Your Tongue and God’s Spirit
Topic: Sunday Sermons Scripture: Ephesians 4:29-30
It's always a rich privilege, isn't it, to open God's word on a Sunday morning in a place like this that God has given to us to meet together as a body of believers in a local way, a local manifestation of the greater, universal, invisible body of Christ. To be able to share in time like this together is a wonderful privilege and I thank God for each and every one of you that have joined us and chosen to come to us and join with us in worship here this morning.
You know, salvation, life as a believing Christian, is all done as a response to what God has done for us. It is a response of trust. A response of love. A response of dependence. And a response of obedience. All of those things should be present in your heart as a prevailing attitude toward the God of your salvation if you know the Lord Jesus Christ. To worship him. To honor him for his supreme position and his wonderful grace in your life. An attitude of dependence that realizes that every breath that you take and everything that you have and every perfect gift comes to you as a gift from your Father and that apart from him you can do nothing. And also, an attitude of trust that looks to the future with a sense of serene confidence that says that the God who saved me will keep me and that we have no questions in our minds about the goodness of God or his intentions for us in our lives. There is an entire disposition that comes when we understand what it means to be saved and we realize that God has exercised this great mercy to deliver us from sin with the intention that he would save us forever and have us in his presence as part of his family. What a magnificent act of grace true salvation is that we have received from our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, we are studying in these past several weeks from the book of Ephesians 4 and I would invite you to turn there as we begin today. We have been seeing that there is a comprehensive life response that we make in response to the saving grace of God and the Apostle Paul writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit shows us how this works out and how it applies in our lives. When you came to Christ, you left the old life behind and entered into a new life, a life that is qualitatively different and also expresses itself in various aspects of your moral conduct and that's where we come in Ephesians 4:25. Paul says that you lay aside falsehood in exchange for a life of integrity. Verse 26, you put aside anger for the sake of self-control. Last week we saw that we put aside stealing and depending on others for a sense of working with our own hands so that we would be one who gives and not simply takes.
Now we come to our text for this morning in verses 29 and 30. Ephesians 4:29-30, continuing on how we work out our salvation and we find, once again, that it is a very comprehensive aspect of life that the Bible calls us to. Ephesians 4:29-30 says,
29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
As we're going to see in a moment, those two verses are joined together and they should be read together.
You know, as I look out on you and have so many affectionate relationships with those of you that are a part of our church, I realize that we're all in the same kettle of stew; we all share a common problem and it's that our tongues are unstable. Our tongues often speak that which are inconsistent with what we profess in salvation whether it's words spoken in anger or perhaps coarse jesting that comes out that we should know better than or any other manner or way of speaking. Our tongues are unstable like a wild horse is unstable and the Bible warns us about this capacity that we have and the danger that is ever present just behind our lips.
Look over at the book of James for a word of introduction here, James 3. As you're turning there, I would say this: you know, last time our message was titled, maybe it was the week before, it was. The week before, where we said that you should not trust your anger and that one of the key verses here in Ephesians 4 talks about controlling your anger and not just letting it run away with you; that you need to make sure that your anger is blameless, you need to keep it brief, not let the sun go down on your anger and not to give the devil an opportunity to take advantage of your anger in order to make you sin against God and perhaps desecrate your testimony to Christ with an angry outburst or an angry spirit that sort of dominates your life. So we saw: don't trust your anger. Well, here what we're going to see in this particular passage as well in Ephesians 4 is that you need to be mindful that you can't trust your tongue either. As we grow in grace and as we grow in Christ Jesus, we realize that we need to be conscious that our inner man and our tongue which expresses the thinking of our inner man are not something that we should just let go unbridled as if it was intrinsically holy and good. Scripture tells us not to think that way at all.
Look at James 3:6 where it says, "The tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell." Pause there for just a second. Just as the devil is very pleased to use your anger to push you into sin and to pull you into sin, so also an unbridled tongue is used by hell to accomplish demonic purposes. We need to be fearful and mindful of this and humble ourselves before God in light of that which sits within our own lips.
