The Grace of God Lost and Found in Translation – by Derek Mitchell

3DI had the privilege to work with Derek Mitchell in 2013 to publish his book Unlocking the Power of Grace: How Religion Uses the Bible Against Us. I found his insights into a number of biblical passages very helpful. Below is an excerpt from the book taken from chapter 16: Cannot Be My Disciple.

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Cannot Be My Disciple

Luke 14:25-27 – Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:33 – (Jesus speaking) “…any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” 

Scratching the Surface

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus sprinkles in what seem to be qualifications to follow Him and these look pretty daunting. Hate our father and mother? Carry our cross? Give up everything? What does He mean? It sounds like unless we walk away from our family, friends, job, material possessions, etc., we are disqualified from being a disciple of Jesus, that we cannot be saved. Wow! Could this be true? Is this consistent with the New Covenant of grace?

Law vs. Grace

We used this impossibly high expectation in my measure-up-or-else church to weed out those who were not willing to be sold out in following Jesus. If people were unwilling to live up to these standards, they could not become a Christian and be saved. It seems pretty harsh but, in our minds, it was the expectation Jesus set not us. We were just trying to follow the Bible and restore Jesus’ standards so that the church could be what it was meant to be.

With the help of this passage and others like it, we concluded that the biblical standard for being a true disciple of Jesus was someone who was willing to give up everything, go anywhere, and do anything for the kingdom (a.k.a. the church). Again, we were just trying to follow what we thought the Bible laid out. It might sound very controlling and legalistic, almost cult-like, but we were sincere in our faith and in our efforts to be close to God. We wanted to show our love for Him through our obedience and humility.

The problem with this perspective is that it is completely law-based. Our salvation was based on whether we lived up to the standard that Jesus set. Is living up to a standard how we obtain forgiveness and righteousness in the New Covenant? Or does this sound like Old Covenant thinking?

If this is Old Covenant thinking, how do we reconcile the fact that Jesus said it to anyone who wants to be His disciple?

It’s Greek to Me

This passage, including the others like it where Jesus says we must do such-and-such or else we cannot be His disciples, are being misinterpreted because of the translation of one word. When Jesus says we cannot be His disciples, He is not saying that we are disqualified or disallowed if we do not meet
His standards.

The Greek word in question is dunamai, which means “to be able, to have power.”1 It does not mean “to be allowed or to be qualified.” But this is how we read it in our culture. When Jesus says that unless we do something we cannot be His disciples, we take it to mean that we are not allowed to be His disciples because we are not meeting His criteria. This is not at all what Jesus means. Even though translating this word as cannot is technically correct, it is culturally incorrect for us and leads us to misinterpret what Jesus is saying, thereby leading us to create wrong doctrines.

A better translation would be that we are not able or do not have the power to be His disciples, as in Young’s Literal Translation:

“So, then, every one of you who doth not take leave of all that he himself hath, is not able to be my disciple.”

Although, this also has a chance of being misunderstood in the same way, it is not as blatant as cannot. We could still read it to mean that we are being disqualified. What Jesus meant was that we will not have the power to be His disciples. In other words, when we do not let go of all that we have in this world, we will not have the power to live as Jesus did.

This completely changes the passage and brings it in line with the grace we find in the New Covenant. It is not a mandatory requirement of salvation for us to meet this “standard.” Instead, we find a biblical principle at work that we also find in other passages; the more we free ourselves of the world, the more we are empowered to walk in Jesus’ footsteps.

Found in Translation

To make this and similar passages more clear to us so that we will not fall prey to the enemy’s tricks to put us under the law, let’s translate this word in a way that’s consistent with grace.

Luke 14:25-27 – Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person will not have the power to be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me will not have the power to be my disciple.

Luke 14:33 – “…any of you who does not give up everything he has will not have the power to be my disciple.” 

In this way, we capture the intent of His message and do not add a law-based burden to our lives through misinterpreting a less-than-optimal translation of a key word.

If we desire more power to walk as Jesus did, let us deny ourselves of distracting worldly passions, put our relationship with Jesus above every other relationship, and follow His example of how to minister.

Purchase the Book

Click here to see the paperback or ebook on Amazon.com. It is also available at others online bookstores.

About the Book

EXPERIENCE THIS REVELATION AND WATCH YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD SOAR!

Through this straightforward and Scripture-rich book, you will…

  • Discover how religion has used the Bible to rob you of security, joy, and power.
  • Lift the veil of the “law” so you can see clearly that grace can never be lost.
  • Learn how Scriptures that seem to contradict grace are actually being misunderstood, misinterpreted, or mistranslated.
  • Bask in the warmth of God’s never-ending goodness and in the vast riches of your inheritance.
  • Minister in the love and supernatural power of Jesus.

derek headshots 005About the Author

Derek Mitchell has studied and taught the Bible since 1989. After eighteen years of trying to live up to what he thought the Bible required to be saved, the Holy Spirit revealed the true power and permanence of grace, resulting in this book. He and his beautiful wife, Cynthia, live in Dublin, California, with their two wonderful children, Abigail and Mason.

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