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Christian Terms


The following list of definitions are not intended as a complete theological exposition on each subject. These definitions are insights drawn from the text of the Course as a quick reference. Other theological sources should be used to obtain a more complete understanding of the subjects covered.

Authority
The final rule of faith and practice for the Christian is God's written word, the Bible.

Angels
Spiritual beings who are God's agents and messengers for the conducting of His affairs. They are ministering spirits sent to serve those who are to inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14). On certain specific occasions they are visible and recognisable, at other times they are not (e.g. Luke 2:8-15).

Apostle
There are two kinds of apostles in the New Testament:

Apostles of Christ - that original and unique group who were all eye witnesses of Jesus' resurrection and were chosen by Him as the foundation of the church. Their teaching is now found in the New Testament. When we say we are apostolic, we mean we submit to the apostolic teaching in the New Testament.

Apostles of the Church - messengers sent out by a church with authority to proclaim the Gospel, to plant churches and/or to encourage and build up other local churches (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Atonement
The means of making us at one with God. God accepts Jesus' sacrifice as the complete satisfaction for the just requirements and judgment of His law upon our sin. The act of atonement was the substitution of Jesus' death for ours - God paying the penalty for our sin so that we may go free. The triumph of love without compromising justice. (Romans 3:21-26).

Baptism
Baptism in water - in the name of Christ involves a person in complete identification with him. Going down into the water represents death to the old life. Coming up out of the water represents resurrection and spiritual rebirth to the new life in Christ (Romans 6). Baptism is commanded by Jesus in Matthew 28:19. Becoming a Christian involves - faith in Christ; repentance, baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit. Baptism is an outward sign of God's grace changing our hearts.

Baptism and the Holy Spirit - Mark 1:8 and Matthew 3:11 speak of "Baptism with the Holy Spirit". This is referring to the giving of the Holy Spirit to the individual when they put their faith in Christ. It is Christ who baptises us with the Holy Spirit.

Some Christians use the phrase "Baptism of the Holy Spirit" to refer to those further experiences of empowering for ministry that the Holy Spirit gives to Christians from time to time. The New Testament encourages us to "go on being filled with the Spirit" throughout our Christian life. We are encouraged to ask for the Spirit's empowering, filling and gifting - and not to grieve or quench the Spirit's work in our lives (Ephesians 4:30, 1 Thessalonians 5:19; Luke 11:13. See 'Holy Spirit' following).

Belief
In the Christian sense - is when the truth of God takes permanent residence in our heart and mind. It must always be consistent with the Bible. Belief in Jesus is to be our first priority (John 6:29). Faith is acting out our life on the basis of our belief. The sin of unbelief is very serious because it undermines God's purpose and activity in our lives (Romans 4:20, 11:20-23).

Calvary
The Latin word for the geographic location where Christ was crucified in Jerusalem. In Hebrew the word is Golgotha - the place of a skull.

Christ
The title of Jesus. From the Greek word 'Messiah' meaning 'anointed one'.

Confession
To agree with God about ourselves, to admit the truth about our sin to God and our need of him. Sometimes this may need to be shared in confidence with another Christian who can stand with us (James 5:16).

Covenant
A binding agreement between two parties. God's perpetual promise.

Disciple
A person who has come to trust in and follow Jesus - enjoying a personal relationship with him. A disciple desires and allows Jesus to lead him/her through the school of life, learning to put into practice the things of God.

Death
Our physical death brings us before God in His eternal kingdom. At this point there will be a judgment of our lives - all we have thought, said or done. "The second death" is a punishment for the unrepentant - a sentence of eternal separation from God (Revelation 20:11-15 and 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). Faith in Christ in this life is our guarantee of our acquittal before God and the gift of eternal life. Our actions will still be judged, but our inheritance in Christ is secure forever, based on the faith we die with. (Colossians 1:21-23).

Eternity
A condition of existence outside our time frame - where the measuring of time and events by the revolution of the earth around the sun is not relevant. God Himself is the source and power of life in eternity.

Fear
There is a positive and negative fear:

Positive fear. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10). This kind of fear starts with a revelation of the awesomeness of God and the smallness of humankind. It leads us to a right relationship with God, based on reverence and deep loyalty - because we have gained new insight into something of what God is like. Godly fear generates love, respect and humility. To come into God's holy presence is a fearful thing because of our unworthiness. Only in Christ and His cross can we have confidence to approach God (Hebrews 10:19-25). His holiness and majesty and power are like a refining fire (Hebrews 12:29).

