Greg is a likable guy. He is a standup member of the community, takes an active part in worship services, and goes out of his way to make visitors feel welcome. Whenever someone needs a little extra help with their yard work, Greg is always there to lend a hand. He has, on more than one occasion, paid for your meal at a restaurant when you were a little short, and even when he just wanted to be nice. Greg is a fantastic husband and father, and everyone tells him that he will make an equally fantastic grandfather.
There’s just one problem: in talking to other people about the Gospel, Greg comes across as a complete jerk.
You see, Greg has never really grasped the concept spoken of in Ephesians 4:15 to “speak the truth in love,” and his attempts to communicate Biblical truths to his fellow Christians and those in the world come off as domineering and argumentative, almost to the point of being a detriment to the Word rather than a complement to it. Because of this, the local Church that he is a member of has had several members and visitors leave over certain conversations that Greg started, and on one occasion, even took it into the pulpit.
The sad thing is, Greg has never once meant to be seen in this light. He is fulfilling the Biblical call to tell others the truth, but when he smiles as if he is “winning the argument” with a potential convert, or points out someone’s shortcomings in the foyer after services, people can not help but not think of Greg as anything resembling a friend. They shy away from him when he starts to bring up the Gospel, and his reputation in town is that of a bigoted fundamentalist.
So what should Greg do? Obviously his end goal is admirable – that of helping others reach Heaven – but how does he go about that in a way that fulfills Ephesians 4:15?
- Check Your Motives: If you’re anything like me, the admonition to “speak the truth in love” means to comfort someone as you tell them the sober truth; that is certainly part of it, but not all. We also have to ask ourselves “why” we are telling them. Are we telling them of their condition so we can gloat in their imminent hellfire (1 Cor. 13:6 – “love…does not rejoice in unrighteousness”)? Are we preaching the Gospel to others to prove how right we are, as opposed to their heresy? What is our goal in telling people the truth? As one person rightly stated about this passage: “He has done about half his work in convincing another of error, who has first convinced him that he loves him.”
- Seek to Build: The context itself dictates this point entirely. As a whole, Ephesians speaks to the unity that is found in Christ between Jews and Gentiles, but on a smaller scale, chapter four points to the benefits we find in working together in Him. The first two verses in this chapter entreat the listener to walk in “humility and gentleness” and then launches into a plea for unity, cultivating in verse 16, where he says that the Church grows when “every joint supplies.” What this means for us then, is our pleas for others to accept God’s truth is imbibed within the desire to see God’s Kingdom grow, instead of our own ego.
- Be Gospel Centered: All four of the “offices” in verse 11 are Gospel-oriented – apostles, evangelists, pastors, and teachers – and so our words must be as well. While there may be many that purport to have their own definition of truth and stand by it, the Gospel is the only thing that we are called to use to rebuke others. We do not seek to persuade others by our own wisdom (or force) but by the truths revealed in His Word.