How Have Private Interpretations become Church Doctrine? (3/5)
If God says He has saved and set us free, we need to know what that means, so we can enjoy it. If Christ offers a salvation that is ours now (2 Corinthians 6:2) but we think we only get it in the future or are unclear exactly what God has given us, what good does it do us today?
If you think God has given you one thing while He knows He gave you something else, you may live like you have something God didn’t give you. And you will be unable to enjoy what is yours because you won’t know you have it.
It matters not what you think you know or from whom you learned it, if your teacher did not properly understand what God said. If he/she lacked understanding, there is no way he correctly instructed you. So, I recommend that no matter from whom you learn something, always ask God, “Father, what do you think about what so and so said?” Your Father, Who is God, wants you to know His truth like He knows it. He never hides His truth from us. He delights in teaching us what to think about everything.
When you let God teach you His truth like He knows it, you are in for a wonderful life and surprises. It is unfortunate that so many preachers suggest that only special people can have the type of fellowship with God about which I am talking. Like every good parent, God delights to teach you everything He knows. I realize mine may be an unusual perspective, but I like knowing that God is better than any human father He has ever created.
As we increasingly know God’s truth like He does, we are able to easily recognize what is untrue even if we never studied a particular subject. I compare this with how Secret Service Agents learn to recognize counterfeit currency. Rather than spending an abundance of time studying fake bills, they focus on the real so intently that they can easily recognize the fake.
God wants us to know His truth like He does because He knows that when we do we will not live like something that is not true is true. God wants all His children to know and believe what Jesus knows and believes. It is this knowing and believing that causes our lives to reflect the God Who lives inside us.
Disciples or Learners
Most translations of the New Testament give the impression that Jesus was seeking disciples, that He wanted followers who He could teach. In my previous blog, I pointed out that the word translated disciple is more accurately rendered learner. A lot of people followed Jesus, because at the least He was a curiosity. But Jesus came to teach us who man and God are. He didn’t give the type of sermons one would hear in most churches but taught foundational things which enabled people to know God.
Jesus taught elementary subjects (cf. Hebrews 5:12 and 6:1). He had to start with the basics because without knowing and understanding the fundamentals of life, nothing else we learn can work properly.
Though I have never seen it properly translated, Jesus made direct reference to the lie in the Lords’ Prayer. As we cover in detail in Unseen: Believing the Truth, Understanding the Lie, this is one of the most important foundational subjects that a believer can know, and yet few do.
We must understand what went wrong in the Garden of Eden. The Serpent gave the man and woman knowledge that was not true. It was false knowledge. Jesus and the Apostle Paul called it “the lie.” Because the First Couple continued to listen, what the Serpent said eventually seemed true to them. But that was only in their minds; the Serpent knew it was not true.
Though created to be like God, they became convinced that they weren’t, so they sought to become what they already were by what they did; in this case, by what they ate.
Who the man and woman were had been a gift, but they stopped believing the story God had told them.
“Let us make man in our image and like us.” Genesis 1:26 (JEC)
Since then, mankind has been determined to do what it takes to know and be like God no matter what it has to do, who gets hurt, or how they get hurt. God had told the First Couple who they were, but they chose to believe the Serpent, instead. Even after the Cross and Resurrection, people still believe the lie that it is what they do that makes them who they are.
When someone knowingly presents false knowledge as truth, they are lying. The New Testament refers to that specific falsehood which the Serpent told Adam and Eve as the lie. Though plainly evident in the original text, translators commonly render the Greek term “the lie” as “a lie,” (cf. Romans 1:25 and John 8:44) which leaves readers unaware that a specific lie is the source of every problem mankind suffers. Understanding this translating error opens and clarifies vast portions of the Bible that have remained obscure to believers.
Because Adam and Eve believed “the lie,” they began living as though knowledge that was not true was true, which resulted in doing what God said not to do. Understanding what caused them to accept the Serpent’s fake knowledge as truth and how that forever transformed history is critical. Without this understanding, Christianity is just a seemingly powerless religion struggling with all the others to convince the world it will one day see power. Yet, when we know the truth about which Jesus spoke, it sets us free to live like New Creatures in Christ today.
The danger of believing that false knowledge is truth cannot be over emphasized. Jesus taught the people God’s truth beginning with elementary subjects. No word in the Scriptures should be eliminated or changed, yet translators commonly do so because they consider certain words unimportant. But the people to whom Jesus spoke knew they were hearing something astounding. Jesus covered subjects that left the people utterly amazed. They had never heard the likes.
So, why did Jesus want learners? Because the people needed to live out of God’s knowledge instead of the knowledge that mankind had been accumulating since the Fall in the Garden of Eden. They needed a new body of knowledge to replace all the false knowledge they had learned.
