The Heart of Translation
God’s heart is that we would know Him and love Him.
3 This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent—Jesus Christ.
29 Jesus answered, “The most important is Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. 31 The second is, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.”
So how can we know Him?
How do you get to know anyone? Through relationship and conversation. We get to know Him through the Scriptures. The Scriptures are the very words of God. When you listen to the Scriptures, you are listening to God speak. David refers to the Scriptures as the very words of God.
11 I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you.
16 I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
103 How sweet your word is to my taste— sweeter than honey in my mouth.
105 Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.
Our God is a God who speaks, and we have His actual words.
So how can we be sure that we know Him and not just His Words.
You say, knowing God is more than just being familiar with His words. And to that I say you are exactly right. To know God is more than just to know His words. Jesus will deny many entrance into heaven even though they perform many signs and wonders and cast out demons in His name and He tells us why.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!’
So Here Jesus says “I never knew you.” and He describes what they are like. They are lawbreakers, meaning God’s law as God has revealed it to us through the Scriptures, and they do not do the will of His father. He paints a picture of two groups of people. One Group knows Jesus and they do the Father’s will. The other group does not know Jesus and they live sinful lives. Even though there are many who will perform great miracles in Jesus’ name, they still live sinful lives and never enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ. So how can we be confident that we actually know God and not just know about God. God tells us in 1 John which parallels exactly what we just read.
This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commands. The one who says, “I have come to know him,” and yet doesn’t keep his commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, truly in him the love of God is made complete. This is how we know we are in him: The one who says he remains in him should walk just as he walked.
So the inevitable question arises. Can you make a profession of faith in God, come down the isle, be baptized and then go and live “like sin” and still be saved? According to God’s word, No. God’s word tells us that if you enter into a genuine relationship with God, that He will turn you into a new creation. He will turn your heart of stone into a heart of flesh, and he will conform you into the image of His Son. If you continue reading in the same chapter, John describes many who left the church and went astray, he said
They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us.
The way he describes them is not as people who were saved and then lost their salvation, but as a group of people who the church may have believed were saved but who never were because if they were they would have stayed, but their leaving and living sinful lives proved that they never did belong to the body of Christ.
So how do we know what His commands are?
He has given us His commands in His word, in the Scriptures. The more we get to know the Scriptures, the more familiar we are with God, and His heart, and His commands to us. When we decided to follow Him as our Master, He comes to live in us through the Holy Spirit. We begin a lifelong relationship with Him that will last for eternity. So we should treasure our relationship with Him above all else. Which, therefore, means that we should treasure His words to us above all else. Although our experiences in life can enrich our relationship with God, such as times when He comforts us, and gives us boldness, and empowers us through the Holy Spirit to accomplish His plans, and performs miracles in our lives, our experiences can never trump the Words of God, which are eternal and never changing.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
If we experience anything in this life that runs contrary to the Scriptures, it doesn’t matter how real the experience is, it is to be rejected. We have been warned by God to not let our experiences lead us away from Him and His never changing words. Paul writing to the churches in Galatia tells them that even if an angel from heaven were to appear to them and tell them something different than the gospel that they had already received then that message is to be rejected!!
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, a curse be on him!
And Jesus, when warning his disciples about the last days tells them that false messiahs and false prophets will perform signs and wonders and lead people astray.
For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and will perform signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, the elect. And you must watch! I have told you everything in advance.
But it is the Scriptures that have the message of salvation in them. The Scriptures contain the message about Jesus Christ, the only name by which we can be saved. Jesus said...
You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, and yet they testify about me.
This Jesus is the stone rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.
Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand and by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
So if the Words of God, the Scriptures that proclaim the good news about Jesus Christ are the only hope of salvation for everyone on this planet, then what is God’s heart when it comes to translating those Words. Translation is absolutely necessary for the Word of God to spread to all the peoples on earth and that was part of God’s original plan all along. Think about this. He did not give the Ten Commandments in an angelic language or a godly language and then command Moses and all future nations to learn that language if they want to know God. No, God wrote His commands in their language so that they would understand His words. And the New Testament Scriptures were not written in Hebrew so that only the nation of Israel would inherit the blessing of salvation. He chose to have the New Testament written in Greek in order for those writings to quickly spread throughout the entire Roman Empire since that was the business language among the nations. His goal is and always has been to eliminate every hinderance to coming to know Him. He has always placed Himself right in the midst of us and has not made it difficult for us to find Him.
13 You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.
26 From one man he has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. 27 He did this so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
After Jesus rose from the dead, He commanded the disciples to wait in Jerusalem to receive the Holy Spirit to empower them for the mission that He has set before them.
