Church Lingo

Church Lingo


absolution – the pronouncement of forgiveness of sins; for example, after a person confesses their sins to a pastor he pronounces their sins are forgiven through Christ

active obedience – Jesus’ active obedience is his living a perfect life on our behalf, in our place; Jesus lived perfectly in every situation where we have sinned so his perfect life could cover over our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21); active because he was the one doing the actions of living a perfect life; see Forgiveness of Sins for All People

adiaphora – matters of “indifference”; things that are neither commanded nor forbidden by God

Adonai – the Hebrew pronunciation used for God’s special name in the Old Testament (Yahweh); see also LORD; the Jews substituted this pronunciation for God’s name so as to avoid “misusing” God’s name

adultery – the act of being unfaithful to one’s spouse; this violates the fact that a husband and wife become “one flesh” when joined in marriage (see Marriage)

agape – (pronounced “ah-gah-pay”) from a Greek word for “love”; often used in the New Testament for God’s one-way love for people; love given without anything expected in return; love for the unlovable

allegorizing – injecting a figurative meaning into a portion of Scripture

altar – an elevated table or platform where sacrifices were burned and offered in Old Testament times; nowadays this refers to the table often in the very front of church where it serves as a symbol to remind us of Jesus’ sacrifice and our ability to approach God in prayer and praise

angel – the word itself means “messenger”; these are spiritual beings that God created at some point during the six days of creation; some are good and some are bad; the good angels serve and praise God and guide human beings to know God’s love; the evil angels, also called demons or evil spirits, sinned against God and are awaiting their eternal punishment, and thus they fight against him in the world in order to drag human beings down to hell with them

anoint – an Old Testament practice of pouring oil over something (usually a person’s head or body) to signify that it or they have been set apart for a special service or purpose for God; the names Messiah (Hebrew) and Christ (Greek) mean “the Anointed One”

antichrist – literally in the Greek language, “in place of Christ” or “against Christ”; with a lowercase “a”, this points to any person who teaches false doctrine or works against the pure gospel message, thus putting something or someone “in the place of Christ” (see 1 John 2:18,22); Scripture prophesies the coming of antichrists and one great Antichrist

Antichrist – see antichrist above; with a capital “A”, this refers to the one prophesied about who would be a great adversary of the Church and lead many people astray (see 2 Thes 2:3-12; 1 Jn 2:18; Dan 7:7-8,11-12,16-26; 11:36-45; Rev 13:11-18; 17:1-18); also called the “man of lawlessness” or “man of sin” in the Bible.

antilegomena – literally means “spoken against” in the Greek language; this is a word that was used to refer to the writings in the New Testament that were not universally accepted at first (various church fathers “spoke against” them); this group of books is Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, and Revelation; while some people initially spoken against these books in order to safeguard the gospel message, over time the books were recognized as Scripture

antinomianism – the false belief that Christians should not preach the law; however, the law shows us our sin and need for a Savior (see Law and Gospel)

apocalypse – a word that comes from the Greek word for “revelation”; because of the book of Revelation’s content, this word is often used in the English language as referring to something associated with the end of the world

apocalyptic literature – literature characterized by fantastic imagery and symbolism, such as many portions of Ezekiel and the entire book of Revelation

Apocrypha – a word meaning “hidden things”; this refers to a number of writings in the few centuries before Christ of which the author or origin is not known, or “hidden”; it can also refer to books of a similar nature written in the first few centuries after Christ; these writings are not recognized as part of the canon of Scripture by Christ, his apostles, or the majority of Christian churches

apostle – a special title given to the men Jesus chose to lead and teach the first believers after he ascended into heaven; the word means “messenger” or “one who is sent”

the Apostles Creed – the first major statement or confession of faith developed by the Christian church; it originated as a confession of faith at one’s baptism and eventually developed into a widely used summary of the Christian faith; the creed is seen as having three parts, with each part stating the work of each person of the Trinity

archangel – literally the “head angel” or “ruling angel”; in the Bible, this refers to the angel named Michael who is the head of the armies of God’s angels (e.g., 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Jude 9)

Arianism – a false teaching that teaches Jesus is not eternal but was created by God the Father and is therefore lower in position and honor than the Father; also teaches that the Holy Spirit is lower in position and honor than the Father; see the Trinity for Scripture’s teaching on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Armageddon – in the Bible this word only occurs in Revelation 16:16; in Hebrew it is a combination of the words “har”, meaning “mountain”, and “Megiddo”, a city in the plain of Jezreel; the most famous mountain near Megiddo was Mount Carmel where Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:16-46), therefore Revelation 16:16 is using Old Testament references and imagery to help explain that Satan and his forces will be destroyed on the Last Day; some Christians mistakenly think that Armageddon is the literal location of a final battle that will take place near the end of time between God and the enemies of Israel

ascension of Jesus – refers to Jesus’ rising into heaven before his disciples’ very eyes 40 days after his resurrection (Acts 1:3-11); this brings comfort a Christian’s heart, knowing that the ascended Jesus is watching over and ruling over all things for the good of his Church (Eph 1:18-23;4:8-13; Mt 28:18-20)

the Athanasian Creed – an early Christian statement of belief (approximately 5th century AD); named after–but not written by–an early church father named Athanasius; consists of two main parts that stress the doctrine of the Trinity and the fact that Jesus is true human being and true God in one person; it is the longest of the three ecumenical creeds

atheism – the belief that their is no God; often characterized by the rejection of the possibility of the supernatural; focuses on a study of nature for all answers

atonement – the repairing of a relationship (think “at-one-ment”); Jesus has repaired our relationship with God by taking the punishment our sins deserve (Rom 3:25-26)


Babylonian captivity – refers to the nation of Israel (specifically Judah) being conquered and taken into exile in Babylon in a series of three deportations between 605 BC and 586 BC; they returned to the land of Israel in 538 BC and rebuilt the temple in 515 BC

baptism – applying water to someone while speaking the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” according the command of Christ (Matthew 28:19); baptism gives the forgiveness of sins and creates faith; the benefits can be rejected through unbelief; see Baptism

beatific vision – a term used for when a Christian goes to heaven and is able to see God face-to face; this is something that no one has in this life because of sin (Ex 33:20; 1 Tim 6:16; Gen 32:30; Jdg 13:22; Is 6:5), but God has promised that we will see him face-to-face in heaven someday (Mt 5:8; 1 Cor 13:12; 1 Jn 3:2; Job 19:27; Ps 17:15)

Bible – the word “bible” comes from the Greek word for “book”; it now commonly refers to the Bible, the holy book of the Christian faith; Christians believe that the Bible is the history of God’s saving activity in the world and is inspired by God (see The Bible is the Word of God); also called the Word of God, the Word, Scripture, and the Scriptures

biblical – something that is spoken of in or in agreement with the Bible

biblical interpretation – interpreting the Bible in an appropriate way, in a way that agrees with how the Bible says it should be interpreted; interpreting the Bible in a way that agrees with the rest of Scripture; see Biblical Interpretation

blasphemy – purposefully dishonoring God

bless – usually referring to God’s enacting of goodness, grace and love toward someone or something; if spoken of a person blessing God, then it is essentially a synonym of worship

blessing – something good given from God; God’s act of love and grace upon someone or something; can also refer to God’s approval of something, as shown in his care and his allowing it to prosper

blessings of justification – forgiveness, life, salvation, peace with God, and hope (Rom 5:1-5, 16-21); received through faith (Rom 3:21-26; see also Justified by Grace through Faith); see also justification


Calvinism – a word referring to the body of beliefs systematized by theologian John Calvin (AD 1509-1564); often summarized by the acronym T.U.L.I.P. (Total depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Preservation or Perseverance of the saints)

canon – a measuring stick, or a standard; a word used to refer to the group of writings that have been recognized as divinely inspired by God (the “canon of Scripture”)

canonical – a word describing something being included in the canon of Scripture; see canon

Capernaitic eating – refers to the false belief concerning the Lord’s Supper that Christians physically eat the flesh of Jesus; takes its name from the people in Capernaum who took Jesus literally when he said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53), while Jesus was only speaking figuratively about believing in him (see John 6:29)

catholic – a word that refers to something being universal or all-encompassing; may be used to refer to widely-held beliefs of the Christian Church; if capitalized, it refers to something being associated with the Roman Catholic Church (even though it may not be truly catholic, that is, universally held or believed)

causing offense – doing something, whether it is a sin or not, that causes someone else to look upon the action as sinful; those with weaker faith may not fully understand what constitutes sinful behavior, so those with stronger faith will want to be patient with them and try not to cause offense; for an example with the apostle Paul, see 1 Cor 10:23-33

chalice – the cup used to distribute the Lord’s Supper

chapel – a place of prayer and worship; may be an entire building or simply a room within a building

chaplain – a minister who serves in a chapel; can also refer to a minister who serves as a religious guide or caretaker of a particular group of people; often connected with colleges, military groups, or royal courts

cherub – another word for angel; plural is “cherubs” or “cherubim”

Christ – this comes from the Greek word Χριστός, which means “Anointed One” (same as the word “Messiah,” which comes from the Hebrew language); this is also why Christmas is sometimes written as “X-mas”;  anointing is covering something in oil (usually the body or the head) to signify that it has been set apart for God’s purpose.

