Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
A couple of months ago we were examining Ephesians 4:16, which says that we are to “speak the truth in love.” At that time I asked: “What truth are we supposed to speak?” Today, I want to ask this question again, both because it is suggested by our passage and also because it is a question that leads to a surprising answer that you and I need to understand and put into practice.
When we see that we are to put off falsehood and speak truthfully to our neighbor, our minds envision awkward moments. We picture an annual review where we have to say hard things to an employee. Or we might think about one of our unathletic children saying, “Dad, how’d I do in the game?” We think of speaking the truth as having to say hard things to people. We wonder if we really have to do this.
Situations such as these are worthy of consideration. But when Paul says we’re to put off falsehood and speak the truth he is not actually focusing on times when the truth is has the power to hurt others. Rather, Ephesians 4:25 is mostly about putting off falsehood about God and speaking the truth about Jesus Christ and the implications of the gospel. Remember that Paul was writing to former pagans, most of whom had once embraced falsehood. Now that they are in Christ, it’s time to put that away and speak about the truth that is in Jesus, the truth of God’s love and grace, that truth of God’s justice and peace, the truth that all of life matters deeply to God, who is in the process of bringing to unity all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:10).
Notice that Ephesians 4:25 says that “each of you” should put off falsehood and speak the truth. “Each of you” means “each and every one of you.” Speaking the truth of God is not just something pastors and church leaders do. Rather, every single Christian should be equipped and ready to speak the truth about God when the opportunity to do so presents itself. We’re not talking only about evangelism; in fact, the focus is upon speaking the truth to our fellow believers. You and I are called to communicate God’s truth to each other.
Sometimes such communication takes the form of basic encouragement. I can think of times in my life when a brother or sister in Christ brought just the word of truth I needed. Sitting in a coffee shop with a member of my church in Irvine at one point, I shared discouragement. He listened well and I felt both heard and loved. Then he said in simple words, “Remember, Mark, God is at work here. This is God’s church. He will take care of it. And he loves you. Don’t forget that.”
Did I know this truth already? In a sense, yes, of course. But, at that moment, I needed to hear the truth from this brother. I needed to be reminded of what I knew in my head but doubted in my heart. He helped me to put off the falsehood that had invaded my soul even as he spoke the truth to me.
Something to Think About:
Are you speaking the truth of the gospel to others?
When was the last time you encouraged someone in your church family?
When was the last time you helped someone understand God’s grace more deeply?
Who are the people to whom God has sent you as a messenger of his truth and love?
Something to Do:
Today (or if you’re reading this devotion in the evening, tomorrow) speak truth that will encourage and build up someone else. This person could be in your family or your workplace, or a neighbor or even a stranger. Allow God’s love to flow through the truthful words you speak.
Gracious God, first of all, I thank you for those who have spoken the truth to me. Yes, thank you for Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, and pastors. But thank you also for the brothers and sisters who have shared your truth with me. Thank you for all the ways you teach, encourage, admonish, and edify me through the people in my life.
Thank you also, Lord, for the privilege of speaking the truth, your truth, to others. Thank you for entrusting the good news to all of your people—yes, every one of us. Thank you for allowing us—indeed, for calling us—to share your truth with our brothers and sisters, as well as with those who don’t know you. Help me, dear Lord, to be a faithful conduit of your truth wherever I have an opportunity. Amen.