Proverb 18:21 – Death And Life Are In The Power Of The Tongue
Posted by Job on April 7, 2011
According to the Bible, our words have power, even unto life and death. That is why we should not be idle, vain, careless or irreverent with our words, but instead always speak with caution and with purpose. What are some of the ways that we speak death?
Taking the Lord’s Name in vain (Exd 20:7), lying (Exd 20:16), cursing and swearing (Jam 5:12), gossip (Lev 19:16), ranting, promoting unlawful division and vain arguing (1Ti 6:4), subversive speech (Gal 5:19) vulgar/profane speech (Gal 5:20), jealous speech (Gal 5:21) and spreading heretical doctrines (Gal 5:21) are but some examples of sinful speech.
Speech such as this causes sinful and destructive thoughts and deeds in both the speaker and the hearer. Consider as an example the great damage done by the words of Jonadab, which planted into the heart of Amnon a plot by which he could rape his half-sister Tamar as recounted in 2 Samuel 13. Jonadab’s words helped conceive and bring forth gross sin by Amnon, which caused great pain to Tamar, a coup attempt against David by his son Absalom, and the deaths of many people, including Amnon and Absalom.
Another set of examples with even worse consequences was the evil speech of the children of Israel during their wanderings in the desert. Faithlessness, ingratitude, lustings, idolatry, coveting, lying, strifes and seditions were just some of their wicked talk, and of course wicked behavior followed. A particular occasion was the evil report brought by 10 of the 12 spies (Numbers 13:32). This caused a revolt against Moses, the result of which was that none of the adults in that generation were suffered by YHWH to enter the promised land.
A greater still example: the words of the serpent, the dragon, Satan to Eve. They were not many. “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Yet they were cunning, filled with malicious intent, and had their malicious effect: the fall of man; original sin.
The greatest example of evil words? “Hail master.” Those were spoken by Judas Iscariot when he revealed the identity of Jesus Christ to those who came to arrest and ultimately murder Him (Mat 26:49)! It did not take many words, and their literal meaning – of honor and respect – belied their abhorrent intent. Despite our attempts to cleverly disguise our words and distance ourselves from their consequences, with words as with actions, God knows the heart (Acts 15:8)! Above all men who ever walked the face of the earth, the wicked speech of Judas Iscariot demonstrates that one can sin with his words, and that the consequences of said sin is death because the soul that sinneth shall die (Ezekiel 18:20)! For who else did Jesus Christ say of but Judas Iscariot that it would have been good for him had he never been born (Mark 14:21)? Proverb 18:21 says that death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof! Do not be as Judas Iscariot and speak death! Instead, speak life!
But how can one speak life? By bearing witness of the truth (John 18:37). What is truth? The word of God, ‘specially the gospel of Jesus Christ. Psalm 119:130 says the entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of testimony, which is the spirit of prophecy (Revelation 19:10). When we speak the gospel, we are not speaking mere words, but we are speaking Jesus Christ Himself (1Cr 1:23, Phl 1:15, Phl 1:16, Act 5:42, Act 17:3, chiefly 2Cr 4:5)! When we give a full, true and legitimate gospel, we are not speaking about Jesus Christ, we are speaking Jesus Christ! And what is Jesus Christ but life? Have you not read John 1:4? In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
Go back to Psalm 119:130. God’s Words are Jesus Christ. The entrance of God’s Word into a human heart that is good soil brings light, which John 1:4 tells us is Jesus Christ. And when Jesus Christ enters that good soil, it brings understanding of spiritual things to babes (Luk 10:21)! The gospel is foolishness to those who do not believe (1Cr 1:18), but it takes a carnal man that is dead to spiritual things and resurrects him (1Cr 2:14)! We know that this is so because when the Word of God goes forth, He does not fail, but accomplishes what God the Father wishes, and prospers in the thing that God the Father sent it to (Isa 55:11)!
So then, why are not all who hear the gospel receive this life? Because though many are called, few are chosen (Mat 22:14). It is only God’s sheep that the Father called out from before the foundation of the world (1Pe 1:20). It is only those sheep who hear Jesus Christ and come to Him in repentance and obedience when He calls to them by way of gospel preaching and Holy Spirit drawing (John 10:27). Those who forbear are not the sheep that God the Father gave to God the Son (John 10:26). The gospel of Jesus Christ never fails. Instead, it prospers in bringing in God’s sheep. It brings life in the dead hearts of those called out by God the Father, which is precisely the thing that God sent His only begotten Son to do (John 3:16)!
Now granted, there are other words that contain a measure or form of virtue, goodness and positive content which can bring forth an edifying result. Against speaking such things there is no law. However, those things should not be spoken to replace the gospel. Those things should not be spoken of besides the gospel. Those things should not be spoken in competition with the gospel. And those things certainly must not be spoken because the gospel is being rejected or because its speaking causes persecution. Why? Because speaking the gospel is speaking Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God, and the first commandment is that God comes first and has no competitor and no equal or rival (Exodus 20:3). Uttering anything else in place of the gospel is sinful speech, and the soul that sinneth shall die! If you are ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, then Jesus Christ will be ashamed of us on judgment day. While there is virtue in other words, virtue is not life. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16)!
A key text on why Christians have the mandate to speak life:
But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Now after being confronted with Romans 10:8-17, gentlemen, where is there room or need for any more debate? The gospel of Jesus Christ is the Word of faith, and preaching that Word brings life. So gentle Christian reader, you have a choice. Death and life are in the power of your tongue! You can either speak death by giving utterance to lawless, sinful things. Or you can speak life by proclaiming Jesus Christ and Him crucified. With all urgency and sincerity, I entreat and implore you to choose life today, and continue in that choice from this moment forth.
If you are not yet a Christian, please know this: only in Jesus Christ is there life. As a payment for sins, Jesus Christ was slain and then raised from the dead on the third day in accordance with the scriptures. This is a fact beyond dispute, because it was confirmed with the testimony of over 500 eyewitnesses, many of them well known, prominent and reliable people in their day and time. Thus, those who possess unbelief of this fact are without excuse, and they will receive an eternal, everlasting punishment for this belief: death in a lake of fire. Know that Jesus Christ did not come to bring death, but He came to bring life. You can receive the life that Jesus Christ came to bring by repenting of your sins and believing His gospel. You can – and should – do so immediately by: