I simply couldn’t resist; here is another history post for y’all. This time I sat down to think about the subject of absolute truth, specifically in the area of Christian theology.
Jesus said this:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-20 ESV)
It would seem that God doesn’t care for false teachings. Still, even the church (or especially the church) can confuse their theology. Therefore God often raises up people to point the world back to the truth. That is what my story is about today.
One of these spokesmen for God appeared in for a brief time in the fifteenth to sixteenth centuries. He spoke out in favor of biblical truth, worked hard to get that truth into the hands of common people, and boldly faced the corruption of his day; and for all this William Tyndale became a martyr in his early forties.
As a well-to-do scholar, Tyndale was one of the few who could read the only translation of the Bible, the Latin Vulgate. Some in the Catholic church exploited the fact that Latin was a dead language unknown to the common people and were able to present things the way they liked. Belief in transubstantiation and the selling of indulgences are good examples. William Tyndale realized this in his college years and found himself disgusted with all the lies swirling around in the vacuum surrounding the dead Vulgate. God started to work on Tyndale, moving his heart to speak up for the truth.
The turning point came in an argument with another clergyman. “We are better to be without God’s laws than the Pope’s,” exclaimed the man. Horrified by this idolatry, Tyndale retorted, “I defy the Pope and all his laws. If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy who drives the plough to know more of the scriptures than you do.”
So began his great work. Tyndale determined that he would not rest until that farming-boy had a Bible in English. This came awfully close to treason in the Catholic Church, but as always Tyndale didn’t care about man-made laws that contradicted God’s. It was God who had given him work to do. Hiding in mainland Europe, he worked at translating the Bible, reputedly with Martin Luther himself. He spent as long as ten years on this all-important project.
Then, in 1535, Tyndale’s friend Henry Philips betrayed him. He was jailed and left in prison for a year, then convicted of treason. It seemed that the work of a decade was lost. The people would never have the truth in their hands.
Despite all this, Tyndale never lost sight of God nor hope in His power. Executed in 1536, Tyndale prayed with his last breath, “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.”
Three years later that prayer was answered with a resounding “yes”. In 1539 King Henry VIII himself allowed the publication of the first English Bible. King James I would publish the famous King James Version less than a century later. Now that is what I call a great ending.
Look, there are a lot of lies in this world, lies that tell us that God isn’t real, heaven and hell aren’t real, truth isn’t real. God gives us the truth in His Word and instructs us to speak up! “To whom much is given, much will be required.” Since we as Christians are blessed with knowledge of the truth, we are responsible to share it. If we don’t speak up about those “false prophets”, no one will.
When we obey this command, God’s will works. The Word never returns void. We might not see an immediate effect. Tyndale didn’t even live long enough to see his life’s passion manifested in the English Bible of 1539. Yet that is no excuse to keep quiet and no reason to get discouraged, for you can see for yourself the legacy that Tyndale left when he spoke up for God. Whenever you are tempted to give up and keep silent amidst the shouting of lies, remember Tyndale’s translation that almost failed and know that we can trust God to help us finish the task that He gives us.