“These men are not drunk. It’s only 9 am” … Actually, let’s come back to that in a couple seconds …
The question at hand is about certainty. When it comes to matters of faith in God our Savior, we want to be certain indeed. God is even more concerned about that. He is concerned that his love for sinners, shown so clearly in the sacrifice of his Son for us, be clearly communicated and taught to every soul in this world. That means his Law must be accurately applied to every heart, so that not one might think he or she has no need for saving – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That means the Gospel must be proclaimed with clarity, so that souls in need of salvation can have no doubt that they have a loving Father who is gracious to them in Christ. “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:3,4)
The knowledge of the truth, however does not drop out of the sky. Nor does it reside by nature in the human heart, a heart which came into this world in a sinful condition that on its own is hostile to God. No, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)
So, into our world God places his Word. In earlier days, before Christ, he spoke through the prophets. And, as Jesus sent forth his original apostles, he spoke through them. Those words were carefully written down in Hebrew before Christ and in Greek after Christ. Over all that time, about 1500 years with many different writers and in many different places, those words were carefully preserved. It was the Word of God, after all. “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (II Peter 1:21)
“Inspiration” is the word that we use to describe how God placed his Word into the mouth and onto the pens of his prophets and apostles. The original languages were Hebrew and Greek. Countless copies, intended to be spread abroad for the salvation of souls, were meticulously reproduced letter for letter and syllable for syllable. A great many of these copies have been preserved to this day. They match exactly, except on occasion when there may be the slightest of copier’s mistake in the stroke of pen or a similar but alternate word. (That’s why you sometimes see an added word or possible adjustment to a sentence in the footnote of your English Bible, just so we can see how carefully the truth of Scripture has been preserved. Even the slight variants – none of which change the Bible’s meaning – are noted for our viewing.)
But the question wasn’t about God’s inspiration in Greek or Hebrew. It was about translations. So, back to not being drunk at 9 am. When the Holy Spirit was powerfully poured out on the disciples at Pentecost, 50 days after Easter, the once timid followers of Jesus boldly proclaimed the crucifixion and resurrection to people from all over the world who had gathered for the festival in Jerusalem. And, because the Savior is concerned for every soul, another powerful miracle took place that day. All those foreigners could exclaim: “We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues! … Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine’”. To this, Peter replied, “These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning.” (Acts 2)
Then Peter goes on to explain what was happening. It was a powerful working of the Holy Spirit that they were witnessing. And, what was also occurring was the Word of God being spoken in every language of the people who were present. In other words, it was being proclaimed in translation!
It is God’s desire that his Word be preached and heard in a language that people can understand. How can we be sure that we have the Word of God, even though we’re reading English instead of Greek and Hebrew? We can be sure because God has promised to bless his Word when it is translated just as if it was spoken or read in the original. He showed it at Pentecost. He’s shown it to us who have heard the Word and have believed. Translations, just like copies of the original languages, are meticulous. (If not, then they’re not good translations!) We can be sure that the Lord who works through his Word by the power of the Spirit works equally as powerfully in any language. And, we can be sure that when we stand before God in the glorious resurrection of all believers, we will join the Apostle John who wrote: “I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9)