By Grant Caldwell
Words tell a great deal about a person. It does not take long in listening to a person to tell from what part of the country he is, what kind of education he has, whether or not he is religious, and so on. Words tell who you are.
In Matthew 12, Jesus performed a miracle so that the man who was dumb and blind both spoke and saw. The Pharisees heard of it and said that it was done by the power of the devil. Jesus answered them with four things: (1) “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (vs. 25). While we may believe Abraham Lincoln first said that, it was truly Jesus. If he performed the miracle by Satan, then Satan was defeating himself. (2) “If I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out?” (vs. 27). Jesus is not affirming that the Pharisees actually did cast out devils, but they did claim to do so. Now, if he cast devils out by Satan, then surely that must be how they cast them out. “It takes one to know one.” (3) “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God. then the kingdom of God is come unto you” (vs. 28). Based on the second argument, Jesus now affirms that if it was not done by Satan, it must have been done by the Spirit of God and signals, in fact, the coming of the kingdom of God. (4) “Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man?” (vs. 29). One does not destroy what Satan has done without first binding Satan. Jesus is affirming His power and authority over the work of Satan and denying His allegiance with him.
But notice verse 36, where Jesus said, “But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of Judgment.” The word “idle” is a word which according to Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament means “inactive” or “inoperative.” It simply means “useless” or “worthless.” The word is used in Matthew 20:3 to mean “unemployed.” “It is also found in the religious sense at 2 Pet. 1:8 of those who will stand before Christ in the judgment with nothing to attest their Christian standing either in their individual life or the life of the community” (Kittle, p. 452). The word is used in the sense of “not accomplishing good.” In Matt. 12:36, Christ is saying that we will give an account to God for those words we speak which have not been employed into good service.
My dad always said, “If it won’t do someone good, don’t say it.” This business of just “popping off” whenever we feel like it is not what the Lord would have of us. “I say what I think.” Ever heard anyone boast of that? We ought to be ashamed. Our words ought to be weighed very carefully and prayerfully before they are spoken. Remember that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”
Words properly may be used in two ways: First, they may be symbols to represent things not around. Someone may say, “I like a good roaring fire.” Second, they may be used to signal things present. “Fire! Fire!” Too often, however, we use meaningful words without meaning. Remember the little boy who cried “Wolf! Wolf!”? We should make sure that our words mean something.
In the church, we use words lightly much of the time. Sometimes, it is in the label department “anti,” “conservative,” “liberal,” etc.-all of which are good terms if used knowingly and properly. Sometimes it is in the title department “Minister,” “Brother,” “Disciple;” etc.-again, all of which are good terms if used knowledgeably and properly. But do we really mean anything by them? Do we know what they mean in the Bible?
Let’s look at just one of them and that is the word “Disciple.” The book of John tells us three basic things about what it takes to be a disciple of Christ.
“Continue in My Word”
In John 8:31-32, Jesus said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye’ shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” People say they are free. The Jews said, “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man.” That was no so and they knew it was not so. At that very moment they were in bondage to Rome and wanted a Messiah or deliverer to free there from the shackles of that pagan government. Jesus said that they were in bondage to sin.
We say, “I am a disciple.” But are we? Do we continue in the word of Jesus. Do we listen for his voice? Remember the ad for RCA that showed the dog by the gramaphone listening for the master’s voice? We need to be like that. Even some in the church now say that it does not make any difference what the church does because we have the grace of God. And they go on refusing to recognize sin for what it really is and giving full fellowship to those who practice sin in the church.
There are several reasons why people are tempted not to continue in the word of God:
(1) One is that some feel that accepted translations of the Bible that are written in the Old Elizabethan English are difficult to understand. The King James Version has been thought by many to be the only acceptable version and when one comes to its archaic language or expression, they simply give up.
(2) People are tempted not to continue in the word of God because they think God will judge people on the basis of what He permits rather than what He has said. These folks generally like to talk about the “man in the desert,” or “the thief on the cross,” or “the man on his way when. . .”, etc. But the fact is, we are not that way. We have all kinds of opportunity that we are not using.
(3) Others do not continue in the word because they think the essence or religion is in believing in Jesus. They quote Acts 16:31, John 3:16, Rom. 5:1, and Eph. 2:8. But faith in these passages is merely a summation of all that God has expected of us. Christ did the same sort of thing in Matt. 22:36-40 when he summed up the Ten Commandments into two. Look for example at Eph. 2:8. Is grace in this passage merely an attitude or disposition on the part of God, or does it not rather sum up all that God did and felt for man? The love that He had, the devising of the plan, the establishing of Israel, the sending of Jesus, the sacrifice on the cross, the giving of the gospel, the building of the church, etc., are all included in the heading of “grace.” Even so, all that God expects of man is included in the word “faith.” Not just the mental consent to His deity and lordship, but the positive action that takes place in our lives-faith, repentance, baptism, and godliness in our lives.
(4) Finally, some are tempted not to continue in the word of God because they believe that the essence of salvation is in the grace of God, the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. They believe that our practice in the church is of little consequence because “none of us is perfect anyway.” I would not minimize the perfect sacrifice of Christ. Nor would I affirm that. we are saved on our own merit. However, I will affirm tat obedience to the word of God is inescapable if we would have our rest in heaven (2 Thess. 1:6-9; Matt. 7:21ff). Truly, to be a disciple of Christ, we must continue in the word of God.
“Love One Another”
In John 13:35, Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” The apostle John records so much about the subject of love. In John 4:11, he states, “If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” How did God love us? Notice two things. (1) Verse 14 says, “The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” God gave the very best He had. (2) Verse 19 says, “We love him, because he first loved us.” Originating love is God-like love.
People do not like to be alone. We were not made to be alone. “It is not good for man to be alone.” We need our friends and those friends ought to be as much as is possible Christians. Why is it that so much of the time we are at each other’s throats? I do not care who it is or what side of any issue he is on, that attitude is the work of Satan. If the world knows we are disciples by our love for each other, I wonder what it tells them when we display so much anger, wrath, malice, etc., to one another. I say, “I wonder.” I really do not because I know what it tells them.
Finally, in John 15:8, our Lord said, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” Bearing fruit is just making more Christians. In Proverbs 11:30, the wise man said, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.” “The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11). The disciple must have his hub in Christ, but his rim in the world.
How long has it been since you talked to someone about the gospel and their lost soul? The disciple bears fruit for the Lord. If the seed is in you, you can put it in others. You do not have to be a great orator or even a Bible scholar. You just have to have the seed in you to plant it in others. A true disciple will do that.
Truly, the “followers” or “disciples” of Christ must “continue in my word,” “love one another,” and “bear much fruit.” Are you a disciple? Or is that just another word without meaning in your life. “But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”
Truth Magazine XXI: 46, pp. 731-733
November 24, 1977