I understand that many people have a problem with biblical Christianity. I’m starting to get it and we were even warned about it- “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 3:14-16). Yet I’m just amazed at the lengths many will go to redefine Christianity- the distortion of passages in the Bible and the neglect of the majority of the Word of God. We’re dealing with people that want to serve a batch of poison as Christianity.
It is nothing more than patchwork theology- grab a verse here that seems to teach my preconceived ideas about God, then grab a verse there while distorting it and put them together- bam! Now we have something that caters to the felt needs of man and we can call it Christianity. But it doesn’t work that way folks. The Word of God stands (Is. 40:8, 1 Pe. 1:25) and as long as we test all things according to the Word of God, we can identify false teaching: “but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil”(1 Th 5:20–22).
Take this poor and wrong paraphrase of John 3:16 for example: “For God so loved the world (there’s that infinite expanse of His love!) that He gave His one and only Son (Jesus coming to provide a better way) that whoever would believe in Him (this word “believe” could literally be translated “to place one’s confidence in, to place one’s trust in”) would not perish (here we are back to Ps. 103:4, “He redeems your life from the pit”, this word perish can be translated “to come to ruin”) but have eternal life (this is not eternal as in very long, but eternal as in John 17:3 (look it up)).” I suppose to one that is catering to the felt needs of people, this is the “good news” that is supposed to comfort them. The problem is that the paraphrase is very poor and misses the Lord’s entire point, so much as to make it bad news. How so? Because the paraphrased version distorts the coming of Christ to be, not about salvation, but a “better way of life” and this doesn’t provide any hope for one that is condemned under God’s wrath (v.17, 36).
The idea of God giving His Son is not to provide a “better way” but the only way (John 14:6) to escape God’s wrath. Christ makes that clear with the contrast to “perish” (the word the author of the paraphrase understands to mean “come to ruin”) and He makes it even more certain in the following verse where he contrasts those condemned (note they are already condemned) with the purpose of Christ’s coming to save, in v. 17; even later in the same chapter John makes it more explicit, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). It is not a matter of a “better way living now.” It’s about salvation from God’s righteous wrath and reconciliation to Him. Of course the Christian life will follow but, biblically speaking, it is never said to be a “better way of living.” It is referred to as holiness, godliness, and righteousness (2 Tim. 2:22, 1 Pe. 1:13-16, Heb. 12:14, 1 Tim. 6:11). But, again, Christ’s point in the Father giving Him is about salvation. That is plainly clear from the context of John 3 and further affirmed by the Lord elsewhere, “And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). The Lord came to give life, not make it “better.”
Does the word “perish” in 3:16 mean “come to ruin?” That’s possible but not likely. The word “ἀπόληται” can mean many things: to perish, to destroy, to bring to ruin, to put to death e.t.c. but it depends on the context, which will determine how the author intends to use the word. Given that the context of John 3 is unambiguous all the major translations of the bible, from Greek to English, have the word “perish” (as in eternal judgment) and not “come to ruin.” I’m not aware of any translation that has “come to ruin.” What does “come to ruin” even mean? It was never defined. How it was presented is that Jesus came to deliver us from depression, discouragement, sadness and a life of pity. If I lost my house and everything I own one can say that I have “come to ruin.” But that is not even close to what the Lord meant! The contrast between “ἀπόληται” with “ζωὴν αἰώνιον” (eternal life) and condemnation with salvation (v. 16, 17) doesn’t allow for the Emergent idea of “come to ruin” as an option. Of the possible meanings of “ἀπόληται” (which primarily means perish or destroy) why chose the one that is the furthest on the list in a concordance? It’s because they have a preconceived notion about salvation, or in their world “a better way of living”, that cannot have “perish” as the meaning for their theological construct to work. That’s why they feel perfectly fine in redefining everything to suit their fancy- even sin gets redefined.
The patchwork theology surfaces when the paraphraser jumps to Ps. 103:4: “who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy” (with an emphasis on the first half of that verse) to validate his idea of “come to ruin.” Yet, again, he never explains what it means to be redeemed from the pit. But the tone of his paraphrase leaves one to conclude that he thinks “pit” to mean the modern idea of life in the pits. You know being down and out- life’s a real bummer. However, the “pit” is synonymous with the grave or death and carries the idea of judgment in the life to follow (Ps. 49:7-9). The Lord does not just have physical death in mind. He means eternal punishment when he uses the word “perish.”
As for bringing in John 17:3 and eternal life- I digress. I did look it up and discussed it here. The biblical proclamation of the Gospel is not to “follow” Jesus’ way of life as in mimicking the way He lived. As R.W. Glenn brilliantly states: “The example of Christ without the gospel of Christ will crush you.”
“15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
19 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance”(Ac 26:15–20). Soli Deo Gloria!
For His glory,