Another huge theme in this passage we are looking at has to do with the words we use with each other. And that makes sense because in this passage not only looks at formation, but also falls in the context of unity in Christ as established earlier in chapter 4 and discussed a couple lessons ago. Our unity can either be bolstered or shattered by the words we use. James 3 elaborates on this idea about how the tongue can be destructive. I encourage you to sit with the entire book of James, but in particular look at chapter 3 and how it is unflattering to the tongue. Here in this section of Ephesians, we are getting some specific ways to work on our communication with one another.
Instead of Deceit, Truth
In Ephesians 4:25, Paul says, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” Our speech and communication needs to be true. Jesus is the truth (John 14:6) and the devil is the father of lies (John 8:44). Our formation into being like Christ then means we are speaking truth, not lies.
Rumors and gossip are destructive forces. These can often be based in falsehood, or even if there is truth in the rumors, the lack of context can paint a false picture and lead others to think less of those whom the story was about.
In a similar fashion, sharing information that is false or not vetted by you can have a similar outcome. In particular, it is easy to share posts and photos on social media. With a click of a button, information that sounds accurate may in fact be completely false. When in doubt, it is best to not perpetuate this information. And when it comes to sharing information about the Bible or Christianity, be like the Jews in Berea and examine the Scriptures to verify its truth (Acts 17:11).
Instead of Corruption, Encouragement
Another method of speech that Paul refers to is encouragement. In Ephesians 4:29, Paul says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” The meaning of this is plain. Instead of tearing down with our words, we should build others up.
So much of society’s speech and communication is filled with tearing apart. Think about how that is celebrated when someone uses sharp words to tear someone else down. “Amazing burn!” The time of civil discourse feels like it is over. Those who have a differing opinion are villainized. This does not create unity and when this kind of talk seeps into the church, it goes counter to the command Jesus gave us to love one another with a kind of love that is recognized by all people.
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 13:34–35). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Recognize again this idea of formation. Through our encouragement, we are becoming like God. In Romans 15:5, Paul describes God as the God of encouragement.
5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 15:5–6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
The New Testament is filled with references calling us to encourage one another and examples of Paul doing that. Peppered throughout Acts are statements about Paul encouraging those he meets. His letters begin and end with encouraging words, sometimes about specific people. The writer of Hebrews mentions that we should encourage each other daily (Hebrews 3:13) and that is a purpose of our meeting together (Hebrews 10:25).
Back in Ephesians, Paul gives a method for our communication with others stating in Ephesians 5:19 that we ought to be “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…” When using this method of communicating with one another, we are filling our words with Scriptures and biblical concepts. We also can’t help but infuse joy into the scenarios we are in. Consider Paul and Silas in Acts 1625. They had been imprisoned and were praying and singing hymns to God such that other prisoners heard them. We don’t really know exactly what effect their singing and demeanor had on the other prisoners, but when an earthquake struck and broke their chains, none ran away and escaped. The impact of Paul and Silas on them was such that they were choosing to stay near Paul and Silas instead of escaping.
Do our words draw others in and build such encouragement that in spite of all the pulls from the world, those around you choose to do what’s right?
Instead of Foolishness, Thankfulness
The last of the three points comes at first in Ephesians 4:29 when Paul says, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” Then in Ephesians 5:20, he says, “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
The Lexham Bible Dictionary defines thankfulness this way:
The act of offering thanks or being thankful, usually to God. Often connected to provision, deliverance, or God’s character.
McKnight, C. (2016). Thanksgiving. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Having thankfulness fuels the loop we talked about in the last lesson and in lesson 7. With hearts full of thankfulness, we are reminded of God’s character and can better know who he is. We are reminded of his gift of love and grace. And thankfulness changes what we do. No longer are our words filled with filth or foolishness, but instead our words are filled with overwhelming thankfulness.
At some point, I encourage you to look through Paul’s letter and count the times he references thanks, thankfulness or thanksgiving. And keep in mind the varying states Paul found himself in throughout his missions. Paul was thankful for God’s gift of grace, but this thankfulness spilled over into how he communicated to those he wrote to. Remember that early in Ephesians (1:8), Paul wrote, “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”
In neither this lesson nor the last, did I get into the final verse of this passage we are covering. In chapter 5, verse 21, Paul mentions this idea of submitting to one another. We’ll dive into this term “submission” more in the next lesson, but I want to conclude that all of these ways we speak to one another (with truth, encouragement, and thankfulness), are putting us into a posture of submission to one another. Without these concepts seasoning our words, we are going to easily fall into a trap of loving ourselves more than others.
Finally, I did this before with another lesson, but there are some comparisons to make between Ephesians and Colossians. Let me leave you with this passage and I’ll let you make your own comparisons:
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 3:5–11). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.