Holy, light-filled speech - extract from foundation module: Gospel Change


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Not that, but this

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. (Ephesians 4:29)

Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:18–20)

As we have seen, Paul does not merely exclude unholy actions; he consistently gives a holy alternative. Twice in these chapters he gives the alternative of ‘thanksgiving’ (5:4, 20), and that shall be the focus of Unit 9. But there are two other, related encouragements here for the community of light. Paul commends to us words of grace which build up, and these might well include psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. We spent some time in Unit 5 examining the role of the community in bringing the double-edged sword of the Scriptures to bear on our hearts. “Speaking the truth in love” (4:15) will undoubtedly involve specific rebuke and correction from time to time. But these occasions will be rarer in a community where we are constantly talking about Jesus.

For example, if in the course of normal conversations we consistently remind one another of Christ’s generosity to us in the gospel, we will be less likely to slip into a selfish mindset that sees us spending our ‘disposable income’ on new gadgets and extravagant holidays for ourselves. Furthermore, we must not think that the rebuke is the only form of grace-filled, edifying speech. Consider the way that Paul can encourage those who are living holy lives to do so “more and more” (for example, Philippians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:1, 10). Likewise, he opens most of his letters with a prayer of thanksgiving for the work that God is doing in his readers’ lives. Might there not also be occasion for us to thank God for other Christians, and to let those Christians know the content of our prayers? These might include people who have been particularly significant in our Christian walk, or those to whom we are committed long term. We may also thank God for someone as a result of a one-off conversation.

Moreover, we must learn how to sow words of gospel light among those who walk in darkness. In Colossians 4:6, Paul writes, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” The notion of ‘salty speech’ preserves us from two errors. On the one hand, it reminds us that speaking about Jesus should leave our hearers asking for more. It will free us from the idea that “I must monopolise this opportunity and cram everything that could be said into this one conversation.” Equally, we will not be tempted to keep our mouths shut when it comes to Jesus. We will learn how the gospel of our holy God can shed light on the mundane details of dark lives.(1)

All the while, we must ask the Holy Spirit to sensitise our hearts, and create in us a passion for holiness, so that we might show that we are children of our holy God.

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(1) For more on this, see the Crosslands Foundation module Evangelism.

Beth Butler