Monday, January 20, 2014

Understanding the Bible, part one

I don’t want to get into a history lesson here but the Reformation was a time when formerly Roman Catholic Europe saw men reject the authority of their church hierarchy and the doctrines of their leadership. These men magnified the words of God over the authority of the Pope in Rome and new church organizations called Protestant were formed, many of them containing similar errors to the church organization they rejected.

However, these men lived in a time when Catholic priests often could not find the Ten Commandments or the letters of Paul in the Bible, priests who knew nothing but the prepared sermons they were to give in their assemblies. The words of God, the Bible, began to be uplifted. The true Christians of the Vaudois, the valley men of the Alps, who had been evangelized by missionaries from Antioch, Syria twelve hundred years before were able to come out of the mountain strongholds, in some measure, although they were still persecuted by not only the Roman Catholic Church but by Protestants like Zwingli.

My point here is that while a rebirth of Christianity was taking place where men would take a love for the words of God across every ocean and into almost every land, that even though they may have had errors in their hearts like the union of church and state, they more than overshadowed those errors by their love of God’s words over all tradition and earthly authority. After some extensive reading, and I want to particularly thank Gail Riplinger for her marvelous works, I think this is a good start for us average Christians to be able to use to understand the Bible better.

When William Tyndale was translating the Bible into English from Greek in the early 1500’s the Roman Catholic Church was insisting that unless you knew Hebrew and Greek you couldn’t understand the Bible and therefore you shouldn’t have it in your own language just like Protestant scholars are saying today. It doesn’t matter who says it, they’re just trying to take away your Bible and make themselves your final authority. Only today, they aren’t allowed yet to kill you for having one.

But a French Protestant reformer, Du Moulin, countered the Catholic church of his day by saying, “Must one be skilled in Greek or Hebrew? But the Popes themselves, who give these rules, are often unskillful! …Is not Scripture rather to be read to get learning?”*

I can’t emphasize too much to you how important it is to read your Bible daily if you want to have victory as a Christian. In fact, here’s a statement by another figure of the Reformation, a Bishop Becke, writing in the foreword of a 1551 reprint of the Matthews Bible;

“If people would spare an hour a day for reading it, they would soon abandon blasphemy, swearing, carding, and dicing! They would put away all pride, prodigality, riot, licentiousness, and dissolute living.”  Prodigality is extravagant wastefulness.

Dean Burgon in a 19th century sermon on Biblical inspiration says a half hour per day will do.

But, how do you understand it? The biggest killer of a desire to read the Bible is that many people today say they just don’t understand it, even when they read one of the modern versions. Well, to the leaders of the Reformation there were seven keys to understanding the Bible according to Dr. Riplinger;

Key 1. Fear God; “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” (Proverbs 1:7)
Thomas Cranmer said, “Flesh is a cloud before the soul’s eye…” In a book about one of the early English versions of the Bible called The Great Bible, about Cranmer’s forward it is written, “Therefore, says he, the fear of God must be the first beginning and, as it were, an …introduction to all them that shall enter to the very true and most faithful knowledge of the scripture.” See Hebrews 12:28 for a Bible definition of the proper fear for this context.

Key 2. Believe the Bible is the very word of God; “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” (Psalm 119:11) “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89). Hold up your Bible.  Do you believe you have the words of God in your hand? Jesus said that every word was important for life in Luke 4:4 and
Matthew 4:4, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. Do you believe that He was telling you the truth? Translator and martyr, William Tyndale compared the Bible to a “precious jewel,” whose “value” must be recognized and whose words must be believed  to benefit the reader; doubts cast upon the words of God are as firebrands, melting men of straw, said he. William Thorpe, when questioned during his imprisonment, said, “Men and women here in the earth, touched Christ, and saw him, and knew his bodily person, which neither touched, nor saw, nor knew his Godhead, right thus, Sir, many men now touch, and see, and write, and read the Scriptures of God’s law, which neither see, touch, nor read effectually, the gospel. For, as the Godhead of Christ (that is, the virtue of God) is known by the virtue of belief, so (is) Christ’s word..”

Key 3. Be Humble; “The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.” (Psalm 25:9) What does it mean to be meek? Do a word search. Meekness toward God’s will and toward God is the meekness spoken of in the Bible.
Read Matthew 11:25. Philosopher Thomas Hobbes sourly wrote about 16th and his part of 17th century England, “Every boy and wench that could read English, thought they spoke with God Almighty and understood what he said”.  Tyndale reminded us that, “remembering that as lowliness of heart shall make you high with God, even so meekness of words shall make you sink into the hearts of men. Nature giveth age authority, but meekness is the glory of youth, and giveth them honour.”

