Serving Christ and sharing the Gospel

The supremacy of Scripture (2 Tim 3:10-4:8)

Did you know that there was a time when it was against the law to have a copy of the Bible in English?  William Tyndale said this - “Let it not make thee despair, neither yet discourage thee, O reader, that it is forbidden thee in pain of life and goods, or that it is made breaking of the king’s peace, or treason unto his highness, to read the Word of thy soul’s health—for if God be on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us, be they bishops, cardinals, popes.”

William Tyndale could speak seven languages and was proficient in ancient Hebrew and Greek. He was a priest whose intellectual gifts and disciplined life could have taken him a long way in the church—had he not had one compulsion: to teach English men and women the good news of justification by faith and The Supremacy of Scripture.

Tyndale had discovered this doctrine when he read Erasmus’s Greek edition of the New Testament. What better way to share this message with his countrymen than to put an English version of the New Testament into their hands? This, in fact, became Tyndale’s life passion, summed up in the words of his mentor, “Christ desires his mysteries to be published abroad as widely as possible. I would that [the Gospels and the epistles of Paul] were translated into all languages, of all Christian people, and that they might be read and known.” This passion would cost Tyndale his life.

He was a native of Gloucester and began his studies at Oxford in 1510, later moving on to Cambridge. By 1523 his passion had been ignited; in that year he sought permission and funds from the bishop of London to translate the New Testament. The bishop denied his request, and further queries convinced Tyndale that the project would not be welcomed anywhere in England.

To find a hospitable environment, he travelled to the free cities of Europe—Hamburg, Wittenberg, Cologne, and finally to the Lutheran city of Worms. There, in 1525, his New Testament emerged: the first translation from Greek into the English language. It was quickly smuggled into England, where it received a less-than-enthusiastic response from the authorities. King Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey, and Sir Thomas More, among others, were furious. It was, said More, “not worthy to be called Christ’s testament, but either Tyndale’s own testament or the testament of his master Antichrist.”

The authorities bought up copies of the translation (which, ironically, only financed Tyndale’s further work) and hatched plans to silence Tyndale. Meanwhile Tyndale had moved to Antwerp, a city in which he was relatively free from both English agents and those of the Holy Roman Catholic Empire. For nine years he managed with the help of friends to evade authorities, he revise his New Testament, and begin translating the Old Testament.

His translations, it would turn out, became decisive in the history of the English Bible, and of the English language. Nearly a century later, when translators of the Authorized, or King James Version, debated how to translate the original languages, eight out of ten times, they agreed that Tyndale had it best to begin with.

We do not know who planned and financed the plot that ended his life, but we do know it was carried out by Henry Phillips. Phillips became Tyndale’s guest at meals and soon was one of the few privileged to look at Tyndale’s books and papers. In May 1535, Phillips lured Tyndale away from the safety of his quarters and into the arms of soldiers. Tyndale was immediately taken to prison and accused of heresy. Trials for heresy in the Netherlands were in the hands of special commissioners of the Holy Roman Empire. Finally, in early August 1536, Tyndale was condemned as a heretic, degraded from the priesthood, and delivered to the secular authorities for punishment death by strangulation and burning.

On Friday, October 6, Tyndale was brought to the cross in the middle of the town square and given a chance to retract his words. He refused, he was given a moment to pray. English historian John Foxe said he cried out, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes!” Shortly after his death the political tide turned in England and Tyndales Bible was published legally under another name.

Scripture is inspired and useful

In our reading in verse 16 and 17 it says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” This is an interesting phrase since it implies that the Scriptures are from the mouth of God. Likewise, Peter says in 2 Pet. 1:21, “For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Notice that Peter is stating that prophecy is not the product of human will.  Instead, prophecy occurs by those moved by the Holy Spirit. God spoke through the mouth of the prophets. And we see in Acts 3:18, were it says “But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer.” Clearly, Luke, the writer of Acts, understood the Old Testament Scriptures to be spoken by God through the prophets.  In fact, if we had time we could find other references to the Old Testament referring to God speaking through the prophets.

