A conviction is defined as a "fixed or strong belief". It is the trust which we put in something, as the result of our putting it to trial. As such, a criminal is convicted as guilty only after the jury hears all of the evidence and then renders its verdict. Likewise, our convictions are the result of what we have heard presented as evidence and then after our diligent consideration of that evidence. This is not to say that our convictions are always true, because the evidence we have considered may have been faulty. We can only conclude that our convictions are based on what we then heard presented.
Truth is most effectively acquired as we approach the evidence presented without prejudice and are diligent to try that which we have heard. Fickle convictions are from fickle trials. The more intensely we study a subject, un-tethered by preconceived notions, the more successful we will be at having true convictions. We should be willing to re-think our convictions if any new evidence is discovered. I'm not sure it is commendable to always believe a certain way. What if that belief is wrong? It is more commendable to diligently put to the trial our convictions in hope of arriving at a more precise understanding of the truth.
That said, a successful dialogue between two individuals requires of course that they speak the same language. Even though we may think we are likeminded, if the definitions of our terms differ so will our beliefs. As an example, you may believe that we are saved by grace and I may believe that we are saved by grace, but if our definitions of grace differs, then we don't believe the same thing.
Hence, it is imperative that before we can be confident that we understand one another, we must define our terms. We must know what each other means when we use words such as faith or grace, otherwise a true understanding one with another is impossible. We may even think that we understand each other, but if we are defining our terms differently, then we probably don't.
Below I have gathered together some definitions concerning various items so as to encourage a more successful communication between us. Some of my convictions are reflected in these definitions. As I have put them to the trial, I believe them to be true. However, as I continue to mature, my understandings may also change as they have in the past. When I was a young child I perceived GOD as a fat man in a red suit who always knew if I had been good or bad. I have since learned that man just worked for the department store.
GOD or LORD. Though "there be gods many, and lords many" (1 CORINTHIANS 8:5), there is only one true GOD who is superior to all others. HIS name is not GOD nor LORD but YHWH, probably spoken as Yahweh. We will generally refer to HIM as GOD or LORD, though always in all caps to differentiate HIM from other gods and other lords. Almighty GOD, unlike the other gods, is omnipresent (ever present), omniscience (all knowing), and omnipotent (all powerful). HE is one and not three. HE is alone above all things.
god. Scripture also uses the word god in reference to others besides the Almighty. There was the god of this world (2 CORINTHIANS 4:4), also known as Satan, the Devil, the Dragon, etc. He was not the GOD almighty, but he was a god all the same. Angels were also called gods (PSALM 82:6). Moses was made a god unto Pharaoh (EXODUS 7:1). Yeshua (Jesus) was called god (HEBREWS 1:8 JOHN 20:28). Hebrew judges were referred to as gods (EXODUS 21:6). The apostle Paul was called god (ACTS 14:11; 28:6). Herod was called called god (ACTS 12:22). The "son of perdition" was called god (2 THESSALONIANS 2:4). Remphan was called god (ACTS 7:43). Diana of the Ephesians was called a goddess (ACTS 19:27). Thus, being called god in the Bible doesn't make that person equal with GOD Almighty. It only connects that individual with some particular characteristic of what a god is.
1 CORINTHIANS 8:5-6 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many), but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
Lord. As there is one LORD GOD, so there is one Lord, Yeshua (Jesus). For a well written explanation of why Yeshua might be the correct spelling for the name of the only begotten Son of GOD, see The Sacred Name. Although Yeshua was head and shoulders above any other man, He was still a man who required the grace of GOD to accomplish His calling (LUKE 2:40).
He was not GOD become a man, but rather He was made by GOD as Lord and Christ (ACTS 2:36). He was not a third person of the mystical Trinity. He was not GOD the Son. Rather, He was the Son of GOD. Any attempt to make Him otherwise requires one to search outside of the Book, for within the Bible He was a man. It should be noted that He was only ever referred to as a God, after His resurrection (JOHN 20:28 HEBREWS 1:8). To read a short study about Yeshua as Lord, see Who Art Thou Lord?
