TITLE: Understanding Religious Terms 7/2/16
By Rachel Jamerson
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Without thinking, we attach meanings to words simply because that is what they have always meant to us. In so doing we often send or receive the wrong message. In truth, the definition of any term develops from the acquired knowledge of the individual who is using it. As our society evolves new terms are introduced and some old terms acquire new definitions. In my day we used a kitchen utensil we called an ‘egg turner:’ a flat surface attached to a long handle which was used to turn the eggs over when frying. Of course, the proper term is a spatula.
The word ‘Christian(s)’ may also be misinterpreted. Today most use the term to identify those who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. In the New Testament, it was a derogative term used by those who opposed Christs’ teaching. The term was used to identify what was seen as a new religious sect: one that had separated from an established religion and was often viewed as extreme or dangerous.
Today some view Christians simply as good people. Various religious groups may define a Christian as someone who holds to certain doctrines. There are still others who consider those who have been baptized as a Christian. Over the centuries Christian has meant many things to many people. It by no means exclusivity identifies a person who is going to heaven.
There are many accepted terms which may be interpreted incorrectly. Another example is the word church. Over the years it has been viewed my most as a place where people meet to practice their religion. Many, even those in leadership, often see the church as an organization operated like a business. Actually, the two are diametrically opposed. An organization requires three things to operate, money, a product, and a market. The product must be sold in the marketplace in order to generate the necessary funds to keep the organization operating. The priority is placed on money and everything is focused on one goal: increasing income.
Organizations also operate with a hierarchical system. From the standpoint of order and expediency, this works well. However, often, the power and authority of individuals in leadership lead to the sin of pride. Such power over others lends itself to self-promotion and a feeling of superiority. This not only leads to problems within the organization but if allowed to continue unchecked, self-destruction.
The church, however, was never intended to be operated as a business. The word translated as church in scripture means a called out assembly. Actually, it is not a place or an organization but the body of Christ. The body of Christ is made up of believers from across the globe and down through the centuries that have chosen to believe and follow the teaching of Christ. Christ is the head of the body. The only authentic governing document is the Holy Scriptures. God’s direction, correction, teaching and leading all come directly from his word to the individual believer. Anything else is corrupted by man.
Authority is another term that is often incorrectly interpreted. It does not translate into power over another individual. All authority comes from God and those who use it to manipulate instead of lead, are in danger of God’s judgment. He empowered his people with spiritual gifts to assist them in their walk. Gifts were not intended to set one above the other in superiority, or give one individual power over another. Members of the body have been given spiritual gifts to edify one another. No one gift is more important than the others and all are to be administered in love. Believers are responsible to God for how they live their lives.
If you have questions concerning scripture, seek interpretation through personal study under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. If the information is important to you, seek out the meaning applied by the original author. In the study of scripture, use resources from the language in which the text was written and the definitions determined by that language. (Old Testament – Hebrew New Testament – Greek)
Pastor is another term that is often misunderstood. The pastor is not responsible for your relationship with God. The Greek and Hebrew words translated as pastor pointed to a shepherd in the original. As stated in Bible Study Tools, “the tasks of a Near Eastern shepherd were: - to watch for enemies trying to attack the sheep - to defend the sheep from attackers - to heal the wounded and sick sheep - to find and save lost or trapped sheep - to love them, sharing their lives and so earning their trust.” What a great definition for pastors. Sadly not many take the meaning from the original manuscripts.
You are responsible for your relationship with God. Seek spiritual direction and answers to your questions, directly from God – his Holy Scriptures. You don’t need man to teach you.
But the anointing (Holy Spirit) which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. 1 John 2:27 (KJV)
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