March, 2013

A Summary of the Gospel

By Jeremiah Burroughs

Originally from Gospel Conversation (1657), reprinted in Gospel Reconciliation: Christ’s Triumph of Peace to the World, ed. Don Kistler (Orlando, FL: Soli Deo Gloria Ministries, 1997), 354. 
 

The gospel of Christ in general is this: It is the good tidings that God has revealed concerning Christ. More largely it is this: As all mankind was lost in Adam and became the children of wrath, put under the sentence of death, God, though He left His fallen angels and has reserved them in the chains of eternal darkness, yet He has thought upon the children of men and has provided a way of atonement to reconcile them to Himself again.

Namely, the second person of the Trinity takes man’s nature upon Himself, and becomes the Head of a second covenant, standing charged with sin. He answers for it by suffering what the law and divine justice required, and by making satisfaction for keeping the law perfectly, which satisfaction and  righteousness He tenders up to the Father as a sweet savor of rest for the souls that are given to Him.

And now this mediation of Christ is, by the appointment of the Father, preached to the children of men, of whatever nation or rank, freely offering this atonement unto sinners for atonement, requiring them to believe in Him and, upon believing, promising not only a discharge of all their former sins, but that they shall not enter into condemnation, that none of their sins or unworthiness shall ever hinder the peace of God with them, but that they shall through Him be received into the number of those who shall have the image of God again to be renewed unto them, and that they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

 

On the Shoulders of Giants – William Tyndale

Recently the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible celebrated its 400th birthday. The publication of the KJV was a landmark event in the history of the English language. It is certainly a cause for celebration when God’s Word is faithfully translated into the common language of the people. Did you know that nearly 83% of the KJV can be traced back to the earlier work of William Tyndale? Tyndale’s translation is in many respects the bedrock of the King James Version…which many would call the bedrock of the modern English language. Instead of winning him accolades, though, Tyndale’s work cost him his life.

William Tyndale was born in 1494 in Gloucestershire, England. He was schooled at Oxford where he learned that he was a gifted linguist. Tyndale became fluent in several languages notably Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. In the historical background of Tyndale’s schooling was Desiderius Erasmus’ publication of the New Testament in the original Greek. This new text of the New Testament had a profound effect on Martin Luther prompting him to translate it from the Greek into the German vernacular. Tyndale was also deeply impressed with Erasmus’ work. It became clear to Tyndale that the way in which God had revealed Himself was through the Scriptures and the way to show this to all people was to translate the Bible into the common English language. Tyndale resolved to make the Bible available to any Englishman.

This ambition did not win Tyndale many friends within the established Roman Catholic Church. With the Scriptures only in Latin or in Hebrew and Greek, only the Church could interpret what God’s Word said. This was not a hegemony the church was eager to give up. In fact, the RC Church only began allowing the Mass in the vernacular after Vatican II in 1967. This tight control of Scripture ensured Rome’s power. One educated clergyman responded to Tyndale, “We had better be without God’s laws than the Pope’s.” Tyndale responded to the clergyman with emotion, “I defy the Pope, and all his laws; and if God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more of the Scriptures than you do!” Tyndale had vowed to bring the life-changing message of God’s Word directly to the people.

Tyndale sought permission for his work from Bishop Tunstall in London but was denied. This forced Tyndale to leave England for Germany to find a safer place to pursue his work. In 1525 he completed his first partial translation of the New Testament. In 1526 a full edition of the New Testament was printed. Soon this work was being printed and smuggled into England and Scotland. In October of 1526, Bishop Tunstall condemned the translation and ordered all copies to be burned.

Much to Bishop Tunstall’s dismay, the most effective way to catapult a book to the top of the best-seller list is to ban it. The English copies of the New Testament continued to circulate in spite of (and likely because of) the condemnation. Tunstall was furious. He attempted to buy all the copies and burn them in bulk. Tyndale’s publishers gladly sold Tunstall every last copy. In turn they partnered with Tyndale in using the profits from this to expand his translation to include the Old Testament. By 1530, Tyndale had completed his translation and by that summer copies of the full Bible were circulating throughout England. Ironically, this second stage of publishing was largely financed by the very church which sought to outlaw it.

A sizable bounty had been put on William Tyndale by the church authorities in England. Eventually, Tyndale was betrayed by his friend Henry Phillips. He was kidnapped and turned over to authorities in Antwerp where he was imprisoned for 16 months. Yet, he doggedly continued his work to get the best possible translation of God’s Word into the hands of the common people. A prison letter from Tyndale lists his requests for some necessities in his imprisonment: a lamp, a warm cap, a blanket, and his Hebrew texts so that he could refine his translations. Even in prison Tyndale was committed to bringing the Scriptures to the simple plowboy.

On October 6, 1536 William Tyndale was burned at the stake for subverting the authority of the Church and King by bringing God’s Word to the common man. His last words reportedly were, “Oh Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”

We stand on the shoulders of men like William Tyndale. His work paved the way for God’s Word to exist in a language we understand. Tyndale’s translation is what forced King James to sponsor an authorized English version of the Bible. Yet, this work came at great cost to Tyndale. The pertinent question for us is what lengths will we go to so that generations after us will be able to know God? How will we use the gifts God has given us to proclaim His Word to a world that needs to hear? May our eyes be opened to the riches of God’s Word and to God’s calling on our very lives.