10 Words in the Bible that Everyone Should Understand

Jason Soroski

Contributing Writer
Updated Nov 22, 2023
10 Words in the Bible that Everyone Should Understand

The Bible is filled with beautiful language, and these words have the ability to point us to the truth and provide a path to live life to the fullest. Yet there are many words that can be confusing to the average reader. Understanding a little more about these 10 words will undoubtedly unlock deeper meaning as we seek to listen to God’s Word.

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A woman praying

1. Amen

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation” (Revelation 3:14).

Amen may be among the most familiar words from the Bible, but many of us don’t know what the word really means. Many of us know the word amen as a closing to a prayer, and there is an important reason why we end prayers with the word amen.

Amen is a Hebrew word that is essentially an affirmation of truth or agreement, meaning something like ‘so be it’, or ‘it is true.’ When we end a prayer with the word amen, we are acknowledging that we believe God actively hears our prayers, and that our prayers will be answered by him in his time. Amen is an expression that all those things we just asked for in prayer – all the things we praised God for, all the questions, all the pain and the joy we express in prayer – are founded in the truth of God.

2. Selah

“Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people! Selah” (Psalm 3:8).

The word Selah is found sprinkled throughout the Psalms, and we are not completely certain exactly what it means. Regardless, it’s prominent role in Scripture means that it certainly holds some importance, and is worth our attention.

Since it is found at the end of poetic lines, many commentators think that Selah meant 'to pause' or 'to reflect.' This could have been a request for the reader or listener to pause and think about what has just been said, or it could have been a space for voices to pause and for instruments to play alone.

Ultimately, Selah is a beautiful word that reminds us to pause and reflect on Christ, in whom we find all treasure and knowledge. We can't ever truly hope to understand all that God is, and all that Christ does for us daily. Knowing that, it is fitting that this beautiful word Selah should be, like our faith, just beyond our full understanding.

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A Kings Crown and the Crown of Thorns

3. Messiah

“The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ)” (John 1:41).

When Andrew proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, what exactly was he communicating? The Messiah, or Anointed One, had been long-prophesied as a descendent of King David who would reign over the Israel in a way no one else ever had or could. This Messiah would come from God to save His people, leading the nation to holiness and global supremacy.

Through the Old Testament writings (which was the Bible Andrew and Simon had at the time) it was understood that such a deliverer would come, and Andrew was proclaiming that this Messiah had finally arrived! However, Jesus accomplished far more than that by granting us entrance into a kingdom that is greater than all worldly kingdoms, and bringing salvation not just to our world, not just to Israel, but to every soul of all humanity.

Messiah is a Hebrew word, and Christ is simply a Greek word meaning the same thing.

4. Propitiation

“He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

The word propitiation is a unique word that we don’t really hear much outside of the Bible. Yet it’s importance cannot be overstated! In the early chapters of Genesis, humanity experiences the evil of sin. Because of our sinful nature (we are all born sinful), we deserve this wrath. This is where propitiation comes in.

In some translations it reads ‘atonement’, and both words reference the fact that by suffering on the cross, Jesus took all of our sin upon himself once and for all. The wrath of God upon sin is forever satisfied through Jesus, so that we can now be made clean in God’s sight. We don’t do anything or work for anything to earn this propitiation, but we can receive it simply because of who Jesus is and what He did.

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Open praying hands

5. Salvation

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

In the beginning, we were created to be with God. Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden of Eden, and were in perfect relationship with him. Then sin entered the world, and we have all been burdened with sin, death, and separation from God ever since. Every day we can see sin’s destruction around us. Yet God has not abandoned us!

Through Jesus, the only person to ever life a fully sinless life, we can be saved from sin. Because of his death on the cross, he has taken our sin upon himself, and when we accept this salvation, we can be born again to a life that acknowledges and turns away from our sinful nature. This salvation is the greatest gift we could ever imagine, and this alone will bring us peace with God and others.

6. Sanctification

“To open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18).

