These words come from Paul’s admonition to believers in the church at Ephesus (Eph 4:15a). It’s likely everyone has heard someone say, “I’m just speaking the truth in love.” It’s often said at the end of an accusation, rebuke, or correction. And it’s used as a way to justify the speaker’s words as being true.
Perhaps the person is speaking kindly and lovingly, but saying, “I’m just speaking the truth in love,” does not justify the words spoken as being truth. Something is either true or false, based on facts. Or it’s judged as being true based on documentation. Truth is independent of whether the words are spoken kindly or harshly. So what did Paul mean when he wrote that we are to speak the truth in love?
Paul’s Words in Context
Let’s read Paul’s words in Eph 4:1-15, omitting the parenthetical comments of verse 13. Paul began by asserting that Christians have been given gifts and callings (Eph 4:7) and he listed them:
Eph 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
We are all called and gifted to be prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers of God’s words.
- Apostles: Many of Jesus’ apostles, who had been with Him during His earthly ministry, were still alive when Paul was writing. Today, we would use the word disciples, meaning followers of Jesus.
- Prophets: Prophesying is speaking God’s words.
- Evangelists: We are evangelists when we evangelize.
- Pastors and teachers: We are to be pastoral by comforting others and teaching biblical truths.
These gifts and callings are for the benefit of others.
Eph 4:12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ
These gifts and callings are also for our benefit.
Eph 4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.
All of these gifts require speaking.
- As disciples, we are to represent Jesus. He spoke words of truth and so are we to do.
- As prophets, we are to speak God’s words from the Bible.
- Whether a vocational evangelist or just a disciple who evangelizes, we share the gospel of saving grace by speaking.
- Whether a vocational pastor or teacher or simply a disciple who is pastoral by comforting others or instructive by speaking God’s words and wisdom, we are to speak God’s words.
Speaking the Truth in Love
Now that we see the context, it’s clear that Paul was speaking about ministry work. That’s why Paul concluded with an admonition to be “… speaking the truth in love.” He was referring to speaking God’s truth (biblical precepts, instructions, corrections, etc.).
And we should always be speaking in love. Peter wrote that we are to be ready always to give a reason for our hope. And that requires speaking. But note that he also said we are to give that reason with kindness and gentleness—that’s speaking in love. (1 Pet 3:15). So also in Proverbs, we are told, “pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones” (Prov 16:24) and “a soft answer turns away wrath” (Prov 15:1). It’s always important that we speak in love.
So it’s clear that Ephesians 4:15, is about speaking THE Truth – biblical truth — the only words that are absolutely true — God’s words. And speaking “in love” means speaking with soft, pleasant, kind, and gentle words.
Paul continued, and explained the purpose of “speaking the truth in love.” It will cause further growth in Christ.
Eph 4:15 …speaking the truth in love, [others] may grow up in all things into Him who is the head; Christ
Note: The world’s “truths,” or an individual’s “truths,” will not bring growth, maturity in Christ.
A Misused Verse
We can now see how Ephesians 4:15 is misused to justify one’s words as being true. In 2007, this verse was spoken to me to support the speaker’s words as being true. Perhaps the person thought what she said was true, but she provided no evidence to support her words and no witnesses to verify what she claimed. Significantly, she was not speaking words of Scripture. Therefore she was misusing this verse to claim what she said was true. When she said, “I’m just speaking the truth in love,” I wanted to say that she was only speaking her version of the truth, and I had a different version. But I knew that would be of no benefit, so I chose not to respond.
Proper use of Ephesians 2:14a
There’s really no good reason to use this verse in the context of a dispute. It’s used to justify one’s words as being true, but it does not do that. It would be better to say, “My desire is to discuss this with love.”
Paul’s words were not meant to be used as a justification of our words. Rather, he was admonishing us that, when we use the gifts God has given us (Eph 4:11), we are to speak God’s truth IN LOVE “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12).
John 13:35 By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.
Misinterpreted, Misunderstood, or Misused Bible Verses and Passages
Has 2 Chronicles 7:14 Become a Twisted Scripture Verse?
If we do as 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, will God heal America?
Did Jesus Become Sin on the Cross?
Are We Called to be Watchmen?
Is Money the Root of All Evil? A Parable of the Poor Christian and the Tax Collector
Eph 4:15 - What Does “Speaking the Truth in Love” Really Mean?
Heb 10:26 - How Should We Understand the Willful Sin of Hebrews 10:26?
Matt 5:48 - Did Jesus Really Mean "Be Perfect?"
Hebrews 6:4-6 Can Salvation Be Lost?
Hebrews 10:26 How Should We Understand Willful Sin?
Jer 17:9 - Is My Heart Deceitful Above All Things? (Jer 17:9) Don’t I Have a New Heart?
