Share This Episode
Grace To You John MacArthur Logo

Taming the Tongue, Part 2 B

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
March 15, 2022 4:00 am

Taming the Tongue, Part 2 B

Grace To You / John MacArthur

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 1106 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

March 15, 2022 4:00 am

Click the icon below to listen.


James says, control your tongue, and that is the greatest sinning member of you. And if you control your tongue, you'll control all the rest because the spiritual dynamics that control your tongue will therefore control all the lesser spiritual battles with the various other parts of your humanness. Ever lost your temper and then apologized later by saying, I didn't mean what I said? Actually, what comes out of our mouths, even in anger, is a pretty clear indication of what's really going on in the heart.

The truth is, we did mean it, we just didn't mean for it to show. Today, John MacArthur considers the tongue's role in diagnosing your spiritual health, as John continues his practical study on grace to you, titled Taming the Tongue. So far, John has explored several reasons to control your tongue, among them, its potential to condemn, its power to control, and its ability to corrupt.

John will review a bit to set the context for today's lesson, so turn to James chapter 3, and here's John. James says, control your tongue, and that is the greatest sinning member of you, and if you control your tongue, you'll control all the rest because the spiritual dynamics that control your tongue will therefore control all the lesser spiritual battles with the various other parts of your humanness. So when you apply the means of grace to the discipline and sanctification of the tongue, it will cover all other areas, because the tongue is the leader in sinning. You sin with it more frequently than any other part of your body. You can sin with your tongue by simply saying something.

As I said last time, you can't do everything, but you can sure say anything. So you sin most easily with your tongue, so do I. We sin most readily with our tongue.

We sin most potently with our tongue. In verses 2 through 5, he was simply saying the tongue controls. He didn't say that was bad.

He didn't say that was good. He just said the tongue is a controlling member. And then notice verse 6 again. It says, the tongue is a fire, and then this, a world or a system, a cosmos of iniquity. It is a network that breeds evil. Secondly, notice how this begins to expand now. Secondly, the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body. It in itself is a system of evil, and then it defiles the whole body. It's like smoke from a fire stains everything that doesn't burn. And look at thirdly.

This is really incredible. It expands again. And it sets on fire the whole course of nature, says the Authorized. A better translation, it is setting present tense on fire the circle of life. What does that mean?

The thought is expanding. First is the system of wickedness. Second, it stains the whole person. Now it sets ablaze, and the Greek is the wheel of birth or the circle of life.

What does that mean? The whole machinery of your life. It not only stains you, but it touches everything you touch. It affects the whole machinery of your life. It goes beyond the body to touch every participant in the circle of your life. People know you by how you talk, right? They know you by how you talk, right?

They know you by how you talk. The tongue reaches beyond your mouth to stain your body. It reaches beyond your body to touch the whole network of people that are touched by you. Gossip, that repulsive thing, rumors, slander, false accusations, lies, evil speech, can stain and pollute and destroy a whole family, a whole group of people, a school, a church, a community. And then he speaks of a fourth factor in this, the most devastating statement on the danger of the tongue. He says finally at the end of verse 6, it is set on fire of or by hell. Present tense. It is habitually being lit, as it were, by hell.

Boy, what a vivid, vivid thought. The word here, hell, is gehenna. And that term, gehenna, needs to be explained. It is only used in all the New Testament, in the gospels, with this one exception. This is the only time it appears outside the gospel.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The Lord used it at least 10 times recorded, and He always used the word gehenna to refer to the eternal place of burning where damned souls will go. And you can read in Matthew and in Luke the times that He used it. It is the place where the fire never goes out, where the worm never dies, where the thirst is never quenched. It is that eternally burning place. And so, notice then, the tongue is a system of evil on its own, but it affects the whole person by spewing out its filth. And it sets its filthy stain and fire on the whole machinery of life, as far reaching as the network of the influence of a person. And the thing that starts it all, it is set on fire by hell itself. In other words, behind it all is Satan. That tongue that you have and that I have is a tool of Satan to pollute your whole person, to corrupt your whole circle of life, and it all comes right out of the pit of hell, and it all leads right back to the pit of hell.

Well, I mean, that's a pretty strong description, isn't it? What a description of the peril of the tongue to corrupt. So dangerous.

So dangerous. And no wonder James is so greatly concerned that we bring the tongue into control to the honor of God because of its tremendous potential. You remember Psalm 55 21, where David says, the words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart. His words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords. Sometimes the tongue is so subtle we think that it intends well when it intends evil.

It must be controlled. And every believer realizes that in his fallenness, in his flesh, in his humanness, there still remains the power of the tongue to devastate. Your tongue, dear friend, is not yet glorified. Won't it be wonderful to have a glorified tongue that does nothing but praise God and speak righteousness? So we must control the tongue because of its potential to condemn, its power to control, and its peril to corrupt.

