June 29, 2015

The Cult of Self

There is sufficient information in the scriptures to remind us of our personal responsibility.  As individual believers we are to diligently attend to the physical, mental, and spiritual condition of the being God has given us.  This reaches into every area of life including social, service, family, and our macro and micro context of life.  Specific instruction is given in each of these areas, and we are meant to pay rapt attention to our personal role in each one.  Our minds, hearts, and bodies do not belong to us; Christ has purchased them with his “precious blood”.  (I Peter 1:18, 19)  God’s will is primary in our daily living.  We are stewards as to our minds, obedient as to heart issues, and our bodies are limited to those things that bring glory to God. We have a responsibility for our own selves, and we need to pay constant attention to this task.

Individualism is a great concept, but in the end the use of our own abilities should focus on God and others.  Our world, nation, and culture have corrupted this concept.  Self-centeredness has become the rule of the day.  Paul identified this for us: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy.  Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good. Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; from such turn away.” (II Timothy 3:1-5)

No one could describe our present society better than this.  The heart of the matter is today's undue emphasis on self or the “Cult of Self”.  So many people who call themselves "Christian" are not talking about the sacrificial Christianity Paul spoke about in Romans 12:1.  The spiritual atmosphere in their lives is not about God and others, and their speech betrays them. “Me, mine, my, I think, I believe, I want” is all about self, as in the secular song entitled “I Did It My Way”.  What we should say is “God’s Word clearly states” or “God’s will is” or even “What do others want or need?”


Instead of the mind being used to glorify God, human reason and intellectualism have become a source of pride.  Young minds follow evangelical scholars because it makes them feel important.  As a result, they accept theological error because "the intellectual must be right, you know".  Philosophers hide behind science and tend to "complicate to confuse".  The truth is that no thinking person could really hold to a “big bang” theory or to the theory of evolution.  Even a child can look into the heavens and see that vastness of space and the unnumbered stars and know it couldn’t just happen.  Where and when did all that matter come into existence?  An elementary student who has been taught the function of the human brain knows that it couldn’t just happen.  On the other hand, young minds are pressured to believe in evolutionary myths by teachers who appear to know it all.  This generation of intellectual pagans has accepted man as God and has joined the Cult of Self.

Some time ago I began using the word "humianity" to describe the religion of man.  It is a play on the word Christianity.  The authority of Christianity is the Word of God and its teaching that our God is the sovereign creator.  On the other hand, the authority of humianity is human reason, and their god is man; hence the Cult of Self.  They worship the creature rather than the creator (Romans 1) and have chosen death rather than truth.  The Cult of Self uses the mind to worship self.


A holy God is their creator.  He created the human body, and as creator He is owner; as owner He can make the rules.  Since man is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), man's primary purpose is to glorify God.  This must be done not only with the mind, but with the body.  God has the authority to make the rules.  He has given us information about what we can put on the body and in the body.  He tells us how to use the body to glorify Him.  Those who are caught in the Cult of Self pay little attention to God's instructions; perhaps some lip service, but mainly they “do that which is right in their own eyes”.  Why do people take drugs, participate in illicit sex, and pay little attention to what they eat and how much they eat?  Why do they put their bodies at risk, and why are they careless about their health?  It is because they have joined the Cult of Self.


By plan, we visited an emerging church one Sunday.  The music was so loud you could hardly think.  They sang a secular song I had never heard before, and the so-called worship leader asked, “Do you know why we sang that number?"  His answer was “because we like it!”  That is the Cult of Self, plain and simple.  In our worship of God as Christians, we sing what honors Him.  The reasoning of self is that “God doesn’t care what we do; He just wants us to be happy."  Wrong again; God wants us to be holy.  

Now, here is the sad thing.  In our conservative, fundamental churches we are increasingly having the same “self” problem.  Some folks have to be heard on every subject and very seldom listen to others.  No matter what transpires, they are the center of it; they think it is all about them.  That is the Cult of Self.  I read a story about a family who lost a loved one.  One of the fringe members was carrying on about the death and bringing a lot attention to himself.  A grandchild rich in wisdom beyond her years said, “This is not really about you; we need to try and be of help to the others”.

We all know someone like that in our churches.  They worship self.  They have to be the center.  They have to be right.  Their opinion is always the right one, and they have the answer to everything.  They have to be recognized and honored.  There you have it - right in our churches, the Cult of Self.  A good illustration of this topic is found in II John 9-11; and by the way, how you interpret those verses will tell you something about yourself!

