PFOA: Ephesians 4:11-16
“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” (Eph.4:15,16 ESV).
“Speaking the truth in love”. We’ve all heard this line used, some of us might even have used it ourselves. Do you remember the context when these words were said? Quite often it is used as a preface to a rebuke or (hopefully constructive) criticism. You have observed someone’s speech or action and judged that it was inappropriate; could have been better; or just wrong. Finally you pluck up enough courage to confront the offender and speak to him/her about it. So you tell him or her you’re speaking the truth in love, before getting down to business.
Unfortunately for us, that’s not how Paul expected us to understand this phrase. In this letter to the Ephesians, Paul is writing about the church and how it is to be built up and grow to maturity. In v. 11, the church has in her midst apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers. These are given to the church to equip God’s people in faith and knowledge of sound doctrine. Primarily this done through teaching and speaking, and this is to be carried in love.
“Actions speak louder than words” is an old adage that is applicable here and we ought to understand Paul’s words to encompass living as well as speaking the truth in love. “Worship is telling the truth about God. Confession is telling the truth about ourselves. Counselling is a process of helping people deal with the truth” (Snodgrass). Doesn’t all our activities reduce to speaking and living the truth in love?
Applying this first to the church, as was also Paul’s context; is our church speaking and living the truth in love? Reality TV is not real, entertainment and advertisements hide reality and project an illusion. We delude ourselves by thinking we are better (or worse) than we are. We put up a front and lie to ourselves and to one another. In this post-modern world that accepts no absolute truth and the materialistic world of the scientific method, the church must teach and live the truth in love. God is true and has revealed all three Persons of the Trinity in the Scriptures. The Gospel is truth concerning God’s purpose and mission for His people and His world. As custodians of this precious truth we are to guard the Gospel, teaching the whole counsel of God and living by it. The danger to truth is not persecution; it is accommodation. The Gospel must not be watered down, or have some aspects of it, unpalatable to popular taste, left out.
At the personal level too, we are to live and speak the truth in love. Realising that every member of the church is a member of the body with Christ as the head, each one is being equipped for ministry, for the purpose of building up the body with every member growing and working properly. These days discipleship is often called spiritual formation, but to Paul, it is maturity – growing “to become in every respect the mature body of him [Christ]” (NIV). In other words, as members of the church, we are to make disciples of one another, so that together we grow in maturity. Are you serving and helping your brothers and sisters grow?