4 Words Students Must Learn Before They Graduate

I know you’ve heard statistics regarding students who leave the church once they graduate high school. I’m reluctant to speak of statistics when speaking of this problem. However, these statistics are real – 70%-80% of teenagers, once graduated from high school, leave the church after they do so.

Let me make something clear right off the bat. I know there is not a plethora of words that will guarantee students to stay in the faith once they graduate high school, but when students understand what I would call “gospel lingo” they will have a better understanding of and commitment to the faith they’ve been acquainted with for their short life.

Here’s four words I believe will help students understand the gospel better.


Before there can ever be known words concerning doctrine and theology, the Gospel must be learned. Without the Gospel, other sound, doctrinal, biblical words are only noise. When a student knows nothing of the Gospel, they inherently know nothing regarding the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. And this really is not exclusive to students, we adult followers of Christ need to know these words also.

It is imperative that the students you pastor know the route of the Gospel story of redemption and grace. Without it, you will never produce true followers of Christ. Without the Gospel, none of these other words make sense or have any significant meaning in the life of a believer.


The word propitiation occurs only four times in the English Bible. It is written once in Romans, once in Hebrews, and twice in 1 John. The authors who use this word would be Paul and John. The theological significance used by the apostle Paul is that there is even a perfect picture of propitiation in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, the item on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant was called the Mercy Seat. The Mercy Seat was the place where the blood of the sacrificed lamb was poured out for the sins of the people of Israel. Furthermore, when we look at Christ’s sacrifice on the cross in the New Testament, we see a perfect parallel. The Lamb of God was sacrificed for us on our behalf and his blood was poured as an offering for our sin.

We mostly think of it as a positive reinforcement about salvation, and this is true. However, we tend to neglect our sinfulness that demands propitiation to be made favorable toward God. The purpose of propitiation is to forgive. When Paul and John both write about Christ being our propitiation, what they are saying is that our (humankind) nature is so utterly sinful and wicked that without some type of forgiveness or appeasing of the wrath of God, we have nothing that can deliver us from our wickedness.


The words justify, justified, and justification are used much more liberally throughout the Bible. The word justified is used 40 times in 37 verses in the ESV New Testament. The word justification is only used 3 times in 3 verses.But justification is a term of which all Christians should be mindful. John MacArthur defines justification this way when he says,

“In biblical terms, justification is a divine verdict of “not guilty — fully righteous.”

The wonder of justification should awe every believer in Jesus Christ, student or adult. That God would look on guilty souls such as you and me and declare us innocent because of the suffering servant is a paradox. It is something that cannot be explained by logic or reason; only by God’s grace and mercy.


The word imputation goes hand in hand with justification. Once a believer has been justified, Christ now places His righteousness on us. The Bible clearly declares that there is none righteous among humankind (Rom. 3:10) and declares that no one can come to God unless drawn by the Holy Spirit (John 6:44). Because our righteousness is so filthy, the only way for us to approach God the Father is through the Son, Jesus Christ. Once you are justified and your sins have been forgiven, Christ imputes His righteousness to you. The word imputation is defined by John Piper in this way:

“So when God says to those who believe in Christ, ‘I credit your faith as righteousness,’ he does not mean that your faith is righteousness. He means that your faith connects you to God’s righteousness.”

These words again will not guarantee committed followers of Christ, but will help teach and disciple young people into a growing, vibrant relationship with Him.