Shepherd's Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min


A communication service of Shepherd's Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.  Shepherd's Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches.  Write for information using the e-mail address, shepherdstaff2@juno.com

June 25, 2015

Archival Series: Salvation & Discipleship

We are continuing with the series by Dr. Rick Flanders. If you are new to this series you might begin with Part One, Part 2 and Part 3 before proceeding.

One of the most hotly debated issues in the Lordship Salvation (LS) controversy revolves around the doctrines of salvation and discipleship. Most LS advocates see these as one and the same. LS advocates blur the lines of distinction, which creates an evangelistic message that conditions the reception of eternal life on a lost man’s upfront commitment to what should be the results of a genuine conversion in discipleship.  Dr. Rick Flanders wrote Salvation and Discipleship, which addresses this vital issue in the Lordship Salvation controversy. The article first appeared at the Baptist College of Ministry website and with the author’s permission it is being reproduced here as a multi-part series. I am hopeful every guest will read this series with discernment and prayerfully consider the plain teaching of Scripture as Dr. Flanders presents it now in this fourth installment.

The Bible teaches that we are saved by faith in Christ, and also that we are to live by faith in Christ. Faith makes all the difference both in having assurance that you are saved and in living the Christian life after you are saved. We see this clearly in the book of Galatians. Chapter 2, verse 16, says that “a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ.” We are justified (made right in the sight of God) by faith in Christ (as opposed to earning God’s favor through our supposed obedience to God’s law). Then verse 19 begins a discussion about how to “live unto God,” and verse 20 says that this is done also “by the faith of the Son of God.” Chapter 3 begins by affirming that, just as we were saved by faith through the work of the Holy Spirit, so now we are “made perfect” by the Spirit through “the hearing of faith” (read verses 1-3 carefully). Although the Christian life is indeed about commitment to obeying Christ, and discipleship involves self-denial and sacrifice, they are never successfully lived out except by faith. Just as real assurance of salvation comes only by faith in Christ, victorious Christian living is experienced only by faith. Notice also these scriptures:
•“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.” (Colossians 2:6)

•“Whosoever is believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God…whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:1-5)
Colossians teaches that we walk in Christ the same way we received Him: by faith. I John says that we are born again by believing, and that we overcome the world also by faith. Whenever a Christian gets his eyes off Jesus and Calvary, and begins to look to himself for assurance of salvation, he loses what assurance he had! When we focus on how we feel, or how earnest we were when we came to Christ, or how much our lives have been changed, we have forgotten the basis of our assurance. We are not saved through anything we have done, or do, or feel. Real salvation is based on what Jesus did for us. When we focus on that, God gives us assurance grounded in faith.

Just as many fail to have blessed assurance because they have stopped seeking it by faith, many come short of victory in their Christian lives because they are seeking it through the efforts of their flesh. As we have seen, discipleship is about works, and it will be our works that will be rewarded if we succeed at discipleship, but nobody ever succeeds at Christian discipleship until they learn to live by faith. Perhaps the strongest passage about the cost of discipleship is Luke 14:25-35. In it we find the Lord Jesus calling upon would-be disciples to count the cost (verse 28) before committing. There are several other strong statements made in the New Testament by the Lord Jesus about being His disciple, and it would be good for us to be familiar with them, too.
•“He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39)

•“Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.” (Mark 8:34-35; see also Matthew 16:24-25 and Luke 9:23-24)
Some of the same ideas are taught in Luke 14, and the language there is possibly even stronger.
•“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” (verses 26 and 27)

•“Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, cannot be my disciple.” (verse 33)
The phrase “cannot be my disciple” troubles us, but its meaning is clarified as we are reminded of the stark difference between salvation and discipleship, even in this chapter. All of these words of warning were given to the “great multitudes” that came to Jesus and went with Him after He illustrated salvation with the parable of the Great Supper (see verses 15-26). In that parable the way to salvation was made extremely clear, and also very easy. The invitation to the feast of salvation is given to all, and it is simply, “Come, for all things are now ready.” God has done everything that must be done for a sinner to be saved. He has given His Son to die a Sacrifice to pay for our sins, and He has raised Him from the dead, the Victor over sin, death, and Hell. All the sinner must do is come and partake of so great a salvation! But as many responded that day to the offer of free salvation, Jesus turned and warned them of the cost of discipleship. Salvation costs us nothing because God Himself paid for it. However, discipleship costs us everything! In verse 26, we are told to give up people we love; in verse 27, we are told to give up our plans for the future; in verse 33, we are told to give up our possessions. If we don’t, we cannot be His disciples. What Jesus meant by these things is explained by the two parables of discipleship He told, one about building a tower, and the other about making war (read again verses 28 through 33).

