Christian Communication and the Holy Spirit

New Life in Christ

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Ephesians 4:29–30 “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”

“Word problems reveal heart problems. The people and situations around us do not make us say what we say; they are only the occasion for our hearts to reveal themselves in word.” — Paul David Tripp

Power tools are wonderful modern inventions. Whether you’re using a chainsaw to cut down a dead tree, a washing machine to clean your clothes, or an impact driver to put together a Ping-Pong table, the efficiency and comparative ease of power tools make everyday life better. But things can also go terribly wrong. Broken equipment, carelessness and accidents quickly turn amazing tools into frustrating problems or even dangerous weapons.

One of the most powerful tools that God has given to influence one another in the church is the tongue. We can use good words to minister grace to fellow believers, or we can grieve the Holy Spirit with evil words. Paul presents two prohibitions concerning the way we communicate. First of all, our words must not be harmful; secondly, the Holy Spirit must not be grieved. Instead, we are exhorted to speak words that dispense grace to build up the church.

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, Make sure no rotten speech pours out of your mouth,
but that which is good to the use of edifying, but instead speak profitable words that build up those in need,
that it may minister grace unto the hearers. in order to minister grace to those who hear you.
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, And stop grieving the Holy Spirit of God
whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. by whom you are sealed until the day when Jesus’ ransom releases you from sin’s presence.


Paul’s first prohibition allows no room for corrupt communication.

Sinful speech does more to harm the communal life of the church than all the sins previously mentioned in this passage. Words that are profane, slanderous, offensive, critical and divisive will set a negative temperature among believers; therefore, God calls us to a serious restraint of the tongue (James 3:2). We can permit nothing to proceed from our mouths that harms the unity of the church.

Behind this severe restriction lies a deeply spiritual motive going to the very heart of the new man—the permanent residence of the Holy Spirit, who indwells the believer. Paul has already stated that the Ephesians were sealed with the Spirit (Eph. 1:13), a stamping of God’s ownership on us and a securing of our future salvation. The Spirit will dwell in us until glory, so our words and attitudes can bring Him great sorrow. The Spirit of God is never indifferent; we live either grieving or not grieving the Spirit. God can be emotionally disappointed, disturbed or distressed with His people! When the Spirit is grieved, our inner life is affected with an absence of the manifestation of God’s love, joy and peace. We must keep an attitude of reverence toward the person of the Holy Spirit and avoid all words that would grieve Him. If He is grieved, then His people will lack His blessing.

Instead, Paul reveals that believers have the awesome privilege of becoming dispensers of God’s grace.

As co-laborers with God’s Spirit, we may take part in the sanctifying process of other believers. Therefore, we must choose words carefully and speak truthfully. Paul has already stated that speaking the truth is one of the first characteristics of the new life. First of all, truth must be spoken with love, a primary agent to build up the church (Eph. 4:15). If motivated by personal frustration, our lashing out with truth cannot do the hearer good.

Secondly, we must speak truth at an appropriate time (Prov. 25:11). Prayer and careful forethought should be given before speaking, so that what we say can have the greatest benefit.

We must all exercise caution when speaking with one another. Consider the times that we cause pain and sorrow to the Holy Spirit by the things that we say to each other. How many ministries lack God’s blessing primarily because of believers’ speech? How much growth could take place if we were communicating grace through our choice of words? Before speaking we must ask ourselves: Is this true? Can I say it in love? Is this the appropriate time? In this way we can bless one another and please the Holy Spirit.

Watch Dr. Pettit’s chapel message on Christian communication:

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Steve Pettit traveled for many years with the Steve Pettit Evangelistic Team before becoming president of Bob Jones University. His ultimate goal for BJU is to prepare students to serve and love others, no matter their vocation.