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What Is Meant By “Speaking The Truth In Love”

Adapted from D. Martin Lloyd-Jones commentary on Ephesians


As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ… — Ephesians 4:14,15

‘Speaking the truth in love’ has come to mean that you more or less praise everything, but above all that you never criticize any view strongly, because after all there’s a certain amount of right and truth in everything… You must not criticize — for to criticize is to deny the spirit of Christ and to be entirely devoid of love.

We must therefore ask the question, is this a right and true interpretation of Paul’s statement? Is this what is meant by speaking the truth in love? I answer immediately that it cannot be, for the reason that the apostle does not simply tell us here to speak lovingly. What he says is, ‘speaking the truth,’ or, ‘holding the truth.’

We are not told by the apostle to cultivate a vague loving spirit but to ‘hold the truth in love.’ The very word ‘truth,’ in and of itself, makes the modern popular exposition of the statement obviously and patently wrong. Furthermore, and this is where the context is so important, if the phrase merely denotes a loving spirit, how is it connected with what the apostle has said in verse 14? If ‘speaking the truth in love,’ or ‘holding the truth in love,’ means that we are to smile upon all views and doctrinal standpoint, and never criticize and condemn and reject any views at all, how do we avoid being ‘children tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine?

This supposed ‘loving spirit’ makes it impossible to use terms such as ‘trickery of men’ and ‘by craftiness,’ and ‘deceitful scheming.’ The very text itself, and especially the context, make that interpretation completely impossible. Indeed, it is a denial of the Apostle’s statement. We must not hesitate to say so plainly. To put life or a spirit or niceness or anything else before truth is to deny New Testament teaching and, in addition, is to contradict directly the Apostle’s solemn warning in verse 14. It is to set up ourselves, and the modern mind, and 20th century man, as the authority rather than the called Apostle Paul and all others whom the Lord has set in His Church to warn us against and save us from this attitude which dislikes discrimination and judgment. Never was it more important for us to assert that friendliness or niceness or some sentimental notions of brotherly love do not constitute Christianity. You can have all such qualities without and apart from Christianity without truth. So that whatever else it may mean, holding the truth in love, does not mean a vague, flabby, sentimental notion of niceness and fellowship and brotherhood.

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