All too often, Christians forget that most people aren’t up to speed with the words they use. A lot of the time, even Christians don’t understand the words they use!
This is our way of trying to bring some meaning to the things that matter…
1 Corinthians 13
One piece of jargon Christians love to throw around is “1 Corinthians 13″. This is shorthand for the thirteenth chapter of the first letter which Paul (who lived in the first century AD) wrote to the church at Corinth (a place in Greece). Most of the chapter describes what love looks like. Paul’s argument to the church was that no matter what kind of good or noble things they did, if there was no love, those things counted for exactly nothing. And so, 1 Corinthians 13 has often been called “The Love Chapter”. Here’s the part people talk about:
Love never gives up
Love cares more for others than for self
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have
Love doesn’t strut
Doesn’t have a swelled head
Doesn’t force itself on others
Isn’t always “me first”
Doesn’t fly off the handle
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others
Doesn’t revel when others grovel
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth
Puts up with anything
Trusts God always
Always looks for the best
Never looks back
But keeps going to the end
Love never dies
This word comes up quite often in Christian circles. Its origin is based on the original Greek language which was used at the time the New Testament was written. At that time there were a variety of words used to describe good human relationships, as found in families, in friendships and in romantic contexts. As Christianity developed, based on the example and identity of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, this new aspect of love began to shine out in those communities. In contrast to the other more common understandings of relationship, agape love became distinctive in nature. The outstanding quality of agape love is its capacity to care for another person by an act of the will. It is not based on benefit for the giver, or on the feelings of the giver, which is usually the case for ‘ordinary’ human care. When Christians talk about agape love they are referring to this divine love revealed by Jesus. The Bible challenges each of us to love all people like that. The Bible also promises us that God will equip and enable us to love people with this agape love, as we ask for and are open to His Spirit’s help each day.
When it’s used in the Bible, the word “baptism” generally means “immersion”, not sprinkling. It carries the picture of being completely covered. When you’re at the beach, and your whole body goes under the water – that’s baptism. When a shirt is dipped into a coloured dye, so that the shirt is completely covered by the dye – that’s baptism. When Christians are baptised by immersion, their whole body goes under the water, and they are identifying with the death of Jesus. When they come back up out of the water, they are identifying with the new life of Jesus. Baptism can never provide a person with salvation. Only trusting fully in what Jesus has already done can do that.
Our word bible comes from a Greek word which simply means book. Christians believe that the Bible is not just any book, but the book which contains God’s words to us. And so we use a capital B to denote this significance. This convention has been adopted in many areas of life; so, it’s common to hear talk of “the accounting bible” or “the cricket bible”, indicating that the book in question is the highest authority in its field. The Christian Bible, too, is the highest authority for Christians. We base our beliefs on what it says, since we believe that it’s God’s message to us.
Sometimes, Christians say they have been born again. They get this phrase from a conversation Jesus had with a spiritual leader of his day, Nicodemus. Jesus told Nicodemus that unless a person is born again, he cannot enter God’s Kingdom. No doubt, we would have answered the way Nicodemus did: “How can a person be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born?”. The second birth Jesus talked about was not a physical birth, but a spiritual birth. This is what being born again means. Getting a new, spiritual life. It means that a person has something added, which fills a gap. When someone is born again, God promises that they have new life, with a purpose and a hope for the future.
The Jews were for centuries waiting for a promised Messiah, who would deliver them from oppression. Many Jews are still waiting. The word Messiah means “anointed by God”, and the word “Christ” is the Greek translation of the word Messiah. So when we say Jesus Christ, we don’t mean that Christ was His surname! Jesus Christ could better be translated as “The anointed one from God, who saves us.”
This word basically means “little Christs”. Originally, it was a name of scorn and hatred attached to people who were followers of Jesus Christ. It’s interesting to think that Christians didn’t call themselves by that name; it was one way they had abuse hurled at them. But it stuck – probably because it contains the name of Christ, whom Christians follow, and of whom they are not ashamed.
In the language of the Bible, the word confess means “say the same thing”. When a parent discovers that her child has been doing something wrong, she might bring this to the child’s attention. She’s hoping that her child will confess to his mother. When the child does so, he is saying what the mother is saying: that the child has done wrong. In the relationship between God and people, the same applies. When we confess to God, we’re telling God that we’ve done wrong in his eyes. God already knows this, but our confession shows that we agree with God’s assessment. It allows God to forgive us as well. That’s what it means in the Bible, where it says “If we confess our sins, God will forgive our sins…”.
The method the Romans used to execute Jesus Christ. The most painful and degrading form of capital punishment in the ancient world. The Greeks and Romans at first reserved the punishment only for slaves, saying it was too barbaric for freeborn or citizens. By the first century, however, it was used for any enemy of the state, though citizens could only be crucified by direct edict of Caesar. As time went on, the Romans began to use crucifixion more and more as a deterrent to criminal activity, so that by Jesus’ time it was a common sight.
