a fire.” When metaphor is used, we need to grasp the analogies intended, and James’s point is that just as fire is horribly destructive, so the tongue can be devastatingly destructive. The image of the tongue as a fire is found both in Jewish wisdom writings (e.g., Pr 16:27; 26:20–21), and Greek literature (see Johnson, 258–59).

James explains that the tongue is “the very world of iniquity” (NASB). The phrase rendered “world of evil” by the NIV is notoriously difficult to interpret—perhaps the most difficult in the whole book. (For a detailed discussion of the options, see Davids, 141–43; Johnson, 259.) It clearly refers to the “wicked, evil world,” according to (Dibelius 194; but he thinks part of the text is a gloss, i.e., not an original part of the book but a later addition). The author refers to the “world” as a system opposed to God at 1:27 and 4:4, and these verses have other connections with 3:6. The former verse states that part of authentic religion is “to keep oneself unstained [aspilos, GK 834] by the world” (NASB). In 3:6 the tongue is established among the members of the body as that part which “corrupts” (spiloō, GK 5071) or stains the whole body. Further, 4:4 speaks of person’s being established (kathistēmi, GK 2770) as God’s enemy, and the same term is used in 3:6 of the tongue’s being established among the members of the body. The idea is that the tongue serves as the arch representative of the evil world. All kinds of unrighteousness are imported to life via the tongue.

Further, the tongue is set among the members of the body as that which defiles, or pollutes, the whole. Though a different Greek verb is used, this point brings to mind the teaching of Jesus that what comes out of a person defiles the person (Mk 7:20). James’s statement drives home one of the striking difficulties of dealing with the tongue—this world of unrighteousness, as a member of the body, is part of us, and the consequences of its presence are great! When uncontrolled, the tongue is an agent of spiritual and moral pollution that corrupts the entire body.

He now returns to the tongue as a flame of fire. It sets on fire “the wheel of existence,” a phrase found in common use in extrabiblical literature and appropriately translated by the NIV as referring to the course of a person’s life. The consequences of misusing the tongue can have far-reaching and devastating effects in a life. The reason for this is that the fire of the tongue, its destructive nature, originates in “hell.” The term for hell here is Gehenna. Gê Hinnōm was a ravine south of Jerusalem, and its association with burning was twofold. First, it had been a site of pagan sacrifices by fire in the OT era (2 Ki 23:10; Jer 7:31), and second, it came to be the garbage dump of Jerusalem, a place of perpetual burning. By the NT era Gehenna was used of the place of eternal, fiery punishment and corruption (Laws, 151–52). Thus the out-of-control tongue, as a “fire,” receives its impetus from hell. It stands in direct contrast to righteous living, which has its origin in God (3:17–18).[3]

3:5 / Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts: The tongue is indeed small, but what great events for good or evil it can claim credit for! And how frequently the events are evil and the boasting proud; the very use of the term boasts reminds the reader of Paul’s frequent condemnation of any boasting other than boasting in Christ (Rom. 1:30; 3:27; 11:18; 2 Cor. 10:13–16; Eph. 2:9). The tongue is like a small spark, which can set a great forest on fire, whether the forest is Palestinian scrub, dried to explosive tinder by the long dry season, or a California mountainside. A fire is left unguarded or a match is dropped; the action can never be taken back, for with a whoosh and roar it is soon eating up acres at a galloping pace.[4]

The key to holy living (3:2–5a)

As we shall see, James is going to answer our question along six lines. This is what he puts first (2–5a): the tongue holds a key place in holy living. Verse 2 explains verse 1. The more searching judgment to which teachers expose themselves arises this way: they belong to a talking profession, and while we all sin in many ways, it would take a truly perfect person to keep free of sins of speech. By perfect he means (as in 1:4) the completeness and maturity that will mark us when God has fully wrought in us all that he intends for us in Christ—in a word, the holiness of those who see him and are like him (1 Jn. 3:2).

But there is more to it than that. As Christians, We all make many mistakes (2). Sin remains our universal experience and it takes all sorts of forms. Among them, as every self-aware believer will admit, sins of speech are prominent—the hasty word, the untruthful statement, the sly suggestion, harmful gossip, innuendo, impurity. Indeed, not to sin in speech would demand perfection, and we would be unrealistic not to see James’ thoughts going back as he voices this thought to a thirty-year experience, within his own home, of one who ‘committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips’ (1 Pet. 2:22). Yet James’ purpose in this section of his letter is not to warn us to be on our guard against the hasty or impure or lying tongue—or whatever our weakness may be—but to make the positive point that control of the tongue leads to a master-control of ourselves and our lives.

