I read Psalm 119:137-144 NIV
You are righteous, Lord,
and your laws are right.
The statutes you have laid down are righteous;
they are fully trustworthy.
So, what are these statutes that God has laid down for us which are righteous and fully trustworthy? When we talk about the “Word of God,” what do we mean? For some people it is one thing, and for another, something else. So, who is right and who is wrong? How do we know?
Well, for one thing, it appears to me that, for most believers in Jesus Christ, the Word of God is the Bible (OT: Genesis to Malachi, NT: Matthew to Revelation). That is the Word of God for me, too, as a follower of Jesus Christ. Yet, since it has so many different translations, including in many different languages, then which translation is correct?
Well, the only inerrant Word of God was written in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. These were the original manuscripts penned by men of God as God breathed his words into their hearts and minds. From what I understand, from the originals came many copies, and from these copies, perhaps as well as from some of the original manuscripts, the Bible was then translated into other languages. And, even from some of these translations came more translations in multiple different languages, although they may have also used copies of or the original texts themselves.
For over 400 years, the King James Version (in English) was the primary English translation of the Bible accepted by most protestant churches, it would appear. But, there were others, too. And, then, in the 1970s, I believe it was, came the NASB, then the NIV84, the ESV and many others. So, for English readers, we then have to choose which translation we believe is the closest to the original manuscripts, but how do we do that if we don’t know Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic? And, does that really matter?
Well, for me, I read the KJV the first 27 years of my life. Since it is written in 17th Century King James English, and I speak in 20th and 21st Century American English, it was like reading a foreign language, though not entirely. Still, I had great difficulty understanding what I was reading. Then, in 1977 my pastor introduced us to the NASB, and the Word of God truly came alive to me for the first time in my life. I imagine that is what it must be like for people who don’t have the Bible written in their language, and who have to rely on their leaders to tell them what it says. To be able to read the Word of God and to understand what it says is just awesome!
So, if there were all these copies of the originals, and then it was translated into other languages using these copies, or even using other translations, how can we be certain that what we are reading is completely righteous and fully trustworthy? We know it by the Holy Spirit who lives within us. And, we have to trust God that he guided even these who made the copies, and even these who made these translations, even if they were ungodly men, and trust God that they held on to the integrity of the original manuscripts, even though there will be slight variations from translation to translation. For some of you, only one translation may exist, and you have no other choice.
The bottom line in all of this, I believe, is that we have to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit of God, and trust that God’s Spirit will guide us into all truth, and that he will show us what is right and what is wrong. If we are blessed to have Bible helps which show us what the originals said, word for word, that is great, but not everyone has that. To me, having translations in my language has been a tremendous help! But, we do need to be discerning about this, because, at least here in America, we have many transliterations that are not real translations, and that do err in interpretation more so than what might happen in any actual translation. So, let the Holy Spirit lead you.
My zeal wears me out,
for my enemies ignore your words.
Your promises have been thoroughly tested,
and your servant loves them.
So, in light of what I just shared, this brings, perhaps, some new meaning to what is being said here. When words are translated from Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic into any other language, they may not retain the exact meaning of the word because the other language doesn’t have a word or even a verb tense that quite captures the original word. So, the translators have to do their best to find a word in the other language that best captures the original meaning, and these can vary from translation to translation. So, in these cases, it does help to know something about the original languages or to have Bible helps that reveal what these original words and their meanings (and verb tenses) actually are. But, if we don’t have that, then what?
Again, this is where we have to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. BUT, it is essential, I believe, that we read scriptures in their context, because the context, itself, gives much meaning to the words.
For example, there is a Greek verb tense, that when translated into English, word for word, ends up with “ing” on the end, but most translators do not include the “ing” at the end of these words. Thus, the word often captures the idea of a one-time event, whereas the original language intended that it capture the idea of a present and continuous event. Such as the case in John 3:16. It isn’t that he who believes (one time) in him, but it is who believing (present tense and ongoing) in him who has the hope of eternal life.
So, how do we know this fact without the use of the Greek? We know it by the context of what is being said, not just in the book of John, but throughout the New Testament. The Bible teaches, in context, that genuine faith in Jesus Christ, which results in eternal life is both present tense and it is continuous, i.e. it must endure to the end if we are to have the hope of eternal life with God. It teaches us that we, who make a practice of following our Lord in obedience, have the hope of eternal life with God, but that those who make a practice of sin, i.e. who walk according to the flesh, have a fearful expectation of eternal punishment. If, by the Spirit, we are putting (not just put one time) to death the deeds of the flesh, then we will live.
So, even if you don’t know Greek or Hebrew, that is not ever an excuse to ignore what the Word teaches, for we can know what it teaches by the Spirit living within us, and by the context in which it is written, but not just the immediate context, but the context of the whole Bible, but especially the New Testament, for that is where we find the teachings for Christians.
Though I am lowly and despised,
I do not forget your precepts.
Your righteousness is everlasting
and your law is true.
Trouble and distress have come upon me,
but your commands give me delight.
Your statutes are always righteous;
give me understanding that I may live.
When we teach what is true, not because we have Bible helps, but because we have the Spirit of God guiding us into all truth, and he guides us to read verses in context, and to compare scripture with scripture, so that we get its full meaning, there will be people who will oppose us because what we are saying does not jive with what they have always been taught.
So, even though the Bible clearly teaches us that faith in Jesus Christ has to endure to the end in order for us to have the hope of eternal life, many will reject that, because they have been taught that if you pray the prayer to receive Christ, you are in, guaranteed, and no one can take that away from you.
Even though the Bible clearly teaches that the Lord’s followers listen to him and they follow (obey) him, and it is these who can’t be snatched out of God’s hands, still many ignore the first part of this, and only hold on to the second part of this promise, and they apply it across the board to anyone who claims to believe in Jesus Christ, especially if they prayed the prayer.
And, even though the Bible clearly teaches that genuine faith in Jesus Christ is repentant and obedient, in lifestyle, though not necessarily in sinless perfection, many will reject this, too, because they have been taught that praying the prayer guarantees their entry into heaven, no matter what they do from that moment on. They believe that they can sin as much as they want, and still have their ticket into heaven. But, that is just WRONG!
So, what is the truth which we must understand and put into practice if we want to live with Christ for eternity? It is that Jesus Christ died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24; Rom. 6:1-23). It is that the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who walk (in lifestyle), not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, for if we walk according to the flesh, we will die in our sins, but if, by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity (Rom. 8:1-17; Eph. 4:17-24; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Gal. 2:20; Lu. 9:23-25).
And, it is, as well, that God’s grace is not a free license to continue in sinful lifestyles, making sin our practice, but it teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions (lusts) and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14; Gal. 5:19-21).
So, as followers of Jesus Christ, we should want to know this truth, and we should delight in this truth, and we should follow what is true, and not ignore the truth just because it doesn’t fit with what we have always been taught or have come to believe. So, know, delight and follow the truth.
My Jesus, My Savior / Michael W. Smith
My Jesus, My Saviour,
Lord there is no one like you,
All of my days, I want to praise
The wonders of Your mighty love.
My comfort, my shelter,
Tower of refuge and strength
Let every breath, all that I am
Never cease to worship You…
Wednesday, November 15, 2017, 7:06 a.m. – Thank you, Jesus, for these words which you have spoken to my heart today, and for bringing this song to my mind as I awoke this morning. I praise you, and I thank you!