Christian freedom – the freedom a Christian has from having to keep and follow God’s ordinances given in the Old Testament; Christ has won this freedom by his perfect life and atoning death on the cross; see Christian Freedom

Christocentric – centered in Christ; all of Scripture is Christocentric in that it is all meant to tell us about how God saved us through Jesus Christ

church – a group of Christians who come together to express their fellowship through worship and other activities; can also refer to a building where Christians gather for worship and other activities; if capitalized and not a part of an official group name (simply “Church”) it refers to all true believers in Christ

church discipline – warning a Christian about the seriousness of their sin in order to guide them to repentance; the goal of church discipline is always to win the Christian brother or sister back, to guide them back to the church; Jesus outlines the steps of church discipline in Matthew 18:15-20; we see successful church discipline used in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 and 2 Corinthians 2:5-11

the church militant – another name for believers on earth; believers on earth are still “fighting the good fight of the faith” (1 Tim 6:12)

the church triumphant – another name for believers in heaven; believers in heaven have overcome the trials of this life and are reigning with Christ in heaven (2 Tim 2:11-13; Rev 20:6)

close communion – the practice of partaking in the Lord’s Supper only with those who share a common confession of faith with you (1 Cor 10:16-17); also sometimes called closed communion

communicant – someone participating in communion, that is, the Lord’s Supper

communion – see Lord’s Supper

concupiscence – the inclination to sin that every person has since the fall into sin (Gen 6:5); this is indeed sin, as Jesus explains in Matthew 5:28

condemnation – God’s righteous judgment declaring that someone is deserving of eternal punishment

confession – may refer to the act of telling another Christian about a sin you committed because you feel sorrow over your sin and desire absolution; may also refer to a confession of faith, that is, telling someone what you believe (e.g., Mt 16:15-16; 2 Cor 4:13-15; 1 Pt 3:15; the Apostles’ Creed)

conscience – the voice inside our heads that tells us when we are breaking God’s law; kept sharp by reading God’s Word

consecration – the speaking of the words of institution before distributing the Lord’s Supper; after spoken, the bread and the wine of the Lord’s Supper are “consecrated”

contrition – the feeling of sorrow over one’s sins; called “godly sorrow” because it leads someone to realize their need for their Savior Jesus

conversion – the moment when an unbeliever becomes a believer in Jesus as their Savior; happens in an instant and is not a process; conversion is 100% the work of the Holy Spirit

covenant – another word for a binding agreement; see New Covenant and Old Covenant

creed – a statement, or confession, of faith; the Christian Church has three ecumenical creeds: the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed

cross – the object Jesus was crucified on, consisting of two wooden boards connected in the shape of either a capital “T” or lowercase “t”; also became a symbol of the difficulties a Christian faces in this life because of their faith (Luke 9:23-24)

crucifixion – a form of execution in the ancient Roman Empire where a criminal either had their arms tied to a cross beam of wood or their hands were nailed to it; the ultimate cause of death was most likely suffocation; this is the form of execution used on Jesus, though Jesus died before he suffocated


damnation – another word for eternal punishment or eternal death, the result of unbelief; upon the physical death of an unbeliever, God will punish him or her with eternal damnation in hell; also will happen to unbelievers on the Last Day

the Day – see the Last Day

deacon – in the New Testament, the word refers to a leader within a Christian church who would help with the management and direction of activities within the congregation (1 Tim 3:8-13); the account of Acts 6:1-7 is perhaps the beginning of the role of deacons in the church; seems to be different than what the New Testament church called an “overseer” (1 Tim 3:1-7; Php 1:1), especially because “able to teach” is not listed in Paul’s qualifications for a deacon; perhaps the closest comparison of this today would be a church council member or another leadership position in the church other than pastor; comes from the Greek word meaning “one who serves”

deaconess – a female deacon

death – there are three types of death described in the Bible: spiritual death, physical death, and eternal death; spiritual death is the separation of the soul and mind from the will of God, resulting in a desire to break God’s commands (Gen 6:5; Eph 2:1-5); physical death is the separation of the soul (or “spirit”) from the body (Ecc 12:7); eternal death is the separation of a person from the loving presence of God and is a punishment upon unbelief (Mt 25:41,46); see also Sin and Repentance

deity – another word for God or the qualities and attributes of God

demon – evil angels, also called evil spirits, who sinned against God and are awaiting their eternal punishment, and thus they fight against him in the world in order to drag human beings down to hell with them; Satan is the chief demon

demonic possession – a demon taking control of a person’s body and/or mind; seemingly more prevalent in Jesus’ day than in modern times

denomination – a group of Christians who have different beliefs and practices than other Christians; for example, different Christian denominations include Lutherans, Baptists, Catholics, Methodists, etc.

descent into hell – Jesus’ act of descending into hell to declare his victory over sin, death, and Satan (1 Pt 3:18-19)

desertion – malicious desertion is the act of willfully abandoning one’s spouse; it is one instance that can destroy the marriage bond; see Marriage

the devil – a word meaning “accuser”; one of the names given in Scripture for the fallen angel who opposes God and seeks to spiritually harm all human beings (e.g., Mt 4:1-11; 25:41; Jn 8:44; Eph 6:11; 1 Pt 5:8; 1 Jn 3:8)

disciple – a student; a word used for a follower of someone; Jesus chose twelve men to be his closest students who became known as the Twelve Disciples

distribution – the part of the Lord’s Supper when the bread and wine are distributed to those partaking of it

divine – describes something from or associated with God

divine inspiration – the Holy Spirit speaking through the people who wrote down the words of God

doctrine – a teaching or the sum of teachings for a particular subject; Christian doctrine must come from God’s Word alone (Isaiah 8:20; Galatians 1:6-9)


ecumenical – a term that refers to something concerning the whole Christian church

the ecumenical creeds – refers to the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed; these are the three statements of Christian belief widely confessed by Christians of most denominations throughout the world; these creeds were developed within the first five centuries of the New Testament church to help explain and confess true Christian doctrine over and above false teachings

efficacy of the gospel – the power of the gospel to work repentance and faith in a person (Is 55:11; Rom 1:16)

election – God’s act of choosing his people from before the creation of the world; a teaching of the gospel that is meant to give comfort and bring joy to the believer

end of the world – see Last Day

the End Times – the last days of the earth; also called the New Testament era, the era in which we are now living (Hebrews 1:2)

epistle – from the Greek word for “letter”; often the name given to each book of the New Testament other than the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) and Acts; these books were letters written by to churches or individuals by apostles or those closely associated with apostles

eschatology – comes from the Greek word eschata, which means “last things;” it is the study of temporal death, eternal death, eternal life, the final judgment, Christ’s second coming, and the resurrection.