In the illustration about building the tower, the Lord emphasizes how foolish it would be for a man to start building without knowing if he had enough materials or money to finish the project. People would mock such a man and say, “This man began to build, and was not able to finish.” In the illustration about making war, the Lord points out how foolish it would be for a king to go to battle against an army larger than his unless he was convinced that he could win anyway. In both cases, the man starting into a venture should first count the cost, and evaluate his chances of success.

These parables picture discipleship, the Christian life. The follower of Jesus is building a tower, and he is fighting a battle. Will he succeed? Notice that the question is about finishing successfully. Will he begin but not be able to finish? Will he go to war, but only to be defeated? When Jesus said, “he cannot be my disciple,” He meant, “a person who will not forsake people, plans, and possessions will not complete the task he has begun; he will not succeed as a disciple.” The fact is that these three (people we love more than Jesus, plans we have for our lives, possessions that mean so much to us) are the things that usually draw a believer off the path of discipleship. Jesus tells us to forsake them all in our minds before starting out. It is not that we should “hate” our family any more than we should literally “hate” our own lives, but that we must love the Lord Jesus so much more than the dearest of our earthly loved ones that our love for them looks like hate in comparison with our love for Him.

Now the question of our likelihood of success comes before us. Will we make a success of our Christian life? Do we have enough to finish the tower? Can we defeat the enemy that is mightier than we? Think about these questions. The right answer is the same for both: yes and no. In our own strength and ability, the answer is “No.” The twelve did not do very well at discipleship in their three years of following Jesus while He was with them on earth. We do not do very well at living lives surrendered to Christ when we try to live for Him by our own power and determination. However, the Lord never intended us to live the Christian life, to fulfill the demands of discipleship, in our own strength. He said, “Without me, ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). He called on those who came to Him for salvation to yoke up with Him for discipleship (Matthew 11:28-30). With His help, we can build the tower, and we can defeat the foe! When we live by faith, the answer is “Yes.”

Let us not forget the context of the words we have been examining in John 8. Jesus told those who had just believed on Him for salvation that if they would continue in His Word, they would be true disciples of His (verses 31 and 32). And He promised that the result of their continuing in His Word as His disciples would be that they would “know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” The incident with the woman taken in adultery set the stage for the unfolding of this teaching about victory over sin in the life of a saved person (read again verses 1 through 12). Salvation from the condemnation of sin is the possession of every believer in Jesus Christ. Liberation from the power of sin is the experience of believers who commit to discipleship, and live it by faith. Actually, we are free from the bondage of sin the moment we believe on Christ for salvation (see this in verses 34 through 36), but it won't happen for us, so to speak, until we learn about it from the Word, and reckon it true by faith. This happens as we follow Jesus in discipleship (read again John 8:12 and 31-32).

No penitent sinner who has come to Christ need struggle over whether or not he is saved. No saved person need struggle in defeat without knowing victory over his sins. Jesus has provided deliverance from both the penalty and the power of sin, and we can have it by faith in Him.

Originally published September, 2010
The series continues with Part Five the final installment.

Dr. Rick Flanders has an itinerant preaching ministry for revival. He can be contacted at drrickflanders@gmail.com. Dr. Rick Flanders Revival Ministries

See- John MacArthur’s Discipleship Gospel and Summary of Lordship Salvation From a Single Page for related reading.

June 7, 2015

The Closure of Clearwater Christian College: From the Heart of a Shepherd

On Friday, June 5 the Clearwater Christian College (CCC) board of directors announced, that after nearly 50 years of ministry, the college would close.1  This is yet another once thriving fundamentalist, separatist school, closing its doors.

