Faithlife Sermons

Slandering Saints

Pursuit of Heavenly Wisdom  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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This sermon attempts to differentiate between discernment and the harsh, critical, and condemnatory spirit dealt with by James in James 4.11-12.

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Introduction

Moses’ sister Miriam spoke evil of him (). The children of Israel spoke evil of Moses and of the LORD (). Speaking evil of another is referred to as backbiting in the NT (see ; ). Peter tells believers to lay aside all evil speaking (). Our text this morning refers to the topic of speaking evil of another three times in one verse.
Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” (, NKJV)
Speaking evil of another is to do great damage to that person’s reputation. It is to misrepresent them in order to hurt them. We commonly call this slander. It’s not the same as merely speaking against the position of a person; instead we speak evil against the person. We seek to tear down the person in the eyes of others.
It’s not always sinful to speak against a person. It is sinful to speak evil against a person. For instance, many people have criticized the president this week by speaking against him and his positions. Not all speech against the president is wrong. If he does something wrong or says something wrong, we are able to criticize him without being slanderous. We may do the same by speaking against other believers who are proponents of some false teaching.
Slander is spreading false information about another person for the purpose of damaging his or her character and reputation. This is what James is warning us about. There are two very important and sobering realizations that ought to keep us from committing this sin as believers: 1) When we slander another, we place ourselves above the Law; 2) When we slander another, we place ourselves above the Lawgiver. First...

Slandering saints place themselves above the Law (James 4.11).

Verse 11 begins: “Do not speak evil of one another (do not slander one another), brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother (slanders a brother) and judges (condemns) his brother speaks evil of the law and judges (condemns) the law.”
When we slander and condemn one another, we slander and condemn the Law. We place ourselves above that Law. The Law James refers to is clearly stated in : It is the Royal Law. Jesus referred to as the Second Great Commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This first appears in the Law of Moses in .
We judge a brother in the sense of condemning him. We judge him to be guilty and condemned. We thus prove that our hearts are far from the the Law of Christ. We should be unified, but that unity is undermined by our bitter slander. We should beware of such slander. The LORD will scorn the scornful, but give grace to the humble ().
We must see our slander as speaking evil not only against another person (our neighbor), but also as speaking evil against the Law of Christ. That evil we speak is motivated by hate. John writes...
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” (, NKJV)
James ends verse 11 with a conditional sentence:
But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.” (, NKJV)
You are a judge in the sense that you condemn. You have passed sentence upon the Law of Christ and rendered it null and void in your life. That’s a dangerous place for you to be. When we become slandering saints and place ourselves above the Law of Christ, we condemn both another believer and the Royal Law of Christ as well. And no matter how we deceive ourselves, we are no longer loving others. We no longer abide in Christ; He no longer abides in us. We have condemned both another person and the Law of Christ. Slandering saints place themselves above the Law of Christ. But now notice our second point found in verse 12...

Slandering saints place themselves above the Lawgiver (James 4.12).

There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” (, NKJV)
There is only One who is able to save and destroy. So, who are we to step in, assume His position, and condemn one another? When we condemn someone, write them off as past hope, and malign their character behind with our slander, we put ourselves above the Lawgiver, the Lord Jesus Christ. We take a position of authority God alone deserves.
Jesus gave the Law, and He is the only One qualified to judge us because He fulfilled the Law. He gave it to us, and we are required to obey it. He alone is able to save and destroy. He alone rewards those who keep His Law, and He alone judges or condemns those who do not.
A harsh, critical, and condemnatory spirit continually finds fault with others. Cursing, slandering, and condemning one another is not wisdom from above. “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” (, NKJV)
When we are in the business of slander, we place ourselves above the Lord Jesus Christ. We claim to know better than Him how we ought to conduct ourselves. We deny humility before God in the condemnation we level upon another believer. We ought to get rid of the air of superiority we have as we condemn other believers. This attitude is filled with pride. It is not willing to yield, merciful, or sincere.
There is only One Royal Lawgiver and Judge. He will not condemn us; so, who are we to condemn one another? There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. These are His children who walk in step with His Spirit and not the flesh. Jesus Christ is able; we are not able. He is all-powerful. I will stand or fall before Christ alone, and His Word assures me that I will be made to stand, for God is able to make me stand.

Conclusion

Slandering saints place themselves above the Law and the Lawgiver. However, there is a vast difference between slandering others and using good judgment and discernment. It is not slander to criticize false teaching, to warn erring believers, or to discipline a person out of the local church.
Jesus spoke against slandering another in : “Judge not, that you be not judged.” There is a negative, critical spirit about which Jesus speaks in this passage. However, He is not prohibiting judgment in the sense of discernment. Otherwise, how would His admonition farther down the passage make sense?
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” (, NKJV)
If I am to obey the Lord Jesus, I must have discernment between what is false and what is true. If I fail to distinguish between harsh, critical condemnation and speaking against men who spread false doctrine, I will fail our church and my family. We must speak out against false teaching while remaining on-guard against the condemnatory spirit eroding unity in the local church. Paul put it this way:
Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.” (, NKJV)
“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (, NKJV)
Paul also reiterates what James is teaching in these two verses in :
Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” (, NKJV)
So, allow me to emphasize yet again the humble, wisdom which comes from above in :
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” (, NKJV)
We don’t want God to resist us. We want grace. We will have it if we are sincerely depending upon Him. Grace comes to those who resist the devil and not God. It comes to the poor in spirit who submit to God and draw near to Him. But we will never have that grace if we stop its flow with our slander against the Law of Christ or against Christ, the Lawgiver Himself. May God grant that we understand the difference between slander and discernment!
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