Verse 7 says in James 3, "For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way." James says and he goes on and says, "Does the same fountain produce sweet water and bitter water?" There should be the same thing coming out of the same fountain and yet our tongues are not like that. One moment you are praising God, you're joined together with the people of God and you're singing his praises in hymns and yet when you go out and drive home and you're having a little dispute with your family, then we all know what that is like and what we need to realize is that that inconsistency is not something to tolerate or accept or to say, "Well, that's just the way it is." That inconsistency is something that we are to put aside, to put off, and to put on a tongue that is consistent with the new life that we have received in Christ.
It is no wonder that Proverbs 10:19 says this, "When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise." That verse has been something that has guided me throughout the course of my life and it's one that I would encourage you to commit to memory even, that the one who restrains his lips is wise. That it is a mark of a Christian to control their tongue and as one pastor I heard many, many years ago say and it has stayed with me, he said, "There have been many times where I have spoken a word in anger that I have regretted." He said, "There has never been a time where I have held my tongue in anger and I have regretted it. I've never regretted something that I did not say."
Well, that kind of gives us a shaping sense of what Scripture is saying to us. Our tongues are like a wild horse and when you let it go, there will be damage that follows. Now, at the same time as you continue to read in Scripture and you read the fullness of what the Bible says about these things, an untamed horse can be brought under control, can't it? A horse that has been put under control and trained and broken, as it were, and shaped according to the will of a good master is a force for great strength and beauty and majesty even. Well, in the same way, your tongue can be put to good use with proper training. Scripture holds out the promise that our tongues can be put to good use. Proverbs 12, I won't have you turn there, but Proverbs 12:18-19 says this, "The tongue of the wise bring healing. Truthful lips will be established forever," and so the Scriptures present before us an immensely volatile instrument that you have inside your mouth and warns us of the danger of just letting it go in an unrestrained way and yet for those of us who are Christians, it says that your lips are such that they could be established forever; that your lips can bring healing when they are used properly.
Now, without designating anyone in the categories that I am about to establish because you will smile knowing where you fit in what I’m about to say, some people are naturally more quiet. Some people are, shall we say, more verbal. Some people like to talk. Some people prefer to stay quiet. Here's the thing for today: wherever you fall on that spectrum of you prefer to keep to yourself or you like to be verbal and express yourself and it seems like it just comes out, wherever you fall on that spectrum is not important for what we have to say today. That's not the issue. It's not verbal versus non-verbal that's the matter or what's the issue here as we look at Paul's words in Ephesians 4, what matters is this: is that when you do use your tongue, you take responsibility under the Holy Spirit for your speech and its effect that it has on others. Every one of you have the power of life and death in your tongues, really, for those who are close to you. Your encouraging words can build someone up. Your sharp, critical sarcasm can cut them down and ruin their day and the question is what are you going to do with that power that God has placed within your lips.
Well, what Paul has written for us here in this passage in Ephesians 4, what the Spirit of God has given us in this passage is the intention to transform your tongue into an instrument of blessing to others and Paul shows us how to do that with three considerations that should shape your speech. And it's not just what you say from moment to moment that we're talking about here, what you need to realize is that what this passage is doing is calling you to step back, as it were, and to think comprehensively through the whole purpose that you use language and speech to express yourself. It's very comprehensive. This isn't simply giving us a little nudge in a right direction in one private conversation, this passage is a call for you to understand the entire reason that you have a tongue in the first place; the entire reason that God has given you the gift of human speech and how you are to use it. So we view this as though it were a volatile container, as it were, of nitroglycerin that could blow up on us if we don't handle it properly and yet if that power and energy is channeled in the right way, it can be an instrument to accomplish an awful lot. The question for you today is: what are you going to do with it? Do you care enough about what the Spirit of God says about your tongue in order to take these things and to think through them and embrace them and use them. This is a Scripture that calls for your response to humble yourself under it and to realize that what we're about to see is placing a comprehensive claim from Christ to completely own your tongue and your mouth and to have you use it for his glory. So this is a wonderful passage, very searching and I’m very glad that we have the opportunity to open it today.
What's the first consideration that Paul has us to look at? Well, first of all, he says that you need to consider the health of your words. Consider the health of your words. Are your words healthy in the sense that like water would be healthy if it was pure and clean and refreshing for a man who was sick with thirst? Or is it polluted and dirty and is it only going to aggravate a situation by internalizing the water? Well, in the same way, Scripture here calls us to think about the contrast between the words that we can use.
Look at verse 29 with me here in Ephesians 4 as we get into the text and notice, beloved, as we look at this, notice how comprehensive it is. Paul says, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment." The first thing that I want you to see in this text is the sharp contrast that is present there. Paul says, "There are wholesome words. There are good words and there are unwholesome words," and so immediately you see the contrast that he is drawing and he says, "Let no unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth. Not a one of them. Not a one of them." And this word "unwholesome," I'm not quite sure why it's translated that way. Multiple sources will tell you that this is a word that means "rotten." It's a word that's used in Scripture to refer to rotten trees and the rotten fruit that they produce. Scripture says that there is no nourishment in such rotten things and rotten fruit. There is no nourishment in it but there is just decay and disease.
So we're confronted immediately with the question of: what is it that habitually comes out of your mouth in your conversations with other people? What is it? Is what you are saying and therefore what is going into the minds of other people, is it producing a healthy spiritual effect on them? Or is it something that pollutes their minds with dirt and poison and sinful tendencies? Or just silly jesting that doesn't go anywhere at all? That's just meaningless babble that doesn't do anything to build them up? You know, when you look at this and say, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth," I want you to know that Paul has more than just mere profanity in mind. That would be a pretty low level to start at and it's true that profane words and curse words should not have any place coming out of your mouth or out of your tongue whatsoever. I had a Christian at my home recently who was unhappy. I wasn't there when it came out a professing Christian but dropping all kinds of verbal bombs when he became unhappy with the situation that was taking place.
Well, that's very destructive to your testimony and more than being destructive to your testimony, you should realize how inconsistent that is with a claim to knowing Christ. You just can't do that. Paul says, "Do not let such unwholesome rotten words come out of your mouth," but understand that he's talking about more than mere profanity. He is prohibiting speech that is misleading. Maybe not overtly false but creating a false impression in the mind of the one that you're talking to even if what you're saying is technically true. You know what I’m talking about. That's rotten. That's corrupt. That's decaying. Paul says, "None of that."
This passage condemns angry and abusive words coming out of the mouth of a Christian. He forbids vulgarity. It forbids sexual innuendo, double entendres that at one level you could say, "Oh, that's innocent enough," but there's a hidden meaning going under the surface that is designed to pervert and to disrupt and to suggest vulgar things in the mind while technically it could be viewed in an innocent way. All of those things are unwholesome. They are rotten. They are corrupt. And Paul says, "Don't let a word of that come out of your mouth," and not just out of your mouth, we speak through our fingers too on the keyboard, don't we, with what we say in electronic communication. Paul says, "None of that."
Notice once again, he is comprehensive. Look at it again there in verse 29, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth." Well, that's immediately pretty convicting, isn't it? Most of us probably don't have to go too far back to realize, "Wow, it's not that recent where I violated what Scripture says here either in my tone or content or whatever." Well, beloved, this is just a reminder of the fact that we're fallen, we're sinful and we need a Savior. You need a Savior from your corrupt tongue and the reason that you need a Savior is because your corrupt tongue is expressing, Jesus says in multiple places, your tongue is expressing what's going on inside your corrupt heart and that your tongue is a window into your inner man. Those of you that carry about an angry spirit and people know not to cross you or get your temper going, look, that's an expression of what's going on in your heart and you need to realize it's profoundly serious and displeasing to the Lord.
We're to have none of that, Paul says, but he gives us a contrast just like he has done in the earlier passages here. He says, "Lay aside falsehood and speak truth. Be angry but don't sin. Don't steal but labor. Put this off, put this on." He's doing the same thing here, the same pattern in verse 29. Look at it there with me, verse 29, he says, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment." Here is where Paul redirects your very character. He is redirecting the entire way that you think about your communication. Your mindset, according to Scripture, should be one of being on the alert, being aware of the situation in which you find yourself and being mindful of the people with whom you are presently interacting and there should be operating in the back of your mind what would be good and constructive and edifying for me to say in this situation. Edifying being a word that means to build up. What is it that could encourage this person to bring them closer to Christ? How can I use my tongue in order to accomplish good in their lives is the question. That's the way that you should be thinking about your entire manner of communicating throughout the remainder of your earthly life. It's very comprehensive.
Now, our general pattern for most of us, our general pattern is to speak whatever comes to our mind without regard to whether it's true or false or whether it's good or bad or without regard to the impact that it has on others. You know, we're in a culture that kind of glories in people who speak their minds and they tell it like it is. Well, look, you can't simply speak whatever comes into your head without putting it through a filter that says, "Is this good or bad? Is this healthy or unhealthy for the person that is going to hear it?" The Bible calls us to consider how our words are going to impact others.
I want you to see this again in verse 29. Look at it with me again. One of the reasons that we repeatedly read the same text in a single message is to reinforce the authority of God's word over us. This is not mere moral counsel on a human level, this is the authoritative word of God to his people who Christ, speaking as Lord of the church, Lord of the saved, saying, "This is how my people must speak. I have thus commanded you to go and do as I have said." So with power and authority he says this, he says, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only," he restricts it on both ends, doesn't he? "No unwholesome words, only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment." So the Bible calls us to consider the health of our words and to think about your patterns of talk. Are they healthy? Are they constructive? Are they biblical? Are they loving? Are they winsome? Or is it something else?
So it's not just the negative standard that says, "Don't talk this way," it's a call to a whole elevated pattern of speech that is going to particularly distinguish Christians from the world around them as our society continues to decay and to go into greater and greater depravity. A Christian with a pure tongue stands out and God tells you to stand out by the way that you use your tongue. So, beloved, it's right and proper for me at a time like this to ask you: what patterns mark your speech both in public and in private? What would the record show about your private communication with your family inside your home if this were made public? What would that look like? Think on that level, not simply that which we can see when we gather together because Paul is reaching into your private life. Scripture is reaching into your inner man and your most intimate communications and saying, "Right there is the point of transformation that God is calling you to." And we're under the authority and under the omniscience and the searching eye of Christ as we consider these things. You feel kind of exposed, don't you? You just kind of say, "Oh man, he sees this and he commands on this and I’m like this and I fall short." Yeah. Yeah, maybe some quiet time of confession of sin would be appropriate for you this afternoon to get away and say, "Lord, I'm grateful that I belong to you but I see that my tongue has been corrupt and unhealthy and destructive on those around me. Lord, please cleanse me from that sin. Please forgive me based on the shed blood of Christ and help me redirect it so that I would be different going forward." Because we can't encounter a text like this and walk away unchanged. Walk away indifferent when we realize that this is what the Lord who shed his blood on Calvary for our salvation, this is what he requires of those who follow him. So you need to consider the health of your words. Do good things come out of your mouth? Or bad things? Healthy or unhealthy? Rotten or pure? That's the standard. Paul says, "Apply it now."
Secondly, you consider the health of your words, secondly, Paul tells you to consider the human audience of your words. Consider the human audience of your words. Look at verse 29 with me and it just astonishes me the marks of the inspiration and the fact that we're reading God's word, one of the marks of that is how something so profound and so comprehensive and so searching can be said in such a small economy of words. I can appreciate that because I preach a long time to say two or three points week after week. I don't have an economy of words. Scripture does. Scripture can say a lot in a short amount of words and that's what we have here in verse 29. Look at it with me. He says, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that," here's the purpose clause, "so that it will give grace to those who hear." There's the purpose clause. Quite simply, what is that, eight words in English? It will give grace to those who hear.
