A gospel glossary is vital to understand scripture as it is necessary to understand the words the Bible uses to convey its truths. This is especially true in regards to the character of God and the gospel both of which have been misunderstood. There are two major and very different ways (or paradigms) with which to understand much of scripture. The words included in this gospel glossary will be examined in relation to both “The Biblical Healing Model” and “The Traditional Legal Model” of the gospel. Which model a person holds very much affects their understanding of the character of God.
Quick direct links to extended glossary definitions: accuser, appease, atonement, believe/faith, blood, blot, books/records, breach, chasten, condemnation, conscience, covenants, curse, debt, destroy/destruction, destroyer, discomfit, dominion, fear/awe, fire, forgiveness, forsake, glory, gospel, guilt, hardened, hiding the face, imputed, intercession, intercessor, jealous, judgment, just (a just man), just (God is just), justice, justification/justified, kill/murder, law, longsuffering, love, mark, mercy, name, omniscience, overthrow, perfection, pricks, probation, propitiation, punishment, ransom, recompense, reconciliation, remission, repentance, righteousness, sacrifice, sanctification, sanctuary, second death, sent, shame, sin, sin (made to be), sinner, smote, strange act, sword, vengeance, visit, worship, wrath/anger
- Only brief definitions, usually in relation to the two models, will be given on this page. For each word, there is (or will be) a link to a more extensive discussion in terms of some or all of the following especially in relation to the two gospel models and the character of God.
- A Modern Dictionary Definition – The source of definitions used here (unless indicated otherwise) is: http://www.dictionary.com/
- Definitions in Earlier Dictionaries – Translators of the King James Version (published 1611) would have understood according to then-current definitions. Most other versions we use came after 1611. Since words can change meaning over time, it makes sense to see if certain words had different meanings closer to the time they were incorporated into the Bible versions we are looking at. The source most used here is the 1828 edition of Webster’s Dictionary found at: http://webstersdictionary1828.com/.The dictionary definitions provided in this glossary may include only a portion of the various definitions given, with emphasis on those that are most important in relation to understanding the gospel and the character of God.
- Greek/Hebrew Word Meanings – The source of definitions most used here is The Online Bible (http://www.onlinebible.net/)
- Other sources – Links may also be provided to other authors who have given particularly good explanations of particular words.
- Biblical Usage – looking at how the Bible itself uses the original words in various contexts often reveals much about their meaning. Verses referred to will be from The King James Version unless specified. This can be very important in determining word meanings. To a considerable degree, the Bible can be its own dictionary.
- Key examples from the Bible will be given in many cases. In fact, one of the best ways to understand many words is to understand how the Bible itself defines them. By looking at all the verses using a particular original word, always in context, the meaning often becomes much clearer. That, of course, tends to make word studies much longer.
How about letting the Bible itself tell us what its words mean? Isn’t that logical?
The Traditional Legal Model
God designed His law and imposed arbitrary penalties – ultimately, death – for violations which are called sins. Since He is a God of justice, evil stirs up His anger or wrath which must be appeased by a sacrifice including the shedding of blood. Those who finally reject salvation come under the awful curse of God who hates sin and will finally take vengeance by smiting sinners with fire from heaven – the second death.
A sinner whose guilty conscience brings conviction for his sinfulness can confess and be granted forgiveness because the ransom has been provided to legally cancel the debt. The propitiation brings atonement for the sins, the record of which is then erased from the books of heaven. The repentant sinner, by faith, is justified and declared to be righteous. Having received salvation, he grows in sanctification towards perfection and, in the final investigative judgment, he will not come under condemnation.
The Biblical Healing Model
God designed His law as the law of life, violations of which have intrinsic, natural consequences leading towards death. Those who rebel against His law of love will exhibit that rebellion in unrighteous acts – sins. This state of sinfulness causes condemnation in the conscience and has punishment built into it. When a person persists in rejection of and distrust in God, God honors that free-will choice and in “anger” leaves the sinner to the consequences (effectively, the penalty) of his choices.
