The apostle Paul, in his letter to the church in Ephesus, states:
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” Ephesians 4:11–15.
It is God’s intent that every person who comes into a relationship with him through Jesus Christ eventually grows up into maturity. And maturity looks like Jesus. He is the perfect human, providing an example of what we are meant to be. A mature Christian is one who resembles Jesus Christ in thought, attitude, emotion, and behavior. And one of the most significant ways by which we grow up into maturity is by speaking the truth in love to each other.
Many wrongly believe that speaking the truth in love is actually just speaking hard words to each other with loving hearts: “You have bad breath, but since I love you, I’ve got to speak the truth to you.” “We want you in our group, but you aren’t very kind to others, and as a result, people don’t want to be around you! I’m just speaking the truth in love.”
But that is not what Paul is talking about here. Sure, we do need to speak truthfully to one another, and do it with love for each other, but Paul has something more in mind.
The Truth is in Jesus
We need to read just a few verses further to discover what Paul means. He clarifies the truth that we are to speak to each other in verse 21. He states, “The truth is in Jesus.” “Speaking the truth in love,” for Paul, is shorthand for “speaking what is true about Jesus” to one another— that is, speaking the gospel to one another. Paul knows that if people are going to grow up into Christ in every way, they need to hear the truths of Jesus (the gospel) and learn to speak them into everything.
Too often, when giving people answers to their questions or solutions to their problems, we give them something other than Jesus. If they are struggling with their finances, we give them the best budgeting plans we know of. If they are working through relational discord, we teach them communication techniques. If they are struggling with doubt, we challenge them to just believe, promising that all will get better if they do. But we fail if we don’t give them Jesus.
n some cases, we encourage them to read their Bibles or pray, which, of course, are wonderful things. However, if we don’t teach them to meet and know Jesus through their Bible reading and prayer, we are dangerously close to leading them away from Jesus through very good things. This is the heart of idolatry— taking a good thing and making it a “god thing.” We take something God gave us to direct us to him and love it or depend on it more than him. As a result, we fail to come to him through it.
The Heart of Idolatry
I have met too many people who love their Bibles yet have no genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. They don’t really know him. They don’t really love him. They don’t worship him. Instead, they worship their Bibles. They are not growing up into maturity because they are not growing up into Christ.
If we fail to give each other Jesus, we lead each other away from Jesus. We might grow in Bible knowledge, but not in love for Jesus. We might become the most religious prayers of all and yet be talking to the wrong god. We could have our finances in order while our hearts are completely out of order, because we are doing it all for the wrong reasons. We might be great at communication and conflict resolution, but if we are not reconciled with God through Jesus Christ, then our relationships will be shallow and temporary in nature.
Think of it this way—if we are to help one another grow up into Christ in every way, we need to learn how to speak the truths of Christ into everything—every aspect of life, every situation we face, and every issue we address. This is gospel fluency.
(Taken from Gospel Fluency Handbook by Jeff Vanderstelt, ©2017)