Thursday, April 09, 2015

The Vision (4.9.15): New Testament Words

For Christians a word is worth a thousand pictures.  I remember when I started taking New Testament Greek in seminary and discovering, to my surprise, that I already knew many of the Biblical terms from listening to sermons and teaching.  Here are just a few such Biblical terms that hold importance for believers:

Agape:   This word means love (KJV:  charity).  Though it may refer to the love a husband has for his wife (cf. Ephesians 5:25:  “Husbands love your wives…”), in the New Testament it more often has the technical meaning of love among Christian brothers, rooted in the love that Christ has demonstrated for believers (see the New Commandment in John 14:34-35).  The great “love chapter” is found in 1 Corinthians 13.

Christos:  This word means The Anointed One, Christ, or Messiah.  It was the key title that the early disciples gave to Jesus.  Peter made this confession to Jesus:  “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
Diakonos:  The basic meaning of this word is servant or minister (in the informal sense of one who ministers or serves the needs of others).  It is likely used in this way to describe Phoebe of Cenchrea (Romans 16:1) and Epaphras (Colossians 1:7).  The root sense of the word is one who goes through (dia) the dust (konos) for others.  The term came to have a technical meaning to refer to the office of deacon in the early church (cf. Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8-13).  The English word “diaconate” comes from this word and refers to the body of deacons within a church. 
Ekklesia:  The basic meaning of this word is assembly or gathering.  At root the term means “the called-out ones.”  In secular Greek it was used to refer to political or public meetings.  It is, in fact, used in this way in Acts 19:32 to describe the mob which gathered in the theater at Ephesus, instigated by the silversmith Demetrius, to oppose Paul.  For Christians it came to be a technical term for their gatherings for worship and fellowship.  It is translated as “church.”  Jesus said:  “… I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).  From this term come English words like ecclesiastical, meaning “having to do with the church,” and ecclesiology, meaning “the doctrine of the church.” 

Episkopos:   This word means bishop or overseer.  The word has two roots.  The first is the prefix epi- from the preposition meaning “upon” or “over.”  Think of English words like epidermal (upon the skin) or epicenter (over the center).  The second is the verb skopeo, which means to look at or to watch.  Think of English words like to scope, periscope, microscope, or telescope.  In the New Testament, this word is used in a technical sense to refer to a church officer who serves as a teaching elder or pastor in a church (cf. Acts 20:28; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 5:2).  He watches over the church, as a shepherd watches over a flock, knowing that Christ is the Chief Shepherd (cf. 1 Peter 5:1-4).  From this word there later came terms like episcopal, referring to a form of church government which posits “bishops” who preside over various churches.  In the New Testament, however, the bishops did not rule over many congregations but were local church elders in one distinct assembly.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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