Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Missionary (10/19/06)
By Edy T Johnson
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A couple blocks from the inner-city corner with the highest crime rate in town, stands a small storefront bookstore. It is a Christian enterprise, The Lutheran Colportage, with a notable history of publishing and distributing evangelical literature.
One morning my husband and I paid this bookstore a call. The proprietor, at the time, told us he was retired from a life as an overseas missionary. He said that he and his wife now shared the small second floor apartment in exchange for his minding the store (among other service to customers). As he and my husband moved into a discussion of Bible translations, I listened to their conversation. What I learned I mark as a highlight in my own spiritual journey.
"Do you know that none of the modern versions correctly translates this verse in Galatians?" He turned to verse sixteen of the second chapter. "But, here it is, as it should be, in the King James:
"'Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.'"
He opened to the same verse in several other versions available on the study table in the back of the store. "See here. They all substitute 'in' for 'of.' And what a world of difference that little preposition mistranslation makes in understanding our position in Christ!"
I listened, dumbfounded. One little preposition takes the burden from us and gives it to Jesus. If it is our faith IN Jesus that justifies us, how (as Luther struggled to discover) do we know when we've crossed the line with ENOUGH faith? But, Hallelujah! It is not our faith IN, but it is the faith OF Jesus, His faithfulness alone, that justifies us. And, this only makes sense. Here scripture talks about works of the law. And, I'm afraid we hear a lot of television preaching that makes "faith IN" to be a work of the law, as we struggle with our own concept of salvation, and how WE attain it.
This has become my touchstone when reading any version of Scripture. Amazingly, I have found the alternate "faith OF" present, in some cases, but relegated to the footnotes.
We are REDEEMED, not "redeemable." We have nothing to offer for our redemption. We are LOVED, while we are yet sinners, and certainly not "lovable!" It is not so much that we accept Jesus as it is that God ACCEPTS us in Christ Jesus! Now, that is the good news which fills our hearts with thanksgiving!
Hearing that conversation, and passing it along to all of you, makes me wonder if that aging missionary might draw more lost to Jesus in his declining years than in all his years overseas. Like Abraham, so old he was "as good as dead," this missionary's life didn't end up in the footnotes of his life's story. He continues to the end, spending his days still sowing the seeds of the Gospel, to bear fruit for the Kingdom, a hundredfold.
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