"How can I present God's Word to others in such a way that will accomplish the most good? Is my disposition regarding truth and my attitude toward others such that the cause of Christ is helped, not hindered?"
Paul's admonition in Ephesians 4:15 provides the key to answering these questions. “...but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ…” (Ephesians 4:15).
We Need To Speak the Truth
The first thing we notice in our text is that the truth of God can be known. We do not have to guess. There is no excuse for not coming to know “the gospel truth.” It is a cop out for people to seek to avoid their responsibilities unto God by complaining that truth is unknowable. Pilate excused himself from doing what he knew was truly right and commanded that Jesus be delivered up for crucifixion. When encouraged to accept the truth, he said, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Pilate suggests by his question that there is no such thing as objective truth.
Many suggest the same thing today. Pilate was wrong, and so are those today who say such things as “What's true for you may not be true for me.” or “Everybody must choose for themselves what will be their truth.” God's truth is truth for everybody.
Contrary to Pilate's appraisal, Jesus affirms that his teaching was based on objective truth. (John 18:37). Christ's teachings do not emanate from man's philosophy; they are not the result of personal feelings or prejudice. He taught the truth; the absolute truth, and nothing but the truth. He is not “a way” or “a truth” but “the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6).
So, recognize that truth is objective, and can be known, and do not swallow the philosophy that says its all relative or impossible to know.
Also, understand that salvation is inseparable from truth, and that one can only be saved by obedience to truth in accordance with God's will (John 17:17; John 8:31,32). Here truth is used in an absolute sense. For the faithful Christian, the Bible is not just the basis for some doctrine or a doctrine; it is the basis for all doctrine. It is not some of the truth, or partially true, but completely true. Since you and I are to speak the truth, that means we must speak from the Bible (1 Peter 4:11). It is the utterances of God that we read in the Bible. When we speak, it is our authority… not the traditions/creeds/opinions of man.
Paul understood the importance of speaking the truth. Note his words: “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.” (Acts 20:27). What does it take to make us spiritually complete? The Scriptures alone! (2 Timothy 3:16,17). It is for this reason that there are so many admonitions to those who would carry the gospel to others to "know the truth" and to "hold to sound doctrine" and to "speak as the utterances of God" and not to listen top those who would come with "another gospel".
We Need To Speak In Love
The Scriptures also tells us how we are to speak the truth: We are to speak it “in love.” What is "love" and how do you speak the truth in it? We might think of "love" simply as doing what benefits others the most. The original Greek word (agape) conveys this It is like the love which God and Christ manifested for us. They did something for us! God loved us enough to send His son to this earth as the only acceptable, perfect sacrifice for sins. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Christ loved us enough to suffer the cruelest kind of death to pay the penalty for our sins. When we are told to love one another as Jesus loved us, we are talking about sacrificial good will. That is love.
With the example of Christ in our minds, then, we act in the best interest of others. We don't speak the truth to win a debate; to tear someone else down; to advance ourselves. Such is prideful and shameful. We speak the truth in love. Our aim is to save souls. We speak the truth to uplift and comfort the hopeless. We speak the truth to instruct, exhort, encourage and admonish. We speak the truth to correct and persuade. And consistently, we speak the truth to glorify God (Colossians 4:5-6; 2 Corinthians 5:20; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
We Need To Speak and Grow Spiritually
When we speak the truth in love, we are growing to be more like our Lord in His attitude and actions. As our text says, he or she is growing up in all aspects into Christ. That means growing as a child of faith.
All this is perhaps much easier to understand than to practice. Let us all resolve to work on it as we ask the Lord to grant us the help and wisdom. We know He will give generously when we ask without wavering.
It is through our words that we convey to others the will of God on every important matter of life. There are so many difficult present day controversies that we must face with God's truth; issues that span and overlap religious, social and ethical boundaries; marriage, divorce, abortion, humanism, cultism, extra-biblical religious creeds, atheism, Islam and the list goes on. In all these things, are we prepared to speak the truth in love? Boldness is not incompatible with speaking the truth in love, though Satan would like us to think so.
Let us also be aware that it's not really love if we refuse to speak the truth, either by remaining silent or by watering it down, we are not doing right by our God. We must speak. We must speak the truth. We must speak it with love. Now, I can hatefully speak the truth in such an obnoxious way that I destroy rather than build. I might excuse my untoward behavior by saying that I only said what was true. God requires more than that! Remember Paul's final admonition to Timothy (read 2 Timothy 4:1-5). Love does not seek to tickle ears, but it does seek to speak the truth in such a way so as to do the most good for those that hear.
Speak the truth in love! Do so every day and without exception. When pressed on a matter by the world and its opinions and standards, stand on God's word. Our speech can be direct and bold, spoken with courage and conviction, even as we maintain a Christian's character.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 21.4; April 2014