Everything which He accomplished was because of His obedience to His Father. His knowledge was limited to what GOD showed Him (MARK 13:32). His power was limited to what GOD allowed Him (JOHN 5:30). He always did His Father's will, even though once with a shade of reluctance, when unto the death of the cross (MARK 14:36). But GOD raised Him from among the dead and seated Him at HIS own right hand, as mediator between GOD and mankind. After some forty years He returned as GOD's righteous Judge.
lord. Being called lord in the Bible doesn't mean one is equal to the LORD GOD anymore than being called god means one is equal to GOD Almighty. Many different kinds of individuals were called lord. The owners of a colt were called lords (LUKE 19:33). The masters of the damsel possessed with a spirit of divination were called lords (ACTS 16:16). Servant's masters are called lords (EPHESIANS 6:5). Augustus was called lord (ACTS 25:26). The householder of the vineyard was called lord (MATTHEW 20:8). Angels were called lords (GENESIS 19:18 1 CORINTHIANS 8:5). A father was called lord by his son (MATTHEW 21:30). Pilate was called lord (MATHEW 27:63). Paul and Silas were called lords (ACTS 16:30), and of course, Yeshua, the King of kings and Lord of lords was called lord (JOHN 20:28 ACTS 9:5).
The word of GOD. The primary purpose of the word of GOD is to reveal HIS nature. Howbeit, the word of GOD is not equal to or synonymous with the Bible. It is larger than the Bible. The word of GOD was in the beginning, long before the Bible ever began to be written. The word of GOD is also in various forms beyond the written word; in the beginning it was only spoken, then it was written and later it became flesh as the person of Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel. But it is also in nature, for when GOD formed this present world, HE spoke it into being. Therefore, all that was brought forth during those six days of creation exuberates the word of GOD. This is why nature is so comforting and why the starry sky is so inspiring, they exude the word of GOD.
The Bible. It has been said that truth can be found on the heel of the Devil. I suppose this may be, but if so, it is always truth out of context. What the Bible does for us is set truth in its proper context. The Bible is man's avenue for understanding the true way! It reveals the true way of the Serpent. It reveals the true way of man. It reveals the true way of temptation and the true way of redemption. It also reveals the true way of death and the true way of life.
GOD has graciously preserved for us these ancient Scriptures that we might know this true way. From the Garden of Eden through the great flood of Noah, from the reign of King David through the crucifixion and resurrection of Yeshua, from the pen of the apostle Paul to the printing press of Gutenberg to the lap top computer, GOD has preserved HIS written revelation.
Of course not every word of every version of every translation is GOD breathed. The original text is like the ruins of an ancient city, partially hidden and covered over by later constructions. But the whole truth is there, waiting to be unearthed. Our tools are not backhoes or picks and tiny brushes, but Concordances, Interlinears and Lexicons.
The very fact that the Christian Scriptures even exist is a miracle in itself. Twenty centuries after Yeshua's little band of frightened followers, in an obscure part of the world, these writings have somehow not only survived but prevailed.
The world powers have changed like a pendulum, swinging back and forth, Rome-Mongols-Arabs-Saracens-Europeans, with all of them doing their best to extinguish the Scriptures. The fact that we today have bound together for us in one Book the harmonious testimony of many writers over fifteen hundred years is an absolute phenomenon.
The Bible's literary Structure alone is astounding. How the Book ends by the pen of John in perfect symmetry to the way it began in the ancient Tables which Moses collected, is only possible if they had one common Author (see Biblical Literary Structure). The Number system placed within the Holy Book is also a testimony to its eternal Author. For example, the forty days and nights it rained on the earth to float the ark, the forty days and nights Moses was on the mountain receiving the ten commandments and the forty days and forty nights that Yeshua fasted in the wilderness are all divinely connected by the number four.
