July 13, 2020
The Next Language 24 — The Gospel and Idolatry
Since reading Elizabeth Elliot’s classic, No Graven Images, many years ago, I have been very aware of the potential for idolatry – even in Christian ministry. So when someone suggested that my obsession over the story of Jesus in every language was just a form of idolatry, it caused me to think and pray a lot.
As I remember it, the idolatry in No Graven Images referred to a language helper involved in Bible translation. Is it possible that a fixation with a key person in the process of translating God’s word is equivalent to a passion to take the Gospel to every language? And if it were- would that make it idolatry?
Only recently I was reading in the book of Mark and noticed a phrase that I had not noticed before — a direct quote of Christ himself. “Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life” (Mar 10:29-30 KJV).
Jesus put the gospel on a par with Himself. And, as I dug deeper I found that was not the only time Jesus enunciated the concept. In Mark 8:35 He said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” Here in a different context He makes the same statement. Furthermore, checking the Greek and eighteen different translations confirms that the gospel or the “Good News” is exactly what was being written about.
The words of Paul indicate the same sentiment even in places where he could have easily substituted “Christ.”
16 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! 17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation [of the gospel] is committed unto me. 18 What is my reward then? [Verily] that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel. … 23 And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with [you] (I Cor. 9 KJV).
At least in my conscience I have laid to rest the suspicion that passion for the story of Jesus in every language is any kind of a graven image that contradicts Christ Himself.
And we can see more in these verses. Verse 17 says “a dispensation [of the gospel] is committed unto me.” Wasn’t Gospel Recordings originally given such a special “dispensation”? It’s a good thing to preach, and a good thing to translate the Bible into a language that doesn’t have it, but we were not given either of those good things to do. We were given the “dispensation” (special working out) of telling the story of Jesus in every language… in audio form. And notice verse 18, where it says Paul himself gave out the Gospel “without charge” – and for good reasons. This was the second part of Gospel Recordings’ original calling – to give out the recordings which held the Gospel freely to the extent of workers not asking for money from people, but of looking to the Lord alone.
I am encouraged, as I read these passages from Scripture, that God continues to have work for GRN to do, and that it pleases Him that we do it in a way that maximizes the glory and honor that are given to His name.
Larry DeVilbiss | Executive Director
Global Recordings Network USA
P. S. As a “thank you” for your continued support of the ministry of Global Recordings Network USA, and in celebration of over 80 years of God’s faithfulness, we have compiled a collection of 80 daily devotions written by GRN founder, Joy Ridderhof. You may read or download your copy of Rejoice Always – 80 Devotions with Joy Ridderhof here.