eternal – the attribute of existing outside the realm of time, having no beginning and no end

eternal death – the absence of the loving presence of God forever; what unbelievers experience in hell

eternal life – life in the loving presence of God forever; what believers will experience in heaven and after the Last Day

the Eucharist – another name for the Lord’s Supper; predominantly used by the Catholic Church; from the Greek word for “thanksgiving”

evangel – from the Greek word for “good news,” or the gospel

evangelical – can refer to doing something in a way that is motivated by the love that comes from the gospel; can also refer to someone who holds to evangelicalism

evangelicalism – a set of beliefs within Christianity that emphasizes looking inward for a personal faith experience; also often has a strong emphasis on sanctified living, sometimes over and above justification

evangelism – preaching the gospel; often refers to the work of preaching the gospel to unbelievers

the evil one – one of the names given in Scripture for the fallen angel who opposes God and seeks to spiritually harm all human beings (e.g., Mt 5:37; 6:13; Jn 17:15; Eph 6:16; 2 Thes 3:3; 1 Jn 3:12; 5:18-19)

evil spirit – see demon

the exaltation of Jesus – Jesus is now in a state of exaltation, meaning that following his resurrection he started once again to make full use of his divine power; in his state of exaltation, Jesus has everything in submission to him: all rulers, powers, and authorities, both invisible and invisible (see Eph 1:20-21; 1 Pt 3:21-22; Col 1:16; Col 2:15); see also the humiliation of Jesus

excommunication – pronouncing to a person within the visible church that their lack of repentance has jeopardized their saving faith and has excluded them from the Christian church; this is always done in order to help the person realize the seriousness of their sin and to lead them back to the church; see also church discipline

exegesis – a word from the Greek language that is used to describe a deep study of the Bible in its original languages

exile – forbidding someone from being in his or her native land; in the Scriptures, often speaking of the tribe of Judah being taken into exile to Babylon around 600 BC (see the Chronology of Latter Prophets and Intertestamental Period for more information)

exinanition – another word for the humiliation of Jesus

expiation – a covering, a full payment; Jesus achieved this for all mankind through his sacrifice of atonement


faith – belief in God and our Savior Jesus; often characterized as a trust in God’s gracious promises in Christ; has been referred to as the “receiving instrument” of the forgiveness and righteousness won by Christ; defined by the writer to the Hebrews as “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1)

faith alone – a phrase to summarize the biblical teaching that we are saved by faith in Jesus and his work alone and not by our own works (good deeds) in any way

fall into sin – also referred to as Fall of Man  or simply The Fall; Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command, bringing sin into the world and causing the need for a Savior

falling from faith – going from being a believer in Christ to an unbeliever

fatalism – the false belief that everything is determined for everyone beforehand, that it doesn’t matter what we do or decide because everything will happen as it has been decided by God or some other spiritual force; false because, while God does control everything for our good, he includes our choices and prayers into his plan (see also God’s Providence)

fellowship – the oneness or agreement in teaching a group of believers share together; this oneness expresses itself in joint worship and other activities; also a oneness shared between believers and God

first death – the spiritual death suffered by all people by nature (Eph 2:1-3); the first resurrection is the new spiritual life given through faith in Jesus (Jn 5:21; 6:63; 11:26; Rom 8:2; Eph 2:4-5); the second death is physical death (Jn 11:25; Rev 20:5-6); the second resurrection is the physical resurrection of believers on the Last Day (Jn 6:40; 11:23-26);

first resurrection – the new spiritual life given through faith in Jesus (Jn 5:21; 6:63; 11:26; Rom 8:2; Eph 2:4-5); the first death is the spiritual death suffered by all people by nature (Eph 2:1-3); the second death is physical death (Jn 11:25; Rev 20:5-6); the second resurrection is the physical resurrection of believers on the Last Day (Jn 6:40; 11:23-26);

forensic justification – a term describing the fact that justification is a change in status with God (from condemned of sin to declared “not guilty”) and not a change in the nature of a person; a Christian continues to have a sinful nature after conversion, but is pronounced righteous through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Rom 3:28; 4:5; 2 Cor 5:19-21; Php 3:9; see also Justified by Grace through Faith)

forgiveness – releasing another person from the guilt of their sin; our sins deserve punishment from God, but through Jesus God gives us forgiveness; see Forgiveness of Sins for All People

foreknowledge of God – an attribute of God that he knows everything that will happen beforehand; God’s foreknowledge is meant to bring comfort to his people; God’s foreknowledge is altogether a mystery to humans and should not be used to shape teachings that are contrary to what God says about himself and his foreknowledge in Scripture

freedom of a Christian – the fact that God’s people are free from following the Old Testament laws that pointed forward to Christ because Christ fulfilled them for all people; the freedom a Christian has to use their sanctified judgment in deciding the wisest course of action for things neither commanded nor forbidden by God; see Christian Freedom

fruits of faith – the good works that flow from faith; the good works that naturally come from repentance like fruit that naturally grows on a tree (John 15:4-6,8)

fundamental doctrines – the basic teachings of the Christian faith; if someone does not agree with what the Bible says on these teachings then they do not have salvation


Gentile – anyone who is not a Hebrew, or Jew

to give offense – causing someone to sin or stumble in their faith or to lose their faith

Gnosticism – an ancient false teaching that stressed the need for a secret knowledge over and above Scripture for true faith; comes from the Greek word meaning “knowledge” or “to know”; seems to have been a false teaching that affected congregations addressed by the apostle Paul (see Colossians) and the apostle John (see 1 John)

God’s Law – the righteous requirements God expects from us; written on all people’s hearts; given to the Jews in written form along with God’s rules for their nation in areas of religious ceremony and foreign relations

The Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; the four books that give the account of Jesus’ life and ministry

gospel message – the message of “good news” that God has forgiven our sins through Jesus

grace  undeserved love; in Scripture, it often refers to God’s love for people that leads him to work out their salvation and forgiveness through Jesus; God’s forgiveness is 100% because of his grace and not because people make themselves worthy in any way; see Justified by Grace through Faith

The Great Commission – Jesus’ sending out of all Christians to preach the gospel and baptize in the name of the triune God

the Great Schism – the official separation of the Eastern and Western Churches in AD 1054

the Great Tribulation – a period of great difficulty for believers mentioned in Revelation 7:14; some Christians believe that this points to a specific time of great difficulty faced by the Church before the end of the world, though it is most likely a reference to the end times we are currently in right now (John 16:33; Acts 14:22; see also End Times)


hardening one’s heart – willfully and repeatedly rejecting God’s Word to the point where one no longer listens to it (e.g., Ex 8:15); doing so may eventually lead to God hardening that person’s heart (e.g., Ex 7:13; 7:22; 8:15; 8:19; 8:32; 9:12)

headship – the role that God has given to men in marriage and in the church; man is to be the head of the woman as Christ is the head of man (Eph 5:23; 1 Cor 11:3); always to be seen as servant-leadership (Matthew 20:26-28; John 13:13-17; Eph 5:25-28) and done with a loving heart (Col 3:19; 1 Pt 3:7); see also Marriage

heaven – the holy spiritual location where God dwells with believers who have died; a place of perfect happiness and holiness in the presence of God; the word itself also can refer to the atmosphere or to the space where the sun, the moon, the stars, and the planets exist (this is why the heaven where God dwells is called the “third heaven”)

Hebrews, Israelites, Jews – the people God chose to bring the Savior into the world and to preserve and protect the Word of his promise

hell – the spiritual location of eternal punishment without the loving presence of God for both evil angels and unbelieving human beings following death; exists because God is just and has to punish sin and unbelief; all people deserve to go to hell, but thanks to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ those who believe in him are covered in his righteousness and can go to heaven; also called “outside, into darkness,” “eternal fire,” “eternal punishment,” “the Abyss,” “Hades,” “everlasting destruction,” “eternal judgment,” “blackest darkness,” the “second death,” the “lake of fire,” and the “lake of burning sulfur”

heresy – a false teaching; a teaching that does not agree with what Scripture teaches

heterodox teaching – false teaching, i.e., unorthodox teaching; in the Greek language heterodox means “of another thinking,” while orthodox means “correct thinking”

higher criticism – the type of analysis of the Bible that assumes it is not inspired by God; also called literary criticism

historical Jesus – this often refers to what some scholars consider to be the real Jesus that existed; these critics believe the Gospels have distorted the true Jesus that existed, and they try to reconstruct this historical Jesus from what they believe to be the factual accounts in the Gospels; based on each critic’s personal opinion

holy – perfect, without sin, completely righteous; God is holy; the first people were created holy but sinned, bringing a sinful nature to all of mankind; Jesus was holy for mankind’s sake (see Forgiveness of Sins for All People)

