In these columns I have talked a lot about Greek words and Greek grammar. I think that is important because what we hold sacred as The New Testament scriptures were originally written in Greek. I think it’s fascinating that the Koine Greek of two thousand years ago is still perfectly intelligible to someone today who reads or speaks Greek as his or her mother tongue. And, moreover, the words used have retained their precise meanings so there is no ambiguity about what Mark or Luke or Paul or Peter or John wrote and meant.
Beyond the mere words the grammar used also helps to remove ambiguity in our translations.
For example, in Greek, statements which are in the perfect tense always refer to an action which occurred in the past, was completed in the past, and is still in the same state in the present. So if in Greek I say, “I closed the door” in the perfect tense, it means, “I have closed the door, and it is still closed”.
There is a beautiful example of this in John 19:30 when Jesus yells from the cross, (yes, “yells!”— he wanted everyone to hear him),
“It is finished!” The perfect tense in greek gives us the complete meaning: “It is finished, completed, done forever!”.
This is how we know that at that moment Jesus completely obsoleted the old sacrificial system of atoning for sin. From that time onward no other sacrifice was or will be required. The priests are out of a job and the lambs can breathe easier! If you really want to bring a sacrifice, a sacrifice of praise is worthy, but not required.
Here’s another one.
In Matthew 4:4 Satan tries to lure Jesus into abusing his heavenly status (superpower?), but Jesus answers him
“It is written…”.
Perfect tense. Done and dusted. God’s not going to change His mind on what He has written, and Satan knows this perfectly well. This is why he had to abandon his quest to corrupt Jesus in his mission. The word of God is eternal and unchanging. Perfect!
My personal favorite of the certainty and completeness of the perfect tense comes in Ephesians 2:8
“…for by grace you are saved…”.
Perfect tense, perfect salvation!
Now some of my Calvinist friends may like to stretch the meaning a little too far (for me) by implying that once saved there is no un-saving that can take place, but the sense of the Greek is that having been saved by grace, no other action or agent is needed to accomplish salvation.
Salvation is a gift, it is finished by Jesus, and no amount of trying to be good on our part can accomplish the same outcome. Not only that, there is no alternative if we want to spend eternity in the presence of God. All we have to do is accept the gift and love and serve the Savior who gives it. This is why Luke ( native speaker of Greek, by the way) says in Acts 4:12
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved”.
So, while doing good is certainly pleasing to God, and maybe even "doing the most good" is something to which all Christians should aspire, let’s not fool ourselves that in someway it can be a substitute for the perfect gift of His grace.
There’s only one way into Heaven, and it’s perfect! Accept no imitations, or limitations.
Did I mention that although it cost everything to God, for you, and for a limited time only, it’s absolutely free! ?
How perfect is that? Wherever you are, let’s have a woo-hoo and hallelujah!
Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black