"THE EPISTLE OF JAMES" Let Not Many Of You Become Teachers (3:1-12) INTRODUCTION 1. In our study of "The Epistle Of James", we now come to the third chapter... 2. In verses 1-12, we find: a. A WARNING against too many becoming teachers - 1-2 b. A DISCOURSE on the untamable tongue - 3-12 3. In a time where "verbal abuse" is often epidemic, and where "self- proclaimed teachers" engage in all sorts of heated religious discussions, there is much we can learn from this passage [First, let's notice...] I. THE "WARNING" (1-2) A. "LET NOT MANY OF YOU BECOME TEACHERS" 1. Note carefully: a. James does not say, "Let not many of you BE teachers" b. But rather, "Let not many of you BECOME teachers" 2. This passage is not just a rebuke of those who try to BE teachers before they are ready, but a warning that many should not even BECOME teachers in the future! 3. It is a mistake to believe that EVERYONE should become a teacher at some point in their service to Christ! a. Paul illustrated time and again that the body of Christ has many members, and not all members do not have the same function! 1) To the saints at Rome - Ro 12:3-8 2) To the church at Corinth - 1Co 12:12-31 (note esp. verse 29, where Paul with a rhetorical question implies that not all are to be teachers) b. Peter likewise taught that God's grace toward is "manifold" (multi-faceted) and that we should exercise our respective abilities accordingly - 1Pe 4:10-11 4. In view of what Paul, Peter, and James wrote, we should be careful before we apply He 5:12-14 to mean that EVERYONE should one day be teachers (the author of Hebrews may have been writing to a select audience, whom he knew ought to have been teachers) B. WHY MANY SHOULD NOT BECOME TEACHERS... 1. Teachers shall receive "a stricter judgment" a. There is a grave responsibility involved in teaching others b. We can lead people to TRUTH - but we just as easily lead them to ERROR! c. Just as with elders (He 13:17), those who teach will be held accountable if they mislead others! 2. Because we all "stumble in many things" a. Everyone has faults, and with many people the improper use of the tongue is a major one b. But it takes spiritual maturity ("a perfect man") not to stumble in word! [So James cautions against many people trying to become teachers. This should not discourage any from trying to find out if teaching is a gift that they might have if nurtured along, but one should proceed with humility and caution. In verse 2 James briefly mentions the power of the tongue over the body. He elaborates on this theme as we now consider...] II. THE "DISCOURSE" ON THE UNTAMABLE TONGUE (3-12) A. THE ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE BIT AND RUDDER (3-4) 1. Both illustrations are used to demonstrate that a small member (like the tongue) can control the body a. A bit controls a horse b. A rudder controls the ship 2. So our tongue controls the body... a. If you speak a lie, it won't be long before you find yourself living a lie b. If you speak suggestively in an immoral manner, it won't be long before you begin acting immorally! 3. The power of the tongue to direct is easily applied to the dangers of teaching... a. The teacher's speech can easily set the mood of the class or congregation b. He can easily direct the congregation in an uplifting way, or just as easily direct the congregation in a discouraging way 4. Should not this power to direct via the tongue humble those who teach, and caution the spiritually immature? B. THE ILLUSTRATION OF A LITTLE FIRE (5-6) 1. A small fire can easily cause great destruction (remember the Great Chicago Fire?) 2. So it is with the tongue! a. A loose tongue can ruin one's reputation b. It can also destroy churches, families, friendships 3. In describing an uncontrolled tongue, James uses very vivid terms to make his point: The tongue is... a. A fire b. A world of iniquity c. So set among our bodies that it defiles the whole body d. That which sets on fire the course of nature e. That which is itself set on fire by hell! 4. Should not this power to destroy and defile both ourselves and others caution us in becoming teachers? C. THE DIFFICULTY OF TAMING THE TONGUE (7-12) 1. Despite being able to tame wild animals, man is unable to tame the tongue! a. It is an unruly evil! b. It is full of deadly poison! 2. I understand James to be somewhat hyperbolic here for the sake of emphasis... a. It is true that no MAN (by himself) can tame the tongue b. But with GOD'S help, we can tame it (as David prayed in Ps 141:3) c. And with GOD'S help, we MUST tame it - cf. Ep 4:29; Col 4:6 3. As a further example of how difficult it is to tame the tongue, James uses a very common (and relevant) problem a. I.e., blessing God and cursing men b. Something we are very likely to do, especially on Sundays 1) We spend time in worship, blessing God 2) But in driving home, we might curse men (other drivers who pull out in front of us) c. Racists and bigots are often guilty of "blessing God and cursing men"! 4. But with the illustrations of a spring, a fig tree and a grapevine, James shows the inconsistency of this! a. What comes forth is a true indication of what is inside b. Just as Jesus taught in Mk 7:20-23 c. Despite all the praises we offer God, it is the curses against man that reveals the true person inside! CONCLUSION 1. Again, these examples of the misuse of the tongue should humble and caution all those who would become teachers 2. But they should also serve as a warning for us all, whether we teach or not, that we need to seek God's help in controlling the tongue! May David's prayer be our own: Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalms 19:14)
God is No Respecter of Persons
|by||Caleb Colley, Ph.D.|
When the first Gentile was converted to Christianity, the apostle Peter perceived that “God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35). Before the church was established and Gentiles began to be converted to Christ, many Jews supposed that God favored them over all other ethnic groups; some had the false notion that merely being Jewish was a sure sign that one was saved (Matthew 3:9; Luke 3:8; 7:30).
