If God Said Something Else, Would You Want to Know? (4 of 5)
There are two questions of ultimate importance. Once you know the answers to these you will never have another question which is not answered by one or the other.
- Who is God?
- Who are you?
In a discussion with the pharisees, Jesus pointed out that they had searched the Scriptures to find eternal life yet to have it they just needed to look at Him.
39Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. 40And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.1
Later, He told some disciples that He is the life they are seeking.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”2
Jesus believed the Scriptures tell us all we need to know and that if we want to understand them we just need to look at Him, because the Scriptures are about Him.
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.3
From the Apostle John we learn that we are the same as Jesus. John did not say we will one day be the same but that we are right now.
Because as he is, so are we in this world.4
Unfortunately, many have been taught that they will only be like Jesus when He returns. But if that is true then some of what God has said is not true. I choose to believe what God really said before what some man wants me to think He meant.
The Apostle Paul said we are members of Christ’s body. Every member of my body is as much me as any other part. Likewise, every member of Christ’s body is as much Him as He is. My big toe is as much me as is my head. So too, with Christ.
Can We Only Find God If We Seek Him?
So, Jesus told people to look at Him. But that was then, before the Cross. What about now? How do I look at Jesus when He isn’t here?
Years ago, I began asking God things like, “Who are You? How can I understand your words if I don’t know you? Since you are the limitless, unknowable God, how am I supposed to figure out Who You are?”
In turn, God had a question for me. “Who told you I am unknowable?” The fact is, though is it not possible to figure out Who God is, we don’t have to. His heart’s desire is that we know Who He is, and He is determined that we learn what He knows.
Matthew recorded Jesus having said something interesting.
no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.5
To me, this says volumes, and it surely does not suggest that we must figure out God. If God expected us to figure out Who He is, why did He send His Son and why did Jesus say,
[…] “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?6
If God did not want to be known, why would He tell us that He is like Jesus?
Many believers seem to think that God is hiding from His children, so we must push into the Kingdom to find Him. How often have you heard a preacher say, “Seek first His Kingdom…”7 as though we must find God. Yet Hebrews says, “He will never leave you or forsake you.”8 If God has promised to never leave or forsake us, it means we do not have to try to find Him because He is already right here.
So, what’s going on?
Don’t Always Believe What Others Say About God
Rather than trusting what other people think about God, I believe what Jesus said to Philip is an invitation to know Him. That verse tells me we can ask Jesus about the Father and the Father about Jesus. I think the teaching that God does not want His children to know Him as well as He knows us is absurd. Even many who seem to truly know God do not appear to believe we can know Him the way I believe He wants us to. I think something is holding us back. When we believe that there are limits to what and how we can know God, that belief limits our ability to know Him.
Good parents do not restrict how well their children know them. They want them to know how much they are loved and the extent they will go for them. Parents want children to know everything necessary for their kids to trust them. And no good parent wants a child to be confused or not know what to do. In addition, many would rather die than see their child suffer terminal sickness or some type of condition that limits the child from living a full life.
Many years ago, I began telling God that I wanted to know Him, Who He is, and how He thinks. I wanted to know what He knows. And I wanted the same about Jesus. And, I wanted to know who God thinks I am, because His opinion is based solely on the truth. Since God made me, He is the best one to tell me the truth about me.
Bible Translations Can Be Wrong Interpretations
For me, a big catalyst was realizing that Bible translations are just the opinions of scholars who may know Greek but who often do not trust God’s exact words. For instance, during my short stint in seminary I learned it was acceptable to omit certain words when translating, because they were superfluous. More than one teacher stated that Greek speakers had a fondness for definite articles so used too many. Thus, it was okay to delete the word “the” when a writer used it too often. Likewise, it was okay to insert definite articles before nouns that didn’t have one, if it would make the sentence more understandable.
When I heard a Bible teacher point out that by removing a definite article in Romans 1:25 translators had changed the meaning of the passage, my life changed forever. After that I found hundreds of instances in the New Testament where words were incorrectly added or subtracted from translations. I then found thousands of instances of the same problem in translations of the Old Testament. Everyone of those additions or subtractions was a violation of God’s command:
You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.9
In addition, I know firsthand that though many Greek grammar books contain the original rules of grammar, some of the more complex rules are universally ignored in order to provide renderings that make sense to the modern mind. This problem has existed at least since the Reformation. Though various versions of the Bible may reveal truth does not mean they are accurately representing what God said. I prefer to know God’s exact words so I can ask Him what He meant.
If you have only read English versions of the New Testament, including those advertised as literal, you have never read a real translation of the Bible. Rather, you have read someone’s interpretation of what they think God said. Though I sometimes enjoy others’ opinions, I am capable of discovering exactly what God said so that He can teach me exactly what He meant. Sometimes, what He really said is pretty wild. But should we expect the God Who created a universe that runs on quantum physics to be tame? I remember C. S. Lewis describing Aslan as wild and “not a tame lion.”
Most people know little if any Greek and must depend on someone else’s opinion. But there are so many differences of opinion among scholars, and I decided I wanted my opinion to be my own and not someone else’s. I had been trusting the opinion of people I did not know who were trying to understand something written hundreds of years ago in a language no longer spoken. I knew God would not demand that I trust them.
Though it is good to understand Greek, if you don’t does not mean you cannot know exactly what God said. Of course, God set leaders in the Church who are supposed to know Greek in order to teach others, especially other teachers who do not understand the language, but He has not abandoned anyone who does not comprehend the language.
