200 Theological Words

A word-list for Bible study

As you study the Bible, and read other books written to help you understand it, you will come across many words that have a specialised meaning when they are used to talk about God. These are called ‘theological terms’. Theology, in the Ancient Greek language in which the New Testament was originally written, means the study or understanding of God. Other words come from Latin, the language of the Roman Empire. A few come from Hebrew, the original language of the Old Testament.

This word-list has been written to help you understand this specialist language.




Adoption takes place when someone legally becomes a full member of a family that is not theirs by birth. In the New Testament, it refers to God’s act of making us His children. When we believe in Jesus and receive His Holy Spirit, we become adopted children of our heavenly Father (John 1:12-13, Romans 8:15, Ephesians 1:5-6). Jesus is now not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:11).


An advocate is someone who is ‘called alongside to help’. In a court of law, an advocate is someone who helps us by speaking up in our defence. In John’s Gospel, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as ‘the Advocate’. He says that the Holy Spirit will be with us forever, and will help us and teach us all things (John 14:16-26). He is the Person of the Godhead who speaks into our inward being and presents our prayers to the Father (Romans 8:26-27). In addition, when a believer sins, Jesus is our advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1). Because Jesus has paid for our sin on the cross, He declares to the Father that our sin has already been dealt with and we are to be declared ‘not guilty’.


‘Agnostic’ comes from the Greek and means ‘not knowing’. An agnostic is somebody who claims not to know what to believe about life after death, God, eternity and meaning. This may suggest an openness to the Gospel, but the Bible is clear that those who do not positively believe in Jesus stand condemned (John 3:18).  Some more determined agnostics go further and claim that it is not possible to know what to believe about these big issues. Atheists go even further to say that the only kind of knowledge that exists is what can be perceived and measured by anyone through everyday sensory experience.


An altar is a table on which sacrifices are made. Altars are common in many religions and in the Old Testament people regularly set up altars to other gods. However, there was one altar in the tabernacle, and later in the temple, which was dedicated to the worship of the One True God of Israel. This was necessary so that the people could have their sins paid for and get right with God by sacrificing an animal in their place. Since Jesus made one sacrifice of Himself to pay for the sins of all who believe in Him, there is no longer any need for an altar. (Even so many Christians do call the table, from which Holy Communion is served, an altar).


Amen is a Hebrew word used to affirm something as true. It means ‘Truly’ or ‘Yes! That is good!’ Christians and Jews say it at the end of prayers or speeches in order to show that they agree wholeheartedly with what has been said. In John’s Gospel, Jesus often said it twice at the start of a statement to emphasis the truth of what He was about to say. In some versions of the Bible this is translated by ‘verily, verily’ or ‘truly, truly’. In Revelation 3:14 Jesus is described as ‘the Amen’ meaning that He is the expression of everything that is true and good from God.


An ancestor is a member of our family tree who has come before us, someone from whom we are descended. There are many lists of ancestors in the Bible, mostly in the Old Testament, but there is one of special importance in Matthew 1:1-17, which shows the human ancestry of Jesus. It is important to Matthew that we realise that Jesus is the ‘son of David’ and the ‘son of Abraham’. He is showing us that Jesus is the one who fulfils all the promises of the Old Testament. Since we are also children of Abraham by faith (Romans 4:11-12), all the ancestors of Jesus are our spiritual ancestors too.


Angels are spiritual beings created by God. They are not to be worshipped (Revelation 19:10). Their primary role is to serve God, often as a messenger on His behalf. They are like humans in that they have intelligence and can make moral decisions, and they can appear looking like normal people (e.g. Genesis 18:2, 19:1). We know of two angels with names: Michael (e.g. Jude 9) and Gabriel (e.g. Luke 1:19). Satan and his demons are described as fallen angels who have rebelled against God (Job 1:6, Jude 6).


To anoint someone is to put oil on their head. In Old Testament times, this happened as part of everyday life when people wanted to appear at their best (Ecclesiastes 9:8) but was also used in special rituals, particularly to mark someone being appointed to an office such as High Priest (Leviticus 16:32) or King (1 Samuel 9:16) or occasionally a Prophet (1 Kings 19:16). It was symbolic of the presence of God being poured out on that person. It said: ‘May God’s presence be with this person’. In the New Testament, anointing is used when praying for the healing of someone (Mark 6:13, James 5:14) and is more closely linked to the ‘pouring out’ of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is called the ‘Messiah’ (from Hebrew) or ‘Christ’ (from Greek), which means ‘the anointed one’. This refers to both His appointments as High Priest, King and Prophet and as one who has the Holy Spirit with Him.


An antichrist is someone who sets himself up against Jesus or instead of Jesus and who denies that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 2:22).  In 1 John the author says that there are many antichrists already in the world (1 John 2:18) and that the ‘spirit of the antichrist’ is in the world (1 John 4:3). In other words, there are already many who oppose Jesus or who seek to replace him, or both. John says that these antichrists are people who have claimed to be Christians but have actually been against Him.  Some think that the ‘man of lawlessness’ prophesied in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 is the same as ‘The Antichrist’ in 1 John 2:18.


The English word apocalypse comes from the Greek word apokalupsis, meaning ‘revelation’. In Greek, the last book of the New Testament, Revelation, begins with the phrase Apokalupsis Iesou Christou which means ‘The revelation of Jesus Christ’. Because the book of Revelation speaks about the end times, the word ‘apocalypse’ is sometimes used to refer to the climactic events at the end of the world.


The discipline of apologetics involves giving arguments to show that the Christian faith is true (and/or that objections to it are false), for the purpose of convincing or persuading people (1 Peter 3:15-16). This use of ‘apologetics’ is not to do with ‘apologising’ or ‘saying sorry’; instead it comes from the Greek word apologia which means ‘defence’. Apologetics is about ‘defending’ the Christian faith through careful reasoning and discussion. A biblical example of an apologetic argument is found in Acts 17:16-34.


An apostate - someone who commits apostasy - is a person who has made a commitment to follow Jesus but then turns their back on Him. Jesus warns us in the parable of the sower that there will be some who believe at first, but later fall away (Luke 8:13). Examples of those who turned back from following Jesus are Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Timothy 1:19-20) and Demas (Colossians 4:14, 2 Timothy 4:10).


The word ‘apostle’ means ‘one who is sent’, particularly with an important message. In the New Testament it is sometimes used to speak of what today we would call ‘pioneer missionaries’, but more often refers to a specific office in the New Testament church - ‘an Apostle of Jesus Christ’. These Apostles had a special authority to preach and drive out demons (Mark 3:14-15) and their ministry was marked by signs and wonders (2 Corinthians 12:12). They were like the Old Testament prophets in having authority to speak and write down God’s words. This group began with the Twelve appointed by Jesus. In the Old Testament the people of God were the twelve tribes of Israel. The choice of twelve is therefore symbolic, pointing to Jesus re-forming the people of God around Himself. This explains why Judas Iscariot needed to be replaced by Matthias before Pentecost (Acts 1:26) but when James and other apostles died, they did not need to be replaced. Paul was later chosen by Jesus to be the ‘Apostle to the Gentiles’ (Galatians 2:8), with the same authority as the Twelve.  Apostles in this sense had to have seen Jesus, so that they could testify about Him and His resurrection as eye-witnesses (Acts 1:21-22). There are no new ‘Apostles’ of this kind today. Instead, we have the Apostles’ teaching in the New Testament as the foundation for church life. There were others who were called apostles but did not have the authority of the Twelve and Paul.  They include ‘pioneer missionaries’ such as: Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Jesus’ brother James (Galatians 1:19), Andronicus and Junia (Romans 16:7), and possibly Apollos (1 Corinthians 4:6), and Silas (Acts 17:4, 1 Thessalonians 2:6). Some Christians continue to use the term apostle to refer to someone who is a church leader or an effective pioneer missionary, but this can be confusing. The Apostles of Jesus Christ whose eye-witness testimony is recorded in the New Testament have a higher authority than anyone living today.


If we call something apostolic, then we mean that it carries the authority of the Apostles specifically appointed by Jesus Christ, as recorded in the New Testament.


The Hebrew word for Ark meant box or container. In Genesis 6-9, we read that God was grieved because of humanity’s rebellion against Him and so He resolved to destroy every living thing from the face of the earth by sending a great flood. The Ark was a large ship that was designed by God and built by Noah, the only man alive who pleased God, (Genesis 6:8-9). God decided to save Noah and his family from destruction. The Ark was big enough to house Noah and his family, and a few of each kind of animal, so that life could continue after the flood. The Ark was a picture of the future salvation that would be found in Jesus Christ.

Ark of the Covenant

The Ark of the Covenant was a large chest covered with gold (Exodus 25:10-22, Hebrews 9:1-5). On top of the chest was a golden lid, called the atonement cover or mercy seat. On this were statues of two golden cherubim (a kind of angelic creature made to worship God in heaven), bowing down in worship. The Ark represented the holy presence of God with the people of Israel; it was as if He dwelt on the mercy seat. Because of its holiness, the Ark could not be touched by human hands, so poles were inserted either side to carry it. It was kept in the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle and later in the temple. Inside the chest were the Testimony (the tablets of the Ten Commandments), a golden jar holding some manna, and Aaron’s staff which budded (Hebrews 9:4). The Ark was probably carried off from the temple by the Babylonians and there is no evidence of its whereabouts since then. The last mention of the Ark is in Revelation 11:19 where John describes seeing it in his vision of the temple in heaven.


The ascension is the event when Jesus returned to heaven forty days after He rose from the dead (Luke 24:50-51, Acts 1:9-11). The clouds received Him in fulfilment of Daniel 7:13-14, where the Son of Man comes to the Ancient of Days to receive a kingdom. We are told that Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 1:3) and reigns with Him (Ephesians 1:19-21). This means that the Jesus we know now is not Christ on the cross but the risen and ascended Lord over all things, who will come again.


Assurance is the confidence or knowledge that you have been born again as a child of God and that with the Holy Spirit’s help, you will persevere with Christ to the end of your life. This knowledge or confidence is based both on the promises of scripture and the internal witness of the Spirit (Colossians 1:22-23, Romans 8:15-16). Another evidence that points to the assurance of our salvation is an ongoing growth in godliness (2 Peter 1:5-11).


Atonement brings together two people who have been separated because of sin. The atonement is where God’s love and God’s justice meet. It is the work of Christ in taking the sin of the world into Himself and dying in order to pay the penalty for sin instead of us. In this way, Christ atones for the sins of the world. God’s justice demands that sin is punishable by death (Romans 6:23), but God’s love meant that He sent Jesus as a substitute, to die in our place (1 John 2:2, 1 John 4:10). In the atonement our sins were placed on Christ and He paid the penalty for them, so that we might receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of His righteousness, so that we can be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 3:21-26). Christ’s atonement for the sins of the world was pictured in the Old Testament sacrifices, particularly in Leviticus 16 which describes the Day of Atonement. Hebrews 7-10 explains that this Old Testament pattern of sacrifice was a forerunner or shadow of the great sacrifice made by Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:1). It is only through personally accepting Christ’s atoning sacrifice that forgiveness of sins is possible.



The word baptism comes from Greek words meaning to dip, wash, immerse, submerge or overwhelm. Baptism first appears in the New Testament with John the Baptist. John was a prophet who called people to repentance. He baptised people in the River Jordan (Matthew 3:4-6). John’s baptism was for the forgiveness of sins, and it prepared people for when Jesus came (John 1:31). Jesus would bring with Him a baptism of the Holy Spirit, that is, that when people repented and had faith in Him they would be washed clean from their sin and filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). It is normal Christian practice to baptise new converts as a sign of their repentance and new life in Christ. Baptism does not make someone a Christian, but rather is a picture of what has already happened in their life. It is an expected step as part of normal Christian discipleship (see Ordinance and Sacrament). Baptism by immersion shows three things:

  1. Bath - It symbolises that their sins have been washed away (1 Peter 3:21).
  2. Burial and Birth - It shows that they have been united with Christ in His death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-4). Their old life is dead and buried and they have been born again by the Holy Spirit.
  3. Belonging - It is a sign of entering into the people of God. We are baptised into the body of Christ, the church (Ephesians 4:3-6).

(Some churches baptise the children of believers with the prayer that their outward inclusion in the Christian community will, by God’s grace, become their personal inward experience when they repent of their sin and receive Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.)


The term ‘Beatitudes’ is given to part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, specifically the part in Matthew 5:1-12. It comes from the Latin word for ‘blessed’. In these verses Jesus reveals eight blessings that the people of His heavenly kingdom can expect to receive, both in this life and in the future - when His kingdom comes in its fullness. (See Sermon on the Mount)


The word ‘begotten’ describes a unique father/son relationship. Abraham had a ‘one and only’ or ‘begotten’ son, Isaac (Hebrews 11:17). However, ‘begotten’ is more often used in the New Testament to describe the eternal relationship between God the Father and God the Son (John 1:14,18, John 3:16). Jesus was the only begotten human Son of the Father in that Mary conceived Him by the Holy Spirit but at the same time, as the Son of God, He has always existed in relationship with God the Father. The Son of God has always been, there was never a time when He didn’t exist. In other words, the Father has eternally and always been the Father of the Son. The Son is of the same substance as the Father: this means that the Son is everything the Father is except ‘Father’. This discussion was summed up at the Council of Nicaea in the year 325AD, from which came the Nicene Creed. (See God the Son, Jesus)


Belief is the acceptance that something is true. In the Bible, belief must also lead to action in order to be of value (Romans 10:9-10, John 12:42-43). As James 2:14-26 tells us, even the demons believe in God. Belief (or faith as James calls it) must be accompanied by deeds in order to be real faith at all (James 2:26). ‘Belief’, ‘faith’ and ‘trust’ are often used to translate the same idea in the original languages of the Bible.


A benediction is a pronouncement of God’s blessing on people. Many Christian traditions will say a benediction at the end of a church service. In the Old Testament the blessing of Aaron (Numbers 6:24-26) has particular significance. Most benedictions given in church today will be made in the Triune name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


The Bible is the collection of writings that reveals God’s truth to us. The Bible (which refers to itself as ‘Scripture’ from the Latin word for writing) is composed by human authors who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write down God’s truth (Exodus 20:1, Daniel 9:2, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible is made up of two ‘Testaments’ or witness statements. The Old Testament has 39 books; the New Testament has 27. It has history books, poetry, prophecy, visions, legal documents, gospels and letters. The Bible reveals the character and nature of God (Luke 24:44-47, Romans 1:1-4, Hebrews 1:1-3) and tells the story of God’s plan of salvation through the good news of Jesus Christ - the Gospel. (See Inerrancy, Infallibility, Inspired)


The word ‘bishop’ translates the Greek word episkopos meaning ‘overseer’ - or ‘biscop’ in Anglo Saxon (e.g. Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:2). It is used by the Apostle Paul as a title for a church leader who has the task of overseeing a group of believers. In the New Testament, the terms overseer, elder, leader, shepherd or teacher are often used interchangeably, although each emphasises a different aspect of the role. Later, in the second century AD, the term bishop began to mean a church leader who oversees many churches within a specific region. (See Overseer, Elder)

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To blaspheme means to misuse or maliciously slander God’s name. The third commandment instructs us not to misuse God’s name and says He will not hold anyone guiltless who does (Exodus 20:7). The Bible also uses the word blasphemy to describe someone who ‘sins defiantly’ (Numbers 15:30) or who sets up another god and worships it (Ezekiel 20:27-28). It is this crime that the Pharisees accuse Jesus of when He declares Himself to be God by claiming to forgive sins (Matthew 9:3).  Jesus says that it is actually blasphemy to deny that either He or the Holy Spirit is God (Matthew 12:30-32). Jesus says here that to maliciously slander, or blaspheme, what is obviously the work of the Holy Spirit, by saying that it is actually the work of Satan, is unforgivable.


If someone is blessed, then they have received the promised goodness of God in their lives. It is important that we recognise the many blessings we have received from God and are grateful and joyful because of them.

Born Again

Jesus says that in order to see the kingdom of God one must be ‘born again’ (John 3:3). The phrase born again is more literally ‘born from above’. Jesus goes on to explain that this new birth is not a physical birth but a spiritual one (John 3:8). The new birth occurs when someone hears the Gospel, repents and trusts in Jesus as their Saviour (John 3:16). At that point, the Holy Spirit of God comes into someone’s life and dramatically and fundamentally changes them (Revelation 3:20, 1 Peter 1:23).



The Canon is the closed list of the 66 books of the Bible. The word Canon means ‘measuring stick’ or ‘standard’. The process of collecting the books of the Bible together did not happen all at once but they are now recognised as one complete work. The Old Testament Canon was finalised before the start of the 1st century BC by the Jewish leaders and is often referred to in the New Testament as the ‘Scriptures’. The New Testament was brought together in the years after the death of the Apostles. Much of the New Testament (such as the Gospels, Acts and Paul’s letters) had been recognised as Scripture by churches everywhere from the time it was first written, but it was not until the end of the 4th century AD that a definitive list was agreed upon. These books are regarded as the revealed Word of God and are recognised as being handed down to us by the apostles and their companions. They all agree with each other and are consistent with the teaching of Jesus Christ - the Word of God Himself. These books are from the Holy Spirit through human authors. They are Inspired (2 Timothy 3:16-17), true in every way and reliable (Infallible) and free from falsehood or deceit (Inerrant).

