How your Bible may be ruining the Gospel


My wife is a good cook. She does a Danish roast with crackling pork and all the trimmings that is second-to-none. In fact, she is preparing a sumptuous roast dinner as I write. I’m practically drooling on the keyboard.

Knowing that my wife is a good cook, which of these two sentences do you prefer?

1. Camilla can prepare a great meal for you.
2. Camilla will prepare a great meal for you.

One word is the only difference between these two sentences, but it is a huge difference. Camilla can or Camilla will. The word can speaks of Camilla’s abilities. She can cook. So what, you say. What good is that to me? But the word will speaks to a promise. She will cook for me? Wonderful! When do we eat?

Can or will

Can is potential, but will is promise. This matters because of something Jesus said in Mark 3:28. See if you can spot the difference:

Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins. (Mark 3:28, NIV)
Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man (Mark 3:28, ESV)

One Bible says your sins can be forgiven, the other says they will be forgiven. Big difference!

Can God forgive? Of course he can. He can do anything. But will he forgive? The first version doesn’t say. Who knows? He might not.

See the problem? One Bible says God can but leaves open the question of whether he will. It creates uncertainty. It opens the door to doubt and dead works.

But the other Bible says there is no doubt: God will forgive you. It’s a cast-iron fact. Indeed it’s a promise that Jesus fulfilled on the cross.

Potential or promise

Before he died Jesus said “All sins will be forgiven.” After he rose from the dead he said, “Go and proclaim forgiveness in my name” (see Luke 24:47). A feeble gospel says God can forgive you, but the mighty gospel declares he already has.

Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. (Acts 13:38, NIV)

The NIV does a better job of translating Paul’s words in Acts than it does with Christ’s words in Mark. But are there other Bibles that mangle the Lord’s words?

Here is a list of the top ten best-selling Bibles from December 2016. Do they say God can or God will forgive sins?


How sad that the world’s two best-selling Bibles, the NIV and the NLT, both turn Christ’s promise into mush. They ruin the good news of Mark 3:28 while other Bibles shout it loud.

These are the best sellers, but the most-read Bible in America is the KJV which has this:

Verily I say unto you, all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men. (Mark 3:28, KJV)

The language is old but the promise comes through loud and clear: God will and on the cross God did!

Sidebar: Why does the world’s best-selling Bible mangle Jesus’ words in Mark 3:28?

Some may offer conspiracy theories involving the International Bible Society (the publisher) or Zondervan (their US licensee). But consider how this passage used to be translated in the NIV:

I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. (NIV, 1984)

The older version is better for it says will instead of can. So why did they replace a promise with a vague observation? I have no idea. If you know, please tell me.

However, if you’re thinking of throwing away your NIV please don’t. The NIV is a decent Bible. Its simplicity and ease of readability make it a favorite of millions. And in many ways the 2011 NIV is superior to the 1984 version, just not on this occasion. So get a pen and change Mark 3:28 back to the way it was. Replace the can with will.

No translation is perfect. Each was written by people with biases. Whatever your Bible, filter everything you read through the lens of Jesus. It’s the Living Word who gives life to the written word.

Why does this matter?

It matters because a God who can is weaker than a God who will. It matters because a God who will is a God who can be trusted.

It takes next to no faith to believe in a God who can. But faith is activated when we hear about a God who will.

God can do anything? That’s not news. God will forgive you. Now that’s news! At least it was when Jesus said it.

And God has forgiven you. Your forgiveness is a fact. A done deal.

This is the deliciously good news you can feast on.


If you enjoy Escape to Reality, sign up to our email list and we’ll notify you about new articles as soon they come out. No spam, we promise.

Join the grace revolution. Support E2R on Patreon (USD) or Donorbox (other currencies) today.

57 Comments on How your Bible may be ruining the Gospel

  1. Very nice indeed

  2. Yes, lots of confusion and bad theology , and doctrine, has stemmed from inaccurate translations. Especially when touted as ‘inerrant’.

