Monday 29 October 2018

"Uniting as Christians" and "not dividing" over literal translations of the Bible in English

We all acknowledge that non-literal translations of the Bible exist, and therefore not all translations can be validly used in public worship. This would include "The Message" or the German People's (Volk's) Bible which should not be used public (and I would say also privately). These loose translations do not even attempt to be faithful to the original Greek or Hebrew text.

However, there are a number of literal Bible translations which seek to be faithful to the original manuscripts of Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. Sometimes people get heated over the use of their favourite Bible translations. Literal translations in English would include, in my opinion, the King James, the New King James, the English Standard Version, the New American Standard Version and the New International Version (excluding the 2011 NIV edition, which deliberately seeks to feminise its translation work-- see my blog post on this, on this blog by using the search engine).

2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work".

The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1 "Of Holy Scripture", 1:8:

1:8. The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic; so as, in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the common language of every nation unto which they come1 that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship Him in an acceptable manner; and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.

Our Confession makes plain that the original manuscripts "being immediately inspired of God, and by his singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic". This is a wonderful statement. There are several streams of New Testament Greek manuscripts from North Africa, late Byzantine and others. We do not yield that one stream is better than any others, because that would be to go against our confession of faith and to undermine our confidence the Lord's providence.

Let us encourage Christians to read their Bibles with confidence and let us seek to build up the unity of the faith and not seek to undermine anyone's confidence in the precious Bible that we hold. After over 25 years I have seen much "heat" at times over English Bible translations. May the grace of Christ help us to walk humbly together in unity and love and to all seek together to know the Lord better, as we walk in the light of His Word.

Friday 26 October 2018

God's gospel of mercy and grace to ex-Nazi leaders in 1946

We must never lose sight of a sense of awe and wonder at the gospel of God's free grace. Paul the apostle, late in his life writes to Titus and the letter oozes with an emphasis on the lovingkindness towards him and others through the gospel. Do you have that sense of thankfulness and appreciation to the LORD for the forgiveness of sins? A wonder and awe towards the LORD for saving you personally is a mark of genuine Christianity. Listen to Paul in Titus 3:4-8.

"But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works".

In recent months, my wife and I have been reading a wonderful book written by Don Stephens called "War and Grace: Short Biographies from the World Wars" published by EP. It is the last chapter I would like to mention, one which I found tearful and thrilling. It is called Henry Gerecke, chaplain to the Nazi war criminals. It is about his work as a chaplain in Nuremberg, Allied Occupied Germany (then) from early November 1945 to the 16th November 1946. During this time he ministered the gospel for a year, to some of the top Nazi leaders who were by this time imprisoned. 11 were eventually condemned to death by hanging (Hermann Goering cowardly committed suicide but would otherwise have also hung among the other 10). However, the story of some of the Nazi leaders coming to a genuine faith is awesome.

Over that year of chaplaincy work by the Lutheran pastor, 8 former Nazis were carefully examined and admitted to the Lord's Supper by the chaplain. The chaplain was not interested in mere hollow professions and he was not a man impressed by 11th hour phoney reformations. The Nazi leaders who professed genuine faith were 8 in total and they were:

Fritz Sauckel: Once head of labour supply
Baldur von Shirach: once head of Hitler youth
Hans Fritzsche: part of Goebels' propaganda machine
Albert Speer: minister of armaments
Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel
Admiral Raeder
Joachim von Ribbentrop, former Nazi foreign minister
Field Marshall Kesselring

If you want to learn more, you must buy the book. But one excerpt is from the profession of faith by von Ribbentrop. He responded slowly to the gospel through the chapel services and cell visits. Gerecke believed that he had put all his trust in Christ. At his death by hanging, his last words were: "I place all my confidence in the lamb who made atonement for my sins. May God have mercy on my soul". Then he turned to Gerecke the chaplain and said "I'll see you again" (page 269).

How about you? Who are you trusting in for salvation? We all need the Saviour. We leave the judgement of people's lives to the Lord, but we are assured from the Scriptures, that the only door into heaven is through dependence upon the mercy of Christ.

Acts 17:30-31 "... but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Thursday 11 October 2018

Reading our Bibles biblically and persistently

When was the last time you thought about how to read your Bible? Have you considered recently, is there a better or even more biblical way to read to understand the Bible? I trust that you do read the Bible and that you are committed to reading the Bible, with more attention than you give to texting your friends or writing a post on Facebook.

Let us look at this matter to help readers of this blog post pastorally. I want to give seven points to help you grow in your Bible reading and your understanding of the Bible.

1. Commit to reading the Bible everyday.

2. Do not focus on reading the New Testament only, but instead, to all 66 books of the Bible. The Covenant Lord has given about 75% of his revelation in the so called Old Testament period. Therefore, you need to read books like Lamentations, Ezekiel, and 1 and 2 Chronicles. Read them with joy, expectation and anticipation.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work".

3. Aim to read the whole Bible. You can do this by reading the contents list of your Bible and then choosing what to read and then ticking the book off, once you have read it. Then proceed to read the whole Bible, but with no fixed time period in mind.

4. Pray before you read the Bible and ask the Lord to open up the Scriptures to you.

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. Psalm 119:18.

“Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” Luke 24:32.

5. Searching for Christ in the Old Testament. This is a fresh way of reading the Old Testament and it is the way the Old Testament writings should be primarily read.

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself, Luke 24:27.

Be reminded that though we search for glimpses of Christ to come in the Old Testament, that we do not neglect to learn the other many lessons that that are there also, such as to live a holy life and to avoid adultery, stealing and idolatry and such like.

6. Ask yourself "in what way is the Lord speaking to me in this passage?". James teaches that the Scripture is like a "mirror" and therefore, the Bible points out our sins and errors. We need to read the Bible to have our sins exposed, so that we can repent and be renewed in faith daily. Many Christians have little idea of the danger of ever-present sin, instead of warring against it everyday, they tolerate their personal sins.

7. Seek to memorise Bible verses. Maybe write a verse on a piece of paper and carry it around to meditate and memorise it, over a number of Days.

In conclusion, listen to the author of Psalm 119:9

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.