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Definitions Of Words November 8, 2006

Posted by rattazzimedia in Christianity, Church, God, Religion, Spiritual, Spiritual Overview, Spiritual Study, Spirituality, Theology.

As time goes by it is natural for each of us and as a consequence humanity in general to wander away from God.  One result of this tendency is that over time the very meaning of words change.  This is important to understand because this phenomenon is one of the elements that works to obscure the meaning and confuse our thinking as we study God’s word.  To put it another way some important words have a different meaning to us than they did to the ancient writers of the Bible.  This is also another cause (and at the same time, symptom) of much of the division in the religious world today.  The solution of course is for all of us to get together on the meaning of these words and make sure we have the same understanding as the writers of the text.

I’ll start with a simple example. the word “saint”.  This word has come to mean a special class of notables who have been officially “canonized” and set apart by the church as especially accomplished.  Is that the understanding the apostle Paul had for example when he used the word we now translate as “saint”? No.  The apostles applied the term to all believers, those who have been set apart by God because they believe God’s promise and follow God’s instruction.  The meaning has changed over the years.  What is this change indicating?  First this is an indication of a church that has let go of God for the sake of following human tradition (Jesus Christ strongly condemned this).  The focus is now on who men say are “saints” rather than who God sets apart as holy.  Also this is an indication of the human tendency to elevate some individuals and confer on them special status and worship rather than keeping the focus on God.  The shift in the meaning of the word is caused by religious teaching and practice that has wandered away from God.

 Since we just looked at saints let’s now look at sinners or more specifically let’s look at the definition of the word “sin”.  This word does not have much meaning to many people today, people understand the word to mean something that has violated some moral code.  What makes the application of the word unclear is the focus on what man considers moral or just as opposed to what God considers moral or just.  Let me try to clarify what I’m saying by discussing the understanding of “sin” we get from the Bible.  Let’s go all the way back to the book of Genesis.  God created everything and it was very good.  He gives the first man and woman the instruction that they may eat from any tree in the garden of Eden except for one particular tree.  Let’s pause for a moment here and consider the concept of sin in regards to this specific instruction.  Adam and Eve could choose to eat or not eat from any other tree in the garden, they could do whatever they want with any of those other trees and sin does not enter the picture.  But concerning this one tree, the one specific tree God gave a specific instruction about, sin is the word for what they have done if they choose to eat from that tree, if they choose to specifically violate God’s specific instruction.  They came to think that it was a good idea to violate God’s specific instruction and forever altered their relationship to God and creation.  Sin is anything that violates God’s instruction and the consequences of continued sin are enormous.

So why does this word have little meaning to most people today?  Because the focus is on what man says is sin as opposed to what God says is sin.  God is specific and clear, man has various opinions.  Going back to the garden example, I may have a strong opinion about some other tree and want to go around telling everyone not eat from that tree also.  I might even have very good reasons for my opinion but I cannot call it sin when someone eats from that other tree no matter how strongly I feel about the issue.  This very thing happens all the time in the religious world and muddies up the concept of sin by taking the focus off God’s instruction.  We should all encourage everyone to see what God has clearly spelled out in his word.  We should not confuse the issue with our own modifications or human traditions.  

How about the word “faith”?  The word has come be applied to something people strongly believe in without sufficient reasoning to back up their belief.  In the Bible we get a very different idea of the word “faith”.  Faith is all about believing the promise and then following the instruction from God.  You believe the promise from God because of who God is, he is truthful and supremely powerful so their is nothing to prevent you from receiving the promise if you do your part.  That is what faith is, you can be certain to receive eternal life if you believe that God has promised it and you follow God’s instruction.  And how about the word “believe”?  Once again this word is often applied to something I am convinced of without sufficient grounds as opposed to something I can firmly say is true.  “I believe it’s not going to rain today.” This is not the way the word is used in the Bible, rather it is used for something you can firmly say is true and act according to that truth.   

We can clear up some of the disagreement and disunity in religious circles if we come together on the meanings of these important concepts.  We should realize that the shift in these word definitions helps to obscure the true meaning of the Bible.  Clear understanding of the words and the concepts they represent is vital to our understanding of God’s word.  Our focus should be on defining these words according to God’s instruction.  We should take our focus off what they have come to mean in religious practices that have wandered away from God and focus instead on God.  We should understand God’s reasoning as opposed to man’s reasoning.  We should make every effort to specifically and clearly reveal God’s definitions of words.  


1. Stuart FItzgerald - November 30, 2006



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