"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." (Ephesians 4:29)
This article is the second in the series, "Biblical Principles of Sound Speech." Today's lesson focuses on the attributes of sound speech, that is, the essential characteristics that our speech should have.
Consider. Think for a moment. What do you think the positive qualities of speech should be? If someone asked you to describe what the Bible says our speech should be like, what would you say in reply?
Today's lesson describes the four characteristics of sound speech in Ephesians 4:29. Today's verse is part of the Apostle Paul's letter to Christian believers at the church in Ephesus (Ephesians 1:1).
Wholesome. The first characteristic of sound speech in Ephesians 4:29 is that it should be wholesome. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines wholesome as promoting health and well being, sound in mind and morals, prudent, and safe (Ref. 3). Our wholesome speech should promote the well-being of others, as we will see in the discussion below.
Paul begins Ephesians 4:29 with the phrase, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth." The Greek word for unwholesome is sapros. Sapros means rotten, worthless, bad, corrupt and is applied to putrid vegetable or animal substances (Ref. 4, Ref. 5 below, Ref. 6). Matthew 7:17-18 use the same word. Jesus said, "Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt [sapros] tree bringeth forth evil fruit" (Matthew 7:17, brackets added).
In Ephesians 4:29, Paul instructs us to restrain our mouths so we do not let any unwholesome (bad, rotten, corrupt) words go forth. Bad language not only reflects the corruptness of the "heart of a speaker" but also tends "to corrupt the minds or manners of hearers" (Ref. 7).
If you would like to read more on what the Bible says about avoiding cursing and profanity, please go to the page, "Bible Verses About Sound Speech" and read the last section (Ref. 8).
Good for Edification. The second characteristic of sound speech in Ephesians 4:29 is that our speech should be good for edification. That is, our speech should build others up, not tear them down. The Greek word for edification is oikodomé. The short definition of oikodomé is a building or edifice (Ref. 9). However, edification of people means more than building an architectural structure. Thayer's Greek Lexicon defines oikodomé as "the act of one who promotes another's growth in Christian wisdom, piety, holiness, happiness" (Ref. 9).
According to the need of the moment. The third characteristic of sound speech in Ephesians 4:29 is that our speech should be according to the need and that it should be timely. The Greek word for need is chreia, which means need, necessity, business, occasion (Ref. 10). The English Standard Version (ESV) translates this phrase, "as fits the occasion" (Ref. 11). Our speech should edify (build up) our hearers according to the particular need of their spiritual state (Ref. 12).
The phrase, "According to the need of the moment," suggests to me that in our roles (for example, authors, teachers, parents, spouses, co-workers, team members, friends) we need always to pray and seek the Holy Spirit's guidance about what to say to our hearers and when to speak. Sometimes when we have a good idea, it may not be the right occasion or the right time to blurt it out. Our hearers will "hear" better when the Holy Spirit has prepared them to receive what we have to say. We should pray about when we should share our idea, inspiration, request, or constructive criticism. As an example from Scripture, God provided the occasion for Nehemiah to speak his request to King Artaxerses approximately four months after Nehemiah had prayed to God about the condition of Jerusalem's wall (Nehemiah 1:1, Nehemiah 1:11, Nehemiah 2:1, Nehemiah 2:4).
King Solomon addressed the importance of timeliness in Proverbs 25:11. "Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances." Our speech not only should be sensitive to the circumstances, but also should be spoken at the right time. We should look to God to guide as to when that time will be.
Grace-giving. The fourth characteristic of sound speech in Ephesians 4:29 is that our speech should "give grace to those who hear." The Greek word for grace is charis, which means grace, kindness, favor, and especially, God's divine influence upon the heart (Ref. 13, Ref. 5 below). Our speech should minister the grace of God to others.
"Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouths: but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers" (Ephesians 4:29 - 1599 Geneva Bible).
Summary. As Christians, and as instructed by the Bible in Ephesians 4:29, our speech should exhibit four essential qualities. Our speech should be wholesome, good for edification (building up others), appropriate for the occasion and timely, and grace-giving.
