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Bible verses about Words, Power of
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Deuteronomy 8:3

Some time ago, in his "A Moment of Hope" radio commentary, a local preacher spoke of the power of words and how, if we want our lives to be hopeful, we need to keep our speech positive. He then quoted Proverbs 18:21 as wisdom on the subject: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit."

So far, everything was fine—and then he went and spoiled it by saying (paraphrasing), "You can find that in the Jewish Testament of your Bible."

The Jewish Testament? What is that? There is no such thing! We could call the Old Testament "the Hebrew Testament" with some legitimacy because it was written in Hebrew, but what would make it Jewish? Was he trying to say that, if we read only the Old Testament, we would become followers of Judaism? Or, that the Jews somehow own the Old Testament? Or, that because the Old Testament is revered by Jews as their holy book, it is somehow inferior to "the Christian Testament?"

Certainly, the Bible never calls the Old Testament "the Jewish Testament." Paul calls it "the Holy Scriptures" in II Timothy 3:15. Jesus calls it "the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms" in Luke 24:44. In many places, the writers simply refer to it as "the word [of God or of the Lord]" or "the Scripture(s)." The only hint that the Old Testament "belongs" to the Jews is a misinterpretation of Romans 3:2, "to them were committed the oracles of God." This means only that the Jews are responsible for their accurate transmission throughout history, not that they apply only to Jews or that Jews exclusively possess them in some way.

No, this all stems from the mistaken idea that the Old Testament is the Old Covenant, "becoming obsolete and growing old . . . ready to vanish away" (Hebrews 8:13), while the New Testament is the New Covenant. Thus, to a "Christian" under the New Covenant, anything that appears in the Old Testament is of lesser value than what appears in the New Testament. This error has led to countless misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the message Jesus brought to mankind.

In fact, the New Testament cannot be understood without the foundation of the Old Testament—and not just in historical terms. Paul is not overstating things when he says the church is "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone" (Ephesians 2:20). After His resurrection, Jesus "beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, . . . expounded to [the disciples] in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27). Later, "He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures" (verse 45). Which Scriptures? The Old Testament, of course, the only ones written at the time!

Just these few verses say that we New Covenant Christians cannot understand Jesus Christ, His doctrine, His church, and God's plan without the Old Testament. We can see this by how frequently the apostles quote from the writings of Moses, David, and the prophets to support and fill out their doctrinal teachings. There is hardly a page in the New Testament that does not have a quotation or allusion to the Old Testament on it. It is a vital part of New Covenant—New Testament—Christianity!

Lack of space does not permit an explanation of the differences between the Old Covenant and the New. However, let it suffice to say that the major problem in the Old Covenant was the people with whom God made it (see Hebrews 8:7-12; Romans 8:3). The New Covenant is modeled after the Old with its basic law, the Ten Commandments, retained in all its force and wisdom. In fact, Jesus makes it plain that He added intent to the law's scope so that it is now stricter under the New Covenant (Matthew 5:17-48)!

In the end, we must conclude that the Bible is a whole with two parts, which came as a result of the ministry of Jesus Christ and the languages in which the two parts were penned. The theology and the goal of the instruction in the two are the same. The same God who never changes rules, acts, and speaks in both. Those who believed and lived by faith in both eras will receive the same gift of eternal life (I Thessalonians 4:14-17; Hebrews 11:40).

Please be aware of this false notion of the Old Testament's inferiority to the New, as it colors a great deal of "Christian" biblical commentary. The Word of God is God's Word, whether spoken in 1400 BC or AD 60. Above all, remember our Savior's instruction, quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Essays on Bible Study


 

Isaiah 11:1-4

Each of the qualities of the mind is named to encourage us that this One, Jesus Christ, will hand down judgments of the highest quality. "Spirit" is the general word used to indicate those internal, immaterial, and unseen qualities of mind that energize and activate. We can see, both from God's Word and also from our own experiences, that they can be good or evil, edifying or destructive, clean or foul, generous or miserly, selfless or selfish, cheerful or depressive, positive or negative, etc. However, spirit always affects: It moves, activates, generates, impels, and creates in the direction of its force.

Why are cheerleaders used at football and basketball games? Is it not to generate a spirit? One cannot see the spirit that is energized. It is invisible, unseen. This illustration is no different in principle from what the Bible means by its use of "spirit."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 2)


 

Matthew 12:33-37

This is a strong statement from our Savior! The fundamental question is: "How Christ-like is our speech?" This is just one area out of the whole of our behavior. We will be judged for every word, even the idle ones that we may just toss off in a time of weakness or when joking around with friends. That is a pretty strict judgment.

