Check It Out

A few moments ago an incident happened that thrilled and disturbed me beyond expression. I had written an article on prayer, and had given a copy of it to one of my sons, for we had been discussing prayer a little while before. He had it on his desk and my granddaughter who just finished the second grade was reading it. She discovered a passage from the Bible which I had used, in which I said, "You are aware that James 4:15 says, 'The prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.'" I had hit the wrong key and the reference should have been James 5:15. My son just called me and said, "Chelsea has found an error in your article."

To say I was astounded and thrilled would be an understatement. The fact that she read it was wonderful. The fact that she looked up the scripture references and read them was not only more wonderful, but amazing. Probably not one adult in 10,000 would do that. For a little girl ready for the third grade to do it is so unusual and thrilling that I almost cried.

However, I do not write this article to tell about one of my precious grandchildren. I write it to emphasize two very important points. First, I urge all those who read articles and listen to sermons to check the scriptures they use to see that they use them correctly. Millions of persons who heard Billy Graham speak on repentance heard him say something like this, "Acts 2:38 says, 'Repent, for the remission of your sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" It never occurred to most of them to bother looking to see that the scripture said, "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Spirit)." Even gospel preachers may quote or misquote a scripture and teach a lesson from it that may not be true, but which, even if it is true, may not be what the passage actually says, but what the preacher assumed it meant.

What disturbed me is a lesson that is equally as important for those of us who speak and write. We never know who may read or hear what we say. We should take special care that we not only are accurate in our representation of what the Bible actually says, but that we are clear, cogent, balanced in our exegesis of the passage about which we write or speak.

If our language is excessively verbose because we like to use beautiful, flowery or catchy expressions, rather than simple and plain like that of Jesus, we may miss many precious hearts. If our language is harsh or critical when it should reflect love and compassion, we may not only miss many hearts, but may improperly influence the ones we do not miss. Suppose my precious granddaughter had read an article of mine that was dripping with sarcasm, ridicule and vicious attack on some person or position. Since she loves me and respects me very much, it might influence her to act in that same manner.

Do you understand why I said at the beginning of this article that it was both thrilling and frightening? Almost every day I give God thanks that He has seen fit to allow a person of my limited ability and faith to be a fellow laborer with Him in the greatest task on earth. It is an honor that is beyond my comprehension. Yet the responsibility to always do it in a way that reflects honor and glory on my Saviour is frightening and humbling almost to the point of humiliation. I can better understand why Paul says, "I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling" (1 Cor. 2:3). Can one look at Paul and think that he was fearful and trembling because he was afraid the Romans would put him to death? I am persuaded it was a fear of possible failure to perform the glorious task that had been given him in a way that Christ would want. Neither was it fear of going to hell if he happened to fail to measure up to the desired standard. I trust that what happened to me a few moments ago will be a lesson to all who read this. Those who write and speak about Christ should rejoice in the privilege, and write and speak with humility, reverence, clarity, accuracy and love.

T. Pierce Brown

Published in The Old Paths Archive