Let us be careful with our words. For they dispatch meaning and ideas. They provoke thoughts and build principles. They form behavior and habits. So, we who speak must choose our words carefully and wisely, lest we lead others to believe and ultimately behave in a fashion uncharacteristic of God.
We assume preachers of the Bible to be ones who have first immersed themselves in the many words of God’s revelation before rising to tell us what He says. Therefore, words that are used to communicate His message are correlated to the words we find in His book.
Take the word “apostle” for example. If a preacher, in his mind, defines an apostle as “one who oversees more than one church” and uses this word often in his message, he forms this definition in the mind of his hearer. And, when his hearer reads the Scriptures for himself, he either confuses himself seeing a different definition or confuses the Scripture with the preacher’s definition.
This is true because the Bible uses the term “apostle” differently. One who was an Apostle, was one who had to have seen the risen Christ (Acts 1:21; 1 Cor. 9:1), called directly by Jesus (Lk. 6:13; Gal. 1:1), and was a framer of the church, not founder only. The Apostles gave the revelation of God which we read today in our Bible. Thus, the hearer of this new definition must reconcile this difference. He either confuses himself or he confuses the Scriptures.
This is especially true when the preacher calls himself an Apostle. The hearer, who has familiarized himself with the characteristics of an Apostle in the Bible, suddenly associates the preachers with such pretense. Suddenly, the preacher is one who has seen Jesus, been personally called by Him, and now provides revelation of God as addendum to the New Testament. But is he really such a man? He would likely say no. Yet, this is what is communicated if he is not careful with his words.
The same can be true of words like “filled” and “baptized” with regards to the Holy Spirit. Also, words like “born again” and “saved” and “elect” with regards to salvation. Even words like “healing” with regards to physical and spiritual illness. We must be careful, especially when speaking to biblical and spiritual matters, to employ words that best parallel the words of the Bible.
Should we wonder which has come first: the translation of the Bible or the language of our natives? No, our aim is not to prove which is first or right, but which is best. Consider the morphology of the word “bad.” Before the 90’s, the word meant wicked and wrong. After the 90’s, the word meant appealing and preferable which is the opposite. Today it can mean either.
My suspicion is that if we do not submit to the language of the Lord, our translations will be in need of revisions. Words like “apostle,” though it is transliterated from the Greek “apostolos” and not translated from the Greek into our English, will require the employment of a new word that is yet to cross my mind. Or, we can be more useful to the kingdom and make it easier for our hearers. We can keep with the definitions of the Bible.
In all we say, let us be careful with our words.