Negative fear. This is a debilitating descent into darkness, losing hope and courage, imagining the worst, losing perspective and out of proportion. This is the kind of fear Satan puts on people. It may be based on doubts, unbelief and disobedience, or it could be a result of deception. This kind of destructiveness is not of God. Faith in the Cross is God's remedy.

Faith
To trust, to believe. A gift of God to those who respond to him. An ability to believe God and to trust Him in the circumstances of life. This is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit, working in unison with our will and desires orientated to God.

Free will
The ability to make choices. When it comes to faith, God's grace and our free will interact. Our coming to faith is a result of God's initiative in extending His love to us in Christ. We have the capacity to accept or reject, because God has made us in His image.

Grace
God's free, undeserved and unmerited mercy towards us. The N.T. concept of grace is a beautiful expression describing the heart of God reaching out to bless us when we are totally undeserving of His love and provision. How very sad when this grace is met by rejection or rebellion by people. How beautiful when grace is received with faith and appreciation.

Guidance
Discovering God's direction for our lives. Knowing the will of God as to how we should live and act, as presented in the Scriptures, is generally quite clear. Seeking the specific will of God in situations can be very difficult. In many cases knowing God's will may not be as important as making sure our desires are submitted to God! Relationship with God is a higher priority than activity. Are we living to the light we already have - before we go on to the next thing? Are we in tune with the Scriptures?

Genesis
Beginnings. The first book of the Bible.

Healing
Divine: God's healing power mediated through the Holy Spirit to minister to our physical, emotional or psychological need. This may be immediately effective or through a process of faith over time. The Lord may work by direct intervention, by enhancing the bodies natural healing processes, by using the medical profession, or by a combination of any of these three. We cannot be presumptuous about healing and we may not understand hindrances to healing, or why after much faithful prayer some people are not healed. What we do know is Jesus heals today and that our faith needs to work in co-operation with the Holy Spirit. We must continue to trust him, whether our prayers seem to be effective or not.

Holiness
Holiness is a reflection of the nature of God. In this life it represents people or objects set apart for God's purposes. Holiness could be described as a love affair with God. This love creates in us a desire to please God, to want to draw near to Him and to grow to be like him. Holiness encompasses purity and a deep desire to honour God. We grow in holiness through the process of sanctification.

Under the New Covenant, God undertakes to place His laws in our hearts - that is in our deepest spiritual motivation. In response we do not strive after unattainable human perfection, but allow His holiness to permeate our lives as a result of our relationship with him. We acknowledge the completeness of the work of the cross and desire to allow it to work in our lives without restriction. Our attitude should be to focus on the magnificence of God - and in response to seek to live out a commitment of no compromise with sin. Holiness is not attained in our own strength - but by allowing His strength to work in us as we open up all aspects of our lives to him. (2 Corinthians 7:1, 1 Thessalonians 4:7, 1 John 3:3, Hebrews 12:10-14).

Holy Spirit
The third person of the Trinity. His main task is to reveal Jesus and the work of the Cross to us. He is known as the comforter, teacher, and guide. He was the source of creativity and life (Genesis_2:7). The Holy Spirit presided over the creation of the world and over our new birth. The Holy Spirit is a person (not a force), in perfect union with Jesus and God - the third person of the Trinity. He is our link with God and Jesus. He is God's presence with us and within us - our guide, our teacher, our comforter - our source of spiritual life. Christian maturity is the progressive submission of every part of our life to the Holy Spirit's direction. (See Baptism and the Holy Spirit above)

Inspiration
God's working through our thoughts, imagination and/or dreams, bringing to us Godly insight, knowledge or understanding beyond our natural resources. For example the Scriptures were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19-21). Because of the possibility of error or wrong interpretation, these kind of thoughts need to be tested. (See the notes on Revelation).

Hope
The vision which motivates our desires and actions. The attitude that springs from the knowledge that God has the future in His hands, and that we have a joyful future with him.

Humility
A part of the character of God (Philippians 2:1-11). Being at peace with God through resting in a place where we know that He is everything and we are nothing without him. This takes the heat off us, as we realise we no longer have "to perform" to earn recognition. God's acceptance of us is based on His love, not our achievements or worldly importance! Humility was supremely demonstrated by Jesus - in that though He was from God and is God, He humbled Himself to be a servant to others. We can't make ourselves humble (change our own nature), but in obedience to God we can humble ourselves in specific situations by choosing to put God and others ahead of ourselves. (Philippians 2:8, Matthew 11:29, 1 Peter 5:6). Being poor in spirit is a disposition where we are willing to be emptied of self (Matthew 5:3). God's blessings are frequently poured upon those who possess humility.

