Tongue: New Testament and Speech

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Proper Use of the Tongue

In our last article, we reviewed the improper use of the Christian’s speech. Now, let’s think on the proper use of the tongue. Paul writes of “speaking the truth in love” in Ephesians 4:15. Here, we have the content (truth) and the motivation (love). How we speak the truth and with what tone we use is as important as what we say. Our tone and approach will affect the reception of that truth. Proverbs 15:1-2 tells us that a “soft answer” turns away wrath and a “harsh word” stirs up anger. A wholesome tongue is a tree of life (Prov. 15:4). Our text in Ephesians four recommends speech that “is good for edification.” Edification refers to building up and strengthening something. (E.g. edifice) The purpose of our speech is to edify the listener by drawing them closer to God (Col. 4:2-6). That may take various forms – exhortation, encouragement, or a rebuke when necessary. Still, the rebuke is not a harsh personal attack. What is not involved in “edification” is the building up of self-esteem. This is not to say that I’m against building one’s self-esteem who needs it. It is only my intent to convey that “edification” as the Bible uses it refers to the building of one’s faith and knowledge of God. God and his word has such an effect on the “new man” that builds character, strengthens our resolve and ultimately shapes us into the image of his son, Jesus Christ (Col. 3:10, Rom. 8:29). Our role in edification is to “speak as the oracles of God” …“that in all things God may be glorified” (1 Peter 4:11). Our opinion unsupported by the Scripture is not part of that edification (Col. 1:28, cf. Col. 1:9-11 & Phil. 1:6). While our speech is not always that which a person wants to hear, it can be useful if said with love and gentleness. The approach and tone is valuable if we are to speak with “grace, seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6; cf. Prov. 16:24-28). The passage just referenced addresses the ultimate goal of our...
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