A Strange Phenomenon:
by Kenneth E. Thomas
January 31, 2001
There's a very "strange phenomenon" among the Protestant preachers all around us. These men are usually college trained having attended Seminaries run by their respective denominations where they are instructed in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament and in the Koine Greek of the New. What is so strange is the inability of many of these men to understand some of the simple English words in the New Testament. This problem isn't limited to Protestants, it is also often true of our Roman Catholic, Jewish, and practitioners of Islam and other Eastern religions as well.
Some of the words with which the above mentioned religious leaders seemingly cannot understand are easily understood by folks of much lesser educational attainments. I have been reading quite well in the English language since grade school. I have some aids to Bible Study in the form of books written by Scholars who know the Greek and Hebrew languages. I also have Webster's Collegiate Dictionary along with several "online" word study aids as well as a hand held electronic dictionary by Miriam Webster all of which help me to understand the meaning of words and how they are used in the Bible. A word of caution should be given at this point. When using an English dictionary one must realize that the meanings given to some words used in the Bible aren't true to the way they are used in the Bible, but how they are now used in our living and growing English language. Therefore one needs to use word studies giving the meaning in the original language from time to time so as not to misuse a word or to get a wrong meaning. Too, the context of how a word is used is vital to a proper understanding.
Why Do So Many Denominational Preachers Misunderstand
I will give a partial list of commonly misunderstood words as they are used in the Bible texts. Many preachers have a real problem for example understanding "I," "My," "one," "Into," "For," "Few," "It," "If," "Obey," "Sing," "Burial," "Saves us," etc., etc., etc. I may not get around to showing how every one of the above words are often misunderstood but I will use some of them in this illustration. There are many others. You are probably already thinking, "Why, there's not a preacher or priest around who doesn't understand the meaning of the words you have used in your illustration." You are exactly right when it comes to the every day usage of these words. However, some how when the above words are used in the Scriptures these same preachers and or priest seem to have a great bit of difficulty understanding them! Why do you suppose this is true?
Let's take the little words, "I" and "My." Jesus Christ God's "only begotten Son" said in Matthew 16:18, "I will build My church." When it comes to purely worldly matters folks know that if I, Ken Thomas should say, "I will build my house," that the finished product would have been built by me, and that it would be known as mine or "Ken Thomas' house." Why then the problem of understanding when it comes to the spiritual house of the Lord? Why can't folks see that Christ alone is the builder and that its only logical that one of the things it would be called is, "The church of Christ" or "Christ's church." I suggest it isn't so much a problem of understanding nearly so much as it is of acceptance.
Other Religious Bodies
Other religious bodies in addition to the "one" which Christ shed His blood to purchase have been brought into being with different founders, at different places than was prophesied of Christ's church with different names, organization, terms of entrance, worship activities and function from the "one" Jesus established. All of these are without divine approval. They are plants not planted by our Lord which are destined to be rooted up come judgment. The only one ever authorized by the Heavenly Father to begin a religious entity, body, relationship between God and sinful man was God's sinless Son (Psalm 127:1; Matthew 15:13).
Christ's Church Is Blood Bought
The price Christ would pay to make a way and a place where reconciliation to God could be accomplished or realized was the blood of God the Son. Read carefully the following passages, (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 1:18-20; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; Ephesians 2:13- 17). Next read for yourselves how men came into this relationship (Acts 2:22-38,40- 41,47).
"There Is One Body"
Does "one" only mean "one" when speaking of secular matters? Does it not mean exactly the same when written in the Scriptures? One always means one! The Apostle Paul, writing by divine inspiration said, "...that He might reconcile them both (Jew & Gentile KET) to God in "one body" through the cross (His death KET) thereby putting to death the enmity (Ephesians 2:13-17). The enmity would be that hatred which existed between Jew and Gentile as well as between God and sinful men. What is this "one body" where reconciliation occurs? The Scriptures are clear that this has reference to the church of Christ. Paul wrote, "And He (Christ) is the head of the body, the church..."(Colossians 1:18). In Ephesians 4:4-6, one may read the following language: "There is "one body" and "one Spirit," just as you were called in "one hope" of your calling; "One Lord," "one faith," "one baptism" "One God and Father" of all...and in you all." (extra quotes and bolding, mine KET). If there is "one body," and the body is the church, just how many churches are there in God's system of redemption? Does "one" mean "one?" If you answer yes, then also look at the other "ones" in this same context. One Lord-One Faith-One Baptism-One God. Why do you suppose so many preachers can see and understand that there is "one Lord," and "one God," but have a problem understanding that there is "one faith," and "one baptism?" Is the problem one of understanding or is it a problem of accepting? I think the reader is smart enough to know the answer to my question.
