Text: Ephesians 4:29-32
Sermon-in-a-Sentence: Rotten words will not edify, will not minister grace, and will grieve.
Quotes concerning Words:
Because a woman’s vocal cords are shorter than a man’s she can actually speak with less effort than he can. Shorter vocal cords not only cause a woman’s voice to be more highly pitched, but also require less air to become agitated, making it possible for her to talk more with less energy expended. – Sparks, quoted in Homemade, Dec., 1984.
Talk is cheap because the supply always exceeds the demand. One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say. -Will Durant.
In 1887 the coffin of Abraham Lincoln was pried open to determine if it contained his body. What makes that act so remarkable is the fact that Lincoln’s body had rested in that coffin for 22 years. Yet, even more amazing is that 14 years later a rumor circulated again that Lincoln’s coffin was actually empty. The furor so gripped the land that the only way to silence it was to dig up the coffin–again. This was done and the rumor silenced when a handful of witnesses viewed the lifeless body of Abraham Lincoln. -Today in the Word, February, 1991, p. 27.
Previously in our study we have considered two important areas of speech- Controlled Words and Caring Words. The first week we discussed the most Biblical way to value words is to ‘hold our peace’. Last week we considered the example of Christ, that compassion stirs up two types of Caring Words- prayer and evangelism.
Today let us consider what Scripture says concerning Corrupt Words, because to truly value words we need to know what God says concerning this type of speech. Ephesians 4:29-32 gives us as believers some of the best guidance concerning words and specifically this third area – Corrupt Words. Let’s consider specifically Ephesians 4:29 today.
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
To get a good grasp of this text it is so necessary that we comprehend the term – corrupt communication. As with all of Scripture, I do not want to leave any doubt or uncertainty as to this term in the text. The word corrupt in the text is the Greek word, , meaning- rotten, i.e. worthless (literally or morally):–bad. This term is used a handful of times in the New Testament, mostly in the Gospels, concerning trees and fruit, when Jesus was teaching.
Mt 7:17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
This is the image we are given of this term corrupt. It is that vivid picture of rotten fruit. If you have spent time on a farm or around fruit trees you know what I’m talking about. Rotten fruit is ugly to the eye, smelly to the nose, and even worse to the sense of taste. When Scripture uses this word corrupt it is speaking of words that are just ‘rotten’ in every way. The words sound bad, look bad, feel bad, and taste bad.
This week I came across some words that are just downright ‘rotten’ in my opinion. I want to share them with you, and see how they strike you-
“The big news today is that Billy Graham was still alive this whole time. Anyway, have fun in hell, bi–h,” Lauren Duca tweeted. Duca went on to say “’Respecting the dead’ only applies to people who weren’t evil pieces of sh-t while they were living.” -Lauren Duca, Teen Vogue
With that said, let’s not forget one more important detail concerning this corrupt communication. God calls this communication corrupt, or rotten. This is not rotten communication because the preacher said it, this is rotten words because Holy God says it is so. Believers this kind of communication is called rotten by God because it does nothing but violate his perfect holiness. If we can apply human characteristics to God, we could say it this way- these words are stench in the nostrils of God, they are disgraceful to his ears, and they look ugly on the lips of his children.
Now as believers it is incumbent upon us to know what particular words are ‘corrupt’ according to God. At this point we could make out a lengthy list of things like- gossip, slander, etc… But our text gives us the instruction for how to speak. It tells us in plain language exactly what words should proceed from the mouth of the believer. By this we can likewise tell what are the corrupt words in God’s eyes.
I. Use Edifying Words
If it does not edify, then it is ‘rotten’. This is the first instruction in the text, as the believer avoids corrupt communication, Paul says first to use words that are good for edifying. Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying… The Greek word is oy-kod-om-ay’, and it means ‘building’, as in ‘building up’.
A recurring theme of the New Testament is the concept of the believer being built up, being fashioned more like Christ, being remade as Christ desires to shape us. Quite simply we are the clay, in the hands of the potter. Paul tells believers to speak words to one another that are good words to aid in the process of building up, and avoid those words that could hinder this process in the Christian’s life.
The responsibility of edification falls to two groups in the church. Most often edification is thought of as the burden for preachers and teachers, which is true. Everything that occurs in this service this morning, in these facilities, should be for the purpose of glorifying God and edifying believers. The singing, the music, the Scripture, the preaching, all of it should aid in the process of edification. Preachers and teachers are tasked with the responsibility of making sure that what is done is edifying to believers. The second group responsible for edifying is – all believers. In the context of a local New Testament church, every member is responsible for edification, particularly as Paul mentions it here, through the use of words.
* What does this mean practically in our everyday lives? This means at no point believer are you to speak words that would hinder or hurt the spiritual growth of your brother in Christ. If it does not edify, then it is rotten!
* What are some examples of words that hinder spiritual growth?
Complaining: a failure to see the good, and always focused on the bad. Complaining does not edify because it trains younger believers to only see the bad, the difficulties in the Christian life, and lose sight of the good God that we serve.
Gossip: idle talk which may or may not contain truth. Gossip breeds divisiveness and dissension in the church body. It does not edify.
* What are some examples of words that build up others?
Encouragement: finding something positive to say to be a blessing to another.
Worship: speaking or singing about God. It’s always good for the believer to be redirected back to a focus on God.
Remember believers- If it does not edify, then it is rotten.
II. Use Grace-giving Words
If it does not give grace, then it is ‘rotten’. This is the second instruction in our text from Paul. He tells the believer to use grace-giving words. …but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. This is terminology we may not use all the time, but it is a very simple concept. Use words in speaking to others that will be a benefit to them, not corrupt them through what is said.
This instruction is echoed again in Colossions 4:6- Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. There is a Biblical and a wrong way to respond to people, to speak to people. The principle we see presented by Paul, is the ‘others first principle’. Believers speak to others in a way that is a benefit to them, put their benefit before your personal desires. Sometimes they are benefited by concealing a matter, as Proverbs says it. Some may be benefited by the putting aside of your desire to get even or obtain revenge. Whatever it may be, we see from Paul that when it comes to our words the chief concern is the benefit of others, not ourselves.
III. Use Non-grieving Words
If it grieves the Holy Spirit, then it is ‘rotten’. This is the third instruction by Paul in the text. This instruction applies to many areas of the Christian life, but especially to words. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. This particular sin is spoken of several times in the New Testament, the sinful acting of grieving the Holy Spirit. The word grieve in the text means- to distress, to cause sorrow, to cause heaviness. The idea is much like that of a parent, as a parent watches a child make poor decisions, despite good training, and the parent is heavy of heart because of the poor choices made.
What are some ways in which words grieve the Holy Spirit?
* when words obstruct his work:
* when sin is trifled with:
* when deity is treated carelessly:
* when place is given to the devil:
* when the spirit of this world is cherished:
Application: remember if it does not edify, or minister grace, then it is rotten!