His two illustrations (vv. 3 and 4) show this. As to the horse (3), a comparatively tiny thing, a bit, controls and directs all its powerful and potentially unruly, even menacing, forces. As to the ship (4), the essential point is the same, that a comparatively small factor, a rudder, is the key to control and direction, but the forces now are not internal but external, the strong winds that would blow the ship off course and on to the rocks. James sees the tongue in the light of these illustrations, for he adds, so (i.e. in the same way) the tongue is a little member (as comparatively small in its setting as bit and rudder are in theirs) and boasts of great things (5a). The ‘boasts’ of the bit and rudder are not idle or hollow: they really do master the violence of the horse and of the storm. So too the tongue: ‘It can make huge claims’ (neb)—and substantiate them, too! The tongue is the key-factor in controlled living. We ask ourselves how we are to control the powerful forces within us that drive us into sin, and James replies by talking about something we never considered—do we control our tongues? Are we the masters of the master-key? The tongue is the key-factor in consistent living. Circumstances vary. There are the pressures of adversity and the (often greater) pressures of prosperity; there are sudden and unexpected shocks—the blows which life administers to us. Can we hold our course? James’ marine illustration is not at all wide of the mark as a description of life with its tides, currents and storms. Once again, there is a rudder to hold the ship on course, and the tongue is that rudder.

This teaching strikes us as so unexpected that we had better survey it a little longer to make sure we are grasping exactly what the Bible says. It is not that a person strong enough to control the tongue is therefore also strong enough for every other battle. It is much deeper and more important even than that: it is rather that winning this battle is in itself a winning of all battles. Think of a switchboard in a church or other large building. Each switch controls the lights in its own section of the church and the person who controls the switch controls those lights. But on the board there is also a master-switch. It does not need any special strength to operate it. There is no way in which anyone could say, ‘If you are strong enough to operate that switch then you are strong enough to operate any of them.’ The simple fact is that, if you control the master-switch, you control all the lights; you are lord of the switchboard. It is in this sense that the person who controls the tongue is able to bridle the whole body also (2). This is the great (and not unreal) boast the tongue can make (5a).

But should this surprise us quite so much? The tongue is so much more than what we actually say out loud. In fact actual speech is probably only a small percentage of the use of the tongue. We cannot think without formulating thoughts in words; we cannot plan without describing to ourselves step by step what we intend to do; we cannot imagine without painting a word-picture before our inward eyes; we cannot write a letter or a book without ‘talking it through’ our minds on to the paper; we cannot resent without fuelling the fires of resentment in words addressed to ourselves; we cannot feel sorry for ourselves without listening to the self-pitying voice which tells us how hard done by we are. But if our tongue were so well under control that it refused to formulate the words of self-pity, the images of lustfulness, the thoughts of anger and resentment, then these things are cut down before they have a chance to live: the master-switch has deprived them of any power to ‘switch on’ that side of our lives. It is in this way that if any one makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man (2). The control of the tongue is more than an evidence of spiritual maturity; it is the means to it.

Fire! (3:5b–6)

Secondly, the tongue has enormous power for actual harm (5b–6). There is another little matter, as small in its sphere as bit and rudder in theirs. But whereas they are passive, waiting to be used, this is active, a force in its own right: fire. Tiny as the spark is, once it is fanned into flame and the flame takes hold, then it will keep on spreading till all is ablaze. So the tongue is an actual power for evil.

James covers four aspects of the fiery potency of the tongue (6), starting with its character. The tongue (lit.) ‘appoints itself as the world of unrighteousness among our members’. The world (kosmos) is this present state of affairs or scheme of things organized on the basis of man’s sinfulness, hostile to God, rejecting Christ. ‘The world of unrighteousness’ means ‘the unrighteousness world’, the world characterized by all that falls short of being right with God, the world in all its unrighteousness. The tongue makes itself available as the focal point of all that unrighteousness, actually within us, ‘the enemy agent within God’s rightful kingdom, a ready tool at the disposal of God’s enemy’. Our members7 are literally our ‘limbs’, but in its use the word regularly looks beyond the actual physical limb—such as the hand, foot or eye—to the capacities of our nature which are expressed through that limb. In this sense, then, the tongue is inflammatory of all our capacities, doing its utmost to make them the organs of a whole cosmos that is hostile to God.

