What we believe has to show up in the way we speak.
We have been looking at Ephesians 4:29 and 30 to help us evaluate whether that is happening and we have seen that there are three questions we must ask ourselves.
Specifically, we looked at the first question to ask yourself which was, “Is the way I am speaking harmful?”
Now, a second question, “Is the way I am speaking helpful?”
Paul is not content with you putting off the wrong kind of talking, salvation is bigger than that, He wants you to put on the right kind of talking in its place.
Sometimes we have this idea of righteousness, if I just don’t do bad things, I am o.k., like you might talk to a husband and you might ask how is your communication going with your wife and he is like, it’s great, I never yell at her, and why does that man think he is righteous? It’s because his view of righteousness is just not doing the wrong thing, but Paul is not content with just not doing the wrong thing, righteousness also has to do with doing the right thing, and he wants you not to just put off the wrong kind of speech, but to put on the right kind of speech and when it comes to talk, what are we to put on, well look here it says, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it might give grace to those who hear.
Now the main phrase there is building up and that word means to edify or to say it another way the kind of words you need to put off are harmful words and the kind of words you need to put on are the words that make people stronger.
You can almost imagine a person like a brick house, and there are some people who come over with a sledge hammer and they are knocking down all the bricks and then there are other people who come and they are picking up bricks and putting it in exactly the right position so that house can be stronger, and Paul is saying that is the way you should seek to be with your words, it is as if through your words you are strengthening their house, picking up that brick, putting it in the right position and causing the person to be more beautiful, more strong, more equipped to deal with life.
This is something that is important to the apostle Paul. Back in 4:12, he talks about building up the body of Christ and how do we do that, verse 15, speaking the truth in love, our speech is to be used by God to produce spiritual growth and spiritual strength in others. That is why you have words.
I was listening to one of my daughters the other week, listening to the way she spoke, and so I asked to talk with her, and we sat down and said, honey, why do you have words, why has God given you the ability to communicate? And the answer to that question is to serve others for the glory of God. You have been given words to make Jesus look great through service to others.
“We are called to speak for the king,” one man writes, “God has put us just where He wants us in order to make His appeal through us. God calls each of us to live and speak as His ambassadors. We are on the job twenty four hours a day. Everything we do or say reflects an awareness of the one we represent. God has called us to be part of something much bigger than just getting what we want. We use His words to accomplish His will which is the building up of His body and the salvation of unbelievers.”
Now there is lots we can say about that, that we get to use His words to accomplish His will, but you know what I would like to say about it, it’s that it is an incredible privilege. That God has given such power to our words, that we can actually build other people up.
Sometimes I have sat around and thought I wish with my life I could make an impact, but I am just Josh, how am I supposed to make an impact. No, no matter who you are God has given you something that you can use to make a tremendous impact for the kingdom and that is the way you communicate, the way you speak. If you need proof of that, again you can go to the book of Proverbs and listen to some of the things Proverbs says your speech can do.
Proverbs says your speech can be a fountain of life. Imagine a fountain that is just pouring forth life, that is the way some people are with the way they communicate, it’s like as they talk life is pouring out over the people all around them.
Your words can produce strength in others. Your words can rescue others, can deliver you from trouble, can bring satisfaction to others, can make a permanent impact on others, can make others happy, can save a life, can turn away wrath, can bring delight to those in authority over you, can heal deep wounds, can refresh tired souls, can change people.
If you need proof of the power of words, think about your own salvation and your own sanctification. How were you saved, most likely through someone communicating the gospel with you. God uses words to make dead men live.
And how are you being changed day by day? How does God go about taking this rotten sinner in practice and making him a person who is more and more holy, it is through, God uses as His primary means, people speaking His words, words have power and with this kind of power, you have to be thinking how do I use this tool? I have been saved by the grace of God and for the glory of God and I have been given a great tool in my tongue to do just that and how can I use this tool.
Paul tells us here. Look at it. First of all if you want to use this tool to help others, it begins with evaluating what you are saying. Am I using the right words? He says but only such as is good. That’s the nature of the words. True words, honorable words.
Good for building up. That’s the purpose of the words. Is the way I am speaking true, honorable and does it help others, strengthen others. You say o.k. that’s nice, good for building up, but I need something more hands on, how do I do that, well Paul tells us how we build others up back in verse 15.
