Know Your Bible

The Difference Between "Should" And "Shall"

The sign I saw on the side of the road at a local Baptist Church read "Whosoever believeth on him shall not perish". Curious about this new reading of John 3:16, I put "shall not perish" and "salvation" into an Internet search engine and came up with about 15,600 hits.

Well, that's just a variant translation, right? Changing that word does not really change the meaning of the text. Or, does it? The fact is that this is yet another situation in which we discover the power of the definition of words.

Most translations get it right. In fact, of the eight different translations I consulted on this question only one (the New International Version) "translates" the word Greek word "me" (pronounced "may") as "shall not." My Greek lexicon defines it as "a primary particle of qualified negation" and points out that "ou" (pronounced "oo") is the Greek word that denotes an absolute denial.

So, this passage should properly be rendered "Whoever believes on him should not perish." It is that qualification which the original Greek word shows by way of our translation of it in the word "should" which is of vital importance to our consideration.

The verse, in its entirety reads "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have eternal life." And in one short verse, Jesus has given us much to think about and consider.

First of all, He tells us that He was sent to this world because of God's deep, abiding love for us. The word for "love" here is "agape" love. A love of directed will that searches out what is best for the recipient of that love.

That love caused God to send Christ to this world, the only one of two men we could properly refer to as His direct sons (the other being Adam) who was born of woman. His "only begotten" Son. And not only to send Him, but to send Him for a reason: that mankind may not perish but have eternal life, instead.

But notice here that belief alone is not sufficient. James tells us that even the demons believe and tremble (James 2:19). If we then believe that "whoever believes on Him shall not perish" then we profess our belief that there will be demons joining us in Heaven.

But Jesus is pointing something out here by the use of the word "should not" instead of saying "shall not". He is pointing out that our faith should prompt us into action. If you do not believe, if you have no faith, then you will never be saved for you will never act. However, even if you do believe, you still may not be saved because you still may choose (for whatever reason) not to obey. There is a reason why He chose to use the "qualified denial" when referring to those who believe and discussing their salvation.

So, reader friend, do you believe? If so, that is the first step along the proper road to having eternal life. But then you must ask yourself "Have I obeyed?"

Later Jesus would say "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord' and do not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46) People calling out "Lord! Lord!" at least have enough belief to voice the words, but without backing those words and that belief up with action, it is still insufficient. Resolve today to begin backing up your words with the proper actions!

---Mickey Chandler

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The Conversion Of The Ethiopian

The conversion of the eunuch from Ethiopia is one of the more familiar conversion cases in the Bible. We know that the facts are accurate because they come from the inspired Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

The conversion is recorded in Acts 8. The account takes a natural division. First, verses 26-29 tell us about the bringing together of the preacher and the sinner. Next, verses 30-35 reveal Philip "preaching Jesus" to the Ethiopian, and then verses 36-39 tell of the response of the eunuch.

Consider the following lessons.

1. The importance of the individual is seen. Philip, according to Acts 8:5-25, had been preaching in the area of Samaria. This was a populated area and was a place where Philip had much success. Yet, an angel of God spoke to Philip and told him to go to the road between Jerusalem and Gaza. There he met the eunuch and preached to him. Thus, Philip was sent from a populated area to preach to one person. This shows us that God views each individual as important. He wants salvation for everyone (2 Pet. 3:9).

2. A religious man needed to be saved. The eunuch was a religious man. He had been to Jerusalem to worship God (v. 27). Nevertheless, he still needed to hear the truth and obey Christ so that he might be saved. Such was also the case with Cornelius who was a God-fearing man (Acts 10:2,22) but was an unsaved man (Acts 11:14). It takes more than being a religious person to be saved.

3. Preaching Jesus meant preaching baptism. Verse 35 says that Philip "...preached unto him Jesus." After hearing "Jesus preached" they came to a certain water, and the eunuch said, "See here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" This helps us to see that preaching Jesus involves preaching baptism. The Bible tells us that baptism is necessary for salvation (Acts 2:38). Many claim to "preach Jesus," and yet they hardly ever mention the subject of baptism.

4. The proper mode of baptism is seen. The Bible teaches that baptism is a "burial" (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). The word translated baptism means "immersion." The case of the eunuch (Acts 8) is in perfect accord with the rest of the Bible's teaching that baptism is a burial or immersion. They came "unto a certain water" (v. 36), they "went down both into the water" (v. 38), and they "came up out of the water" (v. 39). The language is quite clear if immersion is being described. However, it is difficult to understand if sprinkling or pouring water is under consideration. Sprinkling or pouring water on a person's head is not baptism at all. The Bible teaches that baptism is immersion or burial.

5. He confessed Christ. The eunuch was not required to confess and memorize various articles of faith or to pledge allegiance to a denomination before he was baptized. No, he simply confessed Christ (note Rom. 10:10). Many are guilty of adding conditions before baptism that the Lord does not require.

6. He was baptized immediately. The eunuch did not have to wait for the church to vote on him before he could be baptized. He did not have to wait for others to decide to be baptized so that they could have a big baptizing day. He did not have to tell his experience. He simply responded to God's Word and became a Christian. He was baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27). Have you ever read in the Bible where one had to be "voted on" before he could be baptized? The conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch serves as a pattern for us today. Each individual is important to God and worthy of our teaching. Our teaching must center on Christ and baptism cannot be ignored in salvation. Most important, we must follow God's will explicitly and not take it upon ourselves to change His will for our convenience.

---Mike Johnson

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