Several years ago, I visited a new church. The greeters were amicable and eager to welcome me and as I entered, I was met with the sounds of an excellent worship team, leading the congregation in a contemporary song. I felt very comfortable hearing familiar songs and receiving warm greetings. As I sat in my seat, I perused the program I was handed and was drawn to the statement of beliefs. Carefully reading it, I was struck by the emphasis on being a family-oriented church. In fact, it explicitly stated their church was focused upon thirty-somethings but all ages were welcome. Polite, supportive, friendly-all familiar and comforting words, but somehow, superficial for a statement of beliefs.
As I listened to the reading of the Scripture, I was confused by the unfamiliar sound of the verses for what should have been a very common Bible passage. I realized the Bible translation the church was using was unknown to me. On my smartphone, I had an app that contained dozens of Bible translations but this one was not found. No worries, I thought, I will investigate later but first, I needed to listen to what the pastor had to say. The sermon lasted 45 minutes and certainly echoed the themes that were expounded in the statement of beliefs. After the service, I reflected upon the message and statement and reflected, “What is missing?”
There was nothing about Jesus Christ nor was there any mention of the Bible or of the pathway to salvation, the need to confess and repent of our sins to Jesus Christ and accept Him as Lord and Savior. I knew that these omissions did not necessarily mean this church did not believe in this but, if this was their statement of faith, their foundational tenets should be clearly stated. I realized that I needed to learn more about this Bible translation and the denomination of Christianity this church followed.
When I returned home, I researched the origins of this Bible translation and the denomination of Christianity expounded by this pastor and church. The translation was relatively recent, and to my surprise and alarm, nearly all done by one person. Investigating more, I learned that the translator adhered to a fringe sect of Christianity. While it appeared to follow much of mainstream Christianity, major doctrinal differences were present, even with a cursory examination. It was a diluted and watered down version of the Gospel. I reluctantly came to the conclusion that this church, although welcoming, was not following the true message of Jesus Christ.
The Bible is the Word of God, inspired and inerrant. Any reputable Bible translation is the result of dozens of translators, from many different Christian denominations, minimizing the possibility of doctrinal or personal biases. The ESV (English Standard Version) is the translation that I prefer, but whenever I read a passage, I compare it to several other translations including the King James Authorized Version, New American Standard, New International Version, and the New Life Translation. I also examine the English words with Greek and Hebrew dictionaries, examining the original meaning. There are still passages that are difficult to understand, eliciting considerable debate about the true meaning, even amongst theologians. Yet, an overriding principle is allowing the Bible to interpret itself. It must be internally consistent. A passage cannot present Jesus as anything less than God. This new translation fails this test. In several passages, new ideas, foreign or even contradictory to Christianity are added. These passages had no origin in the original Greek and Hebrew texts and were added by the translator to support his theological contentions and sect. Subtle? Yes. Heretical? Most certainly.
And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.
2 Peter 3:15-17 (ESV)
Thousands of years ago, the Apostle Peter warned Christian believers about this same danger. Peter even pointed out that his fellow brother in the Lord, the Apostle Paul, wrote things that were sometimes difficult to explain. Instead of consulting with others and praying to the Holy Spirit for guidance and inspiration, false teachers inserted their own interpretations of Paul’s writings, resulting in the dissemination of false teachings.
What is missing?
Christianity will always be centered upon Jesus Christ. Only by confessing and repenting of one’s sins and accepting Jesus as one’s Lord and Savior will one receive salvation. Nothing is missing when Jesus Christ and His true teachings, as revealed through the Bible, are at the center of one’s life.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.