Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Sovereign, Saving Grace!

“Because in him there is found some good thing towards the Lord God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam” (1Kings 14:13)

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Such was the testimony which the Lord gave by his prophet of young Abijah, the son of wicked Jeroboam. The father was branded even to a proverb, for his abominable wickedness. Behold, the son is recorded by the Lord for his goodness, singled out from the whole house of his father, to be blessed of his God, and to come to his grave in peace.

Children of grace, often spring from the loins of ungodly parents. The offspring of godly parents, often appear graceless. Grace is not hereditary, it is the sovereign gift of God. Parents may and ought to give good instructions, but God only makes them successful. ‘Some good thing’ would not have been found in Abijah if the Lord had not put it there. It was the will of the Lord, or because the Lord was his father, as his name Abijah signifies. God’s covenant children, though by nature children of wrath, and though in their ‘flesh’ dwells no good thing;’ yet, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, ‘they are created anew in Christ Jesus, in righteousness and true holiness, unto good works;’ and after the inward man, ‘they delight in the law of God.’ The graces of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers, and the fruit of the Spirit in their lives, are evidences in time, of God’s covenant to them in Christ Jesus before time. God views the work of his new creation in the soul with delight; pronounces it GOOD, and to his own glory records the graces of his people. What comes from God leads to him.

Thus we see ‘some good thing’ found in the heart of Abijah, manifesting itself in the wicked house of Jeroboam, to the glory of Jehovah the God of Israel. Oh how highly honoured are some who are converted to God’s glory and service in the morning of youth; while the Sun of righteousness doth not arise upon others, till the sun of nature is near setting. Hath distinguishing grace made us to differ, as well from our former selves, as from others? It is all from the love of the Father, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Spirit. We have nothing whereof to glory in ourselves, nor over others; it is our duty to confess it with our lips, and manifest it in our lives. May it encourage us daily to walk in faith and love, ‘the just shall live by faith’ (Hebrews 10:38).

By W. Mason

(©️James R Hamilton, June 2018)

Mankind and the Death Factor!

“All they that hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:36)

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Sadly, because all men without exception are sinners, the most fundamental factor in understanding anthropology is the Thanatos factor. With entirely non-Freudian implications, the Thanatos Syndrome is simply the natural sinful inclination to death and defilement. All men have morbidly embraced death (Romans 5:12).

At the Fall, mankind was suddenly destined for death (Jeremiah 15:2). We were all at that moment bound into a covenant with death (Isaiah 28:15). Scripture tells us, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25).

Whether we know it or not, we have chosen death (Jeremiah 8:3). It has become our shepherd (Psalm 49:14). Our minds are fixed on it (Romans 8:6), our hearts pursue it (Proverbs 21:6), and our flesh is ruled by it (Romans 8:2). We dance to its cadences (Proverbs 2:18) and descend to its chambers (Proverbs 7:27).

The fact is “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23). “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:10-18). And, all those who hate God love death (Proverbs 8:36).

It is no wonder then that abortion, infanticide, exposure, and abandonment have always been a normal and natural part of human relations. Since the dawning of time, men have contrived ingenious diversions to satisfy their fallen passions. And child killing has always been chief among them.

Virtually every culture in antiquity was stained with the blood of innocent children. Unwanted infants in ancient Rome were abandoned outside the city walls to die from exposure to the elements or from the attacks of wild foraging beasts. Greeks often gave their pregnant women harsh doses of herbal or medicinal abortifacients. Persians developed highly sophisticated surgical curette procedures. Chinese women tied heavy ropes around their waists so excruciatingly tight that they either aborted or passed into unconsciousness. Ancient Hindus and Arabs concocted chemical [contraceptives]. Primitive Canaanites threw their children onto great flaming pyres as a sacrifice to their god Molech. Polynesians subjected their pregnant women to onerous tortures—their abdomens beaten with large stones or hot coals heaped upon their bodies. Japanese women stood over boiling cauldrons of parricidal brews. Egyptians disposed of their unwanted children by disembowelling and dismembering them shortly after birth. Their collagen was then ritually harvested for the manufacture of cosmetic creams.
None of the great minds of the ancient world—from Plato and Aristotle to Seneca and Quintilian, from Pythagoras and Aristophanes to Livy and Cicero, from Herodotus and Thucydides to Plutarch and Euripides—disparaged child killing in any way. In fact, most of them actually recommended it. They callously discussed its various methods and procedures. They casually debated its sundry legal ramifications. They blithely tossed lives like dice.

Abortion, infanticide, exposure, and abandonment were so much a part of human societies that they provided the primary leitmotif in popular traditions, stories, myths, fables, and legends.

The founding of Rome was, for instance, presumed to be the happy result of the abandonment of children, [Romulus and Remus]…Oedipus was presumed to be an abandoned child who was also found by a shepherd and later rose to greatness. Ion, the eponymous monarch in ancient Greece miraculously lived through an abortion, according to tradition. Cyrus, the founder of the Persian empire, was supposedly a fortunate survivor of infanticide. According to Homer’s legend, Paris, whose amorous indiscretions started the Trojan War, was also a victim of abandonment. Telephus, the king of Mysia in Greece, and Habius, ruler of the Cunetes in Spain, had both been exposed as children according to various folk tales. Jupiter, the chief god of the Olympian pantheon, himself had been abandoned as a child. He, in turn, exposed his twin sons, Zethus and Amphion. Similarly, other myths related that Poseidon, Aesculapius, Hephaistos, Attis, and Cybele had all been abandoned to die.

Because they had been mired by the minions of sin and death, it was as natural as the spring rains for the men and women of antiquity to kill their children. It was as instinctive as the autumn harvest for them summarily to sabotage their own heritage. They saw nothing particularly cruel about despoiling the fruit of their wombs. It was woven into the very fabric of their culture. They believed that it was completely justifiable. They believed that it was just, good, and right.

But they were wrong. Dreadfully wrong.

Life is God’s gift: It is His gracious endowment upon the created order. It flows forth in generative fruitfulness. The earth is literally teeming with life (Genesis 1:20; Leviticus 11:10; 22:5; Deuteronomy 14:9). And the crowning glory of this sacred teeming is man himself (Genesis 1:26-30; Psalm 8:1-9). To violate the sanctity of this magnificent endowment is to fly in the face of all that is holy, just, and true (Jeremiah 8:1-17; Romans 8:6). To violate the sanctity of life is to invite judgment, retribution, and anathema (Deuteronomy 30:19-20). It is to solicit devastation, imprecation, and destruction (Jeremiah 21:8-10). The Apostle Paul tells us, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

But the Lord God, Who is the giver of life (Acts 17:25), the fountain of life (Psalm 36:9), the defender of life (Psalm 27:1), the prince of life (Acts 3:15), and the restorer of life (Ruth 4:15), did not leave men to languish hopelessly in the clutches of sin and death. He not only sent us the message of life (Acts 5:20) and the words of life (John 6:68), He sent us the light of life as well (John 8:12). He sent us His only begotten Son, the life of the world (Joh 6:51), to break the bonds of death (1Corinthians 15:54-56)…“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” (John 3:16)…In Christ, God has afforded us the opportunity…to choose between fruitful and teeming life on the one hand, and barren and impoverished death on the other (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Apart from Christ, it is not possible to escape the snares of sin and death (Colossians 2:13). On the other hand, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2Corinthians 5:17). All those who hate Christ “love death” (Proverbs 8:36), while all those who receive Christ are made the sweet savour of life (2Corinthians 2:16).

The implication is clear: The pro-life movement and the Christian faith are synonymous. Where there is one, there will be the other: for one cannot be had without the other. Further, the primary conflict in temporal history always has been and always will be the struggle for life by the Church against the natural inclinations of all men everywhere.

