“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:15-16
Being someone of many, many words, both spoken and written, any time the Bible references our speech, my ears perk up. When I read verses such as Proverbs 10:19 which says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent,” I cannot help but be convicted about my words. Do I think before I speak? Are my words necessary? Do my words bless those that hear? Living in our world of internet, blogging, and all forms of social media, we certainly aren’t lacking in the words we put out there nor in the words we ingest. While there is little we can do to curb other’s words, there is much we can do to control our own. Are your words spoken in love? Written in love? Shared in love?
By this point in our study of Ephesians, we shouldn’t be surprised that Paul cares much about sound doctrine. He spent the first half of his letter addressing it to ensure that the Ephesians would avoid Biblical poverty and rather stand on a firm foundation in their faith in Jesus Christ. He also desired that they, too, would rise up and continue spreading the true message of the Gospel, so that all the world would know the hope which they possessed. There were an abundance of false teachers and false doctrines in circulation, so his emphasis on truth should not be overlooked. Still, his message was to not only speak truth, but rather to speak truth in love. Any one of them, including Paul, at any time could have stood on the street corners spewing condemnation and hate, but Paul addressed the importance here of speaking the truth in love.
Every time Jesus opened His mouth, His words flowed from a place of love. Because Christ is love, His words were and always will be loving. We, on the other hand, are soiled by our sinful nature, and while our words have the power to heal and bring life, they also have the power to curse and bring death. Before we open our mouths, we must always ask ourselves whether or not our driving force is love. What Paul is emphasizing here in verse fifteen is that when the truth is spoken in love, our efforts in sharing the Gospel are most effective. When the truth is spoken from a place of pride or self-righteousness, immeasurable damage is done. Ultimately, this is a matter of spiritual maturity.
A spiritually mature believer is marked by complete submission and obedience to God’s Word and His will, subject to Him in all areas of life, including speech. Therefore, speaking the truth in love without spiritual maturity can result in harsh delivery and woundedness on the part of the recipient. If we operate our lives under the headship and authority of Jesus Christ, we will find that our spiritual maturity rests not upon our own shoulders and on what we do, but rather on the power of God at work in us, equipping us for every good work, including speaking the truth in love.
Much hinges on this point of obedience. The world needs the truth. There is no doubt about that. The world also needs love. In God’s economy, the two cannot be separated. Truth without love is brutal. Love without truth is deceitful. They must go hand in hand, and when they do, the church grows, and the individual believers mature. When we speak the truth in love, we become vessels of God’s love, the hope of glory. When we speak the truth in love, a harsh and unloving world finally sees the face of Jesus.
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