Index by Subject

“Literally” – A Discussion of Definitions

I recently read an interesting short article on the use of the term “literally” that I want to share with you, then comment upon.

Two Misuses of “Literally”

“He literally knocked his head off.”  No.  If he had, the head would have rolled across the floor, separated from the body.  “Literally,” in that case, is mistakenly used to intensify a figure of speech, but “literally” does not intensify the figure.  It says “knocked his head off” is not a figure of speech but a true description of what he did.

Another misuse of “literally” has to do with word meaning.  Someone says, “proskuneo ‘literally’ means ‘kiss the ground toward.’”  No, proskuneo literally means “worship.”  “Kiss the ground toward” is its etymology, how the word was formed.  It is also an archaic meaning; as ancient Persians did literally fall on their faces and kiss the feet or hem of the robe of their deified kings.  Etymology does not determine meaning; usage does.  The New Testament frequently says, “They fell down and worshipped him”  (Matthew 2:11; e.g.).  “Fell down” is from a different original word, “worshipped” is proskuneo.

“Literally” does not intensify a figure.  A word’s etymological meaning is not its “literal” meaning.

Cecil May
Preacher Talk (Vol. 27, No. 2—April 2012)

The first misuse of the term “literally” is typical in casual conversation.  While irritating to those who are sensitive to the mangling of the English language, it is innocuous.  However, defining biblical terms by their etymology, (or even their assigned dictionary definitions), without considering context, is extremely troubling as we seek to interpret God’s word.

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The Law of Equivalences

Studying the Bible is a great joy.  The truths that are found within the pages of God’s word have value that the world cannot measure with earthly things.  The excitement of unearthing these treasures is accelerated as each student detects the urgency in grasping its teachings.  Eternity is at stake.  Time does not stop so that I can perceive truths.  We are given one life and with that one life we must gain knowledge and wisely practice what we learn.  We must open God’s word, look to the context, consider associate passages, and reflect on what I call, “The Law of Equivalences.”

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Editorial: Commitment of Biblical Proportions

No doubt you have heard the following story in one form or another:

The pig and the chicken walked down the street together.  Every restaurant they passed had signs in the window advertising, “Ham and Eggs.”

“See,” said the chicken, “We’re famous.”

The pig grunted. “For you,” he said, “a plate of ham and eggs is just a cackle. For me it’s the supreme sacrifice.”

In a more concise form it is observed that when it comes to such a breakfast, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed!

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The Simple Gospel: What to be in 2005

It’s that time of year again, when millions make New Year’s resolutions — with many breaking them within the first week of the New Year.  Resolutions are not bad. Making goals is a helpful way to achieve the improvements we wish to make in our lives. They need to be realistic and possible. Here are a few suggestions to be in 2005 that are within the reach of every Christian.

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"What Is Written…How Readest Thou?": Source of True Encouragement

Paul’s letters to the church at Thessalonica were written in the midst of great concern among the brethren regarding death, the coming of Christ and the hope of those in Christ. When we read 1 Thessalonians 4, it is evident that some among their number had died while awaiting the promised hope at the Lord’s coming. Some wondered if the death of those saints separated them from that hope in Christ. No doubt, the thought of faithful brethren having been robbed of their hope by untimely death was discouraging and depressing to the saints.

When viewed in terms of the present reality of their severe persecution, the obvious concern existed as to the ability of evil men to take away their hope by killing them (1 Thessalonians 1:6). After all, martyrdom was a present fact in the first century (Acts 7:59-60; 12:1-2; et. al.). In the midst of affliction, the saints in Thessalonica needed strength and comfort to help them live with joy and hope. Where could they find the real, lasting and substantive encouragement they needed? What could be the source for such?

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Associate Editorial: “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15)

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (NKJ).

As a youngster, I heard 2 Timothy 2:15 discussed widely in class and used often in gospel preaching. In most instances, the passage was relied upon to urge Christians to “study” (KJV) their Bibles and to “rightly divide” (make a distinction) between the Old and New Testaments. While there is no doubt that “being diligent to present yourself to God” will include studying the scriptures, and “rightly dividing the word of truth” will include distinguishing between the covenants, it is also true that this passage carries a deeper meaning than then allowed. The instruction to Timothy in verse 15 is embedded in a wider context of preaching the gospel that lends weight to the work of evangelism. We must learn this lest we “need to be ashamed.” Continue reading » Associate Editorial: “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15)

The Simple Gospel: Bible Study

Bible study has everything to do with growing. We all know that we are to grow, but do we really know how to grow? There are many important things that we must do in order to grow. While we would not say that Bible study is more important than anything else, we can say that it is foundational. It is like God’s plan of salvation. All parts are equally important even though they have different characteristics and functions. The bible records over twenty things that save us. Try to leave one out, and you cannot have salvation. To try and place a greater importance on some parts over others is outrageous. But, there is one that is more vital to us than the others. In the case of salvation the one thing that provides for salvation is our individual obedience. Without obedience, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and everything else is useless for our salvation. Continue reading » The Simple Gospel: Bible Study