Is this word "into" difficult to comprehend? Not generally it isn't. It's only when we are dealing with spiritual matters that folks all of a sudden can't seem to grasp its meaning! Why do you suppose this is? We turn your attention to a case of conversion in the Acts of the Apostles of Christ. Philip the evangelist was instructed to join himself to the chariot of an Ethiopian, treasurer of Queen Candace. He asked the treasurer if he understood what he was reading. From what is quoted in this context we learn that he was reading from Isaiah 53 about what was prophesied concerning Jesus our Savior some 750 years before. The man desired Philip to come up and sit with him and explain the meaning of this difficult prophecy. The record says, "Philip began at the same Scripture and preached unto him Jesus" (Acts 8:35). As they went down the road, they came to some water. The treasurer said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." And he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down "into" the water, and he baptized him. Now when they were come up out of the water..."(Acts 8:26-39). Is the language too difficult to comprehend here? They didn't go down beside the water or to the water's edge, they went down, "into the water" and he baptized him (V-38). Do these learned denominational preachers and priests know the meaning of "into" and "up out of" generally speaking? You know they do. Then why do they misunderstand the language when baptism is under consideration do you suppose? Could it be that the word "into" and "up out of" are too difficult for them? Again, you know the answer. The "one baptism" of Ephesians 4:5, demands both the baptizer and the one being baptized go "down into and come up out of the water." Can sprinkling, pouring or dabbing some small amounts of water possibly satisfy the demands of this one scriptural baptism? To ask is to answer. These Protestants and Catholics can also tell you the very meaning of the Greek word that is translated as baptism, means only to immerse. Again the problem on the religious scene isn't one of ability to comprehend, it is one of acceptance. The creeds for various Catholic and Protestant churches in some cases allows for a "choice of one of three baptisms" whereas the Bible knows and accepts only "one." and that is immersion as noted above.
Reams of paper have been used along with gallons of ink in writing about this little three letter word, "for." Debates have, and continue to be engaged in with both negative and affirmative arguments for nights on end having to do with the meaning of this word. While it is true that in our English language "for" has various usages and sometimes means "because of" More than one word is used in the Greek manuscripts that translate into our English "for." Often in addition to looking up a word in a Greek Lexicon to see how it is used in various places, all one needs to do is pay close attention to how it is being used in the context under consideration.
A good example to exemplify what I mean is the following: As Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper in Matthew 26:28, He said of the fruit of the vine, "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed "for" many "for" the remission of sins." If He had wanted men to believe that He shed His blood "because men were saved already," He would have used a different Greek word than He used. He use "Eis," a word always looking forward and never backward. It so happens that on the birthday of the church of Christ when Peter became the spokesman for the Apostles to use the "keys to the kingdom" that is to tell folks how they may be forgiven and may become a member of Christ's church, he used this same word in Acts 2:38 that Jesus used in Matthew 26:28, "For." Having been made believers by Peter's sermon they asked "...what shall we do?" Peter said, they must "repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, "for" the remission of your sins" (Acts 2:38). Unless Jesus died because we were saved already (which is ridiculous) then we are not to be baptized "because we are saved already." Jesus shed His precious blood "in order that we might be saved." We as penitent believers are to be baptized "in order that we might be saved." It is just that simple. Why don't men understand it? Their creeds or their traditions blind their minds to the simple truths of the word of Christ. See (2 Cor. 4:3-4; 2 Thess. 2:10-12).
I wonder who has any problem understanding this phrase when faith is under consideration? Do our Protestant preachers misunderstand the passages which attribute salvation to us based on our faith? When a passage says "faith saves us" can they comprehend that? I dare say not a one of them has a problem in that regard. But change the subject from "faith" to "baptism" and all of a sudden they lose their minds and their ability to comprehend. The same Apostle who told believers on Pentecost to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), later wrote by the same Spirit who led him on the birthday of Christ's church, "...When once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but an answer of a good conscience toward God,) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him "(1 Peter 3:20-21).
Once Curtis W. Porter was debating a Baptist preacher on this subject. While in the affirmative on this proposition, he asked his opponent, "does this passage say baptism saves you?" He asked him about three times before he answered from his seat. His answer was, "Yes, that passage says that but..." Mr. Porter said I don't wish to hear any "buts" about it. You have admitted that this passage says "baptism saves us," and yet you have signed your name to debate for two evenings that one is saved before and without water baptism?" He then said something like, "Sir, I would not be in your shoes for all the tea in China!" I like to add a hearty A-men to that statement.