4 While he was with them, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. “Which,” he said, “you have heard me speak about; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days.”
and then in verse 8 He said,
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
So what is the Holy Spirit going to give them power to do? He will empower them to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth! When the Holy Spirit fell on them at Pentecost the disciples then went out into the city and began to boldly preach the gospel to all the people from all over the world who had gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost (or the feast of Weeks). When they went out and proclaimed the gospel they did not do it in a single language that God had sovereignly chosen and order everyone to learn that language if they wanted to understand and embrace the message of eternal life that God had went through such GREAT LENGTHS to accomplish on our behalf. No, God’s heart was and always will be to make the message clear to all people in their own language so that they may freely believe. God gave the apostles the ability to proclaim the gospel in everyone’s native tongue for that exact purpose. One major difference between the Bible of Christianity and the Qur’an of Islam is that The Bible is translatable. If it is written in Chinese it is still the Bible. If it is written in English, it is still the Bible. It does not have to be written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Although the Qur’an has been translated into other languages, the Islamic stance is that the translations are not to be considered the Qur’an. God tells us in the book of Romans through the inspiration of the Apostle Paul,
8 On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. This is the message of faith that we proclaim: 9 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame, 12 since there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord of all richly blesses all who call on him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. 14 How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.
God does not make a distinction between Jew and Greek. He desires all to be saved.
10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”
For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
9 The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.
Not only should God’s word be spoken to people in a language that they can understand, but it should also be clear. You have heard me say that when I preach from the pulpit or share the gospel with people in everyday conversations that my top priority is not to be comical, is not to be clever, and is not even to be coercive, it is to be clear!! Above all else, the gospel message of God’s offer of forgiveness and eternal life to people must be clear. It must be clearly presented, and our necessary response must be clearly articulated. God teaches us the importance of clarity in Paul’s first letter to the Church in Corinth.
6 But now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in other languages, how will I benefit you unless I speak to you with a revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? 7 Even inanimate things that produce sounds—whether flute or harp —if they don’t make a distinction in the notes, how will what is played on the flute or harp be recognized? 8 In fact, if the trumpet makes an unclear sound, who will prepare for battle? 9 In the same way, unless you use your tongue for intelligible speech, how will what is spoken be known? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are doubtless many different kinds of languages in the world, and all have meaning. 11 Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker will be a foreigner to me. 12 So also you—since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, seek to excel in building up the church.
Every time we read one of the Apostles or disciples sharing the gospel message with others, they clearly articulate the saving message of Jesus Christ in words that will be clearly understood by their hearers. The message of salvation for their eternal souls is too important to be vague and unclear leaving them with no clear understanding of what God has done for them and what they should do in response. In this same instance at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and they went out and preached the gospel in every language, God records for us Peter’s message. (Acts chapter 2) I encourage you to go home and read the entire chapter. Verse 14 says
14 Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them: “Fellow Jews and all you residents of Jerusalem, let me explain this to you and pay attention to my words.
He starts off by explaining that these men were not drunk but were filled with the Spirit of God and that God had prophesied through Joel that this would happen when the day of the Lord comes and that everyone who believes on the name of the Lord will be saved. Peter goes on to explain that Jesus was the one that God pointed out as the one who fulfilled this prophesy and not David. Peter continues to explain that even though Jesus was God’s sent Messiah that they rejected Him and crucified the Messiah. But that God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it, and that Jesus is now sitting at the right hand of God and has received the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out that spirit on the Apostles.
Verse 37 says,
37 When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what should we do?”
And Peter responds with another clear message.
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 40 With many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt generation!” 41 So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added to them. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.
Our commission is to take that message to all nations, just like the Apostles did, not make them come to us. We are to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Trinity, and teach them to obey all His commands.
18 Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Still today, we are cooperating together as Christians all around the world are translating the Scriptures into new languages so that people from every nation, tribe, and language can embrace their God and Savior Jesus Christ and worship Him.
9 After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!
God was gave the Old Testament to the Israelites in their native tongue. God gave the New Testament to the World in the most commonly used language among the nations at that time. And God, Himself, was the first to translate the gospel message into other languages for people to hear in their own native tongue at Pentecost. It is God’s heart to translate His words into everyone’s native language so that everyone may place their faith in Him and follow Him with their hearts and their actions. God initiated the translation of His gospel into other people’s languages, when we fund Bible translations, we are following in His footsteps and we are coming alongside His mission that He has begun so that the world may know Him. What about you? Do you know Him?