by Tom Wacaster

Since the advent of the world wide web and the invention of the internet by ‘Joe Bidden’ (I say that tongue-in-cheek of course), there has been an ongoing struggle between software and hardware companies to gain the advantage over their competitors as to what format would be best for the consumer (not to mention their pocket books).  Standardization is the process by which various companies standardize their products in any particular field of endeavor.  Webster says that “standardize”  means “to change (things) so that they are similar and consistent and agree with rules about what is proper and acceptable” (   Some of us can remember how Betamax lost out to VHS format for tape recording in a struggle that left the consumer confused and often bewildered, and asking, “Why can’t we get a common standard and make things simpler?”  From time to time I have receive a note from one of our subscribers that my weekly article did not come through clearly; that somehow, “Tom’s Pen” did not transmit across the world wide internet in clear form. In other words, the words are garbled, mixed with crazy looking characters and symbols that make deciphering the message a formidable task, if not an impossibility.  Though I have managed to correct the problem for the most part, it remains a thorn in the flesh in my efforts to get the message out by electronic means.   I have been told that computer languages consists of “zeros” and “ones” arranged in code so as to produce the desired program (or is it “ones” and “twos”?).   Evidently in the process of transmitting the original into the format your computer might be able to read, some of those “zeroes” and “ones” produce odd looking characters.  When that happens the message on your end is “garbled.”   Microsoft Word provides a “Thesaurus” and gives the following synonyms for “garbled”:  “mangled; distorted; confused.”   The “on line Webster Dictionary” provides the following definition of “garbled”: “To so alter or distort as to create a wrong impression or change the meaning; to introduce textual error into a message by inaccurate encipherment [sic], transmission or decipherment.”  Precisely how those wacky looking characters get intermixed in the transmission is a mystery to me, but I think it has something to do with the binary code that is hidden within the word processor that I use to write my article or the service you use to receive the message.  Whatever the cause, the end result is the same — a message that is either difficult or even impossible to understand. 

The world wide web, texting, the internet, emails et al are not the only area in which messages can be garbled.   The devil has been garbling the truth for centuries.  No doubt he rejoices when truth is distorted, whether by computer malfunctions or by intentional lies and fabrications on the part of his agents.  After all, the devil is a liar and the father thereof (John 8:44).  Let me give you just a sampling of the way the devil can “garble” the text of God’s word so that the message that is “received” is not even remotely akin to what the Holy Spirit intended to convey.  Let us, for example, take the simple sentence spoken by our Lord and so recorded in Mark 16:16:  “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”  Permit me to take the very words of this verse and “garble” them – distort them, mangle them, if you will – so as to communicate one of the favorite false doctrines of the devil.   “He that believeth and is saved shall be baptized.”  I have used ALL of the words of our LORD, and ONLY the words of our Lord to construct this sentence.  And yet, the message that is conveyed is so distorted by the rearrangement of the words that the truth has been perverted and the hearer confused.   If you place the sentences one on top the others here is what you have:

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”
“He that believeth and is saved shall be baptized”

Arranging the sentences thus, you can immediately recognize the difference.  Secondly, any reasonable person will conclude that both sentences cannot be true; either the first is true and the second is false, or visa versa.  Third, you can discern, can you not, that no sane person would attempt to defend the message that is communicated in both sentences, for to do so would make him a hypocrite of the rankest sort.  And yet, theologians will tell you they love and respect the word of God (which includes Mark 16:16), admit that such words are truth, and then turn right around and preach the second sentence and tell you THAT is truth as well!   Such preachers have “garbled” the word of God, produced a false doctrine, and pawned it off on the ignorant masses to the destruction of both the blind leader and those who would follow.

