|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:1-12 We are taught to dread an unruly tongue, as one of the greatest evils. The affairs of mankind are thrown into confusion by the tongues of men. Every age of the world, and every condition of life, private or public, affords examples of this. Hell has more to do in promoting the fire of the tongue than men generally think; and whenever men's tongues are employed in sinful ways, they are set on fire of hell. No man can tame the tongue without Divine grace and assistance. The apostle does not represent it as impossible, but as extremely difficult. Other sins decay with age, this many times gets worse; we grow more froward and fretful, as natural strength decays, and the days come on in which we have no pleasure. When other sins are tamed and subdued by the infirmities of age, the spirit often grows more tart, nature being drawn down to the dregs, and the words used become more passionate. That man's tongue confutes itself, which at one time pretends to adore the perfections of God, and to refer all things to him; and at another time condemns even good men, if they do not use the same words and expressions. True religion will not admit of contradictions: how many sins would be prevented, if men would always be consistent! Pious and edifying language is the genuine produce of a sanctified heart; and none who understand Christianity, expect to hear curses, lies, boastings, and revilings from a true believer's mouth, any more than they look for the fruit of one tree from another. But facts prove that more professors succeed in bridling their senses and appetites, than in duly restraining their tongues. Then, depending on Divine grace, let us take heed to bless and curse not; and let us aim to be consistent in our words and actions.
Verse 2. - Γὰρ gives the reason for this κρίμα. We shall be judged because in many things we all stumble, and it is implied that teachers are in danger of greater condemnation, because it is almost impossible to govern the tongue completely. With the thought comp. Ecclesiastes 7:20, "There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not." Πολλά is adverbial, as in Matthew 9:14, and may be either
(1) "in many things," or
(2) "oft." Ἅπαντες. No se ipsos quidem excipiunt apostoli (Bengel). If any stumbleth not in word (R.V.). "Control of speech is named, not as in itself constituting perfection, but as a crucial test indicating whether the man has or has not attained unto it" (Plumptre). Τέλειος (see James 1:4). Ξαλιναγωγεῖν (cf. James 1:26). It is only found in these two passages; never in the LXX.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
For in many things we offend all,.... Or "we all offend", slip and fall; no man lives without sin; in many, in most, if not in all things, a good man himself does, he sins; and this extends to the most solemn services, and best works of a good man; there is sin in his holy things, imperfections in all his performances; his righteousnesses are as filthy rags; hence no man can be justified by his works before God, nor is any man perfect in this life, so as to be without sin in himself: the apostle includes himself in this account, and that not out of modesty merely, or in a complaisant way, but as matter of fact, and what he found in himself, and observed in the conduct of his life: and now this is given as a reason why persons should not be anxious of teaching others, since in many instances, in common speech and conversation, men are apt to offend, and much more in a work which requires a multitude of words; or why men should be careful how they charge, censure, and reprove others, in a rash, furious, and unchristian manner; since they themselves are in the body, and may be tempted, and are attended with many infirmities, slips, and falls in common life.
If any man offend not in word; from slips and falls in general, the apostle proceeds to the slips of the tongue, and to the use and abuse of that member; and his sense is, that if a man has so much guard upon himself, and such a command over his tongue, and so much wisdom to use it, as to give no offence by it, to his fellow creatures, and fellow Christians:
the same is a perfect man; not that he is perfect in himself, and without sin, that is denied before; unless this is considered as a mere hypothesis, and by way of concession; that could there be found out a man that never, for instance, offends in word in anyone part of life, that man may be allowed, and be set down to be a perfect man; but no such man is to be found, and therefore none perfect: but rather the sense is, that he who in common is so careful of his speech, as not to offend his brethren, may be looked upon as a sincere and truly religious man; See James 1:26 or he may be accounted a wise and prudent man, such an one as in James 3:13 he is not a babe in understanding, a child in conduct, but a grown man; at full age; a perfect man; in which sense the word is used in 1 Corinthians 2:6.
And able also to bridle the whole body; either to govern the whole body, the church, to teach a society of Christians, and to feed them with knowledge, and with understanding; or rather, as he appears to be able to bridle that member of the body, the tongue, so likewise to be able, through the grace of God, to keep under the whole body, that sin shall not reign in it, or the lusts of it be in common obeyed.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2. all—The Greek implies "all without exception": even the apostles.
offend not—literally "stumbleth not": is void of offence or "slip" in word: in which respect one is especially tried who sets up to be a "teacher."
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