October 13th, 1974 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W.A. Criswell
10-13-74 10:50 a.m.
Before we continue preaching through the Book of James in chapter 4, there are these words that I would like to add to the sermon in chapter 3 on our speaking. The title of the message is Our Words, and it is a continuation of a sermon that I delivered in an exposition of chapter 3 on the untamed tongue. In chapter 3, speaking of the tongue, the words we say, in verse 9, the pastor of the church in Jerusalem writes:
With the tongue we bless God, even the Father; and with the tongue we curse men, which are made after the similitude of God.
Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be.
Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?
Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness and wisdom.
[James 3:9-11, 13]
The words that we speak are all important. We could not emphasize too much the words of God. Matthew 4:4 avows, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” My favorite text, Isaiah 40:8, declares, “The flower fadeth, the grass withereth: but the word of God shall stand for ever.”
In Revelation 19:11-13:
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was Faithful and True . . .
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns . . .
And He was dressed in a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God.
John begins his Gospel with that avowal: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” [John 1:1]. It would be impossible for one to emphasize too much the Word of God. By the word of the Lord the heavens were created, the very stars flung into their celestial orbits. By the word of God, all that we see came into existence [Genesis 1: 1-31]. By the word of God, the universe is upheld. Hebrews 1:3: “Upholding all things by the word of His power.” By the Word of God, we are convicted. By the Word of God, we are saved. By the Word of God, we have assurance of our ultimate home in heaven [John 14:3]. We could not emphasize too much the Word of God. It is identified with the Lord Himself. Both the spoken word and the incarnate Word, are called the Word of God [John 1:1, 14: Hebrews 4:12].
Now that leads me to make a corollary emphasis. This is not just a deduction, an addendum, an appendix, but it is in the text of the Book itself. It is God’s revelation itself that our words are thus and likewise important. Nor would it be impossible to emphasize the significance of our language and our words. For example, we are saved, we are born again by the words of our confession and of our faith. That is plainly stated in Romans 10:9-10:
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that He lives, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart one believeth unto the God kind of righteousness, the kind that saves us;
and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
In the tenth chapter of the Book of Matthew, verses 32 and 33, our Lord Himself taught us saying, “Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before My Father in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I deny before My Father in heaven” [Matthew 10:32-33]. The unpardonable sin is something of the word, of language, of saying: “Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Spirit, there is a sin in that that shall not be forgiven in this world, or in the world that is to come” [Matthew 12:32; Mark 3:28-30].
It is a remarkable thing in the Word of God, when the Lord teaches us in Matthew 12 that we are to be judged in the final day by our words. He says in Matthew 12:34 and following:
Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things:
but an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
You listen to a man talk, and you’ll know exactly what he is on the inside. If he’s filthy on the inside, you will see it in his dirty language. If he’s holy and pure on the inside, you will see it in his chaste and beautiful language. “I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment” [Matthew 12:36]. Now listen to this verse: “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” [Matthew 12:37].
I have spoken of this to lay before us the foundation for the message this hour. It is not possible to emphasize too much the Word of God, and the corollary follows immediately: nor is it possible to emphasize too much the significance of our words, our language that we use as human mortal beings in this life.
First, I want to speak of our words addressed to God, and I shall speak of them as prayer and praise and personification incarnate in us. Our words that we address to God—it is something that I didn’t quite realize until I began this study how the Lord will speak of our words, our words in prayer. For example, in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Mark, the Lord will say, “Truly I say unto you, Whosoever will say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be cast into the sea . . . and shall believe that what he says shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith” [Mark 11: 23]. Words, “Whosoever shall address this mountain in words, whatsoever he saith, what he says, shall come to pass” [Mark 11:23].
Take again our Lord speaking in the fifteenth chapter of John, “If My words abide in you, if My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” [John 15: 7]. Our Lord defines our addressing God in prayer, in words, and those words, fraught with dedication and faith and meaning, bring to pass what we ask, what we say. I didn’t say that. Jesus says that. Our words in prayer are significant and all important. They are channels through which does flow what’s in our souls, the faith that lives within us.
Again, our praise to God is in words. “I will bless the Lord at all times,” David sings in Psalm 34, “His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord . . . O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together” [Psalm 34:1-3]. “I will magnify the Lord with thanksgiving” [Psalm 69:30]. Let the words of my mouth praise God. Bless His name forever. It is in our words that we exalt our Lord and magnify His marvelous name.
We are to personify, to incarnate God’s Words. They are to be a part of us, what we are. If you were to cut us and analyze us, that’s what you’d find in us: the Word of God. If you were to take a graft of our hearts, what you’d find in us is the Word of God.
Listen to Paul as he writes in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of God abide in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another.” Or listen to Simon Peter as he writes in his first epistle, chapter 4, verse 11, “If any man speak, let him speak the oracles of God—the words of God” [1 Peter 4:11].
Now when you look at those verses, let the Word of God abide, live in you richly. And if a man speak, let him speak the words, the oracles of God. Well, you’d say, “How is it possible that a man could achieve unto a nomenclature, a language like that?” Well, let me tell you. I do not exaggerate this.
