The need to properly define Bible words is great in this shallow age. There are multiple examples that could be cited in this article. I have chosen three words that will serve as an example of how we must be careful not to ignore revealed variations in meanings. A good set of English dictionaries, a Bible concordance, some hard work, and prayer, will solve most any interpretation problem. I recommend Webster’s Dictionary (1828), Oxford’s English Dictionary, Funk and Wagnall’s (1895), Standard Dictionary of the English Language, Webster’s (1956) and New Twentieth Century Dictionary (unabridged). There are others, but these will serve as a foundation, and will meet most any need, debate, or controversy concerning the English language. Older “Bible” dictionaries and encyclopedias can also be helpful. Even the older ones tend to be liberal and modernistic in some places. But they can at times be of much help.
Notice the following two Scriptures:
Deuteronomy 11:11 But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of HEAVEN:
Â 2 Corinthians 5:2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from HEAVEN:
It is clear to most observers that the word “heaven” in each of the preceding verses refers to something different. The first “heaven” refers to the sky above earth. The second verse refers to the third Heaven, where God’s throne presently abides:
2 Corinthians 12:2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the THIRD HEAVEN.
This teaches us that we must be careful concerning Bible words. We must study variations in meanings, the rest of Scripture, and the context:
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
It might be argued that no one would get confused concerning the word “heaven.” No one would try imagine that earthly fowls fly around, or that rain falls from clouds, in God’s Heaven. But there are other places where people do get confused. And the consequences are much greater concerning these words. The word “Wine” for example, many people get confused over the word “wine” in the Bible. They see that this word is used as something good and proper in some places, and they therefore are forced (through not understanding that there is more than one type of wine) to ignore the clear warnings against alcohol. The Bible does not command us to drink alcohol moderately. It commands us to avoid it to such a degree that we do not LOOK at it:
Proverbs 23:31 LOOK NOT THOU UPON THE WINE when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. 32 At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. 33 Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. … 35 They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I WILL SEEK IT YET AGAIN.
This is not some Mosaic ceremonial law. This is a moral law for all ages. Alcohol is addicting and destructive. We are therefore commanded not to make provision for addiction. So-called “moderate drinkers” must sin against this clear, moral command of the Holy Ghost in Proverbs. But what about the Bible verses that describe “wine” as something good? Notice the following two verses:
Â Proverbs 3:10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy PRESSES shall burst out with new WINE.
Isaiah 65:8 Thus saith the LORD, As the new WINE is found in the CLUSTER, and one saith, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants’ sakes, that I may not destroy them all.
Ripe GRAPES are PRESSED. Ripe GRAPES are found in the CLUSTER. Therefore, “wine,” in many passages, refers to fresh GRAPE JUICE. One might ask, “But why are Christians warned to drink grape juice moderately?” If we will ask this question, we might as well also ask why we are told to EAT HONEY moderately:
Proverbs 25:16 Hast thou found honey? eat so much AS IS SUFFICIENT FOR THEE, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.
Proverbs 25:27 It is not good to eat MUCH honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory.
There is not much difference between “honey” and rich grape juice. It is sucrose. We are warned to flee over-eating and over-drinking. The warning is not just against alcohol. It goes further:
Luke 21:34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
“Surfeiting” is over-eating. “Drunkenness” need not be limited to the effects of alcohol on the brain. We should let our moderation in all things be known unto all men (Phil.4). Being gluttonous in food or drink is immoderate and wrong. Aged women, aged men, pastors and deacons should all set a holy, moderate example for younger Christians in regard to food and drink. Such temperance goes beyond abstaining from alcohol:
Temperate: “1. Moderate in the indulgence of the appetites and passions; as temperate in eating and drinking; temperate in pleasures; temperate in speech.” (Web.1828)
The Bible does not command us to drink alcohol “moderately.” It commands us to avoid it to such a degree that we don’t even LOOK at it. Perhaps some would have trouble imagining how it could be a bad example for the older Christians, pastors and deacons to abuse grape juice. But this only because our society has gone so far beyond this that drinking grape juice all day would appear moderate! We may, I am sure, apply this to the constant abuse of tea, coffee, coke, soda pop, diet soft drinks, etc. by the majority of Christians today. I use to beÂ a coffee drinker and was quite addicted to it. This was a bad example to Christians. When I counseled one young man to forsake his cigarettes, he retorted that I was addicted to coffee! He was correct. I drink mainly water now, and for the past few years it has been a blessing to be free from addiction to colas and coffee. There is much money wasted in these unhealthy luxuries, and mature Christians (who are called to be examples) must eat and drink in moderation.
The Word “Saved”
Acts 27:31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be SAVED.
Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he SAVED us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye SAVED through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
James 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith SAVE him?
James 2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
It should be obvious to all that the word “saved” in Acts 27:31 does not refer to being saved from eternal torment. It means to be saved from the physical death of drowning. However, it is equally obvious that the word “saved” in Ephesians 2:8 and Titus 3:5 DOES refer to being saved from eternal torment. This “salvation” is said to be by grace through faith alone, not of works. But James teaches that we are “saved” through faith and works. Luther attempted to solve the problem by doubting that this epistle of James was inspired. Others simply turn faith into works and end up with “faith-works.” These people never reason that if the word “saved” can be used for the deliverance of a person from a stormy sea, then certainly it can be used to describe the deliverance from God’s disapproval at the Judgment Seat of Christ! James is writing to Christians (see 2:1). These saints are guilty of despising the poor. James uses the example of Abraham’s justification in Genesis 22. But this was years AFTER Genesis 15, where Paul said he was justified apart from works (Romans 4). James is therefore discussing how a CHRISTIAN gains approval from his Lord as an obedient son. It is not through faith alone. It is through faith and works that we will stand approved and accepted in our daily walk and at the Judgment Seat of Christ:
Hebrews 6:11 And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: 12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through FAITH AND PATIENCE inherit the promises. 13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, 14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.
In the above Scripture, Paul uses the same example of Abraham in Genesis 22, which occurred years AFTER his justification through faith alone. It is a double blessing that we gain through obedience (i.e. Surely blessing, I will BLESS thee). This blessing of being found worthy and approved at the Judgment Seat of Christ (for Millennial inheritance) is not granted through faith alone (like eternity). It is only granted through striving, working, enduring, continuing, racing and reaching by faith!:
2 Corinthians 5:9 Wherefore WE LABOUR, that, whether present or absent, we may be ACCEPTED of him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. 11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your conscience.