A tablet detailing the crime(s) was often placed around the criminal’s neck and then fastened to the cross. At the site the prisoner was often tied (the normal method) or nailed (if a quicker death was desired) to the crossbeam. The nail would be driven through the wrist rather than the palm, since the smaller bones of the hand could not support the weight of the body. The beam with the body was then lifted and tied to the already affixed upright pole. Pins or a small wooden block were placed halfway up to provide a seat for the body lest the nails tear open the wounds or the ropes force the arms from their sockets. Finally the feet were tied or nailed to the post. Death was caused by the loss of blood circulation and coronary failure.
Sometimes (occasionally or regularly), Christians choose to go without something they need – usually food – for a period of time. This is not so they can lose weight, but is so that they can spend extra time building their relationship with God. The name for this is “fasting”.
This is the future aspect of salvation. There will come a time when those who trust only in Jesus, will have the presence of sin removed. They will be with God forever, and never again will the relationship be broken.
If there really is a God, then the only way we’d know what He’s like is if He chose to reveal Himself to us. He’s done just that throughout the pages of the Bible. Here is some of what God is like, and who He is:
Slow to get angry
Quick to listen to us
Angry at injustice and oppression
Concerned with every aspect of what He’s made
This word simply means good news. We have a whole page on the good news, which you may like to read.
They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch…Well, there is with God. Even better, God offers us a free gift of a changed life, freedom from guilt, and a clear conscience. And we don’t have to do anything to earn it. In fact, we can’t…If we could earn it, it wouldn’t be a gift. And that’s the essence of grace: God’s free gift to us with no strings attached.
These days, the word “holy” is generally used in common speech, with no thought to its relevance or significance. However, Christians make the claim that God is holy. This word essentially means “separate”, and the underlying idea is that God is fundamentally separate from evil. God has always been holy, and will always be holy. As well as describing God, the word holy can also be used to describe people or things which are set apart, or sacred. Another meaning of the word is moral purity. So, Christians are called to be holy before God, and before people. This means they are to live their lives in a way which is morally good; a way which makes God look good, and which shows that God is holy.
The Holy Spirit is the 3rd person of the Godhead. But what does that mean? The Bible makes it clear that God is one God, who exists in 3 distinct persons. This is known as the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is a person, and has the attributes of a person. He has intellect, emotions, and a will. He teaches, directs, guides and warns. He is on a par with God the Father and God the Son (Jesus), and is constantly involved with Jesus’ work on earth, in the past, now, and in the future. The Holy Spirit lives with and in every Christian, and empowers Christians to please God, something they could not do by themselves.
This is a legal term, which talks about the legal aspect of salvation. Every one of us stands guilty before God, because we have broken His law. When God justifies a person, He declares that person to be in right standing before Him. Even though that person will still sin, he or she is legally free from blame and guilt, as far as God is concerned.
Legalism does not refer to the practice of law. It is talking about a mindset which says that people must obey God’s law as a prerequisite for being accepted by God. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The only prerequisite for being accepted by God is to recognise that there is nothing you can do for God to be accepted by God. God has already done everything necessary. The ability and desire to obey God’s law comes as a result of being fully accepted by God.
In the film “The Blues Brothers”, the main characters declare “we’re on a mission from God”. Although this film is a comedy, in reality, every Christian is definitely on a mission from God. Whether staying in the one place all their life, or travelling to places most of us have never heard of, all Christians have a message of hope and good news to give to people, and so we are all “on a mission”. Generally, though, when Christians leave their home town, and travel to another state or country to tell people about God’s good news, we call this “missions”. This also implies that the church they come from is supporting them financially and in prayer, so that they are not a burden where they go.
Ministry is a word used to describe the work Christians do to encourage other Christians, or to tell others about God’s goodness. Often, we talk about “my ministry”. That simply means a particular task or role someone plays in the church. For instance, a person’s ministry might be playing a musical instrument during church, or doing some gardening for someone in need, or even maintaining the web site of a church. Ultimately, ministry refers to the ways in which a Christian can serve other people in God’s name.
To pray simply means to communicate with God. It’s a combination of talking and listening. There’s nothing magical about prayer itself. People in many spiritual paths pray. The big issue is who you pray to. Because a prayer is only as powerful as the person to whom its directed.
Pride is easier to recognize than to define, easier to recognize in others than in oneself. Many biblical words describe this concept, each with its own emphasis. Some of the words with similar meanings to pride include arrogance, presumption, conceit, self-satisfaction, boasting, and high-mindedness. It is the opposite of humility, the proper attitude one should have in relation to God. Pride is rebellion against God because it attributes to self the honor and glory which is God’s alone. Some have considered pride to be the root and essence of sin. Others consider it to be sin in its final form. In either case, it is a serious sin.
When a person is reconciled to God, it means that their relationship with God has changed. Prior to being reconciled, the person is an “enemy” of God, because of sin. After reconciliation with God, the person has a secure and everlasting relationship with God. There cannot be true harmony in a relationship while there is some problem. Once a person fully trusts in Jesus, that person is reconciled to God.