If guilt brings conviction enough to cause a sinner to choose repentance, he will receive forgiveness which has already been granted by God to all. A realization of the grace and glory (character) of God to provide salvation leads the sinner to trust (have faith in) God; to be justified or set right with Him – what the Bible calls atonement – the condition of being “at one” with God. The repentant sinner then, as He beholds the righteousness of Christ, grows in sanctification towards perfection of character. Christ’s life (typified by His blood) and sacrifice frees (ransoms) us from what held us captive – the lies of Satan about the character of God and our own sinful natures.
To Get the Message You Need to Know the Meaning of the Words
The descriptions above will be much more understandable when the proper definitions for the terms are understood. You will see that the two models are very different indeed. One has to think of what Paul said very early in Christian history:
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:” (Gal 1:6)
Supplemental terms. There are other words (not used in the Bible) that help to understand the terms in this glossary. Those are listed with brief definitions at https://characterofgod.org/supplemental-terms/.
Supporting information. There are also extra pages for some words that give additional information for some definitions. These are referred to within each definition page and are listed in the index page under each glossary word.
Idioms. Important to understanding some terms and thus the Bible is awareness of its use of idioms. A guest article by Troy Edwards gives some background on idioms and their importance.
Remember, short descriptions only are included here. Follow the headings for each word which are links (when available) to more detailed studies of individual words. Remember, the emphasis is on how word meanings vary between the two models of the gospel. Word definitions may be updated with further information (or in response to reader feedback).
Now, here is (the beginnings of) the gospel glossary:
The Character of God and the Gospel Glossary
Advocate – see entry for “intercession”
Anger – see entry for “wrath”
Appease (follow link for detailed definition)
Traditional Legal Model – thought of in the sense of satisfying the wrath of an offended God.
Biblical Healing Model – the Bible does not use the word in relation to God. He does not need to be appeased.
Traditional Legal Model – satisfaction of God’s justice by a legal payment of debt.
Biblical Healing Model – the process to become or the state of being at one with God.
Traditional Legal Model – “Blood” (the bodily fluid) is the means or currency used for the payment for sin. Shed blood is required for sin to be cancelled (Heb 9:22).
Biblical Healing Model – The blood is a metaphor representing the life. So Jesus’ blood stands for His life. We are saved by His life (Rom 5:10).
Blot (Blot Out)
Traditional Legal Model – When payment in blood has been made and accepted by the sinner, the debt of his guilt and record of his sin is blotted out.
Biblical Healing Model – Heaven’s objective is to blot sin out from the heart/mind of the sinner so that it no longer has dominion over him.
Traditional Legal Model – a legal account of every sin a person has committed and whether it has been pardoned or not to be used as the basis for judgment (Rev 20:12).
Biblical Healing Model – a record of each person’s:
- acts, good and bad
- choices, especially to love and trust God or not
- individuality and character
The books/records are involved in determining (largely a self-determination) if a person is healed of their sin sickness and thus are safe to save.
Traditional Legal Model – some define a breach as God’s action to punish sin. Examples are given.
Biblical Healing Model – breaches are the actions of man breaking God’s law and the results of those actions (so both a verb and noun). Breaches can, ultimately, include broken relationships.
Traditional Legal Model – God condemns and has negative feelings towards sinners and will impose punishment on them if they don’t make things right.
Biblical Healing Model – God does not condemn or have negative feelings towards sinners. His focus and efforts are always to heal and restore.
Traditional Legal Model – While God is a God of love, to satisfy justice and for the good of man, He, at times, has to personally and directly destroy unrepentant sinners.
Biblical Healing Model – Yes, God does destroy as the Bible plainly says He does, but He destroys in the sense of not restraining or preventing the natural consequences of man’s choice and actions from occurring.
Traditional Legal Model – The destroyer is Satan at times and God is at other times in order to maintain His justice.
Biblical Healing Model – The destroyer is always Satan. God only destroys in the sense that He allows it to happen.
Fear (and Awe)
Both models share the meaning of to be in awe of or have reverence for God. The difference in understanding of the other major meaning – to be afraid – is examined in more detail.
Traditional Legal Model – If you sin, you are in danger of God’s judgment, condemnation and, ultimately, His punishment if that sin is not paid for. You had better be afraid and that fear is, in fact, a motivator for repentance.
