2 For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.
If we can learn to control our tongue, we can overcome and control all. James remarks that the same tongue will pour forth blessing and cursing -- blessing God with a great show of reverence and love and then turning around and cursing men, whom God hath made in His own image and all of whom He would desire to have taught and led in the loving way of life and Truth.
It is the lesson of the unmerciful debtor, and we all need to take it to heart. Who are we -- weak, sinful creatures dependent upon God's love and mercy -- who are we to take it upon ourselves to berate and condemn others? It is a natural, evil tendency of the flesh to criticize and find fault. James searchingly and decisively sums up the vital importance of our speech when he says (1:26):
"If any man among you SEEMETH to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, THAT MAN'S RELIGION IS VAIN."
The Scripture gives much detailed instruction regarding this essential bridling of the tongue. Let us consider this instruction together, and then all search our hearts to see whether by failure to properly use and control this member we are making our religion vain. The Scriptures refer to at least twenty different aspects of the use of the tongue in which we can manifest the vanity of our religion.
Some -- such as lying -- we may at first glance feel constitute no problem or danger as regards the brethren of Christ, but if we look into each more deeply -- remembering how the law of Christ searched right down into the dark and sometimes unsuspected roots of our inmost thoughts and motives -- we shall realize that all are matters of real concern for each of us. As James says, in alerting us to the dangers of the evil motions of the flesh within us:
"Do you think that the Scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy" (Jam. 4:5)?
Take then, this matter of lying. Paul says, speaking of the new man, created after God in righteousness and true holiness:
"Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour" (Eph. 4:26).
Jesus promised in Matthew 5 that the pure in heart, and they alone, should see God. The Spirit through Jeremiah declares that the natural heart of man is deceitful above all things. Any deceit is lying. The purifying of the heart is a life long task. Who of us can say we have never shunned to declare the whole truth, regardless of embarrassment or personal disadvantage? Surely none of us who have embraced the Truth would consciously tell a lie, but how easy to keep silent or cover up a mistake or give an incorrect impression, or allow a misunderstanding rather than openly face the consequences with a fearless purity of heart!
The full stature of the perfect man in Christ Jesus is an infinitely high ideal. Blessed are the pure -- the completely, guilelessly pure -- in heart, for they alone shall see God.
Evil speaking, backbiting, and talebearing comprise another manifestation of the evil of the flesh that finds vent through the tongue -- a very common evil that only the power of the Spirit can control. Unless we are constantly careful, and unless we are purely motivated by love and the mind of the Spirit, we shall find that much of our conversation about others, when honestly evaluated by divine standards, comes under the heading of gossip and backbiting.
True, there are times when it is necessary to speak of the faults of others. But unless it is truly necessary, and done in the scriptural way, and in the proper scriptural spirit, we are running a grave risk of divine condemnation. The Spirit through Solomon declares:
"The words of a talebearer are wounds and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly" (Prov. 26:22).
The immediate reaction of the flesh, on reading this passage, is to be struck with how remarkably it fits someone else. But let us, for the time being, curb this evil reaction and consider how remarkably they fit ourselves -- how many times we have allowed the natural malice, of which we all have a share, to lead us into this flesh-gratifying sin. "The words of a talebearer are as dainty morsels" -- how searchingly true this divine analysis!
The way of the Truth is the way of love -- in all relationships. If our feeling toward our brethren and sisters is not pure love, regardless of their faults and weaknesses, then we ourselves are not the children of God, but are of the world. Love is kindness and gentleness and a desire to help and strengthen. Solomon records again (Prov. 17:9):
"He that covereth a transgression seeketh love, but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends."
This does not mean a glossing over or condoning of what is wrong, but a proper, pure-hearted, sympathetic, loving approach with a desire to build up. Let us take heed that we do not stand at the judgment seat exposed before all as what Paul describes as "tattlers and busybodies" (1 Tim. 5:13). It is a very easy and common sin. "Speak evil of no man" is the command. Even in our proclaiming of the Truth, let us take heed. We are not judges or executioners, but humble messengers with good tidings of light and love and divine compassion and long suffering.
Bro Growcott - Thy Speech Bewrayeth Thee
6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.
Many a man is destroyed by the words he lets out of his mouth.
The Christadelphian, Oct 1894. p380
9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
The Similitude of the Deity
The Divine form - the form of man, who is 'made after the similitude of God,' even the Father. This is the form of the angels, who are also spoken of as 'the sons of God' (Job 38:7). Their designation as sons would point to a Father-form, even He Who 'dwells in light' ... With this in view, we can join in David's word with fullness of meaning:
'To Thee lift I mine eyes, O Thou that dwellest in the heavens';
and in the prayer that the Lord taught his disciples,
'Our Father Who art in heaven'."
Christadelphian 1892, p. 169
14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
The unilluminated thinking of the flesh gives birth to the "works of the flesh; which are, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, dissensions, sects, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like" (Gal. 5:19)...