Beloved, why did God give you the capacity of human speech? Why did God bestow language on the human race? Why do you as a Christian have the capacity to express mental thought in human words, sometimes spoken, sometimes written? Why do you have that capacity? Why is it given to you? You know, this passage actually confronts a presupposition that I bet you've never thought of. A presupposition that we make about human discourse. We think by assuming it without really giving any deep consideration to it, we usually speak for the purpose of expressing ourselves. We want to say what's on our mind and we want our voice to be heard. Fair enough, but Scripture says that as we're doing that, we should not be selfish as we do. Your capacity for human speech has been given to you for a specific reason so that your voice would be an instrument of communicating God's favor to whomever it is that you're speaking at that particular time. It is not for you to express your anger. It is not for you to express your dissatisfaction with life. To complain against God or to criticize, cut down or mock people who somehow don't fit up to your standard. That is not why God gave human speech to you, is it? No. I'll answer my own question. I know it came out kind of rhetorical that way.
Look at verse 29 with me again. Paul says, "No unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." Your tongue has been given to you so that you could use it as an instrument to distribute God's blessing to those that he brings into your contact for you to be able to speak with. That's why you are able to speak. It is for that purpose. That you would be an instrument of the grace of God to those with whom you communicate. To state it more simply, beloved: you, men and women, boys and girls who know Christ, you have a tongue for the purpose that you could be a blessing to someone else. It's not for you to use for your selfish ends. For you to control and manipulate and abuse people with. Shame on you if that's what you use your tongue for. That's not why God gave it to you.
So what we see here is that God here is putting a regulator on your tongue and more specifically, God is giving us his perspective on human speech in the hands of Christians and what it is that he wants us to do with it and it reorients your entire way of thinking about human communication, rather than saying, "I've got to speak my mind here." The controlling question is: what's the need of the person in front of me here right now? Are they lost and they need a word of the Gospel? Are they hardened in sin and they need to be rebuked? Are they struggling under the weight of care? Are they mourning a loss? Do they need a word of comfort? You're mindful of the situation that that person finds themselves in as much as you're able to access that and say, "The purpose that I have to speak right now is that it might communicate and distribute the blessing of God to them just like God gave blessing to me in my salvation in Christ." So we ask ourselves: does your speech graciously point people to Christ? Does it build them up? Does it encourage them? Or do they walk away with slumped shoulders and a fallen countenance because of the way that you have handled a conversation? Wow. Yeah, this forbids us from being self-centered in it and realizing, "I have my tongue at this point in time in this conversation to use it to benefit that person, not myself."
So notice here that Paul speaks in very broad and general terms. He says, "Just so that it will give grace to those who hear." He doesn't get specific, meaning that this is a general principle that you and I are to take and to use and to apply and to develop with practice over time the ability and skill to be able to do this and to apply it in each situation. The goal here is to do good to this person in this conversation rather than to assert myself, as it were. So you take that and let that guiding principle of goodness for the purpose of being good to your human audience, you take that and you use it and you apply it in that way. That's the way that God wants you to use your tongue and chances are if you've never, ever thought about this, chances are that you're falling kind of short of what God wants to come out of your mouth because this is defining. This establishes the whole framework, every parameter. It defines all of that and sets the fence around what you are willing to have come out of your mouth.
So Paul says, "Nothing bad. Let good come out of your mouth." You consider who it is that you're talking to and you speak in a way to be a blessing to them. That would restrain a lot of anger, abusive, coarse, profane, vulgar speech because it's not just saying a word that builds someone up but also being mindful that you don't speak in vulgar terms and, again, I’ll go back because our society is so coarse these days, that you don't use your tongue for these borderline or dirty jokes and the things that suggest coarse, sensual things into the mind of another person who wasn't already there. That has to stop. That has to stop because that is not why God has given you a tongue is to suggest sin and to plant temptation in the mind of someone else. Or speaking to those who might write or teach for a living, that your teaching tongue has not been given to you to implant doubt and suspicion about God or the Scriptures with what you say.