I have heard many, many, many people, especially old-timers, who read the King James Version of the Bible by day and by night, and as I listen to those godly people speak—I’m thinking mostly now of the days when I was a teenager and a pastor out in the country—the people loved God’s Book, and they read the King James Version of the Bible. It was about all that they read and certainly all that they studied. Did you know, in their language, they sounded like the Bible? And when they prayed, I have heard those saintly people pray, and from the beginning of the petition to the end, it was none other than the Word of God. It is remarkable how the Word of God can live in a man’s heart and how his language can reflect that holy and pure revelation of God on these sacred pages. That is what we are commanded to do. In our speech, we are to reflect the incarnation of God’s Word, God’s speech, God’s language in our souls.
Now, the second part of this message concerns our words to Satan. I’ve just spoken of our words to God. The Lord in this Book speaks of our words to Satan. Listen. Revelation 12:11, “And they overcame him,” and just above in the verse that “him” is identified as that old serpent, the dragon, and Satan, the Devil [Revelation 12:9]. “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb,” the victory in Christ, “and by the word of their testimony” [Revelation 12:11].
They overcame him, nikaō. Every once in awhile I’ll see a little nikē, or nikē for sale in a gift shop. Nikē, it’s the Greek word for victory, and a nikē is that famous Greek statue called Winged Victory. That’s the word that is used there: nikaō, nikaō, “and they overcame him”; nikaō [Revelation 12:11].
They really pulverized him. It was a tremendous triumph! That is, it wasn’t just barely a victory. It wasn’t just somewhat one. It wasn’t just maybe indecisive. But they overcame him [Revelation 12:11]. They pulverized him. They conquered him. They defeated him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony [Revelation 12:11], confronting, and confounding, and confuting Satan with our word of commitment and devotion to Christ.
You know I got to thinking about that. You look at that. I never saw it happen. I don’t know that I ever did it myself. But I got to turning that over in my mind, the power of a man’s testimony to pulverize Satan, absolutely to destroy him, just your testimony. All right, let’s look at it a minute.
Suppose a fellow in the locker room over here at the Y where I go, and suppose there are three of those fellows that gather around me, and one of them begins to tell a filthy and a dirty story. Suppose I put my hand on the shoulder of one and put my other hand on the shoulder of the other, and say, “Fellows, let’s bow in prayer.” I tell you that would be a new atmosphere.
Suppose a boy who is in one of our cities, and say he’s a green country boy, and he’s walking down the street, and he passes in front of a bawdy house, and there’s a female that tries to entice him inside of the bawdy house, and the fellow says, “Well, I’d be happy to go in.” So he goes in, and he says, “You know what? I want to tell you about my conversion and how I found the Lord.” I tell you there’d be some surprised women in that place. I’m just taking some examples to tell you how testimony for Jesus, words for Jesus, absolutely destroys the power of Satan [Revelation 12:11].
Any time in this world that you ever find yourself in any trial, or in any temptation, or in any compromised enticement, you just say a good word about Jesus. You just begin to testify for the Lord and see if the very angels of heaven do not surround you, and bear you up on their wings in strength, in victory, in nikaō, in triumph. They overcame him and did it easily. He’s no match for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony” [Revelation 12:11].
We’re to be absolutely unafraid of Satan. “Pastor, how in the earth, in a world of disease and disaster and death, how is it that we don’t cringe before him?” Why, God teaches us to be unafraid. In the name of the Lord, rebuke him!
The Lord says, in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Luke, when you fall into all of these things and trials in the world, do not think that it might be a burden to you “what thing ye shall say, or how ye shall answer: For the Holy Spirit shall teach you in that hour what ye shall say” [Luke 12:11-12]. Don’t be afraid, not of any situation that could ever develop. For God’s words, He will put in your mouth.
We must hasten. I speak now of our words concerning our self. I’ve spoken of our words addressed to God, praise and prayer, and incarnate in us [1 Peter 4:11]. And I’ve spoken of our words of testimony addressed to Satan that absolutely destroy him [Revelation 12:11]. I want to speak now of the words as they affect us, ourselves [Proverbs 4:20-22].
You know, when I study the Bible, the things that I read are sometimes overwhelming, I can hardly realize them. In the text, in the third chapter of this Book of James, the pastor writes that our words, our tongue can defile the whole body, make us dirty, make us filthy. Our words can [James 3:6]. The mouth is the open door to the soul, and when our mouth is filthy and dirty, the whole sewer pours in, and the whole physical frame is defiled.
When you talk dirty and when you talk filthy, you get dirty, and you get filthy. Your language somehow enters into every fiber of your being, and you get unclean just like the language that you used. If one is dirty, the other is dirty.
Let’s turn that around. It would mean also that pure and chaste language brings health and life and cleansing to the body. Listen to this in the fourth chapter of Proverbs: “My son, my son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to thy flesh!” [Proverbs 4:20-22].