Fourthly, will you notice verses 7 and 8? For every species of beast and of birds and of serpents and of things in the sea is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But the tongue can no man tame a restless evil full of deadly poison. Now what he's saying is the tongue is untamable.

It is primitive in that sense. It is uncivilized, undisciplined, humanly untamable. That's why it's so dangerous. And unregenerate tongues are all the more dangerous.

And the tongue cannot be tamed. And James says God gave man the power to control animals. Go back to Genesis chapter 1. And even after the fall, God reiterated to Noah that he'd be able to get all the animals in the ark.

When God said you're going to bring them in two by two, God gave Noah the ability to control those animals to make sure they got in there two by two. And today, man still dominates. Man still is able to tame animals. You've been to the circus and you've seen lions that are tamed. You've seen a guy stick his head in the mouth of a lion.

You've seen people ride killer whales. I mean, for the most part, man is able to tame the wild animals. Ferocious, large, strong, beasts, the fiercest of them, the deadliest of them.

I've even seen people, and you have too, with snakes crawling all over them, able to tame them. And so he says in verse 7, every kind, fusus, every species. And then he names two that walk and fly, and he names those that walk and fly, and then those that swim and crawl. Those that walk and fly are beasts and birds, and those that crawl and swim are snakes and things in the sea. Of course, the most noble animals are those that walk and fly, and the least noble are those that swim and crawl. Beasts, that word beasts, therian, is never used of of domesticated animals. But man can tame the wild animals, and he can tame the birds, and he can tame the reptiles, and he can tame the creatures of the sea.

We all know that. They're all tamed, present tense, continuously being subdued, and they have been all through man's history subdued. But no one can tame the tongue. No one among men can tame the tongue. No one is able to do it. Dunatai, no one has the power to do that.

Even in believers, the tongue breaks out of its cage, right? We can't control it. James doesn't say, mark this, doesn't say it can't be tamed. He says man can't tame it. There's a difference.

You get that? He doesn't say it can't be tamed. He says man can't tame it. Who can tame it?

God can, by His power. If the first recorded sin after the fall came from an untamed tongue, and it did, where Adam blamed God, then the first act of the new creation in the church was the taming of the tongue, because the first thing that happened after the Holy Spirit came was everybody received, as it were, cloven tongues of fire, and they all immediately spoke the wonderful works of God. The first sin was a sin of the tongue, and in the birth of the church, the purified tongue spoke the wonderful works of God. But here James says the seriousness of the seriousness of man's inability to control his wild savage tongue is because it is a restless evil. It's always ready to break out. It fights against restraint. It doesn't want to be held back.

Restless is the same word translated unstable in James 1-8, akatastatan. And then he says it's an evil poison, or a deadly poison. It is not only like a caged animal, a monster of inconsistency, wanting to break out of its restraint, but when it breaks out, it carries a death dealing venom, like a snake's tongue. Romans 3 13 says the poison of asps is under their lips.

You remember Psalm, is it 140 verse 3? They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent. Adder's poison is under their lips. The tongue is like a deadly snake.

It spews out deadly poison. The tongue, the tongue is an assassin. In Psalm 64, just the 10 verses in this Psalm, listen to what they say. Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer. Preserve my life from fear of the enemy. Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked, from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity, who wet their tongue like a sword.

That's to sharpen, to wet means to sharpen a sword. Who sharpen their tongue like a sword, who bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words, that they may shoot in secret at the perfect, the perfect ones, the righteous ones. Suddenly do they shoot at Him and fear not. They encourage themselves in an evil matter. They speak of laying snares secretly. They say, Who shall see Him? They search out iniquities.

They accomplish a diligent search. Both the inward thought of every one of them and their heart are deep. But God shall shoot at them with an arrow. Suddenly they shall be wounded. So shall make their own tongue to fall upon themselves and that see them shall flee away.

And He goes on from there. God's going to turn their tongues against them, but their tongues are like arrows and spears and swords. The tongue is an assassin.

Do you remember? The snake-mouthed princes of Ammon spoke lies against David, accusing him of hypocrisy and honoring Nahash their king and his son Hanom. The result was that the king put together an army of his own thousands and added mercenaries numbering 30,000 foot soldiers plus others and sent them to destroy David because of that lie for no reason. And the result was a terrible slaughter of 700 Syrian charioteers and 40,000 horsemen and their commander, all because of the lie of one man. And you remember the poisonous tongue of Haman was to be the satanic tool for the extermination of the Jews by the Medo-Persians in the book of Esther. And God saved them through Mordecai and Esther and Haman who plotted it all with his evil tongue was hanged on the gallows he had made for the Jews. Many people have died because of the deadly poison of the tongue, even our own Lord. Fiery-tongued haters of the gospel secretly induced men to lie about Stephen and say he spoke blasphemy against Moses and against God and they stirred up the people with their words and stoned him to death, Acts chapter 6 tells us. And when Paul arrived in Jerusalem in Acts 21, the Jews from Asia stirred up the people against him falsely accusing him of bringing a gentile in the temple and they dragged Paul out to kill him but he was rescued by the Romans as they were trying to beat him to death.

