Category: Words/Meanings


  When we hear the word heresy, we might conjure up images of medieval torture chambers and heresy trials. There was a period of church history that certainly included those things. If we are not history buffs or religious scholars, we might know that heresy is a bad thing, but still be rather foggy on the details. So, what exactly is heresy, and what does the Bible have to say about it?

A basic definition of heresy, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, is “adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church dogma.” A second definition is “dissent or deviation from a dominant theory, opinion, or practice.” That’s a good starting point for us. These definitions identify two key elements: a dominant position and a contrary position. With regards to religion, any belief or practice that goes against the official position of the church is considered heretical.

Heresy has existed in every age, but during the 12th century, the Catholic Church took unprecedented action against it. As the power of the Catholic Church increased in Europe, dissenting voices of other Christian groups became more troublesome. Pope Alexander III (1162–63) encouraged informers, so the church could discover evidence of heresy. In 1184 Pope Lucius III issued a decree that a convicted heretic was to be handed over to secular authorities for punishment. Over the next several decades, the church increased the severity of punishment for heresy, ultimately making it a capital offense under Pope Gregory IX. During this time, the Dominicans became the principle agents of the Inquisition, a special court given authority to judge intentions as well as actions. When heresy was suspected in a village, an inquisitor was sent to preach a sermon calling for the villagers to come forward with reports of heresy. This was a “general inquisition” that included a period of grace for anyone who would confess. This was followed by a “special inquisition” that might include coercion, false witnesses, and torture to obtain a “confession.” Those identified as heretics were then ordered to do penance, which might consist of mandatory church attendance, pilgrimage to a shrine, loss of property, or imprisonment. Heretics who refused to repent were sentenced to death. The Inquisition continued in most areas of Europe until the 15th century.

Obviously, the gauge for “heretical” teaching varies according to the established orthodoxy of the day. Any group or individual who differs from another group can technically be called heretical. In Acts 24:14, Christians are called heretics by the Jews. The “heretics” of the Middle Ages were only heretical in that they disagreed with the Catholic Church, not because they held unbiblical doctrines. The Spanish Inquisition executed over 14,000 people, many of them for simply possessing a Bible. Thus, biblically speaking, it was the established church itself that was heretical during the Middle Ages.

Regarding biblical Christianity, what is heresy? Second Peter 2:1 says, “There will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” From this verse, we see that heresy is anything that denies the teaching of Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 11:19, Paul takes the church to task for having heresies among them—heresies that led to schisms in the body. These verses touch on both aspects of what constitutes heresy in the church: denying the doctrines God has given, and dividing the body He has created. Both of these are dangerous, destructive actions that are soundly rebuked by Scripture. See also 1 John 4:1-6; 1 Timothy 1:3-6; 2 Timothy 1:13-14; and Jude 1.

How does the Bible deal with heresy? Titus 3:10 says, “A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject” (KJV). Other translations say “divisive person,” “factious man,” and “person who stirs up division.” When a person in the church departs from biblical teaching, the correct response is to, first, try to correct him, but if he refuses to listen after two warnings, have nothing more to do with him. Excommunication is implied. The truth of Christ will unify believers (John 17:22-23), but heresy, by its very nature, cannot peacefully co-exist with the truth.

Of course, not every disagreement in the church is heresy. Having a different opinion is not wrong, but when the opinion is divisive or maintained in defiance of clear biblical teaching, it becomes heretical. The apostles themselves disagreed at times (see Acts 15:36-41), and Peter once had to be rebuked for divisive and legalistic behavior (Galatians 2:11-14). But, praise the Lord, through an attitude of humility and submission to the God of truth, the apostles worked through their disagreements and set an example for us.

How do we guard against heresy? Philippians 2:2-3 is a good starting point: “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” As we submit ourselves to the authority of God’s Word and deal with one another in love and respect, divisions and heresies will be diminished.

Sola fide which means “faith alone” is important because it is one of the distinguishing characteristics or key points that separate the true biblical Gospel from false gospels. At stake is the very Gospel itself and it is therefore a matter of eternal life or death. Getting the Gospel right is of such importance that the Apostle Paul would write in Galatians 1:9, “As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” Paul was addressing the same question that sola fide addresses—on what basis is man declared by God to be justified? Is it by faith alone or by faith combined with works? Paul makes it clear in Galatians and Romans that man is “justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law” (Galatians 2:16), and the rest of the Bible concurs.