Jesus speaks here in black-and-white terms. The tree (meaning the person) is either good—producing good fruit—or he is bad and produces bad fruit. Which are we—the good or the bad tree?

In verse 34, He says, "Out of the abundance of the heart we speak"—and we could add, "and act." Jesus says in Matthew 15:17-18 that it is not what goes into a man that defiles him, but what comes out of him. What comes out of a person will be either good things like service, love, kindness, and other fruits of the spirit, or bad things, the works of the flesh, which He names there.

So, what will it be with us? What is the abundance of our heart?

The picture here is that the heart is a kind of vessel—a bowl—and things are poured into the heart. At a certain point, the vessel will overflow, and an abundance will come out of it. What comes out of our heart—this bowl or vessel—will expose the characteristics of the heart.

When we pour information into our minds, we process it. For a while, it stays in the bowl, as it were, and becomes mixed with what has been put there before. Our minds work on it for a while, and over time, it begins to gel into certain ideas. Once our minds are full, ideas break out in words, plans, and behaviors. Evil thoughts within, evil speech and/or works without. Or, we can put it the other way around—godly, kind, Christ-like thoughts within, godly, kind, Christ-like speech and/or works without.

What breaks out of our hearts? We have to answer that ourselves. Do we have profane minds that spew out profane speech? Or, is it "on [our] tongue is the law of kindness" (Proverbs 31:26) because behind our tongues are pure and kind hearts?

This is vitally important because "by those words" we will either be justified or condemned. Our thoughts are just precursors to our speech and action.

So, where do we stand in relation to this line that Jesus Christ our Savior, our High Priest and Judge, has drawn? Are we a good tree or a bad one?

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Is God in All Our Thoughts?


 

Matthew 16:21-23

Like Peter, we could be motivated to believe or disbelieve something, accept or reject something, say something or keep silent, depending on the circumstance. Additionally, we may have no reaction at all at the moment of communication, but the thought is stored and available for later use or supplementation. It is entirely possible for a person to go through his entire life as a pawn of Satan and never know it.

This situation reflects a usage of what the Bible's writers term "spirit." Spirit is the English translation of the Hebrew ruach (Strong's #7304), in the Old Testament and the Greek pneuma (Strong's #5141) in the New. It can literally mean "a current of air," "breath," "blast," or "breeze." However, when used figuratively, it indicates "vital principle," "disposition," "the rational soul," etc., or an invisible super-being such as God, Christ, an angel, or a demon. Whether used literally, as with "wind" or "breath," or figuratively, as indicating God, angel, or demon, it describes something that is invisible and immaterial and at the same time powerful, even a thing of considerable power. The foremost elements of spirit, then, are invisibility, immateriality, and power.

E.W. Bullinger remarks in Appendix 9 of the Companion Bible:

The meaning of the word is to be deduced only from its usage. The one root idea running through all of the passages is invisible force. . . . [I]n whatever sense it is used, [it] always represents that which is invisible except by its manifestations.

He also shows that ruach is used in nine different ways in the Old Testament, while pneuma is used fourteen different ways in the New Testament.

In John 6:63, Jesus says, "It is the Spirit [which] gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." Here is a clear example of the figurative use of "spirit." Words are the symbols used for communication; they are received into our minds through sight, as when reading, or sound, as when hearing. But once in the mind, nothing material is packed into our brain. Words - and thus the concepts they carry with them - are spirit because they are immaterial, invisible, and of considerable power, depending on how we use them. Thus, we can receive "spirit" in the form of words or concepts from a spirit being. In this case, it is in reality "thought transference" because no sound is heard through our ears.

Just because one is close to Christ does not eliminate the prospect that a demon will communicate with and through him. As seen in Matthew 16:22-23, Peter did the speaking, but Jesus spoke directly to Satan, naming him as the source of Peter's outburst against God's will that Jesus should suffer and die. Without Peter's recognizing it, he permitted himself to be a conduit for Satan's will. The disciple's "good" intention was against God's will, and Jesus thus judged it to be evil.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part Two)


 

John 1:1-4

What poured out of Jesus Christ while He was here? Words—God's words, which are spirit and life (John 6:63). What are God's words, in total? The truth! The truth makes us free (John 8:32). Where does the truth lead? To eternal life! Put all of those concepts together, and we come to what John says so succinctly: "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men." How do we get to the Kingdom of God? By following God's words—the Light (see Psalm 119:105).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Preventing Deception


 

John 6:63

Notice what one of the main manifestations of God's Spirit is: words. The entire revelation of God - the Bible - is composed of words. If His Word is not a manifestation of God's Spirit, we do not know what is! Many of these words are the words of God Himself. Many of them are words of God's servants that have been written down for our admonition.

