Bible Study: James 3

James 3 outline notes used for Matt Slick’s Bible Study. The chapter deals with the power of the tongue.

James Introduction
James 1
James 2

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


διδάσκαλος didáskalos, the word occurs 59 times in the New Testament and it always is rendered as teacher or teachers. We get the word didactics, which means a systematic form of instruction. By contrast, μαθητής mathētḗs, means disciple, pupil.
The responsibility of being a teacher is great because a Christian teacher is, ultimately, representing God. Since God always speaks the truth, to misrepresent God would to imply that He is not telling the truth.
In the previous teachings of James, faith without works is dead. Christian teachers must have works that are consistent with what they teach.

Stricter judgment

μέγας κρίμα, mégas kríma, greater judgment.
James includes himself.
If teachers abuse the office that they will have greater condemnation.

There are many so-called Christian teachers in the world today who teach false doctrines.

Kenneth Copeland

Heaven is a planet, “Heaven has a north and a south and an east and a west. Consequently, it must be a planet.” (Kenneth Copeland, “Spirit, Soul and Body I” [Fort Worth, TX: Kenneth Copeland Ministries, 1985] audiotape #01-0601, side 1.)

Paul Crouch

“I am a little god!… I have His name. I’m one with Him. I’m in covenant relation. I am a little god! Critics, be gone!” (Paul Crouch, “Praise the Lord” program on TBN [7 July 1986].)

Kenneth Hagin

Every believer is an incarnation, “You are as much the incarnation of God as Jesus Christ was… the believer is as much an incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth.” (Kenneth Hagin, Word Of Faith, December 1980, pg 14)

Benny Hinn

“God came to earth and touched a piece of dust and turned it into a God. …Are you a child of God? Then you’re divine! Are you a child of God? Then you’re not human!” (Benny Hinn, TBN, Dec 1, 1990).

Joyce Meyer

“He became our sacrifice and died on the cross. He did not stay dead. He was in the grave three days. During that time, he entered hell, where you and I deserve to go (legally) because of our sin. He paid the price there.” (The most important decision you’ll ever make, by Joyce Meyer, second printing, May 1993, page 35)

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.

We all stumble

Without exception we all fail.
Notice that James includes himself.

In what he says

because we don’t know all things, we speak opinions. Sometimes we speak out of anger selfishness. Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). Therefore, we could say that we are at the whims of our most dominant emotions.
Our words can injure others. Gossip can destroy people’s reputations as well as our own.

Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well.
Look at 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.
So also, the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!

James illustrates how small things can control large things. In other words, something small can have a huge influence the way a bit controls a horse, a rudder controls ship, and a how a small fire and set a forest ablaze.
So too with the tongue is small, but powerful. Of course, James is not talking about the muscle, but about the words that come out of our mouths.
The word ‘tongue’ is γλῶσσα glṓssa. The word glossolalia is the apparent phenomenon of speaking in unknown languages.

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


With the tongue we can praise, heal, encourage, and instruct.
With the tongue we can ridicule, injure, discourage, and mislead.
The same instrument which reflects the condition of our hearts can be used for good and bad.
With the tongue we can lead share truth with people and, lead them to Christ


Trivia – fire is πύρ púr. Pyrotecnics
Fire starts out small but it spreads and destroys. It changes things. So to the tongue can behave like a fire and that the words produced change people either for the better of the worse.


“As it spreads, fire destroys; and the words we speak have the power to destroy. For every word in Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, 125 lives were lost in World War II.” (Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996.)

For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race.
But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.

By contrast, every species is tamed
But the tongue is not tamable.
This is because of the wickedness of our hearts.

Psalm 34:13, “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.”
Psalm 39:1, “I said, ‘I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle while the wicked are in my presence.’”
Proverbs 11:13, “He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.”

Words can seriously hurt people. We’ve all said things that we wish we could take back.

With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it, we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;

Bless our Lord and Father

To bless is to speak well of someone.
We speak well of God, our Lord and Father.
Do we with the same tongue, curse our brothers?
Evidence of being truly Christian is to bless our enemies.

Matthew 5:44–45, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
James 2:8, “If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well.”

Made in the likeness of God

Imagio Dei – The image of God. Due to the communicable and incommunicable attributes of God.
Communicable attributes – goodness, hate, justice, knowledge, love, rationality, mercy, speech, truthfulness, wisdom
Incommunicable attributes – Holiness, immutability, omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, non-contingency

from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.

This is an enormous statement of truth that we often don’t take seriously.
A curse is a judgment that can be good or bad.
The only curses we should utter are those that God has pronounced.

God cursed the Serpent – The first curse was Genesis 3:14, “The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life;”
God cursed Eve with childbirth pain – Genesis 3:16, “To the woman He said, ‘I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth. In pain you will bring forth children, yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.’”

Curses: Other references

Exodus 21:17, “He who curses his father, or his mother shall surely be put to death.”
Proverbs 3:33, “The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, But He blesses the dwelling of the righteous.”
Matthew 26:74, “Then he began to curse and swear, ‘I do not know the man!’ And immediately, a rooster crowed.”
Romans 12:14, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”

Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?
Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.

We Christians ought not to be hypocritical by both blessings and cursing with our words.
Let our words be fresh water.
After all, we should be either one or the other – that which produces blessings or curses. But, for the Christian, of course, we are to
speak blessing.

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.

The tongue is a manifestation of the heart.
What is in you comes out in your words and actions.
We speak to encourage or tare down.
We house our words with a cold shoulder, a condemning look, or a mocking tone.
Therefore, our good deeds can only be good if our hearts are right with God. If we do something for our own glory or out of resentment, that is not good.
Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.


ζῆλος, zḗlos, zealous envy.


The heart is hidden to those around us. But, it becomes evident in our words, attitudes, and deeds.


The truth of the gospel and what we as Christians stand for in relation to the gospel.
If we show jealousy, selfish ambition, arrogance, pride, and other heart-based sins, then we betray the truth of our profession.

This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.

Wisdom, σοφία, sophía

1 Corinthians 1:21, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”
The wisdom of the world is foolishness before God (1 Cor. 3:19).

Demonic wisdom, evil thing

Just as James spoke about two kinds of faith, ascentia (mere intellectual awareness) and fiducia (heartfelt trust), so too he speaks of two kinds of wisdom: the wisdom from above and the wisdom from below.
Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

True wisdom comes from God because God knows all things (omniscience) also has omnisapience – all wisdom.
Wisdom is the proper use of knowledge in harmony with the will and character of God.
Because true wisdom comes from God, that it is associated with being peaceable, gentle, reasonable, merciful, very good fruit, unwavering, and without hypocrisy.

And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

“Seed whose fruit” is one word in Greek – καρπός karpós

Galatians 5:22–23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
The seed of wisdom is the fruit of righteousness.
True wisdom brings peace.


We can judge our homes, our friendships, our work, to a large degree by how much peace we present.
Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
1 Thessalonians 5:23, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”


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