Guidelines for Language

This is the ninth article in a twelve-part series that develops a theology of language by examining what the Bible says about this topic.

God has given us guidelines about how to use language.  Hebrews 13:15 commands us to “…continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”  God desires for us to use speech to offer praise to him.  I believe that speech is a gift from God, and I can give my speech back to him by offering him my praise.  Ephesians 4:24 commands us to speak the truth to each other.  Because God is a God of truth, he hates lies.  Lies are the work of Satan, who is “…the father of lies” (John 8:45).  A life that is devoted to God will have no part in the dishonesty and deception that characterizes the work of Satan.  The overarching guideline for a Christian’s use of language is found in Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, in word or deed,  do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God…”  A Christian’s use of language should be devoted to the glory of God and have no resemblance to the work of Satan (all Scripture quotations taken from the ESV).

God’s Words Will Not Pass Away

This is the eighth article in a twelve-part series that develops a theology of language by examining what the Bible says about this topic.

God’s language (words) will not pass away.  1 Peter 1:24 talks about the fact that grass and flowers do not last very long.  The beginning of 1 Peter 1:25 compares grass and flowers with the word of the Lord by saying: “but the word of the Lord remains forever” (ESV).  The things of this world will not last forever, but God’s Word will.  I want to invest my life in something eternally significant.  A life that is transformed by God’s Word yields results that will last for eternity.

God’s Language is Truth

This is the seventh article in a twelve-part series that develops a theology of language by examining what the Bible says about this topic.

God’s language is truth and is true.  In John 17:17 Jesus, in a prayer to the Father, said, “…your word is truth” (ESV).  The fact that God’s Word is truth causes me to want to immerse myself in it and allow its truth to speak to me.  I want to come to more fully appreciate the truth of God’s Word because an increased appreciation of his Word would also increase my desire to share it with the world.  Psalm 119:142 states that God’s law is true.  Since God’s law is true, do we have any reason to not believe it and accept it as the ultimate standard for our lives?  I want my life to be shaped by the truth of God’s Word.

God Uses Language

This is the sixth article in a twelve-part series that develops a theology of language by examining what the Bible says about this topic.

God uses language to reveal himself.  The fact that we have the Bible is ample proof of this point.  Despite the limitations of human language, which we noted above, God has chosen to inspire men to write the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21).  The fact that God was willing to lower himself to our limited linguistic level in order to communicate to us about himself is proof of the love that he has for mankind.  To personalize it, God loved me enough to be willing to use my language to communicate that love.  As I begin to realize the power of God’s desire to communicate with me, my only choice is to make him Lord of my life.

Language is Meaningful

This is the fifth article in a twelve-part series that develops a theology of language by examining what the Bible says about this topic.

Language is meaningful.  There are numerous examples in Scripture about how people responded to hearing their mother tongue (the language they grew up speaking).  Acts 2 records the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  As the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit, they became able to speak in the languages of the people who had come to Jerusalem from all across the known world.  In verse 8 the people stated how amazed they were that they were all able to hear the apostles speaking in their own language.  That event preceded Peter’s sermon, which resulted in three thousand people being saved that day (v. 41).  In Acts 21 there was rioting in the temple which resulted in Paul’s arrest.  Paul was able to silence the rioters by speaking to them in Hebrew (21:40; 22:2).  The most powerful way to communicate with someone is in the language they know best.  These are two examples which confirm to me the importance of reaching people through their heart language.  These stories demonstrate the importance of translating the Bible into all the languages of the world.  No matter how many languages you learn, none will be as meaningful to you as your native language.

Language is Divisive

This is the fourth article in a twelve-part series that develops a theology of language by examining what the Bible says about this topic.

Language distinguishes and divides people.  In Matthew 26:73 Peter was recognized as being a Galilean because his accent gave him away.   Judges 12:4-6 records a pronunciation test that the Gileadites used to distinguish between their people and the Ephraimites.  In Peter’s case, his accent caused him to be despised because it revealed that he was from Galilee, a region which was not held in very high regard.  The Ephraimites who were caught by the pronunciation test were killed because their accent revealed who they were.  I believe that language-related divisions are a result of the man’s fall, as was discussed in the second article in this series.  As was noted, all the people of the world at one time spoke the same language.  I do not know if different dialects existed before Babel, but I am inclined to think that all language-related tensions are a result of Babel.  Because mankind pursued evil when they shared a common language, so they now experience the effects of the Fall in the strife and contention that results from language differences.

Language is Finite

This is the third article in a twelve-part series that develops a theology of language by examining what the Bible says about this topic.

Language is finite.  Paul experienced the limitations of human language.  In Romans 8:26 he wrote, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (ESV).  Paul is saying that language is not always able to express what he believes he should pray.  However, the Spirit of God is able to supersede our human language abilities and communicate to God what we are not able to express.  Another example of the finiteness of human language is 2 Corinthians 9:15, where Paul says, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (ESV).  That gift is Jesus Christ, and human language cannot express the measure of the gift that Jesus is to mankind.  I have personally experienced the limitations of human language in that I am not always able to express what I want to communicate.  My language abilities are necessarily limited, but the Holy Spirit can empower me to communicate beyond my natural abilities.