Sometimes I wonder why translators do not explain how they determine the meaning of certain words and passages. Often it appears to be either educated guess work or agreement with the work of previous scholars, simply because they don’t have a better idea. I can understand the latter because I have found numerous words and passages that seem so difficult to comprehend that it is a temptation to just go with what others think it means. Sometimes I have no idea what a Greek word or passage means, yet I am sure it does not mean what other translators have agreed upon. When I do not understand something, I admit it and wait for God to teach me what I need to know so I can understand what He means.
Years ago, I began wondering why the first century rules of grammar have been rejected. For example, the aorist tense is a past tense verb form in Greek, yet when combined with the imperative or subjunctive moods, it is treated as present tense. Translators render it present tense to make sense to the modern mind and apparently do not consider if the original form made sense to first century believers. I wondered if God would use an aorist (past tense) subjunctive as a present tense verb when there is another form that is clearly present tense when used with the subjunctive? Then when God showed me what the aorist imperative form of a verb means, I about fell off my chair.
An aorist imperative is a command for something to have been done in the past. It is like a backward command. But that is impossible, or is it? Man cannot engineer such a thing, but God surely can. It is based on the principle that enabled Jesus to say, “Before Abraham was, I am.”10 By cooperating with God, such a command carries a person back in time to take something accomplished in the past as their reality, too. An aorist imperative verb enables a person to experience a changed past which results in a changed present reality. But we will begin that discussion in another blog.
God is not confused. He fully understood Greek. When He used a past tense verb with the subjective or imperative moods, that is exactly what He meant. I think the primary job of translators is not to make sense of what God said but to first tell us exactly what He said, and then explain what they think He meant.
Teachers need to encourage us that we can really know God and, that as our Father, He is delighted to personally teach us. When translators fail to tell us there is another possible way to render a passage, how can the average reader know the passage could mean something else? When a bunch of scholars over several centuries all agree on the meaning of certain passages, is it possible all could be wrong together or do we have to assume they are correct? Surely they can’t all be wrong. Or can they?
An Example May Help
Properly translating a mistranslation can completely change the meaning.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Jesus is commonly rendered as saying, “My grace is sufficient for you.” However, the Greek word rendered sufficient is not an adjective but a verb. Rendering it sufficient totally misses what God wants us to know. Jesus didn’t tell Paul that His grace was sufficient but that it “suffices you” meaning God’s grace made Paul sufficient. He didn’t have to beg God to take away problems because God’s grace made Paul able from the inside to successfully deal with any situation. Paul just needed to be taught so that he could learn how to be who He was inside Christ, which is what he explained to Titus, “Grace appeared training us children so that…”11 Paul spent the rest of his life undergoing that training.
That grace suffices us makes great sense when we know the definition of God’s grace is not “unmerited favor” but God giving Himself to His beloved children in the same way that good parents want to give themselves to their children, yet are not able. There are times when parents wish they could get inside their child to impart what they have learned to the child. They long to plant everything they know inside their children so they can avoid the problems which the parent has experienced.
God Himself is the grace He gives. He is everywhere which means He lives inside every human being and is ready to impart everything He knows and all His ability to those that believe. This is to what the Apostle Paul was referring in Acts 17:28:
For in Him we live and move and have our being.12
Like Paul said, every human being exists inside the God from Whom all life flows. And because of free will, we are free to believe what God knows to be false. When we do, we experience what He does not want us to experience.
We are dependent on God Who is our real father to teach us what He wants us to know. His grace includes God training us by living inside us and participating in our daily lives. When we knowingly or unknowingly choose to believe as true things with which God would not agree, our lives and experiences reflect those wrong beliefs.
In summary, the best way to understand what a person writes is to know them. So, how do you get to know God so that you can understand His words? Though others’ interpretations may be helpful, the only way we are going to know God is when He teaches us Himself. That is difficult if someone has decided another person’s interpretations are the truth without asking God if what that person says is the truth. This is why obedience is so important. (Obedience means to listen.)
Whatever we listen to and observe the most will easily become what we believe as truth. Human beings automatically live in agreement with their deepest beliefs. This is why it is so important to guard our hearts by submitting to hearing God. It is problematic when someone believes they can only hear God through another person. It is very important that you agree with God that He loves you and wants you to understand Him. No matter what you feel or what thoughts come to your mind, keep agreeing that He loves you and wants you to understand Him. He will connect with you in a way that you understand and know it is Him.
Eventually, what we have submitted to hearing determines the reality in which we think we are living. This is because what we believe is true determines what we perceive to be reality.
I still tell God that I must know His truth the way He knows it. So, I keep looking at Jesus and Who He is. And since I know that God knows I am a child, I know He has never abandoned me nor expected me to figure out anything by myself, because God would never abandon a child or leave them by themselves.
I need things to make sense to me, and God always speaks to me in ways that make sense. If He didn’t, He would not be love, but He is love and always treats every one of His children as important and precious to Him. And every human being is His child, even those who have rejected Him.
- John 5:39,40 (KJV)
- John 14:6 (KJV)
- Luke 24:27 (NIV)
- 1 John 4:17
- Matthew 11:27 (NKJV)
- John 14:9 (NKJV)
- Matthew 6:33
- f. Hebrews 13:5
- Deuteronomy 4:2 (NKJV)
- John 8:58
- Titus 2:12 (JEC)
- Acts 17:28