Conclusion: Death has cast its dark shadow across the whole of human relations. Because of sin, all men flirt and flaunt shamelessly in the face of its spectre. Sadly, such impudence has led to the most grotesque concupiscence imaginable: the slaughter of innocent children. Blinded by the glare from the nefarious and insidious angel of light (2Corinthians 11:14), we stand by, paralyzed and mesmerized. Thanks be to God, there is a way of escape from these bonds of destruction. In Christ, there is hope. In Him, there is life, both temporal and eternal. In Him, there is liberty and justice. In Him, there is an antidote to the Thanatos factor. In Him, and in Him alone, there is an answer to the age-long dilemma of the dominion of death.

By George Grant: pastor of Parish Presbyterian Church, church planter, author, president of King’s Meadow Study Centre, founder of Franklin Classical School, and chancellor of New College Franklin.

(James R Hamilton, June 2018)

Thou Shalt Not Kill!

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This commandment forbids that barbarous and inhuman sin of murder, the first-born of the devil, who was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:48). It forbids the first branded crime that we read of, wherein natural corruption, contracted by the Fall, vented its rancor and virulence: the sin of Cain that great instance of perdition who slew his brother Abel “because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous” (1John 3:12). The murdering of another is a most heinous and black sin, a sin that God doth detect and bring to punishment, usually by some wonderful method of His providence. Murder dogs the consciences of those who are guilty of it with horrid affrights and terrors and hath sometimes extorted from them a confession of it when there hath been no other proof or evidence. The two greatest sinners that the Scripture hath set the blackest brand upon were both murderers: Cain and Judas. The one was the murderer of his brother; the other, first of his Lord and Master and then of himself.

God so infinitely hates and detests it that, although the altar was a refuge for other offenders, He would not have a murderer sheltered there. He was to be dragged from that inviolable sanctuary unto execution according to that law: “But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die” (Exodus 21:14). Accordingly, we read that when Joab had fled and taken hold on the horns of the altar, so that the messengers who were sent to put him to death durst not violate that holy place by shedding his blood, Solomon gave command to have him slain even there, as if the blood of a willful murderer were a very acceptable sacrifice offered up unto God (1Kings 2:28-31). Indeed, in the first prohibition of murder that we meet withal, God subjoins a very weighty reason why it should be so odious unto Him: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man, shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man” (Genesis 9:6). So that Homicidium est Decidium: “To slaughter, a man is to stab God in effigy. “ Though the image of God’s holiness and purity be totally defaced in us since the Fall, yet every man even the most wicked and impious that lives bear some strictures of the image of God in his [mind], the freedom of his will, and his dominion over the creatures. God will have every part of His image so revered by us that He esteems him that assaults man as one who attempts to assassinate God Himself.

Murder is a crying sin. Blood is loud and clamorous. That first blood that ever was shed was heard as far as from earth to heaven: “The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10). God will certainly hear its cry and avenge it.
But, not only he, whose hands are embrued in the blood of others but those also who are accessory are guilty of murder. As

(1) Those who command or counsel it to be done. Thus, David became guilty of the murder of innocent Uriah; and God, in drawing up his charge, accuseth him with it: “Thou hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon” (2Samuel 12:9).

(2) Those who consent to murder are guilty of it. Thus Pilate, for yielding to the clamorous outcries of the Jews, “Crucify him, Crucify him” (Luke 23:21), though he washed his hands and disavowed the fact, was as much guilty as those who nailed Him to the cross.

(3) He that concealeth a murder is guilty of it. Therefore, we read that in case a man was found slain and the murderer unknown, the elders of that city were to assemble, wash their hands, and protest “Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it” (Deuteronomy 21:6-7), intimating that if they had seen and concealed it, they had thereby become guilty of the murder.

(4) Those who are in authority and do not punish a murder, when committed and known, are themselves guilty of it. Thus, when Naboth was condemned to die by the wicked artifice of Jezebel although Ahab knew nothing of the contrivance until after the execution yet because he did not vindicate that innocent blood when he came to the knowledge of it, the prophet chargeth it upon him. “Hast thou killed, and also taken possession?” (1Kings 21:19). The guilt lay upon him, and the punishment due to it overtook him, although we do not read that he was any otherwise guilty of it than in not punishing those who had committed it.

And those magistrates who, upon any respect whatsoever, suffer a murder to escape unpunished are said to pollute the land with blood: “Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death. So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it ” (Numbers 35:31, 33).

From “A Practical Exposition of the Ten Commandments” in The Works of Ezekiel Hopkins, Vol. 1.

(James R Hamilton, June 2018)

God Smiles on Humility!

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The Way Up is Down (Chapter 1 Verses 6-7)

The dress John wore marked him out as a prophet (Zechariah 13.4), the rough hairy garment was the usual dress. The prophet Elijah fore-shadowed John the Baptist in his stern preaching of repentance (Malachi 4.5; Mark 9.11-12; Luke 1.17). This is a missing element in preaching today, repentance I mean. When was the last time you heard a good full-blown sermon on repentance that was applied directly to everyone present? A while ago? But that is the gospel fore-runner, without repentance can there be forgiveness, salvation? John the Baptist’s dress, eating habits, dwelling place and his preaching, his whole being was a sermon on repentance. It was a challenge to all who made food and drink, houses and clothing, and much other such material concerns their primary concern in life (Matthew 6.33). When people came to hear John in the desert they left their luxurious lifestyles behind and were reminded for a time at least how little man really needs in this world, and of higher, greater, loftier, eternal matters. The message John preached included one who was coming v7, the Lord Jesus. Like any true preacher of God’s word, never pointing to himself, or any other, only the Lord Jesus, the mighty to save (John 1.29). Why? Because the preacher, John is a mere man, the preacher has no power to save, to change, alter the course of someone’s life or eternal destiny. But one more powerful than John comes, the Son of God v1, with the power, to forgive, to cleanse, to heal, and to save.
But do you notice how John takes a back seat here? The humility of John is a mark of his holiness, his greatness. The very purpose of John’s life is to exalt, to magnify Christ, but that is what you would expect a man full of the Holy Spirit to do, is it not? Because that is the office and work of the Holy Spirit (John 16.14). But is not John’s attitude of humility a refreshing one in a day when such arrogance abounds? People who think they have the answer to all, they pontificate about the origins of the human race, they boast proudly about their scientific achievements, enlightened, so sure, so powerful, yet still pathetically bound by addictions, unable to break the power of lust in their hearts. One does wonder why they have so many problems, they know so much. But God admires, smiles upon humility (Isaiah 66.2). Unless this, our own generation humbles itself, God will have to do it for them (Matthew 23.12). John had the attitude of his Saviour v7 cf. Mark 10.45. In the attitude of the servant bowing to untie the sandals, John demonstrates his understanding of the greatness of the coming One, the Messiah, the Son of God. Worship him today. Jesus I mean.

