Words matter. As a counselor, I know the power of the spoken word, how certain words can break a relationship, while others can heal it. As a writer, I know the importance of selecting the right word to use in a sentence. Sometimes, just one word can be the difference between confusion and clarity.
Words matter in the Bible as well. God created the world through just the power of his word; he merely spoke and light appeared. The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is The Word incarnate, God’s word to us made flesh. Unlike the words we write or speak, God’s word is active and alive; it changes and transforms. It is truth which sanctifies.
As we prepare to return to Bible studies with the women in our churches this fall, it is appropriate to look at the significance of words in Scripture, for every word carries weight and meaning. When we study a passage or chapter in the Bible, it is important to make note of the words used, the meanings of those words, and how they are used. It makes a world of difference as we seek to understand, learn, and be transformed by the very word of God.
As you study God’s word this semester, consider some of these words:
Names of People and Places: The meanings of names is significant in the Bible. Whenever we come across a name, whether of a person or place, we ought to look up its meaning. Unlike modern times, in the Bible, a person’s name often indicated something about who they were and what they would become (Gen 17:5). Sometimes God instructed prophets to name their children names that spoke to what was happening at that time in Israel or signified what would happen in the future (Hosea 1:6). Often, the names of places tell us something about who God is and what he has done. Further, it’s fascinating to look at the names of places in the New Testament because we often find significant events taking place at the same location important events took place in the Old.
Repeated Words: Consider how often a teacher or parent repeats the same instructions to children. Such instructions often sound like a record set on repeat. In the Bible, when a word is repeated, it’s not accidental and certainly not something to tune out. It’s done so to enforce something, to highlight something, to make a point. The author is saying, “Listen up! This is uber-important!” When we come across repeated words or phrases, we ought to stop and take notice. A good example of this is when Isaiah hears the seraphim call out, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (6:3). It’s also helpful to look at the cross references to see other places in the Bible a word is used.
Transition Words: Many bible study students have heard a pastor or teacher tell them that when they come across the word “therefore” they are to ask: What is it there for? Transition words are important. Though they can be small and seem insignificant, they serve an essential function. These words can summarize, illustrate, compare or contrast, emphasize, and point to an end result. Keep an eye out for such words because sometimes, they can be the hinge in a sentence or paragraph that makes all the difference.
Verbs: Verbs are the heartbeat and life of the sentence. They tell us what the subject did. The Biblical authors often use compelling and strong verbs. Take the time to consider the meaning of those words. Mull them around in your mind for a bit and sit with them. For example, consider Paul’s use of the verb lavished in Ephesians 1:7-8, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.”
Adverbs: Today’s writers are often cautioned against the use of adverbs. If you use a strong verb, you don’t need an adverb. Interestingly, biblical authors don’t shy away from using them. So take note of their use and look up the meanings. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). The adverb here, abundantly, means “in all its fullness, superabundant or superior; by implication, excessive.” Jesus gives us life in all its fullness. Excessive life!
Metaphors: The Bible is rich in illustration, images, metaphors, similes, and the like. These figures of speech help us better understand a concept. Metaphors in particular make comparisons and in the Bible, the use of metaphors help us better understand a spiritual concept by comparing it to something else we do understand. Consider how Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a man finding a treasure in the field: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44). The Kingdom is of such value that we would give all we have to obtain it.
In our fast paced world, it is easy to read a verse or passage of Scripture and miss out on its depth of meaning because we don’t pause to consider the words used. May we remember that both in life and in Bible study, words matter.
About the Author:
Christina received her undergraduate degree from Covenant College and her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She writes for a number of Christian ministries and publications including TGC, Revive Our Hearts, Desiring God, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Ligonier Ministries. She is the content editor for enCourage and the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament , Closer Than a Sister: How Union with Christ Helps Friendships to Flourish, Idols of a Mother’s Heart and Sufficient Hope: Gospel Meditations and Prayers for Moms. Christina serves on the advisory board at Covenant College and is on the national women’s ministry team as Regional Adviser of the Southeast. She prefers her coffee black and from a French press, enjoys antiquing, hiking, traveling, and reading. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two boys. You can find her at www.christinafox.com, @christinarfox and on Facebook.