“Speaking The Truth In Love”
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). The only way one can come to faith in Jesus Christ is through God’s word. That word needs to be heard before it can be believed, and for it to be heard, it must first be taught (Romans 10:14-15). Christians in the first century understood very well that it was their duty to teach the word of God to others, and their willingness to do so caused the kingdom to spread like wildfire.
The apostles did their part. So did evangelists. But this precious and necessary duty of teaching God’s word was not limited to them. All faithful saints looked for opportunities to instruct others in the ways of the Lord (Acts 8:4; 18:26).
Sometimes this teaching caused these Christians to be at odds with those around them (such as Paul in Lystra – Acts 14:19-20). Even so, they continued to teach what was right, because God’s word was too precious to not be taught.
Notice the attitude involved (or rather, the lack of attitude). It was not one of superiority or arrogance. These good brethren did not teach truth just so they could win arguments and prove themselves to be better versed in religion than those around them. That was not the point at all. They taught truth, and they clung to it even in death, for some very simple reasons: 1) they loved the Lord, and 2) they loved the souls of their fellow man.
They wanted people to be saved from their sins…that’s why they continued to teach truth even when riotous crowds wanted to tear the speaker to pieces (Acts 21:30-31, 35-36).
We are to speak the truth in love, just as Paul did: “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 4:15-16).
We cannot remove either part of that equation. We must teach truth, and that includes calling sin exactly what it is: sin, a separation from God. We cannot back down from that fact. And we must stand against sin, no matter how popular it is, or how many of our friends and family members may be caught up in it. God has made the decision that certain behavior is sinful; it is against Him, and that behavior will lead those who continue in it to destruction: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
We must warn our fellow man against such sins. Not because we want to win a religious argument and tout ourselves as better Bible students than someone else. Not because we want to present a “holier than thou” attitude: any who faithfully follow the Lord are well aware of our own sins and shortcomings, and are striving to put them away in our own lives.
We teach Bible truths because we love the souls of others and want their sins to be washed away. We teach the truth because we love mankind just as our Heavenly Father does, and we want to them to know the peace and joy of eternity in Christ.
How ironic it is that so many today would condemn warnings from Scripture as “hate language,” when the exact opposite is true. Paul the apostle loved people dearly (2 Corinthians 2:4). But he still told them things that they did not want to hear, because they needed to hear those things. And some people hated Paul for telling them the truth: “Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16). Some of these were people who would have once done anything to help Paul (Gal. 4:15), but some began to turn against him when he said what they did not want to hear.
Jesus was hated for speaking truth (Luke 4:28-29). So were His apostles, and other faithful teachers in the first century (consider Stephen in Acts 7). I am foolish if I think that I can stand for truth and not be hated for it, as well.
Nevertheless, that does not change the responsibility of Christians to speak the truth in love. Jesus still loved mankind, even when they railed against Him: “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’ And they divided His garments and cast lots” (Luke 23:34). Paul showed love for a Philippian jailer who had thrown him in the innermost dungeon of a prison and fastened his feet in stocks (Acts 16:28). I must love mankind enough to teach them the gospel of truth, even when they may hate, ridicule, and persecute me for it. That teaching cannot be condescending; it cannot be filled with arrogance. It must always be with love.
But it must always be the unadulterated truth, too. Jesus did not change His message because it was unpopular. Neither did the apostles and other teachers of the New Testament. I have no right to water down or tamper with God’s message, either (Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:18-19).
“Speaking the truth in love…” If either of these are lacking, then we are doing it wrong.