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  • Writer's pictureMark Hallock

Gospel Understanding vs. Gospel Dialect

Dialect (def): a variety of a language that is distinguished from other varieties of the same language by features of phonology, grammar, and vocabulary, and by its use by a group of speakers who are set off from others geographically or socially.


"I don't think a lot of people in our church truly get the Gospel. I mean, I don't know many people in our congregation that talk rightly about the Gospel, that are fluent in the Gospel."

I've heard this type of statement far more often than I would like.

This type of statement is problematic for a host of reasons, but let's assume this person truly believes what they are saying and they mean well.

It seems like this sort of mindset is popping up more and more in certain tribes I encounter. Not so much from the leaders of these tribes, but some of their followers.

While, I'm sure there are other believers in this person's congregation that do not yet have as full and rich of an understanding of the Gospel they will one day have (they are being sanctified), it is quite a stretch to say that others don't really "get the Gospel."

What this individual is confusing is Gospel "understanding" with Gospel "dialect." They are assuming that because others don't use the same words and phrases, the same dialect as them, when talking about God and the Gospel, they wrongfully and unwisely jump to the conclusion that others don't really understand the Gospel.

The reality is that others in their church do understand the Gospel just as well, and I'm sure in many cases, better than they do. These other brothers and sisters simply have a different Gospel dialect.

Other believers know and love and speak of this very same Gospel, but in a different way, with different phrases and different words. This is the natural result of growing up in different theological streams, studying under different pastors and professors, reading different books, living in a different part of the world. Same Gospel understanding, different Gospel dialect.

Just because someone doesn't use the same Gospel dialect as us, doesn't mean they don't understand the Gospel and seek to apply Gospel truths to their hearts and lives with just as much fervor as we do.

For example, while a Christian brother or sister may not use the same Gospel dialect as, say, Tim Keller, Tim Chester, Scotty Smith, and Jeff Vanderstelt (I use these men as examples because they all share a very similar Gospel dialect), this doesn't mean they don't have just as mature of an understanding of the Gospel. While I love all of these men, and personally speak often in the very same Gospel dialect as them, their's is not the only way to "speak Gospel." If this were the case, all kinds of godly men and women, from Augustine to Calvin to Owen to Wesley to Spurgeon to Carmichael to Ryle to Piper to Roseveare would be in trouble, as they each speak a different Gospel dialect than the men mentioned above.

At the end of the day, may our understanding of the Gospel lead us to show greater love and grace to others, especially other brothers and sisters in Christ who have been saved by this very same Gospel, though they "speak it" in a different way than us. Instead of making unfair judgments on others' perceived lack of Gospel understanding, may we joyfully recognize that they simply speak a different Gospel dialect than we do. As with all language, different Gospel dialects are not a bad thing, on the contrary, they are a beautiful thing that can help us grow even wider and deeper in our understanding and application of the person and work of Christ on behalf of sinners like us. What a gift this is!


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