Whenever you study anything in depth, you learn new language. Up and coming baseball fans eagerly learn new words/rules/phrases like RBI, line drive, pickle, strike zone, and home run. Cooks gladly learn the new words and phrases of the kitchen like bolognaise, bullion, whetstone, whisk, shank, shred, shuck, and score. Far from dampening one’s love for the game or kitchen, learning the new language increases it. New pursuits call for new language which results in growing appreciation.
The same is true for Christianity.
3 Languages to Learn
Christianity has its own language and those who are Christians need to learn it if they desire to enjoy the depths of God’s riches in Jesus Christ and become better at communicating those riches to others around them. However, for the Christian, there is not one language we need to learn, but three.
1) We Need to Learn Plain Language
This is the common language of the community in which God has placed you. Plain language is what is spoken at sports games, grocery stores, and malls. It isn’t high and lofty or precise and technical; it is mundane, common, regular, normal, everyday kind of speech. It is the kind of language your neighbors will naturally use when talking about the family, the weather, or work. Christians need to be able to speak plain language with those around them so they are able to communicate the amazing truths of God’s Word in understandable ways to those who don’t know Christ or are new-believers. Without distorting or diluting God’s Word, it is important for Christians to know how to speak it plainly so it can be easily understood.
2) We Need to Learn Biblical Language
Biblical language is the language that is found in the Bible. It includes words like sin, holiness, justification, propitiation, sanctification, majesty, glory, etc. Often times Biblical language is condescendingly referred to as Christianese and many are told not to use it. However, although that’s true when we are speaking to people with little to no familiarity with the Bible or the gospel, it is not totally true. Christians need to know Biblical language and use it.There are several reasons Christians should know Biblical language.
First, the we need to know Biblical language because biblical words perfectly capture biblical meaning. Biblical language communicates Biblical meaning in a way that other words simply cannot. Any time we try to translate Biblical language by using other words, we often lose important meaning. For example, when people choose to say that we are forgiven instead of justified, the concept of being declared without sin and righteous by God is lost. Forgiveness is good, but justification is better. Forgiveness says, “You are forgiven of your sin.” Justification says, “I declare that you are without sin and that you are perfectly righteous; you are not just forgiven, but you are approved of.” Replacing rich Biblical words for weaker counterparts can rob us of rich graces.
Second, knowing Biblical language will help us read the Bible better since it speaks in Biblical language. If we know the language we will understand its message better. If we don’t know Biblical language, we will end up either missing the point of Scripture or inserting our own meaning where it doesn’t belong.
Third, Biblical language is the language of our faith. Christians need to learn and understand Christianese because it is the language they’ve received from their Savior. It’s the tongue of their King and country; the language of their faith. Spaniards learn Spanish, Germans learn German, and Christians speak Christianese. A Christian ignorant of Biblical language should be as weird to us as a Frenchman who doesn’t know French.
Far from shying away from learning and using Biblical language, Christians should make it a priority to study, memorize, meditate on, and use it for the betterment of their souls and the accuracy of their teaching.
3) We Need to Learn Theological Language
The last language Christians should strive to learn is theological language. This is language the church has created to speak accurately and articulately about the truths taught in the Bible even though the words themselves are not in the Bible. Examples of theological language are words such as Trinity, Incarnation, Omniscience, Omnipotence, and more. Again, these words are not actually in the Bible, but they have been created by the church in order to helpfully and accurately explain truths that are taught clearly in the Bible. By knowing theological language, Christians can accurately think about the truths of God’s word in a concise, precise, and clear manner. Also, theological language is important to learn in order to read and better understand theological books that can help us grow our knowledge of Christ and His blessings. God has given us precious truth in the Scriptures that we must be study with seriousness and handle with care. Theological language has enabled the church to preserve the uniqueness and fullness of God’s Word throughout the ages. It would do us well to know it.
How About You?
Do you know how to speak about God’s Word in plain language of those around you? Are you familiar with Biblical language? Do you know what the Bible means when it uses words like propitiation (1 John 2:2; 4:10; Romans 3:25), justification (Romans 3:21-23; 5:1; Galatians 2:16), wrath (John 3:36; Romans 1:18; 1 Thessalonians 1:10), or even love (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10)? Do you know theological language? Do you understand what the Trinity is or what omniscience, incarnation, or hypostatic union mean? If not, don’t feel guilty, feel invited. There is a whole new world of learning waiting for you that is rich and delightful.
Let the baseball fans learn the language of baseball. Let the cooks learn kitchen speak. Let the Christians learn the language of the community, the Bible, and the Church. All for the good of our souls, the benefit of others, and the glory of God.