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How the Bible is Relevant to Every Tribe, Tongue and Nation

How the Bible is Relevant to Every Tribe, Tongue and Nation

One of the things that I’ve always believed with regards to biblical teachings about womanhood was that if the teaching couldn’t be applied to both the woman in Tanzania and the woman in San Diego, then it might not be the appropriate interpretation and teaching. In other words, I think there can be a temptation for us to apply social and cultural norms to the Scriptures and call them “biblical.” Examples of this might be beliefs about homeschooling or being a stay-at-home mother. These are good and even useful or important practices, but they don’t define womanhood although they can so often be elevated to that level in certain Christian subcultures. So, when it came time for me to speak in Munich, Germany about Ephesians 2 and the unity of the gospel, my first thoughts were things like: How do I apply this to their context? What if it doesn’t apply? How might I make it relevant to them? These questions were quickly taken captive once I remembered that the Bible is breathed out by God and useful. Once I got back in the text and remembered the meaning of God’s words to us, those thoughts and questions were removed. In other words, the Bible is indeed useful for and in every culture and for all nations, though our applications may not be.

I knew theoretically that the Bible was for every tribe, tongue, and nation—it is about God. But so often I can take chapters like Ephesians 2 and apply them in my mind quite narrowly. In that chapter, Paul explains that the veil of hostility has been broken and Christ has made one new man, and I can so often think of how it relates to blacks and whites in America. This thinking makes sense where I live. But these Scriptures are so much richer than that.

This truth was confirmed to me powerfully during my time in Germany, particularly as I looked at the ethnic make up of the group (give or take a few):

USA: 19 (four married to Germans; seven had been there over 10 years)
Germany: 11
India: 8
South Africa: 3
Asia: 3
UK: 2

AND one each from:
Northern Ireland

This isn’t a complete list of everyone there, but it gives you a picture of the various countries, cultures, and ethnicities represented. I remember the moment I looked at them all and said, “You are my sisters in Christ!” and knew just how true and glorious that statement was. Sisters in Christ—yes. Why? Because of Jesus, as Paul explains in Ephesians 2. Amazing grace! Adopted into the family of God.

Most of the women at the conference were not native English speakers. In fact, most of them spoke several languages. But as I read and taught from the text, it was so clear to me that the Bible speaks for itself. This was the same when I taught on Psalm 8, 1 Corinthians 12, Titus 2, and Psalm 19. The Bible truly does transcend race, ethnicity, culture, and all.

I’m not confident that the Lord will use my words, but I sure am confident that He’ll use his own. We are all in need of knowing God and He has provided a way through his Son, the Holy Spirit and His Word. How remarkable and encouraging it is to know that he truly is redeeming a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. God is building His church worldwide and it is beautiful.

This article originally appeared on Used with permission.

Trillia Newbell is the author of Enjoy: Finding the Freedom to Delight Daily in God's Good GiftsFear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves (2015) and United: Captured by God's Vision for Diversity (2014). Her writings on issues of faith, family, and diversity have been published in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Desiring God, Christianity Today, Relevant Magazine, The Gospel Coalition, and more. She is currently Director of Community Outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention. For fun, she enjoys group fitness (she used to be a fitness instructor!), cycling, and listening to a variety of music. Trillia is married to her best friend, Thern, they reside with their two children near Nashville, TN. You can find her at and follow her on twitter at @trillianewbell

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Publication date: November 16, 2016