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Just One Word

What a change one word can make in studying God’s word. I recently heard a message that reversed God’s truth because of one word. The basis of the sermon was John 15:1-8. This is Christ’s dissertation on our abiding in Him and bearing fruit. He speaks of “fruit” and “more fruit” in v. 2 and “much fruit” in vs. 5, 8.

This passage does not pertain to salvation, but our service for Him. At the time of Christ’s speaking, Judas was departed (John 13:29-30) and Christ is left alone with the eleven. The message is that we are to bear fruit, reproduce other Christians, if you will. If we are not doing that, Christ takes some actions. He first “taketh away” (not “send away” or “get rid of.” He separates the branch, then He “purgeth it” (cleanses) with His word (v. 3.)

It was at the word “purgeth” that trouble arose. The speaker’s bible did not say “purgeth,” it said “prunes,” which means “cuts off.” Here is a big contradiction. These two words are not synonyms. Does God cleanse His children or does He cut them off? One teaches that one can lose his salvation, the other teaches that you cannot. This is a major problem. My Bible said:

“If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” John 15:6

His Bible said, “Anyone who parts with me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Some branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.” Notice the one who does the throwing away and burning in that version.

The King James Bible is very clear that “men (not God or Satan) gather them, and cast them into the fire…” Men cannot touch one’s soul, but they can burn you. If you live a separated life for God they call you a Pharisee and if you don’t, they call you a hypocrite!

The entire explanation (theologians call it “exegesis”) deteriorated scripturally. The branches were identified as two types of people, which they are not. Christ is speaking to the eleven, not the masses. The subject is Christians reproducing Christians, “soul winning,” if you will. It has absolutely nothing to do with salvation or anyone accepting Christ. The gentleman went on to say that God cuts off branches that refuse to accept Him. Prior to that statement he said salvation could not be lost, then he contradicts himself. I could not blame him because that is what his version said. His version came some 300 years after mine, so I guess we owe a big apology to those multitudes of Christians who were wrong about the “Vine and the branches” in John 15 all those years.

We make much ado about “easier to read” translations. My reply is, “Do you want the one that is easier to read or the one that is correct?”

After pointing out this major discrepancy, wouldn’t you think that those who claim to believe the Bible would exchange their bible that said “prune” for the Bible that said “purge?” Of all the things that are heartbreaking about those who claim to be Christians is their total disregard for God’s words. Let me tell you why they will not change.

One, they make their living from preaching and if you start believing God’s words are totally correct, without error, they may have to change professions. People will scoff and make fun of you. One may grow lax in his belief and not be ridiculed by man, but one who believes more does not have the same tolerance. We seem to have the idea that once a man graduates from Bible school, seminary or pastors a church that he has reached the pinnacle of knowledge and there is nothing else for him to learn. It looks bad to say we are still learning.

Two, most are just plain stubborn. “…stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry,” 1 Samuel 15:23. They prefer a certain version and God forbid that you confuse them with facts!

Three, the Bible doesn’t hold that much priority in their life. I think this is the saddest of all. Here are people who claim to love the Lord Jesus Christ, they live good lives and they are active in church and Christian services. They give of their time and money, yet their “bottom line on all matters of faith and practice” is not the Bible, but their denomination, church, professors or peers.

I have always underlined highlighted and written in the margins of my Bible. I hate getting a new Bible because of the trouble of transferring notes. What is interesting is that some notes have been deleted or restated because of additional knowledge. I am still learning.

Note God’s opinion of His word:

“…for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” Psalm 138:2

The following verses are so plain a fifth grader can understand them:

“The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” Psalm 12:6-7

Notice that God’s “words” are (present tense) “pure.” They are “purified seven times” (God’s number of perfection and completeness.) They have been “preserved” by God Himself. Now, people, either He did or He didn’t. If you want an idea of how much this verse is hated by the scholars, look at it in most of the newer versions.

Words are important. God has always stressed the importance of hearing His words, not viewing His miracles.

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17

In John 15:1-8, the changing of one word from “purge” to “prune” changed the entire teaching and fostered false doctrine. Life is too short and eternity is too long to play with what God said.

Keep Looking Up!

Leland Maples

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