Speaking the Truth in Love
The Church: God’s Plan for God’s People
Grace Community Church
Feb. 4, 2024
Speaking the Truth in Love
Let’s turn to Eph. 4. We’re in a series about the Church being God’s plan for His people and this morning we’re going to look at God’s plan for causing His people to grow in maturity. An important role of the church is to help disciples grow in maturity. One church that was failing in that purpose was the Corinthian church. Full of divisions and pride and obsessed with sensational spiritual gifts they thought of themselves as mature but Paul writes them and says I wish I could address you as spiritual but I have to talk to you like infants in Christ.
Eph. 4 lays out God’s plan for the Church to help believers grow in spiritual maturity.
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds[c] and teachers,[d]12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,[e] to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, Eph. 4:11-13
The ascended Christ gave the church what’s called the five-fold ministries: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to equip God’s people for ministry. That’s what works of service means, ministry, so that the body of Christ may be built up until – this is the goal – we reach unity in the faith and knowledge of the Son of God which is becoming mature. Ministry is about helping others mature in their faith in Christ.
The unity of mature believers is built on Jesus Christ not on all the other things that sincere believers might differ on. There are some beliefs that are central and non-negotiable to an orthodox Christian faith and if we don’t share those we can’t have spiritual unity. If someone doesn’t believe Jesus is the only name by which we can be saved, they aren’t a Christian. We should love them, treat them with the utmost respect and courtesy, and pray for them. But there can be no unity because that unity must be built around the truth of who Jesus is.
But there are other differences in doctrine or practice which should not divide Christian fellowship. One person is an Arminian, another is Calvinist. These are important doctrinal differences, but not divisive doctrinal issues. We can differ, we can have friendly debate, but we should not divide over them.
All this to say a mature Christian is not a divisive Christian. A mature believer doesn’t seek drama or try to create wedges between Christians or churches. On the contrary, a mature disciple works to promote unity as much as possible.
…attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ministry and unity and maturity is to help us collectively and individually become more like Christ.
14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Eph. 4:14-16
Verse 14 warns us that immature Christians will be unstable and easily swayed believers. Gullible. A wind of teaching blows in from this direction and they’re being blown with it! A wave of doctrine washes over them from that direction and they’re being carried along with it. Paul says these waves and winds are the product of the cunning,craftiness, and deceitful scheming of people who act like they want your good but are out for your harm. Immature believers can easily fall prey to bad people who are good communicators.
Nothing has more power to destroy and capsize our lives than false beliefs, heresies, and bad thinking so instead of being gullible infants being battered and blown around by the winds and waves of lies and error, instead of that, Paul says, we are to speak the truth in love to one another to help us grow in maturity.
Speaking the truth in love isn’t about being honest with someone but in a loving way. That’s good and healthy to do but in context Paul is talking about anchoring our lives and other’s lives against the winds of false doctrine by speaking sound (healthy) doctrine. With love.
- Christians must develop an appetite for sound doctrine
Paul warns Timothy in 2 Tim 4:3
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 2 Tim. 4:3
Instead of wanting truth, the days are coming when people will tailor the truth to be what they want it to be. They won’t want to hear the truth, they will want to hear what they want to hear and call it truth! They will tailor the truth to their desires rather than tailor their desires to the truth. People will flock around communicators who will scratch their itching ears. That doesn’t end well.
Develop an appetite for healthy doctrine. Did you know you can train and retrain your appetite for food? If you eat healthy food, you will have an appetite for healthy food. If you eat junk food, you will develop an appetite for junk food. It’s often said “you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet”. What we eat on a regular basis has a massive and accumulative effect on our health. The same is true of our spiritual diet.
The first three chapters of Ephesians is all about what God has sovereignly done for us in Christ. The atmosphere of those chapters are centered on God and His sovereignty and not on us. Booo-rring! Chapters four through six then go on to tell us how we should live because of what God has done. That’s what we want to hear! Give me the seven keys to living the abundant life! Three steps to have a happier life, a happier wife, or less strife. Unlock the secrets to dealing with a terrible boss, or to building a successful business. The self-help book and podcast market is big business. And our natural appetite will be to make the Bible a self-help book and just pick out the parts that give us good advice, and we’ll take it from there.
Churches that feed a constant diet of self-help sermons and how to live a better life messages will end up with a congregation of weak believers or even non-believers attracted to teaching that scratches an itch they have for a better life. Now the Bible does have a lot to say about the best way to live our lives. It has a lot of wisdom to impart about the practical things we deal with: building a successful marriage, raising children, finances, relationships, conflict, character, leadership, dealing with anger, learning to be patient and on and on. The Bible speaks to every area of life.
But what we need most of all we often don’t feel we need most of all. We need God. We need to know God. We need a relationship with God. For that we need to grow in our thoughts about God. We need to meditate on what God has done. We need the indicatives not just the imperatives. Indicatives are what God says He has done for us and imperatives are what God tells us to do. If we just focus on the imperatives – what God tells us to do – without putting roots deep in the indicatives – what is true because God has done it – we will be shallow and weak in faith.
Speak the truth in love is an indicative…but it’s built on indicatives like this one found in chapter 2:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Eph. 2:4-7
Oh how our souls need to soak in what God has done for us in these verses! Your and my fingerprints are nowhere to be found in these verses. This is all about what God has done for us and not at all about what we “do for God” and it’s fresh air to our souls!
- Think about how you are justified by faith in Christ. Guilt taken away, made righteous. God did that through Christ.
- Meditate on there being no condemnation because your condemnation was poured out on Christ – God did that.
- Rejoice that you have been adopted as a beloved son or daughter of God. God did that.
- Set your mind on how you have been raised with Christ and are seated with Him in the heavenlies. Your position is fixed, secure, and a reality which will one day be consummated. God did that.
So when a message is doctrine-heavy and we don’t hear about ourselves in it every minute, it’s like eating a steak rather than a hot dog. A little tougher to chew but so good for us!
- A spiritually healthy church must learn to “truth in love”
This verse has been translated “speaking the truth in love” but in the Greek the word speaking isn’t there. It reads more literally, “truthing in love” which includes speaking, living and doing the truth.
Truth needs to be combined with love – and love needs to be combined with truth.
Truth becomes hard if it is not softened by love; love becomes soft if it is not strengthened by truth. ~ John Stott
When we grow in doctrinal knowledge without growing in the love of Christ we will distort that doctrinal knowledge. If we try to grow in the love of Christ without growing in our knowledge of sound doctrine, we will distort that love.
Truth needs love and love needs truth.
other sermons in this series