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"Insights" from the New Testament Greek

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4. Insights Derived from the "form" of Greek Words

By Bob Jones, Northside Bible Church, Jacksonville Florida


Many English words can be nouns or verbs, with the exact same English spelling. This can cause confusion, because the reader must decide from the context whether the writer is using the word as a noun or verb.

One of the many beauties of the Greek language of the New Testament is that the ENDING on the Greek word tells us the part of speech. Whether a word is a noun or verb is not up for grabs in the New Testament Greek, as it is in our English. You can look up any New Testament Greek word in The Analytical Greek Lexicon, by Zondervan, to see if it is a noun or verb.


I have come to see that the English language is one of the least precise and expressive languages on planet Earth. Our English dictionary often contains 10 or more definitions for the same word. Just for example, what do I mean when I say "bark"; do I mean the noise from a dog? Is it a boat? To hurt your shin? The covering on a tree? To speak sharply and loudly? To verbally advertise?

Not only do we have many definitions for one English word, but each usage and definition can be a noun OR verb, or some other part of speech!

Bark - The noise a dog makes, can be a NOUN OR a VERB! When we tell the dog to "bark", it is a verb which tells the dog to ACT, and when we describe the dog's "bark", it is a noun describing the "thing" that the dog did.

If you work crossword puzzles, I'm sure that you are very aware of this weakness in the English language. Another example my wife and I recently bumped into is the word "author". We struggled with a crossword assuming that the word "author" was a noun, and we were looking for a "man's name". But, in the end, the word "author" was a VERB, meaning "to author" or write something.

The Bible word "baptism" can be a noun or verb:

An excellent Bible example, and one that has actually spawned religious denominations, is in 1 Pet 3:21, where the Greek word "baptisma" is translated "baptism". Some religious denominations believe this verse teaches "baptismal regeneration", that the "ACT" of water baptism itself regenerates or makes a person a born again child of God.

The Greek word "baptisma", in 1 Pet 3:21 is a NOUN, meaning the THINGS SIGNIFIED BY BAPTISM, it is NOT A VERB as the English reader would naturally assume! Peter is saying that "baptism doth save us (is presently saving) ", meaning that the "things", or "Bible teachings", or "doctrines" CONCERNING baptism are now saving us. What are those things, or teachings that baptism signifies? We are buried with Christ, sins washed away, raised in newness of life, the great doctrines of soteriology, or salvation, these are the "things" now saving us, not the verb, the ACT of baptism! The ACT of water baptism is a beautiful ritual that outwardly PORTRAYS what God HAS ALREADY DONE for us. The REALITY is what God does, the RITUAL is what we do to publicly acknowledge what God has done.

"Baptisma" is the noun, meaning "the THINGS, or TEACHINGS, signified" by baptism, and "baptizo" is the verb, meaning the "ACT" of baptism.


The Bible word "faith" is one of the most misunderstood words in the Scriptures. The truth concerning this word "faith" is MOST IMPORTANT to Christian growth and success in the Christian life.

Most people seem to think of "faith" as simply "believing". The stronger you can "believe", the more "faith" you are having. People say "I sure wish I had your faith", and "just have faith", as if Biblical faith is a quality that we have control over, and that we can work up more "faith" by just "believing harder"!

That misconception comes from assuming that the Bible word "faith" is a verb. The common word for "faith" in the New Testament is the Greek word "pistis". This word is used 244 times in the New Testament, and it is a NOUN, not a verb!

"Faith", the noun, in the New Testament is a three stage process:

   1. God's Word is taken into our mind through hearing or reading, and by means of the Holy Spirit.

   2. God tests us on that Word which is taken in, to see if we really "believe" it.

   3. When the test is passed, God makes that Word a permanent part of our human soul, and we "grow". (God's Word resident in your soul is the only thing you can take to heaven with you)

"Faith", the noun, a "thing", in the New Testament is like our internal "engine" that enables us to live the Christian life and exhibit the character of Jesus Christ. Our "engine" size is supernaturally increased as we take in God's word and the Holy Spirit makes it a permanent part of our soul.

Bob Jones