Two months ago I was preaching a series on the gospel, and in one sermon I preached Romans 3:21-26, which includes this gold nugget, talking about Jesus: “…whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:25) Then just the other Sunday, I preached 1 John 2:1-6 as part of our verse-by-verse study through the book of 1 John, which includes this jewel, also talking about Jesus: “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)
They were some of the most encouraging sermons I have preached for months, not only for me, but also for the church family, as we rejoiced in the Gospel together.
I believe that in our preaching and Bible study, when we come across technical, “big” words that the Bible uses, we should use, study and explain those words, rather than skirting around them or simply glossing over them with an alternative phrase.
We Use “New To Us” Language All the Time
When we moved to Vermont from the West Coast for me to pastor here, my family and I woke up the next morning and drove around town to familiarize ourselves with our surroundings. It was May, and we kept seeing signs that said “Tag Sale.” They often looked like Yard Sale or Garage Sale signs, and once we followed a few of those signs and saw a Yard Sale happening, we incorporated this new phrase into our thinking and speaking. We now don’t give it a second thought to say, “We should clean out the garage and have a Tag Sale this summer.” To function well in a new environment, you have to learn some of the new vocabulary that will help you to understand things you encounter.
When somebody becomes a Christian or begins to really study the Bible on their own, they need to learn some of the new vocabulary that they will come across in the Bible or they will always struggle with those passages. When we as pastors or Bible study leaders don’t take the time to slow down and explain what difficult doctrinal words and concepts mean as we encounter them, we risk doing unintentional damage. We stunt the spiritual growth of those we minister to, because they will flounder when they run across these words in their own Bible study, and we also unintentionally teach that the words God chose to put in the Bible are too hard for us to understand.
Why You Should Love the Big Bible Words
With less educational resources at their fingertips, the Bible writers of both the Old and New Testament did not flinch to use technical words when they taught about God. Bible words like “justification,” “redemption,” “regeneration” and “propitiation,” are dripping with meaning that helps us to understand the Gospel.
Let the people God has entrusted to you in your congregation or Bible study glory in the Gospel from the many different angles the Bible gives us, by not running away from the difficult words in the Bible. Explain them when you use them, but study and explain these technical and rich Bible words in such a way that they will want to sing hallelujah when they encounter them.
We want them to run TO propitiation, not away from it! Because when they run to propitiation, they are running to Jesus.
Tim Counts is the pastor of Northshire Baptist Church in Manchester Center, VT, and serves on the BCNE Board of Directors. He blogs regularly at He Must Become Greater, and you can follow him on Twitter @timothycounts.