Getting The Right Word

Walking along a quiet street, the little girl moved onto the road surface.  Her father said sternly, “Get on the pavement, right now.”  She stepped up onto the kerb.  He was content, and I was confused, not for the last time, by the use of language in my new home.


We’ve been looking at literature for distribution here in town.  When people don’t know you, and may not give the benefit of the doubt or ask your meaning, it is important to use the right words.

The right words will not guarantee everyone will take your meaning correctly.  People may still twist it to something you didn’t say or mean at all.  If they are set on taking your words negatively, they will find a way, no matter what you say.  But for those who will at least give it an honest reading, we need to find the right words — words which will communicate the message we want to send.  It reminded me of the “pavement.”

Pavements and Sidewalks

That “pavement” event occurred in Edinburgh shortly after we moved from America.  Where I grew up, “pavement” refers to tarmac, the road surface, which was where the little girl was walking.  To me, she WAS on the “pavement” when her daddy spoke — I expected him to tell her to get off the pavement!  But when corrected, she moved to what I called the “sidewalk” — and I learned that in Scotland, the “sidewalk” is called the “pavement.”

If a business advertised to “replace the pavement in front of your house,” it would mean completely different things to Americans and Scots — and anyone who wants to advertise had better understand that difference.

It doesn’t matter what I mean — I have to recognise how recipients understand the word.  It would be extremely foolish, wanting to resurface streets, to tell people here that I do pavements.  It wouldn’t matter what I meant, they would hear something different.  Similarly, if a Scot moved to America and started a business paving “sidewalks,” it would be absurd to advertise that he does “pavements.”  You have to choose a word that conveys the right meaning to the hearers.

God Chooses A “Word”

Hebrews 1:1-2

1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son….

The book of Hebrews begins by telling us that, in the Old Testament, God used different methods at different times when speaking through the prophets — but when the time came to reveal Himself more fully, He spoke to us by His Son, Jesus.

Hebrews 1:3

Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person….

That Son is not just the glory of the Father, He is the very brightness of His glory, and the express (exact) image of who the Father is — He is just like the Father, for they are One, so He was perfect for revealing the Father.  No one had ever seen the Father, so the Son came to make Him known:

John 1:18

No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

So Jesus came to declare the Father, and because God wanted us to understand this, He gave His Son a title — “The Word.”  The Greek word is logos, from which our word “logic” is derived.  It also means “reason” and has other meanings as well (“account,” etc.), but the primary meaning is the one our translators have given — Word:

John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

When we see “Word” in John 1 referring to Jesus, it is telling us (among other truths) that He is the means by which God is communicating to us.

The Word Was Made Flesh

When God chose to make His fullest self-revelation, He wanted us to know Who He is, to understand His love and holiness, His mercy and justice.  God is spirit, but we are human, with limited ability to understand spiritual matters.  So into the world came a Word we could understand — God became human flesh and blood, a man.

John 1:14

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

God sent His Word in a form where we could see His glory, His grace, and His truth — a Word spoken in our (human) language.

I Timothy 3:16

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

God Himself was manifest (revealed, visible) in the flesh.

Romans 5:8

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

As flesh and blood, He could die, and thus the Word proclaimed His great love for us.

Romans 3:25-26

25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

In dying, this perfect Word could declare God’s righteousness and justice, as well as His love.  This human Word says, to those bound by the constraints of flesh and blood, that the Spirit who created us is righteous and just, yet patient and loving.  He said all this, in His life, death, and resurrection, using the right Word in human language, in human form.

God used the right Word, the perfect Word, for His message.  In searching for the right words to convey our message, with a meaning our readers will recognise, I found it good to reflect on, and give thanks for, the Word that became flesh, that declared God’s truth and love to me in a Word I could understand and receive, the only right Word.

About Jon Gleason

Former Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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2 Responses to Getting The Right Word

  1. alcoramdeo says:

    Dear Brother Jon,

    Both your subject and the manner in which you present it are in delightful contrast to much current teaching. In a day in which a Bible verse is combined with front page news, op-ed material, various anecdotes and the like, whipped into a “smoothie,” and served to be drunk in a gulp or tasted and left to sour on the table, your fare is sumptuous in appearance, texture and flavor. Devoted mastication is required and the partaker is left at last hoping that each course is to be followed by another. Thank you once again. Let the feast continue…

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