There are also the un-designed coincidences throughout the Bible that testify to its trustfulness. For an interesting and enlightening sampling, read a short excerpt from Scriptural Coincidences by J. J. Blunt. Then there are the Historically Verifiable Prophecies found time and again on the Holy Page. These are prophecies which were written thousands of years ago and found their fulfillment sometimes hundreds of years later, documented not only in the Bible but also throughout secular history.
I am aware that there are those who think that they have discovered a vast array of discrepancies in the Scriptures. I contend that usually these discrepancies are only in one's lack of understanding. Often these skeptics are reading into the text what is just not there. "Not knowing the scriptures" has been the failing of religion since the earliest of times. I have found that when the student reads with no preconceived theology, few apparent contradictions remain.
Of course we have no exact copies of the original text, so we can only do our best with what we do have. For an interesting insight, read an excerpt from The Original Language of the New Testament by Adolf Deissmann.
The grace of GOD. The grace of GOD is not undeserved, but is given to the humble (1 PETER 5:5), and to those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruption" (EPHESIANS 6:24). This grace is not something that blindfolds GOD to our sins, but instead it is how we are "led by the spirit of GOD". The purpose of GOD's grace is not a license to live as we please (JUDE 4), but rather that we might learn to be obedient to faith (ROMANS 1:5).
Grace is GOD giving us that which is needed so that we are able to accomplish HIS will. GOD's grace is usually HIS word sent in some form but it also could be HIS power or some special ability given to the believer. Howbeit, it is usually given to responsible believers who will be faithful stewards of that grace. GOD's grace is sort of like credit. It may be originally given freely, but afterwards it is given in accordance to how we either use it or abuse it. If one frustrates GOD's grace by his continued disobedience, he may very well fall from it (GALATIANS 2:21; 5:4 HEBREWS 12:15).
There is no "age of grace" written of in the Scriptures. That phrase is an invention of man. Grace is GOD's love poured out in our hearts (ROMANS 5:5). To read a short study, see The Grace of GOD.
Faith. Faith is a process that occurs within us. When we hear the words of GOD, we decide within our minds to either obey what we have heard or to disobey what we have heard. If we choose to obey, then we are ready for the next hearing. Hearing, obeying and then hearing more is the simple process called faith (ROMANS 10:16-17). Of course we can't hear unless GOD first speaks. This is why faith requires the grace of GOD. Without GOD first offering HIS word (i.e. grace), we have nothing to hear, nothing to obey, thus no faith. Faith is to be "enslaved to GOD" (ROMANS 6:22).
Instruction in Righteousness. Righteousness is the lifestyle that is produced by faith. As faith is not possible without GOD's grace, so righteousness is not possible without faith. Howbeit, righteousness is not something magically and instantly given to us when we are born again, but is developed over time, as we live by faith (ROMANS 1:17; 6:17-18). Thus, "all scripture is given by inspiration of GOD, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 TIMOTHY 3:16). To obtain righteousness requires our obedience to Yahweh's instructions. To read a short study about the righteousness of GOD, see The Crown of Righteousness.
Sin. If I were shooting an arrow at a target, I am either going to hit the mark or miss the mark. To miss the mark is in a nutshell what sin is. Missing it, I have sinned because I have in some way failed to follow GOD's precise instructions. HE wouldn't show us HIS desires and instruct us on how to fulfill them if it were not possible for us to accomplish them. Howbeit, our failing to hit the mark never separates us from GOD. Only a hard heart which refuses instruction can shut the door on GOD (ROMANS 2:5 EPHESIANS 4:18).
Christ's Return. The promise of Christ's Return was to be a comfort and encouragement to His followers; which was misleading if His return was not going to take place for thousands of years. To do justice to this important subject, every occurrence in Scripture relating to His promised return must be diligently studied. This has been aptly done in James Stewart Russell's book, The Parousia, which I encourage every student to consider and ponder.