Sola fide is one of the five solas that came to define and summarize the key issues of the Protestant Reformation. Each of these Latin phrases represents a key area of doctrine that was an issue of contention between the Reformers and the Roman Catholic Church, and today they still serve to summarize key doctrines essential to the Gospel and to Christian life and practice. The Latin word sola means “alone” or “only” and the essential Christian doctrines represented by these five Latin phrases accurately summarize the biblical teaching on these crucial subjects: sola scriptura—Scripture alone, sola fide—faith alone, sola gratia—grace alone, sola Christus—Christ alone, and sola Deo gloria—for the glory of God alone. Each one is vitally important, and they are all closely tied together. Deviation from one will lead to error in another essential doctrine, and the result will almost always be a false gospel which is powerless to save.

Sola fide or faith alone is a key point of difference between not only Protestants and Catholics but between biblical Christianity and almost all other religions and teachings. The teaching that we are declared righteous by God (justified) on the basis of our faith alone and not by works is a key doctrine of the Bible and a line that divides most cults from biblical Christianity. While most religions and cults teach men what works they must do to be saved, the Bible teaches that we are not saved by works, but by God’s grace through His gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Biblical Christianity is distinct from every other religion in that it is centered on what God has accomplished through Christ’s finished work, while all other religions are based on human achievement. If we abandon the doctrine of justification by faith, we abandon the only way of salvation. “Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Romans 4:4-5). The Bible teaches that those that trust Jesus Christ for justification by faith alone are imputed with His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), while those who try to establish their own righteousness or mix faith with works will receive the punishment due to all who fall short of God’s perfect standard.

Sola fide—the doctrine of justification by faith alone apart from works—is simply recognizing what is taught over and over in Scripture—that at some point in time God declares ungodly sinners righteous by imputing Christ’s righteousness to them (Romans 4:5, 5:8, 5:19). This happens apart from any works and before the individual actually begins to become righteous. This is an important distinction between Catholic theology that teaches righteous works are meritorious towards salvation and Protestant theology that affirms the biblical teaching that righteous works are the result and evidence of a born-again person who has been justified by God and regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit.

How important is sola fide? It is so important to the Gospel message and a biblical understanding of salvation that Martin Luther described it as being “the article with and by which the church stands.” Those who reject sola fide reject the only Gospel that can save them and by necessity embrace a false gospel. That is why Paul so adamantly denounces those who taught law-keeping or other works of righteousness in Galatians 1:9 and other passages. Yet today this important biblical doctrine is once again under attack. Too often sola fide is relegated to secondary importance instead of being recognized as an essential doctrine of Christianity, which it certainly is.

“Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Galatians 3:6-11).

  Biblically speaking, the rainbow is the sign of a covenant that God made with the whole earth: He will never destroy the earth again with a flood. The rainbow is literally correlated to rainfall.

God made this covenant, with the rainbow as the token, after the waters of the flood receded and Noah and his family exited the ark. God said, “I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth. . . . This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth” (Genesis 9:11–15).

God made this promise, signified by the rainbow, not only to mankind but to “every living creature . . . the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark . . . every living creature on earth” (Genesis 9:9–10). The covenant is perpetual, enduring to all generations. Never again will there be a worldwide flood.

The colors of the rainbow are sometimes used as a symbol of “gay pride.” This began in the 1978 when an artist named Gilbert Baker designed and made a flag for the homosexual community in San Francisco. Baker’s original design had eight colors, and he assigned a meaning to each one: hot pink (sexuality), red (life), orange (healing), yellow (the sun), green (nature), turquoise (art), indigo (harmony), and violet (spirit). Subsequent designs sported seven and then six colors. Rainbow flags and banners, as used by the LGBTI community, represent diversity, hope, and social action.

There are other rainbow flags and banners that have nothing to do with the homosexual culture. For example, the Hawaii Ko Aloha Flag has nine colored stripes representing the islands that were inhabited before Western civilization arrived. Another example is the flag of the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, a Masonic organization whose banner represents seven different virtues.

