connecting theology and life in gospel-centred ways to the glory of God and our joy in Him
My previous post on words that Christians sometimes confuse seemed to have struck a chord with some. I should probably explain why I’m being seemingly picky about the definition of these words.
I’m a firm believer that language changes and evolves. Sometimes for good and at other times I pray that Jesus returns before words like ‘swag’ and acronyms like ‘YOLO’ receive their special definitions in the Oxford English Dictionary. So I don’t believe that we should hold archaic definitions for the sake of holding them.
But when it comes to biblical words this is where I draw my proverbial line in the sand. I understand the need for translations to remain current and my theology of scripture is certainly towards providing the clearest, most accurate, and most readable and intelligible translations. But there are some words which are, in my opinion, sacrosanct. The task of the Christian is to understand these words, not misuse them, and find ways in which we can define them to our ever changing and evolving language spheres.
Language rant out of the way, and after some comments and feedback here are some further words that Christians sometimes confuse…
Apostle, Epistle and Disciple
An Apostle is simply ‘a sent one’ – someone sent with a message. What makes the New Testament apostles unique, though, is that they saw the resurrected Jesus and were given a task from Him personally. The New Testament apostles are the only ‘sent ones’ whose message is infallible.
An Epistle is another word for ‘letter’ (in fact it comes from the Greek word epistole which simply means ‘letter’).
A Disciple is a follower of a teacher/master. All Christians are disciples of Jesus.
Church, House of God, and Church (Building)
Church – the great purpose of God: the gathering of God’s people for the purpose of displaying His glory to the world through the proclamation of the gospel, the witness of their redeemed lives and their fellowship with one another, their corporate worship and submission to the preached word of God. (I’m sure I’ve missed something… but hopefully you get the point). Every reference to the church in the New Testament never refers to the building that Christians choose to gather in (it would take some extraordinary exegetical jumps to do so).
The House of God in the Old and New Testament ALWAYS and ONLY refers to the Tabernacle/Temple of God in Jerusalem. It NEVER refers to the building that Christians gather inside of.
Apologetics and Apologise
Despite the similarity, apologetics has little to do with apologising. Apologetics is the systematic argument for or defence of the Christian faith. It comes from the Greek work ‘apologia’ which means ‘speaking in defence’. Apologise comes from the same root word in the Greek, and it seems its earliest definition related to ‘speaking in defence’ though today it is almost always used as an expression of regret, remorse or sorry for having insulted, failed, injured or wronged another.
Grace and Mercy
Mercy is the withholding of: judgement, wrath and/or anger – which are deserved.
Grace is the giving of: righteousness, the crediting of Christ’s perfection to our account, the forgiveness of our sins, reconciliation with God – which are undeserved.
Gracious and Graceful
To be gracious is to act with grace towards others, to be godly. It also generally means to be polite, to show respect, or to be marked by kindness and courtesy.
To be graceful generally refers to moving in a smooth or attractive way, to have a smooth or pleasing shape or style, or to be polite or kind.
The main difference to me seems to be gracious is a character quality and graceful is a character description.
Dan Au and Steven Tran
Dan Au is a good looking man, pastor, is married to a beautiful woman and has a gorgeous son and a beautiful baby girl.
Steven Tran is a good looking man, pastor, is married to a beautiful woman and has a gorgeous son and is expecting a beautiful baby girl.
See. Totally different.
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