Glossary of Christian Terminology


Regardless of our Christian background, most of us encounter from time to time a Christian term that we don't fully understand. In addition, dictionary definitions often use terminology that is not understandable. The glossary below is an attempt to provide short, clear, understandable definitions of many Christian words. Clicking on the more tag icon found at the end of some definitions will provide quick access to more details on the word being defined. Clicking on the glossary tag icon displays a glossary definition of the word immediately to left of this icon.

Apostle - means "one who is sent out." In the New Testament, there are two primary usages of the word apostle. The first is specifically referring to the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. The second is generically referring to other individuals who are sent out to be messengers/ambassadors of Jesus Christ.more tag

Baptism - an immersion or sprinkling of water that signifies one's identification with a belief or cause. In Christianity it is the believer's identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:4-5). more tag

Believer - a person who accepts Jesus Christ, the son of God, as his/her Lord and Savior. more tag

Born Again (sometimes translated "born from above") - refers to new birth enjoyed by Christians upon conversion and regeneration. It is a work of the Holy Spirit within a believer. It is related to faith in Christ and Him crucified (John 3:3-5). It means that the person is no longer dead in sins (Ephesians 2:1), no longer spiritually blind (1 Corinthians 2:14), and is now a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Bible - a book consisting of 66 books on topics such as law, history, poetry, prophecy, biographies, and epistles (formal letters). About 40 different human authors contributed to the Bible, which was written over a period of about 1500 years. From all this diversity comes an incredible unity, with common themes woven throughout. The Bible's unity is due to the fact that, ultimately, it has one Author — God Himself. The Bible is "God-breathed" (2 Timothy 3:16). more tag

Church - as rendered in the New Testament, it comes from a Greek term meaning "an assembly" and "to call out" or "called out ones." In summary, the New Testament church is a body of believers who have been called out from the world by God to live as his people under the authority of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23).

Communion - also called the Lord's Supper, communion is a practice that is to be observed over and over throughout the life of a Christian. It is a holy time of worship when Christians corporately come together as one body to remember and celebrate what Christ did for us through his life, death and resurrection. more tag

Covenant - a covenant is a contract or agreement between two or more parties. Covenant is how God has chosen to communicate to us, to redeem us, and to guarantee us eternal life in Jesus. more tag

Crucifixion - an ancient method of execution, where the victim was tied or nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang there until dead. ;Crucifixion has special significance in Christianity, since according to the New Testament, Jesus was crucified but later resurrected. Because of this, the Christian cross or crucifix has become a main symbol of Christianity.

Deacon - a member of a Presbyterian church elected by the congregation to minister to those who are in need, to the sick, to the friendless, and to any who may be in distress both within and beyond the community of faith.

stained glass04Denomination - a subgroup within a religion that operates under a common name, tradition, and identity, such as Lutheran, Baptist, Roman Catholic, Episcopal or Presbyterian.

Discipleship - the practice of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. more tag

Elder - a member of a Presbyterian church elected by the congregation to exercise leadership, government and discipline.

Evangelical - belonging to or designating the Christian churches that emphasize the teachings and authority of the Scriptures and believe that salvation is achieved by personal conversion to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Evangelism - begins with prayer for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in witnessing to others, opening doors of opportunity, and providing a clear understanding of the bad news of sin and wrath and the good news of love, grace, mercy and faith. more tag

Faith - a special gift from God whereby the Holy Spirit provides Christians with extraordinary confidence in God's promises, power, and presence so they can take heroic stands for the future of God's work in the church. more tag

Forgiveness - the act of releasing someone from a debt, obligation or wrong-doing. God is the initiator of forgiveness (Colossians 2:13). No book of religion except Christianity teaches that God completely forgives sins. For a person to receive forgiveness, repentance is necessary (Luke 17:3-4). more tag

Gospel - the good news that we have forgiveness of sins through Jesus. The gospel comes from God (Galatians 1:10-12), is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16), is a mystery (Ephesians 6:19), and is a source of hope (Colossians 1:23), faith (Acts 15:9), life (2 Corinthians 4:14), and peace (Ephesians 6:15). more tag

Grace - a special gift from God that is given by God, because of who He is not because of who we are. It is through God's grace that we get eternal life, something that, quite obviously, we do not deserve. more tag

Great Commission - the final command of Christ that is found in Matthew 28:18-20 where Jesus commissioned the Christians to go out into the world and evangelize through the preaching of the gospel (Romans 1:16) and making disciples.