The rainbow is God’s creation. We naturally delight in it. There is something awe-inspiring in the appearance of a rainbow after a storm. It is good and right that we rejoice in the rainbow as a God-ordained symbol of God’s faithfulness and mercy. The attempt of some to coopt the colors for their own purposes does not diminish the beauty and wonder of what God has made.

Our answer to this question will not only determine how we view the Bible and its importance to our lives, but also it will ultimately have an eternal impact on us. If the Bible is truly God’s Word, then we should cherish it, study it, obey it, and fully trust it. If the Bible is the Word of God, then to dismiss it is to dismiss God Himself.

The fact that God gave us the Bible is an evidence and illustration of His love for us. The term “revelation” simply means that God communicated to mankind what He is like and how we can have a right relationship with Him. These are things that we could not have known had God not divinely revealed them to us in the Bible. Although God’s revelation of Himself in the Bible was given progressively over approximately 1500 years, it has always contained everything man needs to know about God in order to have a right relationship with Him. If the Bible is truly the Word of God, then it is the final authority for all matters of faith, religious practice, and morals.

The question we must ask ourselves is how can we know that the Bible is the Word of God and not just a good book? What is unique about the Bible that sets it apart from all other religious books ever written? Is there any evidence that the Bible is truly God’s Word? These types of questions must be seriously examined if we are to determine the validity of the Bible’s claim to be the very Word of God, divinely inspired, and totally sufficient for all matters of faith and practice. There can be no doubt that the Bible does claim to be the very Word of God. This is clearly seen in Paul’s commendation to Timothy: “… from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

There are both internal and external evidences that the Bible is truly God’s Word. The internal evidences are those things within the Bible that testify of its divine origin. One of the first internal evidences that the Bible is truly God’s Word is seen in its unity. Even though it is really sixty-six individual books, written on three continents, in three different languages, over a period of approximately 1500 years, by more than 40 authors who came from many walks of life, the Bible remains one unified book from beginning to end without contradiction. This unity is unique from all other books and is evidence of the divine origin of the words which God moved men to record.

Another of the internal evidences that indicates the Bible is truly God’s Word is the prophecies contained within its pages. The Bible contains hundreds of detailed prophecies relating to the future of individual nations including Israel, certain cities, and mankind. Other prophecies concern the coming of One who would be the Messiah, the Savior of all who would believe in Him. Unlike the prophecies found in other religious books or those by men such as Nostradamus, biblical prophecies are extremely detailed. There are over three hundred prophecies concerning Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. Not only was it foretold where He would be born and His lineage, but also how He would die and that He would rise again. There simply is no logical way to explain the fulfilled prophecies in the Bible other than by divine origin. There is no other religious book with the extent or type of predictive prophecy that the Bible contains.

A third internal evidence of the divine origin of the Bible is its unique authority and power. While this evidence is more subjective than the first two, it is no less a powerful testimony of the divine origin of the Bible. The Bible’s authority is unlike any other book ever written. This authority and power are best seen in the way countless lives have been transformed by the supernatural power of God’s Word. Drug addicts have been cured by it, homosexuals set free by it, derelicts and deadbeats transformed by it, hardened criminals reformed by it, sinners rebuked by it, and hate turned to love by it. The Bible does possess a dynamic and transforming power that is only possible because it is truly God’s Word.

There are also external evidences that indicate the Bible is truly the Word of God. One is the historicity of the Bible. Because the Bible details historical events, its truthfulness and accuracy are subject to verification like any other historical document. Through both archaeological evidences and other writings, the historical accounts of the Bible have been proven time and time again to be accurate and true. In fact, all the archaeological and manuscript evidence supporting the Bible makes it the best-documented book from the ancient world. The fact that the Bible accurately and truthfully records historically verifiable events is a great indication of its truthfulness when dealing with religious subjects and doctrines and helps substantiate its claim to be the very Word of God.

