but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ,
Paul tells us we are to speak the truth in love, and this will lead to growth.
If you look at the original language, you will see that the word for “speaking” is not there. Instead, Paul takes the word “truth” and makes it into a verb. So literally, the verse reads, “But truthing in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him . . .”
Now, certainly the leaders are to speak the truth in love; we are to teach, to exhort, to preach the Word faithfully and fully. Speaking the truth is one important part of the method of equipping the saints. And how true this is today when so many supposed ministers of the gospel have abandoned true biblical teaching, and instead fill Sunday mornings with moral stories which are the modern equivalent of Aesop’s fables. Consistent, expository preaching of the word builds up the body of Christ, so that all who hear may learn these truths and put them into practice.
But I suggest that “truthing in love” means more than “speaking the truth in love.” Another way to translate the idea behind this phrase might be “displaying the truth in love.” The leaders are not only to speak the truth with their mouths, but also to live out the truth in their lives.
Paul himself is a wonderful example of this. Listen to him as he, knowing he is about to die, reminds young Timothy of the ways he has displayed the truth in love. Paul contrasts himself with the false teachers he has just described:
But you know all about my teaching — (you see, he did speak the truth, but note what else he says) — my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings. (2 Timothy 3:10)
Paul’s way of life, his patience, his endurance — all of these display the truth to Timothy and the wider world. Paul taught the word verbally and also lived out that word in all situations, thereby teaching the truth to Timothy and to everyone else he encountered.
So leaders equip the body for works of service primarily through teaching the word and by living out the truths of the word in their lives.