Speak the Truth
The apostle Paul, in his letter to the church in Ephesus, states: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 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. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph. 4:11–15).
It is God’s intent that every person who comes into a relationship with him through Jesus Christ eventually will grow up into maturity. And maturity looks like Jesus. He is the perfect human, providing an example of what we are meant to be. A mature Christian is one who resembles Jesus Christ in thought, attitude, emotion, and behavior. And one of the most significant ways by which we grow up into maturity is by speaking the truth in love to one another.
Many wrongly believe that speaking the truth in love is actually just speaking hard words to one another with loving hearts: “You have bad breath, but since I love you, I’ve got to speak the truth to you.” “We want you in our group, but you aren’t very kind to others, and as a result, people don’t want to be around you! I’m just speaking the truth in love.” But that is not what Paul is talking about here. Sure, we do need to speak truthfully to one another and do it with love, but Paul has something more in mind.
We need to read just a few verses further to discover what Paul means. He clarifies the truth that we are to speak to one another in verse 21. He states, “The truth is in Jesus.” “Speaking the truth in love,” for Paul, is shorthand for “speaking what is true about Jesus” to one another—that is, speaking the gospel to one another. Paul knows that if people are going to grow up into Christ in every way, they need to hear the truths of Jesus (the gospel) and learn to speak them into everything.
As [a couple of my friends] like to say: “What’s the question? Jesus is the answer. What’s the problem? Jesus is the solution.” Too often, when giving people answers to their questions or solutions to their problems, we give them something other than Jesus. If they are struggling with their finances, we give them the best budgeting plans we know of. If they are working through relational discord, we teach them communication techniques. If they are struggling with doubt, we challenge them to just believe, promising that all will get better if they do.
But we fail if we don’t give them Jesus.
In some cases, we encourage them to read their Bibles or pray, which, of course, are wonderful things. However, if we don’t teach them to meet and know Jesus through their Bible reading and prayer, we are dangerously close to leading them away from Jesus through very good things. This is the heart of idolatry—taking a good thing and making it a “god thing.” We take something God gave us to direct us to him and love it or depend on it more than him. As a result, we fail to come to him through it.
The religious leaders in Jesus’s day were the greatest Bible scholars and the most religious pray-ers. Yet they completely missed Jesus! At one point, Jesus said to them, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39–40). They loved the Scriptures that point to Jesus, but didn’t love and depend on Jesus. They missed the entire point!
Jesus is the true and better human, and everything in life is better if Jesus is brought into it.
I have met too many people who love their Bibles yet have no genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. They don’t really know him. They don’t really love him. They don’t really worship him. Instead, they worship their Bibles. They are not growing up into maturity because they are not growing up into Christ.
Bible studies are great. Prayer is wonderful. Applying wisdom for financial planning, relationship building, and every other area of life is important and necessary. However, if we fail to give one another Jesus, we lead one another away from him. We might grow in Bible knowledge, but not in love for Jesus. We might become the most religious pray-ers of all and yet be talking to the wrong god. We could have our finances in order while our hearts are completely out of order because we are doing it all for the wrong reasons. We might be great at communication and conflict resolution, but if we are not reconciled with God through Jesus Christ, then our relationships will be shallow and temporary in nature.
Think of it this way: if we are to help one another grow up into Christ in every way, we need to learn how to speak the truths of Christ into everything—every aspect of life, every situation we face, and every issue we address.
What does the gospel of Jesus Christ teach us about our finances? How should we address relational discord in light of the gospel? How does what we know about Jesus shape how we handle anxiety and fear? If we speak the truths about Jesus into each of these issues or situations, we will grow up together in every way with Christ, which also means we will grow up in every way into Christ.
In other words, if we are going to grow up to be like Christ, we have to grow up with the very truths of Jesus.
However, if we try to instruct, counsel, or grow one another with something other than the truths of Jesus Christ, then every area in which we speak something other than Christ will be an area in which we grow away from him. This is why so many people look to Jesus only for their afterlife; they’ve been given the truths of Jesus primarily as the answer for going to heaven when they die. But they have little knowledge of how Jesus gives a better answer for what they do with their money, their sexuality, their work, or their families. Jesus is good news to them for their afterlife, but they wrongly believe he has little to nothing to offer them in the everyday stuff of life.
But he has truth to offer—for everything. He has better truth and he is better truth.
Jesus is the true and better human, and everything in life is better if Jesus is brought into it. He has done everything better. He can make everything better. And the truths about who he is and what he has done, when applied to our lives, are always a better answer than anything else. There is good news and great help for absolutely everything in life in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
This article is adapted from Gospel Fluency: Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff of Life by Jeff Vanderstelt.
We should be asking ourselves if we act like family members of the church and whether or not our participation in the church strengthens or weakens it.
Christ calls us to himself, and then invites us to lead others to follow him in obedience and trust. We are called disciples when we love each other in this way.
To become fluent in a new language, you must immerse yourself in it until you actually start to think about life through it.
What does it mean to be fluent in the gospel, and why is it an essential part of living as a disciple of Jesus?