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Rob Elphick
child of God / husband / father / Canberra, AU
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Paul draws attention to concepts that will be important in the letter: e.g. one's identity as a servant of God
Titus 1:1-4
One thing, two things: forgetting what's behind, and straining for what is ahead, for the full and final experience of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-4:1
Paul disciplined himself to treasure the gospel that he would share in it. The exodus fathers provided examples of turning from God.
1 Corinthians 9:23-27
We now look to Him who has made us whole, and become more like Him. We are invited into the wholeness of which David speaks.
Psalms 15:1-5
Love is shown through diligence in managing your own affairs.
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
Do not be distressed. You will be with Jesus. You know him, and so you know the way to the Father, and you know the Father.
John 14:1-7
David's hope is based on God's commitment to His own name.
Psalms 25:1-22
The Father and the Son ... at work to bring healing, life, and fellowship.
John 5:1-47
Let us go on to maturity, knowing that God's purposes, for his children's good, are secured in Jesus.
Hebrews 5:11-6:3
We have the opportunity to provide our brothers and sisters with a service of eternal value. We do so by reflecting the heart of God.
James 5:19-20
Beware of placing your confidence in wealth. Beware of abusing others in pursuing wealth. If you're in this boat, weep.
James 5:1-6
God alone is the lawgiver and assessor, and he alone can save and destroy. I am in no position to cast a verdict on my brother, so don't.
James 4:11-12
In the midst of my waywardness, God's grace abounds. It is a grace that calls for active, sincere submission, and single-minded devotion.
James 4:1-10
The prayer of the downcast: for God's light and truth to lead him back into communion with God. Meanwhile, he has resolved to hope in God.
Psalms 42-43
The gospel is worth our focus. Exalt in the excellent; avoid the worthless. Be fair and decisive with those who stir for division.
Titus 3:9-11
Through God's mercy in Christ, Christians are heirs of eternal life, and in need of reminding about how this should affect their behaviour.
Titus 3:1-8
Spiritual maturity means appreciating and chosing what is truly good.
Hebrews 5:11-14
Hold Christ the King as first place in your heart. Hold him as your hope, and when people want to know more, be ready to gently explain.
1 Peter 3:13-16
What does a well-ordered life look like? It is devoted to the Lord, undistracted ... and knows time is short.
1 Corinthians 7:26-35
How can we be free from anxieties? Be anxious about one thing - how to please the Lord.
1 Corinthians 7:26-35
The time remaining is short so live as though undistracted, including in relation to marriage.
1 Corinthians 7:26-31
Look at Jesus. In Him, we are brothers and sisters with God's people of old.
Hebrews 3:1-6
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Christians should speak differently
James 3:5-12
Let our tongues yield the fruit of God's mighty redeeming work. It makes no sense for corrupt words to flow out of a renewed heart.
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Published May 17th, 2016; Updated May 17th, 2016
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James 3:5-12
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!
A massive forest is set to burn by a tiny fire!
And i the tongue is a fire,
And the tongue is such a destructive fire
a world of unrighteousness.
that is, it embodies wickedness.
The tongue is set among our members,
That is , the tongue is a part of our body
j staining the whole body,
with the result that it marks the whole body
setting on fire the entire course of life, 1
so that it sends us on a path to destruction
and set on fire by hell. 2
with the result that it is set on fire by hell.
For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind ,
Because, all kinds of wild animals and birds and reptiles and sea-life can and have been tamed by mankind,
but no human being can tame the tongue.
but no person can subdue the tongue.
It is a restless evil,
Explaining ... it is a restless evil
k full of deadly poison.
that is , it is full of deadly poison.
With it we bless our Lord and Father,
Furthermore , we (in the Church) bless our Master and Father with it,
and with it we curse people l who are made in the likeness of God.
and with it we (in the Church) also curse people made in God's image.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.
that is, from the same mouth come blessing and cursing.
My brothers , 1 these things ought not to be so.
However my brothers and sisters - these things ought not to be this way!
Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?
because a single source produces a single product.
Can a fig tree, my brothers , bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs?
and, that product is of the same kind as the source.
Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
Likewise , a corrupt heart can't produce clean words.
Similar to language in 5a.
There are many gifted speakers (actors, comedians, politicians, businessmen) who seem to be on a path to a successful life because of their tongue. Consider this. Perhaps they are not successful from God's perspective.