Jesus was not concerned with people memorizing a bunch of Scriptures but learning how and what God thinks. All of mankind’s problems started with and continue due to believing knowledge that is untrue. So, God is passionate about all His children learning what He knows.
The Apostle John said, “As He is so we are in this world.”cf. 1 John 4:17 This means God thinks we are capable of living just like Jesus because we are just like Him. Jesus knew that after His Resurrection, His Body would be able to do everything of which He was capable. That is why He said,
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. John 14:12 (KJV)
Once anyone believes that a lie is true, they will live like that lie is true and be unable to stop living it until they learn it is not true. Likewise, wonderfully, when we believe God’s truth like He does, we will not be able to not live it. Regardless of what we believe, whether true or false, it will always become evident in our thoughts, feelings, and actions.
The only source of absolute truth is God. God’s body of knowledge is truth. He always knows what is true or false. The more we know what God knows the more we will think and act like Him.
It is God’s passion to teach each of His children what He knows. Unfortunately, most of us have been taught it is not possible to know God in this way. But that can change by simply deciding to agree with God that He wants to teach you and is doing so.
Think about it. God is the Father of all fathers; He is the ultimate father. Can you imagine any good parent refusing to teach and train children to live like the parent?
Private Interpretations May Be True Yet Not What God Said.
As explained in my previous blog, after the first century many religious leaders understood the Greek Scriptures differently than those who penned them. By the Fourth Century, the perception that God was a harsh Father, and Jesus the Son was a buffer between God and mankind, was firmly established in the minds of Church leadership. Their Roman legal mindset prevented the leaders from comprehending God’s grace. So, grace became a thing which God might give.
At some point, grace was called “unmerited favor,” yet it has always been the heart of God giving Himself and all He possesses to His children. God’s attitude toward mankind was seen as less than good human parents feel for their infants and children. It is not that believers were intentionally misunderstanding what God had said. Translators of the Bible were working from a language which easily conveyed the love and grace of God, but they were trying to convey what it said using a legal and warlike language called Latin.
The Latin Bible (the Vulgate) eventually became the preferred Bible of the western Church. So, scholars and believers learned who God was and what He had done from this Latin perspective of the Greek, which was full of misunderstandings.
In the Reformation, with a solid foundation in Roman thinking, the reformers sought to comprehend the original Greek. I think they did a pretty good job, but it should have been considered the beginning of understanding what God had said. Instead, later scholars and translators do not seem to have grasped how to go deeper into understanding what God meant.
By the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, Christians had not had access to the original Greek for many centuries and did not know that the definitions of many words, as well as rules of grammar, had been changed. Believers had no way of knowing that the Bible they were reading was men’s interpretations of what God had said and not always exactly what He said. This was understandable because literal translations are usually very hard to comprehend, so a translator must interpret his own translation.
For all of us, our biases and perspectives unusually determine our attitudes about everything. This means that translators’ interpretations are based on their attitudes about God and what He said. Many times, what translators claim God said He didn’t say, though they would swear He did. For instance, those early Reformation interpretations (i.e., Wycliff, Tyndale, Geneva, KJV, et al.) must be understood as private because they were based on translators’ personal perspectives.
What does this mean? The Darkness, in which Jesus said the world lays, accomplished an amazing feat. Many private interpretations from the end of the first century through today have become accepted doctrine.
It seems to me that many translators have thought God couldn’t mean anything but what has been previously translated, so do not feel free to pursue understanding outside of the bounds that have been laid down by those who came before.
I think it is time for believers to refuse the fear of making mistakes and, instead, ask God what He means. He is ready to tell us. Our only hinderance is all the incorrect knowledge we have. Many refuse to question what they think they know, even when what they know is obviously not working for them. Unfortunately, what they think they know can prevent them from knowing what God knows.
Many in the Church, no matter what persuasion, are certain they know the truth. It is others’ knowledge and faith that is questionable. One of the greatest revelations I have ever had is the realization that God knows what I believe that is not true and is not upset at me. He is just enduringly passionate about helping me learn the truth and will not give up until I have.
Since the original love and power in the Early Church was no longer evident, new leaders taught doctrines that changed their followers’ expectations. Over a short period of time, the experience of the first believers became no more than history or myth. Since all authority resided in the Church leadership, they were able to further redefine terms and doctrines to fit what they believed.
Church leadership had joined league with the Darkness probably without even knowing it. They had believed the original Lie and were simply living what they believed was the truth. Surely, they couldn’t be wrong. It had to be that there was something wrong with the people. Unfortunately, much church leadership still thinks the same way.