If you consider big words, there are very few bigger than the name of that town in North Wales, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch. The name translates as “St Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St Tysilio of the red cave”.
A local committee was formed to try and encourage trains, travellers and 19th Century tourists to stop at the village in order to help develop the village as a commercial and tourist centre. It is believed the name was conceived by a cobbler, or a tailor, depending upon what story you hear, from Menai Bridge. Little did they know at the time that they had invented one of the most successful tourist promotional plans of all time. Today the village is signposted as Llanfairpwllgwyngyll and is known by locals as Llanfairpwll or Llanfair. It is also known as Llanfair PG to differentiate it from other Welsh
“Llanfair” villages. So many names for just the one place! Such a large name for such a tiny place!
The Christian faith also has its share of big words. Perhaps the least understood is PROPITIATION. We find this in the Authorised Version translation of Romans 3:25 , ‘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;’ Many modern translations do not use the word. They prefer easier understandable words, and that is ok as far as it goes so long as they not also change the meaning as well as the word. Changing the long Welsh name for LlanfairPG is no problem because they can always pull out the full name at the railway station for the tourists and no harm is done. But to change the meaning of propitiation is fatal because it is the heart of the Christian faith.
The propitiation means that on the cross, bearing our sin and guilt, Jesus faced the wrath of God instead of us, and fully paid on our behalf the debt we owed to the broken law of God. At Calvary Jesus made it possible for a holy God to be propitious – or favourably inclined – towards us, even though we are guilty sinners. God dealt with the problem of sin in the only way that could satisfy his holy justice and enable him to save a people who deserved only judgement.
Another long word that is often used in conjunction with propitiation is the word SUBSTITUTION or SUBSTITUTIONARY DEATH OF JESUS. This again is a word that we cannot play around with if we are to keep to New Testament teaching.
Consider carefully the following statements:
The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24).
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Each of them tells us that Jesus died in our place. We deserve to die, but he died instead of us. He became our substitute. To use an Old Testament illustration, he became the ‘scapegoat’ (Leviticus 16)-the innocent victim bearing the guilt of others and suffering their just punishment. This was God’s plan to make salvation possible for guilty sinners.
The big words of Christianity are not big because of the words in them, but because of the gospel truths in them. Their content is huge and their significance is gigantic. This is what makes them big.