The greeting.

Good afternoon Beloved. I trust that you are walking closely with our Lord Jesus Christ today. Thank you again for joining with us for our Bible study series in the book of James. For me it has been a very interesting book. And I will say, it is also fairly challenging and convicting in places. Today may be one of those challenging spots. 

The Scripture.

Today we are in the fourth chapter. We will unpack verses eleven and twelve. The subject matter is slander, speaking sinfully against another person. And to aggravate the sin, this is speaking evilly as a Christian against another Christian.

I have recommended this before but let me do it again. For a good study on how we aggravate our sins and make them more heinous before God read the Westminster Larger Catechism #151 with the Scripture proofs. It will be enlightening I promise.

Now to our study text. Hear the word of our omnipresent and omniscient and holy God, read. 

James 4:11. Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?

The prayer.

Let’s go to the Lord in prayer to ask His help with this sinful but all too common subject – pray.

The correction of Christians.

Notice that James calls his audience brothers.  He is their brother in Christ. They are his brothers and sisters in Christ. They are one spiritual family spiritually joined together under one head – Christ. (WCF 26.1, I Cor.12:1-31)

This is family correcting family. One Christian speaking to other Christians. And the call is to live worthy of the family name – a disciple of Christ.

So, what he says, albeit in writing, is written in love. Sometimes love requires you correct an erring Believer. (see Heb.12:1-12, Ps.119:71-75) And I would say this means both love to God and love to the erring Believer. I do realize that sometimes it can be frightening or intimidating to do this, but remember, to leave fellow Christians in their sin (if we can help them) is not loving to them. (2 Tim.3:17)

Obviously, be careful you do not swing to the opposite extreme and you end up being the “sin police” for your Christian friends and family. Used graced wisdom. Or you will be one lonely person. People will treat you like the plague. No one likes to be constantly judged under the guise of “loving help”. Be wise. Be humble.

If you remember from our last study in James, he was correcting these brothers for their friendship with the world and he called them sinners and double-minded. (James 4:1-10)

In other words, God in His word tells Christians to stop sinning like sinners. God says to His holy children to stop acting like children of this world.

Christians are accounted as saints or holy ones before God not because we no longer sin. We sin every day, in thought, word, and deed. (I Jn.1:10, Rom.7:10-25, I Pt.2:11-12, Mt.6:12, WLC 149, WSC 82) Christians are considered holy or righteous (in right standing with God’s law) only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us that we receive by faith alone. This of course is our justification or positional holiness before God. (Eph.2:1-9, WLC 70-72, WSC 33)

And our justification is evidenced by our sanctification, by our practical and progressive holiness, dying to sin and growing in righteousness. Remember without practical sanctification holiness no one will see the Lord. (Heb.12:14) We have been saved to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. We have been saved to live for Christ and to honor Him in all things – including our speech.

The correction of our sinful judgmentalism.

God through James defines the subject, do not speak against one another.

Then God refers to this as a form of sinful or wrong judging. I put it this way because not all forms of judging are wrong.

For instance, we are required to judge between clean and unclean. This is required and right. There are times for righteous judgment. Righteously judging the doctrine of others and the practices of others.  (Jn.7:24, Gal.1:9, I Jn.4:1, I Thess.5:21, 2 Jn.9, 2 Thess.3:11, Rev.22:15) Read I Corinthians 5:1-13 where the apostle Paul tells the Corinthian church to judge against the incestuous member of the church and to put him out of the church.

But in this sinful kind of judgment, we are in some way playing The Judge over and against our neighbor or our brother. And only God is The Judge.

As I said earlier this is sinful judging or slanderous speech against another professing Believer in Jesus. Remember these are the people that we say are our brothers and sisters in Christ. God says, do not speak derisively against another Christian. 

Here James echoes his Lord and Savior, who is also his half-brother, Jesus Christ.

Christ taught in the Sermon on the Mount, Do not judge so that you will not be judged.  For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. (Mt.7:1-2)

This slander or evil speaking against another is an expression of sinful judgmentalism.

The divine command against our sinful judgementalism.

God in His Word forbids speaking evilly against others. And His prohibition is very clear and so that only makes our disobedience more offensive.

Listen to these Scripture texts.

Psalm 140:11  May a slanderer not be established in the earth; May evil hunt the violent man speedily.” 

