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Keep biblical terms, subjects in biblical context

Norm Fields Contributing columnist

May 31, 2014

Bible things should be called by Bible names!


There are several reasons why we should be careful to only refer to biblical subjects in the way the Bible refers to them. Such a practice would help us to keep our discussions of biblical topics in biblical context, it would encourage us to refer to our Bibles to see how a certain thing is referred to, it would go a long way toward helping us to keep our speech pure.


We could go on with any number of reasons for calling Bible things by Bible names but the number one reason would be that God has every right to call His things by whatever He wants them called and we are obligated to accept His will in the matter. That is, when God calls a thing by a certain name, who are we to change it or call it by another name! We are even commanded against such.


In 2 Timothy 1:13 the apostle Paul exhorted Timothy to “hold fast the pattern of sound words.” Here Paul is referring to the doctrine of Christ as “sound words” but that term is very significant to our discussion of calling Bible things by Bible names.


The term “sound words” refers to words that are healthy, words which are true. Therefore, the WORDS of the gospel are that which produce spiritual health.


The Bible leaves no doubt to the fact that the very words themselves are of great importance. When we are talking about the inspiration of the Bible we refer to 1 Corinthians 2:13 where Paul says that the very words of the Bible, not just the thought or intent of the letter, but the very words themselves, are given by the Spirit of God.


If the very words used in relaying the gospel of Christ, both Old Testament and New, were given by the Holy Spirit then how could we think it acceptable to replace them with our own words? Again, when Peter is talking about how we ought to speak he says to speak “as the oracles of God.” That means to say what God has said, nothing more—nothing less.


There are numerous examples of what happens when we fail in this practice. Probably the most prominent example in our time is that of the church. The Bible uses several designations for the church, nearly all of which designate Christ as the owner (Acts 20:28; Matt. 16:18; 1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Cor. 1:2; Rom. 16:16; et. al.). But today we see churches called by every name under the sun except the Son’s.


Where in the Bible is the church ever referred to by the name of a religious act (such as baptism)? Or, where in the Bible is the church ever referred to by the name of a man (such as St. Peter’s or Martin Luther’s)? Or even after a method of study (such as “Whole Gospel Church” or “Methodist”)?


The closest thing we find in the Bible to such a practice is found in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, where the apostle Paul vehemently states that such a sectarian practice is totally contrary to the will of God! He also shows that this kind of thing can be avoided by sticking with biblical designations.


Another prominent example of this is how people refer to themselves in regards to church membership. In the Bible church members are referred to as: members of His body (Eph. 5:30), sanctified in Christ—saints (1 Cor. 1:2), children of God—brothers (1 John 3:10), disciples—Christians (Acts 11:26), sons and daughters of God (2 Cor. 6:18).


Notice how all of these designations emphasize belonging to God and Christ. However today we see many who claim to be believers wearing names to emphasize belonging to man or religious practices (i.e., Lutheran, Baptist, et. al.).


Disregarding how the Bible refers to them has corrupted even the manner in which people refer to preachers. When referring to preachers the Bible calls them: “preacher” (Romans 10:14, 15), “evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5), “brother” (2 Peter 3:15), “minister” (1 Tim. 4:6).


It is somewhat amazing, in a horrifying kind of way, to hear how people refer to preachers today. How else can it be described when we here people referring to preachers as God! It is utterly horrifying!


Granted, most people don’t realize that they are calling their preacher God when they call him “Reverend” but they are. There is no doubt that they are because the only one referred to in the Bible as reverend is God Himself (Ps. 111:9, KJV).


It is interesting to note that some of the modern translations of this verse have “awesome” rather than “reverend.” How could any man think it appropriate to put himself, or allow others to put him, on the same level with God? It is completely unbiblical and even blasphemous.


This is akin to the problem of applying biblical designations to the wrong object and again is exemplified in how people refer to their preachers. We’re talking about the term “pastor” now.


While this is a very biblical term, it is never used to refer to the preacher. It is applied to the one in the office of an elder and never to the preacher (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1; 1 Peter 5; Acts 20:17ff).


We could go on and on with examples of how biblical things have been twisted and corrupted by using terms other than those used by the Bible to refer to them. The above examples stand out to show us how important it is to “speak as the oracles of God.” That is, to speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.


When we begin to call things by terms of our own devising its not long until we think we can change the meaning of the thing itself. Let us remain pure in our speech when referring to biblical things by “maintaining the pattern of sound words.”