To see additional attributes of sound speech from the Bible, please refer to the separate page, "Bible Verses About Sound Speech" (Ref. 8).
Apply. I suggest that you memorize Ephesians 4:29 so you will always have this verse and these four essential qualities of sound speech in mind. If you would like to see this verse in other translations, please click on the link to Ephesians 4:29 on biblegateway.com and then select the translation of your choice.
5. James Strong, "The New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible," Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995
"In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us." (Titus 2:7-8)
Consider. Why is it important that we as Christians exemplify sound speech? What is the effect on hearers when our speech is "unsound"? How does sound (or unsound) speech (and what we say on social media) affect our witness for Christ?
Today's lesson is the first in a series on "Biblical Principles of Sound Speech." Today's lesson focuses on Paul's instructions to Titus in Titus 2:7-8.
Who was Titus? Titus was one of the Apostle Paul’s converts to the Christian faith. Paul refers to Titus as "my true child in a common faith" (Titus 1:4). However, Titus was not a new convert. Titus had accompanied Paul to the Council at Jerusalem described in Galatians 2:1. When Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, he said, "As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you" (2 Corinthians 8:23). Titus was a godly, Christian teacher (Titus 2:1-8). Paul also commissioned Titus to appoint elders in each city in Crete (Titus 1:5).
"Considering the assignments given him, he [Titus] obviously was a capable and resourceful leader" (Ref. 1).
"Show yourself to be an example of good deeds" (Titus 2:7). Let's unpack the Greek word definitions to better understand what Paul is saying. The Greek for the word, example, is tupos. Tupos means a proper pattern or model for others to follow (Ref. 2). The Greek word for good is kalos. The short definition of kalos is beautiful (Strong's Concordance, Ref. 3). Helps WORD-Studies defines kalos as attractively good; good that inspires (motivates) others to embrace what is lovely (beautiful, praiseworthy) (Ref. 3). Thus, Paul instructs Titus to be an example (pattern) of good (beautiful) works that others may follow and embrace what is praiseworthy.
Paul's instructions to Titus also apply to us. As Christians, we are to lead others by being a good example. Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). Paul wrote to Timothy. "Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe" (1 Timothy 4:12). The Apostle Peter wrote, "Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:12).
Keep in mind that as Christians we do not do good works in order to earn or keep our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, we are to be good examples so others will praise (rather than slander) Christ. Our good example should attract others to know and follow the Lord Jesus.
Teach with pure, uncorrupt motives. In Titus 2:7, the English words, "In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds" are followed by "with purity in doctrine." The two key words are purity and doctrine. The Greek word for purity is aphtharsia, which means incorruptibility, unable to experience deterioration (Ref. 4). The Greek word for doctrine is didaskalia, which means instruction, teaching (Ref. 5). Didaskalia refers both to the function of teaching as well as to the information which is taught (Ref. 5).
Paul instructs Titus not only that the content of his teaching must be incorruptible, but also that his bearing and behavior as a teacher must be incorruptible (Ref. 6). As Christians, we must be free from corruption (Ref. 7) and free from lower motives such as seeking popular applause (Ref. 8).
Exemplify sound speech that is beyond reproach so that the opponent will have nothing bad to say about us. Paul's instruction is clear. As Christians, our speech should be sound and beyond reproach. The Greek word for sound is hugiés, which means healthy, well (in body), true (in doctrine) (Strong's Concordance, Ref. 9).
Paul uses the Greek word logos for speech in Titus 2:8. Logos means something said. Logos also can refer to a topic (subject of discourse), the mental faculty of reasoning, and motives (Strong's Concordance, Ref. 10 below).
In summary, as followers of Christ, we are to have healthy reasoning and healthy speech. Our speaking, reasoning, teaching, motives, and doctrine should be healthy, uncorrupt, and true.
Apply. As a Christian, do you exemplify sound speech that is beyond reproach so that others will have nothing bad to say about you? How is your speech helping or hindering your witness for Christ?
10. James Strong, "The New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible," Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995
The next lesson in this series will provide additional, Biblical attributes of sound speech.
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