Lesson 11 - Chapter 3:1-6

Lesson 11 - Chapter 3:1-6

Lesson for March 16, 2014

The Book of James

Chapter 3:1-6

Verse 1

“Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.”

In Greek this says, “My brethren, definitely stop becoming many teachers.” The Greek noun for teachers is “didaskalos” and is one of the titles for the pastor of a local church. The word means to communicate to a group with authority. The pastor of a local church is a “didaskalos” and each local church has only one. When it says “stop becoming many teachers” this is in reference to those who attempt to usurp the authority of the pastor of the local church. The pastor is the teacher. Today this concept is under attack by the practice of the “plurality of elders” (pastors). It must be understood that the local church is the classroom for Christianity in this dispensation and the pastor is the ultimate spiritual authority which is established through the teaching of accurate Bible doctrine. This does not negate the spiritual gift of teaching, which is a different spiritual gift than pastor-teacher.

Anyone trying to teach something contrary to or being critical of the pastor’s messages sets himself up as a teacher and as one with greater authority in the field of Bible doctrine. In this way a believer being critical or trying to tell the pastor what to teach and how to teach manifests lack of maturity. This lack of maturity begins the process of negative volition toward doctrine. There is another problem in connection with rejection of authority. A believer in reversionism can reject the teaching and authority of their pastor and set up himself as the biblical authority. He learns just enough doctrine to stimulate his self-righteous arrogance without the recognition of grace orientation.

However, when you attempt to take on the authority of a pastor-teacher you are setting yourself up to receive the same discipline of a pastor-teacher who teaches false doctrine, which is double. So when you seek to usurp the authority of the pastor-teacher you demonstrate reversionism, immaturity, and all of the accompanying misery of life. Incur a stricter judgment indicates double in this case. Not only does usurping the authority of the pastor-teacher double your discipline from God but at the same time it manifests your immaturity and instability.

Several possible ways to fulfill this verse and enter into double discipline:

  1. Set yourself up as an expert over your pastor. Comment to your friends about how wrong he is about this point and that point.
  2. Be critical about the general content of the pastor’s message. Make sure to tell others that he is mixed up about this subject or that.
  3. Set yourself up as the final authority on what the pastor ought to teach.
  4. Teach false doctrine within the congregation among your friends. In this way you can undermine the message and authority of the pastor and guarantee yourself double discipline.
  5. Criticize the manner of delivery or speaking of your pastor.
  6. In accepting your own authority and rejecting the pastor’s, make it a point to get the word around that you are not going to go back to church until the pastor straightens up.
  7. Become an advocate of the false doctrine of the plurality of elders. Make sure that you get the word out that you are an elder and that you carry the same weight as the pastor. In this way, again, you can guarantee yourself double discipline.

Verse 2

“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.”

The Greek word for stumble is “ptaio,” which means to fall or to sin. The principle recognizes the fact that all believers still sin after salvation. “We all” is referring to all believers regardless of spiritual status. The point is that after salvation your sin nature is not eradicated. However the mature believer will avoid some sins because of spiritual growth. A mature believer should avoid the sins of the tongue. The sins of the tongue are a demonstration of wide emotional swings in the soul and the more the tongue is loose with the sins the more a person will demonstrate their instability.

A perfect man refers to a believer who is spiritually mature. This does not mean that a mature believer never commits a sin of the tongue, but it is spiritual growth that can keep a believer from committing this particular sin. The Greek word for able is “dunatos,” referring to inherent power. The inherent power comes from the edification complex under the filling of the Holy Spirit. The edification complex acts as a stabilizer in the soul as well as reflecting the glory of Jesus Christ. As a stabilizer of the soul it stabilizes the tongue, which is the meaning of the word bridle. The Greek word for bridle is “chalinagogeo.” This is a compound word – “chalinos”is a bridle and “agoeo” meaning to guide or to lead. To bridle the whole body here really means to control the whole body.

Verse 3

‘Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they may obey us, we direct their whole body as well.”

Now we have some illustrations designed to help us understand the principle of how the tongue controls the entire body. First we have the illustration of the horse. Bits are bridles which control the horse. The horse is a very powerful animal and yet he has a very vulnerable spot by which he can be controlled, the mouth. With the bit in the mouth all of this phenomenal strength is actually under control.

Obey is the Greek word “metago” meaning to change their direction at our will. The principle is that here is a big strong animal, having a mind of his own, and yet he can be very easily controlled. The analogy here is twofold; first analogy is that just as the bridle controls the entire body of the horse, so doctrine (perfect man) controls the entire body of the believer. Doctrine controls the body of the believer just like the bridle controls the body of a horse. The second analogy is that the horse has more strength in his neck than man has in his entire body, and yet by using a bridle man is able to control the strength of the horse. The body of the horse with all of his great strength will follow based on where the bit makes contact. The believer, like the horse, follows his mouth. What the tongue of the believer says reveals the content of his soul; it indicates what he really is.

