Is God’s Understanding of His Gospel the Same as Ours?
To Old Testament believers, the Messiah was “the expected king of the Davidic line who would deliver Israel from foreign bondage and restore the glories of its golden age.” www.britannica.com So some were visibly disappointed that Jesus did not use His abilities to conquer Rome.
But the prophet Isaiah had a different view of the Messiah. *cf. Isaiah 53:5, 54:2,4,13,14,17. (KJV) He was more interested in the wellbeing of the people than overthrowing their enemies. Yes, of course, conquering enemies was important, but the work of God to be accomplished by the coming Christ went far beyond that.
5But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
2Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes;
4Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.
13And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.
14In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.
17No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.
Many Bible passages portray God being angry at sinners, and in the light of verses like these make it look like God can’t make up His mind about who and what He loves. It appears He doesn’t want anyone to be sure of His true intentions. And what type of father deposits His children someplace and then leaves the country?” (cf. Mark 12:1) How are we to know on which of Isaiah’s promises we can depend and under what circumstances? But doesn’t it seem like Isaiah was speaking of a God who was going to be very involved in the totality of our lives, more so than just taking a kingdom.
Oh, but wait a second. Based on all the most popular translations of the New Testament and much Bible teaching, it seems the Gospel is most concerned about the forgiveness of sins and promises of a better life in the future.
The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 (NASB)1
But the one who endures to the end is the one who will be saved. Mathew 24:13 (NASB)2
Yet, it is hard to escape verses like Acts 17:28, 1 John 3:9, and 1 John 4:17. They say that we are God’s offspring because we were born out of Him (which means we are not adopted), and “as He is, so are we in this world.”
For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ (NIV)
Anyone having been born out of God error does not practice, because His seed (the Greek word is sperma) abides inside him and not he is able to err because out of God he was born. (JEC)
By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, we also are in this world. (NASB)
Is God, Who says He is love and our Father and able to do anything, offering only forgiveness right now? He’s only interested in making our lives better in the future? Hmmm. Really?
Those who translated the original Greek text to Latin, English, German, and every other language have done what Jesus told the Pharisees not to do. For almost two thousand years believers have been searching the Scriptures to find eternal life and the meaning of salvation. But Jesus said there is a better way, “Just look at me.” (cf. John 5:39) This reminds me of the scene in the movie The Shack in which Jesus walks on the water to save Mac who is in a panic bailing water out of a sinking boat. Mac doesn’t look up but keeps bailing as he waits to be saved. If only Jesus would save him. Jesus just says, “Look at me.” Mac’s response is akin to, “Come on Jesus, this is a crisis. I need help to save this sinking boat.”
Human proclivity assumes everything bad which happens reflects God’s will, since if He wanted to, He could have stopped it. It did not take long after the first century for the Greek language and believers’ understanding of the original New Testament documents to begin changing. This is easy to understand when we know the compounding and devastating consequences of believing things God does not mean. As new generations of believers evolved, the complexities involved in translating documents written centuries earlier left scholars increasingly dependent on their own experiences to decide what those early believers might have meant. A thousand years later as the Reformation took shape, Bible teachers simply accepted doctrines that began in the second and third centuries. Many think people who lived a century or two after the Early Church surely had accurate understanding of the Gospel, but they didn’t.
In the third and fourth centuries, scholars translated the Greek into the Latin Vulgate which is still used today by the Roman Catholic Church. Unfortunately, they did not have a proper comprehension of first century Greek or the Gospel. As the generations have unfolded our understanding has not gotten better.
Those sincere Reformation believers emerging from the darkness of the previous fourteen hundred years struggled to determine what the Greek text meant. In many cases, the language seemed so difficult that once someone thought they knew what a word or passage meant, all inquiry seems to have ceased so that early understandings became set in stone.
In every modern translation, we see God being both good and bad. This has caused many reasonable people to reject God. Reconciling a good God Who does bad is impossible.
Long ago, I decided that since God is the ultimate good father, He would not want to confuse nor hide the truth from us. He wants us to know what He will do and that He always keeps His promises. Mankind’s contradictory understandings of God cannot be His fault but ours. So, what would cause people to declare Bible contradictions to not be contradictions?
