Dear Saints of Grace congregation,
The encouraging messages continue in this month's newsletter article. The following words come from C.F.W. Walther, when he presented Thirty-nine evening lectures to seminary students. These words came from the fourth evening lecture, and they reemphasize the point of the fight FOR God's truth. Walther said:
When a theologian is asked to yield and make concessions in order that peace may at last be established in the Church, but refuses to do so even in a single point of doctrine, such an action looks to human reason like intolerable stubbornness, yea, like downright malice. That is the reason why such theologians are loved and praised by few men during their lifetime.
Most men rather revile them as disturbers of the peace, yea, as destroyers of the kingdom of God. They are regarded as men worthy of contempt. But in the end it becomes manifest that this very determined, inexorable tenacity in clinging to the pure teaching of the devine Word by no means tears down the Church; on the contrary, it is just this which, in the midst of greatest dissension, builds up the Church and ultimately brings about genuine peace.
Therefore, woe to the Church which has no men of this stripe, men who stand as watch men on the walls of Zion, sound the alarm whenever a foe threatens to rush the walls, and rally to the banner of Jesus Christ for a holy war!
Try and picture to yourselves what would have happened if Athanasius had made a slight concession in the doctrine of the deity of Christ. He would have made a compromise with Arians and put his conscience at ease;for the Arians declared that they too, believed Christ to be God, only not from eternity. They said:"There was a time when [Jesus] did not exist, meaning, He had become God. But they added:"Nevertheless, He is to be worshipped, for He is God." Even at that remote time, had Athanasius yielded, the Church would have been hurled from the one Rock on which it is founded, which is none other than Jesus Christ.
Again, imagine that would have happened if Augustine had made a slight concession in the doctrine of man's free will, or rather of the utter incapacity of man for matters spiritual. He, too, could have made a compromise with the Pelagians and put his conscience at ease because the Pelagians declared:"Yes, indeed; without the aid of God's grace no man can be saved." But by 'the grace of God' they meant the 'divine gift' which is imparted to every man. Even at that time, had Augustine yielded, the Church would have lost the core of the Gospel. There would have been nothing left of it but the empty, hallow shell. Aye, the Church would have retained nothing but the name of the Gospel.
For the doctrine of the Gospel that made is made righteous in the sight of God and saved by nothing but the pure grace of God, throught the merits of Jesus Christ, is, as everyone knows, the most important doctrine, the marrow and substance of Christian teaching. Wherever this doctrine is not proclaimed, thee is no Christ, no Gospel, no salvation; there men perish, and for such people it has been in vain that the Son of God has come into the world.
Lastly, picture to yourselves what would have happened if Luther had made a slight concession in the doctrine of the Holy Supper. At the time of Marburg Colloquy he could have made a compromise with Zwingli and put his conscience at ease, because the Zminglians said:"We, too, believe in a certain presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Lord's Supper, but not in the presence of Christ's corporeal substance, because God does not set up such sublime, incomprehensible things for us to believe."
By this claim Zwingli made Christianity in its entirety a questionable matter, and even Melanchthon, who was usually greatly inclined to make concessions, declared that Zwingli had relapsed into Paganism. Had Luther yielded, the Church would have become a prey to rationalism, which places man's reason above the plain Word of God.
Let us, therefore, bless all the faithful champions who have fought for every point of Christian doctrine, unconcerned about the favor of men and disregarding their threatenings. Their ignominy, though it often was great, has not been borne in vain. Men cursed them, but they continued bearing their testimony until death, and now they wear the crown of glory and enjoy the blissful communion of Christ and of all the angels and the elect. Their labor and their fierce battling has not been in vain; for even now, after 1500 years, or, in the last named case, after several centuries, the Church is reaping what they sowed.
May Walther's words be an encouragement to pastors and lay people alike!
With you IN Christ Jesus,
"The Inspired and Inerrant Word of God in
the English Language"
In 1521, William Tyndale served the wealthy family of Sir John Walsh while he tutored and preached at the local church. While there he met with visiting local priests who came to dine. In discussion regarding the contents of God's Holy Scriptures, Tyndale was appalled at their ignorance. It was time to move forward with his plan to translate the Bible into English. A highly accomplished linguist, Tyndale was fluent in Greek, Latin, German, Spanish, French and later Hebrew. His plan would result in his using Erasmus' Third Edition Greek New Testament, The Vulgate, other Latin Bibles and Luther's September Testament.
Tyndale's first step was to ask for permission (which was a requirement in England). He traveled to London in 1523 to seek official authorization and arranged for a meeting with the Bishop of London, Cuthbert Tunstall, a scholarly man who had assisted Erasmus with his first Greek New Testament. Tyndale met with great resistance as Bishop Tunstall had already received reports from Saxony regarding the turmoil Luther's Bible and Reformation were causing the Roman Catholic Church in Germany.
The Bishop had reports of Tyndale's Luther-like writings and public statements and feared England was in danger of the same upheaval. Tunstall stonewalled Tyndale which only deepened William's conviction that England desperately needed a Bible that the common man could read. The only questions were how and where it could be done. Opposed by both the church and the crown, Tyndale had no choice but to leave England.
In the spring of 1524, he sailed to the European continent to launch his translation and publishing endeavor. Doing so without the permission of the King of England meant that very text that he translated into English was illegal and he would be hunted down as a heretic. He would never return to England again and for the next twelve years, remained a fugitive and outlaw of the english crown.
Tyndale arrived in Hamburg, Germany in 1524 and traveled to Wittenberg to witness this Reformation and did so anonymously, though some trails of his time there were recorded. Historians have little doubt that he met Luther and it's likely he shared his passion for languages with Philip Melanchthon. Since he did not know Hebrew before he left England, it is the conjecture of some historians that he learned the language while studying in Wittenberg where he would have been well received for his sound theological beliefs. It would be about nine to ten months for Tyndale to prepare for his first New Testament.
IIe sent his request for funds to his supporters in England and set out for Cologne, a Roman Catholic bastion, an unlikely city for a Lutheran to publish a Bible. But Cologne was a city of commerce and the Rhine River provided access to the North Sea where Bibles could be smuggled into England by boat. Tyndale found a printer who would work in secret and he proceeded to have the Gospel of St.Matthew printed in English. Tunstall's spies soon discovered the printing house and raided it, seizing the translations. Tyndale fled safely, but to this day, only one copy of his first translation remains, the first 22 chapters of St.Matthew, which is kept in the British Library.
In 1526, Tyndale resumed his work in Worms, producing a pocket size New Testament that was smuggled to England (where it was a crime to own or possess one). German Lutheran cloth merchants received them and passed them on to the Christian Brethren, a secret Protestant society that distributed them at a low cost in the cities, universities and monasteries throughout England. By the fall of 1527, a ban was declared on Tyndale's New Testament and many were confiscated.
On October 27th, a public burning of Tyndale's New Testament was held at St.Paul's Cathedral. The ban did little to stop the demand for an English language Bible, and an Antwerp publisher began churning out a larger number of Bibles, causing Bishop Tunstall to arrange for a businessman to buy up the complete printer's stock of Bibles which were promptly set ablaze. Tyndale also published his first major theological work in May, 1528. Titled "The Parable of the Wicked Mammon", this treatise focused on the very heart of the Gospel, namely 'Justification by Faith Alone in Christ Alone'. His words mirrored Luther's and in many places, his work is a translation or paraphrase of Luther's own words. Not only was he called a servant of the world, as was Luther, and a linguist, he also started a Reformation, this one in England, that could not be extinguished by force.
Submitted by George B. Melke, lay member of Grace Lutheran Church, San Mateo, CA