Holy Spirit – one person of the Trinity, with the Father and the Son (see The Trinity); the Spirit of God who gives life to the world; his work is to work through the Bible, showing people their sins and pointing them to their Savior Jesus

human nature – since the Fall into Sin it is, sadly, a completely sinful nature from conception (Ps 51:5; Eph 2:1-3; Rom 8:7; 2 Cor 4:4); Jesus was born with a complete human nature but without sin because he was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the virgin Mary (Mt 1:18,23; Lk 1:35)

the humiliation of Jesus – Jesus’ state of humiliation was when he was born as a human being and did not make full use of his divine power; after his resurrection, Jesus went from a state of humiliation to a state of exaltation; see also the exaltation of Jesus

hypocrite – a person who pretends to be a believer but they don’t truly have faith in their heart; this person may attend church or do other things a believer would do, but ultimately they are faking the appearance of faith


“I AM WHO I AM” – the name God gave for himself to the prophet Moses (see also: LORD)

iconoclasm – from the Greek language for “image breaking”; the view that images, paintings, statues, etc., lead to idol worship and should be destroyed

“image of God” – God’s perfection and holiness (Gen 1:26-27; Col 3:9-10; 2 Cor 4:4)

immediate context – the portion of Scripture either directly before or immediately following a passage

impenitent – not repentant; not having sorry over one’s sins and thereby rejecting the forgiveness needed for those sins

in view of faith – the false notion that God elects a person in view of the faith they will have in time; this notion teaches work-righteousness by taking credit for salvation away from God

incarnation – usually refers to Jesus’ incarnation, the fact that he is true God and true human being in one person; the Son of God took on flesh and became a human being; see also Jesus is True God and True Human Being

inerrancy – describes something that has no errors or mistakes; often used of Scripture because it is inspired by God

iniquity – an evil act, or a sin

inspiration – the belief that God guided the words written down by the authors of the Bible; the Bible is said to be “inspired by God”; this is why the Bible is believed to be inerrant

the invisible church – another term for all true believers in Christ; called the invisible church because only God knows who truly believes and who doesn’t


Jehovah – a name for God; taken from the same four-letter Hebrew word used to represent God’s special name, “I AM WHO I AM” (as does Yahweh); the name represents God’s all-loving and all-gracious character that leads him to fulfill his promises for his people

Jehovah’s Witnesses – a cult that uses Christian ideas, elements, and themes; is considered a cult and not part of the true Christian church because its teachings deny the Trinity and the work of Jesus as atoning sacrifice for our sins

jeremiad – complaining about one’s lot in life or about one’s enemies; a lamentation over an intensely sad event; taken from the prophet Jeremiah because of his many complaints about his difficult ministry; see the introductory page for the book of Jeremiah

Jesus’ ascension – following his Great Commission, Jesus ascended into heaven before the very eyes of a group of his disciples

Jews – people descended from the tribe of Judah, the last of the Twelve Tribes of Israel; can also be called “Israelites”; they were God’s chosen people through their ancestor Abraham to bring forth the promised Savior (Gen 12:1-3); following King Solomon’s death, Israel split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah; the other tribes were destroyed by the Assyrians (722 BC), while Judah was eventually taken into exile by Babylon but survived and returned to the land of Israel

Judaism – the religion of the Jews; follows the Old Testament Scriptures

Judaizer – someone from the period of the early church who falsely taught that Christians must follow the Old Testament Jewish law in order to be a Christian; false because Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament law for all people

Judgment Day – see the Last Day

justification – a legal term for being declared “not guilty”; the Scriptures teach that justification comes at the moment a person believes; see Justified by Grace through Faith


kingdom of God – a phrase used to describe the kingdom or body of believers in Christ Jesus; also called the kingdom of heaven

the keys of the kingdom of heaven – also called the ministry of the keys; as described by Jesus, he has told his Church, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:19), which he also explains elsewhere, “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” (Jn 20:23); Christ has given all believers the authority to forgive sins in his name, as well as declare as “not forgiven” those sins for which a person is not repentant (Mt 18:15-20)


the Last Day – also called the Day or Judgment Day; the last day of this present age; the day when all people who have ever lived will be raised to life and publicly judged before God; the day God will usher in eternal life for believers and eternal death for unbelievers; a day of comfort and joy for believers (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)

the Last Supper – the Passover meal Jesus ate with his disciples the night he was betrayed and the night before he died on the cross for the sins of the world; also the meal where Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper

law – a message that convicts us of our sin and shows us our need for a Savior; can refer to God’s law or to a passage of Scripture being taken as “law” by revealing a person’s sin (see Law and Gospel)

laying on of hands – fellow workers in the church placing their hands upon a new worker as a symbol of God’s blessing upon that person’s ministry; different Christian denominations have different views of this practice, but Scripture shows that it was a custom of the early church to mark the beginning of a person’s ministry (e.g., Acts 6, Acts 13:3, 1 Tim 4:14)

legalism – using God’s law in the Bible to try to produce Christian living; using the law to motivate people into doing good works; this is trying to use the law to do the work that the gospel does

limited atonement – the false teaching that states Jesus only died for the sins of believers (see also Forgiveness of Sins for All People); predominantly found in Calvinist churches

literary criticism – see higher criticism

liturgy – the order of a worship service; a rite followed or completed during worship

LORD (in all capital letters) – the English translation of God’s sacred name from the Hebrew language; in Hebrew, suggests the idea of “He is,” reflecting God’s name for himself, “I AM WHO I AM”; also referred to as Jehovah or Yahweh

the Lord’s Prayer – a prayer that Jesus used to teach believers how to pray; prayed every Sunday in many churches; shown in the section Prayer

the Lord’s Supper – a meal consisting of bread and wine connected with God’s Word that Christ’s body and blood are offered with the bread and the wine; instituted the night before Jesus died at the Last Supper; Scripture tells us that we truly receive the body and blood of Christ, which forgives our sins and strengthens our faith; not to be taken in an unworthy manner; unites Christians to God and to fellow communicants as one body, and thus to be partaken of with other Christians of sound doctrine

lower criticism – see textual criticism

Lutheran – a Christian who follows teachings as described by Martin Luther and his coworkers and followers; also can be an adjective describing something being associated with the Lutheran Church or teachings

Lutheran Confessions – statements and explanations of the Christian faith written by Lutheran theologians in the years following the Reformation


man of lawlessness – see Antichrist

the marks of the Church – refers to the gospel message and the sacraments; God promises to work wherever his Word is active (Isaiah 55:10-11), so wherever the gospel message is preached and the sacraments are administered there the Church is present; another name for the means of grace

marriage – instituted by God at creation, it is the joining of one man and one woman into a lifelong union of companionship; primary purpose of marriage is companionship (Gen 2:18); a secondary purpose of marriage is having children (Gen 1:28); another secondary purpose of marriage after the Fall into Sin is sexual purity (1 Cor 7:9; Heb 13:4); see Marriage

martyr – from a Greek word that means “witness”; it often refers to someone who has been killed because of their faith in Christ

Mass – from the Latin word missa, meaning dismissal, which referenced the dismissal of the congregation at the end of a worship service; a word that often refers to a Christian worship service, but predominantly used within the Roman Catholic Church; within the Roman Catholic Church, it also refers to the Lord’s Supper that is celebrated in a worship service

means of grace – the means by which we receive God’s grace, that is, the means by which we receive the forgiveness, life, and salvation Christ won for us; the means of grace consist of the gospel in Word and Sacrament (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper)

Messiah – this comes from a word in the Hebrew language meaning “Anointed One” and has the same meaning as “Christ,” which comes from the Greek language.  Anointing is covering something in oil (usually the body or the head) to signify that it has been set apart for God’s purpose.

