Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. (Colossians 4:6)
Last year, we began our Wednesday evening Bible study in the book of Romans. The method of our study was a change for us, since we have followed the traditional Wednesday night prayer meeting/sermon/teaching format for as long as I can remember. I call it tradition, but I do not mean an apostolic tradition since Wednesday night services did not become popular until the 19th century.
Some confuse traditionalism with biblical practice insisting the way we do things must be the way Paul did in every little outpost of Christianity in the most obscure places. We will dispense with that thought quickly as being fantasy. If we introduce another way of study, it is not necessarily anti-scriptural. The Wednesday evening format has more latitude than the formal worship of the Lord’s Day. We believe it is scriptural for the word of God to be proclaimed by the pastor on Sunday. The pulpit is the place of authority to hear as God speaks through the written word. It is not a place of dialogue and debate, as we may discuss the word on Wednesdays.
This little introduction is not my main point today. Rather, in preparation for our Wednesday night study in Romans, I read from Robert Haldane who made the point there are polarizing interpretations of Romans, especially in the areas of justification and the sovereignty of God in salvation. There are only two ways a person can be justified. He is either justified by faith in Christ alone, or he is justified by obedience to the law. The first is biblical—the second is impossible. Every person holds one opinion or the other, and regardless of the impossibility of the second opinion, it is the most common.
Paul argues the depravity of man in the first part of Romans. He recognizes the objections, especially of Jews who refused to be put on equal footing with Gentiles in their favoritism with God. Both are depraved and all have come short of the glory of God. Haldane reasoned that if man is depraved, we can expect depraved interpretations of the Bible. This conclusion is inevitable. Therefore, the theological wrangling is set to dispute between the two ways of justification. Even a faith/works combo is only a variation of the second method.
Human depravity was a hot button item for Paul. I’ve already mentioned the Jewish objections. Though plenty deny total depravity, the evidence of it is abundant everywhere. The comment by Haldane and the proof offered by Paul in Romans 1 caused me to think about the daily bombardment of profanity heard in common conversation.
Many people look at the use of language as a development of culture. The culture determines whether the language is good or bad. It is as if there is no objective standard that determines it. With our modern insistence on individualism and self-expression, we determine whether our language is right or wrong. The Bible disputes this. Culture is not a fluid determiner of right and wrong. The standard of righteousness is always one and the same. The Bible tell us the standard of speech in Colossians 4. There is grace speech that is defined by biblical morality.
Jesus said our heart governs the way we speak. Bad speech is an indication of a wicked heart. When you hear neighbors over the fence shouting profanities, or listen to young people in their normal conversations, or watch TV, or listen to popular music on radio—when you hear language laced with profanity, it is evidence of a depraved society. It is society losing its restraint and plunging into the outcome of Romans 1.
My simple point is this. Language is a barometer of our descent into final wickedness. There are certainly many other signs, but this one is noticeable without opening your eyes to see. There is no need to look for it. The sound of it reverberates throughout modern society. The filthy mouth is as Jesus said—the indication of a depraved heart. What hope is there for the world when Christians accept the world’s use of language? We are saved from their immoral speech, so that ours may be always seasoned with grace.
Pastor V. Mark Smith