He says speaking the truth in love we are to grow up. How do we build people up with our words, we speak the truth, we say the right thing and we speak it in love, we say the right thing in the right manner. You want to begin having a powerful impact on others, begin speaking God’s truth in gracious loving ways. The content of your words needs to be truth, the manner of your words needs to be love if you are going to build other people up. So ask yourself, what am I saying and how am I saying it?
You say, wow, my mind is going too fast, there is too much to think about, how can I become a person who builds other people, here this is kind of simple, this is the place to start, focus every day on Christ and on His Word. Get to know the word of Christ and the Christ of the Word. Begin filling up your mind with the truth, but as you fill your mind up with truth, let it not be that you are studying this as an academic subject, but be crying out to God, show me Christ, help me love Christ, I want to be fixated on Christ, and when you are impacted by the word of Christ it changes what you say and when you are impacted by the Christ of the word, it changes how you say it. So when you are impacted by the truth of Christ it changes what you say and when you are impacted by Christ who the truth reveals it changes how you say it.
If you want to be a person who builds others up you need to think about what you are saying, but that’s not all, you also need to think about who you are saying it to. Is this the right word, the right manner, is it the right time?
He says but only such as is good for building up as fits the occasion, another way of saying it is as the need arises. Paul is saying you need to have a servant’s mindset with your words. You are not just thinking about what you are going to say to someone, you are also thinking about who you are saying it to. And so as you speak, it is not just about getting the truth out and dumping truth on people, you are thinking about the occasion, you are thinking about what the person needs. And so you are asking yourself, what is going on in in this person’s life, what are they struggling with, what do they understand, what do they need to understand, and how can I through my words at this moment serve them for the glory of Christ.
Unfortunately so many Christians are so wrapped up in themselves that they never think about the person in front of them. They have moved past the unbeliever, in that the unbeliever perhaps is just speaking crazy stuff, lies; now as a Christian they speak the truth, but they are speaking the truth in a selfish way, because they are not concerned about the person they are speaking the truth to, all they are concerned about is getting the truth out, so that maybe they can look like they know the truth, like they are someone special.
I remember at the church I used to be part of in the States, there is this truth we love that is the doctrine of election, and there were people in the church who loved this doctrine, and they should, but there would be people who would come to church for the first time, they would be off the street, tattoos everywhere, you know never really be in a church before, and I would watch these people from our church who loved the doctrine of election so much, and they would go over to these new individuals and it seemed like as soon as they could, they would be going off on this high level doctrine of election, when the people they were talking to really didn’t have the basics even to understand what they were even talking about. They had truth that they were saying but they were so wrapped up in themselves that they didn’t consider the need of the person to whom they were speaking.
Sometimes we do this because we want people to know that we are Christians and we know a lot. But, the problem is that we are not thinking about the person the way God wants us to. We are not supposed to talk and talk and talk. We are supposed to understand the other person and their needs. This is hard work and the unbelieving world is never going to do this, because it requires death to self. What Paul is saying here, he’s not saying become a person who is good at manipulating other people with your words, but become a person who desires the good of others, put off that self-centered mindset where you just say what you want to say, and become a person who views words as an opportunity to be God’s agent of grace in other human beings life.
If you are going to speak words that build up, you need to think about what you say, who you say it to, and you also need to think about why you say it. You can look at the phrase at the end of verse 29, this phrase should just sit us down, that, purpose, that it may give grace to those who hear. Paul says this should be your prayers for your words, that God would use your words as a means or a channel to demonstrate and convey His undeserved kindness to other human beings. That is huge. I have received that in my life where people have come to me and they have spoken in such a way that it is a means of grace and as a result of that conversation and that concern I have known Christ better. You know that God is in that moment, He is using that person, that simple conversation as a means of dispensing His grace on someone else. You have experienced that. What a privilege. What can be better than this? To have the opportunity to convey God’s grace to others. That God would use us, unworthy sinners to be a channel of His kindness. This is life.
As believers we need to evaluate whether our speech matches what we believe. To do that, the first question we need to ask, is my speech harmful, and the second question, is my speech helpful?