Proverbs 16:28   A perverse man spreads strife, And a slanderer separates intimate friends. 

Proverbs 20:19   He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore do not associate with a gossip. 

Jeremiah 9:4. Let everyone be on guard against his neighbor, And do not trust any brother; Because every brother deals craftily, And every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.  5 “Everyone deceives his neighbor And does not speak the truth, They have taught their tongue to speak lies; They weary themselves committing iniquity. 

Numbers 12:8   With him I speak mouth to mouth, Even openly, and not in dark sayings, And he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant, against Moses?” 

Psalm 50:18. When you see a thief, you are pleased with him, And you associate with adulterers.  19 “You let your mouth loose in evil And your tongue frames deceit.  20 “You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother’s son.  21 “These things you have done and I kept silence; You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.

The apostle Peter also writes against Christians slandering fellow Christians.

1 Peter 2:1. Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3 if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.

The definition of sinful judgmentalism.

Let me define slander.  Slander is a false or defamatory statement which may damage another person’s reputation or name.  Slander is to speak with evil content and evil intent against another.  Slander seeks to cause others to have an unjust and unfavorable impression of another.

Synonyms of slander help us with this idea of speaking against another, malign, defamation, character assassination, give someone a bad name, smear, backbiting, backstabbing, and belittle. You see the sense of this.

Condemnatory.

This is the sin of being hypercritical, being inordinately critical. The idea is this is the sin of judgementalism, wrong judgment, but along the line of being condemnatory.

Lying and deceiving.

Certainly, lying against another person is forbidden. But so is false representation, that is to say leaving out any information that would be helpful to another person. Or giving true statements but designed to hurt.

Thomas Manton says this is done variously false by accusations, divulging secret evils, by increasing their faults, by not admitting their graces, by not hearing their explanation or excuse, by attributing sinister aims to them and so on.

Manton says, John the Baptist’s head (i.e., another Christian’s reputation) on a plate is a common dish at our meals!

Sinful judgmentalism is a sin of the tongue.

So, the warning is against the misuse of our speech, or our tongues, and the words we use. Christ has purchased us body and soul and every part of us we are to use for holy use and not evil use.

Directly, God is prohibiting evil speech. James has already touched on this.  We are to have holy speech seasoned with grace in order to bless and build up.  And not tearing down others with our words. (James 3:1-13)

Indirectly, God is also prohibiting writing evil words against others. This would include emails and texts! Oh, are we ever guilty of sinful words in a quick response in a text?

Sinful judgmentalism is a sin of the heart.

Jesus says on Matthew 12:33-37 and 15:17-20 that our words come from our heart. 

Slander comes from the heart of a person that does not consider others in a good light.  This is a heart problem.  In context, at best a sanctification problem.  At worst, a justification problem.

Sinful judgmentalism is a sin of unbelief and carnality.

We commit this sin out of unbelief. We do not practically believe what the Bible says about these things. 

Speaking evilly of others is a sin of our fallen flesh, it is carnal. 

Now let’s just suppose that we have a true Christian committing this sin. A true Christian has two natures, the old fallen fleshly carnal nature plus the new spiritual nature that the Holy Spirit gifted us with in our new birth.

The particular expression of our fallen flesh that produces our slander of others is our idolatry of self, or our pride. We tear others down out of self-seeking self-centered self-serving pride. We tear others down because we lust to build ourselves up.

King David says those that slander others in secret have haughty eyes and a proud heart. (Ps.101:5) Closely associated with pride is jealously, envy, hatred, strife, revenge and so on.

The expressions of sinful judgmentalism.

Let’s take a look at what parts of God’s law speaking evilly of others breaks.

Sinful judgmentalism bears false witness against our neighbor.

Directly, this sin is the breaking of the ninth commandment, you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (Exod.20:16)

Let me give you how our catechism speaks to the 9th commandment. (WLC 144-145)

WSC 77  What is required in the ninth commandment?   The ninth commandment requires the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man,(1) and of our own and our neighbor’s good name,(2) especially in witness-bearing.(3) (1) Zech. 8:16 (2) 3 John 12 (3) Prov. 14:5,25

WSC 78  What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?   The ninth commandment forbids whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own or our neighbor’s good name.(1) (1) 1 Sam. 17:28; Lev. 19:16; Ps. 15:3

Sinful judgmentalism is a lack of love to neighbor.

