What does Ephesians 4:29 mean?
ESV: Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
NIV: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
NASB: Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but if there is any good word for edification according to the need of the moment, say that, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
CSB: No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.
NLT: Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
KJV: 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.
Verse Commentary:
Paul transitions from a contrast between stealing and hard work (Ephesians 4:28) to contrasting corrupting speech with encouraging speech. In both cases, his intent is to explain how Christians need to make a conscious effort to live differently than in our pre-salvation days. Just as stealing is associated with unbelievers, so also corrupting talk is associated with those who do not know Christ.

Interestingly, Paul specifically indicates that we do indeed have control over what we say: "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths." This contradicts the common excuse of "I couldn't help saying it." According to the Bible, we are accountable for the words we use (Matthew 12:36). Only a tiny proportion of people suffer from medical conditions which interfere with control of vocabulary. And, even such people can be expected to use whatever control they have, as much as they can. Christians do have control of our words, which are a powerful influence in how the world perceives us.

Instead of using "corrupting" or negative talk, Paul provides two guidelines for how to speak. First, we are to speak in beneficial ways about meaningful things. Second, we are to speak in ways appropriate to the situation we are in. What might be completely acceptable in one circumstance might be rude or unkind in another. The goal is to show grace to those who are listening to our words. We are not supposed to prioritize our own feelings, but make it our intent to help others through our words.
Verse Context:
Ephesians 4:17–32 is a valuable, highly practical explanation of how to live out a Christian life. Paul notes the difference between a life wallowing under the power of sin, as opposed to a life thriving in the power of Christ. Christians are called on to ''put away'' the things which entangle unbelievers. This includes sins such as malice, slander, commotion, and bitterness. Instead, we should demonstrate a Christ-like attitude of love and forgiveness.
Chapter Summary:
Truly understanding saving grace, as Paul explained in prior chapters, is the Christian's first motivation for living a godly life. Here, Paul encourages believers to live in way which honors that gift. All saved Christians are part of a single, unified family, part of the ''body'' of Christ. At the same time, different believers are given different talents. Some are called to positions of leadership and authority. All Christians should turn away from the ''old self'' we were prior to being saved. Paul's explanation of the ''new self'' includes some basic, practical steps.
Chapter Context:
The first half of Ephesians focuses mostly on doctrine, setting up ideas related to the Christian faith. The last half, beginning in chapter 4, puts those theories into practice. Paul begins by emphasizing the ultimate unity of all Christians, regardless of individual spiritual gifts. Paul also begins to explain how knowledge of the truths should translate into action. Chapters 4, 5, and 6 feature specific, real-world applications of Christianity to daily life.
Book Summary:
Ephesians follows a theme common in Paul's writings: connecting theory with practice. In this book, however, he goes into greater depth before making the transition. As a letter meant to be read by more than just the believers at Ephesus, this is an important look at how Christian belief should translate into Christian action. The first three chapters lay out spiritual ideas, the last three chapters show how these truths should be applied in the life of a mature believer. Paul focuses heavily on love, the unity of the Christian church, and the incredible value of our salvation through Christ.
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