Summary: 39th in a series from Ephesians. Our words can either tear down or build up.
In February of 2007, a 31 year old female posted this question on Answerbag.com:
"Sticks and stones my break my bones, but words will never harm me." Is this true? Why or why not?
There were some very heartfelt answers to that question, but one in particular caught my attention. An anonymous person posted this reply:
No. Not true at all. I am like a walking scar from numerous things, I have yet to break a bone but I have had a fair share of physical pain. I’ll tell you now, it is nothing compared to words. Words stay with you forever. They don’t heal, they don’t go away, they don’t leave a cool scar that you can tell people about. They torment you...At least physical pain can fade. Words, you can’t make them disappear
As we discovered this morning in our children’s message, harsh words are like putting nails into a board. You can take them back but they will always leave a scar.
After a couple week break, we’re going to return to our journey through Ephesians this morning. We’ll pick up in Chapter 4, verse 29, where Paul addresses this issue of our words. Let’s read our passage out loud together:
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.
Ephesians 4:29 (NKJ)
Since it’s been a couple of weeks since we last looked at Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, let’s take just a moment to put this passage in its proper context. You’ll remember that in verses 22-24 of chapter 4, Paul exhorted his readers to dress the part according to who they already were in Jesus. He commanded them to take off the old way of life and to put on the new. And then in verse 25, he began to give them some practical instruction on how to do that. He instructed them to put off falsehood and put on truth. He made it clear that they were to put off tolerance for sin within the body and put on righteous anger. And they were to put off laziness and selfishness and put on a Christian work ethic that was for the benefit of others.
As Paul continues this theme of putting off the old and putting on the new, he now addresses our words. Although the NIV translation of this verse does an excellent job of capturing the meaning of Paul’s words, I’m using the NKJ version this morning as our starting point since it is a more literal translation of Paul’s words.
Just as he’s done in the preceding verses, Paul reveals two steps in the process. First, we must put off the old. We must...
1. Put off corrupt words:
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth...
Paul begins by exhorting his readers to let no corrupt word proceed out of their mouth. The word translated “corrupt” is a word that was used to describe something that was rotting or decaying. The only other times this word is used in the New Testament it is spoken by Jesus Himself. Let’s look at both those passages so that we can better understand what Paul meant.
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Matthew 7:17, 18 (KJV)
Here Jesus used the same word “corrupt” to describe a tree that brought forth fruit that was not useful or beneficial.
"Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.
Matthew 13:47, 48 (NIV)
The word “bad” at the end of verse 48 is the very same word that Paul used in Ephesians. Here it referred to the fish that were rotten or decayed and therefore which could not be eaten and serve as nourishment.
So when the NIV and the NASB both translate this same word “unwholesome”, that seems to be a very accurate portrayal of the way Paul uses that word here. We need to put off any words that are not useful or beneficial to others. So what are the corrupt or unwholesome words that we are to put off? While the following list is certainly far from exhaustive, I’ve identified for us five categories of corrupt words that we need to be aware of within the body because of the damage that they can do.
• Words that manipulate
I’m reminded of the man in Phoenix who called his son on the phone in New York the day before Christmas and said, “I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing. Forty five years of misery is enough.”