I recently got back from a trip to Mexico with my family, visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Mexico City and their home in Atlacomulco. While there, they asked me to lead the youth at the school they teach at in their weekly Saturday afternoon Bible study. Since it is always a privilege and honor for me to expound God’s Word, I said I would be glad. They had been going through John’s Gospel Record and assigned me John 3:16-36 to teach. Yeah, twenty verses; I think they forgot I was ordained as a Baptist minister. Ha!
This was my first time teaching through an interpreter (my brother-in-law Josue) and hearing God’s Word read in Spanish. The following morning I also heard God’s Word preached in Spanish at their church and I immediately recalled the words of the blessed apostle:
But he that is preaching speaks unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaks in an unknown language edifieth himself; but he that preaches edifieth the church (1 Corinthians 14:3-4).
Paul then goes on to explain that in the church “all things” must be “done unto edifying” (v. 26), and if there is no interpreter, then one is to keep silence, focusing on praying to the Lord. The practicality of Paul’s words opened up to me as I watched brothers and sisters in another country and language praising God and studying His Word as diligent servants.
The church should be a place where everyone feels welcomed regardless of language or ethnicity. Yet, language and ethnicity are still important to the extent that a church is to be “one body.” The church should be a place of edification in the Scriptures to the growth of holiness. In giving the Great Commission, the primary purpose of the church is to train the people up into complete obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ, beginning with professing Him in biblical immersion (Matthew 28:19-20).
I’m stressing this because I also happened to think, from my observation, that it has become quite popular in churches to sing a verse or two in another language even if the people present don’t speak that language. This is often done because of Revelation 4 which tells of that future great multitude in heaven from every “tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation” praising God. The attempt is to essentially present an emotional display of that future great day. I say emotional because such does nothing intellectually for the edifying of the saints. If a guest is invited to speak and one is there to interpret, then hearing the second language can be beneficial to the whole body of believers, reminding everyone truly of the great future of Revelation 4.