The Greatest Translation of the Bible

Editorial: The Greatest Translation of the Bible

Much is being stated these days about Bible translations. And this is right,for nothing is more vital to the Christian than to know just what the word of the Lord really is. There should be an increasing interest in the Bible.

Much is being stated these days about Bible translations. And this is right, for nothing is more vital to the Christian than to know just what the word of the Lord really is. There should be an increasing interest in the Bible.

Whether the Revised Standard Version of 1952 or the new English or Scottish translations soon to be completed, will ever really replace the Authorized Version of 1611, is, of course, impossible to say. Present indications, however, do not seem to point that way. At present there is altogether too much opposition to what many are already calling the "National Council of Churches' Bible" to lead any observer to feel that this particular translation will actually become the Bible of American Christendom. But it is not this version, nor even the King James Version, of which we speak when we talk about "the greatest translation of the Bible" the translation that really counts. It is rather that translation of Bible truth that we make in our own personal life, the translation that men read in their business dealings with us, the translation of Christlike love and sympathy that our fellow workers have a right to expect of us, the translation that our church members and our neighbors look for that is the translation that really counts and that has more to do with the finishing of God's work than anything else.

At the bottom of the last paragraph in a little volume in a secondhand bookstore were found these words in pencil by some previous reader: "Here ends the reading of this book. Now for the living of it." And is not that the test of any devotional book? Is not that the thing that really counts? The epistle written, not with ink, but The Spirit of God, not on stone or parchment, but on the fleshy tables of the heart that and that alone makes Christianity worth while.

Those first-century Christians were not so much concerned about the particular version of the Scriptures, for that was not an issue in their day. They were tremendously concerned, however, about sharing the truth they had discovered with everyone they met. Their Bibles were not lying undusted on their bookshelves, for not many
those days had any books in their personal possessions, much less copies of the Scriptures. But they did have Christ and His love in their hearts. In fact, His word was a consuming fire in their lives, and that made those early believers the greatest spiritual force the world has ever known. They did not merely have heads full of theology; they had hearts full of love. And it was that love that constrained them; that is, it drove them on in wholehearted service for others. It spurred them to action. It gave them courage. It nerved them to do exploits for God. It did not soothe them into a state of sentimental security, which made them feel that, having been saved, they could now be "at ease in Zion." No true translation ever gets that reaction, for the Christian message is not a sedative but a stimulant. When God's Word is truly translated into life, church members are not lulled to sleep in complacent, self-righteous satisfaction. Instead, they are challenged to do great things for God.

When that word came to Moses it led him to undertake a task too big for him; at least, he thought so. But he accomplished it by God's grace. And when that word became flesh in the experience of Abraham, it drove him out of his home country into a land he did not know. It led him to sacrifice his son. That same word sustained Joseph in the hour of subtle temptation; it upheld him during those trying years of unjust servitude in the dungeon.

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews calls the roll of men and women, heroes, who knew the power of God's word in their lives. That word, hidden in their hearts, gave them power to resist sin. Through it they wrought righteousness, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, waxed valiant in fight, suffered mockings and scourgings. They were bound and imprisoned, were stoned, were sawn asunder; they wandered in deserts and mountains; they were in the dens and caves of the earth, destitute,
afflicted, tormented. But they all obtained a good report through faith, not because they sprinkled holy water on the status quo and kept the cause moving along on even lines, but because they translated the word of God into holy, vigorous action. Like the saints of the first century, whose somewhat dubious distinction, in the eyes of their contemporaries, was that they "turned the world upside down," so these heroes of an older time revealed that God was with them. They were not reclining on the couch of celestial psychology, singing "I Shall Not Be Moved." They were marching in the vanguard of God's advancing hosts.

Halford Luccock facetiously remarks that some people "are almost on the verge of rewriting Scripture to read, 'If any man will come after me, let him relax.' Or, 'Go ye into all the world and keep down your blood pressure.' " A "modernist" translation indeed!

We must never permit ourselves to think of God's last message as something merely to quiet nerves. It was never intended to be a sedative; it is a stimulant. It calls us to action, to conquest, to death. The Holy Spirit never leads men into the area of mere apologetics. Have Seventh-day Adventists not been on the defensive long enough? Is it not our duty to move now into the very camp of the enemy and take the offensive?

When the apostles went out to preach, they were not popular. Neither did they spend their time trying to be popular, trying to build themselves up by favorable publicity techniques. They had a message, and that message cut clean across the customs of that day. Social position, class distinction, segregation they knew nothing of these. They proclaimed a message that made all men of all ranks and races one in Christ. Slaves and masters became brothers in the church. Maids and mistresses were united in a common cause.

Some critics declare that Paul never preached against slavery and the social evils of his day. He did more; he refused to recognize them. His message was too big to be incarcerated in some social or political concept. It was a world message that called for a world vision. His writings reveal his attitude to life. It was his broad thinking that
made him the evangelist he was. Think of if. with no Bibles as we know them today, no radio, no TV, no automobiles, no printing presses, no steamships, no airplanes, no railroads, no newspaper publicity, no sanitariums, no colleges! And their organization, compared with what Adventists have built up, was nothing. But they did have one thing, and that eclipsed everything else. They had the baptism of the Spirit. And the Spirit of God translated the truth of God's word as then proclaimed into life experience. Without the material resources that seem to us so essential, those evangelists and leaders accomplished in a single generation what we, possessing all these material advantages, have been struggling to do during three or four generations. Here is real food for thought.

How desperately we need the Spirit! We need Him to take the selfishness and partiality out of our hearts and to fill us with the love of Jesus. We need Him to enable us to translate into life the precious word of God, that we as workers together with Him may indeed be "living epistles," "known and read of all men." We need the Spirit
of God to sweep through our ranks with a cleansing flame, bringing to us as ministers and workers the power of a new Pentecost. We need that Spirit of grace to help us to be more courteous and more considerate of others. As Dr. Peter Marshall once expressed it, "How many times opportunities to be kind have come to us and knocked at the doors of our hearts and then have gone weeping away!"

Bishop McConnell paid a great tribute to his mother when he spoke of her as "the most persistent Bible reader" he had ever known. But her reading of the word led her to serve. She was the chief friend in her community. It seemed no baby could ever come into that part of the world unless Aunt Nan was on hand to make its coming
easier. No sick child or father, but she was there to comfort and to help. She served her church for sixty years and out of a widow's slender resources gave one of the largest amounts for the erection of the church in which she worshiped. The Lord saw fit to spare her "to see her family give over 200 years of service in the Christian ministry."

Whittier might well have been writing of her in these beautiful lines:

"The dear Lord's best interpreters

Are humble human souls;

The Gospel of a life like hers

Is more than books or scrolls."

And that is the translation that really counts with God and with men. "Inasmuch as ye did it" is the final test in the judgment. Not one word here about theology, not "inasmuch as ye believed it"; but "inasmuch as ye did it," and not to the president or to the manager, to the educated or the well-to-do, but "unto one of the least."

Such is the Lord's standard of true discipleship. Are we as ministers measuring up to it?

 

 


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March 1953

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