The Gospel's Affect On Our Language
Look with me at Colossians 3:8-11 as we continue to look at putting on our new self, who we are in Christ. We see today in this verse that our new self and new identity in Christ goes to even our words. We are to be different, new, even in seen in our language and words we use.
What Paul says here in Colossians is paralleled in Ephesians 4:25-32. This is not some sidebar, but a core truth Paul shared with believers across many different geographies, and it is just as true for us today.
What we see here is the reality that as Christians, we are commanded to contemplate our language in a new way in light of who we and others are in Christ thru the gospel.
All of this goes back to Col. 3:1-4, who we are in Christ, fixing our minds on that and then living in light of who we are in Christ. Look at verse 8. “But now” – Contrast from one time to another, then and now. In this case, the contrast between the new person we are in Christ versus the old person apart from Christ is to be seen thru our words.
Our Christianity, being in Christ, goes deep and effects even our words and the heart behind our words. The contrast is at every part of our being. Christ has access to every part of our being and has the authority to speak into every part of our lives. In the case of our text today, as a result of being in Christ, a whole new language springs up within us as believers. All flowing from a new heart. Really is a contrast of an angry heart versus a heart that rejoices in our salvation, as seen thru our language.
Look at what Matthew 12:34-37; 15:15-19 say about our language. At the end of the list there we see lying and slander. That’s exactly what we see in our text today. These are not to mark a believer’s life. They are to be put away. Shed from our being and mouth, all flowing from a new heart that beats for Christ and His glory. In view of who we are in Christ, and the joy that comes from that, we are to put away any language that does not represent our salvation and who we are in Christ rightly.
Look at Ephesians 4:25-29. Essentially the same passage as we see here in Colossians except Paul says it in a summative way in verse 29. Interestingly, the word translated for “bad” fruit in Matthew 12 passage is the same word we see here in Eph. 4:29 for “unwholesome”. Unwholesome words are seen as bad fruit, reflect a heart problem. Not in line with our salvation.
What we learn from these passages us that the deep renewal of salvation is to be seen even thru the words that flow from our heart and out our mouths. Our words tell on us because they are a window into our hearts. That’s the point. Verse 9 – marks the old man and thus is to be put aside, taken off as we will see. New creation – joy flows out. Seen in words.
It is interesting how Paul addresses this. He doesn’t just come out and command us to clean up our language. He doesn’t give us a list of words that are not vulgar or rotten or corrupt, but are pure and wholesome and creative and clear, and says start using these. That’s how we would approach this and do approach these issues. Paul gets at the source and something deeper, the heart and source of our words.
Instead of proposing clean language, he proposes a whole new way of thinking about language in light of the gospel and who we are in Christ. Instead of saying, "You don't need dirty language to communicate your intention," he says, "The root issue is whether your intention is love and a reflection of who we are in Christ." The real issue for Paul is not really language at all; the issue is love, as seen in the context of Col. 3:1-4. It is rooted in love for God and others. Language reflects heart.
The issue is not whether our mouth can avoid gross language, but is whether our mouth is being used as a means of grace and God’s glory. When you put Col. 3:8-11 in its context, and combine it with Eph. 4:25-31, you see how Paul shifts from the external evidence, words in this case, to the internal source, the heart. He shifts from what we say to why we say it. That's the issue. We are to be conveyors of grace we have first received from Christ, even in our language.
We see this in both Colossians and Ephesians and the idea of the body of Christ, the context of the “one another”. Let no rotten talk come out of your mouth, but only what is good for edifying, as fits the occasion [literally: good for edifying of 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 my words?" “Is my language in line with who I am in Christ and who my brothers and sisters are in Christ?” Paul says in essence, focus on the grace you have received, and let that grace flow to others thru your words. All goes back to setting our minds on the things above.
We are to see everything about our lives, even our words, in light of who we are in Christ. Being a believer and the actions that flow from our position in Christ go so much deeper than just the external action, so much deeper than just yes or no. It is about what lies behind what we do or say. Our goals and motives.
This is exactly what Paul does here in Eph. 4:29. He says, "Let no rotten talk come out of your mouth, but only what is good," and then he shifts from the what to the why, "for edification to meet a need that it may impart grace to those who hear." 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 your mouth a means of grace? Does it reflect who I am in Christ and who others are in Christ? Am I using my words to share and pass on grace that I first received in the gospel?
Do you see how all-encompassing and how far reaching our Christian faith must be? These are amazing verses about the grace of God in our lives.
A Christian is evidenced by a person whose rotten root within has been and is being 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. The joy of our salvation overflows into even our words.
See your language in a whole new way. Both its source and its effects and intended effects. Glorify and evidence the work of God in our lives thru our language. Build others up thru our language.