Man can't make the tongue willingly and consistently obedient.
I'm not sure I've understood this, as I am thinking it should be the other way around. That is, these things ought not to be this way because a fresh spring doesn't yield salty water. But I know the problem will be with my understanding rather than with the text.
The tongue has a destructive power that can not be tamed by man. Without God's intervention, our tongues will send us to hell. But even where God appears to have graciously (and powerfully) intervened, we still encounter words that are out of place - words of corruption in its various guises - words that simply don't belong. They don't belong because God's redeeming work is not a cosmetic make-over; it is a radical and mighty heart transplant. The old has gone and the new has come ( 2 Cor 5:17 ). And so the continuing presence of corrupt speech is as incongruous as a grape vine growing figs. As James says, "These things ought not to be so" . Let the Christian then, with the new heart, and the tongue that God has tamed, bid corruption and cursing farewell, and control his tongue (that God has tamed) for good. A note on how James deals with this issue . James does not sit as a judge and say, "get your act together and start speaking nicely to one another". Instead, he points out that some of the words that are heard around the brothers and sisters are inconsistent with the Spiritual life that comes with God's redeeming work. He is not, at least in the first instance, asking them to reform their words. Rather, he is asking them to reflect on the transformed heart (the clean spring of water) that God has put in them. Only God (through the redemptive work of Christ) can bring this change to a person's heart. And when he has done this for a person, their words should reflect accordingly. Question (I have not figured this out): What is James meaning in 12b and how does it relate to 10b? In my mind, 12b should be the other way around i.e. it should say "neither does a fresh spring yield salty water". And the relationship with 10b would be " These things ought not to be this way because a fresh spring doesn't yield salty water". But instead, James says (12b) "Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water".
I think 10b refers to what precedes, i.e. Speaking both blessing and cursing out of the same mouth (10a).  Vs. 11-12 then offer 3 illustrations of how something of one kind doesn't produce something of another kind.  The function of 12b, then, is simply to illustrate how one kind (salt pond) can't produce another kind (fresh water).  I don't think he's pressing the illustrations to say salt is good and fresh is bad anymore than he's saying figs are good and olives are bad, or grapes are good and figs are bad.
Rob Elphick
Thank you for this very clear and helpful feedback. Much appreciated.
Anna Quarum
I love that there are other Bible geeks out there like me!!  :)  It seems to me that James is not trying to teach us that the fire of our tongue will send us to hell but rather the fire of our tongue is evidence of the hell in us that needs to be eradicated through the sanctification process.  We literally need to "get the hell out".  2:26 makes the point that the body without the spirit is dead.  One who has faith without works is dead. Our tongue, meaning our speech is the ambassador of our heart.  Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Lk 6:56)  In 12b James says a salt pond cannot yield fresh water because a salt pond is a metaphor for death.  There are no living creatures in the Dead Sea.  Paul agrees in Rom 6:12 when he says do not let sin reign in your mortal body. He means, don't let death or the "hell" in us reign. Rather walk away from the dominion of sin and death and walk with Spirit of God who has raised us to life with Jesus.  Like it or not, our spoken words and deeds are the proof of the condition of our heart.  When we speak ill of others human beings, christian or not, we are demonic and "hellish", the complete opposite character of the Father (3:15).  Nothing life giving or refreshing comes from demonic speech.  In the same way nothing life giving comes from a salt pond.
Andy Hubert
A note on how James deals with this issue.
This is an important note! I write my comment here simply to draw attention to it for those who have not read this section of your notes yet.
Jeannie Koh
Thank you everyone for drawing attention to this page and the comments.  I think it was DA Carson who commented that of all the complaints in the psalms, the one over the tongue, people's mouths and what is said, is the most frequent. How fearsome are our tongues. It made me stop to think how is James exhorting us to change and how he is not.  I found myself led to look through the entire letter, and look at heart, and faith, trust, belief and the outflow of a changed believing heart in our behaviour/works. James 1:18 stood out to me, "Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth. . . ."  Very edifying to me.  Thanks be to God for this biblearc site. God bless all of you who work so hard here.
Andy Hubert
the continuing presence of corrupt speech is as incongruous as a grape vine growing figs
This is a wonderful and powerful way of echoing James. Much appreciated Rob.
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.