This is the second article in a twelve-part series that develops a theology of language by examining what the Bible says about this topic.
Language is fallen. At the time of Genesis 11:1, the entire world shared one common language. That language enabled people to work together to build the Tower of Babel, which was an attempt to make a name for themselves. Genesis 11:6 records God as saying, “…Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them” (ESV). Because of his displeasure, God confused their language so that their attempt to glorify themselves would fail. The builders of the tower were motivated by pride. Their pride was a result of mankind’s first sin, which is recorded in Genesis 3. That sin caused mankind to fall away from God, and human language has been affected by that sin. God attributed the acts of the tower builders to the fact that they had one common language. The diversity of languages in the world can serve to remind us of one of the effects of sin. Another example of the fallen nature of human language can be found in James 3:6-8. In those verses James says that “…the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness…no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (ESV). These verses are an example of the negative power of language and assert that there is much destructive power in evil speech.
Later in this series we will note several of God’s guidelines for language to help us evaluate if our language is pleasing to God.
This is the first article in a twelve-part series that develops a theology of language by examining what the Bible says about this topic. The Bible has much to say about how language has been used, should be used, and will be used. The Bible records the diversification of languages, the current state of human language, and the future unification of diverse languages for a common cause. In this series we will look at 11 characteristics of language that the Bible reveals to us.
Language is powerful. God used language to create the world. The phrase “God said” occurs ten times in Genesis 1. Jesus has power in language, as we see in this statement: “…he (Jesus) upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3 ESV). Language can also be used for deceptive purposes. In Genesis 3:1-5 Satan used carefully-chosen words to deceive Adam and Eve. Another example of the power of language is found in Revelation 12:11, which says that the saints will defeat Satan “…by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony…” The power of the testimony of believers is one of the factors (obviously in addition to the blood of Jesus) that will lead to Satan’s downfall. When I think about the power of language, I am prompted to evaluate how I use language. God uses language for good and Satan uses language for evil. I can use language for either of those two purposes. An awareness of the power of language should cause us to harness our language abilities for good, rather than evil, purposes.
In the remainder of this series we will see several more examples of the power of language, as well as some instructions regarding how we are to use language.