Methodism – a body of beliefs that hold to the teachings first begun by John Wesley; Wesley, along with his brother, Charles, and friend George Whitefield, developed a “method” to try to achieve better sanctified living

millennialism – the false belief that Christ will have a 1,000-year visible reign on earth during the last days of the world; originates from a false understanding of the number 1,000 in the book of Revelation; see also The End Times

ministry –  a term used to describe a period of service for preaching and/or teaching

the ministry of the keys – see the keys of the kingdom of heaven

miracle – an act that goes over and above the natural laws and processes of the world

mission work – the work of proclaiming the gospel to unbelievers; all Christians are called to do mission work (Mt 28:18-20)

missionary – a person who takes the gospel message to a new group of people; often the word refers to a person who travels to another country in order to preach and teach the gospel message

moral law – the portion of God’s law that addresses moral issues; things God has told us are in general either good or evil

moralizing – related to legalism, this refers to encouraging change in a person’s life by appealing to the good of the person or of society; this produces only an outward change instead of an inward change in the person’s heart (only the gospel can produce fruits of faith); see also Justified by Grace through Faith and Law and Gospel

Mormonism – a cult that uses Christian ideas, elements, and themes; is considered a cult and not part of the true Christian church because its teachings deny the work of Jesus as atoning sacrifice for our sins, as well as the biblical teachings of the Trinity, justification by faith, Jesus’ incarnation, and the resurrection

mortal sin – refers to a sin committed by a person in unbelief; as opposed to a venial sin that is committed by a believer in weakness; the Roman Catholic Church falsely distinguishes between these two types of sin as deserving different types of punishment, that is, mortal sins as deserving of eternal condemnation while venial sins as deserving of temporal punishment (that is not a biblical teaching)


natural knowledge of God – the things a person can know about God by nature; consists of two things: the knowledge of God from his creation (Rom 1:20) and the knowledge of God through the law written on each person’s heart (Rom 2:14-15); this knowledge of God cannot save a person, but it only reveals that one has sinned against God; as opposed to the revealed knowledge of God through Scripture that tells us about the Savior Jesus

New Covenant – God’s one-way agreement with mankind to forgive sin through his promised Savior; a one-way agreement by which God graciously forgives us without any action required from us; see also Old Covenant

new heavens and new earth – on the Last Day, God will make everything new and perfect again without sin thanks to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus; believers will be resurrected to live in the new perfect world with God; unbelievers will be resurrected to live without God in eternal punishment

New Testament – the group of books written after the Savior completed his work; written in the Greek language

the New Testament era – the period of time from Christ’s life until the Last Day; also called the End Times

the Nicene Creed – a confession of faith written by the ancient church following the ecumenical church councils in Nicaea and Constantinople; this creed went into more detail in explaining the work and person of Jesus Christ than did the Apostles’ Creed because of heresies that were threatening the church at the time; one of the three ecumenical creeds that are confessed by the Christian church throughout the world

nonfundamental doctrines – teachings of Scripture that are not among the basic teachings of the Christian faith; a person may have a false understanding of one of these teachings and still have salvation


obduration – another word for hardening one’s heart

objective faith – Christian teachings; the teachings of the Bible; “the faith which is believed” (e.g., 1 Cor 16:13; Gal 1:23; Eph 4:13; Php 1:15,27); as opposed to subjective faith, “the faith by which it is believed”

objective justification – the objective fact that Jesus completed the work of justification on our behalf; it is objective because it is true whether one believes it or not; see also Justified by Grace through Faith

offense – see causing offense and taking offense

Old Covenant – God’s first agreement with the Israelite people; a two-way covenant promising earthly blessings from God to the Israelites if they followed his Law and did not follow false gods; broken by the Israelites, who followed false gods and forsook God and his New Covenant promise; the New Covenant promise eventually fulfilled in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection

Old Testament – the group of books written before the coming of the Savior; written mostly in the Hebrew language

omnipotence – the attribute of being all-powerful; a characteristic that only God has (Job 37:23; 42:1-2; Jer 32:17; Heb 1:3)

omnipresence – the attribute of being present everywhere; a characteristic that only God has (1 Ki 8:27; Ps 139:7-10; Jer 23:24)

omniscience – the attribute of knowing all things; a characteristic that only God has (1 Ki 8:39; Psalm 139; Psalm 147:5; Is 46:10-11)

ontological argument – an argument for the existence of God that says there must be a God who is perfect because we can imagine a God who is perfect; if we couldn’t imagine a God who was perfect then he wouldn’t exist; this argument ultimately fails because thinking that something could exist does not mean it actually exists

open question – a question in this life for which the Bible does not give an answer; the Bible does not answer every question we have about life or about spiritual things because it is meant simply to tell us what we need to know for salvation, that is, about the Savior promised to us, what he did for us, and what it means for our earthly life right now

opinio legis – a Latin term meaning “the opinion of the law”; this is the attitude inside every human being’s sinful nature that tells them they need to do something to earn God’s favor

ordination – a custom developed in the New Testament church that marks the beginning of a called worker’s ministry; often involves the laying on of hands (e.g., Acts 6:5-6; 13:3)

original sin – because of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, all humans are born with a sinful nature and all creation is affected by sin, death, and decay

orthodox teaching – correct teaching, i.e., not false teaching; in the Greek language orthodox means “correct thinking”; see also heterodox teaching; if capitalized (“Orthodox”), it may refer to the Orthodox Church denomination of Christianity


paganism – any religion other than Christianity; involves the worship of nature or of some other supernatural deity or deities

pantheism – the false belief that everything in the world is God; from the Greek language for “all things” (pan-) are “god” (theism)

papacy – the office of the pope in the Roman Catholic Church; the pope is the head of the Roman Catholic Church

paradise – another word for the perfect existence in heaven or in the new heavens and earth after the Last Day; see Luke 23:39-43

passion – when speaking of Christ’s passion, it is referring to his suffering for the sins of the world on Good Friday

passive obedience – Christ’s work of receiving the punishment for the sins of the world on Good Friday; passive because it was done to him; as opposed to his active obedience, which was his keeping God’s law and living a perfect life on behalf of all people

Passover – an Old Testament festival that remembered God’s “passing over” the Israelites with the tenth and final plague upon the Egyptians just before the Exodus (Ex 12:1-30); this festival was a picture of the coming Savior and was fulfilled in Jesus (1 Cor 5:6-8; 1 Pt 1:18-19)

pastor – a word that means “shepherd”; a person who serves as a spiritual overseer and caretaker of a group of Christians; the modern designation of pastor is probably equivalent to the New Testament position called “overseer” (Acts 20:28; 1 Tim 3:1-7) or “elder” in some places (Acts 20:17; Ti 1:5,7; 1 Pt 5:1-2)

patriarch – a word used in the Bible to describe a father or founder or ruler; mainly used to describe Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or one of Jacob’s twelve sons (the first fathers of the Jewish people), but also used to describe King David, the most well-respected ruler of the Jews

penance – the false teaching that one must perform certain acts to prove or earn forgiveness for sins; often involves some sort of temporal punishment that one enacts upon oneself as a show of repentance; it is false because Jesus has already paid the punishment for all sins

Pentateuch – the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy; these books were written by the prophet Moses; also called the Law of Moses

Pentecost – a Jewish festival celebrating God giving his Law to the Israelites; later became a day when the Holy Spirit descended on God’s people in Jerusalem following Jesus’ death and resurrection; the Holy Spirit appeared as flames of fire on the heads of the believers and caused them to speak in different languages

Pentecostalism – a branch within Christianity that falsely necessitates the reception of an outward sign of the Holy Spirit, often speaking in tongues, similar to what happened to the disciples on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41); these teachings often emphasize the outward signs of the Holy Spirit more than the work of Jesus to win our salvation; these teachings also falsely believe that the Holy Spirit works outside of the means of grace

perfectionism – the false teaching that it is possible for people to reach a level of sanctification where they are living perfectly in this life; this teaching does not fully understand the effects of original sin

personal union – the union of the two natures of Christ; Christ’s divine nature is united with his human nature in one person; Jesus has two natures, but is not two persons; he is both God and man in one person; for this reason Jesus is sometimes called the “God-man”

