What does “gainsaying” mean?


by Shawn Brasseaux

“Gainsaying,” in three forms, occurs five times in a King James Bible:

  • Luke 21:15: “For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.”
  • Acts 10:29: “Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?”
  • Romans 10:21: “But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.”
  • Titus 1:9: “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”
  • Jude 11: “Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.”

When attempting to guess the meaning of “gainsaying,” we likely think of “gain” as in addition. However, we are incorrect here. Instead, the word can be traced back to the Old English “gean–,” which simply means “against.” Hence, “gainsaying” can be thought of as “against saying.” To wit, someone is speaking words to contradict what was previously stated. A person is setting forth an argument to dispute an earlier declaration. Other synonyms for “gainsaying” are naysaying, opposing, and denying.

In Luke’s case (see above), during the end times, God the Holy Spirit will endow Israel’s believing remnant with such supernatural wisdom that its enemies will be unable to refute (see Matthew 10:19-20; 1 John 2:20,27). For instance, Acts 4:14: “And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.” (“Say against” here is the same Greek word, “antepo,” as translated “gainsay” in Luke.)

As per Peter’s experience in Acts chapter 10 (see above), after receiving a vision with instructions to visit Gentile Cornelius, Peter went without argument. In Romans 10:21 (see above), God is commenting on unbelieving Israel’s attitude during the Acts period, a repeat of Isaiah 65:2: no matter what the Lord says to them, whether through Peter’s preaching or Paul’s preaching, apostate Israel debates and refuses to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Concerning Titus (see above), the bishop or pastor (church leader) is to be so grounded in sound Bible doctrine to the point he can successfully answer those who oppose it—even persuading them to see their error.

Finally, in Jude (see above), during the end times, unbelieving Israel under the Antichrist’s influence will deny God’s truth to the Jews, hearkening back to the days when Korah challenged God’s leaders Moses and Aaron (Numbers chapter 16). “Gainsaying” here is “antilogia,” rendered “contradiction” in Hebrews 7:7 and Hebrews 12:3.

Also see:
» What does “untoward” mean?
» What does “froward” mean?
» What does it mean, “Shake the dust…?”
» How long should I keep witnessing to the same person?
» Should the lack of worldwide revival in our dispensation discourage us from witnessing?