Is It Semantics?

Whenever you take a stand against sin for truth, you will inevitably have someone who lightly casts aside your biblical stand as being “just semantics.” Or they may say you are “arguing semantics.” Is it “semantics”? Three biblical phrases can help us understand the proper path concerning “semantics.”

#1 – “the words of the Lord” – Psalm 12:6 “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.”

In “Standing Upon God’s Words (Man’s words vs. God’s Words)”, we noticed the huge importance of using God’s words instead of man’s words. One of the many, many Scriptural reasons given is that God’s Word does not change, but man’s words and definitions do.

  • Ps. 119:89 “LAMED. For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.”

The word “semantics” is an excellent example of man’s ever-changing words. “Semantics” is commonly used today to belittle something as not important and insignificant. However, the English “semantics” comes from the Greek “semantikos” which means the opposite: significant and important. Ironically, this evangelist has had believers call the importance of using God’s Words instead of man’s words as “semantics.” Of course, they are saying that it doesn’t matter whether you use God’s infallible Words or man’s errant, ever-changing words. Yet, their use of the word “semantics” with its changeable definition actually illustrates and strengthens the truth of choosing God’s settled Words over man’s changeable words. The child of God would do well to heed God’s wisdom and use God’s unchanging Words instead of man’s fickle words.

#2 – “Least commandments” – Matthew 5:19 “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

The “least commandments” are definitely significant, yet the modern church discounts any stand for the “least commandments” as insignificant “semantics”. However, the Lord Jesus emphasized that when a believer stands for even the smallest of God’s principles of Scripture, he is actually “great in the kingdom of heaven” which is quite the opposite on this sinful globe where the one who stands for all truth, even the smallest of truth, is deemed insignificant, wasting his time, and a divisive person. From Mt. 5:19, we notice that every believer is expected to not only “do” the “least commandments”, but also “teach them.” Whoever breaks even the smallest of God’s commandments and dares to teach others to do likewise (“shall teach men so”) is “called the least in the kingdom of heaven.” Since the broad road of Christianity teaches disobedience to what they deem as God’s “least commandments” concerning holiness, music, dress, wine and strong drink, movies, words, etc…, the many, many believers that hold and teach these errant beliefs and practices are praised as great on this sinful globe when in actuality they are “called the least in the kingdom of heaven.” If it is important enough for God to deal with in His Word, whether greater or lesser commandments, it is important enough for us to deal with. And, considering that God’s Word will judge us in all matters at the last day (Jn. 12:48; Jms. 2:12), then our God has covered all matters in His Word. Truly, the least commandments are not unimportant “semantics.”

(Examples of least and great commandments: “burnt offerings and sacrifices” vs. “obeying the voice of the Lord” – I Sam. 15:22; “mercy and not sacrifice” – Hosea 6:6; Mt. 9:13, 12:7; “the weightier matters of the law” – Mt. 23:23; Lk. 11:42)

#3 – “Is it not a little one?” – Genesis 19:20 “Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.”

Thirdly and lastly, disobedient believers have a tendency to call God’s ways “semantics” and, as in the case of backslidden Lot, they call their own disobedience “a little one.” (I.E. – “a little white lie”; “not a big deal”) A great example of this is how we treat what is abominable to God. “Abomination” is the strongest word in Scripture God uses concerning His hate for sin. Taking just the word “abomination,” notice how we make light of the worst sins in God’s eyes and label them as “semantics.”

  • – Men dressing as women and women dressing as men we laugh at, readily watch media about, and even make skits in our churches about. To us, “it is just semantics.” To God, it is “not a little one”, but rather, abomination. (Deut. 22:5) Believers even have the gall to say such discussions and arguments over dress standards are unimportant “semantics” while God’s unchanging Word continues to call errant dress standards an abomination. There is not a greater way for God to stress His disapproval than the word abomination, but we dare call such matters trivial. Woe unto our wickedness!
  • – We lightly use “pride” and “proud”, which God calls abomination (Pro. 6:17), in a positive manner. When this evangelist has warned about using those words as a good thing, he has had others declare “it is just semantics.” What God calls abomination, we call “semantics.” How wicked!
  • – “A lying tongue” is abomination to God (Pro. 6:17). Yet, how many times do believers lightly lie to each other. “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.” “I’ll be there.” “I didn’t know.” “I didn’t do it.”
  • – We often bear “false witness” against God’s children which is also abomination (Pro. 6:19). How many times in Bible college and in my present ministry I have had family and other believers lie falsely about me. Since it is a believer telling the lie, most believe them without ever asking me about it. Sadly, we find out too late after much damage has been done. This is not semantics. This is abominable wickedness.
  • – Sowing “discord among the brethren” is so common in our churches today. So many, many believers bounce from church to church and so many churches have been ruined by the abomination of discord (Pro. 6:19). Yet, it is so common to us sinners, we make light of this abomination as if it should be a common thing in the family and houses of God!
  • – One last example of many concerns when God calls defiled worship “abomination.” (Is. 1:13) Our modern churches are enraptured with rejecting doctrine and holiness for polluted worship of God. Despite God’s repeated command to only “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (I Chron. 16:29; Ps. 29:2; Ps. 96:9), believers still insist on singing hymns and specials to the Lord written by unholy artists whose lifestyles and beliefs contradict God’s holy Word. Preachers persist in studying materials from those whom they would never allow in their pulpits, yet they persist in gleaning from and preaching from those who reject the fundamental doctrines of the faith. In other words, our preachers and musicians are allowing these unholy and undoctrinal sources to spread their defiled messages in our churches and from our pulpits by proxy. I trust you would not have Rick Warren nor the Bill Gaither vocal band minister in your church in person, yet most of our churches allow it by proxy. This is abominable worship. And believers persist in offering abominable incense to the Lord while we persist in our sins. No, this is not unimportant “semantics.” This is rebellion against God and His commandments! This is abomination!

In conclusion, in order to answer “is it semantics?”, we need to know what you mean by semantics. Of course, the common use is that the person is saying your particular stand against sin for truth is no big deal. Yet, from the Bible we learn that even the “least commandments” are a big deal. Our sins are not a small matter to overlook, yet the modern believer is doing just that every day. It would be far better for each believer to just use God’s inerrant, unchanging Word over man’s words, yet many will continue to stress that such matters are unimportant “semantics” while they use words that actually disprove their case. All of God’s Words, wisdom, ways, and will are important. Not a single one is “a little one.” To “do” and “teach” that some of God’s ways are unimportant is to become “least in the kingdom of heaven.” No, standing for all truth is not unimportant “semantics.” Yes, standing for all truth is significant “semantics.”