How Should Sanctification Affect the Tongue?

Josh Buice


Edward Hall, born January 15 1988, is a former professional strongman—known for his world record deadlift of 1,102 lbs in the 2016 World’s Strongest Man competition. The training and lifting that’s required to arrive at an elite level strongman competition requires a balance of discipline and sheer power. Without proper discipline, the goals will not be met, but without the power, the athlete will not be able to compete at the highest level of strongman competition.

When it comes to the human body, we can train and discipline our body to achieve great goals. Marathon runners can train their bodies to run 26.2 miles in just over 2 hours. Weight lifters can train their bodies to lift massive weight that would crush an average man. However, there is one small member of our body that cannot be tamed. Listen to how James describes the tongue:

James 3:5–12 – So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! [6] And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. [7] For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, [8] but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. [9] With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. [10] From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. [11] Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? [12] Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

With man, this is an impossible task indeed. However, with God, nothing is impossible. Even the tongue can be tamed by the work of the Spirit in sanctification. In Romans 8, Paul contrasted the life that is controlled by the flesh versus the life controlled by the Spirit. One leads to death while the other leads to life and peace. One is lawless while the other is submissive to God’s law (Rom. 8:2-8).

Occasionally you will hear someone talk about how they can’t control their tongue. They readily and almost with a prideful attitude boast about not having a filter to control their speech. Not only is a loose tongue nothing to boast about, but it’s simply not the way a Christian should behave.

To the church at Thessalonica, Paul wrote these words, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” While there is both a positional aspect to sanctification (we are no longer in darkness, but in the marvelous light of Christ), much of what we know about sanctification is focused on progressive growth in holiness. We are called to be holy as God is holy (1 Pet. 1:16). In the Scriptures, we see a progression to sanctification as stated in Hebrews 10:14, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” We are growing week-by-week and the Spirit of God who indwells us will change us, all of us, including that small rebellious member of our body—the tongue.

As we walk with the Lord and grow in holiness, we should not be characterized by the words of Proverbs 16:27, “A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire.” Paul charged Timothy with a specific way to conduct himself as a pastor, but notice that it was to serve as an example—meaning that others were to follow in his footsteps.

1 Timothy 4:12 – Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

Paul encouraged the church at Corinth to excel in speech (2 Cor. 8:7). If the mouth reveals the abundance of our heart—what exactly will the mouth say about us (Matt. 12:34)? Will our mouths reveal a heart that has been changed by God or will it reveal a heart that is carnal—dead in trespasses and sin?

As we worship God and walk with God on a weekly basis, we are sanctified by his truth (John 17:17). Such sanctification causes us to be more conformed to the image of God than we are the image of this world. Paul summarized this walk by writing these words to the church in Rome, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life” (Rom. 6:22).

Without the Spirit of God, we may be able to discipline our bodies to do amazing things. We may be able to scale high mountains, lift enormous weight, and run long distances at unbelievable speed—but we will not be able to control our tongue (Ps. 34:13; Ps. 37:30).

Sanctification will result in a change in the whole body—which enables us to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Proverbs 12:18 – There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

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Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He is married to Kari and they have four children, Karis, John Mark, Kalli, and Judson. Additionally, he serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors, including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.