Matt 18:20 - Does There Need to be Two or Three Gathered Together for Jesus to be Present?
If You Were the Only Person Alive, Would Jesus Have Died For Only You?
Misconceptions About Christmas: the Journey to Bethlehem
A Contradiction in the Bible? Was King David the 7th or 8th Son of Jesse?
Heb 9:27 - Does the resurrection of Lazarus contradict Hebrews 9:27?
Are We All God’s Children?
Jesus said, I never knew you. Why?
Should We Call God, "Father God?"
Does Abba Really Mean "Daddy?"
What is a Helpmeet?
Jesus is the Reason this Ministry Exists
We continue to reach people worldwide with the truths of God's Word and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Your generosity is both a blessing and encouragement. Our mission is to glorify God by equipping, encouraging, and empowering YOU to understand the Bible and grow in faith. If our online resources have blessed you, please support Reasons for Hope* Jesus. Our ministry outreach has grown significantly and . . .
Please support Reasons for Hope* Jesus with a donation of $5, $10, $20, or more. A donation of any amount is needed and greatly appreciated.
CLICK TO DONATE
to Reasons for Hope*Jesus(a 501c3 Ministry)
Use a Credit Card or PayPal for safe, secure giving.
***A Hidden Message in Psalm 23?***
Hidden in the six verses of Psalm 23 are 11 names for Jesus. When you subscribe to our newsletter, we’ll send you The Names of God in Psalm 23 PDF that reveals all 11 names and Scripture verses of comfort and hope (link will be sent in your confirmation email).
A Room with a View of Eternity—The Last Will & Testament of Jesus Christ Take a seat at the Master's table. Learn about the riches He gives to all who are His. This book will bless and encourage you, give you hope, and help you live in the joy of your salvation and the riches of Christ that are yours.
The Top Ten Got Questions? in 2022
- The Meaning of NUMBERS in the Bible?
- Was Jesus CRUCIFIED on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday?
- Did The Wise Men Arrive 12 DAYS AFTER JESUS’ BIRTH? Or Was It Much Later?
- How long did JOB SUFFER?
- What is the Significance of the Wise Men's THREE GIFTS? And were they kings?
- How are the Shepherd’s ROD and STAFF Different?
- Which Old Testament Book Did JESUS QUOTE most often?
- The Meaning of COLORS in the Bible?
- ONLY ONE LIFE, Twill Soon Be Past – by C.T. Studd (1860 – 1931)
- How was Jesus Like a Worm? What’s the CRIMSON (OR SCARLET) WORM in Psalm 22?
More Popular Got Questions
- Did Jesus Fight Satan to Take Back the KEYS of Death and Hell?
- How Did the Wise Men Know This Was the Messiah and KNOW TO FOLLOW HIS STAR?
- What do the 12 stones UNDER the JORDAN River mean? (Joshua 4)
- Jesus' Last Days TIMELINE: The Cross and The Crucifixion
- How Many MIRACLES Did Jesus Do?
- Is Leonard Cohen’s “HALLELUJAH” a Christian Song?
- Where did OT Saints go at death? ABRAHAM'S BOSOM?
- SIN, INIQUITY, TRANSGRESSION? How are they different?
- What are the NAMES of JEHOVAH Hidden in Psalm 23?
- Jesus in the Gospels: What are the Four Different Presentations of Jesus?
- If BAPTIZED as an Infant, Do I Need to Be Re-Baptized?
- Why Did God Create Man Knowing MAN WOULD SIN?
- What Did Jesus Say About HEAVEN (and HELL)?
- What are the “I Will ” STATEMENTS of Satan, God, and Jesus?
- Was MARY a LEVITE Making Jesus both a Priest and King?
- Why Was a RAM SACRIFICED in Genesis 22 Instead of a Lamb?
- Is Satan’s Real Name LUCIFER?
- Can Jews go to Heaven without knowing Jesus?
TOP TEN Videos from Reasons for Hope* Jesus
- Memorial Day BAGPIPES TRIBUTE: Amazing Grace
- RISE AND SHINE and Give God the Glory, Glory!
- WERE YOU THERE When They Crucified My Lord?
- PAUL HARVEY: THE BIRDCAGE
- PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: A SOLDIER'S PLEDGE
- Hark! the Herald Angels Sing -- CHARLIE BROWN Christmas
- JOHN WAYNE ~ WHY I LOVE AMERICA
- Jimmy Stewart - Nativity Scene Prayer: Mr. Krueger's Christmas
- THE LEGEND OF THE CANDY CANE - A Christmas Story to Share
- Not by Might, Not by Power, But BY MY SPIRIT says the Lord (Zechariah 4:6)
- Erwin Lutzer - We Will Not Be SILENCED