Saturday, November 29, 2014

Why Read the King James Bible?

Photo by Billy Hatham 2010

Imagine being able to hold the Word of God in your hand!  Indeed, you can do just that. The Authorized King James Version (KJV) Bible is God's Word. It is God's love letter to all mankind, containing Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. It does not contain God's Word or describe what God said; rather, it is the Word of God, written during a period of 1,500 years by about 40 authors inspired by the Holy Spirit to record His Word for all eternity (2 Timothy 3:16).

The authorized KJV Bible has appeared on Norton Anthology's list of "the world's best literature" for decades, and it is the most widely published, best-selling book of all time. The Bible is even the most commonly stolen book -- go figure! I guess Bible thieves overlook the "Thou shalt not steal" commandment! (Exodus 20:15)

Since God wrote the Ten Commandments on stone tablets and gave them to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 25:12), He has gone to great pains to preserve His inerrant Word unchanged (Matthew 5:18). Throughout the centuries, great Christians like Martin Luther. John Wycliffe, and William Tyndale have suffered persecution and imprisonment so that the Bible would be preserved, translated into different languages, and made available to all. The result is that by reading the Bible, everyone who wants to know can understand God's will and plan for their lives (Matthew 7:7-8; Luke 11:9-10).

God's plan of salvation is that Jesus Christ -- God the Son -- came to earth in human form (John 1:14) but without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), was crucified, and died as a perfect sacrifice to pay for all our sins, past, future and present (John 1:29). He then defeated death and the grave (1 Corinthians 15:55), rose on the third day, and ascended into Heaven, where He sits at God the Father's right hand (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Mark 16:19; Hebrews 12:2).

Everyone who acknowledges and turns away from their sins, asks God for forgiveness, believes in Jesus' finished work of salvation, and accepts Him as their personal Savior with simple, childlike faith will not die eternally in hell, but will live joyously forever in Heaven (John 3:16, Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13).

Once we are born again (John 3:1-8), the Holy Spirit enters our heart (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30), teaching us the truth of God’s Word if we pray for wisdom (James 1:5) and apply ourselves to learning it (2 Timothy 2:15).

That truth will light the path of our Christian walk (Psalm 119:105), helping us to make the right choices (Proverbs 3:5-6), keeping us from sin (Psalm 119:105), and bringing us closer to Christ. Before we were saved, God’s Word seemed to us to be foolish, but when we are born again, we realize that it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18-21).

As the Christmas season begins, many of us might want to give a Bible to a loved one, or even choose a new Bible for ourselves and a reading plan to go through all the Scripture in 2015.  Depending on the reader’s background, spiritual maturity, and life circumstances, we might be tempted to choose a “modern” version perceived to be more “relevant” or “easier to read.” My personal preference for everyone, regardless of these factors, would be the KJV.

Why read the KJV Bible, and not one of the more contemporary versions? The KJV Bible, published in 1611, is the signed, sealed and delivered official Word of God in the English language. It was authorized by King James and commissioned by God Himself, as He brought together a team of more than 50 of the world's best scholars to translate His Word into English, the world's most widely used official language. Rather than seeking their own fame, glory or profit, these scholars were humble, dedicated to the Lord and to spreading His Word to all people, even if they had to pay for it with their own lives.

The Old Testament of the KJV Bible was translated from the Masoretic Hebrew Text, and the New Testament was translated from the Majority Text. The latter is also called the Received Text or Textus Receptus because most (99.92%) of the 5,686 existing Greek texts are in agreement with it.

Most modern English Bible revisions are based on a Greek text not agreeing with the Majority Text. Two men instrumental in authoring these new versions, Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort, intentionally omitted or changed portions of the Greek text to suit their own beliefs, or rather doubts, regarding many key Bible truths.

They did not believe literal six-day creation (Genesis 1), the many miracles of Jesus described in the Gospels, His substitutionary sacrifice for us (2 Corinthians 5:21, etc.) the power of His shed blood to wash away our sins (Revelation 1:5; 7:14; 1 John 1:7, Colossians  1:14 ,etc), or the existence of Heaven and hell as real places (John 14:2; Acts 7:55-56; Luke 16:20-31; Mark 9:43-44, etc.).

The newer English versions are actually revisions, not translations, of God's Word. Jesus warns of the dangers of adding to, taking away from, or changing His Word in any way, and the punishment for those who do so (Revelation 22:18-19; Proverbs 30:5-6; Deuteronomy 4:2; Matthew 5:18).

Apart from this most important reason to stick with the KJV Bible, there is the poetic beauty of the text that reflects its inspiration from God. If you compare Psalm 23, for example, beginning with "The Lord is my shepherd..." in the KJV Bible with that of any other version, you can easily appreciate the majestic, musical quality of the KJV. The profound influence of the KJV Bible on English literature is evident in the masterpieces of famous authors including John Bunyan, John Milton, Herman Melville, and William Wordsworth.

