The Tongue, the Lips, and the Mouth

Romans 3:13‑14; Romans 10:9‑11  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 7
The throat, the tongue, the lips, and the mouth are enumerated in Romans 3, in that black picture of man's sin and guilt, for they have been instruments of evil that comes from within-from a wicked heart.
"Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness." vv. 13, 14.
Yes, their throat is an open sepulcher; that is, it is the outlet for a place where moral death reigns. Their tongues have been used to deceive-maybe in deliberate lying, or perhaps just using partial truths to deceive. The poison of asps is under their lips to infect those who hear their speech; and their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Such is man in his condition of distance from and enmity toward God-a black picture indeed.
In the 10th chapter of the same epistle, we find that when the gospel is received in faith, those same lips are used in another way: "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus [or, Jesus as Lord], 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." Rom. 10:9, 109That 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. 10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9‑10).
After one receives in the heart the truth that the Lord Jesus died for him, and rose again, then the mouth is opened in confession of that blessed Person as Lord. Yes, the same mouth that beforehand had been used to deceive, to curse, to poison, is now opened to confess as its own Lord the One who was formerly despised. Blessed change!
This is interestingly illustrated in the one thief who got saved while hanging on a cross beside the Lord Jesus. At first he joined his fellow thief in reviling the Lord of glory; but when the light dawned in his soul, he spoke out against such conduct, and mentioned the fear of God. He rebuked the other thief, witnessed to the Lord's innocency, and then turned to Jesus and addressed Him as Lord. What a change! and in such a short time. His lips, his tongue, and his mouth, which had been so recently used in the service of Satan, were now used to confess Jesus as Lord. It was so with Saul of Tarsus, the mad persecutor of all who honored the name of Jesus; for when he was brought face to face with the fact that it was the Lord Jesus he was persecuting, he used his lips to own Jesus as Lord. This same feature continued to mark the Apostle Paul, for when he neared the end of his journey he spoke affectionately of "Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil. 3:88Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, (Philippians 3:8)). Time had neither erased nor dimmed that which his tongue uttered on the Damascus road years before.
In Hebrews 13 we read, "By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name." v. 15.
What a wonderful thing it is that these lips of ours- once used for that which was evil-can now bring forth fruit to God! And how can they produce fruit? in "giving thanks to His name"! First, the heart must feel that thankfulness, and then the lips utter it to God; and He calls it "fruit." Blessed fruit! but all the result of what His own grace has wrought for us, and in us.
There are many verses that speak of how the mouth may be used, but here is another we wish to notice: "That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Rom. 15:66That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:6). The mouth which was once used in disrespect of God can now be used to glorify Him, and that together with the saints of God.
Then in Ephesians 4, where we get exhortations to walk according to the place wherein we now stand, we find these words:
"Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers." v. 29.
Not only are our lips to confess Jesus as our Lord, to bring forth fruit for God, and to glorify Him, but by His grace they can be used for that which is good so as to edify other Christians. Who but God could take such lips and make them instruments of blessing?
But there is also a sad and solemn reflection for us who are saved, in that these lips may even yet bring forth that which is not good or for edification; so we are exhorted to let no corrupt communication come out of our mouths. How easily one may slip into that evil! The heart is still incurably wicked, and we possess an evil nature that may show itself; nowhere is it more apt to be seen than in what comes out of our mouths. Perhaps something defiling has been heard by us, and we have not had the cover on the vessel (Numb. 19:1515And every open vessel, which hath no covering bound upon it, is unclean. (Numbers 19:15)), and it found an entrance into our minds; it was defiling, and the tendency is to repeat it to another. Sad, sad it is when we do this, for our mouth is then an instrument for defiling others, and not for edifying them.
The epistle of James speaks a great deal about the tongue and what it does; this epistle does not go deeper, to the source in the heart, but lets us know the terrible things that come out of the mouth. It says (read James 3) it "is a little member, and boasteth great things." Yes, the tongue is only a little member, but it can do untold damage. How it can boast! And boastfulness is hateful to God; it is pride. The tongue is one thing that no man has tamed, although he has tamed creatures of the land, sea, and air; it is an unruly evil. But the inspired penman goes on to say that out of the same mouth ought not to come forth good things and bad ones; a fountain does not send forth sweet water and bitter, or salt water and fresh. These words should exercise us greatly about what comes out of our mouths.
