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Verses to be read this week: Ps. 119:103, 103, 147, 162; John 16:13–15; 2 Pet. 1:20, 21; Eph. 2:8, 9; Rom. 3:23, 24; Rom. 6:15–18.

Opening Question: “What do you think would happen if the common person in our skeptical age were to read and understand the great truths of the Bible?

As the title of this lesson indicates, this week we are invited to think about people who maintained their faith against all odds. The official lesson focuses on the period of history known as the Reformation. Of course, the Reformation is not mentioned in the Bible but there are biblical passages that speak to the overall issue of maintaining faith against all odds.

Psalm 119 is a Psalm that extols the word of God with a particular focus in places on the Law of God. In verses 103 and 104, David tells his reaction to the word of God: “103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.” Here we learn that, among other things, contemplating the word of God brings joy, and it also produces a distaste for every wrong path. It is the contemplation of God’s word and the incorporation of its teachings into life, that is the basis of Christian living.

One of the major elements that gave rise to the Reformation was the availability of the Bible in readable language. People like John Wycliffe and William Tyndale were in the vanguard of those who discovered the Bible in readable form and worked to translate it into the language of the common people. In those days, doing this kind of thing was risky because the religious powers that be were very much opposed to this kind of thing. But the most interesting thing was the effect being able to read God’s word had on those who were able to do it. In so many instances, they became so captivated by what they read that they persisted even in the face of punishment and death.

It is well known that one of the major discoveries, this one by Martin Luther in particular, was that salvation is not something to be earned. In fact, it cannot be earned for it is a gift of God that comes by faith (Eph. 2:8,9). This was thought to be a new and dangerous idea. It was certainly troublesome for the religious powers for it undermined their whole system of earning merit with God.

As is always the case, whenever something is translated, questions arise about how that is best to be done. There is always the fear lurking that, if the human element in the process is too large, then there is a grave risk of the word no longer being from God. At the same time, we must always remember that human language, frail though it may be, does have the capacity to deliver messages. And there is the assurance given in the Bible that the same Holy Spirit who assisted in the writing down of scripture, will be present to help guide its translation and propagation. In this regard, there is an interesting historical incident recorded between John Knox, the Scottish reformer, and Mary Queen of Scots. She quizzed him about what to do when Knox had one translation and the priest had another. What was she to believe? And who was to be the judge as to which was correct? Knox responded by saying that God’s word is understandable in plain language, and that the Holy Spirit is present to be of assistance. He said further that wherever popular thought differed from the Bible, the Queen should follow neither Knox of the priest but should rely on the clear message of the Bible, conviction driven home by the Holy Spirit. That sounds like good advice.

The goal of all this is very clear, as noted in Colossians 1:10 – 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,” (NIV). And all this against the backdrop of the controversy raging between good and evil.

  • How big a role should human opinion and culture play in the process of translating God’s word from one language to another?
  • What do you think would happen in our skeptical age if the common person were to actually read and discover the great truths of the Bible?

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