September 2014 Yavoh

Defining Terms of the Scriptures.

If you are going to enjoy football in America, then you must learn the terms and definitions of the game.  For example, you can neither play nor even be a good spectator of the game unless you learn the rules of the game.  You must understand what offensive and defensive penalties are.  You must also learn the different positions the players fill, such as quarterback, halfback, and fullback, also defensive ends and tight ends.  Then there are the plays that can be used, such as screen pass, off tackle, button hook pass, draw play, or the flea-flicker.

Without knowing the terms and definitions of the game, an observer will essentially be bored not understanding the importance of the game or its playing strategies.  Those who don’t know the game but who want to join the crowd of fans simply cannot keep up with the game.

The same is true of other types of endeavors.  Take, for example, the world of personal computing.  If you are to be able to perform minimally with email, social media, or playing a game on a computer, you must learn a whole new set of terms and their definitions.  Besides the obvious mouse, CD ROM, and keyboard one must understand operating systems, hard drives, stick drives, and USB ports.  It gets even more complicated if you modify your computer to know what motherboards and peripheral slots are, along with dip switches and bios settings.

Every endeavor requires the participant to learn the various terms and definitions of that activity.

The same is true of the Bible and a proper understanding of our faith in God.  The Scriptures use a multitude of terms to convey the understandings and teachings.  If a believer of God does not understand those terms, then he is likely to pass over them, possibly not value their importance, and not be able to apply them in his life.  Let me give you a few short examples of what I am referring to.

Yeshua the Messiah is referred to as our Redeemer, but what does that mean?  You may also have heard that He is our Atonement. So what does that mean and what is the difference between Redemption and Atonement? We will have to address those at a later time.

Consider these terms.

What is the difference between sin, iniquity, and transgression?  They don’t mean the same thing. Or, consider these contrasting terms: holy/profane, clean/unclean, or pure/impure?  How do they compare with holiness?

In fact, there is an extensive list of terms and definitions one must learn to fully understand and appreciate the wisdom and understanding conveyed in the Scriptures.  Can you imagine trying to walk out your faith without knowing these definitions?  Yes, I can.  Just look at the average believer today.  I have found very few who have come to terms (forgive the pun) with what the Bible is really saying.  In fact, I have asked many believers to give me their best Biblical definition for these often-used terms. After a while, the terms and their definitions become muddled or nebulous and refer back to other terms without any distinguishing difference. The result is confusion and no practical application to their faith.  With an unclear understanding, they just skip over the detailed parts and use the common phrases (with no real understanding).  It is alarming to me that believers cannot even define the basic words used in the Bible.  It means that they do not understand what is being said.  How can they then say that they believe what it says?

Let me explain what I am saying by addressing four terms that every believer has heard and use:  Faith, Grace, Evil, and Holy.  There are, of course, many more terms to know and understand in the Bible, but by way of introduction to this article, we will address these four.

FAITH

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word faith as follows:  1. Unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence. 2. Unquestioning belief in God, religious tenets, etc. 3. a religion or a system of religious beliefs. 4. Anything believed. 5. Complete trust, confidence, or reliance. 6. Allegiance to some person or thing, loyalty.

But that is NOT the Biblical definition of faith.  If you use the Webster’s definition for the word faith, you will be confused and misled.  With that said, how then can we properly define the key words used in Scripture?  The answer is to dig into the root definition of the Hebrew word and examine the usage of the word in application.  Furthermore, contrasting terms (the opposite of the word) also lends itself to the definition.  Each Hebrew word has what is called a primal root word.  Each letter used has a specific meaning.  The combination of the letters then presents a pictorial of action or fact.  This is how the primal root definition is determined.  Usage is the specific application of the word.  How a word is used with other known items then explains the word even more.  Let’s start with the word faith to learn the Biblical definition.

The Hebrew word for “Faith” is Emunah - הנומא.

The Biblical definition of faith is: Believing in the person of God and having the conviction to believe in His definition of life, statements, promises, and covenants.

Now, let’s look at how faith is used in Scripture and defined in the Bible.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Messiah [God]. Romans 10:17

We can quickly conclude that faith is not something visible; it is something that happens by hearing. But let’s examine where faith is first mentioned in the Scripture.

Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.  Genesis 15:6

The following verse explains that Abraham’s believing is an act of faith.

For we say, "Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness."  Romans 4:9b

Belief and faith are used interchangeably in the Scriptures.  Faith is what you believe and who you believe in.  By the way, the Hebrew word believe is Aman - נמא. Its individual letters combine to mean “strength of the living waters.”  We see a dramatic example of that definition in the story of Moses and the Rock that brought forth the waters to the Children of Israel in the wilderness.  When Moses struck the Rock with his staff instead of speaking to the Rock, God said that Moses did not believe in Him.  The act of speaking to God is an act of belief. If you then listen to God and act on what He has said or promised, it is said that you believe in Him or have faith in Him.  Faith, therefore, is the action of believing.  This is why James questions those who state a belief but don’t act on their belief.

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith [without action] save him?  James 2:14

If we simplify the definition of the word faith as used in Scripture, it is as follows:  “Faith is believing in and what God has said and promised.”  You can take any book of the New Testament where the word faith is used and substitute the words “believing the promises of God,” and every verse will make sense.  Therefore, faith is NOT a conviction of things not proved or without evidence.  It is not mystical; it is a real thing with real evidence supporting it.  Faith is also measureable.  You can have little faith or much faith.  Yeshua referred to His disciples many times as men of “little faith” (Matthew 6:30, 8:26, 14:31, 16:8 and Luke 12:28).  Faith can also be granted to you as a spiritual gift to accomplish ministry tasks.  Yeshua said that if you have faith equal to a mustard seed you could move mountains.

And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing shall be impossible to you.”  Matthew 17:20

The faith that Yeshua is describing (Biblical faith) is very powerful.

With regard to believing in the existence of God, the creation of the heavens and the earth boldly declares His existence, but believing in God is much more that just acknowledging the evidence of God.  Believing in God is developing a personal relationship with the person of God.

Faith is not your religion, although many use this expression.  Faith is not being Messianic, Baptist, or Catholic.  Those are religious customs and traditions.  Faith is not a feeling.  Many people use this as a spiritual barometer of sorts (when I am healthy and wealthy my faith is working), but then their faith falls apart when bad times come or there is a significant loss.  Some even go so far as to count their faith like poker chips in the gamble of life.  They think that if bad things happen or the Lord is not answering their prayer, it is because they lack faith for their healing or need.  Faith is not a coupon one redeems to get something from God.

Here is what the Apostle Paul had to say about Faith.

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.  For I determined to know nothing among you except Messiah Yeshua, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.  1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Faith is the power of God in you.  It is made evident when you take God at His Word and act on it.

GRACE

Webster’s Dictionary defines Grace as: 1. beauty or charm of form, composition, movement, or expression. 2. an attractive quality, feature, manner, etc. 3. any of the graces. 4. a sense of what is right and proper, decency and thoughtfulness toward others. 5. goodwill, favor. 6. mercy, clemency. 7. a period of time beyond the date set for payment or obligation. 8. a short prayer of thanks. 9. a title of respect or reverence when speaking with an archbishop, a duke or duchess. 10. ornamental notes used in music. 11. the unmerited love of God toward mankind.

Many believers interchange the word mercy with grace meaning simply “unmerited favor.” Many believers also associate grace with salvation.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  Ephesians 2:8

But in this instance mercy doesn’t seem to fit directly, but many do say, “I was saved by God’s mercy,” particularly in harrowing circumstances for mortal salvation.

The Hebrew word for Grace as a noun is Chen - ןח, pronounced "khān".  It is spelled with two Hebrew letters: Het and Nun.  The root definition is favor, charm, elegance, or acceptance.  Het means “that which comes forth” and Nun means “the quickening of life.” One could say, "to give grace is to bring forth life."

The Hebrew word for Grace as a verb is Chanan - ןנח, pronounced "kha-nan."  As a verb it means to show favor or be gracious, to pity, to make something favorable or gracious, to direct favor, or have mercy on, to show consideration or to implore favor.  In a minor usage it can indicate something as being loathsome (something in need of favor).

