DISTORTED AND CONTRIVED RELIGIOUS TERMS #1
Jon Gary Williams
The world of “Christendom” is filled with churches entertaining false beliefs. Many of these beliefs can be identified by specific terms, some of which are found in the Scriptures and some which are unknown to the Scriptures.
Over the centuries, a number of Biblical words have been given distorted meanings making
them conform to man-made teachings. Likewise, many contrived words, unknown to the Scriptures, have been used which also convey false religious ideas.
TERMS FOUND IN THE BIBLE BUT GIVEN DISTORTED MEANINGS
This word is widely misapplied to preachers throughout the denominational world. On church signs it is
common to see the preacher billed as “pastor.” However, this is not a Biblical use of the word. The word pastor actually refers to an elder(s) (shepherds) of a local church. It is from the Greek term poimen and is translated ‘pastor’ only one time (Eph. 4:11). Elsewhere in the New Testament it is translated “shepherd,” sometimes referring to Christ as the “good” or “chief ” shepherd (Heb. 3:20; 1 Peter 5:4). It definitely does not refer to a preacher. Rather, in the New Testament, preachers are called: preachers (Rom. 10:14), ministers (Eph. 3:7) and/or evangelists (Acts 21:8).
This is another title commonly given to priests and preachers of various denominations. It is used to identify those who are perceived to have special religious attributes worthy of adoration and reverence. At times, a more extended form of this title can be seen. For example, Right Reverend or Most Reverend. However, such titles are obvious corrupted uses of the word. The word reverend is to be used only with reference to God Himself. The Psalmist made this point clear. “He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant forever: holy and reverend is his name” (Psa. 111:9). No man is to be addressed in this way — such is blasphemy. And, anyone who accepts such a title should be ashamed.
Since the early days of Catholicism, leaders of local parishes (congregations) have been referred to as “priests.” However, this title was never a part of the teaching of the New Testament church. Rather, its use is merely a carryover from the priests of the Old Testament covenant. In the New Testament church no special people are so designated. Actually, the Scriptures teach that God considers all Christians
as priests — being called a holy and royal priesthood. “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ ... But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people...” (1 Peter 2:5,9). Actually, all Christians are spoken of as “kings and priests.” “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever” (Rev. 1:6). The distorted use of this term is just another of the many false teachings found in Catholicism.
This is a title given to an elevated head of the Catholic Church who serves under the “Pope” exercising control over a diocese, or a large area of land. Such a misuse of the word “bishop” is beyond comprehension! This demonstrates how far removed Catholicism is from the original church of Jesus Christ. The Greek term for bishop is episkopos and means one who “oversees” and is so translated in
Acts 20. “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers (episkopos), to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). This is simply one of the words which describes the elders who oversee a local congregation. It never refers to a high-ranking office such as seen in the Catholic church. That the word
‘bishop’ is not to be used in this way is made clear by the apostle Paul. In his letter to the Philippians he spoke of the “bishops” — plural, not singular. “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (Phil. 1:1).
People often use the word “church” when referring to a physical, religious structure, similar to the word “sanctuary.” People are heard speaking of a church building as their “church.” Yet, this view is completely erroneous. The word church is from the Greek ekklesia and simply means “the called out,” referring to the people who make up the church, the body of believers (Matt. 16:18). It is never used of an edifice. In New Testament terms, the church is made up of the saved, those who become a part of it when added to it by Jesus. The Scriptures are clear on this point. “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should besaved” (Acts 2:47).
For many years people have heard preachers speak of a coming spiritual “kingdom” on earth over which Jesus will reign for 1,000 years. Such a future kingdom is pure fantasy — nowhere taught in the Scriptures. The only kingdom found in the New Testament is the church of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 16:18-19 Jesus spoke of establishing His church and immediately referred to it as “the kingdom.” The kingdom existed in apostolic days (Col. 1:13) and the apostle John said that he and others were in that kingdom (Rev. 1:9). There is no such future kingdom. This teaching is part of the premillennial doctrine which separates the church from the kingdom. It says that when the kingdom Jesus came to establish was rejected, in its place He temporarily substituted the church. However, the church is not temporary,
for it was purchased with Jesus’ blood (Acts 20:28).
