(Vs. 1.) Almost all writers agree that the word "masters" is "teachers". "My brethren, do not rush eagerly toward and aspire to be teachers of the Scriptures. Take not this office presumptuously upon yourselves."
Unqualified, untaught and uncalled teachers and preachers are partly responsible for the corrupt practice and doctrine in churches today. We do not want to discourage men from the office of teacher, but we must urge restraint and avoid ordaining novices. We must pray that God will call and make known to us Who should preach and teach his Word (Luke 10:1, 2; Acts 13:1-3, 1 Tim. 5:22; 3:6). Teaching the Word requires not only a fluent tongue, a knowledge of the Scriptures and a sincere heart, but also an anointing of the Lord.
"The greater condemnation." That is saying, "We teachers are judged by a higher standard and with greater severity than others, for when we become teachers, we assume greater accountability and responsibility" (Matt. 5:19).
(Vs. 2.) "We all, without exception [teachers, pupils, preachers], fall and offend in many ways." Those of us who teach and those of us who are taught have many infirmities (1 John 1:8-10). The tongue, however, is our major source of offence. If a person can learn to control his tongue, he is a mature believer. The person who has learned when to speak, what to speak and how to speak for the glory of God and the good of the church is mature. His actions will be in keeping with his words controlled by love and grace!
This follows verse 1 because the person who has taken upon himself to speak for God, for the Scriptures and for the church is in an especially precarious position.
The tongue is a small member, but it can produce amazing, astounding, sometimes disastrous, sometimes marvellous results! Three illustrations follow.
(Vs. 3.) The horse"s bit. The horse is a big, strong animal, wild and self-willed, but by placing a very small bit in his mouth, we can turn his whole body in the direction we want him to go!
(Vs. 4.) The ship"s rudder. How vast, bulky, and heavy is the ship which is driven by wind or powerful motors! Yet we can turn that great ship to safety or to the rocks by a very small rudder.
(Vs. 5.) A small fire. Just a match or even a spark can destroy a home, a forest or a city, like the horse"s bit, the rudder and the match, the tongue is a small thing; yet it can do great and mighty things. The tongue, well-ordered and sanctified, can preach the gospel, comfort, bring happiness, build friendships, unite people, etc. But the tongue can also do great harm and evil (as shown in the next verse).
(Vs. 6.) The tongue, when moved by anger, envy, jealousy, ambition and like passions, is like a destructive, spreading fire which destroys without partiality or pity.
1. It is like a fire from the heat of it; it is an instrument of wrath that stirs passions like water boiling.
2. It is like a fire in the danger of it, no one in its path is safe; it can turn a happy home or church into a barren wilderness.
3. It is like a fire in the duration of it; a fire out of control is hard to stop, and words spoken in anger live on and on.
This small member can destroy friendships that have stood for years. It can destroy homes and churches that have been happy and content. It can destroy character and reputations, plant suspicion and doubt and turn men from the truth to error.
(Vs. 7, 8.) Man has succeeded in taming beasts, birds, serpents and even the fish of the sea, "but the tongue can no man tame". No man can control it, hold it in check, or stop its bitterness and evil. No man can tame the tongue but the grace of God can tame, subdue and make it an instrument for God"s praise and goodness. When the grace of God acts on the heart, it will subdue the tongue.
1. Grace slays the corruption which uses the tongue as an outlet.
2. Grace quenches the flames of hate and jealousy which motivate the tongue.
3. Grace implants a new nature of love which influences the tongue to speak in kindness, truth and sincerity, for the glory of God and the good of all men.
Only one great power can change this small member from an instrument of evil to an instrument of good the grace of God in Christ.