That goes in your own private conversation as well. You speak to people to reinforce the authority of God. Reinforce the trustworthiness and the goodness of God. You speak in a way that upholds God's word and it's pure, perfect dimensions. It's inerrant force. You speak to uphold these things, not to suggest doubt or to contradict it or to tear it down. This is vertical. It's horizontal. It goes everywhere and it makes me tremble, causes me fear, for those who have their tongue, who have a pulpit, have a teaching avenue, and they use it to diminish the claims of Christ, diminish people's confidence in God's word. Oh, how great is their judgment for letting such unwholesome words come out of their mouth and not speaking words to edify and to build up people. Those who suggest that there are multiple ways to salvation rather than one way alone through Christ Jesus our Lord. The destruction that is left behind in that goes everywhere.
So for those of you that aspire after teaching, those of you that have teaching opportunities whether in a classroom or in a church or whatever, you understand that this governs what you say as well and that there should be a doctrinal integrity to what you say and there should be a motivational sense in which you encourage people. You give them reasons to trust God and to follow Christ and to believe in him rather than to inject things into their mind that would call that into question. Wow, because that's very unhealthy to do that. To build them up to trust God, that's a tongue that God will use and bless. What's it going to be for you?
Young people, it goes for you too. How are you going to use your tongue with your siblings? How are you going to speak to your parents? Are you going to speak it to your parents in a way that affirms their place of authority in your life? That structures and gives them love and shows them honor? Are you going to use your words like that to affirm your parents inside the home? Don't think this doesn't apply to you, young people. This applies to you too and the same way for you parents. You cannot speak in a way that tears your kids down and exasperates them, in the words of Ephesians 6 that we'll see later, and provokes them to anger. Exasperation is in Colossians but whatever, you get the point. This goes everywhere, doesn't it? In our homes. In our church. In daily discourse. All over the place.
Now, so we considered the health of our words. We considered the human audience of our words. That would be enough to give us plenty to go on, wouldn't it, to realize how much is at state here and how comprehensive it is but there is a third point that Paul makes and it's this: that you should consider the Holy Spirit. You should consider the Holy Spirit. Paul here gives us another compelling reason to guard our lips and to use our tongues for the purposes of edification. Look at verse 30. I'll read it as we have it in the New American Standard and then explain a couple of things about it for you. Paul says, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."
Now, there is a preliminary matter here that I want to call to your attention that might seem kind of minor but it's actually very important in the whole context of this. Look at the end of verse 29 where it says the word "hear, period," and then verse 30, the next word is "do." There is something missing there that's in the original language that is very evident in the Greek and the English Standard Version, the New King James, the New International Version all contain what I’m about to tell you. For some reason, probably for stylistic reasons that I think are misguided, the New American Standard Version here has left out the word "and," a conjunction joining two things together. If you look at ESV, NKJ you'll see this. The New American Standard translators left it out but it's there in the original language so that it should properly read like this, "Speak such a word so that it will give grace to those who hear and do not grieve the Holy Spirit."
Now, why is that so important? That conjunction there is joining these two verses together so that you are meant to think about the Holy Spirit and to calculate in the third person of the Trinity in the way that you approach your human communication is what it's saying here. It's not a new command that is unrelated to what went before it and without context Paul injects the idea, "Don't grieve the Holy Spirit." What do you mean? Where is that coming from? No, verse 29 leads naturally into verse 30 and therefore is meant to be part of the calculus that you make in terms of how you approach human communication, how you speak.
Let's think through this for a moment together on what this could be saying. Scripture makes it clear that the Holy Spirit indwells every true Christian. Romans 8:9 speaks to that and many other places. When you became a Christian, the Holy Spirit came to indwell you and part of the reason that your life changed after your conversion was that instead of having a dead, old man dominated by the devil that was the mark of your heart, God put his Spirit and a new nature and a cleansing sanctifying force, no less than God himself came to indwell your heart in order to take up residence and to guide and to direct your life. You have the Holy Spirit dwelling within you.