    I would prefer that Camilla will cook for me 👍🏼

  3. Reverend Oscar Rios // December 29, 2016 at 12:38 am // Reply

    Hi Paul,
    As always, a great article! A few years ago the Lord spoke to my heart and told me that the “I will” of Jesus in the 4 Gospels was before the Cross. He said that after the Cross the “I WILL” became the “I HAVE”! Thank you for your work and wisdom!!

  4. Last year I threw away my NIV.This came after noticing many mis on it.Thanks Paul.

  5. For some reason I’m hungry now. 🙂 Great post! I appreciate the blessing you have been in my life and in the lives of many. Thank you

  6. Amen………..I like the Will one!!! I discovered a long time ago that even when I read the old testament I would pay great attention to the Scriptures that said “will”………emphatic gonna do to me!! “If you seek Me with all your heart you will find Me and I will give you the desires of your heart.” It has worked beautifully for me…………restored marriage, restored family, restored home, all my desires and many more on the way!!!

    Blessings for your site and words!! They are good!!

  7. If both the NIV and the NLT, which are the most modern and accurate translations, both translated it in the same way (“can”) then perhaps their version is correct?

    The answer is simple. May I suggest that you feel disturbed because it does not match with your theology? But it matches with all the other passages in the Bible regarding forgiveness; that forgiveness is conditional and based upon repentance. So all sins will be forgiven only if the sinner repents.

    • Which is a bit like saying 80% of English Bibles, Jesus, and the apostles were wrong. Conditional forgiveness is like conditional love – an oxymoron. It is the sort of forgiveness preached by a controlling church, but it is not the sort of forgiveness found in the NT epistles.

      • What will you do when what the Bible says does not fit neatly into your doctrine – like a man trying to wear a small boy’s pair of jeans?
        (also, I am disappointed that you edited my reply to remove the ‘my dream church’ model – I was hoping for your comments).

      • Since I started preaching the full-grown gospel of Jesus, I have been wearing big boy’s pants, so I am not familiar with this experience.

        Please note we delete or edit comments that contain advertising (ie: links) or are unrelated to the articles under which they are posted.

      • Paul thanks. They say that they were under threat to translate it as will. King Henry the 5th. But you make a very good point.

        How do you address or have you already addressed the one or two passages concerning shame in the apostles writings? How did Jesus address it. I don’t think Jesus wanted us to be ashamed of the gospel. Faith in the hope of Jesus.

    • Todd Gordon // April 8, 2017 at 2:49 am // Reply

      Paul, what do you think of the recovery version written by Witness and Watchman? Do you know of it? I write what I call sermons out of it all the time and I believe it has seriously grown my knowledge and faith. It’s translated Greek by them with intensely translated footnotes and descriptions. Thanks.

  8. Rainbow Newland // December 29, 2016 at 3:42 am // Reply

    Thank you!

  9. Love this! Thank you, Paul Ellis. A lot of people stand by their hard and fast belief in various unsound doctrines because “the Bible clearly says…” but you’ve shown, what the Bible “clearly says” can vary from version to version — and few of us Bible readers can read the ancient languages in which the Bible was written … and for the ancient Greek, even Greek scholars sometimes debate what the original language meant. It’s important to read the Bible through the lens of the Lord Jesus and what He came to do. I don’t believe He would come to save a lucky few … I believe He came to save all, so I must agree with those translations which say all sins WILL be forgiven. And I agree with you that all sins ARE forgiven. Well-done.

  10. Holly Meadows // December 29, 2016 at 5:01 am // Reply

    ‘Will and did!’ Excellent article.

  11. This could be the gospel in ONE word: WILL (not can).

  12. Patti McPike // December 29, 2016 at 6:08 am // Reply

    Here are two scriptures that aren’t always preached in the church.

    John 8:7 Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. (The self-righteous people in the church seem to have missed this little point, apparently unaware of their own sinfulness. Jesus called the very righteous pharisees – blind judges.)

