Pretend your tongue was a paintbrush and your heart was a bucket full of paint (words). You dip your brush into your bucket so you can paint a picture on a canvas for the world to see. That picture reveals your relationship with God and has an impact on all who experience it.
My heart overflows with a pleasing theme…my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe. – Psalm 45:1
The ascension of Christ allowed Him to step out of time and space and to sit at the right hand of the Father. He was given all authority and power so He could give authority and power to us. He accomplished this through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, who is given to the regenerated.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. – Acts 1:8
All that Jesus was on earth can now be given to us through the Holy Spirit. If Jesus stayed on earth, He would be in one place at one time, but if He ascended, which He did, then what He was on earth is now given to us through the Spirit.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. – John 16:13-15
This is stunning news! The Spirit now explodes in the heart of any person who is born a second time (John 3:7-8). Jesus’ ascension allowed Him to go viral in a way He could not accomplish while living like a local being in a singular locale.
Through the Spirit, Jesus crosses all lines of humanity by empowering all of His children to be like He was on earth. Even the weakest Christian in the world today has a more powerful voice than the great John the Baptist.
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. – Matthew 11:11
When you speak God’s Word into the lives of others, they are hearing the words of Christ being spoken to them. This was Paul’s understanding when he was teaching the Christians in Ephesus.
…assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus. – Ephesians 4:21
The English translators of this sentence supplied the word about, which is not how Paul originally wrote the sentence. He said, “Assuming that you have heard him.” Jesus was not there in a physical body to teach them, but He was there and did teach them because His words were being spoken through His children.
As ambassadors for Christ, we speak for Christ as God makes His appeals to others through us. Not only is this an amazing privilege, it is a sobering responsibility.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. – 2 Corinthians 5:20
- You share the message of the Gospel.
- The hearer hears Christ speaking.
- The Holy Spirit magnifies Christ.
- God’s light and life explode in the person’s heart.
- The Holy Spirit changes lives.
- Jesus is glorified.
- The Gospel mission advances.
The words of Christ that you speak are not revelation words, as though they are equal to Bible words. Bible words were inspired by God, while our words come from the Spirit’s illumination. We speak from a position of illumination, not inspiration.
This does not make what you say something to dismiss because it is the transforming Spirit that penetrates hearts to regenerate and sanctify the soul. The issue for us to consider here is our reliance and submission to the Spirit’s guidance.
Do you consider yourself a conduit for the Spirit of Christ to make the name of Christ great within your sphere of influence? If you are a Christian then you have no choice in this matter.
If you have been born a second time, then you are God’s child; you are not your own because you were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). You are a slave to Christ (Romans 6:18). There is no opt-out clause in the Christian religion.
You are now a painter by trade. Your tongue is your brush and your heart is supplying the words that communicate what Christ means to you. And the folks who are most affected by your canvas are those who are closest to you.
- What kind of painting of Christ is on display in your home?
- If your life was an art museum, what would others see?
When Paul thought how the imprint of his words would affect others, he was desperate to use selective, Spirit-illuminated words that were redemptive in nature. He said it this way to the Corinthians:
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified…my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. – 2 Corinthians 2:2-5
The words we choose will have one of two effects. They will either build up other people (Ephesians 4:29) or tear down other people. It is interesting that right before Paul said not to grieve the Spirit of God in Ephesians 4:30, he talked about corrupting speech.
Theology of Speech
Eight Parts of Speech
The way we use words and the effect of those words can breakdown at any point. The first infographic you see gives you a process to self-assess the development and use of your words. As you work through these eight parts of speech see if you can discern the weaker parts in which you need to give greater attention.
Part 1: Gospel – Correct speaking and speech patterns must begin with the Gospel. If a person has not been affected by the Gospel, then their words cannot be redemptive. How you end will be determined by how you begin.
If you want your language to be redemptive (restorative) then you must be redeemed. Let me push the point farther: there are degrees in which a person can be affected by the Gospel.
Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little. – Luke 7:47
Your awareness of your wickedness (1 Timothy 1:15) before God transformed you will be proportional to the gratitude you have for your transformation. This means your humility, gratitude, passion, and every other Christian virtue (Galatians 5:22-23) is tied to how you have been affected by the Gospel.
Part 2: Theology – Everybody has a theology (Romans 2:14-15), including the devil (James 2:19). This is why your speech must not begin with theology, but with the Gospel. If you have not been transformed by the Gospel, then your theology can be quite devilish.
The Gospel establishes the footing upon which sound theology will stand. The gospel-transformed life is ready to support gospel-centered theology.
The word theology comes from Greek language, theos and logos or the study of God. We should always be pursuing sound theology just like Jesus did when He lived on earth (Luke 2:49, 52). The greater your heart is for sound theology, the more your presuppositions will be shaped by God’s thoughts.
Part 3: Presupposition – You can think of your presupposition as the interpretive grid from which all words proceed. Words are not neutral or detached from a base of thought or a world view. Your base of thought or your world view supplies words that communicate what you believe.
You can see this in my presuppositional infographic. The graphic shows two different people observing an apple. One person gives glory to God for the apple and the other person does not give glory but devolves into self-centered thinking. The point is your words are not neutral; they are attached to your presuppositions.
Part 4: Heart – In the context of this piece the heart represents the animating center of your being–the place that can defeat idolatries or give life to them. Things like fear, regret, shame, guilt, bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, and unbelief can find their home in our hearts.
The transformative effect of the Gospel and the depth of our theology can work together to root out the encroachments of sin that can linger in our hearts. This is hugely important because the condition of our hearts will determine how we think.
Part 5: Thoughts – Our minds are where our words are assembled. The parts that make up the construction material comes from everything that has been previously stated. The combination of these things form our thoughts–the last stop before our words come out of our mouths.
If the Gospel has not taken proper root, if our theology is not as sound as it should be, and if our hearts have accumulated controlling idolatries, then our thoughts will be captivated by strongholds that will have persuasive power over our word choices.
If these things are true, then it is imperative you learn how to defeat evil thought arguments with the Spirit’s power. His power is divine and designed to destroy strongholds. Read my piece, How to Take Every Thought Captive.
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:3-4
Part 6: Words – Our thoughts, good or bad, will form our words. Our words are the little soldiers who march off our tongues to wave the banner of Christ to those within our sphere of influence or to wreak destruction in the lives of those closest to us.
As you can see, our words are not neutral, but determined, developed, and deployed to be divine or destructive. We may sound random when we talk, but we are not random at all. It is from the abundance of the hearts that our mouths speak (Luke 6:45).
Part 7: Speech – And finally we speak. All of the preceding component shaping influences have influenced us and our words are finally and irretrievably deployed with purpose. Our words reveal to the world our belief system, whether good or bad. There is no hiding this truth about our words.
Part 8: Effect – The litmus test to whether our words are the words of the Spirit can be found in the effect our words have on others. The most effective way to assess the quality of your words is to examine the person(s) who has been affected the most by your words.
If you are married, it is a simple straightforward test: examine your spouse and children (if you have children). How we use words or refrain from using words (silence and passivity) will impact those closest to us more than anyone else.
You and I have an amazing opportunity to be used by the Spirit of God to speak the words of Christ to all of those around us. We can cooperate with the Spirit in the transformation of souls just like Jesus did when He was here.
- How have your words impacted those who are closest to you?
- Ask those who are the most frequent recipient of your words how your words have affected them.