In some Bibles there is an additional section called ‘Apocrypha’ (‘hidden things’). These are books from the Old Testament period that appear in the Greek but not the Hebrew Old Testament. There are also some Apocryphal Gospels. These books are not part of the Canon and do not have the authenticity and sure characteristics of the books included in the Canon.


A catechism is a tool for teaching people the truths of the Bible in an ordered way. They normally consist of questions to be asked by the teacher and answers to be memorised by the student. This is a way of training young people and new converts in the Christian faith. Two famous historic catechisms are the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Catechism.


The word Catholic originally meant all-inclusive or universal, and it was used to describe the worldwide church, rather than individual local churches. Today, this term is more often used as the title of the Roman Catholic Church.


Charismatic comes from the Greek word charisma which means ‘gift’. When an individual, a church or a denomination is described as charismatic, it means that they are seeking to practise all the spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament. There are charismatic Christians in all the major denominations.


Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word ‘messiah’, which means ‘anointed one’. Christ was not Jesus’ name but His title. He is ‘the Christ’, the anointed (or chosen) one of God, who the Old Testament predicted would come into the world to save His people (Luke 2:11). (See Messiah, Anointed)

See also:


Christology is the study of the person and work of Jesus Christ: learning about who Jesus was and is, and the significance of His life, death, resurrection, ascension, glorious reign and Second Coming.


The church is the body of all true believers, both today and over all of history. It is all the people who have been saved by the death of Jesus, and who meet together in His name to worship Him. The Greek word that is translated ‘church’ is ekklesia which means ‘gathering’. It derives from the Greek word for ‘call’ so suggests something like ‘called out ones (who have gathered)’. It could refer in those days to any assembly or gathering of people (e.g. the riotous assembly in Acts 19:32). However, over time it became particularly associated with the Christian assembly - what we call ‘church’. The same word is used in the Bible both of the local church (e.g. 1 Corinthians 1:2) and the universal church (e.g. Ephesians 5:25). (See Ecclesiology)

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The practice of circumcision was instituted by God for His people during the time of Abraham in Genesis 17. It involves cutting off the foreskin of any male child born to Jewish parents or any slave bought by Jewish people (Genesis 17:10-14). This procedure was also performed on any adult male convert to Judaism. It was a sign that someone belonged to God’s people. However, the apostle Paul says in Romans 2:28-29 that circumcision does not make someone one of God’s people if it is only about the outward appearance. He says that for someone to be truly one of God’s people they must have an inward ‘circumcision of heart’ by the Spirit of God. Paul makes it clear that circumcision is not now a required practice for non-Jews who become followers of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah. He argues in several places that non-Jewish people (Gentiles) should not have to be circumcised in order to become Christians (Galatians 5:2, 6:12-15, Titus 1:10-12).

Common Grace

The doctrine of Common Grace says that God gives great blessings to all people, whether they are believers or unbelievers (Genesis 8:21-22, Matthew 5:44-45, Acts 14:16-17, Romans 13:1-7). These blessings include the gift of physical life to all human beings, food and water, shelter, governments to rule and protect the people, and gifts of intelligence and scientific discovery. God’s common grace restrains sin from its fullest extent but it does not stretch as far as saving all people. Only God’s special act of grace in sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross as a substitute for our sin can achieve that. All people in the world receive God’s common grace, but only those who trust in Jesus Christ receive His salvation from their sin and eternal life (Ephesians 2:1-10).


Communion means joining together with a common bond. It is a popular term used to describe the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:17-34). In this passage, Paul describes the Early Church’s practice of coming together to share bread and wine in remembrance of Christ’s death on the cross. Jesus Himself instituted this practice on the night of His arrest (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22:7-38, see also John 6:25-71). He told His disciples to share this simple meal whenever they met together, to remember His sacrifice for them. It also points forward to the day when Jesus will return and take all those who are united with Him to be with Him forever. (See Eucharist, Lord’s Supper, Ordinance, Sacrament)


To confess means to say that something is true. In the Bible, the word ‘confess’ is used in two main ways. The first is owning up to sin and admitting your guilt. Christians are told to confess their sins to God (Psalm 32:5) and to each other (James 5:16). Nowhere in the Bible does it state that only a church leader can hear confession: it is to be the practice of all believers with each other. John says that when Christians confess their sins they can be confident that God will forgive them and continue working in them to make them holy (1 John 1:9). The other main use for the word ‘confess’ is to make a positive declaration of faith in Jesus Christ. Romans 10:9-10 shows that faith in Jesus is not purely an internal belief but that it is also expressed outwardly through the mouth. Christians ‘confess’ with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and are saved, and they ‘confess’ the truth of the Gospel to others (2 Corinthians 9:13, 1 Timothy 6:12). Both kinds of confession are a crucial part of the life of the believer. They need to take place when someone initially becomes a Christian and be a regular part of a relationship with God and other believers. It is important for every believer to declare that they are sinners and that Jesus is the only Saviour.


The term ‘conservative’ is often used alongside the term ‘evangelical’ and refers to a theological approach that takes the Bible seriously as the inspired and authoritative Word of God. Conservative Evangelicals seek to maintain the historic truths of Christianity. They keep the Bible at the centre of their life and worship. They believe that the Bible is inerrant and infallible, and that we cannot discount anything that the Scriptures say. These terms started to be used in the late 18th and 19th centuries, when many scholars questioned whether the Bible could be trusted: they are described as being more ‘liberal’ in their approach to it. The apostle Paul warns Timothy, in 2 Timothy 4:1-5, that he must be ‘conservative’ in the sense of holding on to what he has learnt and continuing to teach people the truth when others come along with an alternative view. (See Evangelical, Bible)


Conversion is the point at which someone admits to God that they have sinned against Him and trusts in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation. It involves turning from their old way of life to be obedient to God. It is the point at which the Holy Spirit comes to live in their heart and begins to transform them to be like Jesus. (Read Acts 9:1-19 to see the Apostle Paul’s conversion.)


A covenant is a binding promise. One example is the covenant of marriage, where both husband and wife promise to be faithful to each other until death. If one party fails to keep the agreement, the relationship breaks down and there are serious consequences. If the covenant is kept by both parties, the relationship flourishes.

The Bible describes several covenants between God and humans, following a similar pattern to the Suzerain/Vassal covenants (conditional) or Royal Grant covenants (unconditional) of the ancient world. When God makes a covenant, the promises and requirements are non-negotiable. Human beings can choose either to keep the requirements of the covenant or break them. The story of the Bible is that although God has always kept His promises, human beings have failed to respond in love and obedience - despising His promised blessing and bringing down God’s anger upon themselves.

The first covenant we find in the Bible is in Genesis 1-2, where God establishes His relationship with Adam, the first human. God makes commitments to Adam and requires commitments in return. He tells Adam that he is to ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it’ (Genesis 1:28) and He tells him to care for the earth. In return, God promises that He will provide food for him (Genesis 1:29-30). In Genesis 2:16-17 God tells Adam what he must do to be in relationship with Him and what the consequence will be if he does not: ‘And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”’ The covenant is: if Adam obeys God he will receive life (Genesis 2:9) and be allowed to dwell in God’s presence. If he disobeys God, the consequence is death and separation from Him.

This covenant has not changed, but in the rest of the Bible there are other covenants that God makes with His people, which expand upon or even replace previous ones. There are covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses and David, which set the tone for God’s relationship with His people throughout the Old Testament. However, these covenants all point forward to a greater covenant - the ‘New Covenant’, which is established by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Christ fulfilled all the covenant requirements of the Old Testament by being completely obedient to them. By doing so He brought their promises to fulfilment so that we could have a restored relationship with God (Hebrews 7-10). We enter and remain in this New Covenant relationship with God only by His grace and not by our own ability to keep His law (Ephesians 2:1-13).


The doctrine of Creation refers to God’s act of making all matter, including this universe, out of nothing: as described in Genesis 1 and 2. Creation involved all three members of the Trinity (Deuteronomy 32:6, Malachi 2:10, Genesis 1:2, Psalm 104:30, John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:16) and everything they made was declared to be ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31). Revelation 4:11 tells us that God is worthy of praise for His creation, and Romans 1:20 says that it is plain to humans when we look at the creation around us that God exists and is immeasurably powerful. From this, we can see that all of God’s creation should glorify Him and that when humans choose to worship other things they are not acting in line with the purpose of existence - to glorify God.


A creed is a formal statement of core Christian beliefs. There have been various attempts at creating creeds throughout the history of the Christian church; they often arose to correct a particular heretical teaching that had appeared. Historic creeds such as the Apostles’, Nicene, Chalcedonian and Athanasian creeds were attempts to clarify the core beliefs to counter teachings that were leading people away from the Gospel, as originally preached. 

Creeds can be helpful in teaching the fundamental truths of Christianity in a way that is concise yet memorable. They are often recited at Christian worship services. They help set Christianity apart both from other religions and from teaching that claims to be ‘Christian’ but is not.  

At the time of the Reformation no new ‘creeds’ were produced, but similar summaries of belief, called ‘Confessions’ and/or ‘Catechisms’, were produced by the different national churches and emerging denominations. Examples are: The Westminster Catechism (Presbyterian), the 39 Articles (Anglican), and the Heidelberg Catechism (Reformed).


Crucifixion is a cruel method of execution used by the Roman authorities to make a particular example of criminals to deter others from committing the same offence. It was used, for example, to punish slave revolts. It is, of course, the manner of Jesus Christ’s death, described in each of the four Gospel accounts (Matthew 27:32-56, Mark 15:21-41, Luke 23:26-49, John 19:17-37). It was a slow, painful, public and shaming death; the victim was stripped naked and nailed through the wrists and feet to a wooden cross. This was then set in the ground so that the victim hung on their arms until they died hours, or even days, later. It was common practice to break the legs of the victim to hasten their death: in John 19:31-37 the Roman soldiers went to break Jesus’ legs but had no need to as He was already dead. John cites this as the fulfilment of a prophecy made about Jesus in the Old Testament. To the Jews, crucifixion also had overtones of cursing and eternal judgement (possibly why they were so keen to have Jesus crucified). As the apostle Paul writes, this is exactly the point: Jesus was cursed; He bore the wrath of God on Himself and took separation from His Father, so that we would not have to be separated from God for eternity (Galatians 3:13-14, 1 Peter 2:24).



The word deacon comes from the Greek word diakonos which means ‘servant’ but it is used in the New Testament church as a title for an assistant leader in a local church. In Acts 6:1-7 we see that, as the church grew, the apostles needed helpers for some of the more practical tasks. In a letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 3:1-14), Paul lays out criteria for the appointment of the two offices of Elders and Deacons. The requirements are about character rather than skills (except that elders are required to have a teaching gift) and there is a strong emphasis on reputation within the family and with outsiders. Deacons, like elders, must be respected by their peers, hold to the ‘deep truths of the faith’ and be people of good character. If the Greek word gune in 1 Timothy 3:11 is understood as meaning ‘the women’ rather than ‘their wives’ in this context, then Paul allowed women to act as deacons. (This seems to be the more natural reading of these verses as it would not make sense to hold the wives of deacons to a higher standard than the wives of elders, of whom no requirements are made.) In addition, in Romans 16:1, the word deacon is used of a woman called Phoebe, and there are many examples of women having a servant-leadership role in the church (Priscilla, Mary, Tryphena and Tryphosa, and Persis in Romans 16:1-12; Euodia and Syntyche in Philippians 4:2-3; and Nympha in Colossians 4:15). Today, deacons would often take on the roles of administration, finances, building maintenance, caring for the physical needs of the congregation and many other tasks that could not be fulfilled by the elders without detriment to the work of word ministry and prayer. Nowhere in the Bible do deacons have the same authority as elders, nor are they required to be able to teach scripture (although they must have a good grasp of it). In Anglican and other episcopal churches, the term ‘deacon’ is used in a different way: the first year of ordained ministry is that of a ‘deacon’, with a focus on learning about pastoral care to shape future ministry. (See Elder, Overseer)

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The Decalogue (from the Greek for ‘Ten Words’) is a theological term for the Ten Commandments, found in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-22. These commandments form the basis of God’s moral law, which Jesus summarised in Matthew 22:37-40: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”


Demons are angelic beings created by God but who have rebelled against Him and are hostile to Him and His people. They are also referred to as evil or unclean spirits. Satan is the ‘prince of demons’ (Mark 3:22), who leads them in trying to destroy the work of God in the world. Demons are not made of physical matter, in the same sense that humans have bodies, but they are no less real. They can have a strong influence over individuals, causing them to harm themselves and others (e.g. Mark 5:1-20, Acts 19:16), but their power is limited (Job 1:12, 2:6, Jude 6) and they are subservient to the Name of Jesus Christ (Luke 10:17). The power of Satan and his demons was broken decisively by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, enabling repentant people to be set free from their influence. Demons will be judged at the end of time and thrown into hell to be tormented (Revelation 20:10). In the meantime, they want to drag as many people down with them as they can. Therefore, their main power in this world is to lie and deceive people into false beliefs and consequent wrong words and actions. (See Evil Spirit)

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Depravity is a word used to describe the corruption of human beings by sin. When Adam rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden, sin affected every area of his life - his body, mind, emotions and heart. Adam’s descendants have inherited a sinful nature from him, so that we too are corrupted in every way from the day we are born (Psalm 51:3-5, Romans 5:12). This is not to say that we are ‘as sinful as we can be’, but rather that as sin has infected every area of our lives, we are totally unable to please God by any apparently ‘good’ actions we might do (Titus 1:15-16, Romans 8:8). This depravity also limits human beings in their ability to know God or understand the truth about Him (Romans 1:28). It is because we are so depraved that we are in such great need of a Saviour, a second ‘Adam’ - Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:22) - through whom we can know God, be cleansed from sin and given new life. (See Sinful Nature, Flesh)


The term ‘devil’ is used in the New Testament as one of the names for the chief fallen angel and adversary of God also known as Satan (Revelation 12:9). The Greek word for devil is diabolos and means ‘the one who brings charges against’ or ‘slanderer’. This aspect of Satan’s character is clearly seen through Jesus’ opponents in John 8:44, whom Jesus calls children of the devil. They are following the devil’s pattern by rejecting the truth about Jesus and seeking to spread lies about Him by accusing Him of sin. Romans 8:33-34 makes it clear that the devil’s charges against repentant sinners are wiped out by the death and resurrection of Jesus. (See Evil, Satan)

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A disciple is someone who learns from a teacher. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to learn from Him and follow His teachings.  Disciples continue the work that He began in the way that He instructed. In the gospels, the term disciple was initially used to mean the twelve men chosen to be a part of Jesus’ inner circle (also called apostles - Mark 3:13-18). It is now used more widely to describe all the men and women who follow Jesus. Jesus issued His final commands to His disciples to go out into the nations and in turn ‘make disciples’, baptising them and teaching them to be obedient to His teaching (Matthew 28:19). In this way, Christians today can rightly call themselves ‘disciples’ of Jesus Christ.


The word ‘doctrine’ means ‘teaching’. In the Bible it refers to what the teaching of scripture as a whole says about a particular topic. Titus is instructed to teach what is in accord with sound doctrine (Titus 2:1); this means that he is not just to explain what one particular passage of scripture teaches but do his best to explain the ‘whole will of God’ (Acts 20:27). Some examples of key ‘doctrines’ of scripture are the Trinity, Creation, Sin, Salvation, Scripture and the Church.


Dogma has a similar meaning to ‘doctrine’ but it is technically used to describe a set of teachings that have been endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church. In modern English it is also sometimes used in a negative way, to mean ‘unnecessarily strict teachings’.



Ecclesiology is the technical term for the study of the church. It comes from the Greek word ekklesia which means ‘assembly’ or those ‘called together’ out of the broader community. (See Church)

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‘Elder’ is the New Testament term used for the senior leadership in a local church (Greek term presbuteros is literally ‘older man’). The words overseer, elder, leader, shepherd or pastor-teacher are used interchangeably, although each emphasises a different aspect of the role. The requirements for these senior leaders are laid out in Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Timothy 3:1-7. They refer to character rather than skills, except that elders are required to have a teaching gift and there is a strong emphasis on their reputation within the family and with outsiders. Elders are responsible for directing the affairs of the church, ruling over it, teaching it (1 Timothy 5:17), caring for their people and protecting them (1 Peter 5:2-5, Acts 20:28-31). (See Deacon, Overseer)

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The doctrine of election says that God, in His sovereignty, chose people (the elect) to be saved - before the world began (Ephesians 1:3-14). He did this because of His great love rather than any merit or righteousness humans could generate by themselves, so that the elect might be for the praise of his glory(Ephesians 1:12). This means there is no place for pride or boasting in our own goodness: we are saved only as an act of His sovereign grace (Ephesians 2:9). It is difficult to grasp this fully, but this teaching needs to be held in tension with our responsibility for choosing to obey or disobey God’s call to salvation in Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:19, Romans 8:28-30). The New Testament urges people to respond to God in Acts 3:17-22, Acts 17:24-30 and 2 Peter 3:8-9. So the doctrine of election does not mean there is no need for evangelism, as that would make us disobedient to His will. Indeed, the apostle Paul sees the doctrine of election as a reason for evangelism, so that we may play a part in God’s sovereign plan of salvation (2 Timothy 2:10).


The word ‘epistle’ comes from the Greek word epistole meaning ‘letter’. Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and 1 and 2 Thessalonians were all epistles written by the apostle Paul to the churches of those regions. 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon were Paul’s letters to individuals (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are sometimes referred to as the ‘Pastoral Epistles’). We cannot be sure who wrote the epistle to the Hebrews, but we can be confident that James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John and Jude were all written by the author whose name they bear. These letters were sent to various churches in the Mediterranean region. Even Revelation contains letters to the churches in Asia Minor in chapters 1-3, although the book as a whole is not normally considered as an epistle.


Eschatology is the study of the last things (from the Greek eskhatos meaning last) - the times leading up to and including the return of Jesus Christ and the judgement of the world.


‘Eternal’ means existing with neither beginning nor end but to always ‘be’. Only God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - is truly eternal. He is the only one who has always been and always will be. In Exodus 3:13-14, Moses asks God His name. God replies that His name is Yahweh, which means ‘I am who I am’. This name teaches us that God is eternal, that He is the same yesterday, today and forever (James 1:17, Hebrews 13:8). The Bible also describes as ‘eternal’ both the life after death of those who turn to Christ, and the punishment of those who do not trust Him (Matthew 25:46). In this context, the word ‘eternal’ refers only to the future for humans, not to a previous existence.


Ethics refers to a set of moral principles that guide our thoughts and actions. It is the study of any situation, which asks how a person ought or ought not to think and behave. There are many situations described in the Bible for which we have clear ethical instruction, for example the list of sexual ethics described in Leviticus 18. Jesus takes ethical behaviour one step further in His sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7, where He shows that ethics is not just about outward behaviour but the attitude of the heart. In doing so, Jesus shows that the Bible gives us ethical principles to govern situations that we do not find explicitly mentioned in the Bible. For example, the sexual ethics discussed in Leviticus 18 and in Matthew 5:27-30 give us principles that we can apply to the situation we face today of viewing pornography on the internet - a sin not possible in Biblical times. This is just one example, but the Bible, as the inspired Word of the eternal God, has ethical instruction, either explicitly or by principles, for every situation a human being will ever face (2 Timothy 3:16-17).


‘Eucharist’ comes from the Greek word eukaristeo, which means to give thanks. It is used in some Christian traditions to describe the Lord’s Supper, as in all the biblical accounts of Jesus’ last meal with His disciples, He is described as giving thanks for the bread and the wine (Matthew 26:26-27, Mark 14:22-23, Luke 22:17-19 and 1 Corinthians 11:24). (See Communion, Lord’s Supper)


Evangelical is a term used to refer to a particular strand of tradition amongst the world church (from the Greek word euangelion, which means ‘good news’ or ‘gospel’). There is still variety within this tradition, but those organisations, academic institutions, churches and individuals who would call themselves evangelical should share a key characteristic: the belief that the Bible is absolutely true and reliable, that the words within it are the ‘very words’ of God Himself and that therefore the Bible is the final authority for all doctrine and lifestyle. This is important because any other statements about the character of God, the creation of the universe, the nature of human beings or the gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be agreed upon unless there is a belief in the authority of the Holy Spirit-inspired Scripture to teach us all things. A generally accepted definition of evangelicalism is:

  • Conversionism: the belief that lives need to be transformed through a ‘born-again’ experience and then a life-long process of following Jesus;
  • Activism: the expression and demonstration of the gospel in missionary and social reform efforts;
  • Biblicism: a high regard for and obedience to the Bible as the ultimate authority;
  • Crucicentrism (the centrality of the Cross): a stress on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as making possible the redemption of humanity.

Some European and American churches describe themselves as ‘Evangelical Lutheran’. This goes back to an earlier usage, where ‘Evangelical’ means ‘based on the gospel’, in accordance with the teaching of Martin Luther, as distinct from the Roman Catholic emphasis on following the traditions of the Church. 


Evangelism is the telling of the good news about Jesus to those who have not yet received Him as their Saviour and Lord. Christianity is not a private faith to be kept to oneself; it is the only hope for all humankind. So Christians must proclaim the truth about Jesus Christ and His life, death and resurrection to those who need to hear it. Evangelism is an activity that all Christians must participate in (2 Timothy 4:5, Matthew 28:16-20, Romans 10:14-17) but there will also be some who have a particular gift in this area (Ephesians 4:11). Evangelism can be through preaching and teaching, literature or through personal conversation; and often it will be accompanied by acts of service or compassion. In being evangelists - proclaiming the good news - Christians are being like Christ Himself (Luke 4:43).


The word ‘evil’ is used to describe beings, attitudes or things that are opposed to God and His law. The concept of evil is first seen in the Bible in Genesis 2:9 where, in the Garden of Eden, there is the tree of ‘the knowledge of good and evil’. Adam and Eve are made ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31), and they are instructed not to eat from the fruit of that tree as, if they do, they will face the certainty of death. These first human beings had a choice to make: would they keep God’s instructions, trusting Him that He knows best? Or would they want to make up their own minds over how they should live?  Adam and Eve made the choice to go their own way because they wanted to put themselves in God’s place (Genesis 3:5) and ate from the tree. In doing so, they were obedient to Satan (an evil angelic being) rather than God, and evil infected every part of the universe. Since that time, the hearts of human beings are naturally inclined to be anti-God or ‘evil’: they want to rule their own lives rather than accept His authority (Genesis 6:5). (See Devil, Satan)

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Evil Spirit

An evil or unclean spirit is one of the terms the Bible seems to use interchangeably with Demon. The term ‘evil’ added to spirit emphasises the anti-God character of such a being. (See Demon)

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Exegesis is the process of examining and interpreting a particular text of the Bible in order to explain it. The Greek word is exago which literally means ‘to guide out’ or ‘to show the way’. The term gives priority to the text over any desire we might have to interpret according to our preconceptions. Those who seek to make a text conform to their own ideas, rather than letting it speak for itself, are guilty of ‘eisegesis’ (reading into the text).


Exile is forced removal from one’s home country. The nation of Israel suffered exile at the hands of its enemies between the 8th and 6th centuries BC. The exile was not a one off event but was inflicted in stages over a period of around 150 years. The northern kingdom of Israel was invaded and ravaged by the armies of Assyria and many of its people were carried off to other lands (e.g. 1 Chronicles 5:26, 2 Kings 15:29). Later, the southern kingdom of Judah was attacked and conquered by the nation of Babylon. Again, many of those who were not killed in the invasion were carried off into captivity in the Babylonian empire. The Bible is clear that these enforced exiles were God’s judgement upon His people because of their rejection of Him and worship of foreign gods (e.g. 2 Kings 17:5-23). The events of the exile are recorded in the last part of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, Esther, Ezekiel, Daniel and many of the other prophetic books. After a long period in exile, a remnant of the Jewish people returned to Israel and began rebuilding the country. These events are recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah and some of the prophetic books.


This word literally means ‘departure’, or ‘way out’. The book of Exodus has this word as its title as it describes the story of God’s miraculous deliverance of the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt during the time of Moses. This event is of great importance in the history of Israel and it is remembered every year at the festival of ‘Passover’. When Jesus talked to Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration, Luke tells us that they discussed His exodus (departure) that He was to accomplish in Jerusalem.


This term is commonly used to describe the practice of ‘driving out’ a demon which has held a strong influence over a person. However, the only time it is used in the Bible is in Acts 19:13, where some Jews who were using the name of the Lord Jesus for their own advantage are called exorcists. Because their example is not one to follow, it perhaps is not the most helpful term. Jesus did give His disciples the authority to drive out demons in His Name but this is not called ‘exorcism’ in the Bible.



Faith is defined by Hebrews 11:1 as ‘confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see’. In particular, saving faith is faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Faith is a gracious gift from God, not something that we have generated in ourselves so that we can be proud and boastful (Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith is not the same as mere belief. Belief can just be a mental understanding: James 2:19 tells us that even demons believe in God. Faith then is an active trust and obedience. James also tells us that faith without action is dead; we cannot claim to have faith if what we believe has no influence over the way we live our lives.


‘The Fall’ is the theological term used to describe the events that take place in Genesis 3, where the first human beings, Adam and Eve, rebelled against God. When human beings rejected God’s authority and sinned against Him, they fell from His blessing into curse. The consequences of the fall were immediate and far reaching, not just for them but for all their descendants - the human race. They felt shame (Genesis 3:7) and feared God’s displeasure (Genesis 3:10). The relationships that they were designed for were ruined, with each other, with their children, with animals and even with the earth itself (Genesis 3:14-19). Ultimately they ruined their relationship with the God who made them, were cast from His presence and had to face death. Ever since the fall, human beings have inherited the sin and guilt of their first parents and so have faced the same consequence of separation from God and death.  The wonderful news of the Gospel is that the sin of all human beings fell on Jesus Christ in His death. Those who believe in Him will receive God’s ‘abundant provision of grace’ and ‘the gift of righteousness’. They will receive eternal life and have their relationship with the God who made them restored (Romans 5:12-21). The creation itself is still affected by the fall - we live in a broken world because of our sin - but one day, when Christ returns, the creation will be ‘liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God’ (Romans 8:21). On that day, the consequences of the fall will be removed once and for all.


Fasting is the practice of deliberately abstaining from food for a certain period of time. Fasting often accompanies prayer in the Bible and is an outward demonstration of how serious someone feels about the particular matter being prayed about. Often this is a time of crisis, as in the case of the Jewish genocide in Esther 3-4, or coupled with repentance, as in Jonah 3. It is also a regular part of the Jewish festival of the ‘Day of Atonement’ (Yom Kippur) as described in Leviticus 16. In the New Testament there are no commands to fast but it is assumed by Jesus Christ that fasting is a normal part of life for one of His people. In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus instructs His disciples that ‘when you fast’ (not ‘if’), it must be a private act of devotion to God, not something you do to gain praise for yourself. Fasting is described as a part of worship in Luke 2:37 and in Acts 13:2-3, where during a group fast the church in Antioch receives a word from the Holy Spirit to send Paul and Barnabas on mission work. Fasting, then, is to be a response to times of great need but also a regular part of the life of a believer in worship, repentance and when seeking God’s will for the future.


The Greek word sarx has the literal meaning of ‘flesh’ as in the human body. God created Adam with ‘flesh’ in Genesis 2:21, and in John 1:14 we read that the ‘Word’ became ‘flesh’ in the person of Jesus Christ. It is also used metaphorically, as in the concept of unity in marriage where the word is used as an image of two being joined together - ‘the two will become one flesh’ (Mark 10:7-8). In the writings of the apostle Paul it is often used of our fallen sinful nature in opposition to the Spirit of God (the NIV 2011 translation sometimes uses the expression ‘sinful nature’ to make this clearer - see Romans 7:18, 25). The ‘flesh’ is the inner nature of human beings to fight against God’s authority to rule our lives. An equivalent term would be the ‘old self’ (Ephesians 4:22). Someone who has come to faith in Christ has to learn to put this nature to death and instead listen to and keep in step with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:13-25). (See Depravity, Sinful Nature)


To forgive is to choose not to hold an offence against someone who has sinned against you.  Jesus likens forgiveness to a benefactor choosing not to demand repayment of a debt (Matthew 18:32). The Bible says that when we confess to God that we have sinned ‘He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9). In the Old Testament law, forgiveness was often tied to the sacrifice system. An individual (or an entire people) would confess their sins to God and then that sin would be placed onto an animal that would die in their place. The individual would then be forgiven (Leviticus 4); their sin would be ‘taken away’ by the sacrifice. In the New Testament, we see the fulfilment of the sacrificial system in the death of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10 1-18). Jesus Himself becomes the great sacrifice for sins once and for all, so that forgiveness is available for all who believe in Him (Acts 10:43).

God’s forgiveness of all those who trust in Jesus has another implication - that those who have received it should forgive others. Colossians 3:13 tells us to ‘Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’ Jesus speaks even more strongly than this, warning the believer about the danger of holding on to bitterness and anger rather than forgiving. In teaching us how to pray, He tells us to say: ‘Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ He goes on to explain: ‘For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.’ (Matthew 6:12b-15). The forgiveness that the believer receives both enables them to forgive others who have sinned against them, and acts as motivation to do so. You have no right to hold on to the sins that have been committed against you if you have received forgiveness for your sins from God. God will hold accountable anyone who refuses to forgive.



The term ‘Gentile’ refers to anyone who is not ethnically Jewish - that is, someone who belongs to the other ‘nations’ of the world rather than to God’s ancient people ‘Israel’. The word translated ‘Gentiles’ in Greek is the plural word ethne, from which we get the word ‘ethnic’. The singular word ethnos simply means ‘nation’ or ‘people group’ and is used of the Jews - the ‘people’ of God (e.g. Luke 7:5). The plural word ethne normally refers to the other ‘peoples’ or ‘nations’ in the world. It has always been God’s plan to use His people to reach the other nations with good news about Him (Genesis 18:18). He did this through sending His Son Jesus Christ (Isaiah 42:5-7, Luke 2:29-32), and wants to continue this mission through His people today (Matthew 28:16-20). Most of the references to the Gentiles come in the book of Acts, where we see the Jewish disciples of Jesus fulfil His command and go out to those of other nations with the Gospel (e.g. Acts 13:47-48).


The word ‘glory’ is a translation of a Hebrew word that originally meant ‘heavy’ or ‘weighty’; it means to give huge significance to something or someone. The word also has a sense of beauty, majesty or perfection. Psalm 19:1 says that ‘the heavens declare the glory of God’, meaning that as we look at the universe we see a reflection of His perfect beauty. God’s glory is perfectly expressed in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. As we look at Jesus Christ, we see the revealed glory of God (John 1:14). However, Jesus Himself recognises that His glory is somewhat veiled by His human nature (John 17:5). Jesus’ unveiled glory was revealed first at the transfiguration (2 Peter 1:17-18, 1 Timothy 3:16); later in His death, burial and resurrection (John 12:23); and then at His ascension (John 12:16, 1 Peter 1:21). Finally, Jesus will return ‘in glory’ when He comes to judge the world and establish the new heavens and the new earth (Colossians 3:4). As human beings, we have all ‘sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23). No-one has lived up to His standard of perfect righteousness. However, as we accept Christ as Saviour and Lord, and live lives in obedience to Him, He is glorified in us (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).


Gnosticism (from the Greek word gnosis which means ‘knowledge’) was a false religious worldview that seems to have placed special importance on ‘secret’ knowledge as a way to become a more ‘spiritual’ being.  It was not an organised religion but rather various people and movements who held similar beliefs. This kind of belief structure existed from around the 2nd Century AD, after the New Testament Scriptures were written, although there were some early ‘gnostic-like’ beliefs during that time. They essentially believed that physical matter, including the universe and the human body, was evil and that the spiritual dimension to life was good. Thus, the goal of life was to gain greater and greater ‘secret’ knowledge in order that you might exit the physical world and exist only in the spiritual realm. The apostle Paul warns his readers against these false beliefs (Colossians 2:8-12, 1 Corinthians 1:18-25).


The word ‘god’ is used in English to mean a divine being who is worshipped by human beings. It derives from a Northern European word that meant ‘the one who is invoked’. So it is important, when speaking about ‘god’, to define which ‘god’ you mean. The Bible reveals that there is one true God, who is Trinity - Father, Son and Spirit. He is the one called ‘the lord’ in the Old Testament (Exodus 6:2) and He is revealed most clearly to us as the man Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15) who is the very image of God (Hebrews 1:1-3). He is the creator of heaven and earth, the physical universe and the spiritual realms, and everything in them (Colossians 1:16), and is the only one who is worthy of worship. However, the Bible also talks about other ‘gods’, who have no real existence but are worshipped nonetheless. These other ‘gods’ are often given the physical form of an idol by human beings. These false ‘gods’ may have real demonic power behind them, but they are not equal to God in any sense (Deuteronomy 32:17, 1 Corinthians 10:20).

God the Father

The first Person of the Trinity is God the Father. The Father is eternal - He has always existed. The Father is fully God, yet is a distinct Person from the other members of the Trinity - God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. God is only explicitly named as Father in the New Testament because it is only in the New Testament that we see His Son, Jesus Christ, fully revealed to us. In the Old Testament (as well as in the New Testament), when the term ‘God’ is used, it is normally referring to the Person of the Father, although it may include the other members of the Trinity as well (e.g. Genesis 1:1, John 1:1-2). He is a perfect Father, who disciplines His children because He loves them (Hebrews 12:5-11), and gives good gifts to them - in particular He gives His Son (John 3:16) and the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:11-13). He cares for and loves all the people He has made, even His enemies (Matthew 5:43-48), and demonstrates this most amazingly by sending His Son to die on the cross in order to rescue us (Galatians 1:4). Jesus, God the Son, addressed His prayers to His Father (e.g. John 17:1); said that He was one with the Father (John 17:11); and that the only way to the Father was through Him (John 14:6). It is through God’s revelation of Himself in the man Jesus Christ that we see what the Father is like (John 14:7, Hebrews 1). And it is only through the Father’s loving act of giving His Son to die on the cross that it is now possible for us to have a relationship with Him (John 3:16). The early church preserved the Aramaic term ‘Abba’ to express the new intimacy with God they had in Jesus Christ, as it is a term a young child would use for their father.

