Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Words! Glorious Words!

I have always been fascinated with words. It's so interesting to see where they come from, what they mean both connotatively and denotatively, and how that meaning changes with time. I'm especially intrigued with Bible words and how the changing of definitions changes the meaning of biblical truths. There are so many religious words that we all use today that have totally different meanings to today's culture from what they did in Bible times. Words like worship, church, discipleship, gospel, and righteousness, I believe, are so colored by time, traditions, and institutional religion that we miss a great deal of what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us in the Word. At the risk of being a heretic, I feel confident that our views of baptism are extremely influenced by the fact that it's a transliterated word (moved from Greek to English without change) rather than a translated word. We have four centuries of teaching, arguing, and dividing over the doctrine of baptism because it became a religious rite when it went from the concept of immersion or burial to a sacramental act. How would it have changed our interpretations if it had been simply translated?
I mentioned in Sunday's lesson that many have done a grave injustice to the word pattern in 2 Timothy 1:13. When you define it or see it as "a copy" or a detailed "blueprint" you miss Paul's intent and launch on a journey of trying to discover all the "patterns" hidden in the Bible and set yourself up for plenty of potential clashes with others who see patterns you don't see or miss the ones you think are "obvious". The Greek word HUPOTUPOSIS is about purpose not copying. It comes from the root word for an impression, a framework, or boarders. When Paul said to "keep the pattern" he was calling for God's people to stay focused on the purpose - what He did in Jesus. That's not a huge deal to some, but when you realize that most of the battles and church splits of the past were about supposed patterns, it means we fought about issues that shouldn't have been issues in the first place.
Word studies can be dangerous. Just like misinterpreting a word can send you down a wrong road, focusing on words too much can cause you to miss the spirit of what God wants you to learn. That's also the danger in becoming a pattern hunter. Satan loves a good distraction, and he loves to give us a new legal system that ignores the Spirit.

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