Baptism, in Water and Spirit (Chapter 1 Verse 8)

The difference in the persons, John and the Lord Jesus, has been highlighted in v7, now the difference in their work v8. Yes, both baptize, but Jesus will crown his redemptive work by baptizing with the Holy Spirit. Now to suggest that there was nothing of the Spirit in John’s ministry is false, John was filled with the Spirit from birth (Luke 1.13-15), how else would the Word of God come to him (Luke 3.2)? John’s ministry of repentance was worked upon the people by the power of the Spirit, for no one believes but by the Spirit, nor do they turn from their sin without the gracious gift of repentance from the self-same Spirit (Luke 11.18). “Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ” (Westminster Confession Chapter 15 Section 1). The Spirit baptism declared by John was concurred by the Saviour’s own teaching (John 16.7; Acts 1.5, 8). The same Jesus Christ tells the very religious Nicodemus that Spirit baptism is imperative, for even understanding the Kingdom (John 3.3). The Pharisees, to whom Nicodemus belonged, refused John’s baptism. But Jesus tells him bluntly, you’re wrong, dead wrong, you need John’s baptism of repentance, and my Spirit baptism, both are essential, water and Spirit Nicodemus, just as John taught (John 3.5). Or there is no entrance to God’s Kingdom. Whatever our views may be on baptism, whether a little or a lot of water, you can be baptized in the Atlantic Ocean, but if you have not been baptized in the Holy Spirit you do not belong to Jesus Christ (Romans 8.9), you must be born again.
You see being a Christian is more than understanding certain truths of the Bible, more than religious emotion, or conviction, it is not simply the exercise of spiritual gifts (Matthew 7.21-23). It is not mere morality either (Luke 18.9-14). It is about a deep, radical change within the core of a person’s being, changing and renewing their hearts (2Corinthians 5.17). The Spirit of truth (John 16.13), he gives us a love for the truth (1John 4.4-6). That truth begins to mould and change our lives, we begin to think as God thinks, transforming our views (Romans 12.3), we now agree with what God says in his word and become more like his Son Jesus, the ultimate purpose of God for each of his children (Romans 8.29). Now how does that work you say? Well, as you prayerfully read your Bible each day, carefully, listening to what God says to you, applying it to your heart and life. Doing what he says (John 2.5). But that means discipline, straining toward the mark, sometimes we won’t feel like doing it, but we must. We go on in faith, faithfully, because God does bless faithfulness.

(©️James R Hamilton, June 2018)

Spirit-Filled Power!

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The Way Up is Down (Chapter 1 Verses 6-7)

The dress John wore marked him out as a prophet (Zechariah 13.4), the rough hairy garment was the usual dress. The prophet Elijah fore-shadowed John the Baptist in his stern preaching of repentance (Malachi 4.5; Mark 9.11-12; Luke 1.17). This is a missing element in preaching today, repentance I mean. When was the last time you heard a good full-blown sermon on repentance that was applied directly to everyone present? A while ago? But that is the gospel fore-runner, without repentance can there be forgiveness, salvation? John the Baptist’s dress, eating habits, dwelling place and his preaching, his whole being was a sermon on repentance. It was a challenge to all who made food and drink, houses and clothing, and much other such material concerns their primary concern in life (Matthew 6.33). When people came to hear John in the desert they left their luxurious lifestyles behind and were reminded for a time at least how little man really needs in this world, and of higher, greater, loftier, eternal matters. The message John preached included one who was coming v7, the Lord Jesus. Like any true preacher of God’s word, never pointing to himself, or any other, only the Lord Jesus, the mighty to save (John 1.29). Why? Because the preacher, John is a mere man, the preacher has no power to save, to change, alter the course of someone’s life or eternal destiny. But one more powerful than John comes, the Son of God v1, with the power, to forgive, to cleanse, to heal, and to save.
But do you notice how John takes a back seat here? The humility of John is a mark of his holiness, his greatness. The very purpose of John’s life is to exalt, to magnify Christ, but that is what you would expect a man full of the Holy Spirit to do, is it not? Because that is the office and work of the Holy Spirit (John 16.14). But is not John’s attitude of humility a refreshing one in a day when such arrogance abounds? People who think they have the answer to all, they pontificate about the origins of the human race, they boast proudly about their scientific achievements, enlightened, so sure, so powerful, yet still pathetically bound by addictions, unable to break the power of lust in their hearts. One does wonder why they have so many problems, they know so much. But God admires, smiles upon humility (Isaiah 66.2). Unless this, our own generation humbles itself, God will have to do it for them (Matthew 23.12). John had the attitude of his Saviour v7 cf. Mark 10.45. In the attitude of the servant bowing to untie the sandals, John demonstrates his understanding of the greatness of the coming One, the Messiah, the Son of God. Worship him today. Jesus I mean.

Baptism, in Water and Spirit (Chapter 1 Verse 8)

The difference in the persons, John and the Lord Jesus, has been highlighted in v7, now the difference in their work v8. Yes, both baptize, but Jesus will crown his redemptive work by baptizing with the Holy Spirit. Now to suggest that there was nothing of the Spirit in John’s ministry is false, John was filled with the Spirit from birth (Luke 1.13-15), how else would the Word of God come to him (Luke 3.2)? John’s ministry of repentance was worked upon the people by the power of the Spirit, for no one believes but by the Spirit, nor do they turn from their sin without the gracious gift of repentance from the self-same Spirit (Luke 11.18). “Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ” (Westminster Confession Chapter 15 Section 1). The Spirit baptism declared by John was concurred by the Saviour’s own teaching (John 16.7; Acts 1.5, 8). The same Jesus Christ tells the very religious Nicodemus that Spirit baptism is imperative, for even understanding the Kingdom (John 3.3). The Pharisees, to whom Nicodemus belonged, refused John’s baptism. But Jesus tells him bluntly, you’re wrong, dead wrong, you need John’s baptism of repentance, and my Spirit baptism, both are essential, water and Spirit Nicodemus, just as John taught (John 3.5). Or there is no entrance to God’s Kingdom. Whatever our views may be on baptism, whether a little or a lot of water, you can be baptized in the Atlantic Ocean, but if you have not been baptized in the Holy Spirit you do not belong to Jesus Christ (Romans 8.9), you must be born again.
You see being a Christian is more than understanding certain truths of the Bible, more than religious emotion, or conviction, it is not simply the exercise of spiritual gifts (Matthew 7.21-23). It is not mere morality either (Luke 18.9-14). It is about a deep, radical change within the core of a person’s being, changing and renewing their hearts (2Corinthians 5.17). The Spirit of truth (John 16.13), he gives us a love for the truth (1John 4.4-6). That truth begins to mould and change our lives, we begin to think as God thinks, transforming our views (Romans 12.3), we now agree with what God says in his word and become more like his Son Jesus, the ultimate purpose of God for each of his children (Romans 8.29). Now how does that work you say? Well, as you prayerfully read your Bible each day, carefully, listening to what God says to you, applying it to your heart and life. Doing what he says (John 2.5). But that means discipline, straining toward the mark, sometimes we won’t feel like doing it, but we must. We go on in faith, faithfully, because God does bless faithfulness.

(©️James R Hamilton, June 2018)

Our Venerable King James Version!

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Introduction

The last fifty years or so have seen a wide proliferation of new translations of the Bible. Some have hailed this proliferation as a blessing, which makes the study of Scripture easier and enriches one’s understanding of the outdated English of the King James Version (henceforth the KJV). Others, however, see it as a curse on our modern era. I am much inclined to agree with the latter.

It is interesting and significant that the proliferation of translations has paralleled various weaknesses present in the church and in modern Bible studies.

The proliferation of Bible translations has, for example, paralleled the rise of higher Biblical criticism. The adoption of higher critical methods of Bible interpretation has affected Bible translations because higher criticism has demanded the use of the defective text of Westcott and Hort, while the KJV has followed the Majority Text, a more accurate text of Scripture; the result was that new translations were prepared more in keeping with the text adopted by higher critics. Further, the attacks of higher criticism on the verbal inspiration of Scripture eroded the respect and esteem in which the Scriptures were formerly held. This has had devastating effects on Bible translations, for it opened the door to the use of the principle of dynamic equivalence as an acceptable method of Bible translation.

A powerful incentive for new translations is the money which can be made. Commercial motives of big- name publishers fuel the trend towards new translations and bring about a situation in which an updated version of the Bible has to be produced every few decades or so to keep the money flowing into the coffers of those whose only interests are to enrich themselves. If one requirement is necessary for the work of successful Bible translation it is total loyalty to the church of Christ, a burning desire to see the church flourish, and a profound commitment to the truth of God’s Word. Only the zeal of a Tyndale, a Luther, a Calvin will result in a successful translation.

