Written for the Nine Marks Website in 2007
DIALOGUE IN THE BIBLE
The Bible uses dialegomai to describe the proclamation of the first evangelists. This suggests that there was an opportunity for feedback to the proclamation. However, this understanding of dialegomai in the Bible is different to the understanding in classical Greek where dialogue was an exercise of sharing ideas so that one would arrive at the truth. The communication of the gospel in the New Testament included proclaiming as a herald (kērussō) or announcing good tidings (euaggelizō) with a view to persuading (peithō) people so that they change their mind about the truth and accept Christ as their only Lord. The early evangelists knew that they were bearers of the truth that the Creator of the world had revealed once-for-all to his creation and wanted to communicate it to their hearers.
It seems that a lot of Jesus’ teaching was dialogical. Some of his most important truths were communicated through situations which warranted a comment from Christ. In the same way still today much of Christian teaching must take place in the informal setting of leaders discipling other Christians and in conversation among believers about the things of God. Actually all Christian proclamation is dialogical even if a verbal response is not elicited. We engage the mind of the hearer in such a way that they are provoked to respond in some way—even though the response may not be in spoken words.
However, it was said that Jesus spoke with authority. He had a definite message from God to give to the people. We too bear this authority when we proclaim the Word. This authority is not intrinsic to us as it was to Jesus. It is derived through the Word of God, which gives us the content of the proclamation; the anointing of God, which gives us the license to be proclaimers; and the empowering of the Holy Spirit, which directs us in the use of God’s unchanging truth and makes us conduits of his convicting power. Of course, the fact that it is derived and that our ministry is all of grace takes away arrogance and gives this proclamation a winsomeness which helps draw people to Christ and his truth.
We must always reckon with the fact that we have been given a message from God to proclaim. Whatever method we use, we must do it in such a way that the authority of the God who spoke a definite word to humanity is borne in the words we speak.