1. Open your bibles to James 4:11&12.
2. In James 4:11 the command “do not speak evil of one another, brethren” is a continuation of warnings spoken of in James 4:1&2 where James warned against the “wars and fighting’s” going on among members of the church due to selfish and covetous’ desires to have more recognition than other members of the church.
3. The verbal and malicious “wars and fights” would result in brethren “speaking evil of one another”.
4. A word that summarizes James’ warning is the word “slander”. “Criticizing” unjustly!
5. Noah Webster in his 1828 edition of his dictionary, defined slander as “a false tale or report maliciously uttered, and tending to injure the reputation of another by lessening him in the esteem of his fellow citizens, by exposing him to impeachment and punishment, or by impairing his means of living.” Sarah Palin, the governor from Alaska has received a lot slander and evil remarks.
6. In Leviticus 19:16, God commands His people, “You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people.” In Ps. 15:3 we are taught that it is the mark of a godly man that “he does not slander with his tongue”.; In Ps. 50:19&20; Jer. 6:28; 9:4 and Rom. 1:30 we are taught that it is the mark of the wicked that they do slander others.
7. The seriousness of slander caused David to vow, “Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy” (Ps. 101:5). The seriousness of slander caused David to pray, “May a slanderer not be established in the earth” (Ps. 140:11).
8. In Proverbs 20:19 Solomon wisely counseled against associating with a slanderer. “He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; Therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips.”
9. Let’s begin a discussion of the warnings that James 4:11&12 give us.
I. FIRST, JAMES 4:11a EMPHATICALLY WARNS THAT WE SHOULD NOT SPEAK EVIL AGAINST A BROTHER IN CHRIST.
1. Let’s read James 4:11a, “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren”.
2. Turn to Acts 6:7-14. In the early part of Acts 6 Stephen and six other men received the laying on of the hands of the apostles, so that they could, among other things, through miraculous inspiration begin to teach to the Jewish people in Jerusalem. Their teaching converted many Jews.
The Jewish leaders became angered at the teaching of Stephen. They began to speak evil against Stephen and what he is teaching. This evil speaking was in the form of lies being told about what he was teaching. These Jewish leaders provide an example of those claiming to be God’s people “speaking evil” of God’s true N. T. Christians. Today many preachers and teachers of God’s word have “evil things said about them”.
Let’s read Acts 6:7-14, “7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. 11 Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council. 13 They also set up false witnesses who said, “This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.”
(1) It is true that Stephen taught that the followers of Christ would no longer be under the authority of the Law of Moses. However, he did not make that up. God, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit had Stephen to teach the truths that he was teaching.
(2) In the 21st century many preachers will have evil things said about them when they teach what God wants taught about baptism being necessary for salvation.
Evil things will often be said when they teach what God wants taught about the importance of taking the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week.
Evil things will often be said when they teach what God wants taught about fornication being the only scriptural reason for divorce and remarriage.
Evil things will often be said when they teach what God wants taught about vocal music being the only authorized music in worship to God.
Evil things will often be said when they teach what God wants in the forbidding of hand clapping and women not taking leadership positions in the public worship services.
(3) James exhorts us to not be guilty of speaking evil of others in matters like we have illustrated or slander or falsely speak evil of others for any reason.
3. The “speaking evil” of others that James is talking about is not the same that the bible speaks of when it talks about decisions pertaining to righteous judgment expressed toward others. We will talk more about this in a few moments.
II. SECOND, JAMES 2:11b&12 WARNS CHRISTIANS THAT WHEN THEY SPEAK EVIL AGAINST A BROTHER, THEN THEY ARE EQUALLY SPEAKING EVIL AGAINST THE LAW AND ALSO JUDGING THE LAW.
1. Let’s read James 4:11b&12, “11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?”
2. James is saying that, in effect, we are playing God, for there is only one who can give the Law, and who can save and destroy, and that is God himself. James is teaching that I must not presume to take over God’s role. That is why James says, "Who do you think you are to “speak evil” and “slander” and “criticize” your brother? Do you think that you are God?" God is the only one who has that right.
3. James affirms that one who speaks evil of his brother and thus condemns his brother, in the same action also speaks evil of the law and condemns the law. Evil speaking is forbidden by God’s law. Instead God’s people are to show love toward other people.
4. In James 2:8 James defines the law as “the law of love”. All the Law relating to man’s relationship with his fellow man is summed up in this one statement: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well.”
5. James is teaching that I am suppose to love others, but if I choose to set limits on my love and, instead of taking my place under the Law and submitting to it, I place myself above the Law and presume to become a judge of what is right and what is wrong and what is loving and what isn’t loving, then I display an attitude of playing God.
