Immature Christians, Paul says in Ephesians 4:14, are like children afloat in the ocean, tossed about by every crashing wave and gusting wind. They are easy prey for tricksters and deceitful men who plot against them with deceitful cunning. Warren Wiersbe calls them “religious quacks” who “kidnap God’s children and get them into their false cults” by appealing to “religious novelty.” It is vitally important that our church protects its spiritual (and physical!) children from these movements whose evangelists are always prepared with carefully practiced arguments intended to disarm and distract immature believers from the simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The best defense, according to Ephesians 4, is for every church member to take his role seriously as a minister of Jesus Christ, to seek a thorough understanding of the Lord from Scripture, and to walk with him in close fellowship, and then to teach others to do the same.
This is clearly what Paul has in mind in v.15 when he says that we should be “speaking the truth in love.” In stark contrast to the men who use deceit as a means of propagating their false doctrines, the local church is to be committed to truth as a fundamental concern. “This,” says A. Skevington Wood, “is the secret of maturity in the church.” It is not larger buildings, more extensive programs, or the implementation of new technologies that we need, but a firm commitment to “truthing,” which is the literal meaning of the phrase, “speaking the truth.” We need to be all about truth, both in our message and our methods, so that we reject deceitfulness and trickery along with false doctrine. It can be very tempting to look for shortcuts here, but there are no shortcuts when it comes to the truth. There is truth, and there is error. Anything less than complete loyalty to the truth, both in what we teach and in how we teach it will result in error, deceit, and falsehood. If we fail to speak and live the truth, then the spiritually immature who are among us will never grow into adulthood and will be continually enamored with every best-selling book, popular speaker, and Christian celebrity they encounter. It is of utmost importance, then, that every one of us maintain the standard of truth in our words and our lives.
But it is not truth alone which Paul speaks of in this verse, for he says that the truth is to be spoken “in love.” This is not, primarily, concern over the tone with which the truth is spoken, but the motivation which causes us to speak truth in the first place. Just as our commitment to “truthing” is seen in contrast to the false doctrines and deceptive practices of those who would capture unwary children in the faith, so the motive of love is set over against their selfishness and greed. They are gamblers who are skilled at stealing from the unwary and the naive who stumble into their dice game and do not have the sense to say no. They have no concern for the welfare of those whose minds they pollute with their false doctrines, but are only concerned with their own prosperity and personal gain. However, you and I must never use our gifts or the equipping for ministry we have received for any reason other than love. It is this love which causes us to speak the truth (and to live it) in the first place, and to do so with genuine concern for the spiritual protection of those to whom we minister. We must understand who those spiritual children are and what they need to grow, and we must resolve only to meet that need using the resource of God’s word. Our duty as mature Christians is to speak the truth in love, and as children it is to receive the truth and grow up in all things.