Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
May 20, 2018
Small words can make a great difference
Words help us explain what matters to us. We don’t need long, inscrutable words. Little words are enough. For example, consider my opinion of desserts. To me banana pudding is not a great dessert, it is the greatest dessert. The use of “the” rather than “a” is a decisive choice of small words that can make a great difference.
I have observed many great football players but for me the greatest was Bo Jackson of Auburn. He was not simply a great player; he was “the” finest of them all. Once again, the use of the word “the” leaves no doubt about my opinion.
During my seminary training Boone Bowen began every class session by quoting the entire 8th Psalm. Even now I can close my eyes and hear his strong voice saying with great feeling, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens….” For Professor Bowen the Psalms was not merely one of the greatest books of the Old Testament, it was “the” greatest of them all.
Now, without resorting to preaching, let me use this analogy in thinking about Jesus. Muslims and Jews regard Jesus as “a” prophet. But Christians consider Jesus “the” greatest of the prophets – and more than a prophet. The words one uses in describing Jesus is quite revealing.
Professor Bowen showed me the majesty and glory of the Psalms. When I turn to the Bible, I find writers who exert a similar influence upon me. The writer of the Book of Hebrews, for example, offers an awesome description of Jesus. To him, Jesus was the most magnificent person in the history of the world. There is no one like him.
Reducing to ashes any doubts about the true identity of Jesus, the writer of Hebrews says, “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” Such words inspire me to see the majesty and glory of Jesus.
One translation of the Bible, the New Revised Standard Version, says that God has spoken to us by “a Son,” not “his Son.” The use of “a” minimizes the majesty and glory of Jesus. The use of “his Son” and “the Son” in other translations elevates the identity and authority of Jesus. Jesus was not merely a prophet or a Son; he was “the” one and only Son of God.
My dear friend Thomas Samford, a distinguished attorney and in his last years a brilliant Bible teacher, spoke of Jesus with reverence and awe as “the Christ.” Jesus was never “my buddy” to Thomas. When Thomas spoke of his Lord, “the Christ,” his students felt like taking off their shoes. They knew they were standing on holy ground in the presence of a brother who knew and loved the Son of God with all his heart.
Take care in your use of small words like “a” and “the.” The way you use them will betray your core convictions, and in the case of Jesus, will reveal whether you consider him a great man or the greatest man who ever lived. + + +