    Matthew 7:1-3 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

    2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

    3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

    As a divorced woman who tolerated misery and an addict husbands’ rage for many years, I love, love love this little jewel in the word of God:

    Isaiah 58:9 If you take away the yoke from your midst, THE POINTING OF THE FINGER, and speaking wickedness, if you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday Isaiah 58:9

    God took away my heavy yoke. He repeatedly gave me this scripture Hosea 6:1 at the time of divorce:
    for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. Healing began once I became free of the enslavement to an evil person.

  13. The NIV is a curupt bible. It also teaches repent means to turn from sin. The word repent in the New Testament is the Greek word metanoia which simply means change of mind. Mark 1:15 says repent and believe the gospel, or change your mind and believe the gospel. Repent never has meant turn from sin, if we have to turn from all sin we would all be heading to hell tonight. Thank God that he alone grants the repentance needed for salvation. To believe is to repent and to repent is to believe.

    • Perhaps it is better to say the NIV is an imperfect and biased translation, just like every other.

      • I agree Paul. Every bible has some scripture that’s not correct. Even the KJV bible that many think is the authority. Romans 8.1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. There should be no comma and no for those who walk according to the spirit and not of the flesh. The translators added this.Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Not the word of God. Yes we know Christ is God but the Greek word is Christos. And it’s the word of Christ that’s good news. We know the whole bible in the old covenant was not so good news lol. But you’ve pointed this out in one of your books I own and love. Repentance AND forgiveness of sins not Repentance FOR forgiveness of sins. I wish the best translators would work together and make a new translation. I love my NASB but it itself is not perfect lol

      • I have enormous respect for the NASB and I’m try to quote from it on a regular basis. It’s authoritative and on the money. But while it scores high for accuracy it occasionally has terrible, bone-ugly English. Sometimes I read it and wonder, “What did that just say?” I find myself turning to one of the “bad” translations just to make sense of what I read.

        Life would be simpler if I learned to read Greek.

  14. Very inspiring. Thank you

  15. I just want to thank you Paul for your teachings. I own and have read 3 times already the gospel in 10 words and who is your daddy, and your response to the HyperGrace gospel. God bless you man, the Lord has used to bring the truth to myself and many others of the Finished work of our savior. You are so right God WILL and has forgiven our debt. Take care my brother

  16. Paul, another excellent post. My only question is, why didn’t you go back and tell us what the Greek word is that was translated as “will” or “can”? You usually give the original Greek or Hebrew word and its meaning to show why one verse says what we don’t see in the English, bu this time you didn’t. Can you update this post to explain the word and its usage? I know I could look it up myself, but I don’t have time at the moment and I wanted to ask this question anyway. As always, I LOVE what you have to say, I just wish you had said a little more this time. Blessings brother!

    • I’m not entirely sure there is a word to translate. To the best of my knowledge, the Greek says something like “All sins forgiven the sons of men.” In a literal translation such as Young’s it’s rendered: “All the sins shall be forgiven to the sons of men.” And in Green’s LITV it’s “All the sins will be forgiven to the sons of men.”

      • There is a Greek word – it is ‘aphethesetai’. According to what I have retained from Greek classes, this is the future passive form of the verb ‘aphiemi’ which means, ‘let go, send away, cancel, pardon.’ The basic meaning of the future tense is ‘will’. I agree that there is an important difference between ‘can’ and ‘will’. I think that this discussion is seriously lacking, though, without addressing the next verse – 3:29.

      • Thanks for the clarification Laura. Verse 28 is about God giving forgiveness; verse 29 is whether we receive it. “But whoever speaks abusively against or maliciously misrepresents the Holy Spirit can never get forgiveness” (Mar 3:29 AMP). The gift has been given and in Christ you have it. Reject Christ and you’re rejecting the Lord’s forgiveness.

    • Adriaan Hattingh // December 30, 2016 at 5:13 am // Reply

      Truly I say to you, that all will be remitted the sins of the sons of men, and blasphemies whatever they have blasphemed. Interlinear Greek-English New Testament – Jay P. Green Sr

      There is no seperate word for “will”. “Will be remitted” is translated from one Greek word – Strongs 863.

