Ask God to orient or reorient you to Himself. Confess any known sin. Thank Him for His forgiveness. Be still and reflect on Jesus and His sacrifice for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind to God’s Word. Pray for others in your life that they, too, would know and love God today.
“9 What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.’ 13 ‘Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.’ ‘The poison of vipers is on their lips.’”
In verses 10-13, Paul strings together Old Testament texts; this is known as “pearl stringing.” Pearl stringing was a common practice in Paul’s time; rabbi would have used this technique when opening their synagogue sermons.
Paul quoted from Psalm 14:1-3, “A fool has said in his heart there is no God.” And in Psalm 51:1 “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice.”
Remember Paul was giving his closing argument to the Jews; he purposely quoted from the Jewish scriptures to drive home the point that “all” were guilty before God. No doubt some Jews protested at Paul saying Jews and Gentiles were on equal footing in regard to sin. But, in quoting these passages, Paul was saying, “I’m simply affirming what God has already said about humanity, sin, and righteousness.”
Humanity is in a bad spot. Apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit, people cannot exhibit this fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). They have no inner spiritual capacity whereby they can normally and automatically exercise genuine kindness toward others. Instead, sin causes them to be selfish and self-centered. This downward spiral just leads to more brokenness.
This was why in verse 13 he said “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit…The poison of vipers is on their lips.” This was a quote from Psalm 5:9 and it illustrated the potentially harmful effects of words. Paul was not talking about flattery in the sense that you want to encourage someone; no, he meant to flatter with intention to do evil. That’s why he said their throats were open graves. Think of the stench that comes from an open grave, that’s what he had in mind here.
So how about you…how do you use your words? James chapter three reveals quite a bit about the difficulties we can have because of our mouth. I think of my own life and I shudder when I think of the stupid and hurtful things I’ve said. Honestly, sometimes I have something come to my mind and I think to myself, “Don’t say it!” As quickly as that thought comes to mind, I say it! I always live to regret it. It’s foolish.
James makes it clear that “no one can tame the tongue (James 3:8).” James reveals the truth about the tongue: it is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts (verse 5); it is a fire and a world of evil that defiles the whole person (verse 6); it is set on fire by hell (verse 6); and it is an unrestrainable evil and full of deadly poison (verse 7). Is it any wonder, then, that God declares that taming the tongue is impossible?
If we’re honest, it’s hard for us to admit that most of what James says is true in our own lives. Because of the fall, we have lost dominion over this small piece of flesh. Human nature does not have the ability or strength to govern this little member.
So what is the remedy? God. Only God can bring it under control. Only by His Spirit living within us can we hope to gain control over our tongues. He convicts us when we sin with our lips. That conviction drives us to repent and pray for more filling of the Spirit so that we can avoid further sin. As we cling to Him and yield to Him in obedience, He controls us more and more, including our tongues.
*From what you have just read and considered: What is a personal implication/application for your life today?
(Personalize this prayer today; make it specific to the circumstances that face you.)
Ask God to lead you through His Spirit as you go through your day. Ask Him to bring to mind the truth of the gospel and its implications for what you will encounter today. Tell Him “Yes” to His will and ask Him for His power and protection to live this “yes.” Ask God to create and reveal opportunities to proclaim the good news today. KEEP PRAYING THROUGHOUT YOUR DAY.
Inspiration and insight for the devotionals came from the following books: Reading Romans with John Stott; The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World (The Bible Speaks Today Series), Stott, John; Romans (The NIV Application Commentary Book 6) Moo, Douglas J.; Encountering the Book of Romans: A Theological Survey (Encountering Biblical Studies) Moo, Douglas J.; Believers Bible Commentary; The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, with the New International Version, Romans through Galatians; NIV Life Application Bible.