Pharisees – a sect of the Jewish religion in Jesus’ day that stressed perfect obedience to God’s law and many laws they themselves developed for holy living; these Jews had a false idea of salvation and the purpose of God’s law; Jesus often taught them about the truth of the kingdom of God and warned them of the hypocrisy in their teachings (e.g., Mt 15:1-20)

pietism – a movement within the Lutheran church in the 17th century that stressed one’s emotional response to the gospel; this eventually pointed people to their own subjective feelings about Christ instead of the objective work of Christ and what it means for everyone, and this resulted in people looking at their own good works to try to verify their faith and subjective feelings; some who were pietistic saw themselves as better Christians than others because they felt and looked more in touch with their faith

plenary verbal inspiration – the fact that God inspired all of Scripture, which includes every word, message, and command to write (e.g. 1 Cor 2:13)

polytheism – the belief that there are multiple (usually many) gods; ancient Roman and Greek gods, as well as the many gods of Hinduism, are examples of polytheistic religions

postexilic – speaking of the time period after the Jews’ exile in Babylon and return to the land of Israel; see also exile

postmillennialism – a false view of the 1,000-year reign of Christ mentioned in Revelation 20:2-7 that believes Christ will return at the end of a literal 1,000-year period of great success for the church on earth; false because the number 1,000 is used symbolically in Revelation (10 is the number of total completeness, and 1,000 = 10 x 10 x 10; this symbolizes the New Testament Era) and Christ’s reign is spiritual and ongoing now (Lk 17:20-21; Jn 18:36-37; Mt 28:18-20; 1 Cor 15:20-28; Heb 1:1-2); see also Revelation

prayer – speaking to God by simply saying or thinking something to him; promised to be answered by God; also used to thank and praise God for his goodness and daily blessings; we approach God in prayer through faith in Christ Jesus, who acts as our mediator

preaching the law – helping someone see their sin and their need for a Savior in a loving way; always meant to lead someone to preach the gospel; should not be preached to someone about a sin that they are already feeling sorrow over; should not be mixed with the gospel—that will lead to work-righteousness

preaching the gospel – telling someone who is feeling sorrow over their sin that Jesus lived a perfect life for them and died for their sins; telling someone about God’s pure grace; is the ultimate goal of preaching the law to someone; should not be mixed with law—that will lead to work-righteousness

predestination – see election

preexilic – speaking of the time period before the Jews’ exile in Babylon; see also exile

premillennialism – a false view of the 1,000-year reign of Christ mentioned in Revelation 20:2-7 that believes Christ will return to usher in a literal 1,000-year visible reign on earth; false because the number 1,000 is used symbolically in Revelation (10 is the number of total completeness, and 1,000 = 10 x 10 x 10; this symbolizes the New Testament Era) and Christ’s reign is spiritual and ongoing now (Lk 17:20-21; Jn 18:36-37; Mt 28:18-20; 1 Cor 15:20-28; Heb 1:1-2); see also Revelation

presbyter – from the Greek word meaning “elder”; in the New Testament, it was a word for a leader in a local Christian congregation (e.g., Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5-6)

prophecy – a message of God proclaimed to a person or often to a group of people; a proclamation of God’s will; many times prophecies included a foretelling of events to come

prophet – a person who proclaims the will of God; in the Old Testament, this was a person who acted as a spokesperson or messenger of God to a group of people; since many Old Testament prophets declared events before they happened, in the present day this word often refers to a person who can predict the future

propitiation – an appeasement of God, or a changing of feelings of God; Jesus achieved this for all mankind through his sacrifice of atonement

protevangel – the first gospel promise given by God in Scripture: Genesis 3:15

providence – God’s work of sustaining creation, enabling it to function, and directing its affairs; in the wider sense, it is seen in his foreknowledge of all events as they occur in time and his divine decrees and plan; in the narrow sense, it is seen in his preservation and governance of creation

psalm – a hymn or a song of praise to God; in the Old Testament there are 150 of these hymns arranged into one book called Psalms

Pseudepigrapha – a word meaning “false writings”; this can refer to a number of writings between BC 200 and AD 200 that were falsely attributed to prominent people from the Scriptures, for example to one of the apostles; these writings were never recognized as being part of the canon of Scripture by Jesus or the apostles

public ministry – refers to the designated service of a pastor, teacher, or other minister in a church who performs the church’s work on behalf of a congregation; also called the representative ministry; all Christians are priests (1 Pt 2:9), but some Christians with the gifts to serve in an area of ministry can be called to do so on behalf of a group of Christian brothers and sisters; for example, a pastor can be called to lead a congregation in public worship; the public ministry is done for the sake of good order in the church (1 Cor 12:27-30; 14:33,40)

purgatory – false teaching by some Christians; the place where people go after they physically die to pay off their sins before they can go to heaven


quickening – bringing something from death to life; another word used for the act of resurrecting, whether that’s God bringing a person from spiritual death to life (Jn 11:25-26; Eph 2:1-9) or from physical death to life on the Last Day (Jn 6:40)

Qumran – the location of a number of caves in which a significant archaeological discovery was made of ancient scrolls of the Old Testament dating to around the time of Christ


rapture – the idea that believers will be suddenly “snatched up” from the earth by Christ toward the end of the world; some Christians falsely believe that Jesus will “snatch up” believers before, during, or at the end of a seven-year period of great tribulation in the last days, but this is a misinterpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; there will be a rapture of sorts (as described in 1 Thes 4:15-17), but this will be on the Last Day as Christ gathers his believers for eternal life

real presence – a way to describe the presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper; Christ’s body and blood are truly present in the bread and the wine (Mt 26:26-28; 1 Cor 10:16; 11:23-29); how this is possible is ultimately a mystery to us, but God’s Word is clear that his body and blood are truly there

reconciliation – the repairing of a relationship; Scripture uses this term as one way to describe the work of Jesus in repairing our relationship with God; the result of Jesus’ saving work is that he has brought us into a right relationship with God again by paying the punishment for our sins (2 Cor 5:16-6:2)

to reconcile – to bring someone into a right relationship with someone else; to make someone acceptable in another’s eyes; Jesus’ saving work has reconciled us to God (2 Cor 5:16-6:2)

to redeem – to buy back, many times referring to buying someone or something back from slavery; the act of redeeming is called redemption

redemption – the act of buying someone back from slavery; Jesus’ saving work is often referred to as redemption because through his sacrifice he has bought us back from slavery to sin; see Sin and Repentance and Forgiveness of Sins for All People

Reformed – a term adopted by the Christian groups following the teachings of John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli during the early parts of the Reformation; in America, the term can also sometimes be used to describe some Christian groups that follow the teachings of Jacob Arminius

reincarnation – the belief that the soul of a person who dies comes back to earth to live in another body; this is a belief found in the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism; the Bible does not teach reincarnation; instead, it clearly teaches that this life is the only life for each human being and that a soul goes to either heaven or hell upon a person’s physical death (e.g., Ecc 12:1-7; Lk 16:19-31; 2 Cor 6:1-2)

repentance – when a person feels sorrow over his or her sin and trusts in forgiveness through Jesus; repenting results in turning away from sinful ways and habits and toward sanctified living out of thanks to God; see Sin and Repentance

representative ministry – see public ministry

resurrection – something coming back to life after it has died; Scripture speaks of the spiritual resurrection of believers through faith in Jesus (Jn 11:26; Eph 2:1-5), as well as the physical resurrection of all people on the Last Day; Jesus’ resurrection happened three days after physically dying, which assures us of our resurrection (1 Cor 15:1-58); see The Resurrection

revealed knowledge of God – the knowledge God has revealed about himself through the Bible; this is the knowledge that has provided a Savior for our sins; this knowledge saves a person, as opposed to the natural knowledge of God that does not save because it only reveals that there is a God and that a person has sinned against God

righteous – something that is perfect, good, and upright

righteousness – the quality of being perfect, good, and upright; used in Scripture to describe one who follows God’s law; Jesus won righteousness for all people and credits his perfect life, his righteousness, to those who believe in him (Rom 3:21-24,27-28; 4:4-5); see also Forgiveness of Sins for All People and Justified by Grace through Faith

