Home > Articles > Life Application

Exploring Communication in the Bible

Communication is an essential tool for understanding and connecting with one another and to work together as Christ’s body.
Read Time: 10 minutes

The idea of exploring communication in the Bible may seem like a broad topic to work on. Still, it stems from my personal desire to be a better and more effective communicator with others. We can look at ourselves or others and recognize we are not great communicators and that we need to improve. Around us, we can see rude, inappropriate, and even hostile attitudes. Healthy, positive, productive interaction is one of our goals.

As Bible believers, bound together by our common beliefs in God and His Son, we want to learn how God conveys His messages to us. Throughout the Bible, He gives us instruction. Let’s see some examples of how this all comes together for us in His Word. How does Jesus try to reach the crowd with His message? Or how does God communicate with Adam and Eve in the garden?

This theme seems like a pretty big task, but communication is an essential tool for understanding and connecting with one another, to work together as Christ’s body. This short devotion will not give all the answers. Perhaps it will pique your interest in self-examination and exploring tools for improving your own ways of connecting and communicating with others. Let us make the ideas useful in our lives, enriching our spiritual relationships.

How God Speaks to Us

God communicates to man in a few different ways. When I think about clear communication, I think of our God. He speaks His creation into being. In Genesis 1:3, “And God said, Let there be light and there was light.” Clear, concise, no beating around the bush with details. The Ten Commandments are very clear, too, although man has tried to elaborate on them. Exodus 20 gives them to us straight from the mouth of God. What can be clearer than verse 3, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”?

Man’s communication is not quite so straightforward. Adam and Eve tried to hide from God. The communication in the garden wasn’t “Yea, yea” or “Nay, nay,” it was blaming and hiding. Despite man’s disobedience, God worked with him. God knows our “frame.” God also communicates to man through his life experiences. Thorns will invade the gardens, pain will be part of man’s experience, and death will come. These experiences will be the means of growth.

The first way God spoke was through His creation. But He didn’t only speak it into being. It is there to speak to us, too. Psalm 19 is God’s simple message of how the creation declares His glory and goodness to everyone. His perfect laws warn man and also speak of great reward. “Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” (v. 4 ESV).

Everyone can witness this and seek after God. Some parts of creation speak to us in gentle ways: “the breezes and the sunshine and soft refreshing rain.” (Hymn 426, Christadelphian Hymn Book, 2002). Other times, there are earthquakes and thunder. We think of Yahweh speaking at Sinai, and the people were afraid. They were terrified of such a great God. He displayed darkness, thunder, lightning and an earthquake when wicked men put Jesus to death on the cross.

we are to meditate on all of God’s ways

But when God reveals Himself to Moses while Moses hides in the cleft of the rock, He is in the still small voice. And He reveals Himself in simple words that all can understand: “The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering [slow to anger], and abundant in goodness [steadfast love] and truth [faithfulness].” (Exodus 34:6, ESV in brackets).

Looking at the whole of the Bible, God speaks to us through many different circumstances, events and characters, with Jesus being the perfect communicator. As Psalm 19 instructs us, we are to meditate on all of God’s ways. Psalm 19:11 states that we can be warned of error by knowing about Him and His ways. 

Our amazing Father has provided us a way to speak to Him, to connect specially through words of prayer. He even wants our undivided attention, suggesting that “when you pray, go into your room [closet KJV] and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.” (Matthew 6:6 ESV). We can disclose our hearts to Him, seek help from Him. He wants to hear us and is the greatest listener. And when we listen to God in His Word, He assures us of His love and direction. God wants to help His children.

How We Speak to Each Other

We conclude that communication is a particularly important topic in the Bible. And we need to communicate effectively with one another. We must listen to our God, and if we desire to connect with our community, we must listen to one another.

The Bible says a lot about communicating to one another. Of course, we all recognize how much the tongue plays a part in our communication with others.

  • Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
  • Proverbs 12:18 “There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.”
  • Proverbs 15:1-2 “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.”
  • Proverbs 16:23 (NKJV) “The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds learning to his lips.”