Biblical Healing Model – Sin always has negative consequences from which God works to protect us. Even the sinner need not be afraid of God but, rather, needs to fear the sin. Sin is sin because of the hurt it can cause to the sinner not because God arbitrarily decided which actions are sinful or not.
Traditional Legal Model – Forgiveness for sin (acceptance of the sinner by God and erasing sin’s record) can only happen via the shedding of blood (meaning death) of a substitute.
Biblical Healing Model – Forgiveness is always freely granted by God. He does not hold our sins against us. The sinner need only recognize that forgiveness is offered and accept it.
Note: I have written a book/ebook Biblical Forgiveness: Are There Two Types?
Traditional Legal Model – the emphasis is often on God’s majesty, holiness, honor, fame and power. It could be thought of as “look at how great I am.”
Biblical Healing Model – God’s glory is mainly the attributes of His character that are more other-centered: His love, goodness, forgiveness, respect for the freedom of others; even His humbleness.
Traditional Legal Model – To be hardened is understood to be an individual’s action of resisting or refusing truth.
Biblical Healing Model – The meaning is the same but the word is included in the glossary to clearly distinguish who is responsible for the hardening.
Intercession (includes discussion of “advocate” and “mediator”)
Traditional Legal Model – Christ pleading with His Father to convince Him to forgive us.
Biblical Healing Model – Christ and His Father together dealing with evil, the forces of nature and with ourselves for our benefit.
Traditional Legal Model – The intercessor, Christ, works on our behalf because we are not capable of dealing directly with the Father, the Divine Judge. Being both man and God, Jesus can bridge the gap and plead our case.
Biblical Healing Model – Christ functions as Intercessor for our benefit in a number of ways but certainly not to defend us against a strict Judge. The Father Himself is also an intercessor on our behalf.
Traditional Legal Model – the legal determination of guilt or innocence and pronouncement of arbitrarily-imposed punishment.
Biblical Healing Model – the determination of the state of the heart (diagnosis), therapeutic interventions, and pronouncement of natural result on one’s life choices.
Traditional Legal Model
There is some variation in understanding:
- From the Jewish point of view a ‘just man’ was a strict observer of the laws of Moses and of rabbinical traditions.” (SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, p283)
- Proverb 20:7 says “The just man walketh in his integrity …” The just man has a sound, upright and consistent moral character.
- Some would view a just man as one who is always obedient; viewed as perfect in God’s eyes.
Biblical Healing Model
A just man is one who has been set right (justified) in his relationship with God. A right relationship with God can only be established with a correct understanding of His character and an acceptance and reflection of that in our own lives.
Traditional Legal Model – Most sources will mention one or both of two ways to understand God is just:
- “For God to be just means that he is consistent, virtuous, innocent, and right.”
- “if God is fully just, He must punish our sins fully without holding back”
The emphasis between the two concepts will vary from one source to another but both understandings are commonly held.
Biblical Healing Model – God is just in that He always does the right thing agreeing with the first definition listed above. What is right from His character of love includes honoring the free will of others allowing complete freedom of choice without force or any threat. When we choose wrong, He freely allows us to have the consequences we have (knowingly or unknowingly) chosen. “You reap what you sow.” That is the sense in which God “punishes” sin contrary to the second definition above.
Traditional Legal Model – justice demands the penalty/wages of death and eternal separation from God. It is only satisfied if the guilty person pays that penalty or if someone else pays on his behalf. Justice is retributive.
Biblical Healing Model – justice is doing the right thing which is to restore to a right state, to heal and to save. It is right to treat others as we wish to be treated, to not hold grudges and to not keep account of sins. Justice is restorative.
Justification (includes justified)
Traditional Legal Model – the declaration that a person is right with God in a legal sense – his sins being forgiven and the penalty paid.
Biblical Healing Model – to cure man’s condition in the sense of setting man’s heart right (or justifying it) with God.
Kill (includes discussion of “murder”)
Traditional Legal Model – To kill as in “Thou shalt not kill” (The sixth commandment, Exo 20:13) is to commit what we would call murder, the malicious and unjustified taking of another life. It does not include killing in self-defense, times of war or in judicial acts.
Biblical Healing Model – To kill is to take the life of another human under any circumstances or for any reason.
