In 1924 Adolf Hitler started writing his book Mein Kampf, which means “My Struggle.” Some people ignored the book, and some laughed at it, but for every word in Mein Kampf, 125 people died in World War II. Never underestimate the power of words. A judge speaks, and a man is condemned or set free. A physician speaks, and a person has surgery or he goes home from the hospital. A government official speaks, and millions of dollars can be spent or withheld.
In our own personal lives we know the power of words-words that can bless us and words that can cut us and hurt us. Never underestimate the power of words. It is very important for us as Christians to know the meaning of Bible words. We need to understand these words and how they apply to our lives. Words such as justification, sanctification, propitiation, imputation and mediation-these words make up the technical vocabulary of the Christian life and are very important.
Our younger son is an electronics engineer. He designs those little chips that run the computers. And he had to learn a very special vocabulary to do his job. My two older brothers were involved in mechanics, and they could run machines and fix things. They also had to learn a special vocabulary in order to do their job. I’m a pastor, a Bible teacher. I had to learn a special vocabulary to be able to handle the Word of God.
Some Christians say, “Don’t bother me with doctrine; just give me the beautiful devotional thoughts of the Bible.” But if devotion is not based upon correct doctrine, it is shallow, and it is not going to accomplish anything. It is merely shallow sentiment. In this first chapter I would like to explain why it is important for us to understand these key words of the Christian life.
The reason is very simple: When you understand these words, you are able to live what they teach. When we understand these key words of the Christian life, then we know what a Christian is, what God has done for us, and what God wants to do for us.
God’s Word Is Light
Perhaps the best way to approach this would be to introduce some of the pictures of the Word of God found in the Word of God. When we understand what God compares His Word to, then we’ll know how important it is for us to know the meaning of Bible words and how they apply to our lives.
Let’s begin with a very familiar picture of the Word of God–God’s Word is light. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105). What does a light do? A light enables us to see. When we understand these key words in the Bible, they are like lamps that guide us throughout all Scripture and throughout the Christian life.
God has revealed truth to us in words. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost [Spirit] teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (I Cor. 2:12, 13). In other words, God has revealed these things to us in words.
Revelation is simply God’s work in communicating truth to us, truth that we could not discover any other way. Sometimes God revealed His truth in dreams or in visions; sometimes people heard a voice; sometimes they saw God in action. We today have God’s Word, and we have God’s words in the Bible. God has revealed His truth to us “that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”
These words in the Bible are inspired words. Revelation is God’s work in communicating truth to man, truth that man could never discover by himself. Inspiration is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the writers of the Bible, enabling them to produce a trustworthy, written revelation. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (II Tim. 3:16,17). Inspiration means that the Holy Spirit of God so worked upon the writers of the Scriptures that they wrote a trust-worthy revelation from God.
Second Peter 1:20, 21 adds something to this: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost .” The Holy Spirit of God has given to us a dependable, trustworthy revelation of God in the Holy Scriptures, and God has revealed Himself through words.
In chapter 2 of II Peter we have a warning about false prophets and false teachers, and verse 3 makes an interesting statement: “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you.” That word “feigned” means pretending, counterfeit. The Greek word gives us our English word “plastic.” Peter warned us about “plastic words.” What are plastic words? Words that you can twist around to mean anything. Those who are false prophets and false teachers like to use our Christian vocabulary, but they do not use our Christian dictionary. They will talk about salvation, being born again, being justified and use the words that we use, but they don’t use the same meaning. They twist words around to mean what they want them to mean in order to make merchandise out of you. You must be very, very careful of these religious counterfeits who are out to get something out of you instead of put something into you from the Lord. And they do it with plastic words.
God’s Word is light; it enables us to see. If you want to know what’s really going on in your life, in your world, then you’d better study the words in your Bible.
God’s Word Is Food
Second, God’s Word is not only light, but God’s Word is food. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Food enables us to grow. As you grow in your knowledge of the Word of God, you can grow in your Christian life. “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 3:18).
It is possible to grow in knowledge and not grow in grace. I have met people who have a great deal of Bible knowledge, but nobody can get along with them. They run from church to church, creating problems and trying to be important. It is possible to grow in knowledge but not grow in grace. However, when we are growing in knowledge, taught by the Holy Spirit, then we have to grow in grace. The same Holy Spirit who wrote the Word of God writes the Word of God in our hearts and enables us to reveal the fruit of the Spirit.
It is so important for us to grow by feeding on the Word of God. When you understand Bible doctrine-what it means to be justified, what it means to be sanctified, what propitiation means-and appropriate it into your own life, then you grow and mature in your Christian life. We read in Jeremiah 15:16: “Thy words were found, and I did eat them.” Job said, “I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). In Hebrews 5:11-14 we are told that God’s Word is milk and meat. And so we need God’s Word as a light to guide us and as food to nourish us.
God’s Word Is a Tool
Third, God’s Word is a tool for building. “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord, and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” (Jer. 23:29). Sometimes God’s Word has to break down before it can build up. Sometimes God’s Word has to burn before it can warm. But God’s Word is like a hammer-it is a tool for breaking down the old Me and building up the new life. It enables us to build the Church. Paul said, “Now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). If you want to build your life, you must use tools, and the greatest tool of all is the Word of God. The better you understand the meaning of key Bible words, the more tools you will have in your “spiritual workshop” for getting the job done in building your own Christian life and helping to build the Church.
Church history proves that when the Word of God was given its free course, when there was faithful preaching and teaching of the Word of God, the Church grew with a strong missionary and evangelistic outreach.
The Word of God is light, it enables us to see. The Word of God is food, it enables us to grow. The Word of God is a tool, it enables us to build.
God’s Word Is a Weapon
The Word of God is also a weapon, it enables us to fight. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is “quick [living], and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword.” Ephesians 6:17 reminds us that the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit: “And take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” You have discovered that the Christian life is not a playground, it is a battleground. There are false prophets and false teachers around us. There are false religions that are trying to make merchandise of you. Satan is out to get you. The world is out to get you. Satan is a liar, but God is the One who gives us truth.
It is important that you and I understand the words in the Word of God as weapons to fight battles. When Satan comes with one of his lies and tries to tell you that you have lost your salvation, you will be able to refute him. When you are going through a period of despondency and discouragement, you will be able to reach into your armory of weapons and fight the Devil.
If a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer has to learn a technical vocabulary to do his job, how much more important it is for us who have eternity in view! How much more important it is for us who are trying to win lost souls to know these Bible words and use them the way God wants us to use them.
My prayer is that this series of studies of Bible words will give all of us more light. I trust we will grow as we receive the spiritual food and that we will lay hold of the tools and the weapons for building and battling. It is my heart’s desire that you and I shall grow in our spiritual intelligence as we understand the meaning of Bible words.
© 1982 by Warren W. Wiersbe
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).