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,” as Proverbs 1 says, and there are characters in the Bible who exemplify wisdom in communication. This wisdom stems from what they are truly thinking in their heart.

While in the car the other day, I listened to an Old Testament CD about the Genesis account of Joseph. We can all feel the power of his wise communication with his brothers. Don’t be discouraged by thinking you can never be as wise, forgiving, and kind-hearted as Joseph. Or not as wise in connecting with those who have wronged you.

We can be encouraged as we think how his life, insight, and manner must have developed because of his trials. Effective communication takes time, skill, and practice. He was hated by his brothers, thrown in a pit, sold as a slave in Egypt, wrongfully accused and sentenced to years in prison! Time and effort are needed to change our pattern of communication. Insight from personal experience and seeing God’s providential work in our lives is encouraging. None of us are experts.

How effective and compassionate was Joseph’s communication with his brothers when he revealed himself in Genesis 45:4-5, “Come closer to me. Don’t feel bad, don’t blame yourselves for selling me. God was behind it… to save lives.” And the words move us to tears when his brothers come to him after burying their father: (Genesis 50:17-21), “Joseph wept… Now therefore fear ye not, I will nourish you and your little ones. And he comforted them and spake kindly to them.” Joseph listened to them. He empathized with their fears, and he showed compassion.

In Joseph’s suffering, he is like Christ, bringing forth the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” (Galatians 5:22-23). He understands them and can comfort them. A paraphrase of Luke 6:45: “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good,” is “What you say flows from what is in your heart.” 

listening to the Words of the Master is what is needed

Other examples in the Bible help us in our everyday communication with others. We have the contrast of Mary and Martha. Mary sits and listens to Jesus. Martha is preoccupied with household duties and resents Mary (Luke 10:40-42). Even when she expresses the feeling that Jesus doesn’t care, he assures her that he does care and validates the idea that there are many things to worry about. However, listening to the Words of the Master is what is needed.

After Lazarus dies (John 11), it is Martha who questions Jesus as he is coming to them. It seems she didn’t really stick around to find out what the Lord would do to help them. Mary waits for the Master to call her and then worships at his feet, where she had been before. Humility is essential with one another. We are all human and subject to “like passions,” but we can all listen to one another and to our Lord.

A surprise to me was in the Book of Philemon. Paul encourages Philemon, the master, to take back his runaway slave, Onesimus, without regard to payment. The word “communicate” is used in the KJV in verse 6. Paul writes to Philemon, “That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.”

The Greek word is “koinonia,” which you will recognize as the word for “sharing.” The ESV Study Bible comments that this word includes “the ideas of generosity, partnership and fellowship that result from the common faith and everyday life that believers have in Christ.”

Looking up the context of that word showed me it was the idea of Philemon communicating his faith in Christ by welcoming Onesimus back with kindness and forgiveness. Perhaps he will even now understand why Onesimus ran away! Paul appeals to Philemon, not commanding him. We also want to reach out to our brothers and sisters with kindness and forgiveness. Of course, we don’t know how Philemon responded to Paul’s appeal, but we do know how Joseph’s brothers responded to him.

The Perfect Example

When we view the Lord, we see the perfect example of communication. He embodies the fruit of the Spirit, like the Father. He always knows the right approach for those he is in contact with. In the Gospel records, we see him trying to understand by asking questions, even of the rulers.

We see him as a boy in the Temple, with the courage and humility to be there, “sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.” (Luke 2:46). He was trying to understand how they thought, and had many questions to ask. He developed a close relationship with his disciples, and in this group, he imparted his teaching so they could teach others. “He loved them unto the end.” (John 13:1).

Christ reached out to the multitudes with compassion and love, but he didn’t beat around the bush with those who called his work the works of Beelzebub. His communication was clear and concise as he cleansed the temple. 

You will discover many passages about communication from the Bible yourself as you do your readings day by day. Underline them. There will be many tools to help you develop skills for effective communication. Perhaps we could diverge here and summarize some of the concepts we have discovered in the Bible.