In Colossians 3 we are told to put away "filthy communication" out of our mouths, and not to lie one to another (vv. 8, 9). How easily we retell something and do not tell it exactly as it was told to us. We are very apt to color things, to put a different light on them, and is not this in its essence lying? How careful we ought to be to tell things correctly, and to judge every infraction of exact truthfulness.
When Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthians, he said that he feared that when he came to them he would find "debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults" (2 Cor. 12:2020For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: (2 Corinthians 12:20)). How sad that such a condition could exist among the saints of God! What debates or contentions have been in the Church on earth! What confusion and evil work have been wrought by envying! And what shall we say of wraths and strifes, or animosities and dissensions? Do they not come from within, from an evil heart, from that which is left unjudged by ourselves? But the backbitings, or as another translation puts it, "detractions," have brought sorrow to many hearts. How easily we go behind others' backs, and say things to detract from our brethren. Is not this a prevalent evil? Is it not still at work among the children of God? And oh, those whisperings, or gossiping! Who can estimate the trouble and grief in the assemblies of God's people brought on by whispering? Whispering, or gossiping, is never about good; it is always something shady. But some saints hide behind the fact that what they whisper is the truth; is it "lovely,... of good report," or is it praiseworthy? How much evil speaking and whispering would be avoided if we refused to say something behind our brother's back that we would not say to his face. And shall one point a finger at another? Is there one who is not in some measure guilty of this? But let us be on our guard, for the Word of God warns of these evils and their sad results.
Very much of the gossiping would be avoided if we showed the spirit of love; love will never harm the object of its affection. If love were more active we would be more in the spirit of prayer, seeking the good and blessing of our brother instead of speaking about him to others. Did the Lord speak to others about Peter's faults, or even his failure? but rather He said to Peter, "I have prayed for thee." How much more are we ready to speak to others of the faults of our brother than to bear him up before the throne of grace.
From these whisperings come roots of bitterness, and soon many are defiled. May the Lord exercise us all to be on our guard against the inroads of this pernicious evil, but rather show love that "covers a multitude of sins." May God see love in exercise on behalf of our brethren.
There are some wholesome words of wisdom in the book of Proverbs on this subject, which we will quote: "In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin." And is not this true? Where there is much talk, there is sin in it. "But he that refraineth his lips is wise." Pro. 10:1919In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise. (Proverbs 10:19).
"A whisperer separateth chief friends" (Pro. 16:2828A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends. (Proverbs 16:28)). An evil work indeed! But how many friends have been separated by the work of some whisperer—someone who may have told the truth, but colored it, or put a wrong light on it; and the injured one had no redress, for he was unaware of what was done.
"Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue, keepeth his soul from troubles." Pro. 21:2323Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles. (Proverbs 21:23). Wholesome words! Needed words!
And let us remember that when someone starts some slander, or evil report, "Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth." Pro. 26:2020Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth. (Proverbs 26:20). Have we not had it in our power to let some evil report end with us, rather than to repeat it, and continue to spread it? Have we always been careful to not add wood to the fire?
One brother made it a habit to ask anyone who brought him a piece of gossip, "Can I tell it to the party you are speaking about? If not, don't tell me."
And does not a bad report travel faster than a good one? Yes, even a lie will run faster than the truth. Years ago, one said, "A lie will go around the world before the truth can get its boots on." And then when an evil report is started and later found to have been incorrect, or untrue, do the same ones that spread it make an equal effort to circulate the truth, and correct the wrong? In many instances, No.
In closing there are two verses in the Psalms that we might well use as a prayer each day. Not that we approve of forms of prayer, but these verses express most suitably what should be the real desire of our hearts:
"Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, 0 LORD, my strength, and my redeemer." Psalm 19:1414Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14). How careful we should be that the words of our mouths may be acceptable in His sight. Our brother may not hear what is said about him, but there is One who hears and knows all, and we should seek that all that is in the heart, and what comes out of the mouth, may meet with His approval.
And the last verse we will quote is, "Set a watch, 0 LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips." Psalm 141:33Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips. (Psalm 141:3). If this were the desire of our hearts and the language of our lips, when we meet with other Christians, how different would be our subject of conversation. May the Lord grant us grace to desire this keeping of our mouth and lips. And may the tongue, lips, and mouth, formerly used in our sin
and folly, be used to glorify God and minister grace to others.