All this has been a curse on our modern age and not been a blessing, as some allege. Many who take the time to compare various translations without having any standard for accuracy find the differences so great that they know not which one to accept. When people come together for Bible study, each comes with his own translation, and each presses for the meaning of the text as found in his particular version. The result is that no one knows anymore what the Bible really says.

Some translations are so inaccurate that they become a tool of falsehood rather than an instrument of growing in the knowledge of the truth. Satan has perhaps no better weapon to destroy the church than a poor and inaccurate translation of the Bible. By means of this subtle weapon, Satan succeeds in leaving people with the impression that they actually have the Word of God when, in fact, they do not. Satan’s delusions are subtle and effective.

It is not my purpose in this pamphlet to debate the question of the relative worth of the KJV on the basis of a comparison with existing translations. This would necessarily involve a careful study and evaluation of such translations, something done adequately in other books and pamphlets. Nor is it my purpose to defend the KJV as a translation without fault or blemish, itself infallibly inspired. Some have defended that proposition, but, as a college professor used to warn us: “A bad argument for the truth does more harm than a good argument against it.” The KJV has its faults. Conceivably there is room for improvement.

My purpose is more limited. I want the people of God to consider why the KJV has maintained itself as the translation of preference in countless churches, homes, and schools for over four hundred years. I suggest that there is a good reason for this continuous popularity of the KJV; we ought not to ignore such a reason in our pressing quest for something better. In short, the KJV is still, without argument, the most accurate and the most readable translation that exists today. Further, it is the one translation that conveys better than any other the reverence and solemnity that one ought to have in his soul as he comes to the Bible to be instructed at the feet of Christ. Its weaknesses are few and minor in comparison with its strengths. The burning question is: Can any

 

translation, given the sad state of affairs in today’s church world, genuinely improve on the KJV? It is my personal conviction that the answer is an emphatic No.

The Occasion for the Preparation of the KJV

A brief survey of the history of the translation of the KJV will give us some idea of why this translation is as accurate as it is.

The immediate occasion for a new translation of the Bible is part of the warp and woof of the history of the Reformation in the British Isles.

The Reformation in England, because it was an attempt to change the existing Roman Catholic Church to a Protestant denomination, never was as complete a Reformation as took place, for example, in Geneva under John Calvin. The resulting church in England was known as the Church of England, or, more briefly, the Anglican Church in which reformation was never completed.

Within that denomination were two parties struggling for ascendancy. The one party avidly supported Anglicanism, even though, especially in church government and liturgy, it retained a great deal of Catholicism. The other party, called the Puritan party, wanted more extensive reformation in church government and liturgy, which would bring the church more into conformity with the Holy Scriptures.

With the death of Queen Elizabeth, fondly known as “Good Queen Bess,” the house of Tudor came to an end. The one with the strongest claim to the English throne was James VI of Scotland, son of Mary Queen of the Scots. He was a Stuart. Characteristic of the Stuart kings was the firm conviction that a king was answerable to God alone, and the way to maintain such a lofty position was to be the head of a national church. In fact, the Stuarts were convinced that to maintain themselves in power, not only was a national church necessary, but also a church structured after the pattern of the Church of England – that is, a church with the same clerical hierarchy as Rome minus the pope. “No bishop, no king,” was the way James VI put it.

In Scotland James engaged in a long struggle with Presbyterianism, although he seemed, frequently for purposes of self-interest, to be sympathetic with Presbyterian ideals, which were fundamentally the same as the ideals of the Puritan party in England. In England, James found an ecclesiastical situation more to his liking. However, on his way south to London to be crowned James I of England, he was besieged by embassies from the Puritan party and from the Church of England, each seeking his favour in the hopes that he would support their ecclesiastical position. He could not help but come to London with a sense of the deep divisions within the Church of England. These divisions he hoped to heal.

Soon after his coronation, James I called a meeting of Puritan representatives and Anglican prelates to discuss ways and means to bridge the chasm. In the course of the discussions, rather off-handedly and without much thought, one of the Puritan divines suggested a new translation of the Bible as a way to bring unity to the divided church.

Strangely, although James obviously favoured the Anglican party, he adopted this proposal to prepare a new translation. His reasons, however, were his own. It was not as if there was a need for a translation of the English Bible, for there were many good translations. The work of translation had begun with Tyndale’s superb translation. It had continued with Matthew’s Bible, the Coverdale translation, the Bishops’ Bible and the Genevan Bible. In fact, the Genevan Bible was widely used in England and was greatly loved.

But James hated the Genevan Bible. It had been prepared in Geneva under Calvin’s influence, and it contained marginal notations to help in understanding the text. But it also included marginal notations that tended to deny the divine right of kings, something dear to the heart of James I. James saw a new translation as a way to supplant the Genevan Bible and get a new translation into common usage.

The Mechanics of Translation

James made preparations for a new translation by authorizing the formation of a translating committee, and he set down rules that he required the committee to follow.

 

The committee itself was composed of between fifty and fifty-four men almost all chosen from the professorial staff of Cambridge and Oxford Universities. Most of them were Anglicans; only three or four were Puritans. But they were men of vast learning, almost without exception of great skill in ancient languages. One of the translators, Launcelot Andrews, knew 15 modern languages as well as Latin, Hebrew, Greek, Semitic, Syriac, Chaldean, and Arabic. Another spent 16 hours a day studying Greek. And they were men dedicated to the welfare of the church.

The committee was divided into six sub-committees, two of which met in Cambridge, two in Oxford, and two in Westminster Abbey, London. Each was assigned a portion of Scripture and the Old Testament Apocrypha, and within the sub-committees, each individual was assigned a smaller portion.

When an individual had completed his assignment, he gave his work to his sub-committee, which went over the work meticulously. When the sub-committee had completed a given section, the translation was sent to the members of the other sub-committees. These men, in turn, studied the translation for accuracy, felicity of expression, and readability. Their sub-committees also met to evaluate the work, and their conclusions were sent to the original committee.

When the whole translation was completed, twelve men, two from each group, were chosen to go over the whole translation to make the translation uniform, accurate, and readable. And when they had finished the work, two men were assigned to go over the whole translation once more to make final corrections and to polish the finished product. In these last meetings, one of the men would read aloud to test the translation for readability.

Finally, after all this, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest cleric in the Church of England, made twelve or fourteen additional changes.

The work was carefully and meticulously done to assure, by cross-checking, the best translation possible.

The Rules Governing the Work

The rules by which the committees laboured are interesting and important. The king himself had a hand in drawing them up and he approved the final list. There were many such rules; we mention here a few of the most important.

The first rule was that the new translation might not be a new translation in the sense that the translators were to start from scratch as it were. The men were instructed to retain the older translations insofar as it was in keeping with accuracy. This was made easier by the fact that the preceding translations had, in general, been built upon preceding translations: Matthew’s Bible on Tyndale; Coverdale’s Bible on Matthew’s; The Bishops’ Bible on Coverdale, etc. Each translation was, for the most part, an improvement of the one preceding, and each one was more accurate.

We have an indication in this of the almost unbelievable accuracy of William Tyndale’s work. His labours both as a translator and as a theologian have not been properly recognized. The magnificence of his work is only enhanced by a consideration of the fact that he did most of his work as a fugitive from Roman Catholic persecution as he fled from place to place on the continent of Europe. His work was smuggled into England in bales of cotton. He died a martyr’s death, the victim of Roman Catholic perfidy. Some have estimated that the KJV is more than half that of Tyndale.

Such a rule as the king insisted on necessarily guaranteed an accuracy that is difficult to surpass. It is, in fact, so accurate that God’s people may be sure that when they hold the KJV in their hands and turn to it in their devotions, they have fully the Word of God. No doubt needs to enter their minds.

Two other characteristics of the new translation that the king commanded the translators to incorporate into the translation were readability and understandability. We cannot appreciate fully the significance of these qualifications.

