I was with my friend Mark at a meeting in his kingdom hall. The speaker quoted the familiar John 3:16 from the JW New World Translation of the Bible. He recited: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-betotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”
I almost jumped out of my seat when he said “exercising faith.” Then I thought “That’s not in the original Greek text!” Except that I didn’t just think it. I suddenly realized that I had verbalized it. Not loudly, but loud enough that Mark and several others around us heard me. Yikes! Fortunately, no one seemed to be affected by my outburst.
After the meeting Mark asked me about what I had said. It was the beginning of a long conversation, in which I said that their unfortunate translation could lead some to define “faith” as entirely the opposite of what it really is. Faith is a transfer of trust. It is “not-doing,” and instead trusting in what someone else has done for you. To translate the word as “exercising faith” implies effort and performance on the part of the believer. In fact, the speaker that night went on to talk about the ongoing effort needed to “endure to the end.”
A simple word study of the words “faith” and “believe,” which are the same word in Greek, can lead to an eye-opening experience to one trying to earn favor with God, or an encouraging experience to one who has already put their trust in what Jesus did for them. Connected to believing is heavenly hope, being born again, sealed with the Holy Spirit, adoption, Abraham’s seed, royal priesthood, being in the new covenant, and having Jesus as mediator, and more. All these benefits are, according to Watchtower, limited to only the 144,000. But according to the Bible they are available to “anyone who believes.”