The Biblical definition of grace (noun) is: The favorable decision because of a noble request, purpose, attitude, or just cause. 

God’s grace is essentially His decision to trade His life for our lives due to the death penalty upon us for sin. God sees us as already judged guilty and has nobly decided to offer forgiveness and abundant life. It is based on something seen! Here are some examples:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Messiah died for us.  Romans 5:8

God knew that He was going to judge the world by a flood and saw the need for Noah to be saved.

But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Genesis 6:8 KJV

Abraham invited the three figures to join him for lunch at the oaks of Mamre.

…and said, "My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by.  Genesis 18:3

Lot recognized God’s past grace in his life at Sodom.

Now behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have magnified your lovingkindness, which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, lest the disaster overtake me and I die;  Genesis 19:19

Jacob testified to his brother Esau how God had been gracious to him for the past 20 years.

. . . I have oxen and donkeys and flocks and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.  Genesis 32:5

Esau questioned why Jacob had sent so many gifts.  Jacob answered that the gifts were given to gain a favorable opinion from Esau toward Jacob.

And he said, "What do you mean by all this company which I have met?" And he said, "To find favor in the sight of my lord."  Genesis 33:8

Potiphar, the Captain of Pharaoh’s guard, made a decision to favor Joseph when Joseph was a servant in his house based on Joseph’s performance.

So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge.  Genesis 39:4

The Egyptians pledged themselves as slaves to Pharaoh based on how Joseph had provided the food necessary to save their lives to that point.

So they said, "You have saved our lives! Let us find favor in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's slaves."  Genesis 47:25

When Jacob passed away, Joseph sought the grace of Pharaoh based on his past performance serving Pharaoh.

And when the days of mourning for him were past, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, "If now I have found favor in your sight, please speak to Pharaoh, saying,...  Genesis 50:4

Whereas faith is something NOT seen, grace (as a noun) is most definitely based on something seen.  It is the decision to grant favor based on past performance.  Anyone can extend grace to another; but that grace is usually based on something seen first.  Consider those whom you might help.  Most people show grace (grant favor) to those they know and have observed rather than to those they have not seen. You make the decision to be gracious to those seen by you.  In the case of God’s grace toward us, His decision to be gracious toward us is based on seeing our need and hearing our petition.  That grace is mostly clearly manifested toward mankind by His decision to give us His Son as the Messiah and Redeemer for salvation.

So let’s look at the word grace as a verb.  Again, it is the action of showing forth positive favor.  It is implementing the decision to be gracious. The Hebrew word as a verb is spelled with an additional letter nun as compared to the noun.  Again, the nun means the “quickening of life,” so the verb is actually the doubling of that meaning to benefit us (a “double shot” of the quickening of life for us).  Here are some usage examples of the word “grace” as verb.

Jacob asked Esau to accept his gift based on how God had been gracious to him.

"Please take my gift which has been brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me and because I have plenty." Thus he urged him and he took it.  Genesis 33:11

God described and defined Himself to Moses while on the mountain, citing His decision to be gracious.

And He said, "I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion."  Exodus 33:19

The priestly blessing invokes God (the action) to be gracious upon the person blessed.

The Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you;... Numbers 6:25

In the New Testament, the Greek word for grace is primarily “charis.”  When it is focused on the grace of God given as a gift, the word is “charisma.”  The word is used both as a noun and a verb depending on usage, but it refers primarily to God’s favor upon us (the noun) and the act of God being kind (the verb) to us.  What is mainly missing in our understanding of God’s grace is the deliberate decision that God makes to grant us His favor.  Grace is not given by Him indiscriminately.  God does not shed His grace upon everyone.  This is why we invoke His grace upon someone or some situation.  It is based on something seen and linked to thankfulness.

With this is mind, how does one fall from grace?

You have been severed from Messiah, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.  Galatians 5:4

Answer:  If you have dismissed God’s grace of sending the Messiah to cover your sins by self-justifying yourself, then you do not have the favorable decision of the Lord any longer. You do NOT have the grace (gift) of eternal life. 

