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Evangelist, Baptist, Husband, Father, Mid-30's.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Living and Active

LIVING and ACTIVE; these two words are fantastically amazing wonderful glorious descriptors of the Word of God. (Hebrews 4:12-13) The original words in Greek are Zon and Energes, they mean literally Alive and Energetic / Capable of Doing Work / Active. These two words seem to get overlooked when talking about the Bible, we know it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its content, and we know that it is sharper than a scalpel bladed sword, and we know that it is where faith comes from; but it seems that there is a general oversight that the Word of God is literally its own entity capable of doing its own work.

Compare Isaiah 55:10-11 before we go further,
as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
I want you, my dear reader, to see that the Word of God is not just a weapon, it's not just a tool, it is not at the mercy of the user to be used effectively; Instead of an arrow fired from a bow aimed by an archer it is a self propelled laser guided missile. This Word rips through defenses, stops mouths, cuts to the heart, comes alive in the hearer and slays its enemies. (Take a moment and read Galatians 2:19-20, Romans 3:18-20, Romans 7:10-11, and Acts 2:37)

Short phrases like "You must be born again" (George Whitefield, John 3:7), "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles" (The Son of Sam / David Berkowitz, Psalm 34:6), and "the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written the righteous shall live by faith" (Martin Luther, Romans 1:17) are credited for transforming utter sinners into outright saints, for faith comes by hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ.

I love how 1 Peter 1:23 puts it,
you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;
My own soul was born again when a verse preached out of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible described Jesus Christ's advent as, "God was manifest in the flesh." (1 Timothy 3:16) Through that one verse and concept the Saviour of mankind crushed my pride, exposed my sinfulness, drew me near to himself, and redeemed my soul. But if you read that verse out of any other translation it simply says "He was manifest in the flesh." Indeed, the original Greek does not bear with it the fact that Jesus Christ is God, at least not in that verse, but many other passages do (see John 20:28, 2 Peter 1:1, Titus 2:13, and John 1:1, among many others), but it was that verse out of the King James Version of the Bible that quickened my soul.

So is there something special about that translation? Should we preach exclusively from it? Indeed this translation did amazing things when sent by George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, John Gill, Asahel Nettleton, Charles Spurgeon, Paris Reidhead, Leonard Ravenhill, Ray Comfort, Kent Hovind and a multitude of others. But a prolific amount of archaeology in the 20th century showed that the Textus Receptus, the Greek manuscript which the King James translators used, is not an exact copy of the originals, albeit it is very close. Today we have infinitely better manuscripts and awesome Bible translations that have been born out of them, including the NASB, NIV, and ESV, among others.

With the supersedance of the KJV for newer and better translations there has been a push for what has been dubbed "King James Onlyism", or the rejection of every English Bible except for the KJV. This push is based on many facts, such as that the KJV was the Bible of choice for over 300 years, that so many were converted under its preaching, and that many of the majority text manuscripts are missing a few superfluous verses. We know quite decisively that the extra verses in the KJV are addendums and that the Bible suffers not when these verses are removed, since the concepts are concretely discussed elsewhere in scripture (See Mark 7:16 and 1 John 5:7 for example), yet one cannot deny that the King James Bible, even with its errors, did magnificent works and amazing things for the kingdom. Conversely, we see a proliferation of nearly perfect translations that will never see the usage or conversions on the scale that the KJV was involved in.

What does all of this mean? Why have I typed it? It is to remind you, dear reader, that the Word of God is alive and energetic and that it is not a translation that saves, but the Godhead, expressed in text, which transforms a soul. The King James Translators never saved anyone, they planted and watered, but it was God who gave the growth.

The difference in word choice between the KJV and even the Textus Receptus are massive, while you may see the lineage of the English Energetic from the Greek Energes, you wouldn't likewise claim an etymological link between English Abiding and Greek Menei or English Living and Greek Zon. Yet the Greek phrase Zon gar o logos tou Theo kai energes has the exact meaning of the English phrase The Word of God is living and active. The phrases use radically different words with the exact same meaning; still the Word of God, still able to accomplish its purposes with or without your help. It's the difference between calling a Patriot missile an MIM-104 Surface to Air Missile...different names, same purpose and same effect. (Humor me and pretend the Patriot could actually hit anything)

So we see something interesting in the proliferation of better translations doing less, and KJV Only proponents holding to a once amazing translation who are now doing little to nothing for the kingdom. It is not the translation or the manuscripts or the language that does the converting, but the Word of God deployed and sent out which converts souls.

It's two squadrons holed up in a hangar, one claiming the F-15 is the best, the other saying the F-22 is inviolable, and as they argue over which aircraft to launch the enemy is raining havoc down all around them. If one or the other were put up then they would make short work of the adversary, imagine if both launched at once! But the church is content to keep these weapons safely tucked away, perhaps occasionally taking them out on a joyride or mock engagements against other churches (often ending in fatalities), but putting the Word of God on the offensive against a violent and insatiable enemy is intolerant and unheard of.

Dr. Charles Love was converted reading the worst Bible translation of all time, the New World Translation; while the equivalent of F-15 and F-22 state-of-the-art fighter jets were safely snuggled in mega-hangars, a lone dilapidated Cessna, with a BB-gun and no home-base, rocked Dr. Love's world and ushered him into the kingdom of God, because it was put into action and accomplished the purposes of God.

The Word of God is alive and energetic, more than capable of doing exactly what it was designed for. Will you send it today? Will you open up your Bible and preach? Will you give out a gospel tract? Will you tape your favorite Bible verse to the wall in your cubicle? Will you write "John 3:16" on the window of your car in washable wax? You don't even have to do anything except send this capable Word on its way, God will do the rest; it is self propelled and laser guided, it will not return without accomplishing its purpose.

Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins, he was raised for our justification, he sits ready to intercede for us, he even gave us his Holy Spirit to empower us; every detail has been taken care of, all that is left for you to do is to open your mouth and preach this glorious living and active Word.