Lesson Title: “Forge Godly Friendships”


Relationships are a matter of Time and Eternity. The Bible has many warnings against anger, for in fallen human beings, it rarely serves a righteous cause. We are admonished to  give place to divine wrath, for he alone knows with precise justice what every evil deserves. While anger stirs up enduring conflict, patience and loving kindness have a healing effect. God’s loving kindness has overcome all the sins of his elect and, through Christ, he has given them eternal comfort. With that as our model, we are to “speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and the show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:2).

Beware of The Tale of the Tongue. These verses from Proverbs warn against a contentious spirit and quickness to anger. (22:24, 25; 17:14; 26:21; 25:19) The use of words is the manner in which malice and quarrelsomeness find expression from an uneasy and disturbed spirit. This truth is manifest throughout scripture.

From whence arise the words from the tongue?

“out of that which fills the heart, the mouth speaks.”  Matthew 12:34; Lk 6:45. One may find some ways to discipline his tongue temporarily for reasons of polity, but eventually the moral texture of the spirit will spew out its character through the mouth.

James views the tongue in its word as the conduit of hell. He calls it “a fire, a world of unrighteousness, . . . set on fire by hell, . . . a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”  James 3:6-8

Each of these verses from Proverbs notes the contagious and unruly character of anger and contention. Avoid a person that is prone to this, do not incite him. Two vivid images are employed. One, trying to end strife once it is provoked is like trying to gather water back once it is let loose. Two,  using the image of fire, like James, Proverbs points to a quarrelsome person’s propensity for strife as dry wood’s propensity to burn on the fire.

What specific warnings are we given about the tongue given the fact that our sinfulness stirs up conflict when words are used wrongly?

Use it sparingly –

Proverbs 10:19; James 1:19, 26. “When words are many transgression is not lacking,” therefore, “be slow to speak, “ and thus “slow to anger.” “A man of quick temper” (14:17), however, will not contribute any wisdom to relationships and will only provide fertile ground for hatred.; but, the one who is “slow to anger” can accomplish things that mere strength cannot. (16:32)

Its powers may be for edification or destruction – James 3:8-12  -Corrupt uses – divisiveness (through slander and gossip) [Pr. 12:18; 16;28; 17:9] flattery, 28:23; 29:5; Ps 5:9; Stirring up strife by “hot temper.”(15:18)

We should use the tongue for healing.

timely and honest rebuke Pr. 27:5, 6 (Open rebuke better than hidden love, . . . faithful are the wounds of a friend),  28:23 {Gal. 2:11, 14 where Paul rebuked Peter for his failure to conduct himself according to the gospel; Mt. 16:22 Peter’s rebuke of Jesus built on gross misperception followed (23) by Jesus’ rebuke of Peter. A severe and ultimate rebuke that was designed for his salvation.

persuasiveness for the purpose of peace and godliness 16:21; 25:15 – Here the writer asserts that sweetness of speech and soft words have a persuasive effect and can overcome a recalcitrant spirit.

Avoiding strife by being slow to anger and overlooking an offense (19:11).

Proclamation and defense – Philippians 1:7;1 Peter 3:15; 2 Corinthians 5:19, 20 – Since speech is the means by which we engage in the defense and confirmation of the gospel and give a defense for the hope that is in us with meekness and fear, we must learn to let both our tongues and our temperament be governed by the gospel. In  the “message of reconciliation” the tongue receives its ultimate sanctification as God is “making his appeal through us.”  The tongue, like money, has a divine quality when subdued to the purpose of sowing seeds of gospel truth.

What you say will be held against you  Matthew 12:36, 37

How did Jesus Use his tongue?

As Prophet –  John 4:29; John 5:47 He consistently used the gift of speech as a channel for revealing the secret wisdom and righteousness of the kingdom of God to men., words of divine revelation  which would be heard and believed by those whose hearts were prepared by the Holy Spirit. “If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:46, 47) “Truly, Truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). “When He [Messiah] comes, he will tell us all things. Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he” (John4:26).

