By Kenneth E. Thomas
There’s something very strange to me about the preachers for the Protestant denominations around us. These men are usually college trained and/or have been seminary instructed in the Greek and English languages, and yet there are some very simple English words that seemingly very few of them understand! This problem isn’t limited to the Protestants. It is true also of the Catholic, Jewish and Eastern religions as well.
I am just a high school graduate. In fact it was by a combination of the grace of God, a girlfriend or two and a teacher who was a relative by marriage that I accomplished that. I’m sure also the fact that it was a small school and they needed me on the football, as well as basketball, team didn’t hurt any.
I have been reading quite well in the English language since grade school, and I have some aids to Bible study in the form of some books written by scholars who know the Greek and Hebrew language in which the Old and New Testaments were originally written. I also have Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary of the English Language which helps me in know how a word is used in English today. Now I must admit that at times the way a word is defined in the English dictionary, and its meaning in Scripture differ, so I must be as careful as can be to see that I stick to the biblical meaning in such cases. My point is this, why do so many denominational preachers who are so well educated misunderstand a number of simple English words that are used in the Bible? Following is a partial list of words they seem to have a great bit of difficulty with- “I, My, One, Into, For, Few, It, If, Obey, Sing, Burial, Saves You. ” I may not get around to illustrating how each of these words is misused, but I’ll try.
There are some others, but you are probably saying already that there isn’t one preacher around who isn’t able to tell a person what these words mean when asked. I suppose you are correct when it comes to the daily routine and how these words are used. But, when the above words are used in the Scriptures for some reason these preachers can’t seem to understand them. Why do you suppose that is?
First of all let’s look at the words, “I” and “My.” Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, said in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church. ” When it comes to purely worldly matters folks know that if I, Ken Thomas should say, “I will build my house, ” that the finished product would have been built by me and no one else, and that it would be known as mine, or Ken Thomas’ house. Why the problem in understanding about the spiritual house of the Lord, who built it and the names it is to wear? Is it really a problem of understanding so much or is it a problem of accepting? You know the answer I am confident. You see religious bodies have been begun by uninspired men at different times and places than the church of our Lord Jesus Christ all without divine authority. The only one ever authorized to begin a religious entity, body, or relationship between man and himself to reconcile fallen man to God, was God’s sinless Son (Psa. 127: 1; Matt. 15:13). The price he would pay to reconcile man to God the Father in this one body was and is his own blood which is the purchase price he paid for each of us who become one of his through obeying him (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25; 1 Pet. 1: 18-19; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; Eph. 2:13-16; Acts 2:22-38,41,47).
There Is One Body, The Church
Does one only mean one when we are speaking of secular matters? Does it not mean exactly the same when written in the Scriptures? One always means one! The apostle is writing by divine inspiration when he says to the Ephesians, “. . . that He might reconcile them both (Jew and Gentile, ket) to God in one body through the cross (His blood, ket), thereby putting to death the enmity” (Eph. 2:16). The emnity in the context would be that which had existed between Jew and Gentile as well as between God and man due to man’s sin. What is the one body? The Scriptures are as plain on this as they are on the fact that man is reconciled in one body! In Colossians we read, “And He is the head of the body, the church” (Col. 1:18). Then Paul says in the same book, “. . for the sake of His body which is the church ” (Col. 1:24b). Now go with me back again to the Ephesian letter where the apostle says, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all” (Eph. 4:4-6).
Now if the body is the church, and there is one body, how many churches are there in God’s system of redemption? Does one mean one? If you answer yes, then look at the other ones in this passage! There is also one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God. Why do you suppose so many preachers can see and understand that there is one Lord and one God, but have a problem understanding that there is one faith and one baptism? Is it a problem of understanding or is it a problem of accepting? Again, I think you are smart enough to know what the problem is.
Is this word difficult to understand? Not usually, but when we speak of matters of the souls of men somehow it seems just too difficult to understand! Philip taught a man concerning Jesus on the Gaza Strip and when they came to some water the man said to Philip, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Philip said, “If you believe. . . you may . . . And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water. . . ” (Acts 8:34-39). Is the language too difficult to comprehend?