God the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity. The Spirit is eternal - He has always existed. He is equally God (e.g. Matthew 28:19), but distinct from the Father and Son in His personhood and role within the Godhead (e.g. Ephesians 1:17). The word ‘Spirit’ is a translation of the Hebrew word ruach and the Greek word pneuma. The fundamental meaning of these words is ‘breath’ or ‘wind’ (e.g. John 3:8). The word ‘Holy’ is the Greek word hagios, a term which refers to God’s absolute purity and different-ness. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God who moves powerfully to bring life to all of creation, and especially to God’s people. In the beginning, the Spirit of God ‘hovered over the waters’ and so was active in the work of creation (Genesis 1:2). God breathed the breath of life into human beings (Genesis 2:7, Job 33:4) that they might live. The life-giving Holy Spirit is the one who brings eternal life to those who repent and receive forgiveness of sins from Jesus Christ (Romans 8:1-12). Every believer in Jesus has the Holy Spirit living in them (John 3:3-8). He enables believers to put to death their old way of life and live a new life that is pleasing to God. He produces the fruit of godly character in them (Galatians 5:22-25) and He equips them with spiritual gifts which God uses to glorify Himself and build up the church (1 Corinthians 12-14). Finally, the Holy Spirit assures the believer in their heart that they are God’s child who will inherit His kingdom (Romans 8:16).

God the Son

The second Person of the Trinity is God the Son. The Son is eternal - He has always existed. The Son is fully God, yet is a distinct Person from the other members of the Trinity - God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit (see Begotten). Although He has existed eternally in the Godhead, and is present through the Old Testament period (e.g. Psalm 2:7-12, Acts 13:33, Hebrews 1:5), we see in the New Testament that God the Son takes on human form when He is born as a baby to Mary and given the name Jesus (Luke 1:30-35, John 1:14, Galatians 4:4, Romans 8:3). The writer to the Hebrews says that God the Son is God the Father’s final word to us, that the Son is the One through whom all things were created, the One who sustains all things, and the One through whom sin was dealt with, as He dies a substitutionary sacrifice for human beings (Hebrews 1:1-4, see also 1 John 4:10, Hebrews 2:14-17). Hebrews also says that God the Son ‘is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being’. Colossians says that He is the ‘image of the invisible God’. This means that we can truly know the nature of God the Father through looking at the nature of His Son, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-4, Colossians 1:15-23). It is through the Son that God has chosen to reveal Himself to us and it is only through the Son that human beings can be saved to eternal life. The New Testament makes it clear that faith in Jesus as the Son of God is the only way to be saved (John 14:6, 1 John 5:12, 1 John 5:20, John 3:16, Romans 5:10) (see Jesus).

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‘The Godhead’ is an older English term often used as an alternative to Trinity, but technically means God’s essential nature.

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The word ‘gospel’ comes from the Old English ‘god-spel’ meaning ‘good story’ - the equivalent of the Greek word euangelion, which means ‘good news’. It is used to describe the four accounts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It is also used in the wider context of the story of the whole Bible: the Gospel is the good news about God’s plan to step into the mess that human beings have got themselves into by their rebellion against God. John 3:16 has often been used as a verse to sum up this Gospel message: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’. If you want to see a visual presentation of the Gospel message, go to https://crosscheck.org.uk/.


Grace is God’s goodness in freely blessing people who do not deserve it. Grace is integral to God’s character. Peter says that God is ‘the God of all grace’ (1 Peter 5:10). God loves to give good gifts to people who do not deserve it. God shows Common Grace to all mankind, including the gift of physical life to all human beings, food and water, shelter, governments to rule and protect the people, and gifts of intelligence and scientific discovery. Ultimately, however, God’s Common Grace does not save humans. Rather they need to receive His Saving Grace. We cannot be saved by our own good works or character, but only by God’s specific act of grace in sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die in order to pay for our sins. We must place our faith in Him in order to be saved, but we cannot even boast in our faith - as that too is a gift of God by His wonderful grace (Ephesians 2:1-10).

Great Commandment

In Mark 12:28-31, Jesus is asked a question by one of the teachers of the law as to which of the Old Testament commandments is the most important one.  ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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 neighbour as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.’ Jesus quotes these two commandments as a summary of all the Old Testament law. The Great Commandment then is to ‘love God and love your neighbour’.

Great Commission

The Great Commission is the set of final commands from Jesus to His disciples before He ascended into heaven, from Matthew 28:16-20. All Christians are commissioned into God’s mission plan to save the world. They are to go out into the world to proclaim the gospel message, to make disciples, baptising them and teaching them to be obedient to His commands. They go with the authority of Jesus (Matthew 28:18), and His very presence, to the ends of the earth and to the end of time (Matthew 28:20).



As a result of the fall, the bodies of human beings stopped working as they were designed to by God and began to suffer pain, sickness and ultimately death. God dealt with the ultimate consequence of death by sending His Son to die on the cross, that we might have eternal life with Him. However, He also sometimes chooses to intervene in the lives of human beings by bringing healing to them in the here and now. This healing is a gift of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:9) and is a foretaste of an eternity without any pain or sickness when the Lord Jesus initiates His kingdom on His return (Revelation 21:3-4). It is worth noting that many people are not healed by God who could be (Luke 4:27), and that any healing is temporary and incomplete, as all die in the end. Our great hope in the Gospel is that in the new creation all those who have been saved by Jesus will have new resurrection bodies which will never get sick or suffer pain (1 Corinthians 15:1-58).


Literally speaking, the heart is the central organ of the human body, which pumps the blood around. In Jewish thought (and later in Greek thought), the term ‘heart’ was used to mean the centre of the inward life of a person, the place of deep desires. It is the place where emotions are formed and the will is held. The Lord searches the heart to see the motivations for our actions. The Scriptures tell us that our hearts are naturally hardened towards God (Ezekiel 36:26), but that they are so corrupted by sin that they deceive us into thinking everything is fine (Jeremiah 17:9-10). The Lord Jesus says that whatever we do, whether for evil or good, is first conceived in the heart (Luke 6:43-45). And it is God’s desire that our cold, hard hearts should be replaced by new soft hearts full of love for Him and for others, that we might obey Him in all that we do (Ezekiel 36:26-27).


Heaven is the place where God dwells in all His glory. It is part of the invisible spiritual realms, outside the current time/space universe, created by God through His Son (Colossians 3:1). It is the place to which Jesus Christ returned after His ascension, to sit down at the right hand of the Father and rule over all things (Hebrews 1:3, 1 Peter 3:22). Angels and other heavenly beings dwell there, ministering before God and worshipping Him (Isaiah 6:1-3, Job 1:6, Luke 1:19). The Bible says that believers in Jesus are spiritually ‘seated with Christ in the heavenly realms’ in the here and now (Ephesians 2:6), and that they are kept safe with Him when they die until the return of the Lord (Philippians 1:23, 2 Corinthians 5:1-10). The Bible sometimes uses the word ‘heavens’ to mean ‘the skies’ or ‘the universe’, rather than the dwelling place of God in the spiritual realm (Psalm 78:23), and it is sometimes difficult to discern which is meant (e.g. Genesis 1:1). For more on Heaven, see New Creation.

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Hell is the final destination for those who do not trust in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. It is the place of eternal punishment for the enemies of God - both Satan and his demons (Revelation 20:10), and all human beings who reject Christ (Hebrews 10:26-27). In the gospels we hear Jesus speak about Hell a great deal. One term He used to talk about Hell was the Aramaic term Gehenna (Luke 12:5). Gehenna was a rubbish dump outside Jerusalem, which had fires burning in it all the time. In the Old Testament, the site of Gehenna is the valley called Ben-Hinnom. This place was associated with the worship of the false Canaanite god Molech, whose worship included the sacrifice of children by burning them in fire (e.g. 2 Chronicles 28:3, 33:6). Gehenna was an awful place, which was considered accursed by God, a dark place of fire and torment - a place which stank of death. Of course, Jesus does not mean that Hell is the rubbish dump outside Jerusalem but rather He uses Gehenna as a picture of what Hell will be like. Hell is a place of death (Revelation 21:8), darkness (2 Peter 2:17), fire (Jude 1:7), and torment (Matthew 13:41-42). Those who reject Jesus and refuse to repent of their sins will suffer there for eternity (Mark 9:43-48).


Hermeneutics is the study of the principles by which we can interpret texts in order to bring out their meaning. We are applying hermeneutics when we recognise the genre of a text, whether it is history, poetry, parable etc. An example of this kind of principle is that as the Bible is a unified whole, one text will not contradict another text. Another is that in each text of the Bible, we find both the Gospel of Christ and the Wisdom of God. Our belief about how we can interpret a text will have a dramatic impact on what we think each passage is saying.

High Priest

Aaron was the first High Priest of the people of Israel. He was specially commissioned by God to lead the order of priests (Exodus 28:1-3), and to lead the people in their worship of God in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. He was the mediator between the people and God; he stood between them and Him. The particular activity that was assigned by God to the High Priest was the sacrifice of atonement on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), as described in Leviticus 16. On this day, once a year, the High Priest would enter the Most Holy Place and make sacrifices in order to atone for his own sin and those of the priests and all the people. Hebrews 7-10 describes how this Old Testament sacrifice of atonement is a forerunner or shadow of the great atoning sacrifice made by Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:1). In these passages, we see that it is only by Christ’s atoning sacrifice that forgiveness of sins is possible. We see that Christ is the great High Priest who makes a way into the presence of God not by the blood of animals, but by His own blood. He now stands as the great mediator between human beings and God.


The word ‘holy’ is a translation of the Hebrew word qadosh and the Greek word hagios. The simplest meaning of this word is ‘separated’ or ‘set apart’. The Scriptures tell us that God is holy, that is, He is set apart from us. He is in a completely different category to human beings. The word ‘holy’ also has a sense of purity, of complete moral goodness. So to say that God is holy is to say that He is in a completely different category in terms of His moral perfection and His absolute purity.

The Bible also says that because God is holy, so too should His people be holy (Leviticus 11:44-45, 1 Peter 1:15-16). They should be set apart, different from the world around them - they should be morally pure. However, it is not possible for us to become holy by ourselves, as even our good deeds are like filthy rags when compared to God’s holiness (Isaiah 64:6). We need Him to make us holy - to sanctify us (the word ‘sanctify’ is derived from the same Greek word hagios). The good news is that in Christ we have been made holy by His sacrifice, and we continue being made holy by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us (Hebrews 10:10-18). Holding on to this truth, we are to strive for holiness, putting aside all evil behaviour, and purifying ourselves, as is fitting for a Holy God (1 Peter 1:13-25).


The word ‘hymn’ means ‘song of praise’. When the Lord saves King David, he tells us ‘He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.’ (Psalm 40:3) There is something about being saved by Jesus that makes us want to sing praises to Him. It was the practice of the disciples to sing hymns together (Matthew 26:30, Acts 16:25) and the apostle Paul says that the singing of hymns should be a regular part of the church’s worship services, in order to instruct and encourage each other (1 Corinthians 14:26, Ephesians 5:19). Hymns should be full of Bible truth, as their words stay in our memories and allow the Word of God to penetrate our hearts (Colossians 3:16).



The Greek word eikon simply means ‘image’. However, in a religious context an icon is a piece of artwork depicting Jesus, Mary, a saint or some other religious imagery. The Bible is not against artwork that depicts things, as the temple was decorated with all kinds of pictures and sculpture (e.g. 2 Chronicles 3).  And God gives some people specific artistic gifts that they might glorify Him through art (see Bezalel, Exodus 31:1-5). However, the Ten Commandments clearly state that we are not to make images of God or created things and bow down to them. The difficulty with icons or any other images is that they can become idols that we pray to and worship, rather than merely artwork we appreciate. If icons become a medium by which we pray to God, or an object of worship in themselves, then we must not use them.


Human beings are created in the ‘image of God’ (Genesis 1:26-27). God made human beings in such a way that they reflect His character and person. However, the image of God in human beings was marred when sin entered the world and, like a broken mirror, they now reflect Him in a distorted way. But still, the fact that He had made humans in His image was very important to God. Human beings must not harm each other because they are made in His image (Genesis 9:6). And God sent His Son to be born into a human body as it was the best way for God to communicate Himself to us. Jesus is ‘the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation’ (Colossians 1:15). It was really important that the Israelites should not try to create God in their own image (Exodus 20:4): first, as it would limit a God who was unlimited; second, because God was going to put Himself into an image, as God the Son became the man Jesus Christ. The great hope for human beings is that God will conform His people into the perfect image of God, who is Christ, as He works in them for His good purposes (Romans 8:28-30).


The word ‘immanent’ means ‘existing within’ or ‘in-dwelling’. It is used to describe God who, though He is also Transcendent and far beyond us, chooses to enter creation to dwell with His people, to draw close to them and care for them (Psalm 113:4-9).

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The term ‘immutability’ refers to God’s ‘unchangeable-ness’. Psalm 55:19 tells us that God ‘does not change’ (see also Malachi 3:6, James 1:17). He is absolutely consistent, and is therefore absolutely reliable and trustworthy even though every created thing does change. This unchanging nature is reflected in the personal name of God - YHWH. (Nowadays this is often given vowels as Yahweh, but in older Bible versions is written as Jehovah. In most contemporary Bibles it is represented by ‘the LORD’ in capital letters.) YHWH means ‘I Am who I Am’ (Exodus 3:14). We also see God’s immutability in Revelation 4:8, where the angels declare their praises of God saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.’ The New Testament speaks of Jesus Christ in the same way, saying that He is ‘the same yesterday, today and forever’ (Hebrews 13:8).


To ‘impute’ something is to consider it as belonging to someone and therefore to treat them differently because it is theirs. The Bible teaches that Adam’s sin is imputed to all human beings. God considers it as belonging to us (Romans 5:12). We are guilty because of Adam’s sin as he represents us (Romans 5:18-19) and therefore must be punished for it by death. The good news is that when Christ died a transaction occurred to deal with sin. Christians know that all their sin and guilt was imputed to Christ, and He was dealt with as if it belonged to Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). He was punished in their place, paying the price for sin and removing from them the guilt of their sin. The other side of that transaction is that Christ’s righteousness is a gift imputed in return to those who have faith in Him. Therefore, God treats believers on the basis that Christ’s perfect righteousness belongs to them. Because of this double imputation, believers are justified in His sight and do not have to face punishment for their sin.


The incarnation is the doctrine that explains that God the Son was born as the man Jesus Christ (the word means ‘becoming flesh’). The Bible tells us that Jesus is both fully God and fully man. This is shown to us most clearly by the nature of the virgin birth, as Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit, not a human father (Luke 1:35) and is called ‘Immanuel’ (transliteration from the Hebrew v ‘Emmanuel’, transliteration from the Greek) which means ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23). This understanding of the incarnation is a key orthodox Christian belief. Indeed, the apostle John goes as far as to say that if people deny the incarnation then they are not from God at all (1 John 4:1-6).


The term ‘inerrant’ means ‘without error’. The Scriptures in their original manuscripts are free from anything that could be considered untrue. This is because the Bible is inspired to the human authors by the Holy Spirit, who cannot lie (2 Timothy 3:16-17, Titus 1:2, Psalm 12:6). This does not mean that those who made copies of the original manuscripts could not have made copying errors in some small instances. They sometimes did, but these are very few, and do not call into question the truth of Scripture (where there is a copying error, most Bible translations will tell you the possibilities in a footnote). Inerrancy also does not mean that a translation of the Bible into another language is always accurate to the original meaning. This is why it is good for church leaders to have some knowledge of the original languages. What the doctrine of inerrancy means is that we can be confident in the biblical text as we have received it. We can be confident that it is true and is therefore reliable and useful for our own lives and for instructing others in the truth. If we do not believe in the Bible’s inerrancy in every part, then everything that God says in His word is called into question. The doctrine of inerrancy does not mean we must interpret every verse in a literal sense. For example, when we read statements like Isaiah 55:12 ’the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands’, we are not required to believe that mountains can sing or that trees have hands to clap, because we recognise that this is poetic and not literal language. (see Bible, Infallibility, Inspired)


Infallibility is the concept that the Scriptures contain no falsehood whatsoever. The Scriptures cannot possibly contain falsehood, because God the Holy Spirit is the divine author of the Scriptures and He always tells the truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17, John 16:13, Proverbs 30:5). This doctrine is important, as it means that we can rely on the Scriptures to reveal to us the truth about God, the truth about ourselves, the truth about how we must be saved through Jesus Christ, and the truth about how we are to live holy lives that please Him (John 17:17). (see Bible, Inerrancy, Inspired)


The word ‘infinite’ means ‘without limit’. If something is infinite, it has no beginning and no end. God is infinite. In fact, He is the only one who is infinite: everything and everyone else has a beginning and an end. Psalm 41:13 tells us that God is from ‘everlasting to everlasting’. God also has other infinite qualities. For example, He is infinitely powerful, infinitely wise, and infinitely loving - His power, wisdom and love know no end.


An inheritance is something a person receives in the future, that has been left to them from someone else. We call the person who will receive the inheritance an ‘heir’. The concept of an inheritance was very important in the ancient cultures we see in the Old Testament. For example, Abraham was deeply concerned that he had no son to inherit his property (Genesis 15:2) and one of God’s great promises to Abraham was that he would have an heir of his own flesh and blood (Genesis 15:4). Throughout the Old Testament, God promises His people an inheritance in the future (Exodus 15:17, Psalm 2:8, Obadiah 1:17), and the New Testament maintains that God holds in store an inheritance for His people. Those who trust in Jesus are told that when Christ returns they will inherit blessings (1 Peter 3:9), salvation (Hebrews 1:14), riches (Ephesians 1:18), the kingdom of God (Matthew 25:34), and eternal life (Matthew 19:29). The metaphor stresses the riches we receive in Christ and does not imply that God must die before we become His heirs - this is a good example of a metaphor that we must not push beyond its Biblical limits.