Traditional Legal Model – rules made by God to govern our behavior which, if transgressed, incur the penalty/wages of death (Rom 6:23).
Biblical Healing Model – “law” is used in two major ways:
- God’s laws are the design template for life and are based on love, the defining characteristic of God, (“God is love” – 1 John 4:8) deviations from which, if not corrected, naturally end in death.
- Specific laws given as diagnostic tools (“By the law is the knowledge of sin” – Rom 3:20) to show man his condition – whether or not he is in harmony with God’s law which is the principle of love and the template for life.
Love is defined in a practical way by the life and words of Jesus Who came to show the true meaning of “God is love” (1 John 3:4, 8). From the perspective of the two models of the gospel, the “definitions” below point out the major difference in how God’s love functions toward sinners.
Traditional Legal Model – Because of God’s love, He sent His Son to pay the legal penalty of death so that He could forgive and save us.
Biblical Healing Model – Because God loves us, He forgives us unconditionally, holds nothing against us and sent His Son to show what that love is like.
“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9)
Notice that, in the Healing Model, the forgiveness came even before Jesus was sent (and came willingly). Because of the hardness of hearts, that revelation of His Father’s love was almost entirely rejected with the result that wicked men betrayed and murdered Him (Acts 7:52).
Traditional Legal Model – Mark as in “the mark of the beast” is often connected with Sunday worship. Sometimes (incorrectly) it is seen as an outward symbol on the forehead.
Biblical Healing Model – There is the day of worship connection but mark, in this context, is also connected to character. Those who have the mark of the beast will have a character to match the beast while those who have the seal of God will have the character of God.
Murder – see entry for “kill”
Mediator – see entry for “intercession”
Traditional Legal Model and Biblical Healing Model – the meaning of the term “name” is not so different between the two models. However, it is included in the glossary to emphasize that name is more connected to character than most people realize. There are many verses where understanding this strong connection will shed light on God’s character.
Traditional Legal Model – To overthrow, as understood in the case of Nineveh, is God’s work to destroy a people/city as punishment for their wickedness.
Biblical Healing Model – To overthrow, as in that case, can also refer to God’s work to change the hearts of the people.
Traditional Legal Model – A period of time allotted by God at the end of which He will examine our life record and determine whether to save us or not.
Biblical Healing Model – The opportunity given by God for us to decide for or against having a relationship with Him. If we allow Him to heal us then we are safe to save. We make the decision, not Him.
Traditional Legal Model – Pain or some other penalty (including temporal and eternal death) actively imposed by God as just retribution for sins committed.
Biblical Healing Model – God honoring man’s free will by allowing the natural consequences of a chosen action to take place.
Traditional Legal Model – Reconciliation happens with the death of Christ allowing God to again favor man (God reconciled to man) and legally forgive his sins. Man can then know he is forgiven and the relationship of trust is reestablished (man reconciled to God).
Biblical Healing Model – The death of Christ, being the greatest revelation of the self-sacrificing love of God, assures man of God’s forgiveness and reconciles him to God. Reconciliation is one-way only – man to God – as God always looks with favor and infinite love on man.
Note: “sanctuary” can have a few meanings. The sanctuary this page is most concerned with is that most often referred to as the heavenly sanctuary that is to be cleansed as in Daniel 8:14 “then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.”
Traditional Legal Model – The sanctuary is heaven or a part thereof comparable to the Israelite sanctuary on Earth where Jesus, in some understandings, carries on the legal aspect of the work of salvation BY cleansing the heavenly books of the record of people’s confessed sins.
Biblical Healing Model –While Jesus, in human form, is physically in the heavenly sanctuary, through His omnipresent spirit, He aids each of us as we cooperate with Him in the process of cleansing the sanctuary heaven is most concerned with – the minds of His people on earth.
Traditional Legal Model – God, in strict justice, sent disasters of many types upon both Israel and their enemies often as punishment for their sins.
Biblical Healing Model – In many cases, God was said to send disasters upon people when, in reality, He was merely allowing what would come without His protection.
Traditional Legal Model – Sin is simply the act of breaking God’s rules. If He says don’t do it and you do it then that is a sin; you have sinned and you are a sinner. Breaking His rules requires the administration of a penalty to maintain God’s justice.
