Summary: Does it matter if matter if we change Bible terminology? If we add to God’s thinking because we think we can "improve" upon His Word? Consider these thoughts.
OPEN: A man once told of purchasing his first pickup truck. And he also bought a book on gasoline engines because he was afraid of being ripped off at the service station. He wrote:
“The first time I took the truck in for repairs, I smugly wrote down what the problem was and what needed to be fixed.”
That night when I returned for the truck, I found this note attached to the windshield:
"I fixed the problem in your truck, but in order for me to fix the problem you described, you’ll have to bring in the lawnmower. I suggest you go back a couple of chapters. My wife has the same book.”
APPLY: Now that story puzzles me.
This guy buys a book that he doesn’t understand.
And he takes his truck to a mechanic he’s not sure he can trust.
Excuse me - if I don’t think I can trust a mechanic I’m not going to take my vehicle to him. I take my car to MY mechanic because I trust him… and because I know I can’t fix the problem but he can.
In Proverbs – chap 30– Agur is warns us to be careful NOT to treat God or His Word the way that guy treated his mechanic.
Agur starts out by trying to get us to understand that we’re not intelligent enough to correct God. He says of himself: “I’m not smart enough!”
“I am the most ignorant of men; I do not have a man’s understanding. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.” Proverbs 30:2
In other words… I’m not smart enough!
But then he implies that he has observed people who thought they were “smart enough”. He had seen people who misused Scripture because they thought they were smarter than God. The thought they knew more than the “Mechanic”.
“Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know!” Proverbs 30:3-4
Then, lastly, Agur compared the wisdom of Scripture to the supposed wisdom of man. He wrote: "Every word of God is flawless (but man’s words aren’t flawless); he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” Proverbs 30:5-6
Essentially, Agur is saying that you cannot begin to improve on God’s Word. And he tells us not to even presume to think that we can add anything to His Words… because God kind of takes that personally.
But that has never stopped people from doing it anyway.
Jesus condemned the Pharisees for “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” Mt. 15:9
Paul told the church in Galatia “… some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:7
And Paul warned the Elders at Ephesus to be wary because “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to DRAW AWAY DISCIPLES AFTER THEM.” Acts 20:30
Now there’s the key to the problem.
People distort Scripture/ they add to God’s Word because they want people to pay attention to them. They want people to follow THEIR teachings.
And that’s an easy temptation to give in to.
Better churches than ours has fallen prey to it.
Better preachers than I have been enticed by it.
That’s why I personally try to protect myself from placing my own opinions above Scripture. If, during a sermon, I want to introduce a thought I have about something I don’t think I can comfortably substantiate from Scripture I try to emphasize that it is MY opinion. My opinions can be wrong, but Scripture never can. I strive to do this because I am attempting to protect myself from even accidentally distorting God’s truth.
And that’s why our brotherhood has developed a couple of mottos that we hope will keep us focused.
One is: “Where The Bible Speaks… We Speak, And Where The Bible Is Silent… We’re Silent.” In other words, we don’t want to add or take away from anything from what the Bible says.
Another is “Bible Words For Bible Things”. That is: if the Bible uses a word in a certain way… that’s the way we try to use it.
Now we may not always attain those objectives but those are our standards. In fact we’re so fiercely attached to these ideals that several years back, Time magazine declared: “The Churches of Christ may well be the most Biblebound of all American religious groups.” (Time Magazine Feb 15, 1963)