‘Inspire’ means to ‘breathe into’. When God created human beings, He ‘breathed into’ them the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). When Jesus instructed His disciples to receive the Holy Spirit, He breathed on them to show that the Spirit of God would regenerate their lives, just as it had brought Adam life in the beginning. The picture is that God breathes His Holy Spirit into a person to bring them life.  However, the most common use of the term ‘inspired’ is to describe the word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that the Scriptures are God-breathed - they are inspired. This means that the human authors of Scripture had the Holy Spirit breathed into them to enable them to write down the very words of God. It is this ‘inspiration’ by the Holy Spirit that is the foundation for the doctrines of the Inerrancy and Infallibility of the Scriptures. Because God wrote the Bible by His Holy Spirit, through human authors, we can be absolutely confident that it is trustworthy, true, and useful for us in all matters of faith and practice. We can also be sure that to disobey the Scriptures is to disobey God Himself. (see Bible, Inerrancy, Infallibility)


Intercession means asking God for something on behalf of someone else. In the Old Testament, it was the job of the priests to intercede with God on behalf of the people. In the New Testament we are told that the Lord Jesus intercedes to the Father for His people (Hebrews 7:23-25, Romans 8:34), as does the Holy Spirit when we do not know what to pray (Romans 8:26-27). Christians are also told that they must make intercession for all people, especially those in positions of authority, as this is pleasing to God (1 Timothy 2:1-3).



Jesus was the name given to the second member of the Trinity, God the Son, when He was born as a human baby boy to His mother Mary and stepfather Joseph (Matthew 1:25). His name in Hebrew is Yeshua and in Greek is Iesous, which in English we have translated as ‘Jesus’. Jesus means ‘the Lord saves’. It is the same name as Joshua, who led the people of Israel into the Promised Land, and of a High Priest who restored the worship of God after the exile (see especially Zechariah 3:8). The Angel Gabriel told Joseph that he was to give the child this name because ‘He will save His people from their sins’ (Matthew 1:20-21). Jesus is fully man and fully God, and has been given the title ‘Christ’ (in Greek) or ‘Messiah’ (in Hebrew), both of which mean ‘the anointed one’. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the great king who was promised in the Old Testament from the line of David, who will establish an eternal kingdom and will shepherd His people forever with justice (Matthew 2:6, Luke 1:31-33). Jesus lived a perfect life on earth, without ever sinning (1 John 3:2-5). Because of this, He was able to bear the sins of the world on Himself as an atoning sacrifice. Jesus was crucified at the age of 33. He died in our place that we might be made righteous in God’s sight and therefore be reconciled to Him (2 Corinthians 5: 18-21). But Jesus did not stay dead. On the third day, He rose again from death, proving that He had defeated its power, and appeared to many people (1 Corinthians 15:1-8, 54). After Jesus rose from the dead, He ascended into heaven, where He now sits at the right hand of the Father and rules over all things including the church, which is His representative in the world (Ephesians 1:18-23). One day, Jesus will return from heaven to claim His people for Himself, and will establish a new heaven and a new earth - the home of righteousness (2 Peter 3:10-13).


The word ‘judgement’ in the Bible is a translation of the Greek word krisis. This word has a sense of ‘separating’ and is about making just decisions. The judge decides what is right or wrong, what the truth is and what the punishment should be for those who break the law. The Bible says repeatedly that God is the judge of the whole world (Deuteronomy 1:17, John 5:22, 2 Corinthians 5:10) and that all people will stand before Him to be judged after death (Hebrews 9:27). At this point, there will be a separating between those who know Christ and those who have rejected Him (Matthew 25:31-33). God alone is the eternal judge, so we must not get involved in petty criticism or hypocritical judging (Matthew 7:1-5). However, we are to judge those who claim to be Christians but dishonour the name of Christ by their ungodly behaviour. We must make sure in these cases that we do not judge each other for things that God Himself has not condemned (Romans 14), but only for what God has declared wicked for His people. This judging of those inside the church is not to condemn them eternally but to show them that their behaviour is wrong so they might turn to Christ in repentance (1 Corinthians 5:1-13).


The word ‘just’ simply means ‘right’ or ‘righteous’. A right, fair and true judgement can only be made by a just judge. God is just because He only acts in accordance with His character - He always does what is right, fair and true (Deuteronomy 32:4). Because God is just, He wants His people to be just or ‘righteous’ too (Micah 6:8) and has provided a way to make this possible (see Justification).

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Justice is the execution of a sentence that is fair and appropriate to the offence committed. It was the justice of God that demanded death as the punishment for sin, but at the same time the mercy and love of God meant that Jesus took that punishment Himself when He died on the cross. God’s justice meant that Jesus had to die, and meant that we could go free if we trust in Him. God loves to see justice done in the world (Isaiah 61:8) but we know that often our world is unjust, and crimes and sins regularly seem to go unpunished. However, there is hope for those who have suffered injustice, as one day the Lord Jesus will return to administer justice and deal once and for all with all those whose crimes have gone unpunished (Acts 17:31). He will usher in a new kingdom where justice will always be done (Ezekiel 34:16, Hebrews 1:8-9).


Justification is about how God deals with our sin to make us right with Him. The Bible teaches that when we have faith in Jesus Christ, God forgives us our sin through Christ’s sacrificial death. In Romans 4:7-8 Paul quotes from Psalm 32, where David says: ‘Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.’ We cannot be righteous by our own effort because our sin has tainted us. No amount of effort can scrub away that dirt. We need God to forgive our sin and make us clean if we are to be received by Him. Jesus' death on the cross takes away our sin and makes us clean when we trust in Him.

However, forgiveness of sin only makes us innocent before God: it does not yet make us righteous. Part of our justification is that God thinks of Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us. When we have faith in Jesus, a two-way transaction takes place. Jesus takes all of our unrighteousness, our sin, on to Himself and dies in our place and Christ gives us His righteousness, so that we might live a life that is pleasing to God. For those who trust in Jesus, God credits righteousness to our account (Romans 4:5). When God looks at His people, He sees Christ’s righteousness rather than our own unrighteousness. Paul says that we have received the ‘gift of righteousness’ (Romans 5:17). This means that we are now declared righteous in God’s sight, not by our own efforts, not on the basis of our good works, but only by His grace and in response to our faith. And even then, our faith is not an act of righteousness on our part but is rather a gift from God to us. This is clearly stated in Ephesians: ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do’ (Ephesians 2:8-10). Only in response to God’s saving grace can we then do ‘good’ or ‘righteous’ works which please Him. (see Just)

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The word ‘liberal’ means ‘free’, but it also has a sense of ‘loose’ or ‘open’. A common use of this term refers to a broad theological approach that does not hold to the doctrines of the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. Liberal theology says that the Bible details how people thought when it was written, but that we cannot take it literally today. This became popular in the Western world during the 18th and 19th centuries. This kind of teaching is clearly heretical error, as the Bible does not define itself in such terms (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and warns us against people who would seek to distort the word of God in this way (Acts 20:30, 2 Peter 3:16).


The Greek logos means ‘word’, ‘reason’ or ‘plan’. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who lived around 500 years before Jesus, used the term to mean ‘the divine reason’, which brought everything into existence. In John 1:1-5, the apostle John draws on this term, but he makes it clear that there is more to this than just a divine ‘thought’ - the logos or Word is a person of the Trinity. John explains that God’s Son, who would be born as Jesus Christ, is the divine Logos. He is the eternal Word, the one through whom God created the universe, and the one who makes sense of all things as He reveals Himself to us. Jesus is the reason for everything.


‘Lord’ is the English word used for the personal name of God in the Bible. For example, Deuteronomy 6:4 says ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.’ This Deuteronomy verse is the fundamental verse of Jewish monotheism called the Shema. It makes it clear that there is one God only whose name is ‘the Lord’ - YHWH - and He alone has existed for eternity, as His name means ‘I Am who I Am’ (Exodus 3:14-15). However, we see in the New Testament that Jesus Christ is known as, and is repeatedly called, ‘the Lord’. The apostle Paul deliberately re-works the Shema to show that Christ is ‘the Lord’ in 1 Corinthians 8:6: ‘… yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.’ Paul is quite clear that both the Father and the Son are the Lord God of the Old Testament (Acts 10:36, John 20:27-30, Titus 2:13-14, Jude 1:4).

Lord’s Supper

The Ordinance of the Lord’s Supper is described in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. In this passage, Paul describes the early church’s practice of coming together and sharing bread and wine in remembrance of Christ’s death on the cross. Jesus Himself instituted this practice on the night of His arrest (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22:7-38, see also John 6:25-71). He told His disciples to share this simple meal whenever they met together, to remember the sacrifice He made for them and the unity with God and each other that His death bought them. It also points forward to the day when Jesus will return and take all those who are united with Him to be with Him forever. This practice is also referred to as Holy Communion or in some traditions, the Eucharist.



‘Manifested’ means ‘made visible’ or ‘shown’. 1 Corinthians 12:7 says: ‘Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.’ Paul goes on to describe several spiritual gifts given to Christians in order to build up the church. The Spirit is ‘made visible’ or ‘manifested’ through the people He has filled as they act in service of the church in the areas where He has gifted them.


A martyr is someone killed for their faith. In the New Testament the original word martus simply means ‘witness’, and is used of anyone who testifies to the Good News about Jesus (Acts 1:8). However, because many Christians’ witness led to their death, a martyr came to mean specifically someone killed as a direct result of their faith in Jesus Christ.


A ‘mediator’ is someone who ‘goes between’ two parties to make peace between them. In the Old Testament, the high priest acted as a mediator between God and the people. He stood between them and offered sacrifices in order to make peace between them. However, this was only a shadow of what was to come, as Jesus came to be the Great High Priest who would be the mediator between God and humanity. He would make peace between these two parties, a lasting peace that was created by His sacrifice on the cross and is available for all those who put their trust in Him. (The letter to the Hebrews discusses this - see Hebrews 8:1-7, 9:11-15, 12:22-24). 1 Timothy 2:1-6 tells us that ‘there is only one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus’ so that we can pray to the Father in heaven through Him and not through any other person.


Mercy can mean to withhold the punishment that someone deserves, and in that sense it is closer to the meaning of the word ‘grace’. God shows great mercy in this sense to those who deserve punishment for their sins (e.g. Nehemiah 9:29-31, Micah 7:18, Proverbs 28:13). But the most common use of the word in the Bible is to refer to the aspect of God’s character where He demonstrates His immense compassion for those who are in distress or in need of help (Exodus 33:19, Psalm 6:2, Philippians 2:27). This characterised the Lord Jesus as He regularly healed people because of His great compassion for them (Matthew 9:27, Mark 10:46-52) and mercy should also characterise the people of God as they too should show compassion and care for those in need or distress (Micah 6:8, Matthew 5:7).


The Messiah (Hebrew: masiah, translated as the Greek word christos in the New Testament) is the ‘anointed one’ who was promised in the Old Testament prophecies to bring in God’s kingdom. Prophets (1 Kings 19:15-16), priests (Exodus 40:15) and kings (1 Samuel 10:1) were anointed with oil: it signified their appointment by God to carry out their role, and also symbolised the pouring out of the Holy Spirit to equip them for what was required. They often point to a greater ‘anointed one’ who was to come into the world as a perfect prophet, priest and king (e.g.1 Samuel 2:35, 2 Chronicles 6:42, Daniel 9:26). This is the Lord Jesus, whom the apostle Peter proclaims to be ‘the Messiah’ and ‘Son of the Living God’ (Matthew 16:16, Acts 4:26-27) and who establishes His kingdom throughout the world (Luke 4:16-21, Luke 24:45-49). Those who believe in Him will gain eternal life, as it says in John 20:31: ‘But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’


A millennium is a period of a thousand years. In Revelation 20:1-10 the term refers to the thousand-year reign of Christ over the earth. This passage has had various interpretations; please see a wide variety of other texts for a full spectrum of interpretations. It is most likely that this ‘thousand years’ is not literal but figurative (as are most of the numbers used in Revelation) and represents a long period of time where God will complete His purposes. The ‘millennium’ could be the present time where Satan’s power to deceive people is subdued (Revelation 20:2-3); where Christ reigns with all authority in heaven with those who have died in Him (Revelation 20:6); and where the Gospel is proclaimed to the nations (Matthew 28:18-20).  At the completion of this current age (whenever that might be), the dead will be raised to face judgement (Revelation 20:5) and Satan will be released for a short time before he and all who serve him will be cast into Hell (Revelation 20:7-10). After this, the final judgement of human beings will take place and the New Heavens and the New Earth will begin for those who have trusted in Jesus (Revelation 20:11- Revelation 21:8).


A miracle is a work of power from God that is outside the normal way that things happen in the world. A miracle should stir people to be in awe of Him. There are many miracles reported throughout the Scriptures but they are more frequent during the ministries of Moses, Elijah and Elisha, and Jesus and the Apostles. The Law, the Prophets, Christ and the Apostles all proclaim God’s Word to people, and they are accompanied by many miracles to act as signs, showing their teaching is from the Lord (e.g. Exodus 4:2-8, John 3:2, Hebrews 2:4, Acts 8:6-8). God continues to do miracles today and we should not be surprised when He acts in ways beyond our understanding. However miracles are not the normal way that God communicates with us and therefore should not be thought of as the foundation of Christian ministry, which must be the proclamation of the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:20, 1 Corinthians 1:22-25). We should also remember that there are evil powers in this world, so not everything which is apparently ‘miraculous’ is from God (Exodus 7:11, Acts 8:9-11). We should treat anyone who claims to have power to perform miracles with caution, and examine them to see if they deny the Gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 12:1-3, 1 John 4:1-3).


The word ‘mission’ comes from the Latin root word mitto that means ‘to send’ (from which comes the English word ‘missile’!). Normally we use the term to speak about God’s sending of His people to other nations to preach the good news about Jesus. But mission starts with God’s act of sending His Son into the world to redeem humanity from the effects of sin. Jesus has called all Christians to participate in this great Mission of God and as we answer His calling to go and speak His Gospel to others, whether at home or overseas, we find great joy and fulfilment (and indeed sufferings). This calling is most familiar in what is called the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20: ‘Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”’


A missionary is a ‘sent one’ (see Mission). Normally we use this term for someone who has gone into another culture to speak about Jesus, but there is a real sense that all Christians have been sent by Jesus into the world for this same purpose and that therefore all Christians are missionaries (Matthew 28:19-20).

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Today we tend to use the word ‘mystery’ to mean something we don’t know, as having a meaning that is hidden to us. In the New Testament, a mystery is more specifically something that would be beyond our understanding, humanly speaking, but has now been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God (1 Corinthians 2:6-10, Ephesians 3:3-6).


New Creation

The Scriptures teach that the current creation, that is everything in the universe including human beings, has been corrupted and damaged by the fall (Genesis 3:14-19). Romans 8:18-23 teaches that the creation is longing for a day when everything will be set right again and made new. This great day, we are told, will come at a time of the Father’s choosing as He sends His Son back into the world in glory to judge the world and make everything new (Acts 17:31, Revelation 21:5). This is a day to look forward to for those who have trusted in Jesus, as they will then be resurrected with new bodies. It is also good news for the creation itself, as all the things that have gone wrong will be set right again, and a perfect New Heaven and Earth will be created for God to dwell with His people (Isaiah 65:17-25, Revelation 21:1-8). This New Creation will be perfect, with none of the problems of this world, as sin and death have been dealt with and removed. This wonderful future is something that Christians have a foretaste of now, as soon as they receive Christ in their hearts (2 Corinthians 5:17)! (See Heaven)

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New Testament

The New Testament is the collection of biblical books that were written after the coming of God’s Son into the world as the man Jesus Christ and up to the completion of the writing of Revelation. It is made up of 27 books:

  • Four Gospels - historical accounts from different perspectives about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John;
  • The Acts of the Apostles - a record of the events that took place in the early church after Jesus had returned to heaven, written by Luke;
  • The Pauline Epistles - the next thirteen books. The first nine are letters written by the apostle Paul to churches; the following three are known as the Pastoral Epistles as they are written to Timothy and Titus, who were to take over from Paul in his pastoral ministry. The final letter is to an individual called Philemon;
  • The General Epistles - the next eight books. These are letters written by other writers, such as John and Peter, to various churches;
  • Revelation - a vision recorded by John concerning the last days and the return of Jesus.



An ‘office’ is the term used in many Christian traditions to refer to an appointed and authorised leadership position in the church. In the New Testament, the church ‘offices’ are those of Elder and Deacon, and we are given specific criteria as to who is suitable for these roles (1 Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-9). Although some traditions give these roles different names, it is helpful to use the terms the Bible uses in order to give greater clarity as to what is expected of each of them. The people appointed to these roles should be publically recognised, and normally it is helpful to have an ordination or commissioning service when making these appointments. (See Bishop, Priest, Overseer.)