III. THIRD, JAMES 4:11&12 CONDEMN “EVIL SPEAKING”, “SLANDER” AND “CRITICIZING” UNFAIRLY, BUT OTHER PASSAGES TEACH THE NECESSITY OF JUDGING OTHERS ACCORDING TO RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT!
1. Turn to John 7:24. Here, Jesus teaches that God approved judgment is when we use “righteous judgment”. Let’s read John 7:24, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
2. Turn to 1 Cor. 5:1&ff. This passage provides an example of the apostle Paul giving instructions to the church of Corinth on how to judge according to “righteous judgment”. Let’s read 1 Cor. 5:1&ff and make a few comments as we read through this passage. “1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. 3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. [Paul was judging with “righteous judgment” even though he wasn’t present. Since it was a proven fact that the man was guilty of disobeying God’s word it was not wrong for Paul to say he had judged the man. God’s word condemns fornication and if some one is guilty then, not faithful Christians, but God and Christ are the one’s condemning the guilty.]
[Paul next exhorts those of Corinth to exercise judgment and church discipline.] 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
[“For the destruction of the flesh” refers to the withdrawal of fellowship toward the guilty man motivating him to turn away from his fleshly lust of fornication and to again live faithful to God.]
6 Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? [“Leaven” is used figuratively to refer to the sinful conduct having a bad influence on the whole congregation if they don’t show disapproval and a withdrawal of fellowship.] 7 Therefore purge out the old leaven [the sinful fornicator], that you may be a new lump [an uncontaminated church not harboring a sinner], since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.
8 Therefore let us keep the feast [not the Lord’s Supper, but “feast” refers to living the Christian life, as we are obedient to the word of Christ], not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. [Be a congregation of the Lord faithfully following God’s word and bringing the judgment of church discipline against those who want be faithful.]
9 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. [Fornicators!] 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.
12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”
3. Turn to Rom. 16:17-20. This passage teaches that faithful Christians are to exercise “righteous judgment” toward false teachers. Let’s read Rom. 16:17-20, “17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. 19 For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.” [Christians show wisdom when they make correct judgment in rejecting and marking false teachers. Such is “righteous judgment”!]
4. Turn to 2 Thess. 3:6,10,14&15. These passages teach that faithful Christians are to use good “righteous judgment” in withdrawing from Christians who will not faithfully follow God’s word and who will not work. Let’s read 2 Thess. 3:6&ff, “6 But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. 10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. 14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” [God commands “righteous judgment” toward those who won’t be faithful and toward those who want “work”.]
5. Turn to Matt. 7:1-6. Here, Jesus teaches that “righteous judgment” will refrain from judging the motives of individuals. “Righteous judgment” is not trying to read the minds and motives behind why individuals do certain things. Let’s read Matt. 7:1-6, “1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. [Don’t judge the motive or try to be a mind reader. Only judge the outward actions.] 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. [“Righteous judgment” demands for Christians to examine their own lives and not just be guilty of pointing fingers at others. Don’t be guilty of judging motives nor of never examining yourself!]
6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces. [“Dogs” and “swine” are used figuratively to refer to people who are ungrateful and unthankful for the precious truths and teaching of the word of Christ. To obey these commands Christians must exercise “righteous judgment”.]
1. In this lesson we have tried to understand James’ exhortation “to not speak evil of anyone” – “to not be a slander of anyone” or try to misrepresent some one or try to destroy their reputation.
2. In this lesson we have also tried to study a variety of other passages to let us know that “speaking evil of others” and obey God’s commands to exercise “righteous judgment” are two different things.
3. “Righteous judgment” is approved and commanded of Christians and something that we must obey.
4. Turn to Luke 7:27-30. Here, Jesus is telling about how some used good judgment and obeyed the command of John the Baptist to be baptized, but some used bad judgment and did not obey the command to be baptized. Let’s read Luke 7:27-30, “27 This is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.’ 28 For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
29 And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.”
6. Bad judgment is to reject the counsel of God and not obey the command to be baptized.
7. Please express your belief, repentance, confession and your obedience to the command to be baptized.
8. If you are already a Christian and need prayers please come forward as we stand and sing!
Acknowledgments for a lot of thoughts in the development of all the sermons on the book of James are to go to:
(1) Bob Winton CD Commentary on Matthew 27:50-54. 464 Ridgewood Drive Manchester, Tennessee 37355. If interested in CD covering many O. T. & N.T. books call (866) 753-8456.
(2) Miscellaneous commentaries by numerous others.