What, then, is the solution for the multitude of “garbled” messages being preached in thousands of pulpits across our land, and throughout the world?  Standardization!     So long as a person follows human doctrine contained within the various manuals or passed along by oral preaching and teaching, the truth is going to be “garbled.”   “I like” (Jer. 10:23), “I want” (Acts 8:18-24), “I think” (2 Kings 5:1-15), “I don’t see why not” (Acts 5:1-11), “God didn’t say not to do it” (Lev. 10:1-2), and “My parents did it that way” (Gal. 6:5) are only a few of the standards that men use, none of which will bring about unity or harmony in spiritual matters.  If men would appeal to the Bible, and only the Bible, for their authority in spiritual matters, we would have the “same mind” (Phil. 2:5) and “same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10-12)intended by our Lord.   Is that not precisely what is meant by “standardization”?  Bobby Key once made this observation:

Success is usually the measuring rod used by the world. “We will measure this movement by the success of it. Time will tell, and nothing succeeds like success,” cries the world. However, the earth’s yardstick does not apply to Jesus Christ. According to the viewpoint of His time, Jesus was a failure. He died in disgrace the death of a criminal, and His followers were scattered. Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today it still looks like Caesar, not Christ is on the throne and the devil pretty well has his own way. The Lord asked, “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). That certainly is not success as the world measures it, nor is it true in the things of Christ that “time will tell.” My friend, eternity will tell and we await the verdict of eternity.

Let us never grow weary in our efforts to preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.   While progress may outpace our present technology, the ancient gospel is the only hope for lost humanity.  Therein is the only means of spiritual standardization.

Barriers To Growth

by Tom Wacaster

The Bible has a lot to say about growth.  There are two passages from the pen of Peter that come to mind that are representative:  “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).  “as newborn babes, long for the spiritual milk which is without guile, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2).   I wonder how many of you reading this article have thought to yourself, “Why can’t I seem to grow?  What keeps me from becoming what I want to be?  Why do I seem to dwell on the lower plains instead of soaring to the mountain top?” 

The shelves of book stores are literally filled to overflowing with “self help” books, “How To” manuals, and a long running series of “You-Name-It for Dummies.”  I came across one some time back that was titled, “Catholicism for Dummies.”  Really!   So, what is it about all these “self-improvement” books that makes them so popular?  And what is it that stands between you and your determination to be better?   Unfortunately, many a person looks for the answers to growth and personal development in the fluff on the book store shelf but bypass the one book that can help them grow so as to reach their full potential.  Of course I speak of the Bible.   Some time back I came across this interesting tidbit regarding personal growth and development:

It’s so easy to treat personal development as ‘optional’ and so few people ever take the time to actively improve themselves. Your personal growth and self development is arguably one of  the most important things you can do with your time. You can even argue that to actualize your true potential is the purpose of being here. In many ways all your actions are geared towards ‘self improvement’. Everything you do, you do with a positive intent. This, however is mostly unconscious and for the majority of people it’s a case of pursuing ‘things’ and ‘stuff’ with the (all too common) assumption that when they get enough stuff they will be happy.

You don’t have to search too far to find just how wrong this theory really is. Every day we read about ‘extremely successful’ people who end up in rehab or who kill themselves. Why? To return to Charles Atlas – true success is but the development of your ‘self’. At no point in your life can you just stop and say ‘now I am successful – I think I’ll take the next 10 years off’. Unfortunately this is ‘the dream’ that so many people aspire to [author not provided].

Those who have studied the Bible know that the key to a lifetime of happiness lies in spiritual growth,  not in the increase of the abundance of the things he might possess.  They also know that life has to keep moving.  If you are not growing, you are dying.   We know this to be true. So why is it that so many of us, perhaps even some of you reading this article, fail to actively participate in the development of their lives?   Why is it that so many simply fail to grow?  May I suggest at least three barriers to growth.

Growth Barrier #1: Procrastination – One has said that “Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday” (Don Marquis).  Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, “You may delay, but time will not.”  Another has noted, “Procrastination is the irrational delay of tasks, especially important ones.”   Some of those areas in which procrastination delays, dampens, and even destroys spiritual growth have to do with Bible study, prayer, and active involvement with our fellow human being. 