Old Testament

The Old Testament is the collection of biblical books written about the period of history between the Creation of the world and the coming of God’s Son into the world as the man Jesus Christ (although there is a 400 year gap between the last book of the Old Testament and the first book of the New Testament). It consists of 39 books in total. The Jews order them differently, but modern Bibles organise them as follows:

  • The Books of the Law (the Torah or Pentateuch) - the first five books. Historical accounts concerning the creation of the world and the formation of the nation of Israel;
  • History Books - the next twelve books. Historical accounts of God’s people before and after the exile (the Jews call these books The Former Prophets to indicate that God is speaking through the events that are recorded);
  • Wisdom Books - the next five books. Poetic writings, proverbs and songs;
  • Major Prophets - the next five books. Larger books of prophecy;
  • Minor Prophets - the final twelve books. Smaller books of prophecy (they are not ‘minor’ in the sense of ‘less important’).
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‘Omnipotence’ comes from two Latin words - Omni meaning ‘all’ and potens meaning ‘powerful’. God is all-powerful (John 13:3, Ephesians 1:18-23), there is nothing He cannot do (Matthew 19:26), and nothing and no-one can stop His plans from coming about (Job 42:2).


‘Omnipresence’ comes from two Latin words - Omni meaning ‘all’ and praesent meaning ‘being at hand’. God’s ‘Omnipresence’ means that He is not confined to time and space as we are, so there is nowhere in the universe that God is not present. This doctrine teaches us that God is not distant from His creation but involved in it. He sees both the intricate details and the ‘big picture’ of our existence. This means that we cannot hide from God and assume He cannot see what we are doing; but we can also know that we are never out of His reach (Psalm 139, Jeremiah 23:23-24).


‘Omniscience’ comes from two Latin words - Omni meaning ‘all’ and scire meaning to ‘know’. God’s ‘Omniscience’ means that He is all-knowing (John 16:30, John 21:17, Job 37:16, 1 John 3:20). He knows everything about us, our world, the universe, the past, the present, the future and all eternity. He even knows everything about Himself, and He has infinite depth to His being (1 Corinthians 2:10-11).


An ‘ordinance’ is a practice in the church ‘ordained’ by Jesus as something that believers must undertake as part of their Christian discipleship. There are two such ordinances that are commanded for the church in the New Testament - Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (see Sacrament).

Original Sin

Original Sin is the teaching that all human beings that have ever lived are embroiled in the disobedience of Adam (Genesis 3), and have inherited his corrupted sinful nature and share in his guilt. Sin has infected every part of our being as if we have a hereditary disease passed down from one generation to the next. This means that all human beings are born sinful (Psalm 51:5, Proverbs 20:9); are incapable in themselves of pleasing God by their actions (Romans 8:8); and are rightly condemned to judgement (Hebrews 9:27). Therefore, in order to get right with God and escape judgement, we are utterly dependant on God’s saving grace found in Jesus Christ. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we inherit His righteousness, are made right with God and receive eternal life (see Justification). This doctrine of Original Sin is most clearly seen in Romans 5:12-21.

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There is a branch of Christianity called the ‘Orthodox Church’, but the term is also used to refer to Christians who hold to the historic biblical teachings of Christianity, especially those expressed in the great creeds of the early church (such as the Nicene and Chalcedonian Creeds). The word ‘Orthodoxy’ means ‘right belief’.


‘Overseer’ is the Greek term episkopos, which means literally ‘to look over’. In the New Testament, the terms used for local church leadership (overseer, elder, leader, shepherd, pastor-teacher) are used interchangeably, although each emphasises a different aspect of the role (see Acts 20:28). The requirements for these senior leaders are laid out in Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Timothy 3:1-7. They are not skill based but character based (the only exception is that overseers are required to have a teaching gift), with a strong emphasis on their reputation within the family and with outsiders. Overseers are responsible for directing the affairs of the church, ruling over it, teaching it, caring for their people and for protecting them (1 Peter 5:2-5, Acts 20:28-31). (See Deacon, Elder)

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‘Pagan’ is from the Latin word paganus, which was a word used to describe someone from the countryside. Because of the prevalence of folk religion in rural areas, the word ‘pagan’ came to mean someone who held to traditional beliefs in various deities, rather than the one true God (Isaiah 2:6, 1 Corinthians 10:20). In the Bible, it is used to refer to people who are not part of the people of God, who still worship the gods of their culture, and whose lives are characterised by ungodly behaviour. The early Christians were called to turn from the worship of idols and be distinct from the surrounding culture, leaving behind their old pagan lifestyle (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). Peter tells us that this will have the effect of winning some of them over to Christ in turn (1 Peter 2:11-12).


A parable is a story, told to create a picture in people’s minds to help them understand some greater truth. Jesus told many parables, recorded in the gospel accounts, to teach people about Himself or the nature of His kingdom. We are told in Matthew 13:10-17 that Jesus taught in parables in order to distinguish between those with hard hearts, who do not want Him, and those ‘to whom the secrets of the kingdom of God have been given’. These are the people who will search for the deeper meaning inside these. When looking at a parable we must try to understand the original setting being described, as the details will help us grasp the meaning, but it is important not to push the story too far and try to make all the details mean something.


In the New Testament, the terms used for local church leadership (overseer, elder, leader, shepherd, pastor-teacher) are used interchangeably, although each emphasises a different aspect of the role. A ‘pastor’ is a shepherd (Ephesians 4:11), and shepherding is the most common analogy for a leader in the Scriptures. Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-18, 1 Peter 5:4), but kings, prophets, and church leaders are all called shepherds at various times (e.g. Ezekiel 34). Likewise, the people of God are often referred to as a ‘flock’ (2 Samuel 7:8, Psalm 80:1). Pastors, like shepherds, are responsible for guiding the flock, disciplining it, feeding it, caring for it and protecting it (1 Peter 5:2-5, Acts 20:28-31).


Peace is normally thought of as the absence of conflict, and in the Scriptures it carries that basic meaning. Since the Fall, men and women have been in conflict with God and with each other. The gospel says that through Christ we can now have peace with God (Romans 5:1): when we put our faith in Jesus, God is no longer hostile towards us because His great wrath against our sin has been put onto Jesus in our place. However, the Hebrew word shalom, which is translated ‘peace’ in English, is a richer word meaning the complete well-being and prosperity of a person. Christians get peace with God through faith, and receive a peace that comes from God as they trust Him (Philippians 4:7). 

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Penal Substitution

Penal Substitution refers to an understanding of the doctrine of the atonement in which Christ has taken the sin of the world into Himself and died in order to pay the penalty (penal) for sin instead of us (substitution) (1 Peter 2:24). Christ atones for our sins as He takes our guilt, so that we might be forgiven and His righteousness might become ours (2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 3:21-26, 1 John 2:2, 1 John 4:10). This penal substitution was pictured in the Old Testament sacrifice system, particularly in Leviticus 16, which describes the Day of Atonement. Hebrews 7-10 describes how this Old Testament pattern of sacrifice is a forerunner or shadow of the great sacrifice that was made by Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:1).


The word ‘Pentateuch’ is made up of two Greek words pente, which means ‘five’, and teukhos which means ‘scroll’. The Pentateuch is literally then ‘the five scrolls’ and is the Greek word for the first five books of the Bible (the book of the Mosaic law - Torah in Hebrew). (see Torah).

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Pentecost is the Greek name for the Jewish ‘Festival of Weeks’, which celebrates the provision of God for His people by giving the first-fruits of the harvest back to Him (Exodus 34:22, Deuteronomy 16:9-12). It takes place seven weeks after Passover (so the fiftieth day - pentekostos means fifty). The New Testament marks this as the occasion of the coming of the Holy Spirit to the twelve disciples in Acts 2. On that day, the promised Holy Spirit filled their hearts and they were able to proclaim the good news about Jesus to the crowds in Jerusalem. They spoke in languages (tongues) they did not know, so everyone was able to understand it in their own different language. In response, 3000 people believed and were baptised (Acts 2:41) fulfilling what Jesus promised in Acts 1:5.  And Peter declared it to be the fulfilment of God’s promise through the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-32), to pour out His Spirit in the last days (that is, the time between Jesus’ ascension and His return).


Pentecostalism is a branch of Christianity that began in the early 20th Century. It places a heavy emphasis on personal experience of the supernatural workings of the Holy Spirit.


Christians must keep going to the end of life trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ and living in obedience to Him. The Bible consistently warns Christians that there is a danger of falling away from Christ (Mark 4:17, Hebrews 6:4-8), and that those who truly belong to Christ will be those who endure to the end in faith (1 Timothy 4:16, Hebrews 10:32-29, James 1:12). Hebrews 12:1-3 shows us that although we will face hard times in this life, we can endure if we fix our eyes on that great example of perseverance through suffering, the Lord Jesus.


The Pharisees were a Jewish religious sect and political group who were powerful leaders of the Jews during Jesus’ lifetime and through the time of the book of Acts. They are consistently shown in the gospel accounts and the book of Acts to be opponents of Jesus and His disciples. They were known for their rigid observance of the law, and also for adding many of their own rules to God’s law and imposing them on the people (Matthew 23:1-39). Jesus regularly challenges them on their self-righteousness, and so they hate Him and plot to bring about His death (Luke 18:9-14, Matthew 12:14, John 18:3). Some Pharisees later became believers in Jesus, for example Nicodemus (John 3:1, John 19:39) and the apostle Paul (Acts 26:5).


Prayer is ‘crying out’ to God. It is not just a conversation; it is a way of beginning and deepening an intimate relationship with Him. When Jesus gave His disciples a model teaching them how to pray, He began by showing the basis of prayer as ‘Our Father’ (Matthew 6:9). For Christians, it is because God is our Father that we can approach Him. He is not distant and cold to us, but through Jesus’ death we have access to Him (Hebrews 4:14-16), and as we pray we develop trust and security in Him - as a child does with his loving Father.


Predestination is a term used to mean that God, in His sovereignty, chose people (the elect) to be saved even before the world began (Ephesians 1:3-14). He was pleased to do this because of His great love, rather than for any merit or righteousness humans could generate by themselves (Deuteronomy 7:7-8), and it was so that they might be ‘for the praise of his glory’ (Ephesians 1:12). This means that there is no place for pride or boasting in our own goodness, as we are saved only as an act of His sovereign grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is perhaps difficult for us to grasp this fully, but this teaching needs to be held in tension with the human responsibility to choose to be obedient or disobedient to God, in answering His call to salvation in Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:19, Romans 8:28-30). This tension is seen in many parts of the New Testament, which urge people to respond to God (Acts 3:17-22, Acts 17:24-30, 2 Peter 3:8-9). Predestination cannot be used to justify a lack of need to evangelise, nor to ignore the need to respond to the message, as that would make us disobedient to His will. Indeed, the apostle Paul sees predestination as a reason for evangelism, that we may play a part in God’s sovereign plan of salvation (2 Timothy 2:10).


In the Old Testament, a priest was a man appointed by God to serve in the tabernacle and later the temple. His job was to pray for the people, offer their sacrifices to God and so help them to draw near to God. But a priest also taught the people God’s Word, making clear to them both what God had done to save them and how they should live in response to Him. In the New Testament, the letter to the Hebrews in particular describes how the Old Testament priesthood is fulfilled by Jesus Christ. In that letter, we see that Jesus is the Great High Priest, who prays for His people, offers His own life as the great sacrifice for them, and so enables them to draw near to God in faith (see High Priest).

The New Testament also makes clear that all those who trust in Jesus are priests, in the sense that like the apostle Paul, they have ‘… the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 15:16). All believers, like Paul, have become priests with the responsibility of declaring the way to draw near to God (1 Peter 2:5, 9), through the Lord Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the term priest should no longer refer to the main leader of a local church (see Priesthood of All Believers).

Priesthood of All Believers

Some churches use the word priest to refer to the main leader of the church, but this confuses the leadership role (see Bishop, Elder, Pastor) with the Old Testament priesthood, which is no longer needed as Jesus has fulfilled it in Himself (see High Priest and Priest). The apostle Peter teaches that all Christians are priests, in that because of the great sacrifice of Christ we can all draw near to God ourselves and we can all invite others to draw near to God in repentance and faith. The church is a priesthood of all believers because all Christians can serve God in spiritual ministry (1 Peter 2:4-10, Revelation 1:6).


Prophecy is God speaking through a human being by the Holy Spirit. The Old Testament prophecies are God’s perfect and authoritative words. So to hear the Old Testament prophet was to hear God Himself and to refuse to do what he said was to disobey God Himself (Deuteronomy 18:14-22). Some of these prophecies predicted future events (some of which have been fulfilled and some of which are still to be fulfilled), and some spoke to the current situation. But all prophecy had the purpose of calling people to respond to God in faith, to trust Him and obey Him. The New Testament says that the church is built on the foundation of the Prophets and the Apostles (Ephesians 2:20). It also says that prophecy should still be part of the life of the church today (1 Corinthians 14). However, this does not mean that men and women have the same authority as the Old Testament Prophets had. When we prophesy today, we are not able to speak new authoritative words from God, which are perfect and therefore must be obeyed. That is because the need for God’s authoritative word to us has already been met in the Bible. Instead, we prophesy today when we speak the true and authoritative words of God from the Scriptures into the lives of men and women. This kind of prophecy, bringing the Bible to bear on people’s situations, is essential for church life and should be eagerly desired (1 Corinthians 14:1). Each prophetic word spoken today should be respected and not despised (1 Thessalonians 5:20), but it should also be rigorously tested to see if it is indeed from God and is in line with His perfect Word in the Bible (1 John 4:1-3).


The Old Testament has many people who are chosen by God to be Prophets, like Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Jonah. Many of the books of the Old Testament which record their words are known as ‘the Prophets’ (see Old Testament). A Prophet in the Old Testament was God’s mouthpiece to the people, speaking God’s words with God’s authority. So to obey the Prophet was to obey God Himself and to disobey the Prophet was to disobey God Himself (Deuteronomy 18:14-22). It was the Prophet’s primary job to call the people back to obey the covenants that God had made, and most of their time is spent urging the people to repent. The Prophets were also pointing forwards to God’s Messiah who would come to save His people, and when we get to the New Testament it becomes clear that they spoke of Jesus Christ (Luke 24:25-27).

There were also many false prophets who pretended to speak for God but who actually made up their own prophecies (e.g. Jeremiah 14:14, 2 Peter 2). In the New Testament, we see that John the Baptist is the last of the Old Testament Prophets, calling people to repentance. After him, Jesus, God’s own Son, came as the ultimate Prophet, who would replace them as the way in which God spoke to His people (Acts 3:17-26, Hebrews 1:1-4). While He was on earth, Jesus appointed His Apostles to be a New Covenant equivalent of the Prophets: they had His authority to speak and write down God’s words, just as the Prophets did before them. They too called people to repent and turn to God through the Gospel. Ephesians 2:20 tells us that God’s church is built on the Apostles and Prophets. Paul means that the church’s foundation is the revelation of the gospel in the Holy Scriptures, which these men were authorised by the Holy Spirit to write. There are therefore no new ‘Apostles’ or ‘Prophets’ today. Instead, we have the Apostles’ and Prophets’ teaching, in the Old and New Testament, as a foundation for church life.

Some today continue to use the term Prophet as an office in the church, and by that they tend to mean someone who can bring new revelation from God in the same authoritative way as the Old Testament Prophets did. This is misleading, as the Bible gives a higher authority to the title ‘Prophet’ than can be claimed by anyone living in the present day. God does use prophecy within the church today (see Prophecy), but the title or office of ‘Prophet’ should no longer be used.


Propitiation means the appeasing or satisfying of God’s wrath through a sacrifice. God is angry at sin in human beings, but because of His great love for us, God provided propitiation for our sins in substitutionary sacrifice. In the Old Testament, this was done through the sacrifice of animals in the place of the people, especially on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). But this only pointed forwards to a far greater atoning sacrifice. In the New Testament, we see Jesus become a propitiation in His death on the cross (1 John 4:10, Hebrews 2:17), bearing God’s wrath for the sins of the world so that, through faith, we might no longer have His wrath directed against us (1 John 2:2). (see Atonement)

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Protestantism is a form of Christianity that began in the 16th Century as Christians started to ‘protest’ against the excesses and errors of the Catholic church. The Protestant Reformation was a movement that called for a return to the Scriptures as the sole authority for life and doctrine, and particularly affirmed that the only way to be saved was through faith alone, by grace, and not by good works.


Providence is the doctrine that the invisible God is always at work sustaining the universe and ordering the events of history to bring about His good purposes for His people. The providence of God is particularly the focus of books of the Bible such as Esther - where His name is not mentioned anywhere in the book, but He is clearly at work behind what is visible to achieve salvation for His people.


The doctrine of Purgatory - an imaginary place where the soul is purified by suffering after death so that it can enter heaven - is not mentioned in the Bible. It is a false teaching because it assumes that Christians need to pay off a remaining debt to God. This is not true as Christ pays the punishment for all sins - those who trust in Him have no more debt to pay and they are forgiven (Isaiah 40:2, Isaiah 53:1-12, 1 John 2:2, Hebrews 7:27, Romans 5:9). For believers, to die is to be ‘at home with the Lord' (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). There is no biblical evidence for the doctrine of Purgatory and it should be rejected.



The word ‘rapture’ comes from the Latin word rapio, which means ‘being taken up’ or ‘snatched away’. This doctrine refers to the Bible’s prophecy of the taking up of living believers from the earth and into glory. Some teach that believers will be secretly taken away from the earth by Jesus, before a time of great hardship and suffering comes, and that after that time of suffering is over, Jesus will return in glory. However, the consistent teaching of the Bible is that Christ will return only once, in all His glory, to draw His servants to Himself. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 teaches that when Christ comes, the dead in Christ will rise first, and then in the very next moment those who trust in Him who are still alive will be lifted from the earth, caught up together with them all in the clouds, and glorified with Him.