I don’t invent these things. I repeat; I’m just an echo, I’m just a voice, I just read these things in God’s Book. If a man will use beautiful, fine, clean, chaste, pure language, God says it will bring life to him and health to his flesh [Proverbs 4:22].
You know, these doctors sometimes use a word “psychosomatic.” Psuchē is the Greek word for mind, psuchē; psyche, you put it in English. Soma is the Greek word for body; anything somatic is body. So psychosomatic refers to the influence of the mind over the body, and that’s a nomenclature you’ll find often used as the doctor looks at the patients.
Psychosomatic ailments and diseases and troubles, there’s not anything wrong with the fellow’s heart, or his stomach, or his gizzard, or anything else about him, but he is under a tremendous heaviness, and his body reflects it, and they call it a psychosomatic ailment.
Now that is exactly what this good Book is saying. A long time before the medicine men began writing those tomes and teaching in these medical schools, God wrote it here. How I say and how I speak flooding out of my soul has a great repercussion in my physical frame. And if I am vile and unclean and filthy and dirty, it has an effect in my body. It produces an effect in my physical body. But if I am clean and pure and chaste in my words and in my language, it brings health to those who thus speak and thus think [James 3:6]. Isn’t that a remarkable thing? All of this, teaching us out of God’s Book.
We must hasten. I speak last, having spoken of our words addressed to God [1 Peter 4:11], and our words addressed to Satan [Revelation 12:11], and our words in their effect upon ourselves [James 3:6], I speak now of our words as they concern others. How am I to speak of others?
This is what I am not to say. I am not to speak. I am not to be a backbiter or a whisperer. I want you to look at the company in which the apostle Paul, by divine inspiration, puts backbiters and whisperers, defamers, slanderers. I’m going to read the closing verses of the first chapter of the Book of Romans, talking about those evil, corrupt people of the Greco-Roman world in which he lived. He speaks of them:
As they did not retain God in their knowledge, therefore, God gave them over to a reprobate mind—
their minds thought of evil—
Filled with all unrighteousness—
now look at it—
fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient,
Without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death.
You look at that. The murderer, the fornicator, the covenant breaker, the implacable and unmerciful, the inventors of evil, and disobedient, he places the whisperers [Romans 1:29], and the katalalos, translated here “backbiter” [Romans 1:30]. Kakia is the word for evil; laleō, laleō, laleō is speaking, those who slander and defame and speak evil. Isn’t this a remarkable thing? The whisperer and the defamer and the slanderer is classed in the same breath with the murderer, and the fornicator, and the implacable, and the disobedient [Romans 1:29-30].
O Lord, what our words can do for us! This we are not to do. This we are not to do. In the Book of Leviticus—and some of you who are planning to read through the Bible say, “Oh, dear, do I read through the Book of Leviticus?” Listen, you’ll never be more richly blessed than if you’ll read this with a discerning heart. Listen to Leviticus 19:16: “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people.” That’s what we’re not to do.
Listen to the wisest man who ever lived as he wrote in Proverbs 11:13: “A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.” Look at him again as he writes in Proverbs 18:8: “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the viscera.” They plunge into the very soul of the man. Listen again to Proverbs 26:20: “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.”
All you have to do, God says, to have peace and quiet among God’s people is just don’t whisper, whisper. Just don’t tale bear. Just don’t slander and defame. Just don’t repeat it. Keep it to yourself and to God.
My time is gone. Bear with me just one last. If I am not to be a talebearer, and a whisperer, and a defamer, and a slanderer, then what am I to do? This is what I am to do: I am to speak beautifully and graciously and kindly.
The apostle Paul writes, “Speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to edify, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” [Ephesians 4:25, 29].
I have a poem that I don’t have time to read.
Wouldn’t this be a great old world,
if the folks we meet would say-
“I know something good about you,”
and then treat us just that way?
Wouldn’t it be nice to practise
that fine way of thinking, too?
You know something good about me,
I know something good about you?
[“I Know Something Good About You,” Louis C. Shimon]
“Well, pastor, how in the world do you say nice things about bad people?” Well, the worst man in town died, and there wasn’t anything anybody could say good about him. So as they lowered him into the ground, the preacher says, “Doesn’t anybody know something good to say about this man?” And a fellow stood up and said, “Well, pastor, he wasn’t as bad all the time as he was most of the time.”
There’s always something good, always something good that we can say. When you say it, make it good. And if it’s not good, keep it to yourself and tell God all about it. And if we do that with our mouths and our words, we magnify God [Psalm 34:3]. We testify to the grace of the Lord in Christ Jesus. And we seek to encourage each other. You’ll have a new life, and a new house, and a new home, and a new way, and it’ll lead right up to glory.
We must make our appeal. While we sing the song, to confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, to accept Him as Savior, or openly, publicly to identify your family with the people of God, the throng in the balcony round, all on this lower floor, down one of these aisles: “Pastor, I’ve made the decision in my heart. Today, I give my life to Christ,” or “Today, I’m putting my love and prayers in the fellowship of this dear church. God grant that we may grow in grace together.” Do it. Make it now. On the first note of the first stanza, come, while we stand and while we sing.