Larry Fain
Larry H. Fain

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Associate Editorial

God Understands Language


"For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words." (1 Corinthians 2:10-13, NASB)

From this passage we learn that God has revealed Himself through the work of the Holy Spirit to the chosen apostles of Christ. The apostles are said to teach in words, “...not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit.” It is only reasonable to assume that the revelation of the mind of God in words are words that man can understand, and understand these words in the same way that God understands them. The issue of understandable language gets to the very heart of the issue of faith. Do we believe the Bible? Is it God’s word? Is the Bible God’s complete and final revelation of God to man? Does Hebrews 1:1-2 mean what it says about God’s speaking to man in these last times? "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world" (NASB). When you break down this statement without all the modifiers it says that God has spoken, that God has spoken to man, and that God has spoken to man through His Son. What do we believe?

"For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles-- if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace which was given to me for you; that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. And by referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (Ephesians 3:1-6, NASB) The primary focus of this reference is that Paul said that when we read we can understand. What do we understand when we read? Paul said it was the revelation made known to the holy apostles and prophets of the Lord. Is there confusion in this revelation? Is it possible to understand the words? Does God speak to us in His Son in words which are not understandable?

I want to look at some words and just see if God understands language and see if we can’t understand also the language of the words God has revealed.

Tabernacle. There is nothing inherently religious about a tabernacle. It is a tent. One could speak of the great tabernacle God commanded Moses to build according to the pattern revealed to him on God’s mountain, or of a tent that teenage boys might pitch in their back yard under which to sleep after an adventurous night in the neighborhood among their friends. A tabernacle is merely a tent. God utilized the word to describe the portable structure the children of Israel were to use as a place of worship as they wandered.

Church. Again, there is nothing inherently religious about the word church. As it is translated from the Greek ekklesia, it is nothing more or nothing less than an assembly of people called out of where they were into that assembly for a particular purpose. The Greek word was a common word to describe an assembly or meeting of people. Jesus used the word to describe His people. “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18, NASB). That over which the gates of Hades would have no power was not the ekklesia which was dismissed in Acts 19:41. That ekklesia was a riotous mob in the city of Ephesus protesting the preaching against idolatry which Paul and his company were doing.

In order to make the proper application of the use of the word church, or any other word for that matter, there are certain rules of language to which we must adhere. One of the primary rules is to view the word in context. A serious word study of the word church will bear out that when the word is used to describe God’s people, it is used in either a local sense, as in a congregation (1 Corinthians 1:2), or in the universal sense to describe all the saved (Acts 2:47). The church of God at Corinth to which Paul addressed himself was an identifiable known entity. It was a finite group at any given time. When the incestuous fornicator was ordered to be marked in chapter 5, Paul spoke of his readers as being “assembled together.” The specific audience of this writing was the local church at Corinth. It was this finite identifiable church which had to deal with the sinner.

God understands language, and we have an obligation to do the same. The worn out claim that “the church is the people and the people are the church” that many use today to cloud the work of the local church is in direct violation of the uniqueness of the membership of a local church. When you have a group of Christians who all meet under a tree some place when they are all on vacation, you do not have a church. There is an assembly, but it is not a local church and it certainly is not the universal church. It is nothing more than a group of Christians.

Baptize. Here is a word that is used in the Bible that is real easy to define. The word means to bury or immerse. When I would visit friends who lived in the country, by that I mean outside the city, one of the common chores was to take the perishable garbage away from the house and bury it in the ground. By definition, it could be said that we were baptizing that garbage. The illustration is clear. If we were to sprinkle or pour a little dirt on the garbage, it would not be a burial and it would only take a few days before our noses would fully comprehend that there had been no burial of the garbage.

The religious use of the word baptize and its various forms has reference to the burial in water of a sinner in order to have his sins washed away. Neither the sprinkling nor pouring of a littler water could be called a baptism just as in the garbage illustration. Baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38) is the act of burial in water (Acts 10:47-48; Acts 8:38) of the sinner to be raised from that water, just as Christ was raised from the dead, to live a new life (Romans 6:3-4). Baptism is not inherently a religious act, thus the reference by Peter in 1 Peter 3:21 to the putting away of the filth of the flesh. One could be buried in water to wash away dirt. One could be buried in water in some sort of water sport. But in order for ones sins to be washed away, baptism must be an act of faith by the authority of Christ, in water, for the remission of sins, an act of obedience in submission to the will of God (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 22:16).

Day. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day" (Genesis 1:1-5, NKJV). Why do we now have a problem in the church understanding what a day is? What an evening and a morning comprise? Is this word so hard to understand? “You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days” (Joshua 6:3, NKJV). How long did the children of Israel march around the city? The command was to do it once for six days. For the seventh day there was a different command. For the six days, the command was the same: “march around the city ... once.” Does anyone have a problem with how long the people marched? No. There is no problem as this record does not infringe on the faith or claim of any group of people, be they scientists, religious leaders or academic leaders. Why do we now in the church have such a controversy over Exodus 20:11? "For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it" (NKJV).

God understands language. If He wanted us to believe that the “days” of Genesis 1 were eras, God understands enough about language to tell us that the evening and the morning were the first million years. Give God enough credit to give us the words by which when we read we can understand (1 Corinthians 2; Ephesians 3; see above).

If sprinkling were sufficient, He would never have said to baptize. If any group of Christians, with or without any organization or definition could do the work the Lord specified for the local church to do, He could have told us in language clear enough to understand. If He intended to allow us to play an instrument of music as we sang praises in worship, God is sufficiently skillful in language to have included some reference in the New Testament to the playing of a musical instrument. He included no such reference, thus we are not at liberty to assume He approves of the playing of an instrument in worship (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Colossians 3:17; Ephesians 2:10).

The plea is for simple adherence to just what the Bible says. We do not have to change the words, the meanings nor the applications. Provide book chapter and verse authority for all we do, and with that, God will be pleased (Matthew 28:20).

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