Fake Good News
by Bob Burridge ©2020
Whether we engage in it or not, we live in an age of communication beyond anything that could have been imagined back in the time when God spoke by his Prophets and gave us his written word. What we should believe about God and about what he tells us no longer has to be delivered by being in the presence of a teacher, preacher, prophet, or friend. Today, we are surrounded with messages both accurate ones and deceptive ones. Many claim their message is God’s truth. They come to us through television, radio, websites, social media, printed books, magazines, movies, and recorded songs. God’s word tells us in many places to be cautious about what we hear. The Apostle Paul spoke of those in Berea as “more noble” because when they heard things being taught, they searched the Scriptures daily to see if what they were hearing was true (Acts 17:11).
There have always been teachers and preachers spreading a confused message. Some drift away from the basics needed for directly interpreting God’s inspired Bible. Even many Seminaries where Pastors and Missionaries are trained have cut back on the tools needed to directly examine what the Bible says. In place of that, many have put an emphasis upon methods of communicating successfully. They see that as what brings in more crowds and gets a better reception. While communication skills are very helpful, the most important thing is what we are communicating. If we don’t know for sure what the message is, we may be spreading “fake good-news”.
There are some challenging issues we face when trying to know what God tells us in his word.
– The problem of translations:
The Bible was completed nearly a couple thousand years ago in ancient versions of Hebrew and Greek with some portions in ancient Aramaic. Though these languages are only understood by some, the message of God’s word was intended for all people of all languages. When Jesus and the Apostles quoted from the Old Testament texts they translated them into the languages understood by those hearing them.
Unfortunately the many translations available to us today are not always accurate in communicating what the original texts teach. It’s important that those who teach us, guide us in worship, and counsel us when we need help, should be well trained in finding out what each passage of Scripture actually says. They can guide us to use good translations of the Bible and reliable resources to help us understand what God has intended.
Contemporary versions of the Bible may be easier to read and sound more relevant in our present culture, but many of them damage the original meanings of the text or adjust the wording to fit unsound teachings. Some even insert words or entire sentences to support doctrines held by the translator, a particular denomination, or what the readers prefer to hear. Translations made in previous centuries may be helpful and accurate, but some of the words and expressions they used had different meanings back when they were translated. They mean something else as we use those same words today. Some of the older translations didn’t have the tools we have today to research the meanings of the ancient words as they were understood and used by the people back in biblical times.
For those not well trained in the ancient languages, it’s helpful to compare several more literal translations, and consult good commentaries written by sound scholars who believe the Bible to be God’s divinely given word. Some of the ones that are more careful to stay with the original meanings are: “The New American Standard Bible”, “The English Standard Version”, and “The New King James Version”.
– The problem of context:
The whole Bible must be considered to be a unified communication of what God wants us to know. Taking Bible passages out of that larger context often obscures their original intent and meaning. For example, when Old Testament portions are quoted in the New Testament, it’s important to know the context of the passage being quoted. Often the New Testament uses symbols which have a specific meaning established in previous books of the Bible. Rather than assigning new meanings to Scripture passages, we need to know how they were understood by those to whom they were originally spoken, who were familiar with their original biblical meaning.
When we read verses selected from a particular book of the Bible we need to know how it fits in with the flow of thought the author was dealing with in the book as a whole. We need to know what he had just written about, and how it fits his purpose at the moment.
Since the books of the Bible were written over many centuries it’s important to know the historical situation of the author and of those to whom the book was intended. We should consider what was happening at that time, and what God had or had not already revealed when the passage we are studying was written.
– The problem of spiritual ability:
Since we are fallen creatures, even after our hearts are regenerated by God’s grace, we need the help of the Holy Spirit to guide us in our study of the Bible. It’s a helpful practice to pray before studying Scripture asking for God’s guidance in understanding what we are reading.
Make sure that you are resting in God’s provided salvation through the work of our Savior. Until your heart is regenerated by God’s grace you will tend to misunderstand the words you are studying. The fallen mind tends to suppress God’s truth, replacing it with what seems more acceptable to one not restored to fellowship with his Creator (Romans1:18).
– The problem of our attitude:
When we study the Bible we should continue to be consciously aware of the awesome fact that we are reading words given to us by God himself as he moved the human authors to write what they did. As God’s word is presented when we gather for worship it should be delivered and taken in remembering this amazing truth. It should not simply be seen as a piece of literature used to stir our emotions like any other writings of human authors. Our study of the Bible should always be centered upon a humble submission to the glory of the Majestic, Gracious, and Sovereign God.
Application of this important lesson:
The truths God reveals to us in his written word may be hard to understand and appreciate at first reading, but searching out what each passage actually tells us is well worth the effort. When we obey God by telling others who our Savior is and what he accomplished, we need to be certain that we are being accurate. If we don’t know what the message of God is, we may be spreading a false gospel, “fake good news”.
(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)