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What are the definitions of some common theological terms?

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The study of any piece of literature must begin with a study of the vocabulary of that piece of literature; that is, we must understand the words used in order to understand the work as a whole. A study of Scripture will uncover many terms that need to be properly defined to ensure proper interpretation. A further delving into theology (“the study of God”) will involve even more theological terms not found in Scripture but which are useful in understanding the truths of God’s Word. Here are the definitions of some of the more common theological terms, arranged alphabetically:

Ascension – “the physical, visible departure of the risen Lord Jesus to heaven, ending His earthly ministry” (see Acts 1:9–11)

Atonement – “the act of God by which He reconciles sinful humanity to Himself, causing enmity to end and fellowship to begin” (see Leviticus 17:11; 23:27)

Bema Seat – another term for the Judgment Seat of Christ, using the Greek word for “throne”

Christ – literally, “Anointed One” or “Chosen One”; the Greek equivalent of Messiah (see John 1:41)

Confess – “to admit one’s sin; to agree with God; to profess one’s faith” (see Psalm 38:18; 1 John 1:9; 2 Corinthians 9:13)

Covenant – “an agreement between two parties involving promises from each to the other” (see Genesis 15:18; Luke 22:20)

Day of the Lord – “the period of judgment and restoration at the end of time, as God punishes the wicked and sets up His kingdom on earth” (see Zechariah 14:1–5; 1 Corinthians 1:8)

Dispensation – “God’s administration of a certain period of time; a divinely appointed age” (see Acts 14:16; Hebrews 1:1–2)

Elect – “the person or group chosen by God to receive special favor or to perform special service” (see Matthew 24:31; Romans 11:7)

Exegesis – “the study of a particular text of Scripture in order to properly interpret it; the process of understanding a text and making plain its meaning” (see 2 Timothy 2:15)

Faith – “belief in and commitment to God; confidence in God’s character, will, and Word; trust” (see Romans 5:1; Hebrews 11:6)

Fall of man – “humanity’s loss of innocence resulting in his current state of sinfulness, corruption, and alienation from God, precipitated by the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden” (see Genesis 3)

Grace – “God’s blessing on the undeserving; unmerited favor” (see Acts 11:23; Ephesians 2:8)

Great White Throne Judgment – “the final judgment of the wicked before God” (see Revelation 20:11–15)

Hermeneutics – “the study of biblical interpretation” (see 2 Timothy 2:15)

Illumination – “the Holy Spirit’s work of providing spiritual insight into God’s Word so that His children can know Christ better” (see Ephesians 1:17–18)

Immutability – “the quality of God that shows Him to be unchanging in who He is” (see Malachi 3:6)

Impute – “to charge something to the account of another” (see Philemon 1:18; Romans 5:12–19)

Incarnation – “the occasion of God the Son taking on human flesh and becoming a man” (see John 1:14; Philippians 2:6–8)

Indwelling – “the work of the Holy Spirit by which He lives within the believer, sealing him or her until the day of redemption” (see John 14:17; 1 Corinthians 6:19)

Inerrancy – “the Scriptures’ lack of error in their original autographs” (see Psalm 19:7)

Iniquity – “sin, evil, or wickedness” (see Psalm 38:18; Isaiah 53:6)

Inspired – “God-breathed; the quality of Scripture that ensures its inerrancy, infallibility, and authority” (see 2 Timothy 3:16)

Judgment Seat of Christ – “the judgment of believers who will give an account of their lives to Christ” (see Romans 14:10)

Justification – “the act by which God, for Christ’s sake, declares a guilty sinner acceptable in His sight” (see Romans 3:28; 5:1)

Messiah – literally “Chosen One” or “Anointed One”; the Hebrew equivalent of Christ (see Matthew 1:1)

Omnipotence – “the divine quality of having all power” (see Jeremiah 32:17)

Omnipresence – “the divine quality of being everywhere at the same time” (see Psalm 139:7–12)

Omniscience – “the divine quality of possessing all knowledge” (see Psalm 139:4; Matthew 9:4)

Predestined – “being chosen by God’s sovereign determination ahead of time; in matters of salvation, chosen to be conformed to the likeness of God’s Son, justified, and glorified” (see Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:11)

Propitiation – “satisfaction; the appeasement of God’s wrath through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross” (see Romans 3:25; 1 John 4:10)

Rapture – “the event in which God snatches away all believers from the earth” (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18; 1 Corinthians 15:50–54)

Reconciliation – “the process by which God makes peace between Himself and sinful humanity through the atoning work of Christ” (see Romans 5:8; Colossians 1:21–22)

Redemption – “the act of paying a purchase price by which sinners are delivered from death and sin” (see Romans 3:24; Ephesians 1:7)

Regeneration – “a new birth; the spiritual change that God works in a person’s heart to enable faith and salvation” (see Matthew 19:28; Titus 3:5)

Remission – “forgiveness; a release from sin” (see Hebrews 9:22)

Repentance – “a change of mind; a turning from sin, accompanied by a turning to God” (see Matthew 18:3; Luke 5:32)

Revelation – “an unveiling or uncovering; concerning Scripture, the revealing of God’s Word about Himself and His plan of salvation for the world” (see Daniel 10:1; Romans 16:25)

Righteousness – “holiness; a following of God’s perfect standards” (see Romans 3:22; Galatians 3:6)

Salvation – “deliverance from sin, death, and the wrath of God” (see Psalm 13:5; Hebrews 2:3)

Sanctification – “a setting apart for special use; the process by which God changes the sinner into the image of His Son” (see John 17:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:3)

Second Coming of Christ – “the physical return of Jesus Christ to earth with the armies of heaven at His side to judge His enemies, set up His kingdom, and fulfill the prophecies to Israel” (see Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 24:30; Revelation 1:7)

Sin – “lawlessness; disobedience to God’s will, by either commission or omission, in thought, word, or deed” (see 1 John 3:4; Romans 3:23)

Sovereignty – “God’s complete control over all things in nature and the affairs of men, past, present, and future” (see Isaiah 45:9–13)

Temptation – “an enticement to sin or an invitation to disobey God” (see Matthew 26:41; 1 Corinthians 10:13)

Transfiguration – “the shining forth of divine glory in Jesus Christ in His earthly form” (see Matthew 17:1–8)

Transgression – “sin; any violation of a law or command” (see Psalm 32:1; Isaiah 53:5)

Trinity – “the doctrine that the One God exists in three distinct Persons, three centers of self-consciousness possessing one indivisible essence” (see Deuteronomy 6:4; Matthew 3:16–17)

Virgin Birth – “the unique act of God by which Jesus Christ was begotten in a virgin’s womb; the method through which the Son of God entered the world of humanity” (see Luke 1:34–35)

Worship – “reverence and devotion; the attributing of glory and honor; biblical worship is directed toward God alone” (see 1 Samuel 1:19; Psalm 29:2; Revelation 15:4)

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This page last updated: January 4, 2022