The translation was prepared at a time when books were still very costly. Some homes could afford only one book, and that book would be the Bible. From it, many would be educated, and in it many would learn, haltingly and painfully, to read. Further, James wanted the Bible to replace the Genevan translation, and that required that it be a Bible read in the churches every Lord’s Day and, in fact, in many instances, every day. It was the only “literature” many people ever heard. It was for the uneducated and illiterate (of which there were many) their only contact with the printed word. James, and rightly so, wanted a Bible which was easy to read, easy to listen to, easy to memorize, and easy to understand. These demands of the king were primarily responsible for the rhythm, the cadence, the simplicity, and the beauty of the KJV.

Miles Smith, one of the translators, put it this way: Our task was “to deliver God’s book to God’s people in a tongue which they could understand.” Bruce Metzger, himself inclined to higher criticism, has said of the KJV, “It cut through the verbiage and said what is meant by force and in the fewest possible words.”

The Success of the Translation

The KJV was a startling success. It had the “wisdom, grace and beauty of previous translations, and possessed an eloquence which even unbelievers are forced to acknowledge.” H. L. Mencken has said this about the KJV:

It is the most beautiful of all the translations of the Bible, indeed, it is probably the most beautiful piece of writing in all the literature of the world. …Many learned but misguided men have sought to produce translations that should be mathematically accurate and in the plain speech of every day. But the AV (Authorized Version, another name for the KJV) has never yielded to any of them, for it is palpably and overwhelmingly better than they are. …Its English is extraordinarily simple, pure, eloquent and lovely. It is a mine of lordly and incomparable poetry at once the most stirring and the most touching ever heard of.

In speaking of the requirements laid down by James, Alistair McGrath says, in what is almost an oxymoron: “It attained literary elegance by choosing to avoid it.” And Gustavus S. Paine, in speaking of the readability of the KJV, says,

Rhythm in the days of King James was important not merely as a source of pleasure to the ear, but as an aid to the mind. Generations to come would learn to read by puzzling out vs. in the Bible that for many families would be the whole library. But at the time of translation, a Bible ‘appointed to be read in the churches’ was made to be listened to and remembered. Its rhythms were important as a prompting to the memory.

From every viewpoint, the KJV is a masterpiece of translation. It is very accurate. Its “readability” is superb. It is understandable to the people in the pew, young and old alike. It is sublime and creates a sense of reverence conducive to worship. It is written in beautiful cadences and rhythms that made it nearly singable and easy to memorize. It is ideally suited to use in the church and in the home. It evokes emotions in keeping with the nature of the text. It is still difficult (after having read it uncountable times) to read the story of Joseph’s reconciliation with his brethren without tears blinding one’s eyes. And who can read Isaiah 53 with a deadpan face and indifferent heart?

Two examples of the power and beauty of the KJV in comparison with earlier translations used by the KJV translators will illustrate the point that the KJV is a masterpiece.

In the Bishops’ Bible, the Twenty-third Psalm began: “God is my shepherd, therefore I can lose nothing; he will cause me to repose myself in pastures full of grass, and he will lead me unto calm waters.” In the hands of the King James men, this became: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”

The Geneva Bible translated the last verse as, “Doubtless kindness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall remain a long season in the house of the Lord.” How much more gripping are the words of the KJV: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

 

The unforgettable seventh verse of the thirty-eighth chapter of Job had already gone through a remarkably subtle evolution. In Coverdale, it read: “When the morning stars gave me praise, and when all the angels of God rejoiced.” Matthew’s Bible (and after it, the Bishops’ Bible) had: “When the morning stars praised me together, all the children of God rejoiced triumphantly.” In the Geneva Bible, the language was heightened: “When the stars of the morning praised me together, and all the children of God rejoiced.” But the rapturous phrasing of the King James Version surpassed them all. “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.”

Is the KJV too Archaic for Use?

One of the chief objections to our continued use of the KJV is its archaic language. It is filled with words, so it is said, that could be understood when it was prepared, but are no longer used in contemporary English. This is a barrier to its use among us, especially in teaching children and doing the important work of evangelism. The result of so many archaisms is that the Bible has largely become a mysterious book, the contents of which are hidden from today’s readers by outdated and obscure language.

All the arguments for new translations finally come down to that one argument. Is that objection valid?

If the objection is valid, this would indeed be serious, for if the Bible can no longer be understood, its purpose has come to an end. The result of such a development would be that the Word of God, which the saints need for their spiritual life, would be beyond their reach, placed on an inaccessible shelf too high to be reached.

We must take this objection seriously, for the Bible is necessary for the life of the people of God, the work of the church, and the instruction of future generations. God accomplishes His work of salvation sovereignly by the Spirit of Christ in the hearts of the elect. But the Spirit never works apart from the Word of the Scriptures. If those Scriptures are inaccessible to God’s people, because of archaisms which make the Word difficult, if not impossible, to understand, that would be a barrier to the salvation of the saints.

The argument has a certain force and carries a measure of validity. Everyone with any knowledge of the KJV knows that there are indeed words that are no longer used in contemporary English, and that some words have taken a meaning quite different from what they had in the days when the KJV was prepared. We may not ignore the argument.

Nevertheless, two questions must be asked and answered. Are the archaisms in the KJV a serious barrier to the understandability of the KJV? And do these archaisms warrant a new translation? These two questions are related to each other.

Before one gives a yes or no answer to those questions, one must consider some crucial characteristics of Scripture.

Scripture itself testifies to the fact that there are passages in God’s Word that are difficult to understand. Peter tells those to whom he writes that in Paul’s writings there “are some things hard to be understood” (II Peter 3:16). Everyone knows that the prophets contain many difficult passages, which require much study if one is to penetrate into their meaning. Frequently passages of Scripture are distorted by the efforts of misguided translators to make these passages “understandable” to the modern 21st-century man, but in doing so their meaning is distorted beyond recognition.

Furthermore, in an important sense, the meaning of the Scriptures is not accessible to everyone. The Scriptures are God’s Word, written to the church, and intended to be God’s revelation to His covenant people of the mysteries of God’s eternal purpose in Christ. Although from a certain formal point of view everyone who reads the Scriptures can understand what he reads, Luther was right when he said that the Scriptures are a closed book to anyone who comes to them without the Spirit who works faith in God’s people. Luther understood what many today seem not to understand. Only the one who comes to Scripture in a Spirit-worked humility, saying in his heart: “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth,” is capable of understanding what the Scriptures say.

The point is important. When one possesses the Spirit of Christ and comes to learn the will of God, the Scriptures are open to him. When one lacks faith, the Scriptures are closed to him. To attempt to “open” the Scriptures to the unbeliever by a different translation is an exercise in futility.

 

The church has confessed, since the time of the Reformation, that one attribute of Scripture is its perspicuity. By this, the church has meant that anyone who comes in faith to God’s Word can understand what the Scriptures mean. Neither age nor education makes a difference; the Scriptures are open to the little child on his mother’s knee as well as to the PhD in theology.

But the perspicuity of Scripture has never been understood to imply that Scripture is shallow. Scripture is not like a shallow pool on a concrete parking lot after a brief shower, in which one can see the pavement beneath the pool. Scripture is like a deep pool, utterly clear, into which one looks, but can never see the bottom.

The point is worth emphasizing.

The Scriptures do not cater to modern man with his ten-second attention span, his inability to think clearly about almost everything, his need to have any knowledge given in TV-size bits, and his easy slide into boredom and ennui if any prolonged concentration is required.

