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A Rose by any Other Name


“And how is it that we hear each of us in our own native language?” Acts 2:8 ESV



Language is by far one of the most fascinating aspects of humanity. Sociologists tell us that if you understand the language of a particular people group you will know their culture. Within each society and ethnicity there is a constant ongoing development both in the words and phrases that are used to express meaning. Etymology is the study of the origin of words but even that doesn’t tell the whole story. Workplaces and organizations tend to develop their own phraseology which is exclusive to their perspective sphere. For example, the military has its own language altogether. In the mind of a soldier, nine in the morning is o-nine hundred whereas nine in the evening is twenty-one hundred hours. In these instances, language serves as a cohesive element in culture.

Likewise, the church has a language all its own which bonds us, and yet, is foreign to the outsider. Words like redemption, reconciliation, and imputed righteousness are used as if everyone in earshot can easily digest them. We are often unaware of how confusing we can be to the visitor who crosses our threshold and sits in our pews. Furthermore, it is easy to fall into the trap of following blindly what is embraced by so many in the room. Group numbing occurs when the newcomer is too intimidated to simply raise his hand and ask, “What does that mean?”

Now, I am not suggesting that we dumb our language down. If the words and phrases we have adopted are of scripture, then those who are being introduced to the word of God should learn their meaning. But when exactly does that happen?

In the book of Acts there was a church in Antioch that quickly became the hub in the early advance of the gospel. The reason this happened was clear, they chose to speak to the Gentiles concerning Jesus. Where the church at Jerusalem had hesitated, these believers marched forward into the pagan world with the truth of the cross. Within that church an environment was created wherein men and women were slowly and carefully taught the gospel. “For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch, the disciples were first called Christians.” Acts 11:26 ESV

Apparently, the atmosphere within that fellowship cause the newcomers to be able to ask questions. The leaders at Antioch, which included Paul and Barnabas, took their time to make sure no believer was left behind. They did not ramrod teaching with the assumption that the nodding head before them got what they taught. And when questions were asked no one was made to feel simple or inadequate.

A good test among us is whether the least among us is growing in biblical knowledge and faith. So, let’s slow down long enough to encourage questions and give thoughtful answers. And then, we can all rejoice in vicarious atonement or perhaps we should just say that Jesus died in our place to bring us back to God.



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