Reconciliation is the removal of hostility and the bringing back together of two parties that have been separated. Human beings have been separated from a relationship with God because of sin (Genesis 3:22-23, Ephesians 2:12). But God acts in sending Jesus Christ to bring reconciliation between human beings and Himself as we repent of our sins and receive His forgiveness (Romans 5:11, Colossians 1:21-22, Ephesians 2:11-18). Paul says that his Gospel ministry is a ministry of reconciliation, as he seeks to persuade others of their need to be reconciled to God and calls them to repentance (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Because of our reconciliation with God, Christians are called to forgive and be reconciled with each other if there has been any hostility in their relationships (Matthew 5:24, Ephesians 2:16). However, there can be no true reconciliation if there is no true repentance (Luke 17:3-4, 2 Timothy 2:25-26).


Redemption means to ‘buy back’ (or ransom) and then set free someone who has been enslaved (to redeem them). In the Old Testament, God’s great act of redemption was His setting free of the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt (Exodus 6:6, Exodus 20:1-2). In the New Testament, God’s ultimate act of redemption is His setting free of all His people from their slavery to sin, which He achieves through His precious Son’s death and resurrection (Galatians 4:3-5). Jesus dies as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45, Hebrews 9:15), He pays the price necessary to redeem us and sets us free in order to obey Him (1 Peter 1:18-19, Romans 6:11-23).


The Reformation was a movement in the 16th Century in Europe. It was led by men now known as the ‘Reformers’, men such as William Tyndale, Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Luther and John Calvin. They objected to the errors and excesses they witnessed in the Catholic Church, so their purpose was to ‘reform’ the teachings of the church in order to bring it back into line with the teaching of the Scriptures. Sadly, the Catholic Church rejected the calls of the Reformers and persecuted them, which led to the formation of the Protestant church, especially in northern European countries such as Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Great Britain. The Reformers rejected the authority of the Pope and the Catholic priesthood, and called for a return to the Bible as the sole authority for life and doctrine. In contrast to Catholic teaching, they affirmed that the only way to be saved was to be justified through faith alone, by the grace of God alone, and not by good works. They also placed a strong emphasis on the ‘priesthood of all believers’, and they translated the Bible into the languages of ordinary people because they felt strongly that Christians should be able to read for themselves what God had done for them.


Regeneration is the Christian teaching that is more commonly referred to as ‘being born again’. Jesus says that in order to see the kingdom of God one must be ‘born again’ (John 3:3). The phrase ‘born again’ is more literally ‘born from above’. Jesus goes on to explain that this new birth is not a physical birth but a spiritual one (John 3:8). This new birth occurs when someone hears the Gospel and responds by trusting in Jesus as their Saviour (John 3:16). At that point, the Holy Spirit of God comes into someone’s life and dramatically and fundamentally changes them - He ‘regenerates’ them (Revelation 3:20, 1 Peter 1:23). Unless we are regenerated by the Spirit of God, we are still dead in our sins, unable to live upright and godly lives, and are objects of God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:1-5). But when someone is regenerated by God’s grace, then they can live lives full of good works pleasing to Him (Ephesians 2:6-10). Only the regenerate receive eternal life.


To ‘repent’ is to change your mind and turn back to God. It begins with deep sorrow for your sin, confessing that you are heading in the wrong direction and rebelling against God, and then changing your life to live in His ways (2 Corinthians 7:10). Once we realise that we have rebelled against God and rejected Jesus as our rightful king, repentance is the only proper response we can have, and it is necessary in order for us to be saved (Acts 2:37-41, Acts 3:19). That is not to say that it is a work by which we merit God’s salvation. We are saved only by grace, and the Spirit must regenerate our hearts before repentance is possible (Acts 11:18, 2 Timothy 2:25). Repentance is both a one-time change of direction in the heart in response to God’s grace, and also a daily decision to choose to say ‘no’ to sinning and ‘yes’ to obedient living. The Christian life is one of ongoing repentance (Titus 2:11-15, Revelation 2:4-5).


A resurrection is a raising to life of a dead person. Jesus pointed out many times in His ministry that He had power over death (Matthew 16:21, John 5:24, John 10:17-18), so much power and authority that He said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). There are Gospel accounts where people saw Him raise dead people to life - the dead daughter of a synagogue ruler (Matthew 9:18-26), a widow’s dead son (Luke 7:11-17), and His own friend Lazarus who had been dead for four days (John 11:1-44). But Jesus’ power over death is most greatly displayed in His own resurrection. All four Gospel accounts, and many of the New Testament epistles, tell us that Jesus Christ physically rose from the dead on the third day after His crucifixion and burial and was seen by many witnesses (Matthew 28:1-15, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-48, John 20:1-21:25, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8). The resurrection of Christ means that there is a living hope for His disciples (1 Peter 1:3). As Jesus rose from death He broke death’s power, and therefore those who place their trust in Him need no longer fear its grip (Hebrews 2:14-15). The Bible promises that when Christ returns, there will be a resurrection of all people: those who placed their trust in Him during their life on earth will rise to eternal life but those who rejected His rule while alive will face His judgement and an eternity in hell (John 11:24, Revelation 20:11-15).


(Note: This refers to the theological doctrine of Revelation, not to the biblical book with that title.)

The only way that human beings can understand anything about God and what He has done is through what He reveals to us. Theologians talk about two types of Revelation - General Revelation and Special Revelation. General Revelation is the truth that God reveals Himself through the creation He has made. This means that there is enough evidence in the created universe for us to know that God exists. Therefore, men and women are without excuse for refusing to glorify Him, and rightly incur His wrath (Romans 1:18-21). We are told that ‘the heavens declare the glory of God’ in Psalm 19:1, that the setting of a regular pattern of seasons to provide for human beings is a witness to Him, and that He has made men and women in His image to reflect Him (Genesis 1:26-27). However, God chooses to specially reveal Himself though His word, the Bible, and specifically through the person of His Son, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-4). This is called Special Revelation, and it is necessary for us in order to know with confidence the whole character of God and the truth of His gospel, which can save us. It is important to realise that God does not reveal all there is to know, but all we need to know in order to love and follow Him (Deuteronomy 29:29). There are some things which are beyond our ability to comprehend, but God has graciously revealed to us in Christ everything we need for salvation and life with God (Romans 16:25-27).


Righteousness is the attribute of having ‘right standing’ or living with ‘right behaviour’ in God’s sight. The Bible teaches that God is the only truly righteous one as all human beings have fallen short of His standards (1 John 2:1, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Romans 3:10, Romans 3:23). This gives humans a problem, as unrighteous people cannot be in relationship with a righteous God and all unrighteousness must be punished (Romans 3:4-5). Yet no matter how hard we try, human effort cannot make us righteous (Romans 3:20). The Lord has dealt with this problem by sending His Son Jesus, to die as an atoning sacrifice for us, taking our unrighteousness into Himself and bearing the wrath of God for it (Romans 3:24-26, 1 Peter 3:18). In turn He gives His righteousness as a gift, so that people can be made right in His sight and we can have eternal life in God’s presence (Romans 5:17-21). If we have faith in Jesus, then by His grace we can be made righteous (Romans 3:21-31). (See Justification)

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A sacrament (sometimes the term Ordinance is preferred) is considered by some to apply God’s grace to a person. Others see sacraments as visible signs pointing to the grace of God in the life of the church. Some churches have multiple practices they call sacraments, but the only two biblical sacraments that God commands for all believers are Baptism and Communion. The sacraments are not necessary for salvation, but they are necessary for faithful discipleship as they are commanded by Christ and His apostles (Acts 2:38, Acts 10:48, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).


The Bible teaches that the only just punishment for sin is death (Genesis 2:17, Proverbs 10:16, Romans 6:23). But God, in His love and mercy, did not want His people to die, so He introduced sacrifice to provide a way out of death for them. In the Old Testament, He decreed that an animal could be killed as a substitute for human beings; it would bear the full force of God’s wrath instead of the people (see Atonement). This was graphically displayed in the substitution of a ram in place of Isaac when Abraham was told to sacrifice him (Genesis 22:1-19). And it was organised in the detailed sacrificial system in the Law given to Moses. This was most clear on the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16:1-34. These Old Testament sacrifices were pointers to the one great sacrifice that was to come, when Jesus was sacrificed on the cross for the sins of the world. He died in the place of sinful people, bearing the full force of God’s wrath and making full atonement for them so that they might have peace with God through faith (Romans 3:25). Hebrews 7-10 makes it clear that Jesus’ sacrifice was once and for all, and therefore there is no need for Christians to make sacrifices today (Hebrews 10:11-14). Instead, the New Testament says that Christians must receive and trust in the sacrifice of Christ as sufficient for us (1 John 2:2), and that the proper response is to make a living sacrifice of our lives to God, giving up all we have in service and worship of Him (Romans 12:1-2).


The Sadducees were a Jewish religious group and political party that existed during the time of Christ and the Apostles. They seem to have been wealthy and powerful, had a close relationship with the Roman authorities and had authoritative roles in the priesthood and politics. Like the Pharisees, they are consistently portrayed as being hostile to Jesus and the Gospel (Matthew 3:7, Mark 12:18-27, Acts 5:17-18). A doctrinal truth that we know they denied is the resurrection of the dead (Matthew 22:23, Acts 23:8).

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‘Salvation’ comes from the Latin word salvare which means ‘to save’. The Bible is clear that human beings have rejected God’s rule, sinned, and brought death and hell on themselves as the just punishment for sins (Genesis 3). But it is also clear from the Scriptures that God does not desire human beings to perish for eternity (2 Peter 3:9) and that therefore He has set in motion, through His Son, Jesus Christ, a sovereign plan to save the world through His death on the cross (Ephesians 1:3-14). Through this plan, human beings can be saved from death through faith in Jesus. This is by the grace of God alone, not by anything they have done to merit it (Ephesians 2:1-10). Faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved, as it says in Acts 4:12: ‘Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved’. To hear a clear explanation of how you can be saved, visit https://crosscheck.org.uk.


Sanctification is the doctrine of how human beings can be made holy. (The Greek noun hagios meaning holy, is the same root word as found in the verb meaning ‘to sanctify’-hagiazo).  Our sanctification is necessary if we are to live in relationship with a Holy God, who cannot be in the presence of sin. Sanctification comes after our Justification, as it is a different aspect of our salvation and reconciliation to God. Sanctification is concerned with the internal workings of the Spirit to make us holy. It is different from justification because it involves our effort and co-operation. Sanctification is something the Spirit works internally in our hearts, but at the same time it is also something at which we have to strive - and it is not an optional extra for the Christian (Hebrews 12:14, 2 Peter 1:3-11). We should see progress in our lives, and those of other believers, as we become more like Christ (Colossians 1:9-10, Ephesians 4:24). Theologians talk about two different aspects of sanctification, ‘Definitive Sanctification’ and ‘Progressive Sanctification’. Definitive sanctification means that the moment you become a Christian, the Holy Spirit comes to live in your heart. From that moment, you are a saint - a holy one - set apart by God for His purposes; there has been a break from the power of sin and the world’s hold over you so that you might now live to please Him (1 Corinthians 1:2, 1 Peter 2:9). Progressive Sanctification says that the evidence that you are holy in your position before God is that you grow in holiness (1 Peter 1:14-16, 1 Thessalonians 5:23). You become more like Jesus as you go on in the Christian life, cooperating with the Holy Spirit at work in you, until one day you will be fully perfect when you see Him face to face (1 John 3:2-3). This tension between Definitive and Progressive Sanctification is displayed in Hebrews 10:14 ‘For by one sacrifice he has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy.’

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Satan (meaning ‘accuser’ or ‘adversary’) is one of the names given to the fallen angel who led a rebellion against God and was cast down from heaven to earth (Luke 10:18, Zechariah 3:1, Job 1:6-12, Revelation 12:9). The Bible references to Satan show that he has some spiritual power, and warns Christians to be alert to his schemes to accuse, deceive and tempt them (1 Peter 5:8, Ephesians 6:11). He accuses Christians that their sin still has power over them and has not been fully dealt with by Christ (2 Corinthians 2:5-11, Revelation 12:10). He holds the world captive through his lies and deception (Acts 26:18, 2 Thessalonians 2:9, 2 Corinthians 11:14). And he tempts God’s people to sin, making it appear attractive and minimising the consequences in their minds (Genesis 3:1-5, Mark 1:13, Acts 5:3). So Christians are to be wary of him, but not to fear him. His power is limited by God so that he cannot do anything outside God’s sovereign will (Job 1:6-12). His power has been broken by Christ’s victorious death on the cross (Colossians 2:15). Ultimately, he will be destroyed with all the other fallen angels (demons) who followed him (Romans 16:20, Revelation 20:7-10). (See Devil, Evil)

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The word ‘Scriptures’ is used in the Bible to refer to itself (e.g. Matthew 21:42). The Scriptures are the collection of writings that reveal God’s truth to us. They have one divine author and several human authors. The Holy Spirit is the divine author of Scripture, and He inspired human authors to write down God’s words (Exodus 20:1, Daniel 9:2, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). All Scripture points to Jesus Christ and how He came to rescue the world from its fallen state and bring the people of God back into relationship with Him (Luke 24:27). (See Bible, Inerrancy, Infallibility, Inspired)

Second Coming

The term ‘Second Coming’ refers to the future physical return of Jesus Christ to this earth. The Bible teaches that Jesus will return suddenly (1 Thessalonians 5:2), be visible to all people (Revelation 1:7), and be revealed in all His glory (Matthew 16:27). Jesus will return to judge the world (Acts 17:31) and usher in the New Creation (2 Peter 3:13). The time of Jesus’ return is only known by Father God (Matthew 24:36) and therefore attempts to predict the date are both futile and foolish. But the Bible presses upon us that we must be ready for His return at each moment, by trusting in Him for our salvation and serving Him well in the time we have been given (2 Peter 3:11-15).

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The Septuagint is the translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek made in the 3rd or 2nd century BC. The name comes from the Latin for 70, as it was thought to be the work of roughly 70 scholars. It sometimes is referred to with the abbreviation LXX, the number 70 in Roman numerals. Modern Bibles translate the Old Testament from Hebrew, but the LXX Greek translation of the Old Testament is often quoted by the authors of the New Testament (e.g. Luke 4:16-19, and compare it to the translation of the Hebrew text of Isaiah 61:1-2, 58:6).  Greek was the common language of the eastern Mediterranean at the time. The fact that they were happy to quote from this translation shows us that the Bible, when accurately translated into any language, is still the authentic Word of God.

Sermon on the Mount

The ‘Sermon on the Mount’ is the title normally given to Jesus’ longest recorded speech, found in Matthew 5:1-7:29. This sermon is bracketed by two simple phrases that show where it took place. Matthew 5:1 says that Jesus ‘went up on a mountainside’, and Matthew 8:1, at the end of His sermon, says He ‘came down from the mountainside’. Luke 6:17-49 records a similar sermon, but we are told there that it was given ‘on a level place’, not on the mountainside (Luke 6:17). It is likely that Jesus preached similar material in several places, much like an itinerant preacher might do today, and these are just two of these occasions. This explanation accounts for both the similarities and the differences in the two sermons.


A ‘sign’, in Biblical language, is a supernatural event or miracle that points people to the truth about God - revealing His power and purpose to those who witness them. For example, God sets a rainbow in the sky as a sign to Noah that He will keep His promise never to destroy the earth by flood again (Genesis 9:12-13); and in Exodus 4, God tells Moses to perform terrible signs as a warning to Pharaoh. John’s Gospel records several signs that Jesus performed which revealed His glory (e.g. John 2:11), and the book of Acts records signs done by the Apostles showing that they were continuing Jesus’ ministry with His authority (Acts 2:22, Acts 2:43). (Signs given through God’s Prophets and Apostles showed that they were authorised by God to speak for Him to the people.) These New Testament signs were given to reassure us that the ministry of the Apostles was authentic. We should note, however, that miraculous signs do not always lead to faith (John 12:37), and looking for them can demonstrate a wicked heart (Matthew 16:4). Not all miraculous events are from God: Satan is described as a worker of signs and wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10), and false prophets may perform them (Mark 13:22). So, although we can expect God to  work with miraculous signs from time to time today, and we must rejoice when He does, the Apostle Paul says that Christian ministry should be centred on preaching Christ crucified, not signs and wonders (1 Corinthians 1:22-25).


Sin is thought, speech or action that goes against and breaks God’s law. It is an attitude of rebellion against God, seeking to rule one’s own life and ignoring God’s authority over us. (The Bible also uses words such as iniquity, transgressions, debts and wickedness for behaviour that goes against God’s will.) The Bible says that sin entered the world through Adam when he rebelled against God in Eden, and that because of his sin death came into the world (Romans 5:12-14). The Bible teaches that Adam’s sin has been imputed to all human beings (see Original Sin). So all human beings are born sinful (Psalm 51:5, Proverbs 20:9); are incapable of pleasing God by their own efforts (Romans 8:8); and are rightly condemned to judgement (Hebrews 9:27). The doctrine of Original Sin does not mean that we have an excuse for our sin. The Bible is very clear that all human beings have sinned and must face judgement (Romans 3:23, Romans 8:10, James 1:15, Hebrews 9:27). We are in desperate need of salvation and we are utterly dependent on God’s saving grace found in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:20). The gospel says that Christ died as a sin offering of atonement, paying the price for our sins and bearing the wrath of God against them (Hebrews 9:28, Romans 8:3, Hebrews 2:17, 1 Peter 2:24). If we will repent and believe in Jesus then our sins will be forgiven and we will receive eternal life, but all those who do not believe in Jesus remain in their sins and face eternal punishment in Hell (John 3:16-18, John 8:24). Christians, having had their sins forgiven by Christ, are to live lives of continual confession and repentance, making every effort to rid their lives of sin (1 John 1:9, 2 Peter 1:5-9, James 1:21, Ephesians 4:17-32). This is in anticipation that when Christ returns and establishes His Kingdom, God’s people will be rid of sin and its consequences forever (Hebrews 10:14, Revelation 21:1-8).