Biblical Healing Model – A sin is the act of breaking God’s “rules.” However, the rules must be understood correctly (see “law“) as diagnostic tools to show us our condition; our sinful nature. That sinful nature is a mind that does not trust God fully and may even be in full rebellion against Him. The word “sin” can describe any of:
- a choice to willfully rebel against God
- our sinful nature (sinful flesh)
- individual acts (symptoms of that sinful, fallen condition)
Sin, made to be (includes discussion of “sinful flesh”)
Traditional Legal Model – Christ was made or reckoned to be as though He was a sinner, He was counted as guilty and, as such, was punished by God. In God’s reckoning, the penalty Christ paid satisfies God’s justice and the demands of the law and means we don’t have to pay the penalty we deserve.
Biblical Healing Model – Christ was (at His incarnation) made to have sinful or fallen flesh, the same flesh we have which could be tempted (so no advantage over us), flesh weakened relative to Adam’s flesh by 4000 years of sin being passed down. In that human nature, by faith, He totally depended on His Father and never once yielded to temptation.
Traditional legal Model – a sinner is someone who commits a sin as in “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” (1 John 3:4) However, many people would call someone a sinner only if they were particularly bad and significantly worse (in terms of visible acts) than themselves.
Biblical Healing Model – the Bible says that “all have sinned” (Rom 3:23) therefore all are sinners by nature even before they are sinners by action. A sinner is not a sinner merely because of an action. They are already sinners by inherited nature. However, that nature can change upon repentance, (a change of heart) at which point the person (while perhaps not sinless) has a different attitude towards God and could be referred to as a saint.
Traditional Legal Model – Smote or to smite is used both as a physical blow or as the conscience being smitten.
Biblical Healing Model – The word is used similarly except that this model recognizes that often when God is said to smite it is by withdrawing His protection. It is also understood in the sense of to get someone’s attention.
Traditional Legal Model: For the good of the universe and to end their misery God destroys the lost in His “strange act.”
Biblical Healing Model: As in the examples included in the verse where it is mentioned (Isa 28:21), God, not being a God of force or coercion, honors man’s free will choices. It is a strange act for Him to do it, but He allows man to receive the even hurtful natural consequences of his decisions.
Traditional Legal Model – mainly, the sword is used by God as a symbol of His justice or revenge either executed personally or through Israel’s enemies.
Biblical healing Model – the sword is used as a symbol of the consequences (often via Israel’s enemies) of his people departing from Him and thus losing his protection. It is never wielded by God’s hand to inflict injury.
It is used symbolically in both models to represent God’s word. This page especially focuses on how it might cause division (as in “… I came not to send peace, but a sword.” Matt 10:34) without God being to blame for it.
Traditional Legal Model – God inflicting punishment on the sinner in order to satisfy justice.
Biblical Healing Model – God allowing the sinner to experience the natural consequences of his choice to break the law in order to help him change his ways.
Traditional Legal Model: In the Old Testament, the common phrase “to visit the iniquity” is understood in the sense of “to punish.”
Biblical Healing Model: The common Hebrew word used is “paqad” often meaning to visit to bless but, at times, is clearly stated as visiting to punish. When so used, however, it is punishing in the sense of allowing the natural consequences of wrong actions to occur.
Traditional Legal Model – God’s outrage at the wrong done to Him; at how He has been treated. It is directed towards the one who has carried out the act and has a degree of retribution associated with it – to make the offender pay; to even the score so to speak. Includes God’s actions towards the offender.
Biblical Healing Model – How God feels and what He does in reaction to man’s sinful/distrustful actions. What He usually does is to allow people to have their desire/go the way they want etc. Also giving people over to the consequences of what they have chosen, even if detrimental.
Glossary Supplemental Terms
These words and terms do not appear in the Bible (KJV) but are useful to know the meaning of in order to understand words in the glossary. See all the definitions for supplemental terms at: https://characterofgod.org/supplemental-terms/
Biblical Healing Model
Traditional Legal Model
Additional words and terms will be added to the Character of God and the Gospel Glossary as the definitions are completed. If you would like to receive notice of additions to the glossary, click the link for updates in the upper right column of this page. If you see issues with my wording in any of these definitions please let me know.