  17. Hi Paul,

    In defense of the NIV Bible on Mark 3:28, here is an extraxt from the NIV 1984 version
    Mark 3:28
    I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them
    For me, I use the NKJV, but all other versions to help me especially the AMP version
    God bless

    • Thanks Henry. I quoted the 1984 version in the article to show how the translation changed in 2011. I have the 2011 version on e-Sword and the 1984 version on my desk which is how I noticed the difference.

  18. Patti McPike // December 29, 2016 at 3:08 pm // Reply

    I reacted a bit to this discussion; just need more healing because rule based religious teaching on “no divorce -not ever did some pretty bad stuff to my mental health. Most people are uneducated about spousal violence and women are often too ashamed to talk about it. I love hearing Paul preach so boldly about the subject of divorce and remarriage! I remarried a man who has been kind, loving, stable and who has supported my children and myself. I see him as a gift from God and am realizing it isn’t that important if some Christians believe remarriage is sin. I am enjoying security for the first time in my life! Thank-you Paul for your kind response. I did over-react a bit to a Big C conservative comment. People are entitled to their opinion.

  19. Exactly, Paul. Thanks!

    This weakening of the gospel message happens in many other places too, like 2 Cor 9:8,

    “And God IS ABLE to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”

    Of course he is able, but that’s like holding a carrot out there that you never get to partake of. That’s almost a slap in the face that doesn’t help us at all. But when we realize that Paul was really saying “God ENABLES all grace to abound toward you. . .” we can get encouraged, and our faith can grow instead of falter.

    I’m afraid we need to take our pens and make many changes to almost all the versions, but God’s word is going to prevail and his kingdom is going to come more and more and his will is going to be done on earth as it is in heaven!

  20. Patti McPike // December 29, 2016 at 3:11 pm // Reply

    I like your preaching and bought 6 books to give away at Christmas. You preach freedom. Loving from the joy Christ puts in my heart whenever I praise Him. His work – his makeover – His glory!

  21. Evelyn Heiter // December 29, 2016 at 7:42 pm // Reply

    I would like to receive your posts Thanks

  22. That’s why i love the KJV, i still believe it is the most reliable version so far. Thanks Paul!

  23. I do have a question. There is more than one time mentioned that forgiveness is for all. I think, from what I’ve read from you until now, that you’re not a Universalist. I have read an article about church fathers that did believe in some form of universalism. Would love to know your stand on this. I’m learning all the time of brothers around the world and your messages are always very balanced. If I can find it will link to the article.

    • The Bible is very clear that Jesus, the Lamb of God, bore the sins of the world. God is no longer counting our trespasses against us (2 Cor 5:19). But that does not mean all are saved. Salvation hinges on Jesus and what you do with him. More here.

      • @Paul Do you not believe that repentance is necessary for forgiveness?
        From the beginning of the OT when Cain murdered Abel, to Revelation when the lukewarm Laodicean church is rebuked by Jesus and told to repent, repentance is necessary for forgiveness. Why did Jesus not forgive the thief who mocked him, but promised paradise only to the thief who repented?

      • Repentance is definitely necessary to receive the gift of forgiveness. Jesus said, “Repent and believe the good news.” The sins of both thieves along with yours and mine were carried by Jesus. The Lamb of God bore the sins of the world.

    • People do not usually realize that “clean slate” (forgiveness) is not enough. You need to be righteous as God is to get to Heaven.

      I like following quotation:

      Though too often supposed to be the truth, remission of sin for the unsaved is not equivalent to salvation. Forgiveness connotes subtraction, indeed, whereas all else in salvation is glorious addition. It is therefore written, “I give unto them eternal life” (John 10:28), and in Romans 5:17 reference is made, for example, to “the gift of righteousness.” (Lewis Sparry Chafer – Sys. Theology)