That has some consequences. The Holy Spirit indwells you with his sanctifying and empowering presence, you could say, and here's the thing: God's Spirit is holy, pure, sanctified, set apart. He is unlike the spirit of the world. And that Holy Spirit dwells within you on a permanent basis. He is present in every conversation that you have. He is present at every word that comes out of your mouth. And what can we say about this Holy Spirit, the one who gave us the perfect word of God, the pure word of God and we have it here in written form? The Holy Spirit who is a spirit of truth and not of error? Of godliness and not of demonic things? Of purity and sanctity and not the degraded discourse that marks sinful human life? What can we say about this Spirit who dwells within you and is present with every word that you say? What can we say about him? Well, at the very least, we can say this: the Spirit of God has a settled disposition against rotten speech. It displeases him. It grieves him. It saddens him. It is not consistent with his nature, the nature of the one that has taken up residence in you and has accomplished salvation on your behalf. It is totally contrary to everything that he stands for. It is a sad offense against him when rotten speech comes out of your mouth. And make no mistake: he sees it. He hears it. He assesses it and Paul says those unwholesome words grieve him.
Now, quick theological point here without technical terms to explain everything that I’m saying here: it's not that we surprise the Holy Spirit and inflict upon him unexpected pain that he did not want to have. It's not that he's going along, he's fine and then Sarah speaks a bad word and he goes, "Ooohhhh, I wasn't like that before but I’m like that now." It's not that way. The Spirit of God is not subject to fluctuating emotions based on what you and I do. He dwells above us. He is impassable in the sense that he's not subject to being manipulated by human behavior. Rather what this passage is saying is, the way that we should understand this passage is this and it's far more awe-inspiring when you think about it this way than if the Holy Spirit were like you and me and we react against something that we hear. No, it's like this: the Spirit of God is forever holy. That is always his nature and sin is always a grievous offense to him. Ungodly speech always violates that holiness and is an affront to the Holy Spirit of God.
So we should be mindful that a holy spirit, holy with a small "h," namely the Holy Spirit, capital "H," capital "S," dwells within us and in deference to his holiness, in respect for his sanctity, in submission to the glory of his character, we say, "I'm not going to speak that way because I don't want to violate the holiness of God, the holiness of the Spirit of God that dwells within me. I don't want to transgress against that." And when you bring the Spirit of God to bear upon it, suddenly it's not just what's good for men. That's important, Paul mentions that, but all of a sudden you are humbled. There is a sense of reverence that comes over you and says, "There must be a reverential sanctifying influence on my tongue in respect for the Holy Spirit who is with me."
Beloved, what this does is this removes the sense of liberty that perhaps you have felt to engage in sinful talk. You don't have that liberty under the Lordship of Christ and under the presence of the Holy Spirit. That's unthinkable to a true Christian and so what happens is that you think through these things and you say, "Wow, do you know what? The way that I talk with my family, ugh." You think about it in advance, not just at the moment but you think through the whole pattern of the way that you communicate and say, "This isn't right. I have to profoundly repent." Again, young and old. This applies to all of us in here.
Now, Paul goes on and says more about it. Incidentally, Ephesians 4:30 shows that the Holy Spirit is a person with thought. He's a person, not a force like gravity. I can promise you that the force of gravity has no mental reaction to what you say. Gravity is a force. It doesn't do that. The Spirit is a person and therefore takes offense at our ungodly speech. Is offended by it as an eternal outworking of his unchangeable being.
Now, I’m going to ask a question now and it's going to move us into a wonderful realm of contemplating our salvation as we close. Why should we care what the Holy Spirit thinks? That almost sounds irreverent, doesn't it? But I’m using it for sanctified purposes to ask it, rather than we're not asking that in a defiant way. We're just asking to understand the text. Why is it that we care what the Holy Spirit thinks about our communication? Why is that important to us? Well, that question points us to an answer that is found there in verse 30. Look at it with me. Ah, this melts the believing heart into a spirit of compliance, of love, of obedience, of joy. Paul says, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." Beloved, what Paul has done here is incredible, once again. He has placed your human speech and your human communication, he has placed it between the moment of your conversion and the eternal reward that you will receive. He places it in the great context of Christian salvation and says, "You should think about communication like that."