Hillsdale Baptist Church
Pastor Travis Smith, pastor of Hillsdale Baptist Church (Tampa, FL), has written his own perspective on the closing of Clearwater.  Dr. Smith wrote,

“From the front pew” it has been my sorrow to observe CCC’s decline over the past 13 years.  From a college with a strong following of biblical fundamental pastors and churches, CCC appeared to have lost her way.  Many reasons will be given for the doors of CCC closing.  Some will cite economics, a dwindling number of conservative churches, low student enrollment and competition from other colleges.  Although all of the above no doubt contribute to the demise of CCC; I suggest from my vantage point that the leadership of the college over the past 10 years steered the college away from its founder’s purpose, philosophy and vision.
For Pastor Smith's complete article please see, From the Front Pew: This Pastor’s Perspective on the Closure of Clearwater Christian College at his From the Heart of a Shepherd blog.

CCC joins Pillsbury, Tennessee Temple, Calvary (Lansdale) and Northland in closure.  There will be more because in most of these closings we have seen that a school's administration cannot depart from its founding purpose, philosophy and vision, which alienates the core constituency, and expect to survive. 

Yours faithfully,


1) Message from the Board of Directors 

Related Reading:
Also by Pastor Smith, Catering to Carnality: The Spiritual Decline of Christian Schools, Colleges & Universities
“Catering to carnality” has become the policy of many Christian administrators and institutions who are minimizing spiritual principles and Bible convictions, while serving the whims of youth who lack core convictions, godly wisdom, insight, and spiritual discernment.
NIU Closes: The Continuation of the Pattern of Demise

What Does NIU, Pillsbury, Tennessee Temple Have in Common?

Calvary Baptist Seminary (Lansdale): They Are Accountable for Failure and Won't Own Up to It.

June 1, 2015

I Agree With the King James Version

“The Levites caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place.  So they read in the book in the law distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.”
(Nehemiah 8:7-8)
Dr. Rick Flanders

Something was missed by the church-going public when ecclesiastical authorities, biblical scholars, and religious publishing houses began producing new English versions of the Bible more than a century ago.  That important factor was the change in the text of the scripture from the traditional wording that has been followed for centuries.  The new Bibles did not just give us updated language; they gave us (beginning with the Revised Version of 1886) significantly altered readings, re-wording passages in the original, as well as re-translating them into more current English.  So the Lord’s Prayer, both in Matthew 6 and Luke 11, was shortened.  The end of the book of Mark, which includes one statement of the Great Commission (Mark 16:15), is removed from credibility.  The classic story of the woman taken in adultery (John 7:53 through 8:11) is questioned as to its validity.  And hundreds of other verses are omitted or radically altered.  So the new Bibles were significantly different from the old Bible.

It wasn’t surprising then when a grassroots challenge to the new Bibles rose up about fifty years ago.  The surprise was that there had not been a significant protest over the text issue from the Bible-reading public much sooner.  But thousands of books, pamphlets, and articles have been published in the past half-century in defense of the King James Bible and in protest against the textual changes in the new Bibles.  It has been proven that the new texts are considerably different from the traditional text, that the changes are not justified by the evidence, that the Bible promises that its wording will be preserved providentially, and that a Christian’s approach to the Biblical text will have important affects upon his life.  The defense of the old Bible has been a good thing overall.

The “King James Version” issue is valid.  There is good reason for churches to keep the old Bible for preaching, teaching, memorization, and quotation.  There are also valid reasons for individual Christians and families to maintain the King James Version as their standard English Bible.  However, in the conflict, many foolish and harmful things have been said on the right side.  This development has complicated the discussion and done some damage to the Cause.  The false impression has been given by some unwise statements that the exact English wording of the Authorized (King James) Version was dictated from heaven during production of the translation in the early seventeenth century.

We know that God has promised to preserve the very wording of the Bible books, which He gave to the prophets in the original languages.  Every Christian should remember the New Testament’s teaching about how the scripture was inspired.  Read again Matthew 4:3-4, First Corinthians 7-13, Second Timothy 3:15-17; and Second Peter 1:20-21.  The Bible came from God, word for word, through human writers, and is the infallible Word of God.  In the languages of the prophets it is divinely inspired, and in any accurate rendering into another language it is also inspired.  Certainly He providentially assisted the good men who worked at translating these words into English, but the promises of exact and direct inspiration cannot reasonably be applied to every translation choice and word spelling of the English version.  Jesus said, “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18).   That, of course, is one of the great promises of the divine preservation of scripture, and it applies obviously to the words in the original languages.  English does not have jots and tittles (although Hebrew does), and so the promise of Jesus is for the original languages.

