James 3:1-3 - The Test of the Tongue
The tongue is one of the indicators of what is in the heart. See Luke 6:43-45, Mark 7:14-23, and Matt. 15:11-20. Consider Isaiah 6:1-7 where we see Isaiah’s response as he is exposed to the holiness of God. Isaiah uses the “tongue” as a measuring gauge for his sinful condition.
James, in chapter 3, elaborates further on what he has said before: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26).
- James 3:1–“Not many of you should become teachers”— Is James discouraging believers from teaching? The answer must be “No,” especially in light of Heb. 5:12 and the Great Commission. James’ point may be better understood in view of Matt. 23. His point is that we ought to be careful and cautious in handling God’s Word. See 2 Timothy 2:15 and Rev 22:18-19. God’s Word should be taught accurately. Therefore, James reminds the believers to not be too quick to teach.
- James 3:2– “We all stumble in many ways”— To “stumble” is to err or to sin.” Note how James includes himself: that is, “WE” all stumble, and that we do so in “MANY ways.”
- James 3:3– “And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body”— Although the word “perfect” is used to mean “spiritually mature,” James is here using it to mean “sinless.” The mouth speaks “out of the abundance of the heart” (Lk. 6:45). And man’s heart is “desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). Scripture clearly teaches that only Jesus, the Son of Man, was sinless. Only Jesus did not stumble in what he said. As the sinless Son of Man, he was the only acceptable sacrifice that could atone for our sins. He died, making complete payment for sin; and, as the Son of God, He arose from the grave and forever lives!
A charge to believers: “Teach and impart the Truth of the Gospel with courage, clarity, and conviction, being fully aware of the consequence if we mishandle the Word of God. Grow up in Him to be fully mature.”
A charge to those who are still trusting in good works: There is only one sinless Man, the Son of God, who alone can reconcile a sinful man to a holy God. Come to Jesus!