Today we will finish up by looking at a new way of looking at language, or words. What Paul is going to say is not what you might expect. We might expect him to admonish us to clean up our language. We might expect him to talk about words that are not vulgar, or rotten, or corrupt, but are pure, and wholesome, and creative, and clear. But Paul doesn’t do what we expect.
Instead of telling us to clean up our language, he shows us a whole new way of thinking about language. Instead of saying, “You don’t need dirty language to communicate your intention,” he says, “The root issue is whether your intention is love.” In other words, the issue for Paul is not really language at all; the issue is love. The issue is not whether our mouth can avoid gross language; the issue is whether our mouth is a means of grace. You see, he shifts from the external fruit to the internal root. He shifts from what we say to why we say it. That’s the issue.
Let’s read verse 29.
Let no rotten talk come out of your mouth, but only what is good for edifying, as fits the occasion [meaning: is it good for the edifying of a need—meeting a particular need is in view] that it may impart grace to those who hear.
Do you see the shift? He doesn’t say, “Let no rotten talk come out of your mouth, but instead let fresh clean talk come out of your mouth.” He says, “Let no rotten talk come out of your mouth, but ask this: Is my mouth a means of grace? Am I meeting a need with the words that are coming out of my mouth? Am I building up faith into the people who hear?”
Now, this is a new way of thinking about our mouth. And Paul is here asking the question “why”? It is not Christian just to stop swearing. It is not Christian just to put good language in the mouth instead. It is Christian to ask the deeper, internal question: am I speaking now to edify? Is my mouth a means of grace? The Christian is now a whole new creation. A Christian is a person whose rotten root within has been made new by grace, through faith, in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The grace of God has taken the hate, and anger, and resentment that spill over in mean and vulgar, and irreverent language, and has covered them with the blood of Christ, and killed them along with the old unbelieving self.
And do you know what the grace of God has left behind in the place of the old hate, and anger, and resentment? It has left hope. This is the meaning of verse 30. It says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
What does this mean? It means that a Christian is a person in whom the Holy Spirit of God dwells, and that this Spirit of God seals the believer for the day of redemption. In other words, the Spirit of God puts the stamp of His own image (4:24) on the life of the believer, and guarantees that He will persevere till the day of redemption. The seal of the Spirit is the assurance of a secured hope.
The hope of all believers, guaranteed by the seal of the Spirit, is that at the end of history we will come to a day of redemption instead of a day of damnation. What, then, is this day of redemption?
It is the day when the long battle with sin will be over. It is the day when the deepest longings of our heart will be satisfied with the sight of the glory of the grace of God in the face of Jesus. No more groaning with imperfection; no more waiting; no more frustrated longings. Our redemption will be complete.
So what is the point of Ephesians 4:30 in relation to rotten language and gracious language?
The point is this: Paul says that the Spirit has been given to seal us, and secure us, for an infinitely wonderful future. In other words, the Spirit’s sealing work aims to give you hope! So how do you grieve this Spirit? By not hoping in the day of redemption! By not hoping in the power of the Spirit to secure you and help keep you. If the Holy Spirit has been sent to give you hope in God, and instead of hoping in God, you fret over your problems, and become angry, and bitter, and resentful, then you grieve the Holy Spirit of God. You strive against the very purpose for which He was sent.
And the language that comes out of a heart that doesn’t hope in God will not impart grace to those who hear. How can you make your mouth a means of grace for others, when you don’t hope in the grace of God for yourself? It is out of hopeless hearts of discouragement, and frustration, and anger, and bitterness, and resentment that all rotten and hurtful language comes.
But, if you as a believer stop and think for a moment, that Christ has died for your sin, that God has promised to work all things together for your good, that He has given you The Holy Spirit, for the specific purpose of sealing you for the day of redemption, then surely a deep and confident hope will be the root of your life. And up through that root will flow grace, and out onto the branches of your life will come the fruit of a whole new way of talking.
The question for your mouth will not merely be the moral question: Am I avoiding dirty words? But the Christian question: Am I building the faith of others by what I say? Is my mouth a means of grace? Am I frightened, and anxious, and angry about my life, or am I filled, and overflowing with hope that the Spirit of God will keep me safe for the day of redemption?
I know this was a little longer than usual. But these are things that I had to say. They have been on my heart for the past 2 days. I hope that they will be as much a blessing to you, as they have been to me in preparing it.