Another external evidence that the Bible is truly God’s Word is the integrity of its human authors. As mentioned earlier, God used men from many walks of life to record His words. In studying the lives of these men, we find them to be honest and sincere. The fact that they were willing to die often excruciating deaths for what they believed testifies that these ordinary yet honest men truly believed God had spoken to them. The men who wrote the New Testament and many hundreds of other believers (1 Corinthians 15:6) knew the truth of their message because they had seen and spent time with Jesus Christ after He had risen from the dead. Seeing the risen Christ had a tremendous impact on them. They went from hiding in fear to being willing to die for the message God had revealed to them. Their lives and deaths testify to the fact that the Bible truly is God’s Word.

A final external evidence that the Bible is truly God’s Word is the indestructibility of the Bible. Because of its importance and its claim to be the very Word of God, the Bible has suffered more vicious attacks and attempts to destroy it than any other book in history. From early Roman Emperors like Diocletian, through communist dictators and on to modern-day atheists and agnostics, the Bible has withstood and outlasted all of its attackers and is still today the most widely published book in the world.

Throughout time, skeptics have regarded the Bible as mythological, but archeology has confirmed it as historical. Opponents have attacked its teaching as primitive and outdated, but its moral and legal concepts and teachings have had a positive influence on societies and cultures throughout the world. It continues to be attacked by pseudo-science, psychology, and political movements, yet it remains just as true and relevant today as it was when it was first written. It is a book that has transformed countless lives and cultures throughout the last 2000 years. No matter how its opponents try to attack, destroy, or discredit it, the Bible remains; its veracity and impact on lives is unmistakable. The accuracy which has been preserved despite every attempt to corrupt, attack, or destroy it is clear testimony to the fact that the Bible is truly God’s Word and is supernaturally protected by Him. It should not surprise us that, no matter how the Bible is attacked, it always comes out unchanged and unscathed. After all, Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Mark 13:31). After looking at the evidence, one can say without a doubt that, yes, the Bible is truly God’s Word.

The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture is a fundamental tenet of the Christian faith. To say the Scriptures are sufficient means that the Bible is all we need to equip us for a life of faith and service. It provides a clear demonstration of God’s intention to restore the broken relationship between Himself and humanity through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior through the gift of faith. No other writings are necessary for this good news to be understood, nor are any other writings required to equip us for a life of faith.

When discussing Scripture, Christians are referring to both Old and New Testaments. The apostle Paul declared that the holy Scriptures “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15–17). If Scripture is “God-breathed,” then it is not man-breathed, and, although it was penned by men, those “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). No man-made writing is sufficient to equip us for every good work; only the Word of God can do that. Furthermore, if the Scriptures are sufficient to thoroughly equip us, then nothing more is needed.

Colossians 2 deals with the dangers a church faces when the sufficiency of Scripture is challenged and merged with non-biblical writings, full of ungodly theology and concepts. Paul warned the church at Colosse: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Jude says it even more specifically when he writes, “Although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 1:3). Notice the phrase “once and for all.” This makes it clear that no other writings, no matter how godly the pastor, theologian, or denominational church they may come from, are to be seen as equal to or completing the Word of God. The Bible is all that is necessary for the believer to understand the character of God, the nature of man, and the doctrines of sin, heaven, hell, and salvation through Jesus Christ. Paul’s words to the Galatians indicate the seriousness of delivering a message outside the Bible: “If we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:8).

Perhaps the strongest verses on the issue of the sufficiency of the Bible come from the book of Psalms. In Psalm 19:7–14, David rejoices in God’s Word, declaring it to be perfect, trustworthy, right, radiant, enlightening, sure and altogether righteous.

The sufficiency of Scripture is under attack today, and, sadly, that attack comes far too often in our own churches. Management techniques, worldly methods of drawing crowds, entertainment, extra-biblical revelations, mysticism, and some forms of psychological counseling all declare that the Bible and its precepts are not adequate for the Christian life. But Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me” (John 10:27). His voice is all we need to hear and the Scriptures are His voice, completely and utterly sufficient.

We live in a time that tends to shrug its shoulders when confronted with error. Instead of asking, like Pilate, “What is truth?” postmodern man says, “Nothing is truth” or perhaps “There is truth, but we cannot know it.” We’ve grown accustomed to being lied to, and many people seem comfortable with the false notion that the Bible, too, contains errors.

