It’s funny how God works. It’s even funnier that most of the time He seems to like to work on me at about three in the morning.
Maybe that’s the time that God knows that I don’t have much else on my mind so it’s easier for Him to get through to me. At about that time, I will wake up and find that inspiration for an article or a daily message hits me. When I feel like I have a message to share, I make sure I write it down because, if I fall back to sleep, by the morning it will likely be gone – and I get quite frustrated with myself when I seem to let a message slip away.
I attended Catholic schools for ten of the first twelve years of my education. Obviously, during that time, religious education was a big part of the curriculum that I was taught in school. I learned quite a bit about religion. Or, at least I thought so.
The religious education and the study of the bible that I had gone through in school was mainly academic rather something that was easily applicable to my life.
We were taught that Jesus loves us and died for us. We were taught not to sin, to respect our parents, the Ten Commandments, and the rites and rituals of the Church. We were taught a lot of things that the Church wanted us to learn so we could be good Catholics but I never felt that I really learned what God was trying to say to me through the Bible and how to apply His word to my life. So, one day I decided to go back to the beginning and start my Bible study over with a new set of eyes – to try to put aside what I had learned in the past and read God’s word anew.
When I decided to “restart” my study of the Bible, I went off to the bookstore and bought a few translations of the Bible that I did have and a collection of books on Bible study that would probably give you a backache if you tried to carry them all at the same time.
One day, a friend was over my house and saw all my books. He thought I was nuts and he asked why I had so many Bibles and books about the Bible.
I tried to explain to him that for me to really understand the Bible and what God was saying, I felt like I needed to “go back to the source.”
“What other source do you need,” he said. “You have a dozen Bibles now.”
I explained to him that the Bible was not originally written in English.
The New Testament was written in Greek. And, every Bible we read today was translated from the original Greek. So, when we read an English language Bible we are always reading someone’s translation of what the Bible said in its original language.
When you translate anything from one language to another you will find that certain words aren’t easily translated. Sometimes one word that we might easily understand the meaning of in one language might need many sentences to convey the true meaning of that word in another language.
Not only do you have the language barrier but there is a time barrier. Did you ever try to go back and read Shakespeare? I speak English. Shakespeare wrote in English. Nevertheless, in just a couple of hundred years the nature and structure of the language has changed so much that I almost need to translate his English into my English.
As I undertake my most recent study of the Bible, I also have incorporated some basic study of the Greek language. I found I could study one word of the Bible in relation to its original Greek usage and come up with a whole new insight into the writings, the people, and the application of the bible to my life that I didn’t have before.
My friend didn’t understand what I meant by this.
So I tried to give him a simple example. If you read the letter from Paul to the Romans, Paul introduces himself in the following way:
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle…” Romans 1 (NIV)
I told him that we were going to look at the word “apostle.”
Since we went to school together we both learned the same things. We learned that there were twelve apostles. However, other than knowing there were twelve apostles, that they followed Jesus, and then spread the good news either through their missionary work or their writing, we never learned much more about the apostles than this.
We talked a lot about this group of twelve. What an elite group to be in. Sure, they probably didn’t have a life that was a bowl of cherries. They were jailed, probably thrown out of a lot of towns, had to travel across hot deserts on camels, and in the end a few were killed for their beliefs and for carrying out their ministry. However, it must have been pretty cool being able to spend some time with Jesus the way they did.
I asked my friend if he knew what the word “apostle” meant.
He said he didn’t.
We decided to start by going back to the original Greek word for apostle and then find out what that word meant in English.
The word apostle come from the Greek word “apostolos”. The meaning of this word is “one sent forth with a message.”
Although the original twelve apostles were very special people and were charged with carrying the message of the good news, the word apostle itself isn’t a special word made up and given only to these men who followed Jesus.
My friend thought it was funny that we were never taught this during our years in school. He said he always thought that the word apostle only referred to the twelve original followers of Jesus.
While we cannot be apostles, the word apostle also can refer the way in which we can help to spread God’s word: we can all be apostle-like and be messengers of God’s word.
So next time you are out talking about God don’t think of yourself as just another person just talking about God, think of yourself as one of His apostles helping to spread His word as He has given it to us.