Everything, though, comes down to words because the way of God is a set of ideas. These ideas we put down on paper as words, or when we speak, we speak them as words. We cannot understand them otherwise.

The servant of God may do other works. He can perform healings, which are not necessarily manifested as words, although often words accompany a healing, specifically a prayer. Casting out demons is similar, as there is usually a prayer involved. Miracles, too, often involve certain words that are spoken to beseech God to act. But the works themselves - the healings, the casting out of demons, the miracles - are not words, but they are manifestations of the Spirit.

However, the primary job of a servant of God is to speak or to write words to convict people of God's truth. So, in the speaking or in the writing of words, he witnesses for God. In the end, in the final analysis, the witness of the Two Witnesses is words. They will give evidence, testimony, for God.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 4)


 

John 17:17

The extent to which we grasp and believe the truth of the doctrines determines our desire to be holy. By this holiness created within us we become sanctified. The gospel is "the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16). The gospel's power lies or resides in its words produce in our minds. That is all the gospel is'words: "The words that I speak unto you are Spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63).

Those words lead us to the faith of Christ, and there is nothing mysterious about this. When we believe what Christ believes, we have His faith. It may not be to the same intensity, but we have His faith. Jude told the later first-century church, "Return to the faith once delivered," because that was the faith of Christ. It came through His apostles, who gave it to the church. The power resides in the words, if we will only use them to live.

Putting those words into practice sanctifies us because they comprise the truth. We become sanctified by applying them. Because we apply them by faith, God will empower us by His Spirit so that the strength to do what He says in the gospel comes from Him. If we just make the choice and begin to do it, He pushes us over the hill. That is what grace is, the gift to overcome.

We all had "our conduct in times past, in the lust of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others" (Ephesians 2:3). If we really believe that God quickened us'that He not only rescued us from death, but gave us the seed of His Kind, the God-kind, and with that, the quality of life that is eternal life, the way that God lives'and if we believe what He is offering us and the instruction for attaining it, the sheer awesomeness of it all, combined with logic, drives us to submit to becoming holy'sanctified.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 5): Ephesians 4 (B)


 

Romans 10:17

First, in the spiritual sense, "eating" occurs primarily when one hears and reads. A person ingests messages and concepts into the mind through words, which establish and nourish his pattern of life. Those words, if one permits it, create a faith upon which one bases the way he lives. This faith is almost entirely dependent upon the quality of what is heard and whether a person believes it enough to follow it. These verses reveal only the words of God or Christ, His gospel, His truths, will form the faith that leads to salvation because they will form the correct beliefs and thus the correct way of life. This is the faith of Christ; the person who has it believes what Christ believes. This is a simple, understandable, true formula.

Zephaniah 3:1-2 shows what happens when a person rejects or disbelieves His words: "Woe to her who is rebellious and polluted, to the oppressing city! She has not obeyed His voice, she has not received correction; she has not trusted in the LORD; she has not drawn near to her God." That person comes to great dismay. This does not mean we cannot have words other than God's in our mind, but the children of God must filter everything through God's words to test their validity before they allow themselves to believe them firmly enough to make them part of their belief system.

Put another way, there is faith and then there is the faith, the faith that brings salvation. This faith arises from believing God's words. What we believe will determine our conduct and attitudes whether or not we stop to think about those beliefs because what is contained in the heart will come out (Matthew 12:34-35). Only God's words truly produce spiritual strength. In our recent past, "eating" and believing the wrong words set the church up for the scattering that has occurred. For quite a while, worldly things gradually corrupted the spiritual health of God's children, weakening them through spiritual malnourishment and changing their faith.

I Corinthians 1:10 provides a first-century account of a congregation suffering from this process of ingesting the wrong words: "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." Division troubled this congregation because the members held dissimilar views on beliefs that are basic to spiritual unity. I Corinthians shows disorder, confusion, argument, and offense as symptoms of spiritual weakness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Seven)


 

2 Corinthians 5:17

Christians are to be in union with Christ. This explains why it is so important to study the Bible, to meditate on it, to spend time trying to understand it, to communicate with one another with the Word and with the Father. What are we doing as we absorb God's Word? God's Word is part of His mind, His personality, His character. It is the way He thinks.

