Understanding the Words of the Bible (II)

You can overcome many of the roadblocks to understanding the Bible if you have the right tools. Today we’ll go back to the W.O.R.D.S examples we talked about yesterday and begin looking at tools and techniques that will help us solve these problems.

Weak vocabulary

You don’t understand the words because you need to build a better vocabulary. Here, again, is yesterday’s example:

“Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” (Gal 3:19)

If you don’t understand words like transgressions, ordained, and mediator, it’s going to be tough to figure out what this verse is talking about. These words are used in modern English, but you might not be familiar with them.

Sometimes the context in which a word appears will tell you something about what the word means. But you have to be careful about jumping to conclusions about the meaning of words based on their context. If you’re not sure, check it out.

What do you do when you come across a word you don’t understand? Hopefully, you stop and look it up. (If you pick up most any book I’ve read and thumb through its pages, you’ll find words with a * by them and a definition of each word in the margin.) This is a simple way to build your vocabulary.

Here are dictionary definitions for the underlined words in the verse:


“The act of passing over or beyond any law or rule of moral duty; the violation of a law or known principle of rectitude; breach of command.” (Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of American English)

“Go beyond the limits set by (a moral principle, standard, law, etc.).” (Oxford Dictionary)


“Appointed; instituted; established; invested with ministerial or pastoral functions; settled.” (Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of American English)

“1. make (someone) a priest or minister. 2. order officially. 3. (of God or fate) decide in advance.” (Oxford Dictionary)


“One that interposes between parties at variance for the purpose of reconciling them.” (Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of American English)

“(mediate) 1. try to settle a dispute between two other parties.” (Oxford Dictionary)

Reread Gal 3:19 and plug in the definitions you’ve just read. Does it add to your understanding of the passage?

Points to ponder

  • Take a look at these verses: 2Ti 2:15; Luk 12;47.
  • Are you being a diligent student who works hard to improve your understanding of God’s Word? If not, does your slothfulness please God?

Reference recommendations

I’d like to start by recommending my favorite free Bible study software. Rick Meyers has done a fantastic job creating eSword. It gives you a vast toolbox at your fingertips. There are dozens of reference tools you can download. I use it every day. I could say a lot about eSword, but you’d be better off taking a look at Rick’s site:

eSword Bible study software

Throughout the week I’ll also be offering some other reference recommendations with links you can click to review.

Read more about it

Go over your word list you wrote yesterday as you read Ephesians 1. (If you’re just dropping in today, yesterday’s assignment was to read Ephesians 1 and jot down “the words and phrases that you don’t understand or that you want to investigate.”) Look up these words in an English dictionary. Plug the definitions you find back in to the text and see if they improve your understanding of the verses.

If you don’t have a dictionary, Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of American English is available for eSword. You can also use one of these online resources:

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language

Mirriam-Webster’s Online

Clicking on these links will open a new browser window.

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