Jehovah
Means Lord, from the Hebrew YHWH, one of the Jewish names of God. This word was considered so holy by the devout Jews that they would not pronounce His name.

Jesus
The name Jesus is derived from the Hebrew word "Joshua" meaning saviour.

Justification
Being made right with God, 'just as if' we never sinned. Being acquitted before the bar of God's justice.

Love
The highest form of love is expressed by the N.T. Greek word Agape. This means unlimited and unconditional goodwill towards another. Perhaps the most wonderful aspect of God's love is His acceptance of us as we are. He asks us to likewise accept others. (1 Corinthians 13).

Meek
Humble and submissive to God.

Natural man
A term used in the N.T. for a person whose intellect, will and emotions are not operating under the influence of the Holy Spirit. This is sometimes called the life of the flesh.

Patience
Perseverance in faith over time.

Pride
Two kinds of pride may be considered:

Positive ~ taking a selfless pleasure in something of good report with which we are identified; enjoying an understanding of what produced something creative or excellent, e.g. God was pleased with His creation (Genesis 1:31).

Negative ~ Is when "I" become the object and focus of importance. Pride can be likened to theft, in the sense of stealing from God the credit that is his. Everything we have, whether it be a gift, a talent or an ability has been given to us by God (Psalms 24:1). Our protection from false pride is in giving all the glory back to God, deflecting all praise and thanks to him. (John 15:5, 2 Corinthians 12:9, 1 Corinthians 4:7 and 10:12).

Prophet
A prophet is a person who has received a specific and personal call from God to be a means of communicating God's word. This word may be dealing with the future or it may be shedding light on a current or past situation. There are true and false prophets. A true prophet's words will come true. (2 Peter 1:20-21 and Deuteronomy 13:1-5). Prophecy in the Church today must be consistent with the Scriptures and tested by the community and its leaders.

Redemption
God paying the price to set us free from sin's penalty of death. The blood of Christ was the ransom paid on our behalf.

Regeneration
The process of spiritual re-birth. When we are born again our old nature dies on the Cross with Christ (Romans Ch.6) and is re-born by the power of the Holy Spirit - making it new (Galatians 2:20, 2 Corinthians 5:17). Our renewed spirit then grows afresh in relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-8).

Repentance
A complete change of heart. A change in direction from sin, to God and His ways. In some circumstances it may mean restoration of a previous wrong. Repentance is a decision, a determination of the will to change wrong behaviour or attitudes; it is not just feeling sorry about things, but involves action. One of the most wonderful aspects of the Christian faith is that at any point in time we can have a fresh start. Our repentance and God's forgiveness work together to make this possible.

Restoration
To restore a wrong, to put something right, to renew as situation or relationship. In relationship it is usually through the asking and giving of forgiveness and a willingness to put behind the things of the past. In the Christian life it is essential to keep short accounts (1 Corinthians 13:5). It may in some circumstances involve practical means of restoring a wrong to another.

Revelation
God's self disclosure. Generally - in and through His creation (Romans 1:20). Specifically, through His words and actions as recorded in the Bible. His final revelation is in Jesus Christ, His son. We are encouraged to pray for wisdom and revelation so that we may know Christ better (Ephesians 1:17 and 3:16-19). This knowledge will come to us as the Holy Spirit brings the truth about Jesus to our hearts and minds through God's written Word read and preached, through prayer and Christian fellowship. All revelation must be consistent with God's written word, the Bible. For this reason our understanding of Scripture and our inner thoughts and feelings must always be tested, as our imaginations are prone to error (1 Thessalonians 5:21 and 1 John 4:1). Such testing can include comparing Scripture with Scripture (in context), by the advice and wisdom of other Christians (particularly those more mature than ourselves), and by seeking a common mind and unity in Christian fellowship.

Righteousness
Our right standing before God, achieved for us by Christ. Christ's own righteousness is imputed to us through our faith in him. Because this is our status before God, we should be committed to growing in holiness of life.

Sacrifice-OT
The Old Testament sacrifice was a type which operated under the law, and pointed to the sacrifice of Christ. It came in many forms, from grain to animal sacrifices. The sin offering was an atonement - where the sins of the people where transferred onto the animal - and it's death purchased new life for the believer, free from past sins. This forgiveness foreshadowed the final and complete atonement achieved by Christ. The most important aspects of the offering were that:

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It was without blemish or defect;

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Only the best was acceptable for God;

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It represented the first fruits, not the unwanted or left-overs; and

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The sacrifice was both to obtain purification from sin, and to establish in the life of the believer the principle that there is nothing more important than God. God is to be the first priority, anything less is idolatry.