James next speaks of the tongue’s influence: staining the whole body (6). This is the other side of the positive mastery over the body which can be achieved by a controlled tongue, the power illustrated above as that of the master-switch. Left to itself, since the tongue is involved so fundamentally in all the thoughts, imaginings, longings and plans which lie behind the whole of our earthly life, it leaves the mark of its own defilement everywhere. Body is here used in the same sense as members just above. In the Bible it is equally valid to define a person (so to speak) from the inside by speaking of the soul and spirit, or from the outside by speaking of the body, for the person is the unity, the ensouled-body or the embodied-soul. Thus the members are identified with the capacities (for good or ill) which find expression through them, and the body is the total vehicle for expressing individual life. Everywhere the tongue makes its presence felt and leaves its stain. There is some profit in supposing that James began by describing the Godward aspect of the tongue—its affiliation with ‘the world’ in opposition to and rejection of God—and that now he goes on to the self-ward aspect—the defilement which the tongue spreads through the person. But it would not do to press this, for the idea of sin as leaving a mark which God can see is thoroughly biblical and, indeed, expresses the most serious side of the sinner’s problem. I may regret that sin holds me back from a fully satisfying, fulfilled life, but this is as nothing compared with the fact that sin makes me offensive to the Holy One. Even so, the defiling mark is left on the person; the personality has been stained. It is not what it ought to be; life itself is diminished in the sinner and the tongue is the culprit.

For the third aspect of his analysis of the evil force of the tongue, James uses the unusual expression, setting on fire the cycle of nature (6). C. L. Mitton sensibly offers the opinion that James is referring to ‘the whole range of human life’. We are accustomed to the poetic ‘time, like an ever-rolling stream’ and ‘through all the changing scenes of life’. ‘Time rolls on’ we say—and James takes this into account in relation to the tongue. ‘Other vices are corrected by age or by process of time. They drop off from our lives’ (Calvin), but from earliest to latest days the baneful influence of the tongue remains. This is its continuance.

In the fourth place, James notes the tongue’s affiliation: and set on fire by hell (6). The first feature of the tongue was that it is anti-god (the world); the final feature is that it is pro-Satan. Hell (Gehenna) is the place of fire and James sees the fires of Gehenna reaching up to that part of our sinful, fallen nature where they will most easily find their touch-paper. The tongue becomes the instrument of Satan himself. This is by no means to be thought of as something confined to what we would recognize as improper or questionable uses of the tongue. One day Peter took the Lord aside to give him the best advice he was capable of and to do so with the most loving and concerned intentions. But the Lord Jesus replied, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God …’11 James’ warning, then, is timely.[5]

The Power of the Tongue (vv. 3–6)

SUPPORTING IDEA: The tongue is a small organ, but it can control and influence major events in life.

This section uses three illustrations to show the power of the tongue. The first two illustrations picture the ability of a small object to control or influence a much larger object (vv. 3–4). The final illustration (v. 5b) illustrates the ability of a small item to destroy a much larger object.

3:3–5a. The rider of a horse can use a bit to control and govern a wild, unmanageable horse. Though the bit is small, its use gives riders the potential for turning the animal wherever they want.

In gales and violent winds, pilots use the rudder to guide the ship to safety or point it in the direction of intended travel. Compared to the size of a ship, the rudder was very small, but its importance in controlling the ship demanded careful attention in its use.

Verse 5a summarizes the point of these illustrations. Like the bit for the horse and the rudder for the ship, the tongue is small in relation to the body and yet has powerful potential to achieve great results, both good and bad. It can stir up violence or promote peace. It can crush the spirit or soothe the discouraged. If the tongue could personally express itself, it could legitimately boast of its great exploits.

3:5b–6. Verse 5b shows that an uncontrolled tongue is a source of great destruction. Just as a little flame can destroy a huge forest, a small misuse of the tongue can cause pain and agony to many.