Growth Barrier #2: Indecision – We are not the first to note that every single action is preceded by a decision.  In the final analysis, a failure to act can be traced back to the failure to make decisions.  On a recent road trip I stood in line behind a middle aged couple at Arby’s as they tried to decide what they wanted to order.  I took the moment to go into the bathroom and wash my hands and when I came out they were still there, looking at the menu board and asking one another, “What do you want?”  Thankfully, they allowed me to go ahead of them.  Believe it or not, I gave my order, picked it up, and was at my table and half finished with my meal by the time they finally ordered.  Someone has noted,  “It doesn't matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes. What matters most is getting off. You cannot make progress without making decisions.” The ironic thing is that not making a decision is a decision.  Why do so many weak Christians remain immobile because they simply cannot decide when to study the Bible?  Why do so many weak Christians refuse to make a decision well in advance of Sunday morning that they are going to be at services – Bible classes AND worship?  Their indecision bars them from growth and in their indecision they die on the vine of good intentions.   The late Gus Nichols was once asked why he had missed only one assembly of the Lord’s church is 35  years.  He simply said that he had decided long ago to attend. Period. 

Growth Barrier #3: Comfort Zones – Our “comfort zone” is that situation where we are, oddly enough, “comfortable.”  You are familiar with the situation, at ease with your surroundings.  There is not all that much to challenge you; or threaten you.  Many of us have become “comfortable” sitting in front of the television, limiting our circle of friends and acquaintances, and remaining silent when someone challenges our beliefs and ideas.   Consequently we do not grow.  Instead we stagnate; and that is just another word for “die.”   Oliver Wendell Holmes once said “Man’s mind, once stretched to new idea never goes back to it’s original dimensions.”  Perhaps one reason why you are not growing is because you have entered your comfort zone and you do not want to leave.  I’ll warn you ahead of time: once you leave your comfort zone you sacrifice your comfort for the good of others.  But the reward that goes with it far outweighs any disadvantage that may come our way.

The choice is yours.  Don’t let these barriers to growth hinder your spiritual development. 

Rahab: A Jewel In The Midst Of Corruption

by Tom Wacaster

Following the death of Moses, the mantle of leadership fell on Joshua’s shoulders.  It would be his responsibility to lead Israel across the Jordan, engage the enemies of God, and conquer the land promised to Israel.  Like any wise military leader, Joshua sent out spies to investigate, determine the lay of the land, and assess the strength of the enemy.  And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men as spies secretly, saying, Go, view the land, and Jericho. And they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lay there” (Joshua 2:1).   The remainder of that chapter provides us with the details of this woman Rahab along with her remarkable faith in God.  Two dozen verses record the story.  In comparison to other giants of faith such as Abraham, Joseph, Moses and Paul, little is said of this woman.  But what we have is enough to encourage and enlighten us, and then motivate us to greater faith in our Lord.  So strong was her faith that the Holy Spirit saw fit to make mention of her faith; not just once, but twice.  By faith Rahab the harlot perished not with them that were disobedient, having received the spies with peace” (Heb. 11:31).  And in like manner was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works, in that she received the messengers, and sent them out another way?” (James 2:25).   The story of Rahab has thrilled the hearts of Christians seeking to maintain faith in God in the midst of an evil generation.  Who would doubt that the Israelites spoke of Rahab on numerous occasions after settling the land?  The story of Rahab, the conquering of Jericho, and the victory of Israel all stand as a testimony of the value and necessity of great faith in God.  Let’s take a closer look.

First, consider her background.  She was a prostitute.  Don’t try to cover that up, don’t ignore it, and don’t try to soften it by telling me the word means she was actually an “innkeeper.”  I’ll trust the ASV, KJV and NKJV here.  But there is more.  She was part of a culture whose sin had exhausted the patience of God.  She was a Canaanite, raised in a civilization whose idolatrous practices included the sacrifice of innocent children to the false god Moloch. 

Second, consider her actions.  No, she is not to be excused for lying.  Situation ethics cannot find a foothold here.   She is not commended for her lies; she is commended for her faith in God by hiding the spies.   With the exception of the lie she told the king’s servants, her actions speak volumes about her character.   When the spies came she welcomed them into her house.  That in and of itself was quite extraordinary.   These men were strangers; they no doubt looked different, talked differently, and acted differently than she and those with whom she was acquainted.   She also hid these two men from the authorities.  There was a reason she did this, and I’ll expand on that momentarily.   The very fact that she hid these spies indicates that she recognized there is a higher authority to which she must answer.   Finally, when the time came, she followed explicitly and immediately the instructions of those two men.   And the men said unto her, Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business...Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by” (Joshua 2:14, 18).  No sooner had the two spies left when “she bound the scarlet line in the window” (Joshua 2:21).  Finally, against all reason, when the time came for the complete fall of Jericho, she, at the command of these two men, gathered her family into the house—her father, mother, brethren—and she stayed there while all around her was collapsing. 

