Speaking the Truth in Love

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Recently I read the line : ”Truth without love is violence. And love without truth is sentimentality.” The line derives, at least in part, from Ephesians 4:15 “Speaking the truth in love…” That verse always used to worry me because I associated it with a memory of folks saying “I say this in love but…” and then verbally bombing me with a barrage of stinging personal criticism.

But here’s the full context in Ephesians 4.

“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.” (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

According to v 12: Christ gives leaders to the church (like pastors and teachers) “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service [or ministry], to the building up of the body of Christ.” The aim of our ministry is building up the body. Not just the individual members of the body but the body as a whole.

Second, the aim of our ministry is the unity of faith and the unity of the knowledge of the Son of God. Verse 13: ” . . . until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God.” We are building up the body until there is unity in our faith and unity in our knowledge of Christ.

Third, the aim of ministry is that the body of Christ attain a corporate personality of Christ-likeness. Verse 13b: (keep on building up the body) “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” In other words the aim of ministry is not just that individuals be built up, but that the body of Christ attain to a complete unified whole.

We really do need each other!

But this “corporateness” has implications for the individual. We stop being so gullible, giddy and “up-and-down.” “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.”

When the whole body is building itself up in corporate likeness to the maturity of Christ, the effect is that the members of the body in that process become discerning and perceptive and stable. They have their faculties trained to see through the subtle, manipulative use of language that tricks people into affirming things that are not true or right.

But how Does the Body Grow into Christlikeness? How does this happen? How do we minister to each other so that the body grows up into corporate Christlikeness? How do we minister so that unity of faith and knowledge emerges? How do we minister so that babes become keen, perceptive, discerning saints?

By speaking the truth in love. That’s how it’s done!

Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ.”

I used to think that the phrase, “speak the truth in love,” meant, “Tell it like it is, but gently.”  Well, so it does, but it means much more than that.

Look at the context. Those who “equip the saints” use Truth to do it. The apostles were first, developing an authoritative foundation. The prophets speak it out, applying God’s truth to contemporary situations. The evangelists spread the truth of the Gospel wherever the apostles have planted it, and the pastor and teachers use it to ground and nurture the flock of God. Truth is key.

And verse 13 says that the goal of building up the body of Christ is to attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. So the building begins with equippers who are all agents of truth, and the aim of the building is unified knowledge, that is, unified grasp of truth.

Third, we have seen that verse 14 shows Paul’s great concern is that as we grow into corporate Christlikeness, we are not to be babes who are blown around by every wind of doctrine. So again the issue is stability in true doctrine so that we will not be deceived by false doctrine.

Knowledge and love are both essential. Knowledge without love puffs up, Paul said (1 Corinthians 8:1). But love without knowledge is confused and aimless, and disintegrates into sentimentality.

That’s why Paul prays in Philippians 1:9 “that your love might abound more and more in all knowledge and discernment.” Love abounding in knowledge and discernment is what builds the body of Christ.

 

This is drawn (at least in part) from a John Piper sermon, with grateful thanks.

 

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