Verse 4

“Behold, 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.”

The ship is an object of great size which has a cargo and a purpose just as the horse is a large animal having strength and speed. The horse is used for transportation on the land and the ship for transportation on the sea. Both were considered to be the best systems of transportation in the ancient world and yet both were controlled by a very small thing. The power of the believer is useless without doctrine (rudder). The cargo and the purpose of the ship are useless without the rudder. The rudder is comparatively small with regard to the size of the ship.

The rudder controls the direction of a sailing ship. The winds exert a powerful influence in propelling the ship but it is the rudder that actually controls the direction. In the analogy of this illustration we have the ship representing the body. The winds are the influences of Satan’s world system. The rudder is analogous to the tongue and the pilot to the soul. So the rudder handles the direction, the soul expresses the direction. The body may be strong and controlled by great muscles but what controls the body? The answer is the soul. The rudder controls the direction of a ship just as the soul controls the direction of the individual. Bible doctrine in the soul controls the direction of the believer.

The rudder is analogous to the tongue of the believer. The pilot represents the believer’s soul. The ship is the body of the believer. The winds that propel the ship are a picture of the influences of Satan’s world system. The mature believer controls the tongue through doctrine in the soul and the function of the edification complex.

Verse 5

“So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!”

The tongue is small; the body is large. The tongue can be a source of great blessing or it can be a source of great destruction. It all depends on what you have in your soul; for what you have in your soul is going to be manifested through the tongue.

The Greek word for boasts is “auche” which means a braggart, a noisy braggart or a person who is bragging to impress someone. The Greek word for “great things” is “megala,” which means to boast so as to cause a lot of trouble. The tongue is a small part of the body but keeps on boasting great things, stirring up great trouble is the concept.

Now we go to the third illustration. Behold is used to call attention to something very important. It can be translated “see” or “look now.” Up to this point we have two illustrations. First of all, in verse three we had illustration of horses. In verse four we had an illustration of ships. Now we have an illustration of fire.

The last sentence in this verse literally says, “See how such a small fire burns up such a large forest.” In other words, the sins of the tongue can burn up and destroy a congregation. The sins of the tongue can destroy personal love and impersonal love. The sins of the tongue can ruin any family, any organization, any business or any society or fraternity, or any group of any kind.

Verse 6

And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set against 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.”

And the tongue is a fire explains the previous verse. The tongue is small. Just like a little fire can burn down a whole forest, the tongue is a small object which controls and determines the course of large objects, like the bit in a horse’s mouth, like the rudder in the helm of a ship, like a little flame in a large forest. The tongue is a small object which controls and determines the course of large objects. For example, the tongue under the edification complex is a wonderful thing; the same tongue under the conditions of reversionism is a monster of destruction.

The world of iniquity means injustice, deceitfulness, wrongdoing, wickedness. We could translate this “the cosmos of wickedness.” “The tongue is a fire, the cosmos of the wickedness.” The believer in reversionism uses his tongue to practice evil. The believer in maturity uses his tongue to express the wonderful glories of the edification complex. So we have the principle, the tongue when the believer is in reversionism is a fire. It is a monster because the tongue is used to express evil such as slander, maligning, gossiping, and judging. There is also behind it mental attitude sins: jealousy, vindictiveness, implacability, bitterness, hatred, etc.

In this passage the tongue is linked to the mentality of the soul. The tongue is that little member which expresses the content of the soul. If the soul is filled with mental attitude sins then the tongue expresses these things and contaminates not only the speaker but other people as well. The human body is like a horse or a ship, large but controlled by a small object. The tongue is a small member of the body but it controls the entire body as a link with the soul. The tongue can be like a small flame, expressing evil of the soul and igniting the entire body.

The word hell is actually “gehenna.” Gehenna refers to the Valley of Hinnom which was south of Jerusalem. This is where the Jews dumped their garbage and burned it. Being a garbage dump for several centuries means that there was always a fire in this Valley of Hinnom. Therefore the name, the Valley of Hinnom, became a popular word for hell in the Jewish language. (Matthew 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33) Gehenna is equivalent to the Lake of Fire in Revelation 19:20; 20:10.

The Lake of Fire or Gehenna (hell) is not a place of annihilation since both the beast and the false prophet are going to live there for a thousand years without being annihilated. Comparing this phrase “set on fire by hell” with Matthew 25:41 it is concluded that the evil of the tongue has its source from Satan himself. This is further strengthened in our context by the use of cosmos (world system). Satan is the ruler of the cosmos[world system]. (Luke 4:5-7; John 12:31; 13:30; 16:11)