Saying unwarranted things about the English translation can be the source of many problems. Our overstatement of the case can actually provoke reaction against the truth.   Missionaries from the church will struggle with requirements that the English be the final authority in countries where the people speak other languages.  What if the Spanish translation is not exactly the same as the English in every place?  The truth is that whole books put into two different languages cannot be precisely alike in every definition, every implication, and every possibility on every page.  Words in another tongue are not always capable of exact duplication of meaning.  Isn’t it better to compare both translations with the traditional Hebrew and Greek?  Young people from the church will have problems with double-inspiration when they figure out in college that people they love have been saying without scriptural warrant that both the original scriptures and the English translation were dictated by God Himself.  The truth is that the translators of the King James Version had the correct a balanced view of their own work and the product of their work.  They never claimed that they produced our English Bible by having the words given to them as they were given to the prophets in the original tongues.  We create problems when we make claims for the English Bible that the 1611 translators did not make. 

Fortunately the translators wrote a preface to the Authorized Version for the first edition in 1611.  It is titled “The Translators to the Reader,” and is available for us today.  The translators of the King James Bible were good men, dedicated churchmen, and genuine scholars.  They took the responsibility of putting the Bible into English seriously.  The king of England chose highly qualified men to do the job of producing a standard Bible for English-speaking people through the translation of the Hebrew and Greek scriptures and the revision of older popular English versions.  Their work became the most revered book in the language, as well as the standard English Bible without any serious completion for more than three centuries.  In their lengthy preface, the translators defended their work and its product, and made many things clear about their views in regard to the Authorized Version and how it came to be.  We need to be reminded of at least five points they made.

The translators saw their task as a great privilege as well as a monumental responsibility.  As they wrote the preface and defended their work, they emphasized the importance of the work because of how important the writings are which they were putting into the language of the people.  The scriptures comprise the written Word of God, which is the source of everything good in society.  “What piety without truth?” they asked rhetorically.  “What truth, what saving truth, without the word of God?  What word of God, whereof we may be sure, without the Scripture?”  The Bible is the collection of sacred writings which have been penned under divine inspiration and preserved in purity for all generations.  The translators of the King James Bible, it is clear from the Preface, had no doubt about the truth, the divine origin, and the purity of the scriptures.  It is the “sure” Word of God.  Unlike many Bible translators in modern times, these men had no doubts about the divine origin and accurate preservation of the Bible.  This is why it was vital that the translation into English be faithful and accurate.

God gave His Word in three ancient languages, Hebrew, Syriac (Aramaic or Chaldean), and Greek.  However the translators were convinced that translating it into the common tongues of the people of the world was not only a good thing but also something critical to man’s wellbeing.  “Happy is the man that delighteth in the Scripture, and thrice happy that meditateth in it day and night.  But how shall men meditate in that which they cannot understand?  How shall they understand that which is kept close in an unknown tongue?...the godly learned were not content to have the Scriptures in the language which themselves understood, Greek and Latin… but also for the behoof and edifying of the unlearned which hungered and thirsted after righteousness, and their countrymen, insomuch that most nations under heaven did shortly after their conversion hear Christ speaking unto them in their mother tongue, not by the voice of their minister only, but also by the written word translated.”  It is foolish to say (although some who ought to know better do) that we would be better off if the scriptures had been left in the original tongues, and men had to learn Hebrew and Greek to read them.  As far as the meaning of the words is conveyed from the original through the language into which it was translated, a translation is the Word of God.  It is also foolish to say that translations are precisely identical to the writings in the original languages.  Translation is a wonderfully good thing for the purpose of getting the Word to the world, but it is not the same as inspiration, the process by which the Holy Spirit moved the prophets to write down the very words of God.  It is the duty of those gifted, trained, and called to put the Bible into the tongues of the people.

