This morning as I look at the first Hapax Legomena words in Colossians I can't help but think of all the amazing Wycliffe translators who struggle to bring the word of God to people groups that have no written Bible. How many peoples that only had a spoken language have been given the gift of a written language all because someone (or a small group of people) took the time to live in their culture and learn from them so that the words and unique grammar could be codified in a written form.
The latest statistics I can find show that as of November 2015 the whole Bible is available in over 550 languages and a full New Testament is available in over 1,300 tongues.
Not many people realize that a Bible translation also gives a written language to many people groups that had no written language before. The spread of the Gospel has also meant the spread of literacy which gives so many other gifts.
The first unique word (1:5 hear before - Strongs G4257 - proakouō) is in this verse.
"We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel," - Colossians 1:3-5 ESV
Last night we had an interesting conversation about Hope.
"...and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." - Romans 5:5 ESV
The hope given in the Gospel never puts us to shame. Guilt is when we hate what we have done but shame is when we hate who we are. The Gospel pours love into us and it never results in self-hatred.
Legalism does cause shame but the Gospel never does.
Paul uses this unique Greek word to say that the Colossians have changed lives because of what they have 'heard before.' The Colossians love and their love is evident.
How many children will sit in a school house at a tiny desk and write in a language that never existed on paper until someone who loved God came to give a large portion of their life and make that happen? Those people came because the God who gave the good news also filled their heart full of love.
God please bless those Bible translator who labor even today to translate your words into languages that are only spoken by an isolated group of people. Help them. They are people like us. Give them great grace and mercy and touch the lives of the people they come in contact with. They are bringing a gift that adds and does not subtract. It is the divine gift of an identity without shame. Right along with that gift is the gift of literacy.
Thank you God.