Speaking evilly of anyone is a breaking of the second greatest commandment in the Bible, which is to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Mt.22:34-40) Speaking against another Christian is not loving.

Jesus says the mark of a true Believer in Jesus is that he or she loves other Christians. Remember Jesus says this. (Jn.13:35)

Sinful judgmentalism is an expression of hatred for our brother.

Speaking against another Christian is hateful. God hates it when professing Christians hate other professing Christians. Hatred is a form of heart murder. And God tells us that no murderer will inherit heaven.

Sinful judgmentalism is un-Christlike.

Slander is un-Christlike.

Philippians 2:3. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;  4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,

Christ did not speak evilly of the brethren.  Jesus called Judas “friend” even as Judas was betraying Him. (Mt.26:50)

Sinful judgmentalism is imitation of Satan.

I am afraid many professing Christians will hear from the Risen Christ, depart from Me you slanderer of the brethren. And remember the Satan (diabolos) means the slanderer, the accuser of the brethren! You will know them by their fruits, even the fruits of their tongues.

Slander is devillike. The word Satan (satanos) means adversary. And the Greek word for devil (diabolos) means the slanderer, the accuser of the brethren!

Zechariah 3:1. Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.  2 The LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”

Revelation 12:10   Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.

Sinful judgmentalism judges God the Lawgiver!

James uses a close parallelism here. Speaks against a brother.   Speaks against the Law. Judges his brother.   Judges the Law.

IF you speak evilly of your brother behind his back, then you are setting aside the royal law of love to love your neighbor as yourself. (Jas.2:8, Lev.19:18, Mt.22:39, Tom.13:9, Gal.5:14)

If you sinfully judge others when God commands you not to, then you are setting aside the Law of God! (Mt.7:1-6) If you set aside the law of God, then you make yourself a judge of the Law. And if you do that, then you put yourself on the level of The Lawgiver!

Jesus says why do you call Me Lord and do not keep My commandments? Slandering others sets ourselves up as our own little “lord” over The Lord (that we profess)!

Sinful judgmentalism is thoughtlessness and self-deception.

You see what James is doing.  He is using logic.  Most slanderers do not realize that they are in fact utterly disobeying the Bible with their slander.

Often times we sin with our speech because we are thoughtless with our speech, we just say things without considering if they are good and true and necessary. In this way, it would be helpful to really apply what we say is the rule for our doctrine and out practice to our speech. It would be helpful before we spoke to apply the rule of the Bible to our intended words.

And often slander is dressed up to look like a concern for truth or piety or some other good cause.  When in reality it is just the satisfaction of self-centered sin and pride.

And most back-biters do not realize that by their slander they are ‘playing’ God.  Which is a very dangerous business.

Think of it. When the word of God says one thing and we say another thing in affect we are saying that God’s Word comes up short.  That our thoughts on the matter are right and He is wrong!

Here is something to think about. Often times slander indicts the slanderer.

Often when we speak against others for some “sin” or fault of theirs we ourselves are guilty of the very thing we are slandering them of.  This is Paul’s argument in Romans 2:1-10) In other words, slanderers are often hypocrites or acting hypocritically.

The human heart is so prone to self-deception, even the heart of a true Believer. (Jer.17:9-10, Rom.7:15-16)

Sinful judgmentalism is dangerous and harmful.

James ends by alluding to the dangers and the harmfulness of slander and all forms of sinful judgmentalism.

You see, judging others and speaking evil of others greatly offends God. This sin is against God in Christ, ourselves, the other individual, and the church at large, and I would argue even the unbelieving world because we are giving them reasons to mock Christ and His holy religion. (Rom.2:17-29) 

In Committing this sin, we open ourselves up to God’s chastisement. We hurt ourselves.

By tearing down another individual Christian we also tear down the peace and unity of the Church.

Aside: we should be especially careful not to slander those in authority. I Tim.5:19, Jer.20:12, Ezek.33:30.  Men are apt to hate those that instruct them (correct them).  And since they occupy a place of authority their dishonor will be more harmful for others. 

James gives this applicatory soul-searching question.

James 4:12. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?

Can “you” usurp God’s authority?!

