Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, (Titus 1:1, NKJV)
A cohesion existed between Paul and the Christians (God’s elect) to whom he wrote – a cohesion that continues to exist between the apostles and Christians. Paul was a slave of God; his will was entirely given over to the will of his Owner. Likewise, Christians are slaves of God and of righteousness (1 Pet. 2:16; Rom. 6:16-17). Our will is to conform to the will of our Owner (Gal. 2:20). Paul was also an apostle, chosen by Christ and sent as a chosen vessel to bear witness of Christ to the nations (Acts 22:14-15; 26:16-18). “The faith of God’s elect” is produced by the apostolic preaching of God’s word (Rom. 10:14-17). Without the gospel they preached, we cannot be saved (Acts 4:12; Rom. 1:15-17). The gospel truth can be known (“acknowledgement” is from epignosis, meaning “recognition, discernment, knowledge”), which produces godliness in those who will receive it. Our faith cannot exist independent of the apostolic teaching. It is that very teaching that informs us of our owners will and therefore, of our duty to Him as his bondservants. Let us listen to God’s word, discern His truth and live godly.
31 Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Luke 5:31–32, NKJV)
Jesus silenced the accusation of the scribes and Pharisees by likening His contact with sinners to that of a doctor treating an illness. They complained against Jesus and His disciples for eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners (Lk. 5:30). But, the Great Physician came to heal (to forgive) sinners, not to validate their sins (including the self-righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees that prevented them from answering Christ’s call to repentance). Jesus did not endorse the sinners’ sins when He sat with them; that is a gross misuse of this text. Jesus “sat down with them” to teach them and call them to repentance (Lk. 5:29, 32; 15:1). Often, our problem is that we fail to see our own sins while being quick to point out the sin of others. Until we see our own sin, we will refuse to repent and remain lost. Notice that God’s forgiveness comes after sinners repent, not before (v. 32). Since you would welcome medical treatment to heal your physical disease, welcome Christ’s gospel treatment and be healed of your spiritual disease of sin. Answer Christ’s call to repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins (Acts 2:37-41).
9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.” (James 3:9–12, NKJV)
A double-tongue (we are not talking about how to blow a trumpet) is morally repugnant (“these things ought not to be so”) to God. It ought to be so to us. With it, a person praises God while also speaking harmful criticisms against people. Since our words proceed from our hearts, this is ultimately a condemnation of the duplicitous heart. The self-righteous person is found to be such (see Lk. 18:9-12). Yet, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). The consistency of nature (water, trees and vines) reflects the relationship between the heart and the tongue. Just as James warned of the spiritual instability of the “double-minded man” in James 1:7-8, and exhorted the doubled-minded to purify their hearts in James 4:8, he now warns us of being deceived by our very words. Keep your tongue under the control of truth by keeping your heart under the control of truth.
7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:7–8, NKJV)
By his intellect, cunning and power, man has subdued beast and fowl, reptiles and sea creatures. Fulfilling God’s creative design, human beings “have dominion” over every living creature, subduing it to our will and purposes (Gen. 1:26, 28). Even so, the lion-tamer does not turn his back on the lion, but respects its prowess and power. To emphasis the constant, consistent oversight of our tongues, James says “no man can tame the tongue.” We must continually monitor our tongues in order to rule over the evil it would otherwise unleash. Like the asp, whose venom awaits injection into its victim, the tongue’s poison is potent, poised to inflict its deadly affects upon others. Its poison takes different forms, all of which are evil: Profanity, gossip, tale bearing, backbiting, slander and lies to name a few (Psa. 58:3-5). Control your tongue by diligently guarding your heart. Don’t turn your back on your tongue; it needs constant surveillance.
3 Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. 4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! (James 3:3–5, NKJV)
We do well to ponder the power and potential of the tongue. Under the figures of horses, ships and fire, the Holy Spirit teaches us both. The mighty horse is brought under the rider’s control by the bit, the steed’s power directed at the will of the rider. The powerful tongue, when properly directed, accomplished great good. As a small rudder is potent to turn a large ship against forceful winds, the tongue’s potential is not to be calculated by its size. Just as a small fire can turn a forest into an inferno, this little member, the tongue, possesses the power of death and life (Prov. 18:21). As the horseman and the helmsman must train to effectively direct the horse and steer the ship, we must train ourselves in godliness, and use our words for “necessary edification” (Eph. 4:29).