...Such is the carnal mind, or thinking of the flesh, as illustrated by the works of the flesh: a hideous deformity, whose conception is referable to the infidelity and disobedience of our first parents; by whom "sin entered into the world and death by sin" (Rom. 5:12). It is the serpent mind; because, it was through his untruthful reasonings believed, that a like mode of thinking to his was generated in the heart of Eve and her husband.
The seed sown there by the serpent was corruptible seed. Hence, the carnal mind, or thinking of the flesh, unenlightened by the truth, is the serpent in the flesh. It was for this reason, that Jesus styled His enemies, "serpents, and a generation of vipers" (Matt. 23:33).
Their actions all emanated from the serpent thinking of the flesh, which displayed "a wisdom not from above," which was at once "earthly, sensual, and devilish;" as opposed to that which "is from above," and which is "first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy" #...
The carnal mind, or serpent in the flesh, is the subject of a twofold manifestation, namely, individually and collectively. An individual manifestation is more or less observable in persons who "mind the things of the flesh," or "earthly things" (Rom. 8:5; Phil. 3:18-19; Col. 3:2; 1 John 2:15). To do this is to be "after the flesh," and "in the flesh;" of whom, it is testified, "they cannot please God."
By a figure, sin is put for the serpent, the effect for the cause; seeing that he was the suggester of unbelief and disobedience to man, by whom it entered into the world. Hence, the idea of the serpent in the flesh is expressed by "sin in the flesh;" which was "condemned in the flesh" when Jesus was crucified for, or, on account of sin, "in the likeness of sinful flesh."
In the animal man there dwelleth no good thing. The apostle affirms this of himself, considered as an unenlightened son of the flesh. "In me, that is, in my flesh," says he, "dwelleth no good thing." Hence, whatever good was in him, did not originate from the thinking of the flesh excited by the propensities, and traditions of Gamaliel, but from "the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus; " that is, from the influence of "the testimony of God," concerning "the things of the kingdom, and name of Jesus Christ," upon "the fleshly tablet of his heart," most assuredly believed.
Elpis Israel 1.3.
Earthly, sensual, and demoniac
Such is the wisdom of the Old Man of the Flesh. It can rise no higher in conceptions of God than the zenith of its own halo. He thinks as he feels, and his feelings are only blind. Being a creature of earth, and sense, and sin, his conceptions of God are earthly, sensual, and demoniac.
He proclaims Him to be an incomprehensible existence, without body or parts. Having assumed this, he deposits Him in every created thing, and theistically worships Him in men, birds, beasts, creeping things, and their images.
In this assumption, the philosopher, the theologian, the idolator, all meet together upon common ground. This is their "One God," whom they represent as fierce, vindictive, cruel, and implacable; who, but for some more benevolent being, interposing between Him and men, would increase His own glory and enjoyment, and satisfy His eternal justice, by tormenting them in fire and brimstone endlessly.
This is the God created and worshipped by the Old Man of the Flesh; worshipped, not because he loves Him, or sees anything in Him to admire, but because he is afraid of Him. Hence, all the fancy superstitions he has devised are based upon one common error of the brain, namely the necessity of the worshipper doing something to placate the Deity. The prescriptions extant in the Old Man's dispensary for the purpose are multitudinous.
Some of the most notable with which the world is empiricized and overspread, are those of cutting the flesh with knives after the manner of Baal; of causing children to pass through the fire after the manner of Moloch; of
"covering the altar of Yahweh with tears, with weeping and with crying out,"
after the practice of the priests in the days of Malachi; of straining at gnats, and paying tithes of mint and cummin in the fashion of hypocrites; of self-immolation under the fervid wheels of Juggernaut; of voluntary martyrdom, after the manner of the disciples of the Nicolaitanes, Balaams, and Jezebels of the early centuries after Christ; of papistical penance in afflicting the body for its commendation to God; of many long "prayers" or rhapsodical rants, weeping, and cryings out for religion, after the manner commonly witnessed at the camp meetings and revivals of the names and denominations which now fill the unmeasured court of the Gentiles (Rev. 11:2).
These, and ten thousand other absurd practices of the temple, the synagogue, and church, are all expressive of the common error referred to above, and indicate the total ignorance of Jews and Gentiles, both of the Mosaic and Nazarene teaching concerning the Holy One of Israel.
Phanerosis - The limitations of fleshly wisdom
The founder of the Epicurean branch of "the wisdom from beneath," from the depths of the carnal mind, was Epicurus, who flourished in Greece two hundred and seventy years before Christ; and after the translation of the Septuagint not many years. The Epicurean maintained that,
"The world arose from chance; that the gods whose existence they did not dare to deny, neither did nor could extend their providential care to human affairs; that the soul was mortal; that pleasure was to be regarded as the ultimate end of man, and that virtue was neither worthy of esteem nor choice, but with a view to the attainment of pleasure."
"Pleasure is supposed by some to mean, in this system, not only sensual, but to comprehend moral and intellectual pleasures. "
If so," says one,
"in what does the scheme of Epicurus, as respects virtue, differ from the opinion of those 'Christian philosophers' who maintain that self-love is the only spring of all human affections and actions?"
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Apr 1861