Paul says this in Romans,

Romans 14:3. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Oh Beloved, we are all sinners saved by the grace of God in the Christ of God. How can sinners boast of anything? We deserve damnation for our sins. And God gave us salvation. How can we look down on and tear down anyone given the love and kindness and mercy and goodness that God has lavished on us in Jesus?

Oh Beloved, love God and love people – in thought, word, and deed. This pleases our Lord.

Amen

Study Questions.

  1. Do true Christians still continue to sin? If so, why? Is it loving to correct others when they sin? If so, is there a right or wrong way to do it? Defend your answers with Scripture. (James 4:1-12, Heb.12:1-12, Ps.119:71-75, 2 Tim.3:17, Rom.2:1-11, Mt.7:1-6)
  1. Define and describe righteous judgments, or proper or biblical judgments. (Jn.7:24, Gal.1:9, I Jn.4:1, I Thess.5:21, 2 Jn.9, 2 Thess.3:11, Rev.22:15)
  1. Define slander, you can use synonyms. How is speaking against other people a form of sinful or wrong judgementalism? (James 4:1-12, Mt.7:1-2, Prov.16:28, 20:19, Jer.9:4-5, Num.12:8, Ps.50:18-21, I Pt.2:1-3)
  1. We make our sins more heinous before God in four ways: by the person doing the sinning, by the person sinned against, by the type of sin, and by the occasion or time of the sin. Given this, in what ways is slandering a fellow Christian an aggravation of our sin? I.e. what is our relationship to God? What is their relationship to God? What is our relationship to each other? (WCF 151, James 4:11-12, WLC 151, I Cor.12:1-31, Jn.3:16, Eph.2:1-10)
  1. In what ways can we use our speech in an evil and unlawful way? Why is slander such a wrong use of our words? What is the relationship of our words to our heart? What do sinful critical words against others prove about our heart? (Jas.3:13, Jas.4:11-12, Mt. 12:33-37, 15:17-20)
  1. How does speaking against other people and other Christians in particular show that we do not believe the word of God? How does it show our remaining fleshliness or worldliness and especially our pride? What is pride? Why does God hate pride? (Mt.16:22-23, Mk.9:33-34, Ps.101:1-5, Prov.8:13, James 4:6, Isa.14:12-15, 2 Tim.3:1-5)
  1. In what ways does sinful speech against our fellow Believer and our fellow neighbor break the ninth commandment? (Exod.20:16, WLC 144-145, Zech. 8:16 (2) 3 John 12 (3) Prov. 14:5,25, 1 Sam. 17:28; Lev. 19:16; Ps. 15:3)
  1. In what ways is sinful speech against our fellow Believer and our fellow neighbor reveal a lack of love for them and a presence of non-love (hate) for them? What does God think about this? (Mt.22:34-40, Jn.13:35, I Jn.2:9-11, 3:14-15, 4:20, Lev.19:17, Prov.10:11, Prov.8:13, Ps.133:1)
  1. In what ways is sinful speech against our fellow Believer and our fellow neighbor un-Christlike and like Satan? How can you speak kindly to evil people in imitation of Jesus? When you speak against another Believer do you think that you are acting like the devil? Should you think that? (Phil.2:1-11, Mt.26:50, Zech.3:1-2, Rev.12:10)
  1. In what ways does sinful speech against our fellow Believer and our fellow neighbor judge God and judge the Law of God (as wrong)? (Jas.2:8, Lev.19:18, Mt.22:39, Tom.13:9, Gal.5:14, Mt.7:1-6)
  1. Why is sinful speech against our fellow Believer and our fellow neighbor dangerous? How does evil speech against others dishonor and harm God, Christ, the gospel, ourselves, those in the church, and those out of the church? (Ps.101:5, Mt.12:36, Hames 4:11-12, 2 Tim.3:1-5, Rom.1:30)
  1. How should we think and speak to and about others? As Believers in Jesus why should we only speak lovingly and kindly about others and not evilly? Think of your own salvation in Christ from your sins. (Jn.3:16, Col.1:13, 3:5-8, Rom.5:1-10, Eph.4:29-32, James 1:12, I Cor.6:9-11, I Pt.3:10, Mt.7:12, Mk.11:25, I Pt.2:12, Mt.6:14-15)

 

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