Nicky Gumbel, the founder of Alpha, went on holiday with his family to Russia and smuggled in Russian Bibles. He writes (on his Bible in one year app) While I was there I went to churches and looked for people who seemed to be genuine Christians. (Church meetings were often infiltrated by the KGB.) On one occasion, I followed a man down the street after a service. I went up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. There was nobody about. I took out one of my Bibles and handed it to him. For a moment, he had an expression of utmost disbelief. Then he took from his pocket a New Testament, which was probably 100 years old. The pages were so threadbare they were virtually transparent. When he realized that he had received a whole Bible, he was elated. He didn’t speak any English and I didn’t speak any Russian. But we hugged each other and he started to run up and down the street jumping for joy.
Before William Tyndale, the Bible was only in Latin. The Catholic church wanted to keep it that way and forbade translations into the common language. It was William Tyndale who first translated the Bible into the common language — and this indeed paved the way for the Reformation.
Because we have the Spirit of God, we can understand the Word. “You don’t need anyone to teach you.” (1 John 2:27) But at that time, the Catholic church said that was not true — that believers needed to have the Bible explained to them by the priests. The priests twisted the Word to say we are not saved by grace, but by works, indulgences, sacraments…the good news, the gospel, was lost. God became not a God of great love and grace, but a demanding tyrant. The leaders of the Catholic church fought against a translation that the common man could read, and burned Tyndale at the stake. How thankful we can be to God, who gave Tyndale the courage to obey Him, no matter the cost. Watch this two minute clip.
This week you will watch this message from Michael Reeves on Tyndale. (It is a series that must be bought — but the first is free, so we will watch it!) You can’t download it, so you’ll have to have internet to watch. We’ll watch it on Monday and Tuesday.
On Thursday you’ll be asked to listen to this song:
Word Document for Homework:
- What stands out to you from the above and why?
Monday and Tuesday: Michael Reeves
2. Watch the video from Michael Reeves and share your notes and comments.
Wednesday: You Have No Need for Anyone To Teach You
The argument the Catholic church made at the time of the Reformers was that the layman was not equipped to understand the Scriptures and had to have them explained to him.
3. Read 1 John 2:20-21. What assurances does John give them?
4. Read 1 John 2:26-27
A. What point is John making with verse 27?
B. Does this mean we should not listen to teachers and preachers? If not, what does he mean?
5. How was this different from what the Catholic church was teaching?
6. Having said that, there are certain safeguards to help us not to misinterpret Scripture.
A. Unclear scriptures should be interpreted on the basis of the whole counsel of God. For example, we recently looked at some verses from Ecclesiastes which seem to say that life is meaningless. How would you explain this to someone who is confused by it, by putting in the whole counsel of God?
It also helps to see Ecclesiastes as the haunting cries for Jesus — the drumbeat preparing the way for the One who is full of grace and truth. Rather than life being “meaningless,” Jesus came to give us abundant life. While it is true life is not fair, that “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong,” it is also true, as Jesus said, that though we will have trouble in this life, to be of good cheer, for He has overcome the world. Ecclesiastes said “the dead know nothing,” yet Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” We will be more alive than ever one day!
B. Genre is important. You do not interpret poetry, for example, the way you interpret prose. Give an example, if you can, of a poetic verse that is meant to paint a picture rather than to be taken word for word.
C. It is not enough to have it in our head — I love Keller’s question: “Why are you telling me this today, Lord?” Apply this to 1 John 2:20-21 or 26-27.
Thursday: Who Can Ascend the Hill of the Lord?
As a young Christian I heard a choir sing a version of Psalm 24. When I heard this, I thought, “Oh my — I’m in trouble.”24
Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false God.
I thought, “That’s not me. I’m not clean! I cannot ascend the hill of the Lord!”
And surely the Catholic church before the Reformation would have confirmed my fears. They would have told me to be penitent, fast, and pay indulgences, spend time in purgatory, and ask my loved ones to pray me out and pay indulgences.
Maybe that is why I soooo love this song sung by Andrew Peterson. He says it is his favorite — and he didn’t write it! (The link is in the opening as well.)
7. Who may ascend the hill of the Lord according to “Remember me?” What verses does he use to show this grace?
John Bunyan was a Puritan quite different from the others in sophistication – a big burly and poorly educated man. Yet his “Pilgrim’s Progress” was next in line to sales to the Bible! Proof that God’s word can make the simple man wise. He loved John 6:37 and wrote a whole book on it. It is the antidote to fear that God will not accept you. (As happened to me when I did not put Psalm 34:3-4 in the context of the whole counsel of God.)
That is not to say that we should not continually ask God to give us clean hands and a pure heart and to repent of whatever He shows us. One of the greatest revivals in the history of the United Kingdom took place in 1949 when seven men and two women had decided to pray earnestly for revival. One night, at a prayer meeting held in a barn, a young man took his Bible and read from Psalm 24 (the psalm for today): ‘Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart’ (vv.3–4a). He shut his Bible and said, ‘It seems to me just so much sentimental humbug to be praying as we are praying, to be waiting as we are waiting here if we ourselves are not rightly related to God.’ He asked God to reveal if his own hands were clean and his own heart was pure. They came before God in repentance, and He did not cast them out. As they waited on God ‘his awesome presence swept the barn’.
Four miles away, two sisters aged eighty-two and eighty-four had a vision of God. They saw the churches crowded and the youth and the community flocking into the churches. They had ‘a glorious assurance that God was coming in revival power’. Duncan Campbell was invited to come and speak to them. When he arrived in the parish church, it was packed out with hundreds waiting outside. No one could explain where they had come from. Within ten minutes of the service starting, men and women were crying out to God.
What we must see is that it is all of grace. As John Newton said “T’was grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved.”
8. Meditate on John 6:37 and then, go the next step — by applying the contemplation questions to it:
- What does John 6:37 say?
- Bunyan took each word and meditated on it. But take these “All” “Whoever” and “Never” and share how this speaks to you.
- Are you confident that God receives you, loves you, and has compassion on you, no matter your state?
Friday: Gently and Lowly
9. If you have Gentle and Lowly, read chapter 6 and share anything that stood out to you.
10. What’s your take-a-way this week and why?