God’s Dictionary vs. Man’s

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. – (John 14:27, NASB)

Do you ever notice that the things of God don’t mean quite the same as the things of man? Christ spoke about what He had to offer, and specifically, as in the verse above, how it wasn’t like what the world had to offer. For example, worldly peace and worldly joy is based almost entirely on circumstances and events. The peace and joy that Christ gives we can have in all times and in all situations.

Not only that, but when He gave His interpretation of some of the ten commandments, they were quite different from what we typically have in mind. In fact, He proclaimed that getting into heaven was basically impossible – without God. Evidently, His interpretation was also quite different from that of the Jews of His day.

Now, I can’t say I know His whole dictionary or anything, but I would say that a huge part of coming to understanding the Bible, etc is to understand God’s definitions in contrast to our human definitions.

I personally speculate that some of the biggest misunderstandings with unbelievers starts merely at the definitions. It seems so basic, and yet if we miss it, it can change our entire perspective. This would be merely a problem in getting people to believe, if it weren’t that some who claim to be Christian also have these same problems! I think this is partly where a lot of cultic beliefs and false religions come from. I would definitely say that some come from intentional malevolence (desire for power, money, etc), but some could also come from misunderstandings. Even those that don’t originate from misunderstandings seem to be well fueled by them. A person may be confused about a particular issue, and if a group has an appealing solution, the confused person might be very drawn to join that particular group.

Even if someone doesn’t fully join a cult group, I think many people develop a similar way of thinking but minus a specific doctrine. For example, someone may decide that they believe in annihilationism, but not become a Jehovah’s Witness or Seventh Day Adventist or any other group that adheres to that belief. I disagree with annihilationism, but we’ll discuss that another time.

So, what is the difference God’s dictionary and man’s? Well, let’s first understand that man only knows what man knows! It may seem that I’m stating the obvious, but pride makes it very easy to overlook that. When we give thought to things that we are well aware we know nothing about, it’s easy to admit. For example, I could not even begin to tell you how to build a car. I know it. I only have vague knowledge of the parts that are even in a car, let alone how they all go together. I am not ignorant enough to try and tell anyone how to put a car together as though I have any knowledge or understanding myself. That’s no problem.

It’s a whole different story, however, if it comes to something that I do know, such as how to drive a car. I can’t drag race or drift around corners, but if someone starts telling me how I should drive, or implying that I can’t – we might exchange some words! (And if we did, that would be my pride showing its ugly face.)

I personally think that the same thing comes up with the definitions of God. We know how to love, we know how to trust, we know peace, and joy, and faith. Right? We know all these things. “Been there, done that.” I suspect that was roughly also the attitude of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Yes, they wanted to hold their power over the people, but Christ was also treading on their teachings themselves. He wasn’t just saying they were hypocrites, He was saying they weren’t good teachers, either. Now, that’s not all He said that was inflammatory, but even if He didn’t also claim He was God, His statements would have still been offensive to them.

So let’s get on with it, shall we? Let’s take a look at a few words that don’t quite mean to God what they mean to us.

Pride

Webster’s Definition:
: a feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people
: a feeling that you are more important or better than other people
: a feeling of happiness that you get when you or someone you know does something good, difficult, etc.

Man’s Definition:
Pride is something good, as long as it doesn’t lead to narcissism or someone too cocky. We typically say things like, “You should be proud of what you’ve done.” And we say, “Take pride in your work,” and, “Be proud of who you are.” Generally speaking, we value pride in ourselves and others, as long as it doesn’t go too far. We feel we deserve respect and we like to feel important. We know we are better at certain things than other people, and we enjoy showing things off and receiving the admiration that results. Many people don’t think they are prideful, except maybe when they’ve done something particularly great. Independence and self-sufficiency are sought after and valued amongst all.

God’s Definition:

This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24, NIV)

Pride is sin. This isn’t true every possible application of the word (as shown above), but the vast majority. Pride is at the heart of pretty much every sin, and it’s what tells man that he doesn’t need Christ. He doesn’t need God at all. He can do everything himself, why does he need God? Pride says that man doesn’t need salvation, he is a good person, so God should accept him as-is. Pride tells man that he worked for this, he obtained this, he did all the work and should take all the glory. Pride doesn’t acknowledge God having any part in anything. Pride is not thankful to God for anything because pride completely removes God from the picture. Pride tells man he can do all things – but doesn’t include, “through Christ who strengthens me”. Pride says that if you need God, you must be weak, but “I don’t need God.” Pride drives people towards independence and self-sufficiency and keeps them from God. Pride robs God of glory that only He deserves by proclaiming that we did everything ourselves. God hates pridefulness in man.

We should instead be proud of the God whom we serve, and the wonderful things He does. We should be proud of Christ our Savior, and the miraculous works He’s done for us, in providing the sacrifice for our sins.