The doctrine of biblical inerrancy is an extremely important one because the truth does matter. This issue reflects on the character of God and is foundational to our understanding of everything the Bible teaches. Here are some reasons why we should absolutely believe in biblical inerrancy:

1. The Bible itself claims to be perfect. “And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6). “The law of the Lord is perfect” (Psalm 19:7). “Every word of God is pure” (Proverbs 30:5 KJV). These claims of purity and perfection are absolute statements. Note that it doesn’t say God’s Word is “mostly” pure or scripture is “nearly” perfect. The Bible argues for complete perfection, leaving no room for “partial perfection” theories.

2. The Bible stands or falls as a whole. If a major newspaper were routinely discovered to contain errors, it would be quickly discredited. It would make no difference to say, “All the errors are confined to page three.” For a paper to be reliable in any of its parts, it must be factual throughout. In the same way, if the Bible is inaccurate when it speaks of geology, why should its theology be trusted? It is either a trustworthy document, or it is not.

3. The Bible is a reflection of its Author. All books are. The Bible was written by God Himself as He worked through human authors in a process called “inspiration.” “All scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). See also 2 Peter 1:21 and Jeremiah 1:2.

We believe that the God who created the universe is capable of writing a book. And the God who is perfect is capable of writing a perfect book. The issue is not simply “Does the Bible have a mistake?” but “Can God make a mistake?” If the Bible contains factual errors, then God is not omniscient and is capable of making errors Himself. If the Bible contains misinformation, then God is not truthful but is instead a liar. If the Bible contains contradictions, then God is the author of confusion. In other words, if biblical inerrancy is not true, then God is not God.

4. The Bible judges us, not vice versa. “For the word of God…judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Notice the relationship between “the heart” and “the Word.” The Word examines; the heart is being examined. To discount parts of the Word for any reason is to reverse this process. We become the examiners, and the Word must submit to our “superior insight.” Yet God says, “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?” (Romans 9:20).

5. The Bible’s message must be taken as a whole. It is not a mixture of doctrine that we are free to select from. Many people like the verses that say God loves them, but they dislike the verses that say God will judge sinners. But we simply cannot pick and choose what we like about the Bible and throw the rest away. If the Bible is wrong about hell, for example, then who is to say it is right about heaven—or about anything else? If the Bible cannot get the details right about creation, then maybe the details about salvation cannot be trusted either. If the story of Jonah is a myth, then perhaps so is the story of Jesus. On the contrary, God has said what He has said, and the Bible presents us a full picture of who God is. “Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens” (Psalm 119:89).

6. The Bible is our only rule for faith and practice. If it is not reliable, then on what do we base our beliefs? Jesus asks for our trust, and that includes trust in what He says in His Word. John 6:67-69 is a beautiful passage. Jesus had just witnessed the departure of many who had claimed to follow Him. Then He turns to the twelve apostles and asks, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” At this, Peter speaks for the rest when he says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” May we have the same trust in the Lord and in His words of life.

None of what we have presented here should be taken as a rejection of true scholarship. Biblical inerrancy does not mean that we are to stop using our minds or accept what the Bible says blindly. We are commanded to study the Word (2 Timothy 2:15), and those who search it out are commended (Acts 17:11). Also, we recognize that there are difficult passages in the Bible, as well as sincere disagreements over interpretation. Our goal is to approach Scripture reverently and prayerfully, and when we find something we do not understand, we pray harder, study more, and—if the answer still eludes us—humbly acknowledge our own limitations in the face of the perfect Word of God.

What is the Logos?

Logos is the Greek term translated as “word,” “speech,” “principle,” or “thought.” In Greek philosophy, it also referred to a universal, divine reason or the mind of God.

In the New Testament, the Gospel of John begins, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4). Here it is clear that the “Word” or Logos is a reference to Jesus Christ.

John argues that Jesus, the Word or Logos, is eternal and is God. Further, all creation came about by and through Jesus, who is presented as the source of life. Amazingly, this Logos came and lived among us: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

John’s Gospel begins by using the Greek idea of a “divine reason” or “the mind of God” as a way to connect with the readers of his day and introduce Jesus to them as God. Greek philosophy may have used the word in reference to divine reason, but John used it to note many of the attributes of Jesus. In John’s use of the Logos concept, we find that

-Jesus is eternal (“In the beginning was the Word”)
-Jesus was with God prior to coming to earth (“the Word was with God”)
-Jesus is God (“the Word was God.”)
-Jesus is Creator (“All things were made through him”)
-Jesus is the Giver of Life (“In him was life”)
-Jesus became human to live among us (“the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”)

Further, the opening of John’s Gospel carries a striking resemblance to Genesis 1:1.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him…” (John 1:1).

(The corresponding theme of “light” is also used in both Genesis 1 and John 1.)

Logos is used in many ways, yet in John’s Gospel Logos is a clear reference to Jesus, the God who both created us and lived among us. Logos became a theological term important to Christians in the early church and remains a concept of significant influence today.

When King David was about to die, he gave his son, Solomon, the following advice: “Do what the LORD your God commands and follow his teachings. Obey everything written in the Law of Moses. Then you will be a success, no matter what you do or where you go” (1 Kings 2:3 CEV). Notice that David didn’t tell his son to build up his kingdom with great armies, or to gather wealth from other lands, or to defeat his enemies in battle. Instead, his formula for success was to follow God and obey Him. When Solomon became king, he didn’t ask the Lord for wealth and power, but for wisdom and discernment in order to lead God’s people. God was pleased by this request and granted it, giving Solomon a wise and understanding heart, more than any man had ever had before. He also gave Solomon the things he didn’t ask for—riches and honor among men (1 Kings 3:1-14). Solomon took his father’s advice to heart, at least for most of his reign, and reflected on it in his writing in Proverbs: “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:1-4 (ESV).

Jesus reiterated this teaching in the New Testament when He declared which is the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31). Loving God means obeying Him and keeping His commandments (John 14:15, 23-24). The first step in this process is accepting the free gift of eternal life offered by Jesus Christ (John 3:16). This is the beginning of true biblical success. When the gift is received, transformation begins. The process is accomplished, not by human will, but by God’s Holy Spirit (John 1:12-13). How does this happen and what is the result? It happens first through trusting the Lord and obeying Him. As we obey Him, He transforms us, giving us a completely new nature (1 Corinthians 5:17). As we go through trouble and hard times, which the Bible calls “trials,” we are able to endure with great peace and direction, and we begin to understand that God uses those very trials to strengthen our inner person (John 16:33; James 1:2). In other words, trouble in life does not cause us to fail, but to walk through trouble with God’s grace and wisdom. By obeying God, we gain freedom from the curses of this world—hate, jealousy, addictions, confusion, inferiority complexes, sadness without reason, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, selfishness and more.

In addition, followers of Christ (Christians) possess and display the fruit of the Spirit of God who resides in their hearts—love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). We have at our disposal knowledge to know what to do and where to turn (Proverbs 3:5-6), unhindered amounts of wisdom (James 1:5), and the peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7). As we grow and mature in Christ, we begin to think not only of ourselves but of others. Our greatest joy becomes what we can do for others and give to others, and how we can help them grow and prosper spiritually. Those who have risen to these heights of achievement understand true success, because a person can have all the power, money, popularity and prestige the world has to offer, but if his soul is empty and bitter, worldly success is really failure. “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

One last word on biblical success. While transformation of our inner lives is God’s goal for us, He also abundantly provides good physical gifts to His children (food, clothing, houses, etc.), and He loves to do it (Matthew 6:25-33). Yet, most of us, at one time or another, focus on the gifts rather than on the Giver. That’s when we regress in our contentment and joy and we quench the Spirit’s transforming work within us, because we are focusing on the wrong things. That may be why the Lord sometimes limits His gift-giving to us—so we do not stumble over the gifts and fall away from Him.

Picture two hands. In the right hand there are the offer of true contentment, the ability to handle life’s problems without being overcome by them, amazing peace that sees us through all circumstances, wisdom to know what to do, knowledge and constant direction for life, love for others, acceptance of ourselves, joy no matter what, and at the end of life, an eternity with the God who freely gives all these gifts. The other hand holds all the money and power and success the world has to offer, without any of what the right hand holds. Which would you choose? The Bible says, “Where your treasure is, there also is your heart” (Matthew 6:21). That which is in the right hand is the biblical definition of success.