There is so much to communication, and it is complex, but we can narrow it down to a few thoughts worth remembering and try to practice these ideas in our relationships. Don’t forget the great challenge from Jesus: “Love your enemy, do good to those who hate you.”  (Luke 6:27 ESV). 

Using communication skills here can build bridges and forge peaceful relationships. And we can start right at home!

When I was younger, raising a family, I observed how other people communicated with their children and family. Sometimes, I wished I lived right beside them so I could learn from their daily interactions. The disciples must have loved being with Jesus like a family. They could see and talk with him face to face, watching him interact with people from all walks of life, asking questions and listening to his wise counsel.

Practical Examples 

Thankfully, our Father’s and Jesus’ counsel are right at hand. Perhaps we can add a few practical ideas that can help.

LISTENING: is to hear a person speaking, with attention. There are ways we can improve our listening skills to be more attentive to others, especially within our family. Listening builds trust. Can you picture Jesus asking the little children to come to him? What would communicate His love for them?

Pay attention to what the person is saying. Lean toward them so that they know you are listening. Be present. You are there to listen and understand. You are not to think about what you want to say to them.

Observe the other person’s body language, and let it tell you how they feel. Seek to understand the meaning of the words the person is saying. Do they convey thoughts that convey their emotions? Don’t put words in their mouth. Accept without judgment the communication from the other person. Have compassion.

Reflect back to the speaker your understanding of what is said. Ask questions to clarify. This active listening contributes to respecting the other person’s views and building a relationship. You can begin to understand the needs and emotions behind their words.

COMPASSION: can be defined as sympathy or concern for others. You want the other person to feel understood and cared for. Asking a pertinent question, not attacking, just learning to listen, and not giving advice unless asked. These are all helpful to keep in mind. Sometimes, all that a person needs is to be listened to. I remember the first experience I had with learning to listen. Sitting across from the person, I had to give my full attention and listen for five minutes without interruption. It was hard work to keep from voicing my own opinion or giving helpful comments for that long.

EMPATHY: is the ability to truly feel and understand the feelings of another. Empathy requires us to focus fully on the other person’s message. No advice given. No reassurance. No, “I think you should… Why didn’t you? … Everything will be OK.”

HUMILITY: is meekness in remembering who we are as part of God’s creation. The person we interact with is one of God’s creation, too. “When you are busy judging people, you have no time to love them.” (Attributed to Mother Theresa). 

A SINCERE DESIRE: is what we need to connect with others genuinely. Love guides our motives for communication.

What’s in it For Us?

In summary, this is a very short list of ideas. In the Bible, both God and Jesus listened to the people. They understood their needs. Because we don’t have the power to know what is going on in people’s minds, we have to discover that through communication. By understanding each other’s needs, we can help each other feel loved and cared for.

By others understanding our needs, we can talk about these things and come to some understanding of what will encourage us both. We can seek reconciliation by exploring solutions or making requests that can be denied or fulfilled. But at least we can understand one another.

In learning positive ways of communicating with others, we learn about ourselves. We learn to listen to what others are feeling and what their needs may be. We can better assess our own feelings and needs. Understanding ourselves and others strengthens relationships and builds trust among the body of Christ.

Let us learn to communicate more effectively and lovingly. We spend a lot of time interacting in many different ways. If we look around us, none of us are perfect at relationships and need skills to help us. It’s also helpful to have true friends who can give us feedback so we can evaluate ourselves. The Father and the Son give us much to think about.

Perhaps we can take this as a little saying: 

We are pilgrims on a journey
And companions on the road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.1

Cathy Badger,
Cambridge Ecclesia, ON

    1. Hymn 16, Praise The Lord, Hoddesdon Christadelphian Services, 2000 Revised Edition 

Suggested Readings
Modern technology has given us an explosion of new ways to display our selfishness, anger, and pride. But it did not create any of these sins... [and] nowhere in the Bible is this more on display than in the Book of Job.
All too often, our modern communications are seasoned with venom, not salt. Waging war by e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, or any other of the electronic tools spawned by the internet has become routine, even, unfortunately, sometimes within our community. And this is only one of the problems we see today.
View all events
Upcoming Events