This department is provided for the free and courteous discussion of biblical and spiritual problems which may be considered edifying to the people of God. Letters concerning such matters are requested.
Dear Brother G.:
Would the brethren associated with Food for the Flock care to express their views about the tendency in some places of addressing God in the third person; as for example, “Thank you Lord,” or “We ask You Father”?
P. P. L.
Dear P. P. L.:
It would be difficult to get the views of all the several brethren associated with this magazine. Each, of course, is as free to use the Forum as is the Editor, and it is hoped that some of them might do so. It is also hoped that other brethren will give some guidance in this and any other matter discussed in this department. The views presented this month are those of the Editor. Other contributions to the discussion should be forwarded promptly.
A spirit of reverence always must be evident when we approach God, and that in both our comportment and language. It is well to recall the words of the wisest man, Solomon, “Keep thy feet when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in Heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few” (Ecc. 5:1-2). This admonition suggests control of both our ears and our mouths.
We rejoice in the intimate relationship that the redeemed bear to God, and that by the Spirit of Adoption they cry, Abba Father. Notwithstanding, to enter the presence of the Lord requires a reverent attitude and a reverent language. Our Lord Jesus said, “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which sent Him” (John 5:23).
It is quite disconcerting that, in the manner in which the second and the third persons are used in direct address to God, modern translators, according to this divine statement, dishonour both the Son and the Father. This is true in both the recent American and English versions.
In addressing God as God they still retain the second person, and address Him as Thou, Thee, and Thine; but in addressing the Lord Jesus they use the third person, and employ the pronouns you and yours. They thus wrongfully distinguish between the Father and the Son, implying that the latter is inferior to the former. The Word of God always assumes the absolute equality of each person in the Godhead.
Although there are many attractive and helpful changes in these recent works, this purposeful irreverence comes as a great surprise to genuine Christians. It appears that a technicality in translation work is being used to deprive, in the mind of the reader, the Lord Jesus of His essential Deity. This fact in itself ought to make any devout Christian very cautious lest he employ any construction in grammar that would be disrespectful, and any form of address that might link him with the impious intentions of modernistic scholarship.
The excuse given by some for the use of the third person in addressing God is, the use of the second person is too archaic, therefore, a more modern use of language is necessary to keep pace with our times. The fact that the most modern of scholarship in works so recent employ it in translating direct address to God, is a refutation of such an excuse. The proper use of the different persons in grammar is only the employment with precision of the fine points of modern English.
In writing to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul asserts, “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:13). This closing clause has been variously translated. One translation which is in direct accord with the entire verse reads, “Fitting spiritual truths with spiritual language.” The inference is obvious, divine verities merit special handling. Language that is rough and crude is unsuitable for the expressing of holy things. It must also be that any language that is too familiar, a language that man would use in addressing his fellows, is unbecoming before the Lord. We must learn to use, not the words that modern men in their wisdom would suggest, but rather a language reverent and dignified that the Holy Spirit would find adequate for His purpose.
While it is unkind to make a man an offender for a word, one has to admit that when he has listened to God being addressed in the third person, it has sounded too common-place, and even disrespectful, to be appreciated. Furthermore, he does not believe that this resentment is the outcome of tradition. Definitely it is inconsistent with the majesty, infinite holiness, and righteous character of God, to use the same language in addressing Deity that would be used in addressing ones own equal.
“Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Tim. 1:17).
Sincerely in Christ,