When God regenerates a person, he gives him the salvation of his soul, but he also begins in him a major transformation of his life; he is no longer the person he used to be. One of the things that the Lord transforms in us is the way we speak. When we were unbelievers, we spoke without a thought of whether we would corrupt and tear down people with our words, but when the Lord saves you, your heart begins to show love by speaking only what is edifying and graceful.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29).
What does the passage mean?
In verse 17, Paul begins a section with the words “you must no longer walk as the gentiles…”. In this section, the apostle is attempting to contrast the old way of life before we knew Christ and how we must live now that we know him. In verse 28, he contrasts stealing with hard work, and now, in verse 29, he contrasts corrupting or evil speech with encouraging speech. Thus, he wants to show that just as stealing is a mark of unbelievers, so is corrupting speech a characteristic of those who do not God, and by bringing this negative contrast, he will encourage us to use our words to be a blessing and to edify others (you may give grace to those who hear).
The fact that Paul commands that no corrupting talk come out of our mouths means that we do have the power to overcome the evil of unwholesome talk; the power to defeat sin comes from the Holy Spirt who dwells in us. Moreover, if we do have the power to stop corrupting talk, we also have the power to build up with our words, and because we are called to build up the church as believers, our talk must reflect that. Even if the situation is difficult and tense, we must never react and speak what is not edifying, on the contrary, we must use the graceful words that would “fit the occasion. A similar concept is repeated in in Colossians 4:6 when Paul says to the Colossians: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person”.
In short, what the passage teaches is that the way we speak reflects the power of the Gospel over our lives. A person that does not know God has no regard for the way he speaks, but a believer wants to give grace to others with his words. Just like you know where a person is from by his accent, you can also know a believer by his graceful, humble and blessed speech.
What does it mean to me?
Brothers and sisters, our words matter to God. Our words can build up, encourage and give grace, but they can also tear down and discourage others. Our words matter to God so much that he commanded many times in the Bible that we be careful how we speak. Therefore, I want to ask you, has the Gospel transformed the way you talk? If you are a person that constantly cusses and swears, lies often, gossips about other people, slander others, offends your wife or husband, screams bad words to your children when you are angry, or you are just always negative about everything, especially the things of the Lord, then God wants you to repent for using your mouth to tear down and not build up. I am very positive that if we applied this verse to our marriages, would see far fewer divorces; if we applied this verse in our local churches, we would have far fewer fights and church splits. This verse can bring a radical change in your life if you apply it wisely and consistently. The reason for this is because the whole idea behind graceful words is love for others. When you bring grace to your hearers you are actually loving them. Therefore, are you going to love or are you going to show hate?
I encourage you to seek the Lord’s face today. You must ask the Lord to give you wisdom to speak the words that fit each occasion, and when he gives you the wisdom to speak, you will give grace to those who hear you.
May the Gospel transform and shape our talk.