The 5th Sunday After Pentecost July 9, 2006
3, 779 (TLH 32), 439, 360
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.
In Christ Jesus, our forgiving Savior, dear fellow-redeemed:
Imagine meeting a traveling salesman at your doorstep who is going to demonstrate a wonderful new product. This product, he promises, is amazing and will help in so many ways around the house. The salesman speaks with such effective words that you are almost convinced to buy a whole year’s supply and maybe even more!
But before you commit to the purchase, you ask the salesman “How do you like using it in your home? What uses have you found with your family?” The salesman’s face drains of color and turns to pale white. He stutters, he stammers, and eventually has to admit, “I don’t use it. I simply sell it.”
All of a sudden every word of praise the salesman had for the product is less convincing and you may rethink buying anything at all.
As children of God we are not in the business of sales. We are in the work of giving. When we seek to share the Gospel with one another and others we are not trying to sell anything. We are looking out for one another’s souls. But the lesson learned from our salesman is still one we can apply to our lives and evangelism. If we go out into the world and seek to share the Gospel with others, but don’t use it in our own lives, what kind of witness will we be? If we don’t use the “product” that we’re suggesting for everyone else should use, how convincing or truthful are our words?
People learn about their Savior from the children of God—from their words, actions, demeanor, attitudes, priorities, and so much more. In so many ways you are the windows to God for people who do not know Him. What are people learning about God from you?
Today we consider that Your Life Speaks Volumes for Christ I. Christ is glorified by a mouth that imparts grace, II. Christ is glorified by conduct that honors the Holy Spirit, III. Christ is glorified by forgiveness that is unlimited and the Evangelism Truth we take with us today is that The Gospel is a message of forgiveness.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians saying, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” [v.29] The power of the human tongue is something about which we’ve already heard in the Epistle reading. But let’s consider the power and strength of our words a little further.
Oftentimes there is a certain value placed on the ability to be witty and sharp. It’s supposedly great when someone can, on the spur of the moment, give a clever response that may seem humorous, but is really hurtful. The thing about the power of the tongue is that once it is unleashed it cannot be completely retracted. You can use the same tongue to apologize, you can use the same tongue to take back what you’ve said, but the power was sent out and you cannot ever truly undo it. The power of the tongue is a raging fire. It defiles the whole body (cf. James 3:6).
Our tongues do not only hurt through words that cause emotional stress, and words of cruelty, belittlement, and ridicule. Our tongues also hurt with words that might lead someone else into sin. By my words I can lead someone else to think that sin is OK. By my tongue I can make someone else feel that a certain path is the right one to travel when it is actually a path of sin and destruction.
We are also able to use our tongues with the power of God’s Word to bring the message of forgiveness to sinners. When we convey the Gospel of Christ to individual souls, the words of our tongue have the power to bring sinners from death to life. That is the amazing power of the Word of God coming off our tongues! Your life spoken through your mouth can speak volumes for Christ because when your mouth witnesses for Christ and speaks things that are pure, that are noble and of good report (cf. Philippians 4:8) they glorify Christ. When your words are uttered in defense of your neighbor, when they are spoken for the benefit of others they glorify Christ.
Our mouths do not need to be continually speaking the actual words of Scripture to testify and witness to our Savior. Whenever they reflect what is good and God-pleasing and are spoken with a love for others then they do honor our Lord.
Paul writes against corrupt words proceeding out of our mouths. This includes cursing. It includes all of the idiomatic phrases that come flying out of the mouth so fast, but if we stop to think what they really say, they are calling for harm upon the individual to whom they are directed. We might argue, “It’s just a phrase. I don’t really mean that. I don’t want someone to go to hell or be damned.” But that is what the mouth says. If you don’t mean it, don’t say it. Let no corrupt word come out of your mouth, for such words do not speak volumes for Christ.
Corrupt words from our mouths actually compromise our ability to speak for Christ. Remember what people see and hear from you is in many cases what they know about God. If they know you to be a child of God and hear all of those things coming out of your mouth, what do they learn about Jesus? What incentive, what desire would they possibly have to follow their Savior if someone who follows Him speaks in that way? Rather than the corrupt words which harm and do not speak well of Christ, let us use our mouths for “what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearer.” [v.29]
Let us speak words that are reflective of God’s love for us, that are in accordance with His will for our lives, that give testimony to our Savior rather than detract from Him. When we speak words such as these and keep all corrupt words from our mouths, they will speak volumes for Christ because our words will be so different from what people hear from the majority of the people around them.
Paul continues “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” [v.30] Earlier in Ephesians Paul had written, “…you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
The Holy Spirit has been given to us as the seal and guarantee of our salvation. God has shown us grace by sending Jesus and then by bringing us to faith in Him. Our faith is a gift given to us through the working of the Holy Spirit. Having the trust in our hearts which the Holy Spirit creates is the seal of guarantee that all of what God promises is true and that we are indeed His children. The Holy Spirit alive and active in our lives is the guarantee that Jesus will come again, that we will be counted among God’s children, and that we will inherit eternal life.