Roman Catholic – something describing the teaching or practices of the Roman Catholic Church; the Roman Catholic Church is based in Rome and is led by the “bishop of Rome,” also called “the Pope”


Sabbath – from the Hebrew word meaning “to rest”; it was a day patterned after the seventh day of creation when God rested from his creating activity (Gen 2:2-3); it was a blessing given to the Israelites, who were to rest on the seventh day of each week and do no work (Ex 20:8-11)

sacrament – a sacred act performed within the Christian church; different denominations have different beliefs on the definition and purpose of a sacrament; Lutheran churches believe that a sacrament is something commanded by Christ that utilizes an earthly element to give God’s grace to a believer, and therefore they believe baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the only two sacraments; Reformed churches also believe baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the only two sacraments but that they are simply activities performed by Christians because Christ commanded them to do so; Roman Catholic and also Orthodox churches hold to seven sacraments: baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, ordination, and matrimony; see also Baptism and The Lord’s Supper

sacrifices – to give up something to God either out of thanksgiving or to acknowledge sinfulness and the need for a substitute for punishment; in the Old Testament times, this consisted of slaying an animal and offering it up to God by burning it upon an altar; these sacrifices were meant to foreshadow the sacrifice the Savior would make on behalf of the whole world; see Forgiveness of Sins for All People

Sadducees – a sect of Judaism at the time of Jesus; they believed only the Pentateuch was authoritative, that the soul died with the body and thus there was no resurrection of the dead, and that angels or spirits did not exist; they were more liberal than the other major Jewish sect of that time, the Pharisees; the high priest at the time of Jesus was a Sadducee

saint – in Scripture, literally a “holy one”; a word used in the Bible to refer to any believer in Jesus (e.g., 1 Cor 1:2; Eph 1:1; Col 1:2); a believer is seen as “holy” because Jesus’ perfect life covers them in God’s eyes (Gal 3:27; 2 Cor 5:21; Rev 7:14); may also refer to certain special believers in the Catholic Church who have attained “sainthood” (this usage is not biblical)

salvation – the result of saving, preserving, or delivering someone from harm; God has won our salvation through his promised Savior, Jesus (e.g., Rom 1:16; 2 Cor 6:2; Eph 1:13; 1 Thes 5:9)

salvation history – the history of what God has done to save us from sin; the events recorded in the Bible

sanctification – through faith the Holy Spirit creates a “new self” (2 Cor 5:17) in us that does good, God-pleasing things; it is the result of justification; since God has declared everyone “not guilty” through Christ, believers live a life of sanctification out of thanks to God

sanctified – made holy and set apart for God

sanctified life – a God-pleasing life of love and good works

Satan – a word meaning “adversary”; one of the names given in Scripture for the fallen angel who opposes God and seeks to spiritually harm all human beings (e.g., Mt 4:10; 16:23; Lk 18:10; Rom 16:20; Rev 12:9)

satanism – worship of Satan through cultic ritual or black magic; modern satanism rejects the existence of Satan but follows his example from Scripture, that is, rejecting mainstream organized religion and encouraging people to indulge in whatever they want

satisfaction – an act performed or payment made to avoid incurring the wrath of God deserved for sin; Jesus made full and complete satisfaction for every sin of every human being who ever lived with his death on the cross (e.g., Rom 5:8-9; 1 Thes 1:10; 5:9; 1 Jn 2:1-2); in the Roman Catholic Church, a believer must make further satisfaction for his or her sins (this is not a biblical teaching)

“saved” – to be saved from sin, death, and the devil thanks to our Savior Jesus Christ; this word can be used to describe all people due to Christ paying the punishment for sin in the place of all people; it can also be used to describe a Christian who has received the benefits of Christ’s life and death through faith in his redeeming work

Scripture, or the Scriptures – a name for the written Word of God; see also Bible

letting Scripture interpret Scripture – the intended meaning of the original author is the meaning of the passage; every passage in Scripture needs to be taken in context of Scripture as a whole since it is one unit

the Second Coming of Christ – Christ’s physical return to the earth on the Last Day (Mt 24:30; Acts 1:11; 1 Thes 4:16); it will be seen by all people and will usher in eternal life for believers and eternal death for unbelievers (2 Thes 1:7-10; Rev 1:7)

second death – physical death (Jn 11:25; Rev 20:5-6); the first death is the spiritual death suffered by all people by nature (Eph 2:1-3); the first resurrection is the new spiritual life given through faith in Jesus (Jn 5:21; 6:63; 11:26; Rom 8:2; Eph 2:4-5); the second resurrection is the physical resurrection of believers on the Last Day (Jn 6:40; 11:23-26)

second resurrection – the physical resurrection of believers on the Last Day (Jn 6:40; 11:23-26); the first death is the spiritual death suffered by all people by nature (Eph 2:1-3); the first resurrection is the new spiritual life given through faith in Jesus (Jn 5:21; 6:63; 11:26; Rom 8:2; Eph 2:4-5); the second death is physical death (Jn 11:25; Rev 20:5-6)

the Septuagint – a Greek translation of the Old Testament began in the 3rd century BC; from the Latin word meaning “seventy” because of the legend concerning its composition; according to the legend, seventy-two Jewish scholars were commissioned to translate the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) from Hebrew into Greek and their translations came out identical; often abbreviated using the Roman numeral for seventy, LXX

seraph  another word for angel (e.g., Is 6:2); might possibly indicate a different type or order of angels than the cherubs (Gen 3:24; Ex 25:18; Ezek 10:1)

sin – anything that goes against the will of God; this can include actions (e.g., Ex 20:3-17; Eph 5:6), words (e.g.; Mt 5:21-22; Eph 4:25,29), emotions (e.g.; Mt 5:21-22; Eph 2:1-3; 4:31), and even thoughts (e.g.; Mt 5:27-28; Eph 2:1-3; 4:22); defined in Scripture as “lawlessness” (1 Jn 3:4), that is, breaking God’s law; words used for sin in Hebrew and Greek in Scripture give the idea of “missing the mark,” “failing” or “coming up short,” “lawlessness,” “iniquity” or “wrong-doing,” and “transgressing” or a “misstep,” among others

the sin against the Holy Spirit  the deliberate, willful, and malicious rejection of the Holy Spirit’s work even after coming to the knowledge of the truth; this sin is not committed in ignorance; anyone who fears that they may have committed this sin is showing that they have indeed not committed this sin

Sin and Guilt offerings – animal offerings required in God’s Law to the Israelites for the atonement of sin

sinful nature – the complete corruption of the human nature; sadly all people have inherited a sinful nature due to Adam and Eve’s fall into sin (Gen 3:1-19; Gen 5:3; Rom 5:12,15-19); described in Scripture as the “image of man” (Gen 5:3), the “old self” (Eph 4:22; as opposed to the “new self” created by God through faith, Eph 4:24), the “body of sin” (Rom 6:6), the “flesh” (Rom 7:18; Gal 5:17), and living in “darkness” (Eph 5:8; Col 1:13; 1 Pt 2:9; 2 Cor 4:6); this causes all people to be born spiritually “blind” (2 Cor 4:4), “dead” (Eph 2:1-5), “hostile to God” (Rom 8:7), “enemies” of God in our minds (Col 1:21), and not willing to accept the things that come from God (1 Cor 2:14); see also Sin and Repentance

six days of creation – God’s creating of the universe in six days; the Bible tells us these were six normal 24-hour periods with morning and evening as we know them; see the section Creation for a list of what God created on each of the six days

the Son of Man – one of Jesus’ favorite names for himself; this name points to the prophecy found in Daniel 7:13-14 and would have been known by the Jewish people of Jesus’ day as a clear reference to the Messiah; this name also points to Jesus’ humanity (where “Son of God” points to his divinity)

soteriology – the study of salvation; the study of everything the Holy Spirit does to give us the benefits of Christ’s work on our behalf

