In the midst of Paul’s speech about tongues and prophesy, I think there’s a little nugget that we can all take to heart from pastor all the way down to the person in the pew.
Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes?
Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?
So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air.
Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. (9-11)
Again, Paul is talking about why tongues without interpretation is useless within a worship service.
But have you ever been in a church where the pastor seems more interested in showing off his theological knowledge than communicating the truth of God to the people? Who throws around all these impressive sounding words that no one really understands? Who after he finishes speaking, people say, “Wow! That was really impressive…What was he trying to say?”
I’ve read books on theology that read much the same way. Now obviously, they’re meant to be much more scholarly and for a more tightly focused audience. But they turned me off because I had to struggle just to figure out what they were saying.
But we can do the same as we’re sharing the gospel with people. We throw around words like “redemption,” “saved by the blood,” “sanctification,” and “justification,” and never think that the other person might have no idea what we’re talking about. Even a word like “sin” can be misunderstood if not explained. For the Japanese, for example, “sin” means “crime.” So if you don’t explain it, many Japanese will say, “No, I’ve never sinned.”
And so we need to be very careful as we share the gospel with people. If we do not speak using intelligible words, no one will really know what we are saying, and we’ll essentially be speaking to the air. They’ll look at us as if we’re speaking a completely different language. And to them, we will be. (I tend to call it Christianese.)
Let us not do that. Instead, let us learn to speak intelligibly as we share the gospel. And for those of us who teach or write the Word, let it not make it our goal to impress people with our knowledge, but to make sure they can grasp what we are saying so that God can work in their hearts.
Let us be as Paul who said,
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdomas I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (I Corinthians 2:1-5)