Summary: The study of God’s Word may be difficult at times, but it is well worth the effort.
January 23, 2000 2 Tim. 2:15
The Bible – worth the effort (Part 2)
How much do you value the fact that you have a Bible that you can pick up and read for yourself? [read Jn 3:16 from the Greek Bible] No, I have not started speaking in tongues; what I was reading was from the New Testament in Greek, which is the language that it was originally written in. How many of you understood what I just said? The verse that I just read says this in English: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” How would you like it if in order to read that simple truth for yourself, you had to learn to read Greek or German or Latin? It was not until the year 1382 that there was a completed English translation of the whole New Testament, and it was 2 years later before the whole Old Testament was translated into English. Both were translated into English from Latin for the first time by a man named John Wycliff and his associates. Another man, named William Tyndale was the first to translate the entire Bible into English from Greek and Hebrew. You and I might think that the church leaders of the day would be glad to now have a translation that the common person could read and understand for themselves. How did they react to Wycliff and Tyndale’s work? During John Wycliff’s life, he was hunted and despised by the church for his work and the teaching which he gave as a result of his own personal study. Though he died a natural death, years after his death, his bones were dug up out of the ground, they were burned, and the ashes were thrown into the river. Tyndale didn’t fare quite as well. He was arrested and put in prison for his crime of translating the Bible into English. After being in prison for a year, he was tried and convicted of the crime of giving the Bible to the common people. His sentence was that he be strangled and then burned at the stake.
Why were the church leaders so afraid of the common people having the Bible in their own language? Their stated reason was that they did not think that the common man could understand the Bible for themselves. They feared that if everyone had access to the Bible, they would not interpret it correctly, and all kinds of weird teachings would result. To a certain extent, they were right. Persons who handle God’s Word incorrectly will come up with all kinds of strange ideas and may even lead other people astray. We have seen that happen. It is happening in churches right now even as I speak. Someone is using the Bible to teach their own strange ideas. But the real reason or the underlying reason that the church authorities did not want the commoners to have access to the Bible is because they feared the loss of power.
What happens if I take all of your Bibles away from you? I remove all the Bibles from the church, from your home, from your car and everywhere that you might have access to them. The only Bible that is left in this church is the one that I am reading from this morning, and this one is no longer in English but is now in Latin or German. I suddenly become very powerful. You now have no way of checking up on me to discover whether or not I am telling you the truth. When I say that the Bible says something is true, you have no choice but to accept it if you want to live in obedience to Jesus. I can say, “The Bible says, ‘ Get up, and hop on one foot if you want to go to heaven.’ The Bible says, ‘ Sell your houses and your cars and bring the money to the church.’ The Bible says, ‘ Each of you must take a turn of bringing dinner over to the pastor’s house so that the pastor’s belly is filled each night.’” None of those are found in the Bible – except maybe that last one - , but if you don’t have a Bible, and can’t read that Bible, then you have no way of knowing the truth. You become my Pinochio’s, and I become your Gapeto. I hold the strings that control you because I know what the Bible says, and you don’t.
God didn’t put me in the role of pastor here in order for me to exert power over you. He put me in this place to be an example to you and to teach you from God’s Word and about God’s Word so that you can read and understand God’s Word for yourself. (1 Pet 5:2-3 NIV) Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers--not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.