Love

Webster’s Definition:
: a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person
: attraction that includes sexual desire : the strong affection felt by people who have a romantic relationship
: a person you love in a romantic way

Man’s Definition:
Love takes various forms. There’s love between a man and a woman, love between a parent and child, love between siblings, love between friends, love of pets, etc. There is the loose form of “love” which really means, “like very much”. For example, one might “love” their coworkers or even “love” a particular meal. There is also the misapplication of love, which is actually “lust” or “infatuation” and some even misapply it to mean “obsession”. Generally speaking, we use the word “love” to mean we care very deeply for someone. However, it’s often conditional in the sense that we may love someone we are dating, or a spouse, or even a child/parent, but if they do something to hurt us or hurt us too often, we may stop loving them.

God’s Definition:

For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. (Luke 6:23, KJV)

God is love. Many people know “what love is according to God” via 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, which states:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails… (1 Cor. 13:4-8, NASB)

As Dr. Benjamin says, you can replace “love” with “Jesus Christ” in the above verses and get a better picture of who Christ really is. That said, He died for us while we were sinners. It’s not that we stop sinning and then He starts loving us, He loved us from the beginning and loves us despite all the ways in which we have, do, and will wrong Him. God pours out His love on all people, even those who continually reject Him. As Matthew 5:45 says, He gives rain and sun to both the just and the unjust.

Sin

Webster’s Definition:
: offense against religious or moral law
: an action that is or is felt to be highly reprehensible
: an often serious shortcoming : fault
: transgression of the law of God
: a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God

Man’s Definition:
Sin is basically anything immoral or unethical. Theft, murder, adultery, lying to cover something up – the big stuff. “Little white lies” generally aren’t considered wrong. Eying another man/woman while married often isn’t considered wrong (“look but don’t touch”) depending on the couple, taking pens from work, those generally aren’t considered “sins”. Gambling may or may not be deemed a sin depending on the person, and sometimes people will imply other things as “sinful” behavior. Largely, if someone is talking with a Christian they will refer to the ten commandments as “what is sin”.

God’s Definition:

He [Jesus Christ] went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23, NIV)

We are born into sin. Sin is of separation from God and results in physical dying and spiritual death – that is, separation from God for all eternity. Jesus said that our thoughts alone make us sinful, not merely our outward physical actions. Having evil thoughts but not acting on them is still sin, because it is representative of our overall sinful nature.

Of course, this list of sins does not include the most important commands Jesus gave, which is:”You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind. And, Love your neighbor as yourself.”. According to Jesus, we are to love God with our whole being and love those around us to the same extent we love ourselves. So, if we are not doing that, it’s also sin. Not all sins are against other human beings (even though the majority are), but all sins are against God.

Time

Webster’s Definition:
: the thing that is measured as seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, etc.
: a particular minute or hour shown by a clock
: the time in a particular area or part of the world

Man’s Definition:
Well, there’s “that time of day”, “that time of night”, hours, minutes, and seconds on the clock, or days, months, and years. Time is what ticks by and we have to try to make the most of it before our time runs out. There’s the time in which we do things, and the time in which we rest. A time for work, and a time for play. Time causes us to age and time is “what heals all wounds”.

God’s Definition:

For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. (Psalm 90:4, KJV)

God is outside of time, in eternity. We as humans can’t fully comprehend eternity because we have only ever been within the realm of time. God created time in Genesis 1:3-5, so that is all we know. He is not restricted by the time He created for us, and He operates in every instant and moment. That is why a thousand years for God aren’t the same as a thousand years for us. God doesn’t age (except when Christ was in human form on earth and limited by his human nature). He is timeless.

Spirit/Soul

Webster’s Definition:
Spirit
: the force within a person that is believed to give the body life, energy, and power
: the inner quality or nature of a person
: a person
Soul
: the spiritual part of a person that is believed to give life to the body and in many religions is believed to live forever
: a person’s deeply felt moral and emotional nature
: the ability of a person to feel kindness and sympathy for others, to appreciate beauty and art, etc.

Man’s Definition:
The spirit or soul is the life within you that makes you You. We use the words in different ways as well such as, “spirit of independence”, “Christmas spirit”, or “soul food”, and often use them to simply characterize the emotions behind a particular action or thing. Many don’t believe that there is a spirit, or soul. Or, they believe that when someone dies, their spirit/soul dies also. Many atheists believe there is nothing besides the material world we live in consisting of atoms, molecules, and chemical reactions.