The tongue can produce ruin and may represent the presence of a vast system of iniquity within our body. Within this body the tongue can produce three results. First, it can corrupt the whole person. It is a source of pollution and defilement for the entire personality. Second, it sets the whole course of his life on fire. Course may also mean “wheel.” Life may refer to “birth,” “origin,” or “existence.” A misused tongue may affect the cycle of life from birth onward! Third, the tongue is itself set on fire by hell. This describes Satan’s influence on the tongue.

James 3:1–6 describes the tongue as it is by nature. By nature the tongue could serve as a divisive instrument of evil. By grace the tongue can become an instrument of positive blessing (Col. 4:6). We must not conclude that our tongue is doomed to be an instrument of discord and strife. God can mold an abusive tongue into a force for good and righteousness.[6]

The Power of the Tongue (3:2–5)

Since speaking plays so large a part in the work of a teacher, James moves quite easily from the warning of verse 1 to a discussion of the power of the tongue, both for evil and for good (verses 2–5). The reference, however, is broadened so as to include others besides teachers: “For in many things we all stumble” (verse 2a, asv). All, by its position in Greek, is emphatic. James did not even exempt himself. “Stumble”—offend in the kjv—in this context means to commit sin. The tense of the verb expresses repeated action. Thus the thought is, “We commit sin again and again—all of us.”

We do this in many things, but at no point are we more likely to sin than in the realm of speech. James therefore adds, “If any man stumbleth not in word, the same is a perfect man” (verse 2b, asv). He had in mind not simply the “word” of teaching and exhortation, but of speech in general. A perfect man is a man of maturity (cf. 1:3). In ancient Greek literature the word was used of a full-grown man as compared with a child.

James explains that the mature man, the man who gains mastery over his tongue, is able also to bridle the whole body. That is to say, since the tongue is the most difficult member of our bodies to control, one’s ability to control his tongue implies control over the whole body. “The tongue is the hinge on which everything in the personality turns” (Baird, p. 27). On not sinning with the tongue, Manton comments: “He that can do that, can do anything in Christianity” (p. 275).

In verses 3–5 James illustrates the power of the tongue by means of three vivid figures: the bit in a horse’s mouth (verse 3); the rudder of a ship (verse 4); and a spark of fire (verse 5). Nowhere does James write more powerfully than here!

The first illustration: Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body (verse 3). The asv is closer to the Greek: “Now if we put the horses’ bridles into their mouths that they may obey us, we turn about their whole body also.” The figure apparently was suggested by what James said in the preceding verse about “bridling” the whole body. The horse, naturally wild and ungovernable, may have its fiery temper subdued and its movements regulated to the wishes of its rider. All this is accomplished by means of the relatively small bit put into the horse’s mouth. The rider has but to pull and he manages and controls the whole body. The application is obvious. The tongue is a relatively small member of our bodies, but by controlling the tongue we can control all the passions of our nature.

The second illustration: 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 (verse 4). James, of course, knew nothing of great ocean-going vessels such as we have today, but even in his day there were ships which plied the seas and which could appropriately be spoken of as “so great.” The description points up not only the great size of the ships, making them unwieldy in themselves, but also their exposure to fierce gales and violent storms. How are the movements of these vessels controlled and directed under conditions such as these? Answer: by the “very small helm” (rudder) of the ship. The Greek word for “helm” literally denoted the handle of the rudder, but it was often used for the whole instrument. “Whithersoever the governor listeth” is much more clearly rendered “wherever the will of the pilot directs” (rsv).

The point of both illustrations (bit and rudder) is clearly stated in the first part of verse 5: Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. That is to say, like the bit for the horse and the rudder for the ship, the tongue is little in relation to the body and in relation to some other organs and members of the body. But in spite of its smallness, the tongue achieves great results. This seems to be the import of “boasteth great things.” Moffatt brings this out: “So the tongue is a small member of the body, but it can boast of great exploits.” And it is not an empty boast. Indeed, it is difficult to exaggerate the deeds of the tongue. It can sway men to violence, or it can move them to the noblest actions. It can instruct the ignorant, encourage the dejected, comfort the sorrowing, and soothe the dying. Or, it can crush the human spirit, destroy reputations, spread distrust and hate, and bring nations to the brink of war.