Heaven - an everlasting communion and fellowship with God for those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Heaven is first a spiritual existence of the soul in communion with God and then--following Christ's return--a bodily one where our perfected bodies will live on a New Earth in complete joy, happiness, and fellowship.

Hell - a place of future punishment and the final destination for unbelievers. It is described in Scripture using various terms such as eternal fire, a place of weeping and torment, and the lake of fire. The most terrifying reality of hell is that it will be a place of complete, unending separation from God.

Holy Spirit - the third person in the Trinity glossary tag. He is fully God. He is eternal, all-knowing, ever-present, has a will, and can speak. He is alive. He is a person. He is not particularly visible in the Bible because His ministry is to bear witness of Jesus (John 15:26). more tag

Incarnation - a term used to indicate that Jesus, the Son of God, took on human flesh. more tag

Justification - an instantaneous occurrence with the result being eternal life. It is based completely and solely upon Jesus' sacrifice on the cross (1 Peter 2:24) and is received by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). No works are necessary whatsoever to obtain justification. more tag

Lord's Supper - see Communion.

Polity - the operational and governance structure of a church or Christian denomination. It also denotes the ministerial structure of the church and the authority relationships between churches.

Presbyterian - a form of church government in which leadership is provided primarily by lay leaders, called elders. more tag

Presbytery - a ruling body in Presbyterian churches consisting of the ministers and representative lay leaders (elders) from congregations within a district.

Protestant - a movement in the 16th century led by Martin Luther in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church and based on four basic doctrines or questions: How is a person saved? Where does religious authority lie? What is the church? What is the essence of Christian living? more tag

Redemption - being delivered from sin by the blood of Jesus. When Christ died, the blood he shed on the cross set man free and rescued man from sin. Jesus is the redeemer. more tag

Reformed (theology) - a Christian belief that holds to the authority of Scripture, the sovereignty of God, salvation by grace through Christ, and the necessity of evangelism. Reformed theology teaches that Christians are in the world to make a difference, spiritually through evangelism and socially through holy living and humanitarianism. more tag

Sacrament - an act, established by God and instituted by Christ, that imparts grace and the new life and that combines the Word of God and some visible means (like bread, wine, and water). Denominations often differ over what they recognize as sacraments. Some recognize as many as seven sacraments, others have no sacraments in the life of the church. East Main Presbyterian Church's denomination (ECO) has two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

Salvation - the "saving" of a sinner from the righteous judgment of God for not obeying Him. When someone appeals to God and seeks forgiveness in Jesus, his sins are forgiven. He is cleansed, His relationship with God is restored, and he is made a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). All of this is the work of God, not man. Salvation is a free, undeserved gift from God (Romans 6:23). more tag

Scripture - the sacred writings of Christianity as recorded in the Old and New Testaments -- also called the Bible, Holy Scripture, Scriptures and the Word.

Sin - the breaking of God's law (1 John 3:4). It is also defined as disobedience or rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7), as well as independence from God. The original translation means "to miss the mark" of God's holy standard of righteousness. more tag

Theology - an attempt to understand God as He is revealed in the Bible; however, no theology will ever fully explain God and His ways because God is infinitely and eternally higher than we are. more tag

Tithe - a portion of ones earnings, usually one tenth, that is given to those who perform the work of the Lord since it belongs to the Lord (Leviticus 27:30-33). In the New Testament, there is no command to tithe a tenth since Christians are not under law but grace. However, the tithe is mentioned in the New Testament (Luke 18:9-14, 1 Corinthians 16:1 and 2 Corinthians 8).

Trinity - one God existing in three Persons: the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. Since God is infinitely greater than we are, it is impossible for us to perfectly and completely describe Him or fully understand Him. more tag