God’s Definition:

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and [I pray God] your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess. 5:23, KJV)

God is Spirit, and we each have a spirit/soul. Sometimes the words are used interchangeably, and other times they are not. For example, here is a verse referencing our soul:

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, KJV)

And here is a similar verse that instead references spirit:

Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. (Eccl. 12:7, KJV)

The soul, as it pertains to human beings, can refer to the entire person or just his or her actual soul. And spirit, can be used in a way similar to soul, or it can be used to describe how we connect with God. There are also evil spirits, as in demonic forces. But all spirits and generally, souls, are immaterial.

When we are born into our sin nature, we are born “spiritually dead” but when we come to Christ we are made “spiritually alive”. That is, we are born spiritually separated from the Life Giver, and when we come to Christ we are joined to the Life Giver and thus only then do we have life.

Good

Webster’s Definition:
: of high quality
: of somewhat high but not excellent quality
: correct or proper

Man’s Definition:
Good is the opposite of bad. Sometimes we describe things as good to mean “not great”. We say things “taste good” to mean they taste pleasant and appealing. Sometimes we say “good job”, to mean that someone has done well. People say they are “good” to mean that they don’t think they are “bad”.

God’s Definition:

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19, NASB)

God is the source of all goodness. Good is of course the opposite of bad, and that is true of God as well, but to a much higher degree than it means to us in human terms. He is the pure, complete form of all goodness. However, the word translated as “good” in Hebrew also has a sense of purposefulness and functionality. When God created the heavens and the earth and “saw that it was good”, it is to say that He saw it functioned as it was intended. It wasn’t merely unspoiled and pure, it worked as it was designed to. God created us for a purpose so to say that we aren’t good is, in part, to say that we don’t fulfill the purpose for which God designed us. Christ on the other hand is good, being God the Son, and having perfectly fulfilled the purposes of His human presence on earth.

Justice/Fairness

Webster’s Definition:
Justice
: the process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish crimes and criminals
: a judge in a court of law

Fairness
: agreeing with what is thought to be right or acceptable
: treating people in a way that does not favor some over others
: not too harsh or critical

Man’s Definition:
We perceive that justice should be fair, but sometimes when people are as we perceive to be “monsters” we no longer think about what is or isn’t just and fair. Fair means that everyone gets treated equally. Justice means that everyone gets their “just reward” – the good guys are rewarded, bad guys are punished.

God’s Definition:

Yet the children of your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ But it is their way which is not fair! When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die because of it. But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is lawful and right, he shall live because of it. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ (Ezekiel 33:14-19, ESV)

God is the source of all justice and fairness. He is the ultimate authority by which all will be judged, but He is 100% fair. However, he’s actually not fair in one way – His incredible mercy and grace. His grace gives us what we do not deserve at all. We all deserve the intense wrath of God for our wrongs, yet God gives us His incredible mercy instead, should we choose to accept it. If we do not choose to accept His salvation by way of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, then we are instead accepting His judgment. However, in His salvation, He is completely fair because Jesus died for all people, that all would choose to accept Him as their Savior. He knows that there are a great many who won’t, but He loves us all with His incredible love and pours out His grace, showering us with His mercy, thereby giving everyone the incredible gift of Himself. For everyone who chooses not to believe in Him, they will be responsible for their lack of response for as the Apostle Paul says:

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Romans 1:20-21, AKJV)

God makes it clear that He has provided ample evidence of Himself through His creation and His moral Law, therefore to not turn to Him requires a willfulness on our part. If we have heard the Gospel and rejected it, it will be on our heads come Judgment Day. If we have not heard the Gospel, but rejected any knowledge of God by His creation, then it will be on our heads according to what we have heard and have known and to what extent we have rejected Him. That said, He will be entirely fair in His dealings and no one will be able to say to Him, “That’s not true!” or, “That isn’t fair!” No one will be able to say, “Why should I be punished?” or “I didn’t know!” because He’s already made it perfectly clear in His Word. And few things will we be able to claim to not know were wrong because we all know His Law:

They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. (Romans 2:15, NLT)

Now, I realize that is a very short “dictionary”, but you get the idea. Our ways of defining things aren’t like the ways that God defines things. It’s not that we are consistently wrong, it’s that we are consistently limited. We only know what we know, we don’t know what we don’t know, and we don’t know how much we don’t actually know! We have limited understanding based on our restricted human nature, and at times even a tainted understanding based on our sinful nature.

It’s easy to see how people can get so confused about things of God, but once we understand some of the fundamental meanings of things as God defines them, we can better understand where some ways of thinking have gone astray.

Most importantly, we should look to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for the true understanding of God and all things of Him.

All things have been entrusted and delivered to Me by My Father; and no one fully knows and accurately understands the Son except the Father, and no one fully knows and accurately understands the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son deliberately wills to make Him known. (Matt. 11:27, AMP)

One thought on “God’s Dictionary vs. Man’s

  1. Pingback: But, I’m a Good Person! | Christianity, or Christ?

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