We cannot be in union with someone we do not know or who we have no relationship with. We cannot be in union with someone we never think about.

The more we think about Him, the more we carry His word in our mind. The more experiences that we have with Him, the deeper, stronger, sharper, clearer, and more real the union becomes. It all pivots around the Word of God. Jesus says, "The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63).

They are an invisible force and power because, if we believe His words, they begin to work in our lives because we use them. They begin to produce what God intends them to produce. As we use them, we become more one with Him because we are becoming like Him. Our lives begin to be operated by His mind expressed in His Word. The more we use them, the more we become like Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 4)


 

James 3:1

James begins with a piece of general advice that leads to his main discussion of the use of the tongue. God holds us all accountable for what we have learned as well as how we instruct others. In the various situations of life, we are often both receiving instruction and giving instruction, so he warns that we need to examine ourselves closely and realize that God holds those accountable who would instruct or correct others, whether toward the brethren, our mates, our children, or our friends.

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part One)


 

James 3:1-8

What hope do we have as men if "no man can tame the tongue"? Mothers once washed their children's mouths out with soap for using bad language or expressing verbal disrespect. The entertainment media have made such words part of our households, schools, and workplaces. James' admonishment is not a soap-and-water application or a fatherly reprimand. His statements are blunt instruments: The tongue is as a vicious animal, whose words are capable of causing ultimate destruction, and it is as a creature of such monstrous character that no man can tame it.

As a kid, I loved to play "Cowboys and Indians," and when I heard "no man can tame the tongue," I imagined a tongue running around like a loose calf, with a cowboy on horseback riding frantically, trying to rope it down and tame it. It is a silly scene, but even now when I think about it, how accurately it pictures the feeling of trying to run after my own words and tame them after I have let them loose!

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part One)


 

James 3:2

We all make mistakes—and probably a majority of them are verbal. The challenge before us is to learn to control our words and use them effectively in dealing with others. For followers of Christ, "effective use of words" is using them as Christ and the Father do. If we do anything less, we stumble and run the risk of offending.

So great is this challenge that, if we can master our tongue, we have in essence come to master our entire bodies. We could conclude from this that our bodies function as they are instructed. We instruct our bodies and minds through words, whether spoken or thought. In other words, the mind speaks, and the body follows. We lead ourselves, as well as others, with our words.

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part One)


 

James 3:9-10

Most of us do not spend our time speaking blessings continually or pronouncing curses without end; our words and lives are spent somewhere in the middle. We may be nice most of the time, yet on occasion our words will fly out in anger or defensiveness.

No one likes to think of himself as an uncaged brute, wreaking havoc, hurt, and destruction on his fellow man by the words he utters. Poets have long expressed themselves with terms of love and adoration. Great orators stir men and women to courage and confidence. No individual truly wants to cut his loved ones down with his words as with a sharp scythe. James makes it clear, though, that we each possess the ability to effect such destruction on each other's lives.

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part One)


 

James 3:11-12

In examining ourselves, perhaps the critical question is, "How much salt can be in the water before it tastes salty?" If our words hurt or cut others down only on occasion, does that make us guilty of all that James describes? How much confidence would we have in the kitchen faucet if we never knew whether we would receive salt water or fresh water from it? Would we fill a glass and drink it down or carefully test it each time?

When I was in school, a common practical joke was to dump salt in someone's milk or water, watch him unsuspectingly drink it down and chortle gleefully when the shock emerged on his face as he discovered what he had just consumed. When it happened to me, it was indeed a shock! No matter how many times I had watched it done to another, or participated in doing it, or how hard I laughed at another's "getting it," when my turn for a "salting" took place, it was totally unexpected and entirely unpleasant.

It happens like this in our relationships. We expect to trust one another, and we expect the "waters" of our words to be refreshing, to be pleasant, to be loving and positive. When we are hit with the "salt"—words spoken in anger, gossip, merciless criticism, or caustic sarcasm toward us when we may need some kinder attention—it is always a shock and always leaves us feeling distaste in our mouths and betrayal in our hearts.

All of us are capable of all these kinds of communication. We have to ask ourselves: Do I send both fresh and bitter water from my mouth? Does my tongue produce both figs and olives?

