Imagine this with me:
It’s Sunday morning. You walk into the sanctuary and are greeted by a friend and fellow church member with these words: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…” (Eh. 1:3). You struggle to smile, perplexed about your friend’s greeting, and walk away quickly. Another person approaches and says, “I am sure of this, that he who began a work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). Ok, now things seem to be getting weird. You think that maybe you missed something. Maybe an encouragement from the pastor to begin memorizing Scripture and people are walking up to you trying to practice. Or, maybe there was something you missed in the Sunday School lesson. Still confused, you hurry to your seat. Then a third person walks up just before the music begins and, shaking your hand, proclaims, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). That’s it! You ask uncomfortably, “What’s going on here? Why is everyone speaking Scripture to me?” With that, everyone just turns and looks at you equally confused, and one answers, “Well, we love you, what better could we say?”
While clearly hypothetical, how would you respond? What would you think? If that scenario sounds strange, why?
While the scenario above may sound strange, the biblical precedent for such behavior is bountiful. The Bible has much to say concerning our communication in general, and, in particular, it has much to say about believers’ speech to one another. We are called to “exhort one another daily” (Heb. 3:14), to only speak that which “is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29), to always speak words that are “gracious, seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6), to be “speaking truth in love” (Eph. 4:15), to always be “giving thanks” (Eph. 5:4, 20), and much more. On the negative side, we are commanded “to speak evil of no one” and “to avoid quarreling” (Titus 3:2), to have “no corrupting talk come out” of our mouths (Eph. 4:29), to have “no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking” among the saints (Eph. 5:4), to not speak of “the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11-12), and to put away all “slander, and obscene talk” and lying (Col. 3:8-9), and so much more.
So, we see what the character of our speech to one another (truthful, gracious, loving, edifying, etc.) is, but what is the content of our speech to be that it may meet such characteristics? Colossians 3:16-17 sums up well:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Paul is telling the believers (the church) at Colossae that the content of their speech is to be the word of Christ, the Word of God. They (we) are to be speaking Scripture to one another and in doing so they (we) will be teaching and admonishing one another. This is the natural result of the word of Christ dwelling in us richly. This is the whole principle of G.I.G.O from a biblical perspective. The bible says that because there is garbage in us (our sinful hearts), garbage comes out (Matt. 12:33-37, 15:18-20). In other words, the fruit reveals the root. But through our union with Christ in salvation through faith, we are given new hearts and made clean and now as God’s Word goes into our hearts, we will have a well to draw from that God’s Word may pour out in our speech (Prov. 4:23).
Speaking Scripture to one another makes sense when we understand our great need for the Word. It is by the Word that we are born again (1 Peter 1:23), that we come to faith (Rom. 10:17), that we are sanctified (John 17:17), that we mature in the faith (Col. 1:28), that we are taught, reproved, corrected, trained in righteousness, and equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17), that we abide in Christ and he in us until the end (John 8:31), that we come to know God, his will, and the gospel (Heb. 1:1-4; 2 Peter 1), and on and on. We need the Word of God from beginning to end.
Not only does speaking Scripture to one another make sense because of our need for the Word, but even more so when we understand the nature of the Word. Just consider Psalm 19:7-11:
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
God’s word, from Genesis to Revelation, is perfect, sure, right, clean, true and righteous, more desirable than gold (or iPhones and iPads), sweeter than honey (or Starbucks), and protective. It is able to revive the soul, make wise the simple, rejoice the heart, enlighten the eyes, endure, warn, and reward. Why would you want to speak anything else to someone you’ve been united together to in Christ? What could be more loving than to speak that which we all need most?
In his classic work, Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer connects the Christian’s need for the Word, the nature of the Word, and Christians need for one another. After establishing the Christian community (the church gathered) as a community solely through and in Jesus Christ, formed by him and for him, he writes:
Christians live entirely by the truth of God’s Word in Jesus Christ. If they are asked “where is your salvation, your blessedness, and your righteousness?,” they can never point to themselves. Instead, they point to the Word of God in Jesus Christ that grants them salvation, blessedness, and righteousness. They watch for this Word wherever they can. Because they daily hunger and thirst for righteousness, they long for the redeeming Word again and again. It can only come from the outside. In themselves they are destitute and dead. Help must come from the outside; and it has come and comes daily and anew in the Word of Jesus Christ, bringing us redemption, righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. But God put this Word into the mouth of human beings so that it may be passed on to others. When people are deeply affected by the Word, they tell it to other people. God has willed that we should seek and find God’s living Word in the testimony of other Christians, in the mouths of human beings. Therefore, Christians need other Christians who speak God’s word to them. They need them again and again when they become uncertain and disheartened because, living by their own resources, they cannot help themselves without cheating themselves out of the truth. They need other Christians as bearers and proclaimers of the divine word of salvation. They need them solely for the sake of Jesus Christ…. [The] goal of all Christian community is to encounter one another as bringers of the message of salvation. (32, italics mine)
We need Christ. We need the Word. We need one another. Christ has come. He has given us his Word. He has united us together in fellowship around the Word. We partake of that community when we begin to bring God’s Word to each other in word and in deed. All who are in Christ are “bearers and proclaimers of the divine word of salvation” – we are either rightly bearing and proclaiming the divine word or misrepresenting it in our words and walk. The weight of the matter is this: “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matt. 12:36). Our words matter for eternity and, by the grace of God, we can speak as Christ spoke, “the words that the Father had given him.”
- What would it look like if Christians began to speak Scripture to one another?
- What hindrances keep you from speaking Scripture to others?
- What would change in the Christian community if we began to think and speak according to Scripture?
- What are the benefits that would come from speaking Scripture to one another?
- Would you say God is pleased with and glorified by your speech now?
Remember: We all fail when it comes to our speech (James 3:1-12), but there was One whose tongue uttered no error, no evil, nor enmity and it is He who came to live, die, and be raised in our place that the sins of our mouth and heart would be paid for and our tongues cleansed to go from speaking curses to praises forevermore. Repent and praise him!