He spent the next two plus years in prison and it goes on and on. The power and peril of the tongue, it is a deadly, deadly poison, a deadly weapon, killing reputation, killing joy, killing peace, killing love, killing everything in its wake. So the tongue must be controlled because of its potential to condemn, its power to control, its peril to corrupt, and its primitiveness to combat.

It fights against everything. Finally, and this was a very tough P to find in our outline, perfidy means treachery, means deliberate, means a breach of trust, a deliberate breach of trust. It means faithlessness, hypocrisy, inconsistency, duplicity, the tongue, and its perfidy to compromise. The tongue is a hypocrite. Ho, is it a hypocrite? It'll say one thing one time and another thing another time.

Will it not? Has it not? Of course. Notice that the tongue can be noble, verse 9. Therewith, that is with the tongue, we bless God, even the Father.

Isn't that wonderful? Your tongue, my tongue, can be used to bless God, even the Father. This is very relevant by the way to the Jews to whom James writes because whenever they mentioned the name of God, they always followed it with these words, blessed be He, blessed be He. And so with their tongue, they were ever and always blessing God.

Three times a day they had to repeat the Sheminah Esra, the 18 prayers called eulogies or benedictions, and every one of those 18 prayers that they said three times a day ended, blessed be Thou, O God. And it was customary for the Jew with his tongue to be blessing God all the time. The psalms are full of such blessing. And the most wonderful function of the tongue is to bless God.

So in verse 9, he says, therewith bless we God, even the Father. Yet, follow further. And therewith curse we men who are made after the likeness of God. There is the duplicity. There is the hypocrisy.

There is the perfidy of the tongue. It's treachery. The same tongue that blesses God curses those made in His image, slanders them, criticizes them, accuses them, abuses them in anger and jealousy and envy and hatred and bitterness. To curse means to wish evil on someone. And man is made in the likeness of God. And so he is made in the image of God. And how can man bless the God and curse the man when the man is made in the image of God? And so in verse 10, he says, out of the same mouth, proceed blessing and cursing. Out of the same mouth, blessing and cursing.

That's right. And there is illustration after illustration about that, not only in the Scripture but certainly in the lives of all of us, why the same mouths of the Pharisees that in one breath blessed God cursed Christ. And then I always think of the mouth of Peter, who says, thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, and a few weeks later is cursing venomously, saying, I know not the man. The same mouth, the mouth of the Apostle Paul speaks glorious, wondrous truth and then in Acts 23 curses the high priest of God in language that has no place in the mouth of a servant of God. God smite you, you whited wall, he says.

From the same mouth, my mouth, your mouth, the mouth of all of us comes blessing and cursing. And so he says at the end of verse 10, my brothers, these things ought not so to be. It isn't right. That's a strong negative, by the way. It's used only here in the entire New Testament, very strong.

Oikre. It isn't right, he's saying. That's not right. Any profane speech is inconsistent.

It's unacceptable. It's a compromise. God has saved us. And when God saved us, he transformed us. And when he transformed us, he gave us a capacity for new speech, and he expects us to speak that way.

It's an impossible compromise to tolerate. And James illustrates the obvious with three pictures. Verse 11, does a fountain send forth at the same place sweet and bitter? What's the answer? The answer is no. Does a fountain send out?

The verb send out means to burst forth or gush. From the same opening, the same ope, the same hole or split in the rock, fresh water and bitter water? Of course not. It's impossible. And the question here expects a no answer.

Metis expects a no answer. It can't be gluku, that's sweet in the Greek, and also pikron, undrinkable. That's a simple illustration, isn't it? You can't have one fountain sending out sweet and bitter water.

Verse 12, can the fig tree, my brothers, bear olives? How about this? How about this? A vine figs? Utterly impossible.

Utterly impossible. Let nature teach you what is obvious. You can't have sweet and bitter water coming out of the same fountain. You cannot have olives on a fig tree, and you can't have figs on a vine. And then comes the statement of fact that ends the passage. Verse 12, so. So, conclusion.

No fountain can yield both salt water and fresh. That is a conclusion, my friends, not a question. He is saying a clean heart, a fresh heart can't produce bitter water, and a bitter heart can't produce fresh water. So the taste of the product tells the nature of its source, right?

