We often hear a part of Ephesians 4:15 quoted by many believers.
The part often quoted is:
“Speak the truth in love.”
But what does this verse mean?
What is the context?
Is there more to the verse than just this small part?
To many people, it means that love speaks the truth.
This is how most people use this part of the verse.
According to this use of the verse, people are not loving if they do not speak the truth but are loving if they do.
They quote this part of the verse to defend themselves when they “speak the truth in love.”
Someone I knew in ministry would often say “If I don’t speak the truth, then I am not loving.”
He used this as an excuse for his blunt, offensive manner when communicating with people whom he identified as needing to hear the truth.
However, this is not the context on Ephesians 4:15.
Let’s take a look at the context.
In Ephesians 1-3, Paul taught the Ephesian believers about the spiritual blessings fully given to us in Jesus and about the greatness of God’s grace freely given to us in Jesus.
These are the truths of grace.
He taught the Ephesians about the love God had for them and the grace he gave to them in Jesus.
He taught them they were holy and blameless before God through faith in Jesus.
He taught them they were fully forgiven, alive with God, and seated with Jesus in heavenly places.
He taught them they where one body, both Jew and Gentile as one family of grace, with God as their Father.
He taught them the law had been abolished, with its commandments and regulations.
He taught them to be bold and confident in their relationship with God because of God’s grace, rather than living in fear, worry, and doubt produced by the law.
He taught them they now related to God by the grace of Jesus.
He taught them salvation was by grace through faith in Jesus, a gift, and not of works so no one could boast...and even their good works where prepared in advance for them by God, which they would walk in as they came to understand grace (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Paul prayed they would come to a full revelation of the riches of God’s grace given to them in Jesus and that they would understand the vastness of Christ’s love for them so they could be filled with the fullness of God.
Jesus revealed these truths of grace to Paul and gave Paul the responsibility of teaching these truths to others (Ephesians 3:1-11).
As Paul taught these truths, churches began to develop.
These churches were to become communications centers for the grace of God in their communities, once they were established in the truths of grace.
Once they were established in the truths of grace, they would then be unified in the faith (the truths about all God did for us by grace in Christ - Ephesians 1-3) and equipped for works of service to build up the body of Christ.
We discover in Ephesians 4 that Jesus appointed leaders for the church to establish the church in grace and equip the people for ministry.
One of these leaders was a pastor/teacher whose role was “to equip the saints for works of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, as we mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ.” (4:12)
These positions of leadership would carry on the message of grace, which Jesus gave Paul, by continuing to establish the church in the truths of grace and equip them to share God’s grace with others.
The results of the ministry of these leadership positions, who continued teaching the truths of grace, would be the church “would no longer be infants, tossed about by the waves and carried around by every wind of teaching and by the clever cunning of men in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:16).
There were many so-called teachers during Paul's time claiming to speak on behalf of God about Jesus who were teaching many different things other than the truths of grace, which Paul taught in Ephesians 1-3.
The role of the pastor/teacher was to establish the church in grace so they would become mature and not be tossed around by every form of teaching which blew into their community.
This leads us into Ephesians 4:15, which says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ Himself, who is the head.”
The truth referred to in this verse is referring to the truths of grace Paul wrote about in Ephesians 1-3, which the church leaders were to continue teaching the church family.
The teachings by teachers of the truths of grace (Ephesians 4:15) were in contrast to the teaching by “clever cunning men” who taught something different than grace (Ephesians 4:16).
The manner the truths of grace where to be taught in was one of love.
The message was the truths of grace.
The manner was in a loving way.
The teacher of the truths of grace where to teach these truths (Ephesians 1-3) in a loving way...kindness, patience, and gentleness.
As a pastor/teacher teaches the truths of grace in a loving way, believers will grow up (mature) in all that God did for them in Christ, who is the ultimate leader (head) of the church.
In context, “speaking the truth in love” is not referring to a person who quotes this verse as biblical evidence that love speaks the truth, even if it offends others.
Rather, “speaking the truth in love” is teaching the truths of grace in a loving manner so the church is established in grace, equipped for ministry to share grace, and effective in rejecting teaching that is not based in the truths of God’s grace that he has freely given us in the One he loves...Jesus (Ephesians 1:3-8).