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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Why Is the Bible So Special?

Don Stewart :: Is Human Language a Sufficient Means of Communication Between God and Humanity?

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Question 17

Is Human Language a Sufficient Means of Communication Between God and Humanity?

Is it possible for God to communicate to humanity in our own language? Is God too great to limit Himself to human words? Some have argued that an all-powerful God is too big to communicate with human beings. They assume that it is not even possible for this to happen.

The Bible, however, says that God has indeed communicated to us through the means of human language. God is not too great to limit Himself to human language. On the contrary, God is so great that He can communicate to human beings in human words. Human language, imperfect as it is, is sufficient for us to understand some things about God.

A number of important points need to be made. They are as follows:

  1. We Are like God in Some Ways: We Are Made in His Image

    First, the Bible says that we have been made in the image of God. In the Book of Genesis, we read about this:

    Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28 NKJV)

    Part of this image is the ability to give and receive communication. He has made us rational and intelligent beings. Humans have the ability to understand who God is—that is to the degree that He has revealed this to us.

  2. Human Language Is Flawed, but It Is Sufficient to Communicate

    God made human language to have a divinely ordained purpose—to communicate ideas, concepts and personal feelings. Human language accomplishes these purposes successfully. When Adam and Eve fell into sin, everything about their character became marred. This includes human language. Human language, like everything else that is part of a human being, is touched by sin. Despite this, God chose to use human language to reveal His divine truth. Although human beings are now in a sinful state, sin did not take away humanity’s ability to understand God. God continued to reveal Himself to humanity after sin had entered our world.

    After Adam sinned, we find that God called out to him. The Bible says:

    But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:9-11 ESV)

    Even after Adam sinned, he was still able to communicate with God. Human language is, therefore, a sufficient means for intelligent beings to communicate with one another. The fact that we humans do communicate with one another makes this truth obvious. To argue otherwise would be nonsense. Humans can communicate with other humans across cultural and language barriers. All humans use their reasoning powers in basically the same way no matter what their cultural background.

    In addition, all humans have common experiences and have the same basic needs. Human language, therefore, does accomplish the task for which it was originally created.

  3. God Used the Language That Was Already Available to Communicate with Humanity

    God reveals Himself to the extent that humans can receive it. From Scripture, we learn that God accommodated Himself to human language—He communicated to us in the words and concepts in which we can understand. In doing so, He used words that were already part of the spoken language at the time. As one studies the Bible, a person will discover the lack of new words and new definitions contained in Scripture. God used the words and definitions that people were familiar with to communicate His truth. While the truths were new, the words used to explain these truths were not new.

  4. God Audibly Spoke to Human Beings in a Language They Understood

    In addition, we find that God Himself has actually spoken in an audible voice to human beings by means of human language. Scripture is filled with examples of God actually speaking to people in the language which they normally spoke. We also find that the people, though sinful, clearly understood what God had said to them.

    For example, the risen Christ appeared to Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road. The Bible records it as follows:

    And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (Acts 9:4-6 ESV)

    Saul obviously understood the message that came from the Lord; there was no language problem.

  5. The Word of God Was Written in Human Language

    The words of Scripture are also God’s Words. Although human beings, in human language, wrote down the words of Scripture, these words are still considered to be the Word of God. The written Scriptures are God’s communication with humanity. The words that God spoke to people and are recorded in Scripture were spoken in understandable, human language. Although they originated with God, they were communicated so that humans could understand. The fact that God spoke human words does not limit the divine authority of the message.

  6. His Word Is Expected to Be Obeyed

    Moreover, God held the people responsible for obeying His communication. The words that the prophets spoke to the people were just as authoritative as if God had personally spoken them. Disobeying the prophets was the same as disobeying the Lord. The Lord said to Moses:

    I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. ‘It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him. “But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.”’ (Deuteronomy 18:18-20 NASB)

    The New Living Translation translates these verses as follows:

    I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites. I will tell that prophet what to say, and he will tell the people everything I command him. I will personally deal with anyone who will not listen to the messages the prophet proclaims on my behalf. But any prophet who claims to give a message from another god or who falsely claims to speak for me must die. (Deuteronomy 18:18-20 NLT)

    The fact that God expected obedience from His people shows that His words could easily be understood.

  7. God Became a Human Being to Personally Communicate with Us

    Finally, we have the fact of Jesus Christ—the eternal God became human. When God did become a human being, He spoke human words. The Bible says:

    And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. (John 1:14 KJV)

    The purpose was to show us what God is like. John also wrote:

    No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. (John 1:18 NRSV)

    God became human and personally spoke to humanity in human words so that we can know what He is like. This is another indication that human language has the ability to communicate God’s truth. Therefore, when all the evidence is in, we can conclude that human language is indeed a sufficient means of God communicating His truths to humanity.

Summary - Question 17
Is Human Language a Sufficient Means of Communication from God to Humanity?

God has established points of contact between Himself and the human race. Indeed, God created human language so that He could communicate unchanging truths about Himself. There is nothing inherently impossible, or unreasonable, about the living God communicating with His creation through human language. Since human beings of all nations are able to communicate with each other through language, it certainly is not impossible for God to do so. While language is not a perfect means of communication, it is a sufficient means.

The Bible itself shows that God gave His revelation of Himself in words and concepts that human beings can and do understand. When the risen Christ communicated to Saul of Tarsus from heaven, Saul understood and obeyed. The Bible expects humans to understand God’s communication. This shows that it is clear that human language is a sufficient means for God to communicate with humanity.

Finally, the Bible says that God became human in the Person of Jesus Christ to let us know what He is like and what He requires from us. When Christ came, He spoke in human words. This is another indication of the sufficiency of human language.

Is It Logical to Think That God Would Communicate to Humanity? ← Prior Section
To Whom Was the Bible Written? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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