People are sometimes heard to speak of being a “witness” for Christ. What they mean is that they want to tell someone about Jesus. Though well meaning, they are misusing the word “witness.” Many preachers are guilty of encouraging people to “witness” for Jesus. However, no one today
can be a witness for Christ. Why? Because to be a witness one must be able to give first-hand evidence. The apostles were witnesses for Jesus and his resurrection, hence, they were actual eye witnesses. Jesus said to the apostles, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me ... Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of
his resurrection” (Acts 1:8,22). No one today can “witness” for Jesus. This is a false belief.
In the Catholic Church, priests are commonly called “Father.” This is another of the corrupted titles found in Catholicism. Sometimes priests have been known to become offended if someone failed to call them “father.” In Matthew 23 Jesus addressed the Jewish scribes and Pharisees, exposing their corruption. They were those who elevated themselves, desiring special
recognition of the people. They wore special religious garments and prayer charms. They wanted to be called by exclusive titles, such a Rabbi. It is here that Jesus plainly taught the people that the word “father” was never to be used as a religious title. “And call no man your father upon
the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven” (Matt. 23:9).
FAITH ONLY SALVATION
The idea of salvation by “faith only” is a doctrine widely held throughout the denominational world. This teaching began with the works of such men as John Calvin and Martin Luther
and was their response to the extreme works found in Catholicism. With them the pendulum swung from extreme ‘works’ to extreme ‘faith,’ whereas the Bible teaches a mutual harmony
of both faith and works. Yes, the lost are saved by faith, but not by faith alone. James plainly said that the lost are not justified by faith only. “Ye see then how that by works a man is
justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). Actually, the Scriptures include other steps in God’s plan of salvation: Repentance (Acts 17:30), Confession (Rom. 10:10), Baptism (Acts 22:16).
Holiness and Pentecostal Churches are known for emphasizing the word “sanctify.” They believe that in addition to being saved there is another level to reach in which one is truly “sanctified,” and is usually associated with being baptized with the Holy Spirit. However, such a belief is nowhere found in the Scriptures. The word “sanctify” (sanctification) simply means to be separated, that is, to be set apart from sin. The Bible clearly shows that being “washed” or “sanctified” or “justified” all refer to the same thing. “And such were some of you: but ye
are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). Hence, of itself the word “sanctify” has no special meaning.
Many Pentecostal Churches claim that people today can possess a power to speak in so-called mysterious “heavenly tongues.” When witnessing such “tongue speaking” it becomes obvious
that this is nothing more than lip stammering. By contrast, in the first century those with the gift of speaking in tongues did not speak in mysterious “tongues.” Rather, they spoke in human
languages in which they had not been educated. That was the miracle of it. On the day of Pentecost the apostles demonstrated this to be the case. “...Every man heard them speak in
his own language ... how hear we every man in our own tongue ... we do hear them speak in our own tongue” (Acts 2:6,8,11). The Scriptures clearly teach that the age of miracles, including
speaking in tongues, ceased long ago. “Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it
shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away” (1 Cor. 13:8-10).
HOLY SPIRIT BAPTISM
Some Pentecostal type Churches claim that people today can have a “baptism of the Holy Spirit” like the apostles received. However, such a claim is foolishness. The baptismal measure of the Holy Spirit received by the apostles was exclusively for them. Jesus told the apostles that only they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). This was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. “And there appeared unto them [apostles] cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:3-4). The baptismal measure of the Holy Spirit enabled the apostles to perform exceptional miracles, for example, raising the dead (Acts 9:49; 20:9-10). And notice that the apostle Paul spoke of the special “signs” of an apostle. “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (2 Cor. 12:12). All miraculous manifestations, including the baptism of the Holy Spirit, came to an end before the close of the first century (1 Cor 13:8-10). It is false to claim that people today can receive such a miraculous
measure of the Spirit.
Jehovah’s Witnesses and a few other religions are known for teaching that “hell” is not a real place and that no one will go there. They believe when the lost die they merely cease to exist, which means that hell is nothing more than death. However, Jesus exposed this idea when he taught that the souls of the lost continue to exist. “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell”
(Matt. 10:28). Additionally, Jesus spoke of hell as a place of “outer darkness” (Matt. 25:30). The apostle Paul, speaking of the lost said, “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from
the presence of the Lord... “ (2 Thess. 1:9). Likewise, the apostle Peter spoke of hell as the
“chains of darkness” (2 Peter 2:4), and Jude as “the blackness of darkness” (Jude 13).
