"For the Son of Man has come to save the lost."
Can we agree that this verse is a foundational tenet of our faith? Let me paraphrase ... That God so loved the depraved and sinful world (who consistently rejected Him), that He sent Himself in fleshly form (and in the person of a beloved Son) to offer a way for us to return to relationship with Him by believing [and believing in] that Son. Upon that belief (faith) in the Son, we can avoid eternal separation from Him and dwell with Him forever, escaping a final destruction .... He came to save the lost!
So why do you think that some modern versions of the Bible have eliminated this underpinning of our faith? Both the NIV and the ESV versions, for example, do not include Matthew 18:11. They jump right from verse 10 to verse 12. Why is that? This is the opening verse of the Parable of the Lost Sheep, and is a definitive statement of the purpose of Jesus's ministry and time on this earth. Do you think perhaps it is a softening of the gospel message; a subtle tactic of the Enemy, who has not only invaded our churches with his false teachings, but now has found a way to influence Bible publishers? After all, the NIV version of the New Testament was only published in 1973, so it is quite new in comparison to say, the 1599 Geneva Bible, in which this verse appears.
But it is also true that the passage does not actually appear in the best early Greek manuscripts which contain Matthew 18, and that it is possible that in copying it, Greek scribes borrowed Luke 19:10 to explain the underlying meaning of the Lost Sheep parable.
But there is also the early Church tradition that says the gospel of Matthew was originally written in Aramaic, the language of first century Israel, and the language Jesus spoke. This is attested to by Papias and Irenaeus, both 2nd Century bishops in the early Christian Church. There have also long been assertions that Matthew wrote his gospel, copying the writings of the Apostle Mark, which did not include the parable of the Lost Sheep, so therefore he added verse 11 from Luke's rendition. Since we have no surviving Hebrew manuscript, it's hard to say how likely this scenario is. But in any case, the gospel that made it into the Bible with Matthew's name was composed in Greek, and some translations included Chapter 18, verse 11.
Since the earliest versions of what I would call contemporary Bibles -- the 1599 Geneva, the 1611 King James, and the 1899 Douay-Rheims -- contain Matthew 18:11, I have to wonder why the current NIV version does not.
And it is one tiny verse -- only 11 words -- you might say. What harm can it cause in a person's life? Well, let's just take a look at the deeper meaning behind this seemingly innocuous sentence, and especially that last word ... lost.
In the Strong's Concordance, there are three words in Greek that express the meaning of our one English word, "lost". The primary root of the Greek word for "lost" is apo, meaning "separation, departure, cessation, reversal". Building upon that root word, we get apollumi, defined as "spiritual destitution; the loss of well-being for eternity". And finally, we have the Greek word, olethrus, which gives us an expanded understanding of the word "lost" in accordance with our salvation.
The meanings of this last word really give us a clear picture of just what is at stake for each of us. Olethrus means "destructive; of the effect upon the physical condition of an erring believer, for the purpose of his spiritual profit." It also means "the effect of the Divine judgments upon men at the ushering in of the Day of the Lord, and the revelation of the Lord Jesus." The permanency of olethrus can be found in this definition: "This word stresses the final, eternal, and irrevocable character of the destruction and ruin of a person."
These definitions really portray the seriousness and weight of that word "lost", don't they? And they show us the gravity and the objective of Christ's First Coming. Without Christ coming; without His substitutionary sacrifice for each one of us, we would all be doomed to eternal separation and the destruction of our beings.
So, if somehow the Enemy can keep us from this nugget of Truth; if he can convince us that a little sin here or there is of little consequence, just think of all the spiritual destitution he could cause. Think of all the people who are blind to why we need Jesus, and why He came in the first place. And then imagine how surprised they are going to be when He returns!
It is imperative that we understand HE CAME TO SAVE THE LOST! Whether we want to interpret that as meaning that Jesus came first to the lost of Israel, or that now that the Gospel message has been taken to all the world, He came for ALL the lost, it really doesn't matter. We must see that we all need to be saved; that there is nothing we can do on our own to keep us from facing that eternal destruction. By removing this one small verse from the Bible, it can have a huge impact on the modern world. Whenever we diminish the Deity of Christ, or lesson His purpose for walking among men, it gives the Enemy another foothold to destroy lives... and to destroy them for eternity. I want the whole truth of my God, and I don't want one word eliminated or changed. When God says "Do not add to Scripture, nor take away from it", I take Him seriously!