As Completer of Wisdom –

Both to conceal and reveal a matter through figures of speech- cf. Proverbs 1:4, 5; 12:23; 25:2; Mt. 13:10-13

Ultimate wisdom – Proverbs 2:1, 2; Matthew 7:24, 26, 28-29; Luke 6:46-49

Avoid the Tyranny of Temper – Cf. Psalm 4:4 and Ephesians 4:26, 27

A right use of anger informed by the proper grasp of divine glory (Psalm 5:5, 6; 139:21, 22 “Do not I hate those that hate you O Lord?”)

sustained resistance to all that detracts from God’s glory John 2:14-17;

sober action against violations of God’s image bearers – Genesis 9:5, 6

A  destructive and sinful anger

Rage at that which interrupts personal pleasure  James 4

Do not take vengeance for personal insult – Romans 12:19-21

Warnings against anger

Both quick-temper and devotion to retaliation are destructive  Pr 14:17

Quick temper cuts short the possibility of resolution of conflict, but careful use of words can help restore peace and purity and not revenge 14:29; 15:18

The ability to solve a dispute is infinitely superior to a mere confrontation 20:3

Discerning patience is superior to immediate anger – Proverbs16:32; 19:11

Consider the Consequences – Proverbs 13 20 indicates that we must learn wisdom from a source of wisdom – “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise.” Those that make fools their companions will suffer harm. We must, therefore, consistently be measured in our perspective by the rule of Scripture and corrected by its examples of reproof and admonition.

For example, Psalm 73 points to the despondency that comes from short-sighted concerns and resenting the apparent well being of the wicked, until one gains understanding from divine revelation concerning the end of the wicked. Had he spoken out of the frustration of his immature and unperceptive state, he would “betrayed the generation of your children” (15). Walking with the wise words of Scripture will teach us how to process the confusing events of life.

Be careful of envy by coveting the temporal advantages of others (3)

They use speech to assert their independence of God (8, 9) “Their tongue struts through the earth.”

Do not doubt the sovereignty of God over immediate and small things (11, 12)

Be careful not to speak words that derogate from the wisdom and glory of God. (15)

All ‘immediate and small’ things have their place in the assizes of eternity (17-19)

We are brutish until we pay attention to divine revelation. (21, 22)

We must cultivate a desire for the presence of God and delight in his presence above all things. (25)

Language used in praise of God infinitely excels the language of arrogance and of complaint. “That I may tell of all your works.” (28)

Seek peace in purity and do not seek revenge – 14:29, 15:18; 20:3; 24:17, 18.

Internalization of doctrine necessary for transformation of response Proverbs19:11

Focus on the excellent  Phil 4

Transform the mind  Romans 12

Jesus subdued the present to the eternal  1 Peter 2:21-23

Jesus provides an example of how to suffer presently for future holiness

Jesus provides an example of how not to let the tongue betray an unholy spirit

Jesus leaves justice to final judgment  cf. Pr. 24:28, 29

Loving kindness and faithful friendship reverses the destructiveness of quarrelsome anger and a retaliatory spirit – Proverbs 3:3, 4

A. Proverbs 16:6 shows the foundation of God’s desire to make a way of forgiveness for us. He has loved us with an everlasting love – “In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:5). “God commended his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” “By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for.” Such love manifest in Christ teaches us to hate sin and fear God “By the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.”

B. This kind of steadfast love is a divine quality and is not natural to fallen humanity. Proverbs 20:6 – We find it only through experiencing the transforming grace of God in forgiveness of sins.

C. Proverbs 10:12 points to the reality that redemptive love, therefore, is the only answer for the hatred and contentiousness that arise from undisciplined language, sarcasm in communication, and oppressive observation from which flows the mortal toxicity that sours, and often kills, human relationships. “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.”

D. Proverbs 11:17; 15:17; 17:17; 18:24; 27:9 – Relationships of love, cemented  securely by the fellowship of sacrificial friendship, give joy here and hope hereafter.

1. Love and kindness alter earthly conditions and transcend all material benefits and comforts. (11:17; 15:17)

2. Faithful friendship shows the true quality of love and gives security and hope even in times of adversity. The trust and support in such relationships are treasures beyond calculation and are more to be valued than massive material advantage possessed without friendship. (17:17; 18:24; 27:9)

Jesus, the Messiah, the Redeemer is the Ultimate Healer of all Relationships and the true friend born for adversity that “loves at all times” and sticks “closer than a brother” and whose nearness is sweetness itself.

Ephesians 2 – Atonement reconciles congenital enemies in placing Jew and Gentile in one body and reconciling them both to God through the cross. Though dead in trespasses and sins and by nature children of wrath, we are united with all the blessings of Christ’s redemptive work and lifted to heavenly places in Christ.

2 Corinthians 5 – In Christ God reconciled the world to himself.

1 Peter 3:8-22 – Suffering for doing right finds ultimate reconciliation in Christ

2 Peter 3 – End of all confusion, scoffing, and rejection of the covenant faithfulness of God will be manifest to all in the “Day of the Lord.”

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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