My eyes began opening almost 50 years ago when my Greek professor at the University of Florida expressed concern about the mistranslation of prepositions. How could the preposition “en” have seven or more different meaning? English prepositions generally have one basic definition and additional meanings are always related to and consistent with the first one. That is not the case with modern translations of many Greek prepositions. My professor believed translators were forcing words to mean what they thought they should mean. This resulted in serious discrepancies, which were universally declared to not be discrepancies. As I remember, he claimed to be an atheist, yet he loved the Greek text of the Bible. Go figure.
Three decades ago, the seed my professor planted exploded into a beautiful plant which began blooming with the most marvelous fruit I could have imagined. The abridged version is that I began to tire of being suspicious of God. How could He be so full of contradictions that I could never be sure what He was going to do? I wondered if it was possible to believe only good about Him, but I needed help to do it. God just didn’t give me a little here and there, He literally threw off the covers.
Though many translations say, and preachers agree, that God hides things from us, I think something else is going on. I think God wants His children to know everything He knows, but so much we have learned has prevented us from seeing what He has put right in front of our faces. In Christ He has thrown off the covers, but since we have been taught otherwise, we expect God to be mysterious and unknowable. It is difficult to ever be sure Who God is and what He will do, especially when we do not want to know because it contradicts what we are sure we know. This same type of thinking possessed the minds of believers centuries after the first generation of believers passed away.
Over the years God has shown me His definitions of many Greek words that are often available in major lexicons but ignored by scholars in lieu of meanings that more accurately fit their understandings. But I wanted to know God in a way that would remain consistent throughout the Scriptures. I did not like having to ignore the obvious because it didn’t fit my theology. So, I began ditching traditional theology for what made sense to me. I wanted to see a truly wonderful, loving, Father of mankind. It has led me to places of great joy. I now understand salvation through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ in a way that answers every question I have had about God and His attitude toward me and you.
Consistent with what Old Testament saints believed, the Apostle Paul claimed that God really did fulfill His promises in Christ. As a result, he declared things like “we are complete in Him” and that in Christ we have been made wise, righteous, sanctified, and redeemed. Peter declared, “by His striped we were healed.” Paul said that Christ was made poor that we would be rich. In Romans 5:17, he declared that those who take the grace of God and gift of righteousness will reign in life. I can fill pages with these sorts of declarations. So, if God did what He said He was going to do, why doesn’t it look like it? Inside Christ IS the completion of everything that God promised mankind. The salvation that God had planned required nothing more. Paul wrote about our completeness in Christ long before anyone in the 21st Century was born or believed. Thus, we were saved not by anything that we or God now do, but because we were inside Christ when He was crucified and saved out of death by Resurrection. Because we are members of His body and live and move and have our being inside Him,3 everything that is true of Jesus must be true of us, too. Since we are members of His body, if we are not complete, then He isn’t either. His body cannot be complete or saved if any part of it is not complete or saved. The Apostle John confirmed that everything that is true of Jesus after the Resurrection is true of His entire body.
“[…] as he is, so are we in this world.”4
So, an honest question. Since God says that as Jesus is so are we in this world, why don’t we look like it? Why is human experience so unlike what Jesus experiences at this present moment if we really are members of His body? Did God only save mankind “spiritually" but not physically? Then why did Peter write that we were healed?
The answer is simple and part of what the Prophet Habakkuk was referring to in 1:5 of his book.
“[…] watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.5
Though many believe Habakkuk was speaking of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Messiah, he was going light years past that traditional understanding into something so wonderful that even today, God’s children have great trouble believing it is possible, yet they are surrounded by evidence which they see daily.
Unseen, and our books to come, lay the foundation for understanding the real salvation in Christ. As the books proceed, they lay the understanding necessary to comprehend a salvation which is far more wonderful than “a just God who punished His son because of our sins.” This is a doctrine about which the Early Church knew nothing. But over several generations, this became the only way people could understand the work of the Cross; after enough repetition it became the truth. Yet, to reasonable people, it just doesn’t settle right.
We hope you will follow these blogs which will offer not just a hope of something better from God but the absolute expectation that He is up to good in ways you have never considered.
We would love to read your comments, which might become the subjects of future blogs. This will be fun.