Have you heard people say, “Speak the truth in love” or “I was speaking the truth in love” or even “you need to speak the truth in love”? I met with a pastor friend today, and in our talking we mentioned “speaking the truth in love”, to which he said, “Many people do not listen in love”. That was a fair and wise comment because speaking the truth in love is two sided. There is the speaker and there is the listener (or hearer). If you have ever studied Ephesians you will know that these words are not man’s words, they are God’s words and need to be believed in their original shape and form as God’s out-breathed, inerrant Word! In its immediate context we read:
Eph 4:11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Speaking the truth in love is better rendered, “maintaining or living or doing the truth”. A direct translation could say, “truthing in love.” The passage is actually dealing with spiritual maturity … of being adult in Christ as a body for once adulthood prevails, there will be unity and more … there will be true love. Where we don’t have apostles and prophets today, we do still have pastor-teachers (one office) and evangelists. Their role is an edification role … for even the evangelist needs to lay the Truth of Scripture before people so that he can call people to believe in Jesus Christ and repent.
Firstly, Paul contrasts truth and error. As much as error and deceit are twins, so are love and truth. “Truth and love are conjoined twins. They are twin conditions for growth” (Robinson). “Truth without love lacks the proper environment to grow and lacks its persuasive and authoritative power. Love without truth forfeits its identity” (McCheyne).
Secondly, speaking the truth in love requires maturity. It is saying, “I trust God’s Word as the only Truth and I will stand up for His Truth because it is what He says and what He requires. Because I am so convinced that He is Truth and His Word is Truth, I’ll speak this Truth in love to both Christians and non-Christians.” The catch word or phrase here is “in love”. “I will not be angry or arrogant or hateful. I will not be judgmental or condemnatory. I will go to all lengths to use the right tone, the correct attitude remembering that I was once lost and through grace am now saved. Being bold and assertive does not mean I lack gentleness and compassion.” Remember Jesus in Matthew 9:36:
Mat 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Some Christians might be harassed and helpless and all non-Christians are in this condition. If our Lord showed compassion … how much more ought we to do so? Even when people hate us for standing by the Truth, we respond speaking the truth in love.
Thirdly, maturity in Christ seeks quick adaptations. Once you are maturing and “truthing in love”, you will, as you study the Word, be confronted with personal sin and disobedience and rebellion. Remember the Word is Truth and you are wanting to speak the truth in love … so once God exposes your sin, you will immediately recognize the rebuke and make the needed changes in your life to ensure continued obedience to Jesus and progressive fellowship with Jesus. It is important that God requires us to be holy and blameless. He chose us for this therefore maturity says: “When I am confronted with my rebellious ways, I will immediate adapt to the way of Truth, seeking pardon and then help to live in the Truth, God’s way.”
Fourthly, maturity lives on spiritual energy provided by the Holy Spirit. Because speaking the truth in love is spiritual in nature, as the Word of Truth is studied and applied, so the One who gave the Word of Truth, the Holy Spirit, gives spiritual energy and spiritual resources to be the loving Christian who seeks to live in unity with all the loving Christians within the Body of Christ.
Now you might say that people within the church are “this or that” and this makes it difficult for you to speak the Truth (God’s Word) accurately and in love. Maybe you are shy or even scared of speaking the truth in love … or possibly you might have personal sin to conquer first. For the sake of unity and maturity in the Body of Christ, you need to resolve all personal issues at the foot of the Cross. If you need to confess sin or repent of sinful ways, do it because once you have you will see that God by the Spirit will empower you to speak the truth in love with confidence and boldness coupled to gentleness and integrity. God will be glorified and the Body blessed.
Dear God, You who are the God of absolute Truth, who has given us Your Divine Word of Truth as a means to find You and learn how to repent and believe and live a holy life, have mercy upon us. Grant us a desire for more and more of Your Truth as we prepare and equip ourselves for life within the Body of Christ, learning to speak the truth in love with the saints as well as speaking the truth in love with the lost of this world. Amen.