So he's right back to where he started. True believers will be revealed in their speech. And if you're a true believer, it should be able to be seen by your speech.

It will be seen by your speech. You say, well, wait a minute. Once in a while, there's a little, there's a little bitter water among the fresh. I know that. But James is drawing exact lines for us. And he is saying it is a truism that salt water can come out of a fresh fountain.

And it is a truism in your life that if you have been transformed by Christ, your speech will show it. That's what he's saying. A fig must have a fig tree at its source. A grape must have a vine at its source. An olive must have an olive tree at its source. Salt water has salt as its source.

Sweet water has sweet water as its source. Bitter words come from a bitter heart. Critical words come from a critical heart. Defamatory, unloving speech issues from a heart where the love of Jesus is a stranger. True believers will be revealed in their speech and must be revealed in their speech. And so James comes at this with the tension in view. One time he's saying, if you're a Christian, this is how it will be. Another time he's saying, if you're a Christian, this is how it must be. And so while saying it is true, he calls us to be sure that it is true.

And that's the tension we have to live in. In Luke 6, verse 43, Jesus said, A good tree brings not forth corrupt fruit, neither does a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by its fruit. For from thorns, men do not gather figs, nor from a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good. An evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth that which is evil. For of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.

And I believe James had that in mind when he wrote this. He was really referring to what our Lord had said. The true believer is known by his speech. The true believer speaks with a tongue that is under control.

Peter says, the true believer will love life, 1 Peter 3.10, see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips that they speak no deceit. On the one end, we will. On the other hand, we must. And so does James warn us about two things. About two things, one that we are revealed by our mouth, two that our mouth has tremendous potential for disaster. And so he calls for us to have a tamed tongue. And if we do, it's evidence that we're a Christian. And if we do, it's evidence that we're walking in obedience. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur.

Thanks for being with us. Today John wrapped up his study on taming the tongue with a simple message. How you react when evil speech comes from your mouth is critical to your spiritual effectiveness and power.

And John, this has been a great series and it's personally challenging, but very helpful. So as a sort of final word on the subject of taming the tongue, what's your impression on how Christians tend to think about our words? Would you say it's a subject that deserves more attention than most of us give to it? Oh, for certain, because apart from sins of thought, sins of word, sins of speech are the easiest sins to commit. Behavioral sins take a little effort, they take a little work. But sinning with your tongue can happen anytime, anyplace, in any moment. So I think that's why Isaiah said, I'm a man of unclean lips.

When he was wanting to say to God in that vision in Isaiah 6, that I recognize your holiness and I recognize my sin, he picked the primary area where sin is most readily, consistently, and easily demonstrated, and that's in our speech. And out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks, so there's sin in the heart, there's going to be sin most readily in the speech. So learning to tame the tongue is at the very heart of having a godly life, and it starts with the heart attitude, because as I just said, out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks, so whatever condition your heart is, is going to show up in your speech. So we've had an opportunity in this series to look at this issue of taming the tongue, and in some ways, I would say this may be a series you'd like to listen to again and again and again, because there's such a quick and easy impulse to sin with your tongue that you need, and I need constant reminder in that regard. Guarding our words is at once one of the Christian life's greatest challenges, and at the same time, one of its most rewarding pursuits.

Every relationship in our lives will benefit from pure speech. So the series has been very helpful to us, and we'd like to let you know it is available. MP3s are available on the website at The transcript is also available there, and you can order a four-CD album if you prefer CDs. They're available from Grace to You. Again, the title, Taming the Tongue.

Yes, and friend, this study can transform your relationships with family, friends, and your relationship with the Lord. The title again, Taming the Tongue. Purchase the four-CD album or download the messages today. To order the four-CD album, call us toll-free, 800-55-GRACE, or go to our website,

And if you prefer downloading Taming the Tongue to your smartphone or tablet, it's free of charge at In fact, all of John's sermons, 3,500 total, are available for free. That includes any message you hear on the radio, and plenty of verse-by-verse teaching that we simply don't have time to air.

So listen to, download, or read the transcripts of any of John's sermons at Now, before we go, a reminder that we appreciate hearing how Grace to You is helping you grow spiritually. If you've never written, or if it's been a while, jot a quick note to share your story, and be sure to include the call letters of this station when you write.

That's a big help. Our mailing address is Grace to You, Box 4000, Panorama City, California, 91412. And our email, letters at Once more, that's letters at Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace to You staff, I'm your host, Phil Johnson, encouraging you to be here tomorrow when John continues unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-22 08:00:40 / 2023-05-22 08:11:06 / 10

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime