II Timothy 3:16-17 characterizes God’s word as a set of inspired texts and documents. The importance of this verse needs to be underscored. Coupled with Jesus’ Great Commission, it is understandable why multitudes have taken upon themselves the tedious but time-consuming task of learning languages that are not native to them. Not a few persons have died in pursuit of the goal of translating and teaching Bible texts to small and large groups of people. Island after island had seen visitors reach their shore in order to announce the Gospel. Some of them were killed quickly; others did not set foot in their homelands again. The countless testimonies of these daring acts are startling.
When Jesus said Go, his main concern was the evangelism of all the various ethnic groups around the world. The knowledge of God’s plan of salvation must overspread the earth. As this occurs, then shall the end come (Mat. 24:14). The account of the history of redemption is given often in short messages preached in the Acts of the Apostles. These folk preached passionately about the death of Jesus and of his resurrection. Even then the recipients needed much more than a sermon to continue their Christian growth. So the apostles wrote letters and inscribed words of exhortations for the believers they led to the Lord. For generations Holy men and women of the Lord were moved by God to speak. For generations their historical and prophetic statements were preserved for future believers. The canon of scripture reveals and safeguards God’s eternal mind, his will, his mighty works and his wisdom. So we should do our best to spread the word about his power, and to support those who smuggle Bibles into closed countries.
Knowing beforehand that His words would be recorded and read, Jesus empowered his followers with the Holy Ghost to persist in their missionary witness despite the hardships incurred. They hazarded their lives to go to people who spoke different idioms (Acts 14:11). What the locals heard from these strangers changed them forever: the miracles they saw were real: a crippled man leaped and walk as he heard the story of Jesus. Surely something of Jesus’ remarkable power was told to them. The faith the apostles had in the indwelling Christ was authentic: it was founded on the word that dwelt richly in their heart in all wisdom. Had they not known the texts of Genesis-Malachi and more, there would have been no way to tell of all the passages that Christ’s life, death and resurrection fulfilled.
Peter’s sermons are proof of this point. Paul also was able to communicate these truths in more than one language (cf. Acts 21:37-40; 22:1ff.). The Roman captain of the guard was startled that Paul knew his dialect; but when you learn someone’s language you are able to touch his or heart. Holy Scripture in the mother tongue of any host-country national can say in far better ways what any non-native speakers may attempt to utter. I have seen this first-hand. Over a decade ago I was in Canada, and I watched the mouths of some Chaldean folks drop to the floor as I began to share the story (in Syriac) of Nicodemus meeting Jesus. None of them ever had met a black guy who knew Syriac. All my conversations with them were easier after than brief devotional. Again, years ago in South America I sat in a meeting where some Bible translators were celebrating the publication of the New Testament in an Amerindian language it had taken the translators 14 years to learn BEFORE they could initiate the translation process. My heart broke as I listened to the hardships they endured. They bore it all patiently for the Gospel’s sake.
Let’s hope that in WMF missions that we, too, can remember those who translate texts in far away districts and who transport scripture to regions where hardships and privations are great. Here at the office, aiding those who do such exploits is of importance and should not be ignored. So please make every effort to facilitate our activities in WMF missions even as we strive to strengthen the hands of those who have made their calling and election sure (II Pet. 1:10).
Brother Darrell Sutton