soul – one of the two attributes that a human being consists of, along with the physical body; a person’s soul is immortal, going to either heaven or hell upon the death of the person’s body (e.g., Mt 10:28; Lk 16:19-31); also called “spirit” in Scripture (e.g., Jn 19:30; Ecc 12:7)

sovereignty of God – God’s power and authority to rule over all things

speaking in tongues – an outward sign of the coming of the Holy Spirit often given in the early church to bring attention to the gospel message among the earliest churches (1 Cor 12:1-11; 14:1-39); first happened on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41); vastly overemphasized by some modern day Christians as being a sign of being a true believer

spirit – depending on the context, it may refer to a personal being without a body, such as the angels (e.g., Heb 1:14) or demons (e.g., Lk 7:21); may refer to the life force within a person (Gen 2:7), or to a person’s soul (Jn 19:30; Ecc 12:7); may also refer to the Holy Spirit, which is often capitalized in English translations of the Bible

spiritual death – separation of our souls and minds from the will of God, resulting in a desire to break God’s commands (Gen 6:5; Eph 2:1-5)

spiritual gifts – gifts given by the Holy Spirit to each person for the purpose of building up God’s church (1 Cor 12:1-11); spiritual gifts will differ from person to person; the Holy Spirit gives a variety of gifts to people within the church that serve different specific purposes so that the body of believers can work together to glorify God (1 Cor 12:27-30)

subjective faith – see also faith; belief in Jesus Christ as our Savior; consists of a trust in Jesus’ saving work for the forgiveness of our sins; “the faith by which it is believed” (e.g., Rom 3:21-26,28; 1 Cor 2:4-5; 2 Cor 1:24; Php 3:9), as opposed to objective faith, “the faith which is believed”

subjective justification – the justification we receive through faith (Rom 3:21-26,28); through faith, a person receives the justification Jesus won for him or her; through unbelief a person rejects the benefits of what Christ did for him or her


taking offense – when someone takes another person’s actions as sinful even though they may or may not be sinful; sometimes those with weaker faith will take offense at another Christian’s actions because they don’t realize what the person is doing is not prohibited by God; see also causing offense

temporal death – physical death as it occurs in time here on this earth; the separation of the soul from the body, with the body returning to the dust of the ground (Ecclesiastes 12:7; see also Genesis 2:7, 3:19) and the person’s soul “returning to God” (Ecclesiastes 12:7)

temptation – something that lures a person into sin; a person may be tempted by Satan (e.g., Gen 3:1-7; 1 Cor 7:5; 1 Pt 5:8-9), the unbelieving world around him or her (Mk 4:19; 1 Tim 6:9), or his or her own sinful nature (e.g., Mt 26:41; Eph 4:22; Jm 1:13-15); God allows temptation to occur in order to strengthen his people (1 Cor 10:13; Jm 1:2-4)

the Ten Commandments – a summary of God’s moral law; given first to the prophet Moses and the Israelites after leaving Egypt (Exodus 20:1-21)

textual criticism – analyzing ancient manuscripts in order to determine the wording of the original text written by the inspired authors of Scripture; also called lower criticism

theodicy – a literary defense of God’s goodness despite there being evil in the world

third use of the law – using God’s law as a guide for good Christian living; learning what actions are God-pleasing in this life so as to live a life of thankfulness toward God

time of grace – our time here on earth in this life; the time God gives human beings to believe in his Son and receive the forgiveness he has won for us all

Torah – a Hebrew word that means “teaching” or “law”; this word may refer to God’s law given in the Old Testament; it also often refers to the Book of Moses (the first five books of the Old Testament) that contain the written regulations for the nation of Israel

transgression – another word for a sin; to transgress is to go to a place where one is not supposed to be, and thus has become a common word for breaking a command

Triune, Trinity – the teaching in the Bible that God is three (tri-) in one (-une), that is, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; see The Trinity

the Twelve Disciples – the twelve men Jesus chose to be his close followers, students, and leaders of the early church

typical prophecy – a prophecy where the prophet uses someone or something in his own time to point ahead to something similar in the life of Christ; for example, Jeremiah prophesies the destruction and devastation caused by the Babylonians upon the Israelite people (Jer 31:15), which became a “type” of the murder and devastation caused by Herod in Bethlehem (Mt 2:16-18)


Unitarianism – a false belief that holds that there is a god out there somewhere but no one can know anything about him with any certainty; it is false because it denies the Trinity

universal justification – the fact that Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world (1 Jn 2:2); justification that came from his perfect life and atoning death was universally won for all people; see also Forgiveness of Sins for All People

universal priesthood – all Christians have been made priests of God through Christ’s work (1 Peter 2:9)

universalism – the false belief that all people will go to heaven no matter what they believe about God; false because believers will go to heaven and unbelievers will go to hell (e.g., Mt 25:31-46; Lk 16:19-31; Jn 5:28-29); see also Heaven and Hell

unto faith – the correct way to look at the doctrine of election; God elects a person from eternity and works out their salvation in time by bringing them to faith


venial sin – refers to a sin committed by a believer in a moment of weakness; as opposed to a mortal sin that is committed by a person in unbelief; the Roman Catholic Church falsely distinguishes between these two types of sin as deserving different types of punishment, that is, mortal sins as deserving of eternal condemnation while venial sins as deserving of temporal punishment (that is not a biblical teaching)

vicarious – a word describing something serving as a substitute; Jesus served as the substitute of all mankind when he lived a perfect life on their behalf and offered himself as a sacrifice for their sin (1 Jn 2:2)

virgin birth – Jesus was born of a virgin woman named Mary because he was conceived in her by the Holy Spirit (Mt 1:18-25)

the visible church – collectively refers to the various Christian groups throughout the world; Christians who are members of Christian denominations can be “seen” as Christians by other people; as opposed to the invisible church that consists of only true believers (only God can see who truly believes and who doesn’t)

the Vulgate – a Latin translation of the Bible developed in the 4th century BC by a man named Jerome; it is the official translation of the Roman Catholic Church


wider context – looking at a passage’s place in its particular chapter, its particular book, its group of books, and even the point in time that passage was written in relation to the rest of salvation history

the Word – a term that simply refers to the Word of God, that is, the divinely inspired, written words and messages from God to human beings; also called the BibleScripture, or the Scriptures

the Word of God – see the Word or the Bible

the words of institution – the words spoken at the beginning of the rite of the Lord’s Supper; these words give efficacy to the sacrament; see The Lord’s Supper

work righteousness – believing you can gain God’s favor by doing good works

worship – from an Old English word (“weorthscipe”) that means to ascribe worth to something (think: “worth-ship”); Christians worship God by believing in him, living according to his will, and gathering together around the gospel to encourage each other and build up the church of God (Hebrews 10:25)


Xerxes – king of Persia who reigned from 486-464 BC; son of Darius the Great and grandson of Cyrus the Great; the events of the book of Esther take place in the kingdom of Xerxes (Esther 1:1ff), where he is called Ahasuerus in the book’s original language; he is also mentioned in Ezra 4:6


Yahweh – a name for God; this name comes from a transliteration of the tetragrammaton, a four-letter Hebrew name used for God throughout the Old Testament; this name in some English translations is shown as the word “LORD” in all capital letters; this name often reflects God’s loving graciousness toward his people and his faithfulness in keeping his promises


Zwinglian – a word used to describe the teachings of Ulrich Zwingli (AD 1484-1531), a theologian who was one of the leaders of the Reformation in Switzerland


1. Achtemeier, Paul J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. Harper’s Bible Dictionary. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985.
2. Brand, Chad, Charles Draper, Archie England, Steve Bond, E. Ray Clendenen, Trent C. Butler, and Bill Latta, eds. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003.
3. Deutschlander, Daniel M. Grace Abounds: The Splendor of Christian Doctrine. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Publishing House, 2015.
4. Girdlestone, Robert B. Synonyms of the Old Testament: Their Bearing on Christian Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974.
5. Kolb, Robert, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000.
6. Lange, Lyle W. God So Loved the World: A Study of Christian Doctrine. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Publishing House, 2005.
7. Pieper, Francis. Christian Dogmatics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953.