In his book, What is Faith? J. Gresham Machen makes the following point:

“Many persons…seem to have a notion that modern Christians must be addressed always in words of one syllable, and that in religion we must abandon the scientific precision of language. …In pursuance of this tendency we have had presented to us recently various translations of the Bible which reduce the Word of God more or less thoroughly to the language of the modern street, or which, as the matter was put recently in my hearing by an intelligent layman, “take all the religion out of the New Testament.” But the whole tendency, we for our part think, ought to be resisted. Back of it all seems to lie the strange assumption that modern men, particularly modern university men, can never by any chance learn anything; they do not understand the theological terminology which appears in such richness in the Bible, and that is regarded as the end of the matter; apparently it does not occur to anyone that possibly they might with profit acquire the knowledge of Biblical terminology which now they lack. But I for my part am by no means ready to acquiesce. I am perfectly ready, indeed, to agree that the Bible and the modern man ought to be brought together. But what is not always observed is that there are two ways of attaining that end. One way is to bring the Bible down to the level of the modern man, but the other way is to bring the modern man up to the level of the Bible (emphasis mine). I am inclined to advocate the latter way.”

Scripture is meant to be studied. One comes to its meaning through pondering its truths, meditating on its words and sentences, and concentrating on the wealth of its thought.

It is not true that little children, still unable to read, are incapable of understanding Scripture in the measure of their own intellectual development. What child who understands the basics of the English language cannot understand Genesis 1 – and usually better than those who try to twist it to include heretical evolutionary teachings? And what child cannot understand the sober and simple, yet totally profound story of the birth of God in Christ in a manger in Bethlehem?

But the more one studies and meditates upon Scripture, the more one understands its riches and truths. The more accustomed one’s eyes become in peering into Scripture’s depths, the more deeply one can see into it. And yet, after a lifetime of study, even learning all that the church in earlier millennia have said about God’s Word, one only penetrates about two inches into the great depths of God’s revelation of Himself in all His wonderful works and ways.

If these things are not remembered and we come to Scripture as we do to a first-grade reading book, we have no right to blame our inability to understand it on the use of some archaisms. The fault lies with us.

The archaisms of Scripture are relatively few in number. They are easily explainable or understandable to one who is willing to take the time to look them up in a good dictionary. And parents can easily teach the meaning of them to their children when the family is together for family devotions, or when the children are memorizing parts of Scripture.

When a small child lisps the words of Psalm 23, usually one of the first chapters parents teach their children, is it so difficult to tell these children the meaning of verse 1? “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.” “The Lord cares for me as a shepherd cares for his sheep. I will never lack anything in all my life, cared for by Jehovah God.”

 

The Timeless English of the KJV

While Scripture does have in it archaisms, the real question is not: How difficult is the KJV to understand? The real question is: Why is the KJV so easy to understand seeing it was prepared almost four hundred years ago? If one would compare the plays of Shakespeare, written only a few decades earlier, with the KJV, one will be astounded at the difference in the English. It is extremely difficult to read Macbeth without the help of some translation aids.

God, in His providence, brought into being the KJV at a propitious time in England’s history. Up to this time, England had no real English language. Anglo-Saxon invaders from Germany and the Lowlands had affected the early language of the Celts. Scandinavian Norsemen had invaded England, settled in it, and brought their own peculiar language to the country. William the Conqueror had imported French and all but made French the language of diplomacy and commerce. The English spoken in the fields and cottages was different in different parts of the country and was not that of the nobility. It was hard for one Englishman to understand another from a different part of the country.

But at the time of King James, England was emerging as a world power in its own right. It was coming to a national consciousness, which tended to unify the country. It was becoming a force to be reckoned with in commerce. Its navy ruled the seas. The sun never set on its many colonies. A language spoken nationwide was needed. A uniform English language, which was slowly developing, became, because of the unique development of the English language, the most expressive and influential language in all Europe. It had a depth and range that no other language possessed.

The KJV played a major role in attaining a countrywide and standard English. The translators not only prepared a translation that helped standardize the language, but the translators moulded and shaped a standard language, and thus became, in part, the creators of modern English. Luther did much the same with his German translation of the Bible, and the Statenvertaling of the Synod of Dordt had the same effect on Dutch.

In addition to the shaping of modern English by the new translation, the translators made the Bible understandable by all in England because they used English words instead of Latin words about 92% of the time. Latin words are still and cold, rigid and feelingless. English words, of Anglo-Saxon origin, are homey and earthy, expressive and forceful, the language of the people rather than the university.

It is because of these providential workings of God that a version was prepared that can rightly be said to be in “timeless English.” Undoubtedly this is the reason why so many words and expressions of the KJV have entered our everyday language. One need only think of such expressions as “to lick the dust” (Psalm 72:9), “sour grapes” (Ezekiel 18:2), “the skin of my teeth” (Job 19:20), “from time to time” (Ezekiel 4:10).

One scholar wrote about the Hebrew:

“The [KJV] is an almost literal translation of the Masoretic text and is thus on every page replete with Hebrew idioms. The fact that Bible English has to a marvellous extent shaped our speech, giving peculiar connotations to many words and sanctioning strange constructions, is not any less patent. The [KJV] has been – it can be said without any fear of being charged with exaggeration– the most powerful factor in the history of English literature. Though the constructions encountered in the [KJV] are oftentimes so harsh that they seem almost barbarous, we should certainly have been the poorer without it.”

It is forgotten that if the church needs a translation of the Bible in contemporary English idiom, the church will have to re-translate the Bible every generation or so. The English of today is not the English of tomorrow – surely not in our polyglot society. The timeless English of the KJV in a new contemporary translation is cast into the mould of the ever-changing English of today’s marketplace. No wonder that a major publisher of the Bible, aware that a relatively recent translation of Scripture is no longer contemporary, now is on the verge of publishing a “contemporary translation” that is “gender neutral.” It makes one ponder whether contemporary English is not a destruction of Scripture.

 

The simple fact of the matter is that the KJV is not difficult to understand. Nor is it a deterrent in the work of evangelism. Anyone who has worked in any evangelistic labours knows that the problem is not the inability to understand. Even when Muslims are the objects of evangelism, no real problem exists. As one expounds the Scriptures and sets forth the great truths of redemption in Christ, explanation of words is always a necessary part of the work. Is it any more difficult to explain to people, unacquainted with the Bible, the meaning of “want” in Psalm 23:1 than the meaning of justification in Romans 5:1? It is obvious that it is not.

Other Considerations

Ideally, to prepare a good translation in English, the whole church of Christ in our land ought to be involved. The whole church of the British Isles was involved in and benefited by a new translation, for the Church of England was the only denomination in existence at the time the translation was done. Whatever we may think of a national church, in God’s providence the whole of the nation was a part of the work of the preparation of the KJV.

That brings up the question of whether the church today is spiritually and doctrinally capable of preparing such a translation. Translators are biased. They cannot help but be biased. They must be biased – for the truth of God’s Word. Their own doctrinal commitment will enter into and influence the work. Witness the doctrinal weakness (if not doctrinal heresy) of modern translations. It is necessary for the production of a good translation that the church as a whole be committed to the doctrines of Scripture and of the traditions of the true church. And it is necessary that translators be men wholly committed to the welfare of the church and the truth of God’s Word.

This was true in England. The whole Church of England, a national church embracing all the citizens, were united on the basis of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, a basically Calvinistic creed. This gave a uniformity of doctrine throughout the entire country that is no longer characteristic of our own land or the British Isles. Today the proliferation of denominations and splinter groups would make such a translation impossible, and any cooperative effort would be stymied by the differing biases of the translators.

In other words, the church of today is simply not strong enough to produce a translation that is accurate and useful.

The proliferation of translations in our day has added to the great confusion that exists in the churches concerning what Scripture teaches. When, for example, at a Bible Study, people come with four or five translations, only confusion results. One says, “My NIV translates the verse this way.” Another chimes in: “My NEB translates the verse this way.” And yet another, “But the KJV reads differently.” No one knows anymore what the Bible teaches. No one can decide. Is it not far preferable in the church, in the home, and in the school to use one translation, which has been recognized as accurate for over four hundred years? God’s people ought to know that when they turn to the KJV they may be assured they will discover in it the Word of God. No one would dare to say that for all the years the church has used the KJV the church has possessed a faulty Word of God.

The KJV has become so much a part of our heritage that its language is embedded in the creeds, the liturgy, and the tradition of the church. A new translation of the Bible would require new translations of our creeds, our Psalter, and our liturgical forms. The 1912 Presbyterian Psalter is so permeated with the language of the KJV that a revision would almost be necessary.

Worship (whether in the school, the home or the church) must have a uniformity of language about it. This uniformity ought to be the language of the Bible which forms the heart of all the liturgy of the church. It is an anomaly when the language of Scripture differs from the language of the liturgy – an anomaly that will not long be tolerated. A new translation will almost inevitably spawn a desire for revisions in the whole liturgy of the church. In fact, one wonders sometimes if the clamour for a new translation is not deliberately raised to do away with our present creeds and liturgy. The fact is that in churches where new translations have been adopted, frequently new liturgical forms are next on the agenda, new hymns are introduced into the songbooks, and new creeds are written. It seems as if the argument for a contemporary translation soon results in a plea for contemporary ways of worship and confessing the faith of the church.

 

The church possesses a long tradition of sacred music that goes back to the Reformation. While much of this is not and cannot be used in the corporate worship of the church, it is an important part of the heritage of the church. But it has woven into its warp and woof the KJV. One need only thinks of Handel’s Messiah, to realize what would happen to this rich and beautiful musical tradition, if the KJV were abandoned.

It is but a short time before the Lord returns. For four centuries the KJV has served the church well. Would it not be to the church’s advantage to retain such a precious tradition in the little time that remains? One thing we know. When persecution comes, our Bibles will be taken from us and the only Word of God we shall retain is that which we have memorized and hid in our hearts. What easier translation is there to memorize than the rolling cadences of our KJV? It is the Bible for us and our children.

By Prof. Herman Hanko – (Retired Professor of New Testament and Church History in the Protestant Reformed Seminary).

Peace Protestant Reformed Church18423 Stony Island Ave. • Lansing, IL 60438 (PRC Web page – http://www.prca.org)

(James R Hamilton, May 2018)

The Holy Spirit and Evangelism!

path
The way, the truth and the life!

To evangelize is to take the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ to each and every lost soul. In order to accomplish such an enormous and difficult task, the presence and help of the Holy Spirit are essential. Without me, says the Lord, you can do nothing. Propaganda efforts, material investments, gifted preachers, stirring speeches, even the response of the masses, are nothing without the effective intervention of the Spirit of God.

Having entrusted the great commission to His disciples, Jesus tells them not to leave Jerusalem before receiving the power of the Holy Spirit, through whom they will be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:4, 8). Had He not already told them in the upper room: “The Spirit of truth … will bear witness to me; and you, too, will be my witnesses” (Jn. 15:26-27)?

Let us see why the action of the Spirit is so necessary.

1. The Holy Spirit Convinces of Sin: God has promised to speak to each man’s heart and conscience. We work from without, while He works from within. Jesus promises that the Comforter will convict the world of sin because people do not believe in Him (Jn. 16:8-9). we can accuse a man in the name of the law and produce a feeling of terror in him, but this is not true repentance. Only the Comforter, without hardening a man’s heart, can make him aware of his faults, and of the sin, he has committed against the love of the Saviour whom he has rejected and grieved.

After his speech on the day of Pentecost, Peter’s listeners, being “cut to the heart,” repent and are saved (Acts 2:37-41). Lydia listens to Paul’s words because the Lord has “opened her heart” (Acts 16:14). This kind of response is the first thing we want to see in our evangelistic efforts.

2. Only the Spirit Can Regenerate: “The Spirit alone gives life; the flesh is of no avail” (Jn. 6:63). We can try to speak, to convince, to exhort, and to give the appearance of godliness, but we can never achieve the miracle of spiritual resurrection. There will perhaps be decisions and encouraging statistics, but if the Spirit does not bring each person to the new birth, without which no one can enter into the kingdom of God, there will also be much falling away. in keeping with the Lord’s command, we say like Ezekiel: “Come from the four winds, 0 breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live” (37:9).

3. The Holy Spirit Baptises and Adds Believers to the Church: One of the greatest weaknesses in evangelism is that too many converts want to remain totally independent. Unable to find the perfect local church, they refuse to join any at all. We read that each day the Lord adds to the Church those who are saved (Acts 2:47). All believers have been “by one Spirit… baptized into one body (I Cor. 12:13). Formerly separated from God and man, they die with Christ in order to live again with Him. Being in Christ, they are united with the head, and at the same time, with all other members of the body, which is the Church. If converts go their own way, our evangelistic work will be lost. We must help to set them together on the same foundation as living stones, reborn by the Word, united one with another and sealed by the Holy Spirit.

4. The Gift of the Spirit is Given to Each Born-again Person: We have just mentioned the staggering mortality that hits the converts we claim at our evangelistic campaigns. This situation can be attributed only to the fact that these people had nothing more than a partial spiritual experience. Perhaps instead of giving them the whole counsel of God, and keeping back nothing (Acts 20:27), we gave them merely an elementary message. Immediately upon rebirth into the faith, a newborn soul, undergoes the terrible attacks of Satan and the world, which try to retain him. The new believer will never have the strength to resist them if he is not convinced that He who is in him is stronger than he who is in the world (I in. 4:4). How will he live the Christian life if he has not by faith received the gift of the Holy Spirit promised to all who repent and believe (Acts 2:38-39; 5:32; Gal. 3:14)? To omit these truths in the evangelistic message is to lead those who are ready to hear into a life of legalism and failure.

5. The Spirit Engages Each Believer in the Lord’s Service: The advance of the Gospel will follow a geometric progression if each new convert himself becomes a soul-winner. On the other hand, if this does not occur, we will continue to have Especial evangelists” who in the face of the gigantic task work themselves to death. The few people who are “won” will make no progress and will soon be lost to God’s work.

In actual fact, the Holy Spirit makes each and all of us witnesses of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8). To set out without being clothed with power from on high would be senseless (Luke 24:49); not to open one’s mouth in witness after having claimed faith in Christ would raise questions about the truth of one’s salvation (Rom. 10:10).

If a country mobilizes all its men, none has the right to shirk his duty. Similarly, no Christian can neglect his contribution to the evangelization of the world. We are, in fact, a royal priesthood, God’s own people, entrusted and privileged to proclaim the wonderful deeds of Him Who has called us out of darkness into His marvellous light (I Pet. 2:9).

Paul exclaimed: “Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel!” (I Cor. 9:16). This pressing compulsion we must instil into all whom we lead to Christ. With them, let us be filled to overflowing with the wonderful and glorious joy that comes in serving the King of kings. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love, and of practical wisdom (II Tim. 1:7).

6. The Spirit Singles Out Each Member of Christ’s Body for a Particular Task: Even if the call to service is general, yet each person is entrusted with a particular task. That task the Holy Spirit clearly reveals to the individual and to the Church. At Antioch, He declared: “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). At Ephesus, Paul himself tells the elders: “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians” (Acts 20:28).

The work of God is extremely difficult and formidable. in ourselves we have not the slightest ability to accomplish it. But, says Paul, our ability comes from God. It is He who equips us to be ministers of the new covenant of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives a spiritual gift to each one whom He was baptized into the body of Christ (I Cor. 12:7-11). As far as our subject of discussion is concerned, the most precious gift is obviously that of an evangelist, a gift which God gives not only to an individual but also to His Church (Eph. 4:11). “He gave some…evangelists.” How rare that gift is; yet how necessary Religious groups have their leaders and their preachers, but often they die because they lack men able to lead souls to rebirth. For every Moody, Spurgeon or Billy Graham, how countless many we have who are not gifted, speaking not so much from a human as from a spiritual point of view! There are few, very few workers able to evangelize. Let us, therefore, beseech the Master to raise up such people, to qualify them by His Spirit, and to grant them a rich harvest of souls. As for us, let us humbly make up the team that will back them up, and let us resolve to play our part — perhaps a hidden one — in this wonderful work. “One sow, and another reaps” (Jn. 4:37). “He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive wages according to his labour. For we are workers together with God” (I Cor. 3:8-9). It goes without saying that to share in any way in such a work is possible only through the spiritual gift granted to each one.