The third illustration: Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! (verse 5b). A more literal rendering is given by the asv: “Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire!” There is obviously a contrast between the smallness of the spark and the greatness of the conflagration caused by it. The tcnt is quite expressive: “Think how tiny a spark may set the largest forest ablaze!” With vivid imagery the illustration points up the vast and deadly power of the tongue unless it is kept under rigid control. Like fire when it is controlled, the tongue held in check is a power for great good. But out of control what havoc both can cause![7]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1998). James (pp. 143–161). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Doriani, D. M. (2007). James. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (pp. 107–110). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

[3] Guthrie, G. H. (2006). James. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 245–247). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] Davids, P. H. (2011). James (p. 82). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] Motyer, J. A. (1985). The message of James: the tests of faith (pp. 119–123). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[6] Lea, T. D. (1999). Hebrews, James (Vol. 10, pp. 303–304). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[7] Vaughan, C. (2003). James (pp. 67–69). Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press.

Roseanne Barr Downfall: High Cost of Embracing Craziness | National Review

Sometimes, a story fits no one’s political narrative cleanly. Sometimes, the story is the confusion and brokenness of our times.

If Roseanne Barr is a poster child for anything, she’s a poster child for cultural brokenness. Consider, for a moment, the cascade of failures that brought us to today — a day when one of the most popular shows on television is canceled after its toxic star tweeted a racist insult of Valerie Jarrett.

First, ABC shouldn’t have brought her back. She was, quite obviously, one of the more toxic and troubled personalities in American public life. This was a woman who, after all, trafficked in grotesque conspiracy theories, said that anyone who eats at Chick-fil-A “deserves to get the cancer that’s sure to come,” and defiled the National Anthem more thoroughly than a thousand kneeling football players. J. J. McCullough chronicled the crazy in an essay just last month:

Barr has never met a conspiracy theory she didn’t love. She’s a 9-11 truther who believes that “Bush did it,” and she has called the Boston Marathon bombing one of many “false flag terror attacks” perpetrated by the Obama administration to “remove” the Second Amendment. For good measure, she also believes that the old man Bush killed JFK.

You can find YouTube videos of her rambling about “MK ULTRA Mind Control” on RT, and she seems particularly fond of the notion that the American ruling class is running some manner of pedophile sex cult. Her views on Jews and Israel fluctuate wildly — in the past, she has called Israel a “Nazi state” and alleged that Zionism was created by the Third Reich (or something — I challenge you to succinctly summarize the opinions expressed here), though more recently she’s taken to accusing Hillary Clinton of plotting Israel’s destruction and labeling aide Huma Abedin a “Nazi whore.”

But there was money to be made, so Roseanne limped from the locker room like a bizarro-world Willis Reed. And that brings us to the next layer of nonsense.

Second, Trump World shouldn’t have embraced her new show. Remember when President Trump called Roseanne to congratulate her on her ratings? I know that Republicans are starved for Republican-friendly television, but can we ever reach a time when the stakes are low enough to draw lines based on character? I know people voted for the low-character president because of the Flight 93 election and all that. I know folks turned out for Roy Moore because of judges. But where’s the sitcom emergency necessitating the love for Roseanne?

Third, hypocrisy and double standards abound. So, where are the lines for acceptable speech? Even now, Twitter is lighting up with examples of progressive celebrities saying terrible things and keeping their jobs. ESPN is expanding Keith Olbermann’s role at the network despite a Twitter feed full of hysterical, profane insults and unhinged commentary. Fire one celebrity and you can dredge up six more who’ve posted their own deranged rants. At the same time, does the Right really want to turn Roseanne into a poster child of political persecution? We all know that progressives get more grace than conservatives, but where does Roseanne fit?

We’re left with a mess. To argue that companies should err on the side of free speech — as I do all the time — is not to argue that companies can’t have any standards at all. I’m not troubled by Roseanne’s termination. In a previous post, I endorsed a simple view of private employment: Do good work and be a decent person. It’s a viewpoint-neutral standard that applies directly to the situation at hand. Instead, the standards seem almost infinitely malleable, with even the necessity of quality work contingent on proper politics.

Sometimes, a story fits no one’s political narrative cleanly. Sometimes, the story is the confusion and brokenness of our times. That’s the story of Roseanne, the populist, socialist, Green party, Trump-supporting conspiracy theorist who has now wasted what should be her last shot at relevance.

— Read on www.nationalreview.com/corner/roseanne-barr-fired-show-canceled/