Ever wondered what Christians are talking about when they use words such as, “anointed,” “take up your cross,” or, “washed in the blood?” Well we’ve got the answers for you in our growing collection of commonly used (though often vague) Christian terms. This is what we are calling our Christianese Dictionary.
Allelujah: “Praise God!” Invitation to praise God. (Revelation 19:1,3-4,6). (See hallelujah)
Amen: “Well said,” “I agree,” “So be it.” In the Bible, this phrase demonstrated excitement and conviction about God’s promises. Used at the beginning and/or end of solemn statements or praises (Revelation 7:12). Jesus was called “the Amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20; Revelation 3:14) as the person in whom we find God’s promises.
Alms: 1. Offering. Portion of one’s possessions given to the poor. (Acts 3:2) 2. Kind act. Act of compassion motivated by wanting to please God (Acts 9:36). Note: We are to give privately so that only God can see, and to give according to what we have (Matthew 6:1-4; Luke 11:41).
Anoint: To pour or smear oil on. Usually a ceremony that indicates a person’s appointment to a divine task. Done for kings and priests (Exodus 28:41; 1 Samuel 15:1,17). Jesus was God’s Anointed, the Messiah (Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38). Sometimes part of a healing process (Mark 6:13) or in daily use (Ruth 3:3; Matthew 6:17).
Apostle: One sent on a mission. An apostle has a message and is authorized to act on behalf of the sender. Jesus’s disciples were first His students, and then became apostles, taking the message of salvation.
Atonement: To cover, to cancel one’s sins (Exodus 30:16). Making two into one (Romans 5:8-11). Atonement is motivated by the love of God, and occurs by the shedding of blood. By shedding His blood on the cross, Jesus made atonement so that we might become one with God.
Baptism: Immersion, submersion (Romans 6:1-4). Water baptism for new Christians calls for special attention (Matthew 28:18-20). Baptism itself doesn’t save a person, but rather, is a demonstration of the believer’s obedience to Christ.
Bless: To give good, wish good, be thankful, praise God. When God blesses, He helps, favors, makes happy (Genesis 1:28; 12:2-3; 14:19-20, Acts 3:26; Matthew 5:3-12). When people bless God, they do so by praising, worshipping, and giving thanks to Him (Psalms 103).
Luke Cawley wrote a fantastic post titled How NOT to Speak Christianese featured on InterVarsity Evangelism. In his post, Luke suggests ways to bridge the cultural gap between those who speak fluent Christianese, and those who are unfamiliar with its terminology.
In most contexts, translation is a great alternative to explanation. Translation occurs when we take an unfamiliar word and, instead of expending vast energy explaining it, we simply substitute it with a different word or phrase.Luke Cawley, InterVarsity Evangelism
Boast: This could be used in a positive or negative manner. In the appropriate sense, it is used to praise or speak about God. In a negative sense, on the other hand, it is the action of taking pride in oneself and his/her actions. A proper synonym for this term would be to brag. (Psalm 52:1)
Body: Often used as a symbol of the church or Christians. (Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14; Colossians 1:18)
Bones: Most commonly noted in the book of Ezekiel, bones symbolize the hopeless condition of the people of Israel. God promised the bones would rise, which offered hope to Israel. (Ezekiel 37:11-14)
Born Again: A second birth that is spiritual. In the Christian realm, to receive Christ as Lord and Savior and to commit your life to Him. Jesus told Nicodemus it was necessary to be born again to have a right relationship with God (John 3:5-18) Ephesians 2:1-10 identifies the factors of grace, faith, and salvation as a gift.
Burning Bush: The thorny bush God caused to burn in order to catch Moses’s attention in Exodus 3:2. This is commonly used as a metaphor in reference to how God catches our attention today.
Call, Calling: A summons or appointment from God to serve Him in specific ways for specific purposes. This may refer to a vocation, or to God’s calling to say ‘yes’ to Him for all of life. God’s calling is an invitation to become Christians, followers of God in Christ.
‘Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.” ‘1 Samuel 3:4
‘As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. ‘Ephesians 4:1-3
Calvary: Place near Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified (Luke 23:33). This term literally means “the skull.” This is the Greek/Latin equivalent for the Hebrew Golgotha (Matthew 27:33; Mark 15:22; John 19:17)
Christ: Christ is the Hebrew word Messiah, meaning anointed one specially chosen for an important purpose. The title Christ identifies Jesus as the anointed Son of God, the true Messiah, the Savior of the world. Jesus was used most often as His earthly name and Christ as His eternal name. Christ is the Greek word for the Hebrew word Messiah.
‘Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” ‘Matthew 16:16
‘But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” ‘Mark 14:61-62
‘how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. ‘Acts 10:38
Christian: Follower of Jesus Christ. One who belongs to Christ. Christians commit themselves to Christ and ideally become increasingly like Him. They trust in Jesus Christ to guide their decisions, actions, and attitudes. The name apparently was first used by pagans to ridicule Jesus’s followers, but it became a label Christians wore proudly. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch, a Galatian city where Paul preached, started a church, and was persecuted.
‘However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. ‘1 Peter 4:16
‘and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. ‘Acts 11:26
What phrases would you like us to include? Let us know in the comments below!