Passage: Ephesians 4:1-16
Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection
In our life together as church, we want to be a people who “speak the truth in love” to one another.
To do this, we first need to grasp the power of words. Words have the power to break people down or to build them up in the faith. Indeed, it is by means of God’s word, and our own words about God’s word, that Christians “grow up in every way” into Christ (Eph. 4:15)—into spiritual adulthood rather than infancy. So, we should recognize the transformative power of words, and use them wisely.
Second, we should recognize that God has a specific mission for our words. Our words aren’t just aimed at any type of growth but are meant to help the body of Christ grow up into Jesus, who is its “head” (4:15). Every church is imbalanced and immature in some ways, and our words should help the body grow up into greater fullness.
Lastly, our motivation should always be love. We should “speak the truth” out of love for our brothers and sisters in Christ and out of a sincere desire to make their souls stronger. We should regularly examine the motivations behind our words and seek to be transformed at a heart level by the selfless love of Christ, who, at the end of his own life, was silent that he might bear the guilt for all the sinful words we’ve ever spoken.
- The Means of Our Words (4:14-15)
- The Mission of Our Words (4:11-15)
- The Motive for Our Words (4:15, cf. Isaiah 53:7)
Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide
Re-read the passage (Ephesians 4:1-16)
The Means of Our Words (4:14-15)
Q) Pastor Bobby described the enormous power words have, either to build us up or tear us down. Have you ever been a part of a community of people (a family, church, workplace, team) with a negative culture of speech—i.e. where words were often used to tear people down? Have you ever been a part of a community of people where words were often used to build people up? What was it like?
Q) Re-read Ephesians 4:14-15. What effect is “speaking the truth in love” supposed to have?
The Mission of Our Words (4:11-15)
Q) Re-read Ephesians 4:11-15, which describes what the ministry of our words is meant to accomplish. Meditate on these verses together. Consider:
- Vs. 11 describes different leadership offices in the church, each of which use words to “build up the body of Christ” (vs. 12) in different ways. What are the different ways that apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers each build up the body of Christ? (You can think of them one by one)
- Why does Paul use the imagery of “children”, “mature manhood”, and “growing up”? What is it meant to illustrate?
Q) Describe a time when somebody “spoke the truth in love” to you, so that you grew more into the image of Christ (vs. 15)? What did they say? What was the experience like?
Q) Is there a certain area or relationship in your life where you have been avoiding “speaking the truth in love”? How might you begin to do so?
The Motive for Our Words (4:15, cf. Isaiah 53:7)
Q) Re-read Ephesians 4:15. Pastor Bobby said that the phrase “in love” describes the motive from which all of our speech is to proceed—we should speak out of a love for the other person, and out of a desire to “make their soul stronger.” Describe a time when you spoke the truth, but it wasn’t spoken “in love”? What was the result?
Q) It’s often difficult to discern our own true motives in speaking. What are some ways we might discern whether something we want to say would be said of a love for the other person and desire for their growth in Christ, or not? What are some signs or “symptoms” that might tip us off to the fact that something we want to say probably isn’t coming from a loving motivation?
Q) What would change about your current habits of speaking, if you more regularly considered whether you were speaking out of a motivation of love? What might change, for example, about:
- How often you speak?
- How quickly you speak?
- The tone in which you speak?
- What you keep silent about and what you bring up?
Q) Read Isaiah 53:7, and then re-read this quote from Sinclair Ferguson, which Pastor Bobby included in his sermon: “Why was Jesus silent? He was silent because of every word that has proceeded from your lips; because of every word that provides adequate reason for God to damn you for all eternity, because you have cursed him or his image. The Lord Jesus came into the world to bear the judgment of God against the sin of our tongues. When he stood before the High Priest and the judgment seat of Pontius Pilate, he accepted a sentence of guilt. But that was my guilt. He bore in his body on the tree the sins of my lips and my tongue.”
- Had you ever considered this truth before—that Jesus was silent because he was bearing the sins of our lips?
- How might grasping this truth help form you into the kind of person who “speaks the truth in love” more often?
Q) CASE STUDY: You have a friend in the church who has developed a reputation for being insensitive and rude. While people frequently walk away from conversations with him feeling discouraged—even trampled upon—you get the sense that he views the way he speaks more as a badge of honor than an area for sanctification. He prides himself on “being direct” and “not beating around the bush.” Once, when you had gently tried to give him feedback in this area, he brushed it off, and replied that “this is just who he was.” You feel led to approach him again about this. In light of this week’s sermon, how might you speak to your friend?
Additional Application Questions
Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?
Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and outside of the church?
Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.