In recent years, attempts have been made to change the language we use in church. In an honest effort to make the language of the Bible more clear for those outside the faith, many have shied away from using these sometimes foreign words with the general public.
While I greatly appreciate a genuine desire to make Christian language simple and understandable, I fear we may be dumbing down some very important truth. In the end, changes hinder, instead of helping, the power of the truth.
I do not think it unimportant to use the language of the Bible when communicating the truth of salvation. Words like redemption, justification, atonement, and sanctification are English translations of powerful terms used in preaching, Christian worship, hymnody, and even newer choruses. To eliminate the use of these words in the name of simplicity strips rich and full language that communicates deep biblical truths.
The crime is not the use of such terms, but the use of the terms with the expectation that all people understand them. These rich terms need to be used and explained in simple language that does not empty them of their truth.
For example, great theological error can occur when we ignore the use of a word like sanctification. While this word sounds foreign to those outside the faith, sanctification should become a cherished word and theological truth to all in the church.
Sanctification describes an act by the Risen Christ that sets believers apart and declares us holy before our God. Sanctification also describes a process by which what we are declared becomes a daily reality as we become more and more like Him—holy through and through. Sanctification describes the day-by-day setting apart of our hearts, by the Holy Spirit, toward the holy person God has re-created us to be.
How poor we in the church would be if we lost this powerful word—sanctification. The language of Zion is not antiquated or unimportant. The church must constantly teach and re-teach the people of God. Those who come into our midst need to hear the truths inculcated in the depths of these great theological words, and so do individuals who have embraced the Risen Christ.
So we shouldn’t stop singing “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!” These words may sound strange to outsiders, but I assure you the Holy Spirit will use them to evoke questions, because those words are truth. We can still preach about the atonement of Christ and justification by faith. No, I suggest we must!