Let us add, too, that whatever our particular part in the work, the supreme gift which gives all others their value is that of love. We do not evangelize enough, we win few souls, we hardly reach our generation, because we do not know how to love. All the great evangelists were possessed by a burning love for lost souls. Listen to what the apostle Paul has to say: “The love of Christ constrains us … I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears … to let you know that abundant love that I have for you. I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved” (11 Cor. 5:14, 2:4; 12:15)

This is the supreme way! For us who are so far from it, the only solution is that the love of God is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Rom. 5:5).

7. The Holy Spirit Directs All Missionary Strategy: The Comforter who guides us into all the truth does so not only where doctrine is concerned; He wants to direct us in everything according to the divine will. He reveals His plans of attack to the Church and holds His submissive servants firmly in His hand. First of all, as we have seen, it is the Spirit who sets aside chosen people, like Barnabas and Saul, calls them and causes the Church to recognize their calling (Acts 13:2-3). When masses of Gentiles begin to be converted, it is necessary to know on what conditions they will be admitted into the Church: will they become Jews and keep the law of Moses, or will they simply receive the grace of God by faith? After some discussion, the Church says to these converted Gentiles: “It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things” (15:28). Then, guided step by step by the Lord, Paul and his companions go off on their second missionary journey: the Holy Spirit forbids them to announce the Word in Asia, for example, and the Spirit of Jesus does not allow them to go into Bithynia (16:6-7). We cannot quote in detail all the references to God’s direct intervention in sending Paul to Europe, in encouraging him at Corinth, confirming His will to send him to Rome, promising him escape from shipwreck and appearance before Caesar. Paul sums everything up by saying that he goes bound in the Spirit (20:22), and also warned by the Spirit of what will happen to him in each place (v. 23).

What a lesson for us! We are shortsighted in our vision, we mark time, we fall short of strategic objectives, we lack long-term policies, we are thwarted by the first obstacle that comes our way: and all because we fail to let the Holy Spirit be our one and only strategist and instructor. If henceforth we would only let Him bind us and lead us to complete victory wherever He wishes in the pathways of the Cross!

8. The Spirit Helps the Evangelist Give his Message: Speaking not of preaching, but of witness in time of persecution, our Lord said to His disciples, “When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say: for what you are to say will be given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matt. 10:19-20). Certain groups have misquoted this verse and imply that the preacher has no need to prepare his sermon in advance, but should count entirely on the instantaneous help of the Spirit, Nevertheless, let us not forget that the Lord will and does indeed give his faithful servants the help of His Spirit to proclaim the Gospel. The men who disputed with Stephen “could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke” (Acts 6:9-10).

In a text which applies more to the compiling of the written revelation, the apostle Paul declares, concerning the deep things of the Lord: “We impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths in spiritual language” (I Cor. 2:13). But is not the wisdom and personal help of the Spirit also needed if the spoken word is to be proclaimed with the right words, understanding love and inward fire? We read that Peter and John, uneducated, common men, speak with boldness because they are filled with the Spirit (Acts 4:8,13). For this reason, too, they exclaim: “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (v. 20). After the first persecution, the disciples met together and prayed; says Luke, “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” (v. 31). In a Church where the deacons had to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3), what was expected of evangelists and apostles, as well as of simple believers? Here no doubt we touch upon the early Christians’ secret of an overflowing life and boundless growth and advance.

Furthermore, the one weapon of Jesus’ witness is none other than “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). This sword he will learn to wield as the apostle’s prayer, “That God … may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him… ” (Eph. 1:17-18), becomes a reality in him. May the Lord fill, first our souls, then our message, with the infinite riches of His grace and power, and thus make that message irresistible!

Like every other witness for Christ, the evangelist must be at the Spirit’s disposal and ever ready to let Him take charge of and give content to the message. We can easily fall into a routine, in which we become men of one message and always repeat the same things. Or, lest we appear negative” or antagonize the masses we want to win, we may be afraid to broach certain unpopular subjects. Jesus did just the opposite; perhaps to sift out would-be true followers from mere listeners, He sometimes pronounced His most extreme demands just when great crowds followed Him (e.g. in Luke 14: 25-27).

Likewise, the Spirit expressly warns the Church and its preachers against the apostasy of the last times (I Tim. 4:1-3). In Second Timothy Paul develops this theme again (4:1-5), and announces the time when men will no longer endure sound doctrine and will turn to myths. Is it not striking that immediately afterwards the apostle should say to his young friend, “As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry” (II Tim. 4:3-5)?

This would indicate that in order to know how to emphasize the different truths of his message, the man of God has great need of a discerning spirit and knowledge of the needs of his day. It is clear that, if every witness and evangelistic message is thus inspired, underscored and completed by the Spirit, it will indeed spread abroad that Word of the Lord which never returns unto Him void.

9. Prayer in the Spirit is the Driving Power of Evangelism: We constantly forget that “we are not contending against flesh and blood, but…against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). While it is our desire to proclaim the Gospel message and to convince unbelievers, we do not know how first of all to bind the strong man in order to snatch away and rescue his victims (Matt. 12:29). After exhorting us to “take … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” Paul adds. “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication … also for me, that utterance may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph. 6:17-20). This is what we need to learn more and more: to intercede on behalf of those front-line warriors, the evangelists. Carefully preparing the ground by prayer, upholding the evangelistic efforts made, watering the sown seed of the Word will make the enemy shrink back and will produce an abundance of spiritual fruit.

10. There Will be a Demonstration of the Spirit and of Power: “We come therefore as Christ’s ambassadors. It is as if God were appealing to you through us: in Christ’s name, we implore you, be reconciled to God!” (11 Cor. 5:20-21). To bear such a responsibility means that one dare not utter platitudes, mere human words bereft of the unction that comes from on high. Although Paul came to Corinth in a state of weakness, fear, and great trembling, he could nevertheless say: “My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (I Cor. 2:4-5). @To the Thessalonians he writes: “We know, brethren beloved of God, that He has chosen you; for our gospel came to you not only in word but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (I Thess. 1:4,5).

This is what we ardently desire for all our preaching and evangelizing efforts, as well as for this Congress. May God restrain us from empty, inflated words; may He keep us from trying to win the world through “plausible words of wisdom” or by meaningless evangelical terminology. Let us examine ourselves; let us see what may be hindering the Spirit from working mightily in us and through us. Let us acknowledge the things whereby we have grieved Him. We have used earthly means and have been moved by carnal aims in what we have dared to call evangelism; we have expended our talents and our material resources to increase the size of our constituencies, to draw attention to ourselves. God has entrusted His treasure to us in earthen vessels. So long as we bear about in our bodies the death of the Lord Jesus, so long will His life be powerfully manifested and communicated. We desire to experience like Paul: “So death is at work in us, but life in you” (11 Cor. 4:12). It is then, indeed, through faith in the Lord and through the fullness of the Holy Spirit, that rivers of living water will flow forth from each of us.

When this is a reality, we will have not only a Congress or an evangelistic campaign but also a revival in the Church of the living God and resurrection of souls lost in sin. This will come, says the Lord of hosts, not by might, nor by power (of men), but by my Spirit… (Zech. 4:6).

by Rene Pache

(James R Hamilton, May 2018)