Third, she demonstrated her faith in God.  Is this not the lesson in James?  “Was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works, in that she received the messengers, and sent them out another way?  Evidently she was not of the mind set that mental assent is sufficient for salvation. 

The story of Rahab is both interesting and instructive.  Without application to our life, however, the story is nothing more than that—a story.   So, consider if you will, some lessons to be learned.

First, we should never discount the possibility that someone like Rahab would be good soil for the gospel.   Do we prejudge someone worthy of our time and effort and conclude they are bad soil because of some external trait or practice?   Raised in paganism and engaged in common prostitution, who would have ever imagined she could have faith in God?  Oh, to be certain it was a crude faith, based only on what she had heard.  But the spark was there that could be fanned into a mighty flame of unswerving faith in Jehovah.   Let us not turn our backs on anyone whom we might be tempted to prejudge as not being worthy of the gospel.

Second, we learn that it is possible to be faithful to God even in the midst of a corrupt society.  Indeed, Rahab was a jewel in the midst of corruption.  With the rapid decline of morals and belief in God in our own country, we might be inclined to wring our hands in despair as we contemplate the prospects of what our children and grandchildren will face in their lifetime.   My parents, their parents, and no doubt even their parents, all had a deep concern of what the next generation had to face.   As the world has sunk deeper in sin, and the darkness about us seems at times to overwhelm us, we must never forget that it is possible to serve God regardless of how bad the world around us may become.   We need to be reminded that this world is not our home; but we also need to be reminded that we are to let our light shine even in the midst of this darkness.   Alexander Papaderos, a doctor of philosophy, worked for many years trying to bring peace between the bitterly divided countries of Europe after WWII. His motivation for doing so stems from his childhood and a very odd event which took place. “When I was a small child,” he said, “during the war we were poor and lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place.... I kept one, the largest piece.... By scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine - in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find. I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became mature, I grew to understand that this was a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. The light [or truth] is there, and it will shine in many dark places only if I reflect it.”  He concluded: “I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have, I can reflect light into the dark places of the world...and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise.”

Finally, let us learn that faith in God, even in the midst of corruption, will open the door for great blessings.  Rahab and her family were saved from the destruction of Jericho.  But more than that, she received a blessing that she never dreamed possible.  As it turns out Rahab was the great-great-grandmother of David, from whom came the Christ (Matthew 1:5).  We tend to measure things by the here and now; God measures things by the there and then.   Who would have ever imagined that a common harlot, with a crude faith in God, would ever play such an important role in history?  Like Rahab, you and I can, through faith in God, be a jewel even in the midst of corruption.

Concluding Thoughts On Bible Translations

by Tom Wacaster

One of the more recent translations to be published is the English Standard Version.  The ESV is a revision of the Revised Standard Version of 1971.   The intent of the English Standard version translators was to publish a Bible which followed the tradition of Tyndale’s work and of the efforts of the King James translators.  Their desire was to produce an “essentially literal” translation with improvement upon grammar and syntax.  The ESV has gained considerable notoriety among brethren, and it is finding increasing use in our pulpits and classes.  While the ESV is an improvement over the earlier Revised Standard Version, it is not without its weaknesses, some of which, in my estimation, are quite serious.   Keith Moser made this observation regarding the ESV:

The ESV translators used footnotes to “inform the reader of textual variations and difficulties in translation” (Preface) which practice allowed them to insert some of their own theology in such notes. For example, the ESV text at Daniel 3:16 reads: “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.” The footnote, however, translates: “If our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us, he will deliver us from the fiery furnace and out of your hand, O king.” Instead of what the Hebrew has questioning whether the king will carry out the sentence, the footnote questions God’s ability to save (email article, Keith Mosher).

I have read through the Old Testament using the ESV twice, and the New Testament ESV a half dozen times, and have come across a number of passages that demonstrate the translators’ bias in various areas.  While the ESV is not as “radical” as the NIV, or “Good News For Modern Man,” I would not suggest it be used for serious Bible study.  It could serve, however, as a comparative Bible for study purposes.  Having said that, I share with you some of the more serious problems I found in my perusal of the ESV.

