Words that Build Up

July 27, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement

In Ephesians 4:29, the apostle Paul commands, “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.” As I prepare to preach on this verse on Sunday, I have been thinking about what sort of speech builds up another and how we each can grow in speaking in this way. 

In a very broad sense, speech that builds up will convey information the recipient needs. An employer communicates expectations to an employee so he or she will know how to perform. Partners, whether in business or family, will communicate plans so each partner knows how to relate to the other. Lovers will communicate their hearts desire to one another so their relationship remains healthy. In a nutshell, any relationship is dependent on the communication of information. In other words, information builds up relationships.

 There is more, however, behind Paul’s command in Ephesians 4:29 than merely communicating information. First, Paul uses the Greek word oikodom for “building up.” Paul has used this word three times in Ephesians. In 2:21 it references the structure of the church growing into a temple for the Lord. In 4:12 and 16 Paul is speaking about the spiritual growth of the church. Each saint is equipped for ministry in order to build up the body. Therefore, we can understand Paul calling the church to use speech with one another that ultimately will contribute to the spiritual growth of the body. 

Does that mean we can’t talk about the Royals or the weather with one another in the church? No. Information, even trivial information, builds up relationships. We cannot move to the conversations that will contribute to spiritual growth unless a relationship built on familiarity and trust has been established. The point is that we do not merely communicate trivial information, but that we move on to spiritual conversations with fellow Christians. 

Take, for example, the exhortation in Hebrews 3:12-13. “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” First, the command to “take care” is the command to be in relationship with other Christians. The writer does not call us to watch out for our own heart, but the hearts of others. Naturally then, this means we need other Christians watching out for our heart. We need to build up relationships with other Christians by sharing information that allows the other to watch out for our heart. 

Second, the command to “exhort one another” is a command to speak in ways with each other that will lead to spiritual growth. A call to repent. A celebration of the goodness of Christ. A discussion over the meaning of Scripture. Prayer. These are ways we build up one another with our words. 

Back to Ephesians 4:29, Paul gives two more insights on speech that builds up. He says that it ought to fit the occasion and that it will give grace. What the ESV translates as “fits the occasion,” is the Greek word for need. In other words, we speak only what is needed. This is a reminder that what we may say is true, but the information is not needed in the moment for the hearer. This would include gossip, sharing true information with people who do not need that information. This would also include counsel given at inappropriate times, much like Job’s friends in the Old Testament. 

The last line of Ephesians 4:29, “that it may give grace to those who hear,” is truly astonishing. The word “grace” is no small word for Paul. God adopts us to the praise of his grace (Eph. 1:6). God has lavished his grace upon us (Eph. 1:8). We are saved by grace (Eph. 2:8). Paul was made a minister of the gospel by grace (Eph. 3:7). And now he says that we can give grace to our hearers through our speech. Incredible. Grace from my mouth?! This is a testimony to the power of the gospel to transform people like you and me and equip us to be channels of his grace to others. God wants to use us to bring grace to others. 

Let’s continue to press deeper into the gospel so God can continue to use us to spread his grace to others.


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