Why You Can Even Read Your Bible – William Tyndale

John 17:17 “Sanctify them by your Word. Your Word is truth.”

This past week will probably be remembered for the Vice Presidential Debate, or the image of President Trump’s  seeming defeat over COVID-19. But 484 years ago last week, one of the greatest events in Western Christian history took place.

During the Reformation, he had one consuming passion: to translate the Bible for the peasants – a Bible edition in which he would use the language of the common people.  Tyndale’s famous quote was: ‘If God preserves my life, I will cause a boy that drives a plow to know more of the Scriptures than the pope.’ This was heresy – that a common man or woman has the right to read and interpret God’s Word on their own. He was incredibly successful in his efforts: as early as 1526, more than 20 editions of Tyndale’s New Testament had been circulated throughout England.

“The Word of God never was without persecution”, Tyndale said, “no more than the sun can be without his light. By what right does the pope forbid God to speak in the English tongue? Why should not the Sermons of the Apostles, preached in the mother-tongue of those who heard them, be now written in the mother-tongue of those who read them?’”
To the Church, he was a criminal. To the people, he became a hero.  

Tyndale didn’t prove the divine origin of the Bible by apologetics. He knew the Bible was from God because of the Bible’s content itself:

“Scripture derives its authority from Him who sent it. Would you know the reason why men believe in Scripture? It is Scripture. It is itself the instrument which outwardly leads men to believe, while inwardly, the Spirit of God Himself, speaking through Scripture, gives faith to His children.”

In August 1536, he was arrested and brought before the court. “You are charged,” said his judges, “with having infringed the imperial decree which forbids any one to teach that faith alone justifies.” It was not his own cause that he undertook to defend, but the cause of the Bible.

Tyndale said: “While all human religions make salvation proceed from the works of man, the divine religion makes it proceed from a work of God. He must believe in the perfect work of Christ which reconciles him completely with God; then he has peace, and Christ imparts to him, by his Spirit, a holy regeneration. We believe and are at peace in our consciences, because that God who cannot lie, hath promised to forgive us for Christ’s sake.”

The imperial government sentenced him to death as a heretic, in agreement with the wishes of the priests. Tyndale was calm as he exclaimed: “I call God to record that I have never altered one syllable of his Word. Nor would do this day, if all the pleasures, honors, and riches of the earth might be given me.”

While the executioner fastened him to the post, the reformer exclaimed in a loud voice: “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes!” They were his last words. Instantly afterwards he was strangled, and flames consumed his body. He died on Friday, October 6, 1536.  That’s 484 years ago this week.

In this week’s verse, Jesus is speaking to God His Father just before entering the Garden of Gethsemane, where He is arrested for claiming to be, as Tyndale says, God’s promise for forgiveness of sins by His work on the Cross, thereby reconciling us to God. Tyndale understood the power of Jesus’s words. Because of Tyndale, we now all have access to the Bible and the Truth of how eternal life in Christ is possible.

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