Micah 5:2 - “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”  Notice that the ESV eliminates the word “everlasting,” substituting it with “ancient days.”  

Malachi 2:16 - Compare with some of the more reliable versions such as ASV, KJV, NKJV.  You will note that the impression left with the ESV is that it speak of a “MAN” who hates divorce rather than the fact that it is “GOD” who hates divorce, or putting away.

Matthew 5:17 - The ESV makes the same mistake that the New American Standard makes here and has Jesus contradicting Paul.  The ESV:  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets” (Matt 5:17) and then in Ephesians 2:15 (ESV), “by abolishing the law of commandments.”   Compare Matt 5:17 in the ESV with ASV (“destroy”), and KJV.

Matthew 19:9 - The ESV omits the phrase: “and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery” - why does the ESV leave that phrase out?  While it does NOT appear in SOME ancient authorities, it does appear in a large number of MSS.

Matthew 19:28 - Does not the “new world” suggest the idea of premillennialism?  Compare with the ASV, “the regeneration” - i.e. the church age...but trying to determine what the “new world” is by using the ESV as a study bible might prove difficult....unless you are already of the persuasion of the premillennial concepts.

Acts 16:14 - The ESV reads, “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said be Paul.”  This, in my estimation, is very serious for it promotes the idea of Calvinism.   She was already paying “attention,” and now, having paid “attention,” the Lord opened her heart to give “heed” --  in other words, the Lord opened her heard BECAUSE she paid attention, allowing the words to penetrate her heart so that she WOULD then give heed.  By saying the Lord opened her heart so that she would pay “attention” suggests the idea that the Holy Spirit had to somehow act upon her heart to MAKE her pay attention so she would then listen. 

Romans 6:17 -  The ESV has “standard” of teaching...but the ASV and KJV read “form” - yes, it is true they did obey the divine “standard” but that is not what the Holy Spirit wanted to convey here.  The “form” is something LIKE the death burial and resurrection that Jesus experienced.   The chapter opens with a reference to baptism as the means by which these Christians came to enter Christ, and by changing this to “standard” it robs the passage of its beauty and cohesion.   I'll stick with the reliable versions on this passage!

Romans 12:1 - The ESV translators make the same mistake as the New American Standard....they translate this “which is your spiritual worship” rather than “spiritual service.”  

2 Corinthians 2:11 - ESV reads, “for we are not ignorant of his designs” - compare with the original word here: Thayer: “an evil purpose, that which thinks, the mind, thoughts or purposes” - The ASV has “devices” and it seems to me there is a world of difference between “devices” and “designs.”

1 Thessalonians 2:16, the later part of the verse reads: “But God's wrath has come upon them at last” - notice that the ESV expresses “time” - at “last,” “finally,” etc.  While it is true that the Greek “telos” can express the idea of finality, it seems that the primary meaning of the word is demanded by the context.  Strong:

“From a primary word ‘tello’ (to set out for a definite point or goal); properly the point aimed at as a limit, that is, (by implication) the conclusion of an act or state (termination [literally, figuratively or indefinitely], result [immediate, ultimate or prophetic], purpose); specifically an impost or levy (as paid): continual, custom, end, finally, uttermost.”     The ASV, in my estimation, picks up the idea that is more fitting with the context:  “to the uttermost” - The context of the passage suggests the idea that when men engage in “forbidding us to speak to the gentiles” (1 Thess 2:16a) they “fill up their sins” and can only expect to face God's wrath “to the uttermost,” rather than “at last.” 

Why did the translators of the ESV leave out the word “inspiration” in 2 Timothy 3:16, replacing it with “God breathed out”?  Why did they fail to translate John 3:16 with the words “only begotten son,” translating it “only son”?  Why did they enclose Mark 16:9-20 in brackets,  leaving a doubt in the mind of the reader as to its authenticity?  The list goes on and on.   I am not impressed with this latest English translation of the Bible.  Nor do I recommend its use in serious study of God’s word, or its use in the pulpit and/or Bible classes.