Saturday, May 5, 2012

How to Do Proper Word Studies - Part 2

Now, I could simply say, "I have studied the original Hebrew and Greek and I know what the Scriptures really say," but where would that leave you? What if you don't have the ability to check the accuracy of my study? How can you be sure for yourself? Let me help you. The fact is, anyone can do a good word study even if her or she doesn't know the original languages. In fact, you can make your study into a little game called "Fill in the Blank" or "Substitution."
I'll give you an example of how it works, using the English word "hard." This adjective can have several meanings, including "difficult" and "solid," but the context determines which meaning is correct. If we take the sentence, "The rock is hard," we can find out what "hard" means by filling in the blank with the appropriate synonym: "The rock is ____." What is the meaning of "hard" here? Obviously, the rock is not "difficult," the rock is "solid." But in the sentence, "The test is ____" (where the blank represents "hard") it is clear that the correct synonym works as a substitute. Simple, right? The same kind of study can be done with biblical words. List the verses in which certain Hebrew or Greek words occur in your English translation, and you can see the different ways the words are used in different contexts. Then, you begin to see the bigger picture, often enabling you to trace the ways that a word developed its different meanings.
Some years ago, when I did a serious study of the concept of grace in the Bible, I opened up my Hebrew and Greek concordances and examined every reference where the key words for "grace" occurred. Then, I arranged them in different categories and prayerfully analyzed their usage. I was amazed by what I found, especially in the New Testament!
You see, grace is more than "unmerited favor" (although unmerited favor is nothing to snivel at). It is more than God's Riches At Christ's Expense, although that acronym sums up everything we will ever have or experience in God. God's grace is more than a noun or a concept, more than the manner in which God deals with us (as in, "I'm saved by grace, and everything I do is by grace"). It's more than that.
Grace is His merciful, enabling help, His ongoing empowerment, His continued working on our behalf. It speaks of the Lord's past, present, and future action, expressing what Jesus does for us and not just what He did for us. As expressed by A.M. Hunter, "Grace means primarily free, forgiving love of God in Christ to sinners and the operation of that love in the lives of Christians."
[. . . .]
[H]ere is the surprising news: the New Testament word "grace" does not fundamentally mean "unmerited favor." its basic meaning does include favor (of any kind) along with kindness, but it also includes enablement and gifting, important concepts we often miss.
You see, God's grace not only did something amazing for us--forgiving us all our sins--but His grace continues to do something amazing for us: empowering us to live for Him. In fact, there was nothing revolutionary in the New Testament concept of grace meaning "favor" or "gift." What was revolutionary was the degree of favor shown to us through the Cross and the ongoing effectiveness of that favor in our lives. Grace finishes what it starts.

-Dr. Michael Brown, Go and Sin No More pp. 214-216

Recommended by Dr. Brown:

32079: Englishman"s Greek Concordance Englishman's Greek Concordance
By George V. Wigram / Hendrickson Publishers

32087: The Englishman"s Hebrew Concordance of the Old Testament The Englishman's Hebrew Concordance of the Old Testament
By George V. Wigram / Hendrickson Publishers

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