Many will say that the Bible has been changed over the centuries by the people who copied it out, and it is without doubt that some errors were made but as more and more historical, archaeological, and manuscript evidence is uncovered, the fewer there are. And for me the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls was proof that there are not many of those errors.

The Scriptures are reliable

The Dead Sea Scrolls are universally proclaimed as the greatest archaeological find of the 20th century. The first scrolls were discovered quite by accident by a young Bedouin shepherd near the Dead Sea in 1947. When tossing a rock into an open cave in the cliffs just above the Dead Sea, he heard the sound of a breaking pot.

It wasn’t long after the initial discovery that more scrolls were found in 10 nearby caves. The treasure trove, known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, includes a small number of near-complete scrolls one of which is the book of Isaiah and tens of thousands of fragments, representing more than 900 texts in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.

The scrolls include biblical text partial or complete copies of all the books of the Hebrew Scriptures with the exception of the book of Esther and other nonbiblical stuff. The Dead Sea Scrolls are generally dated from around 200 before the birth of Jesus.

Hebrew scholar Millar Burrows said “It is a matter of wonder that […] the text underwent so little alteration. The Dead Sea Scrolls provide proof of the authenticity of the books of the Old Testament and in doing so proof that the text of the New Testaments is also un-altered.

So although we live in 2017 nearly 2018, we can go back in time 2,000 years and read from the scroll of Isaiah discovered by a shepherd boy in a cave above the Dead Sea. Is the Bible true and accurate? The Dead Sea Scrolls help tell us yes!

The Reformers including William Tyndale wanted Scripture to stand alone as the church’s true authority, many of them died for this belief, they died so we could have the bible, to read it in our langue, so we could study it, so that you would not have to take what is being said from the front as the truth so that you could and should check it out.

The Apostle Paul’s key for ministry and life was nothing other than the word of God. He said to Timothy in verses 14-15, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

The Scriptures are the Word of God

Is that true, is the Bible the word of God? One of the objections raised by critics of the bible is that the Bible is not the word of God, but that it contains the word of God.  Is this accurate?  No.  First of all, this doesn’t fit what the Bible says about itself.  The collection of 66 books that the Christian Church recognised as being inspired speaks as the very words of God in many places.

  • “Thus says the Lord” occurs over 400 times.
  • “God said” occurs 46 times.
  • “God spoke” occurs 12.
  • “The Spirit of the Lord spoke” through people in 2 Sam. 23:2; 1 Kings 22:24; 2 Chron. 20:14.

Of course, those who say the Bible in its original documents had errors will reject these scriptures’ accuracy; that is, they will deny that God’s word is without error-even in the originals.

If appealing to the Bible in a general sense isn’t good enough.  Let’s consider that Jesus said in John 10.35 “He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

Notice that Jesus speaks about what is written regarding him in the Old Testament.  Then Luke writes that Jesus opened their mind to understand the Scriptures.  What Scriptures?  The Law (Moses), the Prophets, and the Psalms.  In other words the Old Testament.  So Jesus says that the written form of the Old Testament is Scripture.  Jesus goes on to deal with the religious leaders who would violate these Scriptures which he called “the word of God.”

In Matthew 15:6, Jesus is trying to set the religious leaders right, when they are bending the Scriptures, Jesus said “ you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain;  their teachings are merely human rules.”

Martin Luther, John Calvin , William Tyndale and the reformers understood what Paul was saying to Timothy. Paul exhorted Timothy to continue on the path of ministry because “from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (3:15). Why is the word of God able to do that? God’s word is able to do that because “all Scripture is breathed out by God” (3:16a). That is, the Scripture is the very word of God, and therefore it carries within it the authority and power of God. Moreover, the word of God is sufficient “and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the people of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (3:16b-17).

Be people of the book!

So, in conclusion, as we have looked into the supremacy of Scripture, we should believe that Scripture is able to accomplish what God says it will do.

Psalm 19:7–11 says “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.  The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring for ever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.  They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned;  in keeping them there is great reward.”

So let us be people of the book - the good book the Bible. Let us believe that God’s word is indeed sufficient to accomplish what God says it will do, in our church, our lives and our world.