To Paul, to Athanasius, to Tyndale, thank you.

kindle_esv_gen11We’re starting a new series on the Word of God this Sunday and I can’t wait. Every time I preach,whatever the topic, I look at the Bible and marvel that God took the trouble to communicate His heart, His ways and His purposes to mankind. Utterly amazing, and He did not even have to do it. He could very well have chosen to leave us totally in the dark about His nature, keep them guessing and keep them begging and unsure of anything, that will keep them in line. Not God, and I am glad.

Needless to say, I have not always felt so. I was the original sceptic, roundly accusing Christians who tried to preach to me of carrying around ‘a book of a thousand and one mistakes’. As you can imagine, i have since had occasion to plentifully eat my own words, and with great delight, too. Is that sweet vengeance for God or what! I have since found that the literary authenticity of Scripture is beyond question, the ancient manuscripts attest to that; and also that it’s spiritual authenticity has been confirmed from generation to generation, and is still being attested to by the changed lives we see daily.

The early church fathers (Athanasius et al) fought epic battles to preserve the integrity of the Scriptures as they were handed to them, in form and content, and avoid heretical writings and interpretations from being slipped in. Yet today many who call themselves Christians are seeking titillating reading that would somehow have been left out of the Scriptures by some conspiracy and that supposedly sheds a ‘different’ light on Christ, when they fail to master what is before them and have scant understanding of how it got there. Then there are the virulent denouncers of Christianity whose vain puffing reveals their ignorance of the Bible, some are even incapable of distinguishing between the Gospels and the Epistles. Such is the ignorance of those before whom many believers cringe. But worse still is when Christians themselves neglect the Word of God. It has come to us at great price.

I and indeed we all owe a great debt to those scribes who painfully copied manuscript after manuscript, and in later generations when the ‘church authorities’ had a stranglehold over the dissemination of Scripture, denying access to the common man, to those brave individuals like William Tyndale who dared to render the Scriptures in the layman’s language. He is quoted as saying to the Bishop of Worcester (in some accounts, of the Pope) “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the Scripture than thou doest.”  He was the first to provide a translation of the Bible directly from the original Hebrew and Greek texts, the first printed translation of the Bible in English. Tyndale was  arrested, imprisoned and burnt at the stake for his trouble.

Today we quibble over words, here and there, but can we stop for a moment to marvel at this great gift, not only available on paper to all, in most languages, but now on audio cd, mp3, the kindle, and the internet is awash with it. Any ploughman can indeed know God’s word better than any priest, if he will apply himself to it. Great joy. And in the midst of our rejoicing, a note of caution; let us heed the words of Jesus, to whom much is given much is required. Should not our godliness and righteousness then exceed that of all previous generations of  believers who never had, as we do today this near universal access to the Holy Scriptures? Worth pondering.

More on the Word : This is your life


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