When the religious barrier between Jews and Gentiles was broken down, Peter more fully understood one important aspect of God’s character: He does not favor—and never has favored—one person or group of people over others. Whether or not the Israelites always understood it, anyone who obeys God’s commands can be justified in His sight. Consider a sampling of the passages that emphasize God’s fairness toward all humans:
2 Chronicles 19:7: “Now therefore, let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes.”Job 34:19: “Yet He is not partial to princes, nor does He regard the rich more than the poor; for they are all the work of His hands.”Romans 2:10-11: “[B]ut glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.”Galatians 5:6: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision or uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”1 Peter 1:17: “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.”
Exactly what does it mean that God is impartial? God offers salvation to every man, no matter what external circumstances, such as socioeconomic status or nationality, might apply to him. God does not offer salvation only to the Jew, just because he is a Jew, or only to the Gentile because he is a Gentile. The Greek word translated “respecter of persons” in the King James Version of Acts 10:34 (“God is no respecter of persons”) is prosopolemptes, a word that refers to a judge who looks at a man’s face instead of at the facts of the case, and makes a decision based on whether or not he likes the man (Lenski, 1961, p. 418). Under Roman law, for example, a defendant’s societal status was weighed heavily along with evidence. Any human judge might show undue favor to a plaintiff or a defendant because of private friendship, bribery, rank, power, or political affiliation, but God, the perfect Judge, cannot be tempted by any of the things that might tempt a human judge to show unfair partiality.
God’s impartiality does not keep Him from choosing people and nations of people to accomplish His specific purposes. He was free to use the Israelites as the seed line to bring about the Son of God in human form (the Israelites have never been the only group of people who had access to salvation—see Romans 1:18ff; Jackson, 2004); He was free to use the Babylonians to defeat the disobedient Israelites in battle and to take the spoils from them (2 Kings 25:1-21); He was free to use Peter and Paul to spread the Gospel to lost sinners. God can accomplish everything He needs to do without violating His commitment to allow all the opportunity to be saved.
Furthermore, God blesses people in different ways. God’s impartiality does not mean that everyone will have exactly the same amount of money, exactly the same amount of influence, exactly the same number of children, or exactly the same number of years upon the Earth. (At the very moment that Peter noted God’s impartiality, he was in the presence of a man who possessed more material wealth than Peter did.) Some do have more money than others, some have families who love them more, and some even have more opportunities to hear the Gospel preached. However, everyone can be saved, if he is willing to search for the truth. While some accountable adults may live their entire lives without hearing a single Gospel sermon, they all experience the marvelous works of the hand of God, showing every person that He exists. Paul wrote:
[W]hat may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened (Romans 1:19-21).
God always has expected impartiality from His followers. We should not treat people differently because of their financial status or outward appearance. The Lord said: “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty” (Leviticus 19:15). Deuteronomy 1:17 reads: “You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great.” After describing a scenario in which a rich man was given a favored seat in the assembly, and a poor man was pushed to the side, James wrote: “But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9). In stating that Christians should not show partiality because they believe in Christ, James, by inspiration, suggested that favoritism—treating certain people as if they are of more inherent worth—is inconsistent with faith in Christ, and causes one to violate God’s law of liberty (2:8,12).
We are grateful that God has not arbitrarily chosen some people to be saved and some to be lost. Imagine a basis upon which He might select which people should be saved. Would He choose the wealthy? The well known? The most intelligent? Members of a particular ethnic group or culture? Fortunately, each person can choose for himself whether or not to accept God’s saving grace (Joshua 24:15; Isaiah 7:16; Ezekiel 18:20; Matthew 23:37; Revelation 22:17). Each person is responsible for his or her own actions (Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Because of God’s marvelous love for all humans, He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9; cf. 1 Timothy 2:4).
Jackson, Wayne (2004), “To What Law Were the Ancient Gentiles Accountable?,” [On-line], URL: http://www.christiancourier.com/questions/whatLawAncientGentiles.htm.
Lenski, R.C.H. (1961 reprint), The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
God Did Not Condone Rape
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Militant atheists of the 21st century delight in accusing God of condoning the most heinous immoralities. They insist that the God of the Bible, especially of the Old Testament, was a murderous villain guilty of far worse than His human subjects. Richard Dawkins accused God of being a “misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” (2006, p. 31).
One attempt that has been made to bolster these unfounded accusations is to suggest that in the Old Testament God condoned rape. Dan Barker commented: “If God told you to rape someone, would you do it? Some Christians, ignorant of biblical injunctions to rape, might answer, ‘God would never ask me to do that’” (Barker, 1992, p. 331, emp. added). If the honest truth seeker were to ask to see the “biblical injunctions to rape,” he would be struck by the fact that no such injunctions exist.
The passage that is most often used to “prove” that God condones rape is Numbers 31:25-40. In this passage, the young women who were taken captive after Moses destroyed the Midianites were divided between the Israelites and the priests. The priests were given responsibility for 32 of the women. Skeptics often suggest that these women were supplied so that the priests could abuse them sexually and rape them. But nothing could be further from the truth. The skeptic errs greatly in this regard either due to his ignorance of God’s instructions or willful dishonesty.
In Deuteronomy 21:10-14, Moses specifically stated what was to be done with female captives:
When you go out to war...and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and desire her and would take her for your wife, then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails. She shall put off the clothes of her captivity, remain in your house, and mourn her father and her mother a full month; after that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife (emp. added).
It is important to understand that God has never condoned any type of sexual activity outside of a lawful marriage. The only way that an Israelite would be morally justified in having sexual intercourse with a female captive was if he made her his wife, granting to her the rights and privileges due to a wife. Notice that the Israelite male could not “go in to her” (a euphemism for sexual intercourse) until she had observed a period of mourning and cleansing, and he could only “go in to her” with the intent of being her husband.
When the skeptics’ allegations about God condoning rape are demolished by the very clear instructions in Deuteronomy 21, the attack is usually shifted, and God is accused of being unjust for allowing war prisoners or slavery of any kind, regardless of whether or not rape was permitted. While these allegations about slavery have been dealt with decisively in other places (Butt, 2005a), it is important not to lose sight of the fact that shifting the argument to slavery is a red herring to draw attention away from the original accusation that God condoned rape.
For the skeptic to imply that God condoned rape, using Numbers 31, without mentioning Moses’ instructions in Deuteronomy 21, is unconscionable. It is simply another instance of dishonest propaganda designed to discredit God and the Bible. The irony of the skeptics’ position is that if atheism is true, the skeptic has no grounds upon which to claim that rape is morally wrong (Butt, 2005b). In fact, in my debate with Dan Barker, Barker admitted that fact, and stated that under certain circumstances, rape would be a moral obligation (Butt and Barker, 2009).
In reality, God’s ways and actions have always been fair, equitable, and just. But the errant thinking and self-contradiction of the skeptical worldview continues to show itself to be unjust in its criticism of God, and immoral in its practical application.
Barker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI: Freedom From Religion Foundation).
Butt, Kyle (2005a), “Defending the Bible’s Position on Slavery,” [On-line], URL:http://apologeticspress.org/articles/368.
Butt, Kyle (2005b), “Rape and Evolution,” [On-line], URL: http://apologeticspress.org/articles/306.
Butt, Kyle and Dan Barker (2009), The Butt/Barker Debate: Does the God of the Bible Exist?(Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Dawkins, Richard (2006), The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin).
God Cannot Lie
|by||Caleb Colley, Ph.D.|
Can God be limited? Many Bible passages proclaim that God is all-powerful, all-seeing, and all-knowing. While God is unlimited by time, space, or force, His very character has determined that He will never do some things, because to do them would be inconsistent with His principles—viz., God’s nature prevents Him from such things. For example, God cannot lie. Observe what the Bible has to say about God’s honesty and, therefore, His reliability.
Numbers 23:19: “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”1 Samuel 15:29: “And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.”Psalm 92:15: “To declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”Malachi 3:6: “For I am the Lord, I do not change.”Romans 3:4: “Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar.”Titus 1:2: “[I]n hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.”Hebrews 6:18: “[I]t is impossible for God to lie.”James 1:17-18: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”
God is the only being Who is incapable of lying. Everything that God said would happen before now, has happened—just as He said it would. Since God knows all things past, present, and future (and since He is completely honest), it is impossible for Him to speak untruths (see Colley, 2004). One striking characteristic of the Bible is that it contains a large collection of statements attributed to God. Some of these statements are predictions of future occurrences, some are warnings, some are instructions, some are revelations concerning the Divine character, and some are statements of simple fact. One common thread runs through all of God’s recorded statements: they are all true. God has never “gone back” on a promise. God has never lied—He has never even made an “honest mistake.” God, in revealing His message to humans, has not held back truths that we need (2 Peter 1:3). Likewise, Jesus was completely honest, even when telling a hard truth meant putting Himself in danger (Matthew 23:28-33; 1 John 3:5).
