Stinson cautions Southern Seminary students on the gravity of words
Teachers of the gospel must restrain their tongues, said Randy L. Stinson, provost of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, to students and faculty in Alumni Chapel, Aug. 21.
Speaking on the importance of words in life and ministry, Stinson said, “We’re all sinners; we’re all going to stumble with our words ... sin with our words.” Preaching from James 3, Stinson showed man’s inability to tame the tongue because of sin, but pointed to the hope of the gospel.
Stinson noted the constant refrain of the passage to emphasize the human impossibility to restrain the tongue apart from God’s work.
As he spoke, Stinson used personal and often humorous examples to demonstrate the power and the sinful potential of words. “One minute you’re talking about ‘somebody left socks on the ground’ and the next minute you are talking about each other’s mother. How did this happen?”
Throughout chapter 3, James focuses on the “utter and complete hypocrisy of our words and our tongues,” he said. Speech comes from the overflow of the heart, and our words reveal “what is already in there.”
Stinson warned ministers and future ministers that church members “will not hear what you are saying because they are listening to what you are living. ... Your tongue will make you a hypocrite and will expose your hypocrisy quicker than anything else.”
Stinson demonstrated that James links the power of the tongue to the dominion mandate of Genesis. Dominion “resonates with us because it is part of the command of the garden,” Stinson said. Yet despite the fact that humans can exercise dominion over creation, “no human being can tame the tongue.”
Like creation, the tongue is fallen, and Stinson pointed out that “the inability to rid ourself of our own sin” should lead to mutual humility within relationships.
Realizing the power of words, believers can have hope because “the Bible says so much about your words,” Stinson said, referencing Scripture passages about the power of the tongue and the ensnaring and wounding ability of words (Proverbs 6:1-5 and 26:18).
Stinson pointed to scriptural warnings about evil speech, boasting, and grumbling against one another. “‘Express yourself’ is not one of the Ten Commandments.”
“Our inability to control our own sin,” Stinson said, “should drive us to the gospel because nobody, on his own, is going to tame the tongue.”
Instead, Christians should depend on Jesus Christ for the use of their tongues, Stinson concluded.
While James 3 carries a warning against ministry, Stinson said he did not want to talk seminarians out of ministry, but rather “talk about the gravity and the responsibility” of teaching.
James 3 reminds believers that within the church, not many should be teachers. All aspiring preachers and teachers should remember that teaching “is the source of pride many times and carelessness,” Stinson said, adding that “judgment is more strict for those of us who are going to be teaching.”
Audio and video of the sermon are available at sbts.edu/resources.