  24. Patti McPike // December 30, 2016 at 3:56 am // Reply

    This dialogue has been healing. It is so important to “rightly divide the word of truth.” Many very good people, people who have been churched and do the right thing, have never experienced grace. When I had a personal encounter with the living Christ – that outpouring of pure sweet love – all I wanted was more of Him. I wanted to go to church to be with Him, to learn more about Him, to please my “new found” Father. The church I attended was very legalistic: the preacher preached vehemently against sin and sinners. I began to feel ashamed of ever having sinned, of sins committed 30 years ago when I was young and immature. The teaching in that day was that “people were church hoppers” (there’s even been a song written by that name to correct those people who should be supporting their pastors). All joy left under his legalistic teaching. We were never doing enough – chastened every Sunday. They were angry at “the sinners.” Yet when the Spirit came upon me, I felt an overwhelming mercy and love for “them sinners” (like me).
    I like reading Paul’s blogs because he thinks intelligently – questioning beliefs that have been passed down for generations – some of them are man’s attempt to control people. Instead of meeting a life saving Saviour, people can be given a list of good works to do in order to stay out of hell.

    The difference between the words “can” and “will” – how astute! There is still some doubt in the word “can” – God may or may not. But there is great empowering faith in the word “will.”

    Thank-you Paul for life giving teaching. I want to read more blogs!

  25. Earl Hendricks // December 30, 2016 at 4:50 am // Reply

    Paul, yu good fi tru (Jamaican patois)
    Translation: Paul, you did good again! Thanks

  26. Paul D Feldhuhn // December 30, 2016 at 10:22 am // Reply

    Perhaps the best way to view this is to understand that God does Not forgive sin as we think of forgiveness,
    All sin, our born with sin nature must be punished. The good news is that Jesus took that punishment for us…His payment for our sin becomes our payment when we decide to trust Him and His finished work on the cross.

  27. Larry Gracilla // December 30, 2016 at 1:07 pm // Reply


  28. Walter Simiyu // December 30, 2016 at 5:21 pm // Reply

    Paul,asante sana(swahili for thank you so much)

  29. I think Matthew 8:2 perfectly highlights the difference between “can” and “will”:
    “And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him [Jesus], saying, ‘Lord, if thou WILT, thou CANST make me clean.'” I’m so glad to know that “All sins SHALL be forgiven unto the sons of men. . .” (Mark 3:28). The word “can” denotes possibility. “Will,” on the other hand, is definitive.
    Thanks, Paul, for another great post.

  30. Excellent post. Thank you.

  31. Well, in greek, there is no “can”. There is future passive indicative of ” forgive” – will be forgiven. That pretty settles it.

    • Forgiveness is still conditional upon repentance.

      • Not so. Receiving forgiveness is conditional on repentance because grace (eg: forgiveness) only comes through faith (eg: repentance). But forgiveness is the gift that has been given. It’s already on the table. God is no longer holding your sins against you.

      • “Receiving forgiveness… But forgiveness is the gift that has been given”. Your definition of the gospel is not found in the Bible. Over and over especially in Acts, the gospel was clearly stated, “Repentance for the forgiveness of your sins”. If God has already forgiven the world, then He should not send anyone to hell, regardless of whether they repent or not. Please submit to what the Bible teaches simply and clearly – even when you find it unpalatable.

      • I have good news for you: The Bible declares again and again that our sins were born by Christ and the Lord is no longer holding them against us. That’s the gift of total and eternal forgiveness. The Bible teaches this simply and clearly and it is most palatable.

        Does that mean all are saved? Not at all, because not all come to Christ to receive the life he offers.

      • Can you back up what you are saying with exact references from the Bible? These Bible verses contradict your teaching. Matthew 6:15 “…your Father will not forgive your sins”. Even between Christians, forgiveness is conditional upon repentance, Luke 17:3 “…IF they repent, forgive them.”. Your comment format only allows one reply by me and so you always have the last word.

      • Yes I can. Space precludes me from listing every verse on divine forgiveness in every post on the subject, but you will find them in the Scripture Index. Or you could click the link I gave you in my comment above.

  32. Didn’t Christ Himself tell the churches in Revelation to repent? In the Lord’s prayer, doesn’t that include repentance?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.