Most of the protestant world teaches that God individually predestinates (selects) those who are to be saved, even before they are born. Though the Bible speaks of predestination (Rom. 8:29,30), this is not individual predestination. Rather, God has predetermined a group to be saved — that group being made up of all who choose to obey Him (Heb. 5:9). Individual predestination is false for two reasons. First, because the Scriptures teach that God wants all to be saved (2 Tim. 3:9). The water of life is for “whosoever” (Rev. 22:17). Second, because God does not favor any person over another, He is not a respecter of persons. “And Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him” (Acts 10:34-35).
In the Catholic Church, some deceased people are elevated to what is called “Sainthood” and hold a special place in Catholic veneration. Such people are said to be “Saints.” There are four steps before someone can become “Sainted” according to Catholicism. First, such a person must be submitted by a Catholic Bishop. Second, a Postulator (church official) who coordinates the process and serves as an advocate, must prove that the candidate lived heroic virtues. Third, one miracle acquired through the candidate’s intercession is required. Fourth, before Canonization, a second miracle is required. Then the Pope declares the person a “Saint.” Obviously, such teaching is nowhere found in the Scriptures. Actually, the word “saint” is simply a contraction of the word “sanctify” which means “to be set apart.” The fact is, all Christians are “saints” because they have been set apart to God. Ephesians 1:1 says, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus” (compare 1 Cor. 1:2; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:1). Also, it is quite evident that having died is not a qualification for being a “saint.”
This word is often falsely applied to a yet future wicked person. It is claimed that at some point this peculiar person will arise to wage a so-called “Armageddon” war against Christ. Such a doctrine is completely false, being entirely fabricated. There will be no such future person. The Scriptures clearly teach there was not one, but many anti-christs, and that they existed in the first century. “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that anti-christ shall come, even now there are man anti-christs...” (1 John 2:18). “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an anti-christ” (2 John 7). The fundamental belief of the anti-christs was that all flesh is inherently sinful. And since all flesh is sinful, Jesus could not have possessed a fleshly body. To them, Jesus only seemed to have a body of flesh, appearing rather in some spiritual, illusory form.
One aspect of premillennial doctrine is the belief that before a so-called millennial reign of Christ on earth, there will be a “tribulation” period of seven years on earth, corresponding with a seven-year “rapture” of the saved above the earth. Such teaching is nowhere found in the Scriptures and is completely false. The “tribulation” mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24:21 (to which premillennialists refer) was a tribulation that took place at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and was a part of several events that took place before that generation would die. “Verily, I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matt. 24:34). Also, the apostle John said that he and others were experiencing “tribulation” (Rev. 1:9). A yet future seven year tribulation on earth is perverted teaching.
Some, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, teach that man has no immortal soul, but that the soul is only man’s breath, and when man dies there is nothing which lives on. Such a teaching is repugnant and defies Biblical Scriptures. That man possesses a spiritual nature should be obvious to anyone who reads God’s word. In the very beginning it is abundantly clear that man was made in God’s own image. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them” (Gen. 1:27). Hence, man is in God’s spiritual image. Also, the Scriptures reveal that there is something about man (the soul) which exists after death. Jesus said, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). And, the apostle Paul said, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). Also, the Scriptures teach that at death the soul departs from the body. “And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died)...” (Gen. 35:18).
When referring to Sunday it is very common for people to use the word “Sabbath,” as in “Sabbath Sunday.” However, this is a misuse of the word. Sabbath (sabbaton) means “rest” and was the day on which the Jews, under the law of Moses, were to rest. The Scriptures never use the word “Sabbath” with reference to the first day of the week (Sunday). The two days (Saturday [7th] and Sunday [1st]) are completely separate. The first day of the week is the day on which Christians assemble to worship and partake of the Lord’s supper. “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight” (Acts 20:7).
The word “Armageddon” is another part of the premillennial doctrine that says when Christ returns He will reign over an earthly kingdom for 1,000 years. It is claimed that prior to this, there will be a great battle between Jesus and a so-called “anti-christ.” It is further assumed that this battle will occur at a literal place called Armageddon. However, this is just fanciful imagination. There is no such place as Armageddon. This is merely a symbolic name appearing only one time in the Bible — in the highly figurative book of Revelation (Rev. 16:16). But, this is not referring to a great, physical battle. Rather, the apostle John was symbolically addressing the spiritual conflict between Christ and Satan. Remember: It is always good to keep in mind that whenever a doctrine appeals to the symbolic book of Revelation for support, it is essential to be watchful.
It is discouraging to know that many words found in the Scriptures are used to promote distorted meanings. However, when these words are examined with a proper exegesis (interpretation), one can easily see the true intent of the inspired writers.