Of course, the translation of the scriptures from the original languages into the other tongues of the world went on long before the King James Version was produced.  Some of the translations were made directly from the original languages, and some were made from other translations.  The so-called “Latin Vulgate” produced by Jerome, for example, was translated from the Hebrew Old Testament and from the Greek New Testament, rather than from the Greek translation of the Old Testament or one of the previous Latin versions of the New Testament scriptures. The translators remark, “S. Hierome [St. Jerome] maketh no mention of the Greek tongue, wherein he did excel; because he translated not the Old Testament out of Greek, but out of Hebrew.  And in what sort did these [translators of older versions] assemble?  In the trust of their own knowledge, or of their sharpness of wit, or deepness of judgment, as it were in an arm of flesh?  At no hand.  They trusted in him that hath the key of David, opening, and no man shutting; they trusted to the Lord…If you ask what they had before them, truly it was the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, the Greek of the New.  These are the two golden pipes, or rather conduits, wherethrough the olive branches empty themselves into the gold.  Saint Augustine calleth them precedent, or original, tongues; Saint Hierome, fountains.”  The best translations will come from the original texts, our translators insisted.  This is why they announced on the title page that their work had been “Translated Out of the Original Sacred Tongues.”  The King James translators would not have insisted that Bibles put into new languages on the mission field be translated from their English text.  They would have recommended (if possible) translation from Hebrew and Greek.  And I agree with them!

The 1611 King James Bible included alternative translations of some words in the margins, giving the reader the opportunity to consider other ways certain words in the original might have been correctly put into English.  The marginal notes were not suggesting textual revisions, but rather translation alternatives.  And changing a sentence or a word from one language into another always involves making choices.  There is not always only one right word in the second language for the word in the original.  Also some words are particularly difficult to translate.  The Preface states, “It hath pleased God in his Divine Providence here and there to scatter words of that difficulty and doubtfulness, not in doctrinal points that concern salvation, (for in such it hath been vouched that the Scriptures are plain) but in matters of less moment, that fearfulness would better beseem us than confidence, and if we resolve upon modesty…There be many words in the Scriptures which be never found there but once…so that we cannot be holpen by conference of places…Now in such a case doth not a margin do well to admonish the Reader to seek further, and not to conclude or dogmatize upon this or that peremptorily?”  They were giving us their honest opinion, along with alternative views, of how the text can best be rendered.  So other choices put in the margins were appropriate.  It was their honesty and humility that motivated them to do this, and also to put the words into italics which they had inserted for continuity in English although they did not appear in the original.  They were being honest with us and giving us the opportunity to make the best interpretation.  We must remember that the supreme issue in the modern version controversy is the text.  We fight for the purity of the traditional text, and not always for the validity of a particular way of translating it in a certain place.

“Truly, good Christian reader, we never thought from the beginning that we should need to make a new translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one…but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones one principal good one, not justly to be excepted; that hath been our endeavor, that our mark.”  The translators assured us that they had done their very best to put the Bible into English, using the minds and the training God had given them, and asking the Lord to help them.  They described their work in terms of “honest and Christian endeavors.”  God helped them as He helps us do our service for Him.  They did not claim that God had dictated the words of the English version, as the prophets “were moved by the Holy Ghost” (Second Peter 1:2).  The miracle of divine inspiration was reserved to the prophets.  Certainly Providence gave the King James translators remarkable success in their work.  Albert Barnes, the remarkable commentator of the early nineteenth century, said of the King James Version,

No translation of the Bible was ever made under more happy auspices; and it would now be impossible to furnish another translation in our language under circumstances so propitious.  Whether we contemplate the number, the learning, or the piety of the men employed in it; the cool deliberation with which it was executed; the care taken that it should secure the approbation of the most learned men, in a country that embosomed a vast amount of literature; the harmony with which they conducted their work, or the comparative perfection of the translation, we see equal cause of gratitude to the great Author of the Bible that we have so pure a translation of his word.”

But to talk as if the precise translation choices and even the spelling of the words (which, by the way, has been improved, updated, and revised several times over the years) were divinely inspired is to go beyond what the godly translators claimed for themselves.

When Ezra the priest brought a copy of the Law of Moses to be read before the congregation of pilgrims that had gathered before the water gate of the restored city of Jerusalem, he had the reading in Hebrew translated and explained in the common tongue of the empire by certain godly Levites who “caused them to understand the reading” (Nehemiah 8).  This reading and interpreting of the Word of God had a powerful effect on the people.  When the holy scriptures were put into English, first by Wycliffe, then by Tyndale, then by later revisers, and then by those who gave us the King James Version, the world was powerfully effected as the learning of truth made men free.  There are many reasons for Christians in our turbulent times to keep the treasure they gave us, but also to regard their work of translation with them same reserve and humility as they did.

Dr. Rick Flanders