What is meant by "speaking the truth in love?"


"That we [henceforth] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ:" (Ephesians 4:14-15).

What does the verse "speaking the truth" in love mean?  Does it only apply to doctrine or can it also apply to talking to our brothers and sisters in Christ about behavior that is not Christ-like?


"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Christ -- from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:11-16).

In the larger context we see that Paul is discussing how the various roles or offices within the church all work toward the goal of causing the church to grow. "Speaking the truth in love" parallels "the edifying of itself in love" in verse 16.

It is the teaching of doctrine so that the church knows what it must do, but it also includes rebuking those who stray because that too is a part of growth. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (II Timothy 3:16-17). The Scriptures is given for four things:

  1. To teach us what is right
  2. To teach us what is not right
  3. To teach us how to become right
  4. To teach us how to stay right

It takes all four aspects of the Scriptures to make a person complete or mature.

The phrase "in love" qualifies how truth is to be taught. No matter whether we are teaching someone the way of righteousness or scolding them for doing wrong, the motivation behind all our words must be love for the person (I Corinthians 13:4-8). It is because you want to see that person saved and in heaven that you make the effort to see that the understand what they need to do be saved.