Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:14-15 that “speaking the truth in love” is both a measure of Christian spiritual maturity and an important contributing factor to spiritual growth. But there is far more to that simple phrase than what is initially apparent, so let’s delve deeper. First of all, while truth entails honesty and factual accuracy, it encompasses more, dealing exclusively with reality. There is nothing fake, false, or fickle about truth, especially when we progress from the general category and focus on God’s absolute truth, which is the same for everyone everywhere. What has changed over the course of history is the measure of revelation God has given regarding His truth, and man’s corresponding responsibility in responding to it. “To whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48).
Now in this Church Age, and especially in countries where the Bible and Biblical teaching are readily available, we should know that Jesus is “the truth” (John 14:6), and God’s truth comes to us through Jesus (John 1:17), through His “Spirit of truth” (John 15:26, 16:13), and by His Word (John 17:17). Furthermore, the Bible specifically states that “the word of truth” is “the gospel of your salvation” (Ephesians 1:13; Colossians 1:5). That is, the ‘Good News’ of salvation from sin and damnation through belief in the Scripture-fulfilling, sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) is unchangeable REALITY, applicable to anyone and everyone. The Bible also warns that those who do not love and receive this truth will not be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:10,12). Thus, to speak the truth in its purest sense is to proclaim God’s eternal gospel of salvation and grace, but diligence is needed to avoid shaming ourselves before God by mishandling or misapplying God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15).
We also know that God cannot lie, because whatever He says becomes reality. “Every word of God proves true” (Proverbs 30:5). Whatever the Omnipotent, Omniscient God of the Scriptures speaks comes to pass. The very existence of this physical universe testifies to this (Genesis 1), and all mankind throughout all of human history will be held accountable to acknowledge God because of this (Romans 1:19,20). Anyone who doesn’t, Paul says, is unrighteous in suppressing the truth (Romans 1:18). So, “speaking the truth” is also an essential reflection of one of God’s unwavering attributes, but it is so potent that it must be done in accordance with His nature, which is “love” (1 John 4:8). As Pastor Ray has said, “Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.”
In Psalm 15 David examined the character of someone who would be allowed to dwell with a holy God, and one of the first qualifications he listed is one who “speaks truth in his heart” (v 2). What does this phrase mean? Basically it means being honest with ourselves. “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6) It is unrealistic to think that we can consistently communicate and interact honestly and accurately with others if we are not being forthright and real with ourselves. “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) Of course this means that, since “no one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18), no one will have an abundance of lasting, genuine goodness in their heart unless God dwells there. Also, we cannot expect to make ‘withdrawals’ of goodness and truth if we don’t make ‘deposits’ of the same by spending time with God in prayer and in His Word. Remember the exhortation of Romans 12:2: “And do not be conformed to this world (which is not good or truth-based), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. Einstein reportedly said, “Thinking is hard work, that’s why so few of us do it.” But being truthful involves an honest evaluation of our thoughts, the motives of our heart, and the basis of our beliefs, if we’re going to “speak the truth in love”.
All truth has its ultimate source in God, but deception and lies are conceived by Satan (John 8:44). There is a very prevalent and extremely dangerous worldly philosophy today called deconstructionism, which teaches that words have no objective content, that is, no intrinsic truth. People who follow this philosophy believe that words can be changed to mean whatever they want them to mean at any given time, thus saying and choosing to believe one thing, when reality is just the opposite. Furthermore, this vain philosophy considers all religions to be equal, and the Bible to be just another religious book, rather than the inerrant and eternal Word of God (Psalm 119:160). If ever the old adage, “Say what you mean, and mean what you say” were important, it is in today’s world! Thus Christians, of all people, must make every effort to be honest, accurate, sincere and truthful in all conversation, with others, with ourselves, and with God.
With regards to others, in both Testaments God tells us to “speak truth” with our neighbor (Zechariah 8:16; Ephesians 4:25). “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16).
And when it comes to ourselves, we all engage in ‘self talk’ much of the time, but do you ever really listen to what you’re saying to yourself? Even more importantly, is what you’re telling yourself the TRUTH? Does it agree with the Word of God, or are you mindlessly repeating what you’ve been ‘programmed’ to say (and believe) by your parents or teachers, tradition or culture? Do you speak in mindless generalities or do you deal in specific realities? Are you prone to exaggeration or do you aim for factual accuracy? Yes, we all make ‘honest mistakes’, sometimes from speaking before we have all the necessary information. The Bible even warns us about this tendency: “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.” (Proverbs 18:13) “Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Proverbs 29:20) Why is a focus on honesty and accuracy so important? Well, if people can’t trust what you say to be valid in temporal, material matters, why would they be willing to believe you when it comes to eternal, spiritual matters?
And what about speaking truthfully to God? For example: Can we honestly expect God to take an over-sized meal of fats, salts, chemicals, and sugars and nourish our bodies with it just because we say a prayer first? Or, since God Himself has promised that He would always be with us (Deuteronomy 31:8), why do we pray using words that make it sound like He isn’t? After all, it would be more accurate to remind ourselves of His presence by thanking Him for being with us. As incredible as it sounds, the reality is that Almighty God desires intimate fellowship with His children, so we want to be open and honest in sharing our heart with Him. Since He already knows us better than we know ourselves (Psalm 139:1-18), this truthfulness is really for our benefit, to humble us, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me (any fraud or deception), and lead me in the way everlasting (the way of Truth).” (Psalm 139:23,24)