Redemption means a “buying back”. It comes from the practice in the ancient world, where a slave could be “redeemed”. Perhaps initially, a person had to be sold into slavery because of some debt he could not pay. From that point onwards, the person was a slave of the one who bought him. But if a friend or a benefactor paid for his freedom, he became free! He was bought back from the slave-owner, and was completely free after that. This is a picture of how God buys us back from slavery to sin. He pays for our freedom by offering Jesus in our place.
Repentance means a change of mind and a change of life. When someone repents from their sin, they make a deliberate decision to turn away from sin, and to turn towards God. This does not mean that person will never sin again. But it does mean they have made a conscious choice to follow after God, and stop chasing after sin.
This is the teaching which highlights that there is more to life than this life. Life after the grave is clearly taught in the Bible by Jesus, and also by His followers. There are many references to Jesus Himself being raised from the dead, and the anticipation that those who believe in Him will live forever with Him after they die. The idea of living again forever creates hope in people as they realize God is beyond time and dwells in the mysterious reality of eternity. Death is described as the ‘last enemy’ in the Bible and it certainly is something everyone must face. Scripture does not give detailed information about what this afterlife will look like but it will be much richer experience than on this earth as we relate to God on a deeper level.
The word Sabbath means “rest”. It is a Jewish word which has many different applications in the Old Testament. Jews celebrate the Sabbath from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. This is where they “rest” from their normal working lives. The word Sabbath also gives rise to our word “sabbatical”, which denotes a rest from normal daily life, to focus on something different. In the Bible, the concept of the Sabbath is first used when God rests on the 7th day of creation. God had no need to rest, but he did so to provide an example to follow. Later, it became part of Israel’s law, to “keep the Sabbath”. Christians are not required to keep the Sabbath. It is significant that of the Ten Commandments, keeping the Sabbath is the only one not repeated in the New Testament.
You might have heard Christians say things like “God saved me!” or “I found salvation!”. Basically, salvation means that God has done for us what we could never do for ourselves. He removes the barrier of sin, so that we can experience a full and complete relationship with Him, as well as a life worth living. He rescues us from a situation where we can do nothing, and He is our only hope. Salvation includes many separate thoughts, which are explained elsewhere on this page:
Sanctification is the aspect of salvation which takes into account the “here and now”. When a person is saved by God, the idea is not that they sit around watching paint dry. The idea is that they become more and more like God over time. We mean “like God” in the sense of having more and more of the character of God. To find out what God is like, you can go here.
When the Bible talks about sin, it’s not so much talking about the sins we do, but about the inclination we have to disobey God. The first sin was committed by the angel Lucifer, when he craved the power and worship given to God. His rebellion failed, but he managed to lead Eve and Adam astray as well, in the form of the serpent. He convinced them that God didn’t really have their best interests at heart, and that if they obeyed God, they would never experience life to the full. It sounded good, and they disobeyed God. That was the first sin committed by humans. Since then, everyone has been born with an inclination to not trust God, and to rebel against Him. We probably think of visible sins, such as cheating, murder, lying or adultery. But God is just as concerned about invisible sins, such as bitterness, pride, and hatred.
Sodomy is an old word which refers to the practice of homosexuality. It comes from the biblical city of Sodom. The account can be found in the first book of the Bible: Genesis, in chapter 19. In the story, a man named Lot, who lives in Sodom, invites two travellers to stay in his house for the night. They eat a meal together. Then, “before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom – both young and old – surrounded the house. They called to Lot ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us to that we can have sex with them’.” Because of this, the city of Sodom became known as a city where homosexuality was practised and encouraged. Homosexuals were referred to as sodomites. And the practice of homosexuality was referred to as “sodomy”.
The so-called “10 commandments” were given to the people of Israel via Moses, one of their leaders. They were designed to show people what God is like. So, when one commandment says “Do not steal”, we know that God never steals. Also, they were given so that Israel would know how to live right with God. Ultimately, they were given to people precisely so people would see that they could not live up to them on their own! Even though this sounds a little strange, God did it so that people would rely on Him, rather than on themselves. Here they are in Top Ten format…
10. Don’t be jealous of other people’s stuff
9. Quit saying things that aren’t true
8. Don’t take what’s not yours
7. Save sex for marriage
6. Murder is not an option
5. Honor your parents
4. Keep the Lord’s Day holy
3. Treat God’s name with respect
2. Don’t worship anything but God
1. Nothing comes before God
Torah is the Hebrew word for “law”. It sometimes refers to a specific law, but often it refers to the whole law of God. Eventually, Torah became associated with the name for the first 5 books of the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy).
Trinity is a word which never appears in the Bible, but which Christians use to denote God. The Bible shows us that there is one God existing in three distinct persons. All three persons are God, but all three are distinct. The three persons who are each God are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These are not three separate gods. There is only one God, and to show this one-God-in-three-persons, we use the word Trinity.
Trust is not “blind faith”. Trust comes over time, and is built up as people show that they can be relied on. And so, if we trust someone, we have some kind of evidence that they can be relied on. It’s no different with God. God has shown throughout history that He can be relied on, and that He always has our best interests at heart. He never lies, and He never breaks promises. When He asks us to trust Him, it’s based on His unfailing record of perfect love and keeping promises.