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part One)


 

James 3:13-18

The apostle reveals here the nature of "the bit and the rudder" that control the horse and the ship. It is spiritual wisdom and understanding that descend upon us directly from God above that empowers us to keep our tongue in check. As earthly men, we have no means or strength to control this wild beast that resides in our tongue and expresses itself in our words. But as children of God, endowed with the power of His spirit and wisdom of His character, we can gain control over this member within. Not only that, we can use it in service to His will and purpose. If we examine our words and run them carefully through the filter of the fruit of the Spirit, we stand a far better chance of releasing the fresh waters that give life and restraining the salt waters that cause destruction.

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part Two)


 

James 3:13-18

One way to begin taming our tongues is to speak in meekness. Meekness is not weakness. It is knowing at all times where we stand with God, fully realizing who He is and the nature of His power in contrast to ourselves, His creation. Joshua cried out in confidence for the army of Israel to go forward; His confidence was not in himself or his leadership but totally in his awareness of God's purpose in his life, God's law to live by, and God's sovereignty over him. He was, after all, clay in the Potter's hands. If we keep this in mind, we will never have cause to feel better, more righteous, more successful, or more honorable than another.

Meekness is the ability to esteem others better than ourselves and to allow God to use us as He wills. II Timothy 2:20 shows us that God will honor whom He will. To seek honor for ourselves or to feel worthy of honor is a dead end, and it will taint how we communicate to others. We will naturally look down on them, disrespect them, overlook them, and criticize them.

Test: If we have experienced dishonor, perhaps we need to look closely to see where we have dishonored others. We all stand guilty as charged.

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part Two)


 

James 3:14

James focuses on "bitter envy." If "envy" is desire for what another has, "bitter envy" must mean a person wants something so much that he is angry and hateful over it. Bitterness is a child of anger and resentment. Satan takes great delight in burdening our hearts with these harmful emotions. Unprovoked or quick-tempered anger is a hallmark of our modern cities, which resound in the night with the bark of gunfire and the howl of sirens.

Bitter envy takes jealousy to the next step by adding resentment and anger, and from it emerges words that stab, cut, tear down, refute, and diminish. We use these to reduce the stature of another so we may seem to stand taller. A talebearer or gossip only wants his listener to think less of another so that he might think more of him.

We can be envious because another sinned and "got away with it." We can envy those who have more, whom we feel do not deserve it. Envy often springs up when we receive unwarranted correction and someone else, who deserves it, does not. We can feel envy when one receives attention we desire for ourselves or when we fail to receive hard-earned recognition.

Envious words are bitter words: They are pointed and sharp, but their target is subtle. On the surface, they may even sound righteous, but in reality, they manipulate thinking in the speaker's favor.

Test: Do our words build or burn? If we build our stature by burning another's, we are standing on a platform of ashes that will crumble and topple us anytime. Only after I was gossiped about repeatedly did I began to see my own words of envy expressed. How foolish it had made me look, trying to stand taller on a pile of ashes!

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part Two)


 

James 3:14-16

I like to tell stories, and my family has told me more than once that I sometimes exaggerate things. I always justified it as good humor and in fun. I have come to learn, however, the exaggerations, boasts, or little white lies that "spice up" stories or humor can often hurt and damage others. Sometimes someone hearing the story remembers the situation, and it was not as funny or, from his perspective, happened some other way.

Boasting is usually successful only when another is put down, and though everyone may laugh, the victim may be recoiling from what feels like jabs and insults. Sarcasm and teasing often produce the same results. James refers to boasting and lying as assaults against the truth. One may not realize how true this is until he feels the sting of sarcasm directed toward him. I love to tease and be teased, but I am realizing increasingly that people can become carried away in their words, violate the truth, and do severe damage.

An old saying runs, "Everyone loves a clown but no one wants to be his best friend." Laughter helps people to relax and bond more closely together in shared experiences, but it is good to learn to look around to see if someone is no longer laughing. Many years ago, a dinner party with several good friends also included a minister and his wife who had just been transferred to our city. It was our first occasion to dine with them, and it was a very pleasant evening. Most of us, knowing each other well, had a long evening teasing, joking, laughing, and putting each other down. We never noticed anything amiss with the new guests.

The next week at church, however, we heard a sermon about the damages of put-down humor and how it has absolutely no place in a Christian's lifestyle. The new minister talked about how even the most subtle humor can tear relationships down and cause doubts about another's affection or respect. Such humor includes referring to one's wife as "the old ball and chain" or "the biscuit-burner." Such names and teasing—as "good fun" as they may seem—diminish our friends and family, do not express the kind affection we really feel for them, are not true, and thus are lies. A Christian should never lie, not even in fun. All of us were shame-faced and sorry we had left such a negative impression, and we apologized to him, his wife and to each other.