God is not tempted to lie. No one can catch Him in a compromising position, or give Him an opportunity to make Himself appear more impressive by making up false accomplishments or attributes. He is perfect in every way, so even if His character did permit Him to lie, the potential for personal gain, which serves as many people’s motivation to lie, would not affect Him.
Paul, who stated so boldly in his letter to Titus that God cannot lie, wrote to Titus while he worked among the Cretans, who were known for their dishonesty. Furthermore, Cretans were accustomed to a pantheon, which included various gods, all with different personalities, so when Paul emphasized that God does not lie, he not only was giving Titus a practical teaching tool, but also was showing that Christianity is distinct from the polytheism that surrounded the church of Christ at Crete (see “God Cannot Lie,” 1996; “Why Crete?,” n.d.). People are more likely to serve a God upon Whom they can unquestionably depend. In fact, take away God’s trustworthiness, and He is no longer God. Philosopher René Descartes, in his fourth meditation, wrote:
To begin with, I recognize that it is impossible that God should ever deceive me. For in every case of trickery or deception some imperfection is to be found; and although the ability to deceive appears to be an indication of cleverness or power, the will to deceive is undoubtedly evidence of malice or weakness, and so cannot apply to God (1984, p. 37).
Humans often lie. God made humans in His image and likeness, but, unlike God, humans commit sin (see Lyons and Thompson, 2002a,b). On occasion, we say things that are false, not because we intend to lie, but because we lack accurate information. Sometimes, while we know the truth, we choose to relay false information to others. Often, we are not comfortable with frankly telling people what they need to know. The words of humans are frequently so undependable that we sometimes use lie detectors in attempts to determine who is telling the truth, and who is not. Apparently, some humans are so “good” at lying, that even the polygraph test has now been proven ineffective in detecting lies (Vergano, 2004).
The devil is the father of lies. Jesus said: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). The dishonesty of Satan is one of the features that makes him the complete opposite of God; God speaks the truth exclusively, while Satan speaks only lies. The angels who, at one time, chose to follow Satan, are partakers in his deceit (see Thompson, 1999). Satan does not tell lies because he wants humans to avoid the pain that truth often brings. Rather, he lies because he hopes that humans will believe falsehoods and, eventually, be damned because they reject the truth of God (1 Peter 5:8). The fact that the devil keeps “no truth in him” is one of the reasons why heaven and hell are so far separated (Matthew 25:41; Luke 16:26). God cannot associate with the impurity that dishonesty brings.
How should we respond to the truthfulness of God? We should be grateful because we serve a God Who will not go back on His word. God’s honesty means that He will fulfill His promise of eternal life for those who serve Him. Imagine a scenario in which you approach His throne on Judgment Day, having fulfilled the requirements for appropriating the redeeming blood of Christ to your soul, only to find that God has changed the rules! You no longer would be able to enter heaven, because God had not been honest with you. We should be grateful because God is not required to be forthright with us, anymore than He is required to love us enough to offer His Son as a sacrifice for sin. Nonetheless, He is all-merciful, all-caring, and fortunately, completely honest. We are assured that every word of God is a “sure word” (2 Peter 1:19), because we know God has a detailed history of making His word good.
As we strive to be godly, we must be honest with ourselves, and with others (Luke 8:15; Romans 12:17). If we practice deceit, no one will believe we are truly followers of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 8:21, we read: “Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (KJV). Following this precept will earn us “high esteem” in the eyes of God and men (Proverbs 3:4).
Colley, Caleb (2004), “The Omniscience of God,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2562.
Descartes, René (1984), The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, trans. John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, and Dugald Murdoch (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press).
“God Cannot Lie” (1996), [On-line], URL: http://www.ivmdl.org/wil.cfm?study=117.
Lyons, Eric, and Bert Thompson (2002a), “In the ‘Image and Likeness of God’ [Part I],” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/123.
Lyons, Eric, and Bert Thompson (2002b), “In the ‘Image and Likeness of God’ [Part II],” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/125.
Thompson, Bert (1999), Satan: His Origin and Mission (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Vergano, Dan (2004), “Telling the Truth About Lie Detectors, [On-line], URL: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2002-09-09-lie_x.htm.
“Why Crete?” (no date), World Health Organization, [On-line], URL: http://www.nsph.gr/who-harvard/whyCrete.html.