by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Study # 52 September 2, 1998 Harlingen, Texas
Thesis:The tongue is the primary instrument of man's self-destruction as he strives against the justice of God.
Introduction:Last week in our study we spent most of our time establishing the thesis that the tongue is the principle tool of man's attempt to achieve status apart from the status-grant to be found in the love of God. James' words are that the tongue is the kosmos of the iniquity. The references to iniquity (adikia) in the New Testament are unified in their focus upon man's attempts to exalt himself in the eyes of others. The use of kosmos is, apparently, James' way of saying that the fundamental tool of self-exaltation is man's tongue (a metaphor in itself for speech, words, and world-view messages). But he goes on to say that the tongue is a flame that has its origins in Gehenna and has its impact in the realm of what he calls the "circle (or wheel) of the generation".
This evening we are going to try to discover what he meant by those words.
I. Ignited by Gehenna.
A. An overview of the use of Gehenna in the New Testament reveals that Gehenna is the name of the place where God has established final justice.
1. It derived its name from the Aramaic phrase "valley of Hinnom" and it was notable for two things.
a. It was the place where the idol of Molech was set up and the child-sacrifices were carried out in the days of Ahaz and Manasseh.
b. It was the place used by the city of Jerusalem for its garbage dump.
2. It came to be the primary analogy of the place of eternal judgment (Mark 9:47-48) that is later described in Revelation as a Lake of Fire.
a. As such it stands as a reference to the immutable antagonism of the justice of God against sin and sinners.
b. It is, in theology, the ultimate statement of God as to the worthlessness of those who are cast therein...meaning that it is God's ultimate statement of the lack of status.
B. Gehenna as the Ignitor of the Tongue.
1. This metaphor is worked out in this fashion...
a. Gehenna is the metaphor for the wrath of God against those who seek status from the works of their hands.
b. The tongue is the metaphor for the speech of those who compete against others for status.
1) This speech is defamatory toward other persons (including angels and God).
2) This speech is boastful in respect to the speaker's attributes and actions.
c. The speech is a flame that has been ignited by the flames of Gehenna.
1) This means that the concept of God as absolutely opposed to self-exaltation generates the motivation of the tongue in speech.
2) This motivation is a fiery antagonism toward the God Who calls our works "of no value".
2. Man's deepest antagonism is against God Who rejects his actions as a basis for his value.
II. The Tongue as the Subsequent Ignitor of the Wheel of the Generation.
A. The "wheel of the generation" is a reference to a concept of the continuing cycle of man's coming into being AS A STATUS-SEEKER.
1. The continuous cycle multiplies status-seekers who continuously compete with each other for the glory.
2. This continuous competition generates conflict of various degrees and in all dimensions.
3. This is a consuming fire...in which all are consumed by their search and their futility.
a. God has built futility into the search.
b. Ultimately He has decreed a final end to those who pursue that search.
B. The burning of the wheel simply refers to the fact that all involved are destroyed by the flames.
C. The tongue is the primary tool of the destruction in that it generates response by the God of Opposition to self-exaltation.