They didn’t go down beside the water or to the water’s edge, they went “down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch” (Acts 8:38). Do preachers for the various denominations about us know what into means? Usually they do, but when it comes to the “mode” of baptism they seemingly can’t understand the words into the water! We should also look at the word one again in connection with this action of baptism. Paul said “one baptism ” in Ephesians 4:5. So this one baptism requires a going down into as well as a coming up out of the water. Is the language too difficult for many of the preachers who teach and practice sprinkling, pouring, dabbing, etc. ? Only in religious usage is this true. What must we conclude from this? Simply that it isn’t really their inability to know the meaning of the words the Holy Spirit has used, but because their church creeds and man-made laws say such things as, “Let every adult person, and the parents of every child to be baptized, have the choice of sprinkling, pouring, or immersion” (Discipline of the Methodist Church, 1960 Edition). God says one, men say choice of three.
Reams of paper and gallons of ink have no doubt been used in writing about this word as used in Scripture. Debates have been and occasionally continue to be held where men of opposing views discuss the meaning of the word “for.” While it is true that our English word “for” has various usages sometimes meaning, “because of,” this is because there is more than one Greek word that is translated into our English word “for.” It becomes necessary therefore for the Bible student to see how a word is being used in context. Not that it is necessary to have a Greek-English lexicon to know how a word is being used you understand, but such can be of help if you have one. Look at this example of how language is employed to express an idea. Jesus said as he instituted the Lord’s Supper of the fruit of the vine, “. . . this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). Who would conclude from this language Jesus used that he was to die or shed his blood because we were saved already? Probably not a one. Why then do yo suppose this simple word is so misunderstood when used in Acts 2:38? In this verse Peter answered believers’ question of what they must do to be forgiven of killing their own Savior? Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the same of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. ” Do you suppose that these 3000 Jews who “gladly received his word and were baptized that day” (Acts 2:41) thought they were being baptized because they were already saved? Certainly not! Now if you want to look it up in the lexicon you will also learn that the same Greek word is found in both passages translated into our English for which always looks forward and never backwards and means “in order to.”
Do any of our denominational preacher friends have any problem with passages in the Bible which say faith “saves you”? Not to my knowledge. But for some reason they have the same problem with the two words in some context as they do withfor in Acts 2:38! Again I ask, why? Read it with me please, “. . . baptism doth also now save us” (1 Pet. 3:21). Curtis Porter was debating a Baptist preacher once and he asked him, “does the Bible say that baptism saves us?” He finally got the preacher to say, “Yes, it says that, but. . . . ” Curtis said something like this, “Now my friends you have just heard this man say he knows the Bible says baptism saves and yet he has signed his name to deny for two sessions that baptism has a thing to do with one being saved. I would not be in his shoes for all of the tea in China.” I wouldn’t either!
Oh boy, here’s a hard word! Sing means to play didn’t you know that? No, I didn’t know that! Neither did the scholars who translated the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament into English. Every last one of them faithfully translated the Greek words having to do with music to be used by Christians in worship as sing or its equivalent! If the original Greek word meant to play or to make music, they would have translated it so, for perhaps all of them were associated with a church using mechanical instruments of music.
Now that’s really a hard one to understand for some, yet Jesus said, “if you continue in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (John 8:3 1). But some of our “educated” religious leaders tell us doctrine is not important (see Jn. 12:48; 2 Jn. 9-11). Few is to most, relatively easy to understand but we are treated to such logic as, “you mean to tell me you think only your little bunch are possibly right on these matters and all the others numbering much greater are wrong?” Yes, that is possible since only those who honor the will of God are right (Matt. 7:13-14; 1 Pet. 2:1-2). Obey the gospel is language too difficult for most preachers nowadays. Yet it is the language of Scripture (Rom. 16:26; 2 Thess. 1:7-9; Mark 16:15-16). Obey is another word that preachers shy away from since man is supposed to be saved in their creed bound theology by faith alone. How can they possibly understand that Christ is, “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9). So you see, that word is too hard for them; they are not able to understand it! Work. This word is really difficult for denominational preachers to understand. They have been misinformed to believe that if one must “do something” to be saved, it negates grace. But read Acts 2:40 and Philippians 2:12. Then turn to James 1:21-25; 2:14-26. Now honestly my friends what do you think is the problem among the rank and file of the college and seminary educated denominational preachers after a study of these things? Yes, it’s rejection, not inability to understand. (Read Eph. 5:17; 2 Tim. 2:15.)
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 18, pp. 560-561
September 17, 1987