Test: Are we teasing and boasting to another's pleasure or his discomfort? Is it true and factual? If it is not, it is a lie, and no matter how funny it is, it is sin. Sarcasm belongs in the same category: If it is not true, it is a lie. Even if it is true, how are we expressing it? Does sarcasm express love, gentleness, peace, and mercy? Can we tease one another righteously? I would like to think so, but I am still working on learning how. Without God's Spirit guiding our words, our tongues remain subtle, merciless, and destructive weapons.

James concludes by telling us directly that these forms of speaking are not godly wisdom, but "earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there" (verses 15-16). The fallout from communication based on our human, selfish motivations is evident about us. The state of the world and the way it functions are often actions and reactions of crushing blows of words. Governments, businesses, sports teams, even schools, churches, and neighborhoods communicate with each other in wars of words. Our world—this "Information Age"—is practically devoid of godly, righteous speech, relying on the sensual, material, selfish pursuits that drive Satan himself. How much does it affect us and our communications with one another?

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part Two)


 

James 3:17-18

James concludes chapter 3 by describing the wisdom that comes only from Almighty God. It is the bit and rudder by which we can effectively gain control of our speech. Godly wisdom begins in the heart, replacing the self-indulgent human motivations with purity, peacefulness, gentleness, yieldedness, mercy, goodness, fairness, and sincerity. Words that employ these godly attributes contrast to the raging winds that fan flames of war toward total destruction. The apostle does not allow us any time to spend in the middle; our words should be fresh and trustworthy, without the bitter and shocking elements of a sharp tongue.

In Matthew 12:34, Christ says, "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." The real issue is that our words reveal the essence of our hearts. They will tell whether we are motivated by the earthly wisdom of human desire or by the godly wisdom of the fruit of the Spirit. Unkind words reveal an unkind heart, and kind words, a kind heart.

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part Two)


 

James 5:12

How James addresses this to his audience tells us he considers it an extremely serious matter. His use of "above all" suggests that we should be especially careful on this point. It is as if he is saying, "Make sure you catch this point because it may be the most important one." Swearing oaths is not a trivial matter!

In the Old Testament, taking oaths by God's name was more prevalent—even commanded (see Deuteronomy 6:13)—but God holds those He has called out of this present, evil world to a higher standard. The ancient Israelites were carnal human beings whose behaviors had to be constrained by statute. Knowing they would swear oaths, God directed them to take them honestly and only in His name, thus regulating and elevating the practice.

Christians, though, are to follow God's law, not just in the letter, but also in the spirit, a more in-depth and encompassing charge. The standard that has been set for us is that our word should always be true. Paul writes, "Therefore, putting away lying, 'Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,' for we are members of one another" (Ephesians 4:25; see Zechariah 8:16).

Our Savior puts it even more strongly in the form of an admonition: "But I say to you that for every idle word 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" (Matthew 12:36). Because God is with us, every word that we speak is spoken in God's presence and thus should be true, making oaths unnecessary.

As God's people, we are to represent Him in honesty and obedience and reflect Him in our conduct in every way. Because of this, we do not need God's name in an oath to back up our word. Therefore, a Christian should simply say "yes" or "no" according to what he honestly believes to be true, even in legal matters. As Jesus says, anything we try to add to the unvarnished truth is Satan's handiwork (see John 8:44). In short, a Christian's word should be his bond.

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Swear Not!


 

Revelation 12:15

Revelation 12:15 shows the serpent, Satan, spewing a torrent of "water out of His mouth like a flood"! Aimed directly at the woman, that torrent is a diabolical and merciless attempt to sweep her away!

In John 7:38-39, water clearly represents God's Holy Spirit. This usage, in turn, has a direct connection to another usage important to this article and understanding Revelation 12:15-16. In this regard, Paul writes, "That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word" (Ephesians 5:26), and Jesus adds, "It is the Spirit [which] gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63).

Words, like water, have awesome power to do good or bad. They can give life like Jesus' words, or they can devastate and destroy like a flood of water when it is out of control.

Interestingly, Revelation 12:15 pictures this flood spurting from the serpent's mouth, the very place on the body where words emanate! This flood may someday materialize as a real army, but today Satan is inundating the world with such a torrent of appealing misinformation that some of God's people are being swept away. They are not yet lost because our God is more powerful than Satan, and He can save from the uttermost. But many are putting themselves into spiritual—and perhaps even physical—danger by being distracted from God's focus, the Kingdom of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Flood Is Upon Us!


 

 




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