Little Greek Gems: The Great Commission: Soul Winning or Disciple Making?

When I took Greek in college, I was quite relieved to find out that I could still fulfill the Great Commission anywhere God placed me.

What I learned was nothing short of a Copernican revolution in what the Great Commission is and who could fulfill it.  On the first day of my college Greek class, the professor put on the chalkboard a little linguistic nugget to illustrate why knowing the original languages is important.  This has stuck with me ever since, and has shaped how I do both evangelism and discipleship.

 

How many times have you heard a missions conference speaker exhort everyone to fulfill the Great Commission by going overseas?  I’ve heard that numerous times because I grew up in a Christian tradition that put a heavy emphasis on evangelism and “soul winning.”  In fact, it was touted that the Summum bonum of one’s Christian vocation was to become a missionary.

I always felt a little guilty after such conferences because of the implication that those who go were nobler than those who stay.  Since I wasn’t called to the mission field, it created some angst that I was going to be a second-class citizen in the Kingdom.

But when I took Greek in college, I was quite relieved to find out that I could still fulfill the Great Commission anywhere God placed me.  In fact, what I learned was nothing short of a Copernican revolution in what the Great Commission is and who could fulfill it.  On the first day of my college Greek class, the professor put on the chalkboard a little linguistic nugget to illustrate why knowing the original languages is important.  This has stuck with me ever since, and has shaped how I do both evangelism and discipleship.

It’s important to note here the dilemma every seminarian-turned-pastor has to negotiate: talking about the importance of reading the Bible in the original languages while not undermining people’s confidence in our many good translations.

On the one hand, it stands to reason that reading the Bible in the original languages reflects the high scholarly standards that trace back to our Reformation heritage, so seminaries are right to require students to master Greek.

But on the other hand, those lacking the aptitude or the time to learn Greek need not fret; God has gifted his church with skilled translators and reliable translations that yield genuine access to God’s revelation, and in our vernacular language no less; this too is a tradition inherited from our Reformation forefathers.

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