The apostle Peter wrote two of the 27 books which comprise the New Testament. These epistles are known as First and Second Peter. They are full of tremendous teaching about Christian living, and how to be pleasing to Almighty God. If anyone was in a position to invent a “religious vocabulary” or the “church speak” in common use these days, it would have been Peter, one of the first apostles of Christ, and among the best known of the early church leaders. Yet notice what Peter said on the matter of such terminology: If any man speaketh, speaking as it were oracles of God; if any man ministereth, ministering as of the strength which God supplies: that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, whose is the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen, (1 Pet. 4:11).
An “oracle” is a spokesman or medium through who God speaks. This passage teaches that when we as Christians speak about spiritual matters, we should do so as the very mouthpieces of God himself. We should allow God’s choice of words to direct our expression of these important matters. We should use the language and wording of the Bible to articulate spiritual lessons and themes. In short, we should “call Bible things by Bible names.” Consider some examples of how this directive applies in the way we speak today:
Speak clearly of the brotherhood. It is estimated that around the world today there are some 2 to 3 million members of the church of Christ. Each of these is a child of God, (Gal. 3:26), and all of us are brethren, that is, brothers and sisters in Christ, (Mt. 23:8). Peter calls this family the brotherhood, and commands all members to love the brotherhood, (1 Pet. 2:17). Those of us who have been members for 30 years or so can remember when this terminology was commonly used to describe the church. But in some areas, and among some preachers, it has fallen into disuse due to a misguided desire to avoid offending others who might feel excluded. Brethren, we should not be ashamed or hesitate to use this term the way God uses it. I don’t read in the Bible about “our fellowship” or “their fellowship” or “our tradition” or “our faith tradition” or “community of faith,” terms which have been popularized in recent years. We should call Bible things by Bible names.
Refer correctly to priests and saints. When Peter spoke of “a holy priesthood,” he included in that term each and every member of the church, (1 Pet. 2:5, 9); and nearly every one of Paul’s epistles to early Christians addresses them as “saints,” (cf. Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2, etc.). Priests are not some separate “clergy” (another unbiblical term), and saints are not some class of especially virtuous dead. If we consistently “speak as the oracles of God” we soon begin to feel comfortable in referring to every Christian as a priest, and to Jesus Christ as our high priest, (Heb. 4:14). It makes the reading of the Bible more natural and understandable, since that is precisely the way the Scriptures speak. By using such terms correctly in our speech, we more readily grasp the concept that every Christian is a saint, sanctified by God, (2 Thess. 2:13).
Talk accurately about the Lord’s church. Jesus declared that “upon this rock I will build my church,” (Mt. 16:18). It is the Lords church. Where in all of the Bible do we read of “Saint Peter’s Church” or “Saint Andrew’s Church?” Which verse speaks of the Wesleyan, Lutheran, or the Episcopal? Further, where is the meeting place ever referred to as the church? Can we not see how the continued misuse of these terms perpetuates false ideas and erroneous thinking? Is it any wonder that in the face of such widespread corrupted speech, we find it difficult to even maintain a constructive conversation with our religious friends? Wow God’s word sounds like clarion message about one Lord, one faith, one body (church), many people are still hesitating and stumbling over the meaning of the word. We need clarity and consistency. We need to be “speaking as the oracles of God.”
Comment biblically about Christians. The term “Christian” is used thrice in the Bible, and each time it refers to a baptized believer in and follower of Jesus Christ, (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Pet. 4:16). “Christian” is a term reserved for actual followers of Christ, those who have obeyed the gospel. A Christian is more than someone who believes in God, or who thinks they will be going to heaven someday. A Christian is not merely a “religious” or “good moral person” or someone who holds membership in one of the countless denominations. Christians practice their faith, they take it seriously, they share it with others. And Christians take seriously their Lord’s command to “speak as the oracles of God.”
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.