Gossip, slander, backbiting, criticism – any form of speaking negatively about someone behind their back, is probably the number one sin issue that we experience in the daily life of the Christian church. Yet, Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:29-30, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” I think that if you bear with me for a few minutes, you’ll be doing a lot LESS talking from now on!
Paul begins with behavior that we are to stop immediately! “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth”! “No” is very explicit! Not one, ever, should be spoken! “Unwholesome words” are words that serve no godly purpose. They are worthless, useless, unprofitable words! These include not only swearing, off-color jokes, crudeness, gossip, and slander, but it also includes empty words – talking for the sake of talking! Think about it! How much talking would you do if NO word you spoke could be of no purpose! You see, there’s a problem with “many words.” Proverbs 10:19 tells us “When there are many words, transgression (i.e. sin) is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise.”
Notice how Paul says in v.29 that these words are not to “proceed from your mouth.” Paul is indicating that they didn’t start at the mouth! They’ve come from within. You’ve thought them, are about to say them, and now you’ve got to stop them before you say them! The real problem with your speech comes what you’ve been thinking! Jesus said this in Matthew 12:34, “… For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” If you’ve got a problem with unwholesome words, you’re going to need to change inside first!
Paul next tells us the behavior that we need start immediately when he says in V.29, “but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment.” Paul is teaching us what all Christian speech is to be like! The “only” words we can ever speak are those “good for edification according to the need of the moment.” “Edification” means to build someone up spiritually to be like Christ. The ONLY kinds of words that will do that are Biblical words! Paul is telling us that God intends to use every Christian word to build up His Church to be like Christ! That places a huge requirement on your speech – on every word you speak!
Let’s examine three huge requirements that Ephesians 4:29 places on you! The first huge requirement: You must be biblically educated. You cannot speak words “good for edification” if you do not know the Word of God. Paul told Timothy to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15). You have to have the right biblical words at the moment you speak! The second huge requirement: You must a biblical listener. You have to apply your biblical education so that when listening, you can discern spiritual needs! How can you edify the spiritual need of the moment if you do not know the spiritual need at that moment? Isaiah knew this: “The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples, That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.” (Isaiah 50:4). The third huge requirement: You must be a biblical edifier. In V.29 Paul says that God expects you to speak biblically to other Christians to edify them – to grow them up to be like Christ!
Paul finishes by giving us two reasons why we must start speaking edifying words. The first reason: To give grace to the Hearer. Paul finishes V.29 saying “so that it will give grace to those who hear.” God will use your words to graciously enable the hearer to grow into Christ-likeness. The second reason: To not grieve the Holy Spirit. Hopefully, you know that all application is built on doctrine! The greatest motivation we have for living a godly life is knowing and remembering what God has done for us. God says here, “How could you possibly grieve my Holy Spirit, who is in you as My promise that you will have eternal life?” Every time you speak, consider the two persons you are with! Give grace to the one in front of you and do not grieve the One who is in you. Now, did you have something to say?