Oh boy, here is a really hard word! Sing means to play don't you know? No, I didn't know that! Neither did the Scholars who translated the New Testament into English from Greek. Every last one of them faithfully translated the Greek words having to do with music in worship of Christians as "sing" or one of its equivalents. If the original Greek word meant to "play" or if the Lord had said simply "make music," we would have been at liberty to make any "kind" of music we desired. But the Holy Spirit said "sing" "speak" "teaching" with Psalms, Hymns, and spiritual songs and also said "making melody in your hearts..."(Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 14:15). It wasn't until the seventh century A.D. that mechanical instruments of music were introduced into the apostate Roman church. It caused such a furor that it was removed until about the 15th century. It was not employed by the apostles of Christ in the early congregations of Christ's people because the Apostles who were guided into "all truth" did not authorize its use (John 16:13; 2 Peter 1:3). It is an addition that will damn the souls of those who employ it. Too, every reformer of note in the 16th Century A.D., spoke out against the mechanical instruments of music in worship. One could as well pray mechanically as one could worship with a mechanical device.
"If." Now here's a big little word. It is also a very
difficult word for some to understand evidently. Jesus said, "If
you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed" (John 8:31).
If plain language means anything at all, this teaches that those who do
not honor the word of Christ are not His disciples. Besides that, the next
verse hangs on knowing the truth that frees, to this verse. "And you
shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (V-32).
In spite of such clear declarations by the Master teacher, we are told
that "doctrine isn't all that important" by our Protestant preachers.
They tell us all that really matters is that one "accepts
Jesus as his personal Savior." I would not think of minimizing the
need to "accept Jesus as one's personal Savior" but I would add to this
that one must also accept His Lordship over their lives (Luke 6:46;
Colossians 3:17). It was the Son of God Himself who taught that many
will believe themselves saved, only to find out at the judgment that they
were never in the kingdom or church of Christ (Matthew 7:13-28).
All students of the Bible should spend some time with Hebrews chapter eleven. Here we have the "hall of fame of the heros of faith" from various dispensations of time. Men whose faith led them to obey the Lord often at great personal expense to their physical well being but it gained for them honorable mention in this great lineup of men and women of faith. Doing the will of God Almighty has never negated grace nor faith, no, it has always tied them together inextricably.
"Obeying The Gospel"
This phrase is strange language to our Protestant preachers and friends. They have been told "just accept Jesus as personal Savior, just kneel and pray a prayer something like this: "Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I accept You as my personal Savior and I ask You to come into my heart and life and save me from my sins." Sounds pretty good doesn't it? The only trouble is, it disregards the "Great Commission" given by Jesus Christ Himself (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-20; Luke 24:45-49). This commission was to be carried out by Christ's Apostles beginning at Jerusalem then taken unto the uttermost parts of the earth. Paul says that those who "obey not the gospel" will be punished with everlasting destruction..."(2 Thessalonians 1:6-10). He likewise said this gospel was to be taught to all nations "for obedience to the faith" (Romans 16:26).
Jesus said, "..he that believes and is baptized will be saved.."(Mark 16:16). Jesus said that "repentance and remission of sins should be preached in My name beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47). We have already seen that on Pentecost, the birthday of Christ's blood bought church that is exactly what Peter command of his believing audience, "repent and be baptized...for the remission of yours sin..." (Acts 2:22-38,40-41, 47). In the Acts of the Apostles when this commission was carried out by the Apostles the following shows that they did indeed have to "obey" certain commands before they could be granted remission of alien sins. Don't let such little words keep you out of the kingdom of Christ. "Obey the gospel" before it is everlastingly too late for your immortal souls! This will make you a "Christian only" and a citizen in the kingdom of Christ, a member of Christ's blood bought church. See examples of conversion below:
1). Jews on Pentecost-(Acts 2:22-38,40-41,47)
When one reads all "Great Commission" passages and then looks at all cases of conversion under inspired teachers, the "plan of salvation" follows several logical steps of faith leading to forgiveness of sins and membership in Christ's church. They are:
2). Faith or belief (Hebrews 11:6; John 8:21-24; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
3). Repentance due to godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10; Acts 2:38; Luke 13:3).
4). Confession of one's belief in Jesus (Romans 10:10; Acts 8:37).
5). Baptism into Christ and into His one body (Acts 2:38,41, 47; Colossians 1:13-14; Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 3:26-29; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 2:13-16).
6). Faithfulness unto death (Revelation 2:10b; Hebrews 3:12-19; Colossians 1:23).
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