In one edition of the Great Bible we are advised to have the Holy Spirit as our instructor.
“I think it necessary that thou play not the sluggard following the example of the unprofitable drone bee, who liveth only by the honey that the diligent bees gather. But contrary wise, be thou a good bee, search for the sweet honey of the most wholesome flowers of God’s holy word. And in all this give over thy self to the teaching of God’s holy spirit, who instructeth none but the humble spirited and such as seek reformation of their own mis-living and all such he instructeth to the full, making their hearts a meet (worthy) temple for him to dwell in..”

Key 4. Pray; “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5)
When was the last time you prayed for wisdom? For God to give you light from His word? What did Jesus promise about the Holy Spirit in John 14:26?

In 1538 the Bishop of London felt that study without prayer was like lungs without air-no life. “By devout prayer he shall attain, percase, as much or more, as by study or learning, for without prayer the words will little prevail. Look in Christ’s life, and thou shalt find in every thing he went about, he prayed..”

Martyr Hugh Latimer said that worldly wise men are the least likely sources of wisdom and knowledge. Prayer and a willing heart will prevail;

“You shall prevail more with praying, than with studying, though mixture be best…For in the first we must stand only to the Scriptures, which are able to make us all perfect and instructed unto salvation, if they be well understood. And they offer themselves to be well understood only to them, which have good wills, and give themselves to study and
prayer: neither are there any men less apt to understand them, than the prudent and wise men of the world.”

Key 5. Desire to Obey: “I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.” (Psalm 119:100)

Tyndale said Christians are to “submit themselves unto the word of God, to be corrected.”

“It is not enough therefore to read and talk of it only, but we must also desire God day and night instantly to open our eyes, and to make us understand and feel wherefore [for what reason] the scripture was given, that we may apply the medicine of the scripture, every man to his own sores…This comfort shalt thou evermore find in the plain text and literal sense. As thou readest therefore think that every syllable pertaineth  to thine own self.”  Give example of Canaanites and Hebrews.

Key 6: Meditate on Memorized Scripture: “I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.” Psalm 119:99

Thomas Cromwell, martyr and Henry VIII’s secretary of state, had memorized the entire New Testament.

Adam Wallace, the night before he was burnt at the stake sang the entire book of Psalms by heart to his jailers as they had taken away his Bible.

Joan Waste, a blind girl, purchased a New Testament with money she earned from knitting. She would pay people a penny or two to read the Bible to her so she could memorize it. They burnt her at the stake at the age of 22.

Nicholas Ridley, before he was burned, had his family memorize a large part of the Bible.

Rather than television or your rap and rock CD’s Tyndale would admonish parents;

“Thou shalt buy them wholesome books, as the holy gospel, the epistles of the holy apostles, yea both the New Testament and Old Testament, that they may understand and drink of the sweet fountain and waters of life. Bring thy children to the church, to hear the sermon; and when thou shalt come home, thou shalt ask them what they have kept in memory of the sermon.”

Key 7: Read the Bible again and again: “Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)” Ephesians 3:4

Cranmer’s Prologue to the Great Bible says;

“Peradventure, they will say unto me” how and if we understand not that we read, that is contained in the books. What then? Suppose, thou understand not the deep and profound
mysteries of scripture, yet can it not be, but that much fruit and holiness must come and grow unto thee by the reading: for it cannot be that thou shouldest be ignorant in all things alike. For the Holy Ghost hath so ordered and tempered the scriptures, that in them as well publicans, fishers, and shepherds may find their edification. Who is there of so simple wit and capacity, but he may be able to perceive and understand them? These be but excuses and cloaks for the raiment, and coverings of their own idle slothfulness, I cannot understand it. What marvel? How shouldest thou understand, if thou wilt not read, nor look upon it? Take the books into thine hands, read the whole story, and that thou understandest keep it well in memory; that thou understandest not, read it again and again. And I doubt not, but God seeing thy diligence and readiness will himself vouchsafe with his Holy Spirit to illuminate thee, and to open unto thee that which was locked from thee….Every man should read by himself at home in the mean days and time, between sermon and sermon. Take the book in hand, read, weigh, and perceive. When ye be at home in your houses, ye apply yourselves from time to time to the reading of the Holy Scriptures. Let no man make excuse and say: ‘I am busy. It is not for me to read the scriptures.”

*The Bible of the Reformation, Its Translators and their Work, by the Rev. J.W. Heaton, 1913. Also read Gail Riplinger’s In Awe of Thy Word, which I used to derive a great deal of this information, as well.

No comments: