Finding God's Winning Spirit

Words Count

August 3, 2015 | Greg Smith | Focus


My father taught speech communication at Auburn University for 27 years. I heard him say more than once that “words matter" – that good communication lives or dies on the words we use. He also would say that it wasn't that he didn't believe what people said he just didn't believe they knew what they were saying.

I guess that philosophy has stuck with me because I tend to rely on it as a therapist. I tell my clients all the time that words matter; that when they say they feel sad are they really sad or do they they feel hopeless; if they say they feel isolated do they really mean  lost or when they say they feel anxious  do they really mean afraid.  After all, if we are going to seek to understand ourselves and others we need to be specific about what we are talking about.

Nowhere is this more important than when we study Scripture. The point here is that changing words changes the meaning. This is true in any discipline and theology is no different. To take a word or concept in the Bible that seems confusing to us and just "re-word it" so it makes sense to us is a slippery slope. Words matter.

For instance take Philippians 3:13 which says,”… but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” The word used here in the original Greek for “forget” is ἐπιλανθανόμενος which can mean forget or neglect.  There is a big difference between the two here. It is one thing to neglect those things in the past and another to be told to forget things of the past. One is good advice the other is daunting, one is possible the other is not..

We have been taught to define faith as “hope in things to come” when in fact that is not the meaning of faith (pistis) in the original language. The word faith in Koine Greek is translated, assurance, trust, confidence; fidelity – not simply blind hope. Therefore faith here means "something we count on" not hope for.

We need to study Scripture for ourselves and be cautious when it comes to letting others (including me) tell us what God is saying. The danger is that by letting others define and redefine God’s words for us we lose His voice. Before long all we are reading is what we already know and/or want to hear.      

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