1 My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. (James 3:1–2, NKJV)
The one who uses his tongue must learn to master it instead of being mastered by it. Teachers, for example, will be called into judgment for their words. To instruct others, the teacher must control the tongue in order to impart what is useful, pertinent, practical and timely for the students. If the teacher stumbles in word, he may well deconstruct a proper knowledge of the Lord instead of constructing that knowledge. Since we all use words, whether we are a teacher or not, we will all be judged for the words we speak. Jesus said, “But I say to you that for every idle words men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36-37). A mark of spiritual maturity is controlling our words. Speak what is good and useful, not what is harmful to others – and yourself. Remember: “The wicked is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous will come through trouble” (Prov. 12:13).
3 Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. 5 He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Psalm 24:3–5, NKJV)
One does not accidentally stand in the presence of Almighty God. Fellowship with Him is a privilege. Only the one who is holy as God is holy will be granted a place in His presence. One cannot live in the defilement of sin and properly claim a place of blessing in His holy place; such would be incompatible with the holiness of God. If you wish to ascend to God’s holy hill of habitation, the psalmist David explains the faith that must characterize your life. First, cleanse your hands. You cannot do impure things and stand in God’s holy place. Pure actions require a pure heart. Purge your mind of evil thinking so that you may stand in God’s presence. Additionally, you must not lift up any idol in your heart. Only the true and living God has a place in the soul of the person with whom God has communion. Finally, be an honest person, one who does not deceive or mislead with your words. God’s blessing of righteousness and salvation is given to the person of faith who is holy in heart, in word and in deed (1 Pet. 1:15-16).
8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; 9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.” (1 Timothy 2:8–10, NKJV)
Just as men are to be spiritual leaders whose holy lives equip them to “pray everywhere,” women profess godliness through their good works. The godly woman does not announce herself to others through immodest clothing that draws attention to herself and her body. Instead, propriety (a sense of shame, “shamefastness,” ASV) and moderation (“self-control,” see 2 Tim. 2:15), are hallmarks of her attire. She is careful to wear attire that does not present herself to others as one devoid of moral decency and discretion. To be godly servants of the Lord, whether man or woman, we must first adorn our hearts with holiness and godliness. Then, our clothing and our conduct will bear righteous fruit before God and before the world.
20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:20–21, NKJV)
The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to use Proverbs 25:21-22 to teach Christians to give place to the Lord’s vengeance against those who do them wrong. This counterintuitive counsel is a hallmark of the “wisdom from above,” and is in striking contrast to the (foolish) wisdom that is “earthly, sensual, demonic” (Jas. 3:13-18). God calls on us to rise above the thinking of the world. Such commands challenge our faith and keep us focused on eternity instead of the immediate satisfaction of personal revenge. Jesus said to “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you” (Matt. 5:44). Evil never overcomes evil. Good is more powerful than evil. Honor the power of good by doing good to those who are not good to you. By doing so, Christian show themselves to be “sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil” (Lk. 6:35).
But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. (1 Corinthians 8:9, NKJV)
Having the liberty to do something does not automatically mean it is the right thing to do. Paul had the right to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols, but under certain circumstances, he refused to exercise his liberty (1 Cor. 8:4, 13). If the use of Paul’s liberty led a Christian (whose conscience was weak concerning eating such meat) to violate his conscience (sin) by eating such meat, then Paul would forego his right to eat meat (1 Cor. 8:10-13; 10:28). He choose not to be a stumbling block instead of use his liberty (1 Cor. 10:32). The demands of love, not the selfish desire for a personal liberty, define and decide whether one uses a liberty (1 Cor. 8:1). Just because you have a liberty does not mean you must exercise it. Will your use of a liberty influence another Christian who conscience is weak toward that liberty to go ahead and violate his or her conscience? If so, then do let your liberty to become a stumbling block to another. Forego your liberty for the sake of your fellow-Christian. Such is the decision of brotherly love. The apostle reminds us, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify” (1 Cor. 10:23).