But let’s address another definition of grace (not used in the Bible) that Christians sometimes use.  Many Christian teachers believe that grace is something opposite of the Torah (the Law). They even teach that being obedient to God’s commandments is “falling from grace” and seeking to save oneself. This is NOT the Biblical definition of grace whatsoever.  The Church Fathers came up with this false teaching in an effort to dismiss the commandments of God for the church.  They taught that grace was a covering and it took care of the problem of NOT keeping the commandments.  Therefore, grace replaced obedience, faithfulness, and doing what God says.  To this day, many Christians think keeping commandments is okay for Jews but Christians are not to “keep the Law.” Nothing could be further from the truth!

Let me remind you of the definition for “falling from grace.”

If you have dismissed God’s grace of sending the Messiah to cover your sins by self-justifying yourself, then you do not have the favorable decision of the Lord any longer. You do NOT have the grace (gift) of eternal life.

If a “believer” asserts that God’s grace has covered his willful disobedience toward God and self-justifies himself by substituting his (or the church’s) definition for grace from God’s, he has fallen from God’s grace.

God’s grace works with God’s commandments; they are NOT exclusive.

EVIL

Webster’s Dictionary defines evil as: 1. morally reprehensible: sinful, wicked. b. arising from actual or reputed bad character or conduct. 2. inferior, causing discomfort or repulsion, disagreeable. 3. causing harm or pernicious, marked by misfortune.

The Hebrew word for evil is Ra - ער.  It is spelled with two Hebrew letters: Resh and Ayin.  It is used in Scripture as an adjective.

The Biblical definition of evil is: The desire of bringing intentional harm to another. 

Other words that are used in conjunction with this definition are: bad, disagreeable, malignant, unpleasant, giving pain, unhappiness, misery, displeasing, hurtful, wrong, distress, adversity, injury, and finally wicked or wickedness.  But there is another aspect of these “bad” things.  When they are perpetrated by someone who is unjustified in doing so, we tend to label that as evil.  It is intentional harm with no justification.

When God judges His enemies, we say that it is intentional harm, but He is justified in carrying out His judgment; therefore, we don’t call it evil but judgment. You can be assured that the Devil has full intention to do harm to us, but he is unjustified in doing so.

The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.  John 10:10

Many believers argue that evil is an entity that exists separate from man and God.  Some argue that it is only the deeds of men who live contrary to God.  Let’s examine what the Scriptures actually say and how they define the word evil.

Yeshua sharply contrasted God’s purposes from those who do evil.  This definition goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  When man ate the forbidden fruit, he learned how to do good and evil.  Since then, we have inherited the consequences of that act. The problem is how to make the proper choice.  Man has difficulty demonstrating how to make proper choices.  Historically, every advancement in knowledge has been used for both, not just for good.  Mankind has now progressed to doing harm on an unprecedented scale, sufficient to destroy ourselves completely.

Here are other Scriptures where the word evil is used and translated as “wicked,” “wickedness,” “hurt,” or “harm.”

God saw the evil of man before the great flood.

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  Genesis 6:5

God saw the evil of those in Sodom and Gomorrah.

Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord.  Genesis 13:13

Laban had the ability to do evil to Jacob, but God warned him not to do anything.

It is in my power to do you harm, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, “Be careful not to speak either good or bad to Jacob.”  Genesis 31:29

Laban and Jacob made an agreement to not do evil to each other.

This heap is a witness, and the pillar is a witness, that I will not pass by this heap to you for harm, and you will not pass by this heap and this pillar to me, for harm.  Genesis 31:52

In an interesting play on his name, the first son of Judah is “evil” spelled backwards.  Apparently, he did “evil” things.

But Er, Judah's first-born, was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord took his life.  Genesis 38:7

Judah pleaded for the life of his father Jacob to Joseph saying that Benjamin must return or evil will befall Jacob.

And if you take this one also from me, and harm befalls him, you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.  Genesis 44:29

God was ready and justified to do harm to Israel until Moses argued that Egypt would say afterwards that God destroyed Israel without justification—that His purpose for bringing Israel out of Egypt was to only kill them.

“Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them, and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.” Then Moses entreated the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with "a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, 'With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth'? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people.”   Exodus 32:10-12

The word evil as used in Scripture only means intentional harm and sometimes God does do it when it is justified. We call that judgment. “Wickedness” is evil done without justification. God is NOT “wicked.”  Wickedness is the intentional harm done by the Devil or the enemies of God.

HOLY

Webster’s Dictionary defines Holy as: 1. dedicated to religious use, belonging to God, consecrated, sacred. 2. spiritually perfect or pure. 3. having deep respect, awe, or reverence. 4. a generalized intensive expression with high contrast, an expression of astonishment or emphasis.

The Hebrew word for Holy is Kadash - שדק.  In Hebrew, it is used as a verb, meaning the action of making something sanctified (set apart) or returning something to its original undefiled state or purity. 

In Hebrew, the word for the noun “Holiness” and "Holy" is spelled the same and pronounced “Kodesh." It is also joined with the word to form a new entity.

The Biblical definition of Holiness (noun) is: The state of being sanctified, separate, set apart, not defiled, or in its original state of creation.

Other words used in Scripture are “consecrated,” “hallowed,” “sacred,” “majestic,” “honored,” “dedicated,” and “devoted,” carry the meaning of Holy.

This word lends itself in usage and definition when it is contrasted.  Sometimes Holy is highly contrasted against the words “profane,” “defiled,” and between “clean and unclean.”   When something is first made by God it is holy, meaning it is undefiled and still in its original state.

Many people view the word Holy as something unattainable or that it is something more about religious ritual, an artificial element contrived to define people with sin, impurity, and defilement.  References to the Holy Bible, the Holy Church, Holy Communion, Holy Fathers, etc. are viewed by many as overstatements supporting religious doctrines of a particular religion.  The word is even mocked to a degree with expressions such as “holy cow,” “holy smokes,” etc.  All of these examples seem to only confuse the Biblical term Holy.

As an noun, here are Scripture examples of usage.

Then He said, "Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground."  Exodus 3:5

and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.  Exodus 19:6

You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.  Exodus 28:2

You shall make of these a holy anointing oil, a perfume mixture, the work of a perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil.  Exodus 30:25

The Bible limits the use of the word holy as a noun to God, His presence, His deeds, and His things. If a person, place, or thing is called holy, then that means it is in its original, perfect, undefiled state as created by God. When holy is used as a verb (kadash),  the action upon the noun is to set it apart, and return that object to its original, perfect, undefiled state as created by God.  Here are Scriptural examples of that usage.

The Lord also said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; Exodus 19:10

“But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you. Exodus 31:13

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Exodus 20:8

The Sabbath is holy. Our keeping the Sabbath is one way that the Lord makes us holy. We are to remember and observe the Sabbath to keep it holy. This means NOT profaning or defiling it. Men don’t do things to become holy per se. Just like the noun is reserved for things belonging to God, only the Lord can perform the action of making us holy. What we can do is avoid the activities that defile us.

Holiness and holy things are real.  Before we leave this subject, I should also mention a particular sin that is defined in Scripture.  It is blasphemy.  Blasphemy occurs anytime a person takes a holy thing and regards it as unholy or if a person takes an unholy thing and regards it as holy.  In other words, if you confuse or distort holy things, it is a sin unto death; the most severe penalty from God is warranted.  This is why Yeshua warned against committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  Regarding God as unholy, defiled, or unclean is as Yeshua said – unforgiveable!

Conclusions

In the course of this short article, I have only picked out four words and sought to reveal the Biblical definition.  Maybe you have had a different definition for these words in the past.  Maybe you are struggling with the Biblical definitions.  You are not alone.  Many believers simply do not understand the terms used in Scripture nor how the Bible.  Using the definitions of religious men today can distort and cause confusion in understanding Scripture.  My hope is that you will seek out the definitions for the words used in the Bible, preferring the Biblical definition over the erroneous definitions of our day.  This is the only way we can properly and clearly understand the spiritual instruction given in Scripture. 

It is my intention, Lord willing, to publish a Messianic dictionary of Biblical terms and their definitions. It is my hope that by clarifying and standardizing the terms and definitions we use in Scripture that it will promote unity in teaching among the Messianic brethren and a better understanding of Scripture.

How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver.  Proverbs 16:16