What does he mean? What he's saying is, "Consider what the Holy Spirit has done for you. He sealed you, Christian." By which he means that the Holy Spirit marked you out as belonging to God at the moment of your conversion and now you belong to God forever. You did not deserve that gift but the Spirit of God graciously did that to you. Doesn't that make you thankful? Doesn't that make you grateful? Doesn't that make you want to respond in whatever makes him happy? That's what you want to do. The Spirit of God sealed you. God took you as his own. He separated you from the world and marked you by the Spirit of God and said, "You now belong to me." You have been separated out and you belong to God and that has an effect on how you use your tongue is the point.
And yet, you haven't received the full benefit of that work of the Holy Spirit yet. Look at verse 30 with me again. He says, "by whom you were sealed," past tense, "for the day of redemption," still future. This happened in the past. It happened for a goal that you have not yet entered into, that you have not yet received. The best is yet to come. Christian, you have been set apart by the Spirit of God for a still future day in which you will see the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be made like him. You will be made like him. One day you will receive a glorified body that is completely free from the passions of this world. Free from the temptations. Made perfect and no longer subject to sin. That's what's coming. That's what the Holy Spirit set you on a course to receive that. To be permanently separated from sin in a glorified body at which time your redemption will be complete.
Paul says, remember the context here is your human speech, Paul says, "When you remember the lofty things that the Spirit of God has done for you in the past and what still lies ahead, understand that your rotten speech grieves him. It should become unthinkable for you to ever tolerate that in your life henceforth and forevermore." All of these things, the sealing work of the Spirit and the day of redemption to come, it's fundamental to salvation but the point here is that it influences the way that you talk today. After receiving, beloved, after receiving such a great gift from God through the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit, it should be your supreme priority to please him and Scripture says one of the primary ways that you work out that response of worshipful obedience is in the way that you use your tongue in the way that it's described here. You put a gate over your lips. Only good things come out. The bad things don't. I'm mindful not of simply speaking what I want to say but I’m mindful of the impact that it has on the people in front of me and I do this because I want to honor the Holy Spirit who has so graciously blessed me with a gift of salvation that I never could have deserved and yet here I am, marching through this world heading toward a day of redemption when I will see my Lord Jesus Christ, I will be made like him and I will never be subject to the trials or temptations or the sins of this world ever again. In response to that great gift, all of that informs the way that we speak. The Holy Spirit who blessed you calls you to be holy in speech. Beloved, for the love of men and for the love of God, won't you use your tongue in this way?
Let's pray together.
Father, help us to benefit men by the way that we speak and help us to give thanks to the Spirit, to see everything that comes out of our mouth as simply a thankful grateful response to the work of the Holy Spirit by whom we were sealed for a coming day of redemption. Father, for those that have been convicted under the power of your word today, realizing that their tongues have been decayed and rotten, Father, for some perhaps they're realizing that they're not a Christian at all. I pray that your Spirit would graciously lead them to the Savior who died for all of those sins and invites them to come to Christ with a promise of eternal life that they would repent and set it aside and come to him in faith. For those of us that know you, Father, and we realize that there are still the remnants of this in our lives, have mercy on us. Forgive us and cleanse us from this unrighteousness. Let your word here from Ephesians 4 shape our thinking in a way that shapes our tongue and may we ever be those who speak that which is good, not rotten. That which gives grace to those who hear rather than drawing them away from God. And Father, may you grant us grace to ever please your Holy Spirit rather than grieve him because we are a people who are grateful for his sealing work in the past and that redeeming day yet to come when the fullness of your purposes in our lives are complete and we are with you in perfection around your throne and giving glory to the one who loved us and gave himself up on a cross for our benefit. Yes, Lord Jesus, even you. We love you. We thank you. We honor you. And we pray that you would be glorified in the remainder of our time together. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.