The Impact of Words at the Human Level

Dr. Willard says the following about words: “Seeing clearly the power of words at the merely human level may help us to understand the power of the creative word of God in His kingdom.”

What will words do for humans?

What impact do they have on our lives?

The most obvious function of words is that they convey meaning that is the basis of communication between humans.

The more two humans understand each other, the more words they have in common. Words are the basis of this shared thought.  Words are the basis of this understanding.  I know you have been in a situation where you have listened to two people communicating in a foreign language.  If you don’t know their language, you really don’t share their words.  When you do share words with another, a simple way to think of this is overlapping circles.  The words that are the basis of understanding can be pictured as the overlapping part of the two circles above.

But what other things do we do with words “at the merely human level”?

We name each other for one. Juliet in the play Romeo and Juliet states “What’s in a name?”  Turns out, quite a lot.  Names shape the way others people think of us and hence, the way we view ourselves.  In the Christian world, the name of Jesus takes on holy significance and the Son of God has several divine references: Emmanuel, Christ, Lord, Son of God, Son of Man, Son of David and Lamb of God.  All of these shape the identity of Jesus.  In a similar way, a human’s name shapes a human’s identity.  Communication researchers have found that unusual names cause a person to suffer everything from psychological and emotional disturbance to even failure in life.

Words can also denote affiliation with others or lack of affiliation. Using words that fit the viewpoint of a listener can help communication.  Using words that do not fit the viewpoint of the listener can harm communication.  In the Bible, Jesus used the parable to communicate to large numbers of people.  Parables are easy to relate to and easy to remember.  For people who have a hunger for God, they work well.  For people who have a hard heart against his Divine Word, they can be confusing.  For the believer, Jesus rarely used words that made communication difficult.  In the study of words, most of His words in the Bible brought people together [convergence] rather than separated people [divergence].

Words can also communicate power or lack of power. The root of much of the power that a person has exists in the words they use.  When you have confidence, you will use words that denote confidence.  When you lack confidence, your language reflects that.  People who study words suggest that we avoid hedges [I guess I would like to go], hesitations [I wish you would –er— be to work on time], tag questions [It is about time we started work, isn’t it?] and disclaimers [I am no expert but this is what I think].   All these wording patterns show uncertainty.

Jesus had to use words to communicate his ideas to man. Dr. Willard says that “in the incarnate Christ, the word of God is characterized by overwhelming power….Mere human thoughts, though effective within their appointed range, are as far below the power of God’s thoughts (and words) as the earth is below the heavens.”

Why do we need to study the word of God?

The response that seems obvious is, that is a way to know God. Without serious consideration of the word of God, this is impossible.  As followers of the Lord Jesus, however, we should be motivated to study the Bible in order to continue growing in the things we have learned. We need to deepen our understanding of the backgrounds and contexts of scriptural books in order to better understand and apply to our lives the truths they contain.

Yes, humans use words to communicate but God and Jesus His Son do too.

People use all kinds of excuses to avoid the study of God’s word [it’s boring and it’s too hard to understand].

Even though God’s word and the words of God’s son may be challenging, the payoff is great.

As we reconsider the two circles, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the circle on the left were God and the circle on the right is you.

And you have overlap.

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