I love how the Holy Spirit uses the personality of the people He inspired to author God’s Word. Paul, for instance, was a young legal scholar (Pharisee) when Jesus met him on the road to Damascus. Though Paul (Saul) later repudiated his position as a Pharisee, we see the personality of that training in his writings as the Holy Spirit guided him.
“Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another. ‘Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:25-32
Paul presents 7 steps in this short paragraph about how to walk like a brother. We’ve already seen 3 of the steps:
Step 1 – put away lying, speak truth with your neighbor
Step 2 – be angry, and don’t sin; don’t let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil
Step 3 – let him who stole steal no longer, but instead work with your hands what is good and give to others who have need
Now we look to step 4: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” What is a “corrupt word?” The Greek is logos sapros and translates as “bad, rotten, foul, of poor quality, unfit for use, putrid.” It comes from the word sepo – to rot, rot off, drop to pieces. Paul has already addressed the problem of lying to each other. The word sapros is not about lying – it’s about words that cause a rotting process. The word was used for vegetables and fruit that were rotten and no longer good for eating. They had the potential to give life, but had become putrid and would only make people sick. Paul compares “corrupt word” with “what is good.” Again, this is not a matter of lying to someone. It’s about speaking words that are rotten – words that cause moral sickness.
Listen to conversations where Christians are involved. What comes out of their mouth? Do they speak words that promote life? Or are their words rotten, foul, putrid, unfit for moral use? Do you and others listening to them feel stronger in your faith because of what they said? Are you more in love with Jesus because of the words that proceed from their mouths? Are people edified and built up because of their speech? Do they “impart grace to the hearers?” Or do their words depress you, make you think things you shouldn’t think, take you in directions that are unwise for a believer? What about your own words? Are they good or bad? Life-giving or rotten? In order to “walk like a brother,” our communication must promote life and health, not disease and death.
I think back on all the words I have spoken in my life. Millions of words in a lifetime. How many of those words brought health to people? How many of my words were rotten, putrid, unfit for use? God knows. He has heard every word I’ve ever spoken. That’s embarrassing – to know that the Holy God has heard every word I’ve spoken since I first began speaking as a child. What’s even worse – He’s heard everything I’ve said since I began speaking as a saved child of God. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write clearly that we who name the Name of Jesus Christ should let no corrupt word proceed out of our mouth. And this is not the only time the Spirit has told us about the importance of speaking life-giving words that edify and impart His Grace to the hearers.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
“The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom, And his tongue talks of justice.” Psalm 37:30
“I said, ‘I will guard my ways, Lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, While the wicked are before me.” Psalm 39:1
“My mouth shall speak wisdom, And the meditation of my heart shall give understanding.” Psalm 49:3
“The mouth of the righteous is a well of life, But violence covers the mouth of the wicked.” Proverbs 10:11
“The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, But the perverse tongue will be cut out.” Proverbs 10:31
“The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious, But the lips of a fool shall swallow him up.” Ecclesiastes 10:12
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” Matthew 12:33-35
“But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.” Colossians 3:8
“My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.” James 1:1-12
What does Paul mean when he says – “what is good for necessary edification”? The Greek is agathos pros oikodomen tes chreias – good to improvement of the need. Agathos describes something as being good in its character or basic makeup – beneficial in its effect. Oikodomen is the building of a house. Paul used the word for the process of promoting spiritual growth through teaching and example. It’s what he told the Ephesians a little earlier in this letter – just before he told them to put off the old man and put on the new man.
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” Ephesians 4:11-16
This is not the only time Paul taught Christians about the importance of edifying each other.
“Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” Romans 14:19
“Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.” Romans 15:2
“Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” 1 Corinthians 8:1
“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.” 1 Corinthians 10:23
“For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church … Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel … For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified … How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” 1 Corinthians 14:2-4, 12, 17, 26
“Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the authority which the Lord has given me for edification and not for destruction.” 2 Corinthians 13:10
“Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
We are here to edify – build up – each other … not to tear down, not to destroy. But what is the outcome of “corrupt communication?” Destruction. Corrupt words tear down and destroy. You know what I’m talking about. You go to church and you’re feeling great. God is so good and you’re excited to be going to be with God’s people on the Lord’s Day. And then it happens. It might be something someone says in the parking lot or hallway, in a bathroom or classroom. Someone speaks corrupt words and you begin to feel sick. How do you deal with it? Do you speak words of health back to them? or walk away without saying anything? or maybe you give them a half-hearted response. Can I tell you something in private? It happens every Sunday in every church in America. It happens every day in every Christian’s life. But it should not happen among believers! What does the Holy Spirit say? LET NO CORRUPT WORD PROCEED OUT OF YOUR MOUTH!
Chreias means “that which is necessary, to use, make use of, make the most of, profitable.” The words that Christians speak should always be useful to others. When Christians speak, people should receive something they can use to build up their lives and meet the needs of others. How does that happen? Go back a few verses to the foundation of walking like a brother.
“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:17-24
We put off the old which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts and put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. That affects every part of our body – including our mouth. Corrupt words come from the corrupt man, which we are supposed to put off. When a Christian speaks corruption they are speaking from the old man with its deceitful lusts. When Christians speak corruption they are talking like unsaved people, who speak from the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart. Why would a saved person want to talk like an unsaved person? WHY? It makes no sense. It is not logical. If we have been changed, then we need to be changed in every area of our life – including our speech. Understand? Where is the proof of our change if there is no proof of our change?
When I hear corrupt words come out of the mouths of other Christians, I have to make a choice. 1) I can listen and not say anything. 2) Listen and speak corruption with them. 3) Not listen and walk away. 4) Speak health to my brother or sister. Here’s an example of what I mean. A brother or sister starts speaking negatively about someone else in the church. You stop their words in mid-sentence and speak words of truth, purity and virtue. Do you know what happens when you speak words of edification in that situation? The brother or sister who was speaking corruption has to make a decision. They can listen and not say anything, listen and agree with your edification, not listen and walk away, or defend their corrupt words. What I find, most of the time, is that words of truth, purity and virtue usually put an end to corrupt words.
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9
There is tremendous power in the words we speak to each other. First, stop lying to one another because we are members of one another. Second, do not let any corrupt words leave your heart and brain and come out of your mouth. If you have a corrupt feeling in your heart and corrupt thought in your head, ask God to change your heart and your mind and give you thoughts that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely and of good report.
What is the outcome of doing this? It will “impart grace to the hearers.” The Greek is ina do charin tois akouousin. It translates “in order that it may give grace to the ones hearing.” That is our goal – that people who hear us speak will have God’s Grace imparted to them. If we speak just to hear ourselves talk, what good is that? If we speak to puff ourselves up, what good is that to those who hear us? We have only so many days on this planet to speak to people. What’s it going to be? Words that impart grace? Or words that corrupt? Words that build up? Or words that tear down? It is our decision to make. I pray we make the choice God wants us to make – the one that will build up the Body of Christ and bring glory to our Lord and Savior Who gave His Life for us.
Next week – step 5 in Walking Like A Brother.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”