What does it mean to be sanctified by faith? The word sanctification comes from the Latin word sanctus, meaning holy. Therefore, to be sanctified is to be made holy.

So how is this different from salvation? Salvation is the change that happens in the moment we receive Christ as savior, and the Holy Spirit begins to dwell within us. Sanctification is different in that it is a life-long process of being made holy, becoming more like Christ every day. When we are saved, we receive his holiness within ourselves, but that is not the end of things! Through prayer, Scripture, and discipleship, we are daily being made more and more in his image. God’s gift of grace is not simply a one-time event, but a process of daily taking up our cross and following Jesus.

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the Bible with a cross

7. Gospel

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).

We refer to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as the Four Gospels. But where does the word Gospel come from, and what does it actually mean?

The word we know as Gospel has an interesting history. It is a combination of two words from Old English: ‘God’, and ‘spel’, which once had the meaning to tell, to talk, or to share news or a story. So ‘Gospel’ literally means something along the lines of ‘to tell the good news of God.’ These books of the Bible which tell us the good news of Christ give us an amazing overview of the life Jesus lived on the earth, and the hope that his life continues to offer us today.

Interestingly enough, the word Gospel is an English word that developed over time, and does not actually appear in the original Scripture writings. The word that translates as Gospel was originally written in Greek as euaggelion. You may recognize that this is where we get our word ‘evangelism,’ which also means to ‘tell the good news.’ The writings about the life of Jesus are indeed good news, and it is a joy to share this news as everyday evangelists to the world around us!

8. Resurrection

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die’” (John 11:25).

There is one thing that we all have in common, and that is that no matter what we do in life, we all must die. This is the one ending that none of us escape. Yet, death does not have to be the end of the story.

After Jesus had been crucified, his dead body was placed in the tomb. What happened next would forever change history. Jesus was fully dead, and on the third day he was resurrected from the dead –  fully alive! The Bible teaches that this defeat of death was now available to those of us who believe in him.

The resurrection of Jesus stands far above any other event as the single most import event in all of human history. His resurrection is the one event in which we find hope, strength, peace, and courage to continue striving towards Christ in a fallen world. And because of the resurrection, we have hope that death is not the end, and we too will one day be raised to eternal life in Christ.

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People shaking hands

9. Covenant

“In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’” (Luke 22:20).

A covenant can best be understood as a legally binding contract. It cannot be broken without dire consequences, so when God initiates a covenant, we can be certain that it is secure. There are several important covenants recorded in the Bible, and it is important to understand that our relationship with God is built entirely upon these covenants.

Trusting that we find salvation through Jesus and not from our own works (Eph. 2:8-9) is rather a big risk. What if that’s wrong, and we do have to earn salvation? We are assured that God’s Word on this is certainly true and reliable, based on the fact that it is part of God’s covenant with humanity. The covenant that Jesus made through the Last Supper was confirmed through his crucifixion and resurrection, which validates the truth of it. His covenant is unbreakable, and we find peace and security in it.

10. Fear

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).

This word can be confusing to many. Is God a friend who is ‘closer than a brother’ that we are invited to know, or is he someone we are supposed to be afraid of? The fear of the Lord that leads to wisdom is a deep respect, awe, and reverence for who he is and how he leads us to live. One who says he believes in God but does nothing to show reverence or respect for the teachings God has given is desperately lacking in fear of him.

We fear God because he is unfathomable to us; the creator of space, time, and matter, who holds the universe in his hands. Yet he chose to become as one of us, walking among us, teaching us, and continuing to dwell among us through the Holy Spirit. Fear does not mean he is scary, but rather that his ways are right and he has chosen to show us love, grace, and mercy instead of destruction.

Understanding these words can change how we study Scripture, and will hopefully draw us deeper into relationship with this God who loves us so dearly.

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Jason Soroski is a homeschool dad and member of the worship team at matthias lot church in St. Charles, MO. He spends his free time hanging out with his family, exploring new places, and writing about the experiences. Connect on Facebook or at JasonSoroski.net.

Originally published Tuesday, 10 October 2023.