Sinful Nature

The apostle Paul says that since Adam’s fall, human beings have inherited a fallen sinful nature (Romans 5:19). This inner nature always acts in rebellion against God and His law. Paul says that even when a person has become a Christian, this sinful nature still clings on and wrestles against us. The sinful nature is opposing the Spirit of God, trying to reclaim its throne in our hearts (Romans 7:1-25). Someone who has come to faith in Christ has to learn to put this sinful nature (or flesh) to death and instead listen to the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:13-25, translated here as ‘flesh’ - a more literal translation of the Greek word sarx). When Christians receive their new bodies at the resurrection of the dead, their sinful nature will no longer have a part of them and they will be perfect (Romans 8:23). (See Depravity, Flesh)

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Son of Man

The ‘Son of Man’ is Jesus’ favourite way of referring to Himself (e.g. Matthew 9:6). The phrase can simply mean ‘human being’, as when God uses it to the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2:1). So in one sense Jesus is making it plain that He has a truly human nature as well as a divine one as God the Son (see Incarnation). However, the title ‘Son of Man’ is loaded with meaning from the book of Daniel. In Daniel 7:13-14, Daniel sees a vision of an awesome figure, ‘one like a son of man’, who comes on the clouds from heaven and is granted authority by God to bring in His Kingdom. This ‘Son of Man’ is worshipped by the nations as only God can be, and is revealed in Daniel 7:27 to be God Himself. So when Jesus uses this title of Himself, it is a claim to be this prophesied figure, a claim to be God Himself who is bringing in His Kingdom (Matthew 24:30). The Jewish leaders certainly recognised this claim to be one of His deity (Matthew 26:64-65). Similarly, in the book of Revelation, the apostle John’s vision begins with seeing the risen and glorified Jesus as ‘someone like a son of man’, who comes to strengthen His Church before finally bringing in His Kingdom (Revelation 1:12-16).

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The Bible generally speaks of us as a whole person.  It also refers to body, mind and soul as different aspects of a human being which are intricately woven together to make the whole. (It sometimes uses different terms such as strength, heart, and spirit interchangeably - e.g. Deuteronomy 6:5). When the Bible uses the term ‘soul’, it refers to the inner being that will go on existing after an individual’s death (1 Peter 1:8-9). This will be either in the New Creation, having been brought into union with a new heavenly body, or in Hell, to suffer under judgement for eternity (1 Corinthians 15, Revelation 20:4, Matthew 10:28).


The word sovereign is used in English to describe a king or ruler, and in Christian doctrine it is used to describe the absolute power and authority that God exercises over His creation (2 Chronicles 20:6, Psalm 103:19). God’s sovereignty means that nothing in creation, past, present or future, happens outside His control - He rules over it all. An understanding of God’s sovereignty gives great security to the Christian: even when things feel out of control to us, we know that the Sovereign Lord ’works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will’ (Ephesians 1:11).

Spiritual Battle

The Bible is clear that Christians are in a spiritual battle all the time (Ephesians 6:10-19). There are spiritual forces of evil that will seek to tempt Christians into sin or frighten them out of witnessing to the world. Christians should be prepared for this, both by prayer (Ephesians 6:18) and by equipping themselves with the truths of Scripture (see Jesus’ example in Matthew 4:1-11). However, Christians need not fear, because Christ has already achieved the victory and in Him they have the strength to resist evil and continue to the end (Colossians 2:13-15, 1 John 4:4, 1 Peter 5:8-11).

Spiritual Gifts

The Holy Spirit equips Christians with different spiritual gifts that they can use to build up the church. The three main references to these gifts are Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12-14, and 1 Peter 4:10-11. No Christian has all the gifts, and every Christian has at least one gift (1 Corinthians 12:11). The gifts are not given to glorify individuals but to enable them to serve others and glorify God. Peter divides the gifts into two categories, those that primarily involve speaking and those that primarily involve serving. He says that each Christian ‘should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms’ (1 Peter 4:11-12). Giftedness is not a measure of Christian maturity, which is shown by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26). So someone can be very gifted but immature and ungodly. Paul makes this point in 1 Corinthians 13, where he interrupts his discussion on spiritual gifts to challenge the Corinthians that giftedness is worthless without love. And the Lord Jesus says that some who display spiritual gifting are actually evildoers who will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21-23).

Sufficiency of Scripture

The doctrine of the Sufficiency of Scripture says that in the Bible we have all the words of God we need for understanding His character and nature, for our salvation, and for living in obedience to Him (2 Timothy 3:14-17). There is no other source for God’s infallible truth and we must not add to it (Deuteronomy 12:32, Revelation 22:18-19). It is not that all there is to know is in the Bible, but rather that all we need to know has been revealed in the Bible. So anything not revealed there is not necessary for us to know (Deuteronomy 29:29). This doctrine also teaches that although the Bible does not mention things that were not invented at its time of writing, it does give us the principles to apply carefully to modern issues. The Bible speaks to all situations of life and nothing falls outside its authority.

Synoptic Gospels

The Synoptic Gospels are the accounts of Jesus’ life written by Matthew, Mark, and Luke but not the gospel of John. The word ‘synoptic’ comes from the Greek sunoptikos which means ‘to view together’. These three gospel accounts share much of the same content and wording, although careful study will show that even in accounts that appear similar, there are subtle stylistic differences (for example compare Matthew 8:2-3, Mark 1:40-42, Luke 5:12-13). John’s Gospel stands out as a markedly different account, both in its construction and writing style.



In Exodus 25-27, God gives Moses specific instructions to build the Tabernacle (or Tent of Meeting). It was a large tent, surrounded by a courtyard, and was the temporary place where God would dwell whilst His people were living in the wilderness. It was the place where Moses met with God, and where the priests could offer sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people. The Tabernacle was a constant reminder to the people of Israel that although God was with them, He was too holy for them to approach. A series of curtains divided the people from the holiest place where God dwelt and where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. Only the High Priest had access to the Most Holy Place, and even he could only approach once a year after the appropriate sacrifices and ceremonial washing (Leviticus 16). The permanent building of the Temple superseded the tabernacle, once the Israelites had settled in the Promised Land. Ultimately the Tabernacle pointed forwards to Jesus Christ, who made His dwelling (or ‘tabernacled’) among us when He became a human being (John 1:14).


The Temple was the permanent building in Jerusalem where God’s presence dwelt and where people could come to worship Him. The Temple was the successor to the Tabernacle. It was built by King Solomon and stood for over 400 years until it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587BC (1 Kings 5-8, 2 Chronicles 36:15-23). A Second Temple was later rebuilt on the same site. It was gradually improved from the return of the exiles to Judah until Jesus’ day, especially by King Herod the Great. It was finally destroyed by the Romans in 70AD. Jesus prophesied this destruction as a judgement on Israel for rejecting Him as their Messiah (Luke 21:5). The Bible teaches that the Temple, with all its systems, priesthood and practices, was pointing towards Jesus Christ: He was the true temple, God Himself dwelling on earth with human beings (John 1:14, John 2:19-22); He was the Great High Priest, who would offer a sacrifice for sins once for all (Hebrews 7:27); and through His body on the cross He would tear away the curtain that separated human beings from God’s holy presence, allowing them to approach Him and have a relationship with Him (Hebrews 10:19-22). Because of Jesus, Christians have, through faith, become temples themselves, as God the Holy Spirit dwells within their hearts (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

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The English word ‘Theology’ is taken from two Greek words - theos, which means ‘god’, and logia, which means ‘words’ or ‘sayings’. Theology is reasoning or thinking about God, the intellectual discipline of taking into account all the Scriptures say about God. There are two main disciplines within this, Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology. Systematic Theology is the ordering and studying of the whole Bible’s teaching into topics or doctrines, such as the character of God, the doctrine of humanity or the means of salvation. Biblical Theology is the study of a doctrine as it is unfolded within a particular part of Scripture, such as the theme of love in John’s Gospel, or how people came to understand the holiness of God through the first five books of the Bible. It is important for some people to be set aside to study theology specifically, to understand the Scriptures in greater depth so that the Church may be instructed; but all Christians should seek to be theologians to some degree. We must all see what God says about Himself in the entirety of His Word, otherwise our view of Him can be lopsided or even false (Acts 20:27).


The Torah is the Hebrew word (meaning ‘teaching’ or ‘instruction) for the first five books of the Bible - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. They are sometimes called by the Greek word Pentateuch (meaning ‘Five Scrolls’), or the books of Moses, or simply ‘the Law’ (Deuteronomy 31:24, Joshua 8:31, 2 Chronicles 34:14, Mark 12:26, Galatians 3:10, Matthew 5:17). The Torah tells the history of God’s interaction with human beings, from creation through to the edge of the entry of His chosen people Israel into the Promised Land of Canaan. It includes the giving of God’s Law, including the Ten Commandments, through Moses at Mount Sinai. In the New Testament, Jesus comes to another mountain where He delivers His new Kingdom law as a new Moses in the Sermon on the Mount. Here Jesus says that He has not come to abolish the Law but to fulfil it (Matthew 5:17) and shows how His people should keep the Law of God today.


Transcendent is a term used to describe God. It means that He is higher than or beyond the created order, and acts independently of it (Psalm 113:4-5). Although transcendent, the God of the Bible is not detached or remote. He is also Immanent, as He chooses to draw near to the people He has made and have relationship with them (Psalm 113:6-9).

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The teaching of the Bible makes it clear that God has eternally existed as ‘one God in three persons’ - Father, Son and Spirit. The word ‘Trinity’ has been used by the church to describe this since the earliest days of Christianity. It is formed out of two Latin words - trinus, meaning ‘threefold’ and unitas meaning ‘one’. It conveys that the members of the Trinity are united as one God but they are also distinct in personhood as three equal members of the Godhead. The Father is not the Son nor the Spirit, and so on. The members of the Trinity are mentioned throughout the Bible, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 but there are several places where we see them explicitly mentioned together. In Matthew's gospel we see Father, Son and Spirit working together in Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:16-17) and when Jesus sends out His disciples on His Great Commission, He tells them to baptise new disciples in the ‘name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 28:19). Both Peter and Paul also refer to all three members of the Trinity in one place (1 Peter 1:2, Galatians 4:6, 1 Corinthians 12:4-6).  (For a more detailed description of each member of the Trinity, see God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.)


Union with Christ

‘Union with Christ’ describes the way believers relate to Jesus Christ and how the blessings of that relationship come to them. The Bible teaches that when we have faith in Jesus we are spiritually united with Him, and therefore with each other too (Philippians 2:1,1 Corinthians 1:10). We are one body, Christ’s body, the church (Romans 12:5). Sometimes this teaching is phrased as believers being ‘in Christ’, or that He is ‘in us’ (e.g. Colossians 1:2, Ephesians 1:3, Colossians 1:27). This union is demonstrated in the picture of baptism, that through faith we are united with Him in His death and burial, and that we have risen with Him from the grave and into new resurrection life - with the power of sin over us broken (Romans 6:1-14). This union is permanent: it cannot be broken and will continue for eternity, because it is safely kept in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:5-7).


The people of God are to be united as one people, living together in mutual love and care (Psalm 133:1, Colossians 3:14). This unity, or oneness, is what Jesus prays for His people in the garden as His final prayer before He goes to the cross (John 17:20-21). In the New Testament epistles, the unity of the church is repeatedly mentioned as God’s desire and something for which we are to strive (e.g. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Ephesians 4:1-16). In contrast, division in His church is something God despises, and something the church should fight against (1 Corinthians 1:10, Titus 3:10).


Virgin Birth

The Virgin Birth is the phrase used to describe the miracle of Jesus’ entry into this world. The Bible teaches that the Son of God was born to an ordinary human mother called Mary, who was a young Jewish woman who had not yet had sex with a man - a virgin. This is described in Matthew 1:18-23, which also tells us that this fulfilled a prophecy made by Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14). Therefore, Jesus had a human mother but did not have a human father. Jesus’ Father is God, and He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:26-38). This means that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine (see Incarnation). Joseph adopted Jesus after He was born, and the Bible is clear that Mary and Joseph had other children in the normal human way after the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:24-25, Matthew 13:55-56).

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One of the ways God communicates with His people is through dreams and visions (the words are sometimes used interchangeably but a vision may come when a person is awake - see Numbers 12:6). A vision is a picture, normally accompanied by a voice, that God lets an individual experience to communicate a specific truth. In the Bible, many of God’s prophets receive visions from God: Abraham (Genesis 15), Samuel (1 Samuel 3), Isaiah (Isaiah 1), Daniel (Daniel 8), Paul (Acts 9), Peter (Acts 10) and John (Revelation 1). In Acts 2, Peter quotes the prophet Joel and says that in the Last Days young and old will have visions and dreams as the Holy Spirit works in their hearts. This prophecy was certainly fulfilled immediately in the early church, as we can read in Acts, and there is no reason to doubt that the Lord continues to speak in this way today. However, we should recognise that receiving a vision is not a promise for every believer; as even in the Bible the vast majority of people never had one. We should also be aware that there may be false visions, from delusions of the mind or evil spiritual powers (Jeremiah 14:14, Zechariah 10:2). Today, if we think we have had a vision, or if someone else claims to have one, it must be tested against the Scriptures to see whether it is true or false (1 John 4:1-6). Visions can be misunderstood or misinterpreted, so it is important not to treat them as if they have the same or greater authority than the Bible. The Bible is the only infallible Word from God so any true vision would agree with the truth explained in its pages. It does seem that in the world today visions tend to happen more frequently in places where there is no access to God’s Word, and that those who have them soon have a hunger to seek out the Bible.



‘Wisdom’ is more than knowledge: it is the ability to use knowledge, judge what is right and true, and make good decisions in life. A wise person can navigate a course through life that pleases God. The Bible says that true wisdom only comes from God, and that God’s wisdom is not like the world’s. He does not do things the way the world expects. This is best demonstrated through the crucified Saviour Jesus Christ, something no human being would have thought wise, but which turned out to be the wisest thing of all (1 Corinthians 1:16-31). If we want to be wise, we must recognise our own foolishness and believe that He knows all things. As Creator, He alone knows how everything should work in His creation. We are wise when we turn to Christ in repentance and receive the gift of His Holy Spirit, who helps us to make sense of the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:14-17). James says in his epistle that if we lack wisdom (which we all do), we should ask God for it and He will give it to us if we have faith (James 1:5-6). The Bible has books dedicated to Wisdom, to learning how to understand the mind of God and live His way. In particular, the Old Testament book of Proverbs gives us a collection of sayings showing God’s principles for how we should live.


Many religious people think that they can earn their salvation by doing good works. They think that if they do enough good, God will accept them and let them into Heaven. However, the Bible teaches that no amount of good works will save a person and that even our good deeds are tainted by our sins (Romans 3:20, Isaiah 64:6). The Gospel says that we are not saved by our good works, but by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). That is not to say that good works do not have a place in the Christian life. Paul is clear in Ephesians 2:10 that Christians are saved in order to do good works. James goes further and says that without good works, a professed faith is shown in reality to be dead (James 2:14-26). In other words, good works are not the means to salvation, they are the fruit of salvation.


In a narrow sense, ‘worship’ means to sing praises to God and make music to honour Him, as is His due. This is not mere lip service or religious duty but must come from a genuine love in our hearts (Isaiah 29:13). Christians are to gather together to sing, putting God’s Word to music to praise Him. This has the effect of teaching and encouraging each other (Ephesians 5:18-20). More broadly, however, to ‘worship’ means to give God glory, and this is done through more than just singing. God is glorified as we give over our entire lives to His service. Paul talks about the Christian’s true spiritual worship as becoming a ‘living sacrifice’. We worship by conforming ourselves to be like Him in every way, and by pouring out our lives for His sake (Romans 12:1-2).  


‘Wrath’ means ‘intense anger’. God passionately hates all sin and is fiercely angry against it. Because sin has so infiltrated human beings, God’s wrath is directed against them all (e.g. Isaiah 13:9, Romans 1:18). Some people find this teaching difficult, but that is because we tend to think about anger from our perspective. Our anger is tainted by our sin; our anger is selfish and often unjustified or unfair. But God’s wrath is perfect, it is righteous (Psalm 7:11). Because God loves all that is right and true and good, He is angry at the opposite of those things. In fact, if He loved sin, or even did not care about sin, then He would be a terrible God. God is right, then, to be angry at sinful people for their rebellion against Him and the destruction they have brought on each other through that rebellion. And this righteous wrath means that human beings must be punished for eternity in Hell (Romans 2:5). However, the good news of the Gospel is that Jesus Christ has taken the punishment for sin: He has borne the wrath of God for our sins so that by His grace, those who trust Him will not suffer God’s wrath in the judgement to come (Ephesians 2:1-10, 1 Thessalonians 1:10). To hear a clear explanation of how you can avoid suffering under God’s wrath, visit https://crosscheck.org.uk.

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