Purity of speech in religious discussion is not merely a theological consideration, as some might easily suppose, but is a necessity. Teachers of expression in all fields insist that clearness of expression depends upon clearness in thinking; and this dependence of clearness upon thought arises from the truth that words are merely symbols of ideas. This leads us to observe that similarity in thinking will tend toward similarity in speech. Hence, if we think as God thinks, we shall speak as He speaks.
The truth of true religion originated in the thinking of the Almighty, and was communicated to man in words divinely given (2 Pet. 1:21; 1 Cor. 2:13). Furthermore, it is our duty to refrain from adding to the divine word (Deut. 4:2; 1 Cor. 4:6; Rev. 22:18-19). If we respect the sanctity of God’s divine will, we will then express our religious sentiments in terms of the Holy Scriptures. To fail in this particular entails the danger of adding to the divine word of God.
This danger of altering the divine will asserts itself in many ways. First, since words in a living language are constantly subject to gradual change in meaning, there arises the danger of using a Bible word to express an idea that is not in accord with the teaching of the Lord. Then there is the danger of creating words to express ideas that have originated with ourselves. We should, therefore, always exercise care to make our speech expressive of the divine will. In studying the need for pure religious speech, let’s give careful attention to a few current religious expressions.
Everywhere we hear religious discussion, we hear mention made of “the church.” But this term is one with a distinct meaning in the Scriptures. In the New Testament, the term is used to designate that body of persons who belong to the Lord (Eph. 1:22-23). When we examine the matter more particularly, we observe that this body is composed of those who, on their faith in Jesus as the Son of God, have been baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:4). The church is, therefore, simply the body of persons baptized into Christ.
Unfortunately, though, the average individual does not bear in mind this exact meaning of the term, but employs the term as meaning a denomination. This is naturally very confusing. From careful observation over a number of years I have come to hold the conviction that this misunderstanding in regard to the nature of the church is one of the most prolific sources of confusion with which we have to deal. In the very nature of things, we shall never get back to the Bible order of things until we come to understand the significance of the Bible term church.
“Joining The Church”
This is an expression which does not occur in the Scriptures. It arises out of our having created a term to name an idea which is of our own making. The average person makes a distinction between what he thinks of as becoming a Christian and becoming a member of the church. He is confused in his speech because he is confused in his ideas. What he needs is a correction of ideas, and this can be accomplished only by the word of God.
His principal trouble relates to two things:
Conversion. In all probability, he is thinking of conversion as some sentimental change which approximates what the Bible student thinks of as repentance. But repentance is not conversion, for it is expressly named as distinct from it (Acts 3:19). When he is led to compare Acts 3:19 with Acts 2:38, he will find that conversion as named in Acts 3:19 corresponds exactly with baptism as named in Acts 2:38. Hence, he may be led to understand that in the speech of the New Testament, conversion is simply that change of relationship accomplished in baptism—a translation from Satan’s kingdom into Christ’s (Col. 1:13).
Addition To The Church. And he needs to be made to understand that the Lord adds one to the church—one does not add himself in any process called “joining” (Acts 2:47). And one becomes a member of Christ in baptism (Gal. 3:27). The pure speech of the divine word will, therefore, remove the confusion and enable the individual to understand that when he obeys the Lord in baptism he accomplishes his conversion and is added to the church by the Lord.
Names Worn By God’s Children
The average individual is inclined to express himself in the terms of those about him and speak of Christians as Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Adventists, and such like. He should be shown in kindness that such is not in accord with the speech of the Holy Spirit. In the Lord’s speech, the followers of Christ are called Christians, saints, disciples, brethren, and such like. If we are today what they were in the first century, these terms are sufficient to describe us.
God has revealed the things of true religion in order for us to be completely furnished unto every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). That revelation is made in the knowledge we have of His word (2 Pet. 1:3). Therefore, if we would be faithful to God, we should endeavour to know and respect His word.
In his labors to restore the pure religion of Judaism following the captivity, Nehemiah found the children of the Jews speaking half the language of Ashdod. It is easy for us today to slip into the faulty habit of speaking in the language of Ashdod. We need to purge all denominational jargon from our language and express our faith in terms of the Blessed Book. Let us call Bible things by Bible names.