Anathema, as used in the New Testament, comes from the Greek ana’thema, meaning “a person or thing accursed or consigned to damnation or destruction.” Used only six times in the Bible, the word anathema is usually translated as “accursed,” “cursed,” or “eternally condemned” in the more modern translations. Young’s Literal Translation, the American Standard Version, and the King James Version transliterate it as “anathema.”

The NIV translates Romans 9:23 as “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race.” Here, the meaning conveyed has do to more with one being consigned to eternal condemnation. It carries with it the idea of complete separation from Christ and His salvation.

Another example of the use of the word anathema is Galatians 1:8–9. The American Standard Version (1901) renders this passage as “But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema. As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema.” In the NIV, the words “eternally condemned” replace “anathema.”

Another use of the word anathema has to do with placing an oath or a vow upon oneself. For example, in Acts 23:12 we read of certain Jews who had “banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul” (ASV). These Jews had determined that Paul was to be killed and believed it was their duty to put him away. As such, they “anathematized” themselves or, as the NIV renders it, “bound themselves with an oath” to fast until they had done the deed.

Anathema is also used in conjunction with the word maranatha, found only in 1 Corinthians 16:22: “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha” (1 Corinthians 16:22, NASB, 1995 Update). Maranatha expresses the hope of Christ’s second coming. Other modern versions translate this passage as “If anyone does not love the Lord—a curse be on him. Come, O Lord!” 1 Corinthians 16:22, NIV). The word anathema is related to the Old Testament Hebrew word haram or herem, which was often used in referencing the total annihilation of idolatrous people or nations (Numbers 21:2–3; Joshua 6:17). Haram sometimes pertained to a person or object forever devoted to God (Leviticus 27:21).

Generally speaking, most Bible scholars agree that the word anathema is best understood to mean that which is to be accursed, condemned, or destroyed. When the Lord says something is “anathema,” it is a serious matter.

I often see people using the word “Selah”.

The word “Selah” is found in two books of the Bible, but is most prevalent in the Psalms, where it appears 71 times. It also appears three times in the third chapter of the minor prophet Habakkuk.

There is a great deal of confusion about the meaning of “selah,” primarily because the Hebrew root word from which it is translated is uncertain. Well-meaning Bible scholars disagree on the meaning and on the root word, but since God has ordained that it be included in His Word, we should make an effort to find out, as best we can, the meaning.

One possible Hebrew word that is translated “selah” is calah which means “to hang” or “to measure or weigh in the balances.” Referring to wisdom, Job says, “The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold” (Job 28:19). The word translated “valued” in this verse is the Hebrew calah. Here Job is saying that wisdom is beyond comparing against even jewels, and when weighed in the balance against wisdom, the finest jewels cannot equal its value.

“Selah” is also thought to be rendered from two Hebrew words: s_lah, “to praise”; and s_lal, “to lift up.” Another commentator believes it comes from salah, “to pause.” From these words comes the belief that “selah” is a musical direction to the singers and/or instrumentalists who performed the Psalms, which was the hymnbook of the Israelites. If this is true, then each time “selah” appears in a psalm, the musicians paused, either to take a breath, or to sing a cappella or let the instruments play alone. Perhaps they were pausing to praise Him about whom the song was speaking, perhaps even lifting their hands in worship. This would encompass all these meanings—praise, lift up, and pause. When we consider the three verses in Habakkuk, we also see how “selah” could mean “to pause and praise.” Even though Habakkuk was not written to be sung, Habakkuk’s prayer in chapter 3 inspires the reader to pause and praise God for His mercy, power, sustaining grace and sufficiency.

Perhaps the best way to think of “selah” is a combination of all these meanings. The Amplified Bible adds “pause and calmly think about that” to each verse where “selah” appears. When we see the word in a psalm or in Habakkuk 3, we should pause to carefully weigh the meaning of what we have just read or heard, lifting up our hearts in praise to God for His great truths. “All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name.” Selah! (Psalm 66:4).