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians he spoke of our bodies as the dwelling place and temple of the Holy Spirit. “…do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
If someone came to your home and sprayed graffiti all over it, kicks over everything you have in your yard, and toilet papers your trees—in other words, makes your home a complete shambles—how would you feel about that? You might be enraged. You would certainly be hurt and saddened.
Our bodies are the home of the Holy Spirit. So how does the Holy Spirit feel if we harm our bodies or involve our bodies and lives in sinful conduct? He is grieved. The Holy Spirit lives within us. This involves our bodies, our conduct, our whole being. There is no place for us to bring sin, wickedness, and ill conduct into this temple of the Holy Spirit. Paul says because the Holy Spirit is living in you, watch out for your conduct, watch how you act, watch your attitudes, watch your approach to life, don’t grieve the Holy Spirit by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
The apostle goes on to explain how we avoid grieving the Holy Spirit when he says, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.” [v.31] This list just gives a sampling. We can turn to Galatians and there find an even longer sampling of “works of the flesh” (cf. Galatians 5:19-21). All of the things that go contrary to God’s Word, all of the things that come out of our flesh grieve the Holy Spirit. Such sinful behaviors, attitudes, and actions find their root in our hearts. Jesus said, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man…” (Matthew 15:19f).
Nothing that grieves the Holy Spirit speaks well of Christ. Do people know us as a bitter individual? Are their some who no longer associate with us because they view us as angry? Do people hesitate to even come to us and talk to us because of the anger and wrath they assume they’ll experience? Do we find all sorts of clamoring and trouble and evil-speaking centered around us? Are we producing attitudes that are contrary to God’s Word? Do we have these things active and thriving in our lives? If so, God’s Word directs us to repent and to cease grieving the Holy Spirit.
As we seek to flee temptation, to cut off those things that lead us astray, and to put away the bitterness and wrath, the Spirit will enable us to accomplish this. The work of the Holy Spirit increases in us the ability to follow God’s will and to speak and act well. The Spirit enables us to have our whole conduct reflect the love of Christ so that people will recognize us as the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is then that our conduct glorifies Christ and honors the Holy Spirit. It honors the Spirit because He is the one who creates faith in our hearts, who sustains faith, and who works in us the ability to do what pleases God.
Paul concludes, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.” [v.32] There is no greater way to speak volumes for Christ than to forgive.
You heard the parable of the unforgiving servant in the Gospel reading. The man had the equivalent of a multi-million dollar debt forgiven with the single stroke of his master’s pen, but he was unwilling to forgive a fellow servant who owed him twenty dollars. We would expect the excited thanksgiving of a multi-million dollar gift to overshadow thoughts about mere twenty dollars, but not so with the man in Jesus’ parable. Jesus told the parable in this way because even though it is hard to imagine quibbling over twenty dollars, it is that same attitude at work when we do not show forgiveness to one another.
We forget the vastness of God’s forgiveness toward us and become consumed by the little sins against us. When we understand that every single sin we commit is against God and that these sins accumulate throughout our whole life, then we realize the great debt we have been forgiven. Consider the volume of sinfulness and wickedness and bad decisions God forgives! So then why should we become so consumed and preoccupied with that little word someone spoke against us, or the way he looked at me, or the attitude we didn’t like? Are they sins? Yes. Are they sins to deal with? Yes. But they are so tiny, compared to what God forgives us. So then, let us forgive one another as Christ has forgiven us.
Forgiveness is the heart of the Gospel message. The heart of the Gospel is the love of a God—holy and pure, all wise, and all powerful—who forgives sinners. The message of the Gospel is the magnitude of love that sent Jesus to be our Savior when we were still sinners and enemies of God. It is the love that daily forgives us every single sin not because of who we are, but because of who God is and for His name’s sake. That is a rich and abundant forgiveness. It is so abundant that it overshadows all of our sins. “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Romans 5:20).
The message we carry in our evangelism is first of all a message of forgiveness. It is not a message that overlooks evil. One of the world’s philosophies equates forgiveness with ignoring sin. The true forgiveness of the Gospel does not ignore sin. If we turn a blind eye to sin and say, “That’s not so bad” and dismiss it, then we don’t need grace. We don’t need forgiveness. By dismissing sin we cheapen God’s grace and draw glory away from Christ. Christ is glorified and God is honored when we recognize the depth of our sin and the greatness of His forgiveness and salvation. So as we preach the Gospel we speak of that wonderful love of God and the free and full forgiveness that He gives to us through His Son.
Our lives speak volumes for Christ when we are forgiving one another. If we preach the forgiveness of God which we ourselves have heard and believe, it will overflow in our attitudes and forgiveness toward one another.
You have the power of words that edify and impart grace to your hearers. You have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you. Having been forgiven forgive one another and thereby speak volumes for your Savior and glorify the honor of His name. Amen.
Editor’s Note: This week’s sermon is the third in a five sermon series concerning evangelism.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.