Faithfulness in our Christian behavior must be followed by consistency in our speech. Paul is not only speaking here of preaching the gospel, but our conversation in general. Believers’ speech must always be filled with grace, as were the words of Christ (Luke 4:22).
Whether undergoing persecution, stress, difficulty, or injustice, whether with your spouse, children, believers, or unbelievers—in all circumstances believers are to make their speech full of grace a habit.
To speak with grace means to say what is spiritual, wholesome, kind, sensitive, complementary, gentle, truthful, loving, and thoughtful. Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:29: “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, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Therefore, the believers’ speech should act as a purifying influence.
Believers must also know how to respond to each person. They must know how to say the right thing at the right time. In Peter’s words, they must be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15).
The speech and actions of the new, born again man or woman is vitally important, because unlike the ungodly, who say “Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?” (Psalm 12:4), we as believers should echo the prayer of the psalmist in Psalm 141:3: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
Our speech is to be gracious—it is to be a blessing to others, with the ultimate intend of bringing them to Christ, because, God’s grace has changed us.
We need to realize however, that our speech is not always gracious. Even after we become Christians we can commit mistakes by misusing our tongue. In James 3:9-12, James pointed out how some Christians used their speech to curse others. He wrote, “with the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”
Even though our speech is to be full of grace we need to be aware because at times, evil will try to steamroll over us. In Acts 4 the Sanhedrin told Peter and John not speak or teach in the name of Jesus. But they replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)
They stood for the truth and that is what we should also do. Their words to the Sanhedrin, although confrontational—appealed the Jewish leaders understanding of a great truth that the Old Testament clearly taught—that people were to obey God rather than men. It was confrontational, but it directed them to one of their most deeply held beliefs.
Therefore; like Jesus, the apostles and all honest people we must have the courage to expose and rebuke hypocrites who are living sinful, abusive lives and destroying the truth. “For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain…. 13 Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith.” (Titus 1:10-11, 13)
Yes, we should be gracious but we need to resist evil and speak God’s truth in love. Our intention is to be a blessing to those we come in touch with; as our speech and actions reveal our graciousness.
Our great goal is to win others for Jesus and to point them to Him, because people need Jesus. They don’t realize the depth of their sin and how their sin puts them in danger of hell. They think they’re good in themselves. They think they’re good enough and that they’re worthy of heaven. They think that they can earn their way into heaven; but they can’t. We need to tell them about Jesus, how He came and died in our place; and that if they believe in Him they will have eternal life.
What a privilege God has given us as Christians to be a blessing to others through our speech and actions. What a powerful tool our speech is, therefore let us use it for God’s glory.