Sacrifice - NT
Jesus was God's sacrifice for us, fulfilling all the requirements of the law and O.T. sacrifice. For example, where Abraham's hand was stayed from sacrificing Isaac at the last moment - God in turn completed this act in the life of His own son (Isaiah_54:7-8, prophecy of Jesus). God gave His most precious for us. As in the O.T. sacrifice, our sins are transferred onto Christ as our sacrificial lamb - and His death purchases our deliverance from the death warrant - which otherwise results from our sin. His perfect life is our perfect offering. His perfect sacrifice liberates us from the bondage of sin. Our part is to respond in faith by honouring this supreme act of love. This makes it effective in our own lives.

Sacrifice - Us
We are called, in response to God's love and provision, to offer our lives as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). This means discipleship (following in the ways of Christ) is loving God and putting Him as our first priority. It means putting others ahead of ourselves and not complaining. We are to offer to God a sacrifice of praise in all circumstances. (Hebrews 13:15). In addition there will come times of testing in our practical circumstances ~ where God establishes for us that He is our first priority. If we can't offer something to God ~ it's an idol!

Salvation
God's deliverance for those who have faith in Christ's death and resurrection - from the just judgment of the law upon our sin. God's salvation delivers us from the kingdom of darkness and places us in His kingdom. Our new status before God is secure because we belong to Christ. However it has to gradually and progressively work its way through all aspects of how we live.

Salvation and wholeness are closely linked. We can expect God to bring a greater degree of wholeness to every aspect of our lives, as we serve him. Salvation works redemptively in every area of our lives - including sin, rebelliousness, infirmities, anxiety, calamity, disease, grief, sickness, weakness and distress (Isaiah 53:4-7). Having said this, it is also true that we will never be totally free from suffering in this life. Whilst the work of the Cross is total and complete, our experience of it will only be completed when we go to be with Christ (after death), or when He returns to complete His kingdom.

Sanctification
God's process of progressive change in the believers' lives so that they become more Christ-like. Allowing Christ freedom in all aspects of our lives. Maturing in Christ so that we follow the Spirit's prompting in all things.

Satan
The Devil, a fallen angel, a spiritual being opposed to God, who exercises leadership over evil spirits who work to deceive people into rebellious opposition to God. The prince of evil - His name means adversary. Jesus also called Him the deceiver, the father of lies. He suffered eternal defeat in His conflict with Christ - a defeat which can never be overturned. The Christian is now empowered to have victory over the Devil "by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony" (Revelation 12:11), ie: through Christ's death and their faith. The Devil's only way of keeping us apart from the triumph of Christ is to deceive us into rebellion.

Sin
Rebellion against God.

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Every thought, word or deed contrary to the will of God. bulletThe opposite of sin is the obedience of faith.

Temptation
A thought or circumstance designed to cause us to disobey God and His ways. Temptation itself is not sin. It becomes sin when we give in to it. Don't play with the Devil's toys!

Trinity
We worship one God in three persons - who are in unity. The three persons of the Trinity are God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. They are in perfect unity together and yet are individually knowable. To relate to one member of the Trinity is to relate to all three. By faith we recognise this truth, yet our minds can never completely comprehend because we are finite and God is almighty, (if we understood all things we would be God!). One analogy which may be helpful is the three states of water: fluid, steam and ice - yet all being the same substance. (Check Ephesians 1:1-14 to identify each person of the Trinity).

Trust
To trust in God is to rely on Him alone for all our needs. Our trust is based on our knowing that God keeps His word.

Witness
Bringing glory to God by living Godly lives (Matthew 5:16 and John 13:35) so that others may be inspired to search out God for themselves. We can be a witness to Jesus by sharing our faith in Him with others in many ways. This can include the example of our lives, our love for one another, by verbal testimony, by caring and ministry, by prayer, or by any combination of these (Acts 1:8).

Word
God's written word to us is the Bible. Not that it contains God's word, but that it is God's word - His divine revelation of Himself to us (2 Peter 1:19-21). This can be seen in the way Jesus used God's word to deal with the Devil (Matthew 4). It is our reference point for life and our supreme authority. Jesus was also described as God's word to us. In other words, the perfect expression of God to mankind (John 1) 

 

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