I love words. Words have meaning. I love understanding words. I love studying the roots and origins of words. I love listening to people speak who have a rich vocabulary. I love people who craft sentences well, people who choose words carefully, and use them purposefully. I suppose I sound snobbish but I don’t mean to, it’s just that when I listen to someone who is using the English language well it is like poetry to me. I just love to listen to it.
So I suppose it would follow that one of my great frustrations is how carelessly some people use language. As a society we are quite comfortable using the wrong words, butchering words, and even making up words. I appreciate that cultures and societies have always developed their own vernacular, their own idioms and figures of speech. One could argue that cultures are more rich and interesting because of their unique expressions. So my problem is not with the quaint expressions of speech that are unique to groups pf people. My problem is when words have a specific meaning but are misused and often redefined.
When I was a commercial electrician we were bound by a rule book. The National Electricians Code,NEC for short. It is a rule book that defines exactly how electrical components shall be installed. It is a good and necessary book which seeks to ensure that all electrical work is done safely and appropriately. Without it there would no doubt be significantly more fires and deaths. As a young apprentice I was introduced to this book. One of the things I remember most is the use of three expressions; shall, shall not, and shall be permitted. Obviously in a document like the NEC there can be no room for confusion, although some would argue there still is. Words like shall or shall not leave no ambiguity, the thing either must be done or it must not be done. Shall be permitted lets you know that there are acceptable alternative practices. Every year the NEC is reviewed and updated. Great care is taken to ensure the language is clear, specific, and unambiguous.
As Christians we also have a book, although I hesitate to call it a rule-book or a code-book because those two terms don’t adequately reflect to nature and spirit of the book. This book, the Bible, is also good and necessary and one might also say it was written to protect us from injury and death. I have often joked about the parallels of my two careers. As an electrician I dealt with power and light, life and death, light and darkness… and now as a pastor I still do, although in a much more significant manner.
The Bible, like the NEC uses specific words and phrases because they have meaning. My concern today is that those words and phrases of the Bible are being reinterpreted, often by well meaning people, but the unfortunate result is they are losing their meaning and significance. I can appreciate the intention of the one who wants to make the Bible more accessible. I agree. The old King James is a bear to read or understand. I can appreciate the intention of the one who wants to write a daily devotional making the bible more inspirational and expressive. In fact the Bible is full of poetry and beauty. My only concern is that in trying to make the Bible more relatable or more inspirational we can sometimes change the meaning all together. Can I encourage you, the Christian, to do your due diligence and understand that there may be a vast difference between the actual text of the Bible and the devotional thought that you read with your coffee this morning. I am not up-tight. I love art and poetry, but art and poetry are by design subjective and open to interpretation. The Bible is not. It is the fully inspired written word of God. As Paul tells us in his letter to Timothy:
“But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Words, phrases, and concepts in the Bible are intentional and they have specific meaning, let’s be careful to stay true to the truth. After all, it is the truth that sets men free.
I have written another piece similar to this one, which I also encourage you to read. It deals with the need to stay consistent to the truth as it has been passed down to us. In this age of “wokeness” and “enlightenment” I think it will help.
C3 Newberg is a community church located in Newberg, Oregon. We exist to impact our City and help individuals find and know Christ. We are a Church for the City and a City for Christ.
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