One of my personal favorite reasons to read the KJV Bible is that Jesus promised to prepare a place for us in Heaven, and in the KJV, He promises each of us a "mansion" (John 14:2). How can that compare with the "room" mentioned in the modern versions?

A common objection to reading the KJV Bible is that it is "hard to understand." Actually, studies comparing the language used in the different versions show that the KJV is the easiest to read because it uses more action words and contains no "fluff" or wordiness.

A standard readability test (Flesch-Kincaid) shows that the KJV Bible is at a 5th grade reading level, whereas the English Standard Version (ESV), for example, is at an 8th grade reading level. The average number of words per sentence is 9 in the KJV and 19 in the ESV, and the KJV turns out to be easier to read than the ESV in terms of sentence and vocabulary complexity and use of short and simple sentences.

True, the KJV contains “thee” and “thou,” (but so does Shakespeare, and we can get used to that very quickly). It also contains words that we seldom use today, like “fornication,” and doctrinally specific words like “propitiation.” These are easily understood with a good Bible dictionary or study Bible. I have the KJV on Kindle for use when we travel, and if you highlight a word, the Kindle automatically provides a definition!

But by far the most important reason to avoid the new versions is that they delete verses altogether; they delete key portions of other verses; and they frequently omit the Name of Jesus, Christ and Jesus Christ, as we shall see next week. Faith comes by hearing (and reading) the word of God (Romans 10:17), so may we believe what God has spoken, and not in men’s revisions designed to suit their own agenda. 

© 2014 Laurie Collett
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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Flowing Triplets: Fount of Every Blessing

As we saw last week, the signature of the Trinity is evident even in the triune nature of water that sustains, nourishes, and cleanses us! This is true not only in the physical realm, but also in the spiritual sense. Christ Himself is the Living Water, the Fountain of every blessing, and the cleansing Flow Who alone can give us eternal life (John 3:16), abundant life (John 10:10), and salvation from our sins (Romans 1:16).

When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42), she had come to draw water to satisfy her physical thirst (v. 13), but her needs were deeper than that. Her broken relationships had left her in an emotional desert (v. 16-18), and her spiritual drought led her to seek answers in religious tradition (v. 20) rather than in the Living Water Who had come to her personally.

Jesus knew the significance of this Divine appointment, for He left Judaea, and was headed to Galilee, but “must needs go through Samaria” (v.3-4). This was an odd route to choose, as the Jews of that day were prejudiced against the Samaritans and would have gone to great lengths to avoid them (v. 9). Yet He tells her that if she had realized the gift of God the Father in sending His Son to earth, she would have asked Him for Living Water, referring to the Holy Spirit (v. 10) He gives freely to anyone Who trusts Him.

Still not recognizing Who sat before her, the woman brings up three worldly obstacles to accepting Him, which are still a stumbling block to those who reject Him even today. She saw Him as lacking physical power (for He appeared to have no bucket to draw the water), as being no match for the physical challenge (the well was deep), and as lacking the prestige of the patriarch Jacob, who had given the well to provide water for himself, his descendants, and his cattle (v. 11-12):

Sadly, many lose out on the freely given gift of salvation because instead of trusting Him, they trust their own flesh (Philippians 3:4-8), they fear the opinions of the world (James 4:4), and they rely on their religious traditions (Colossians 2:8; 1 Peter 1:18).

Jesus told the Samaritan woman that whoever would receive His gift of living water would never thirst; for that water would be a well (fountain) of water, springing up into everlasting life (John 4: 14).  Later He offered the same free gift to the Jews gathered at the feast of tabernacles, saying “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. As the Scriptures had prophesied, whoever believed in Christ would have rivers of living water flowing from his belly, with the Holy Spirit giving him the Word of Truth (John 7: 37-39).

God brought His chosen people, the nation of Israel, into the Promised Land, described as a good land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills (Deuteronomy 8:7). On their journey, God provided water in the desert by standing before Moses on the rock in Horeb, having Moses strike the rock, and causing water to spring from the rock (Exodus 17: 5). God’s provision of water for His people was spiritual as well as physical, for Christ was the Rock from which their spiritual drink flowed (1 Corinthians 10:4).

But Moses was not permitted to enter the Promised Land because of his subsequent disobedience (Numbers 20: 7-12). On that occasion, God gave Moses clear instructions to provide water to the people by speaking to the rock which would give forth water, proving God’s goodness before their eyes, and bringing them water that flowed from the rock.

Instead, Moses did not believe God would do this, so he chastised the people and struck the rock twice with his rod. Because of the earlier incident, Moses may have thought the power was in the rod rather than in the One Who had given it to Him as a sign of His power. Moses even implied that he and Aaron, not God, had the power to provide the water by asking the people “must we fetch you water out of this rock?”

The sin of Moses was therefore threefold: lack of faith, disobedience, and pride, which are the root cause of all sin even today. The consequences of his sin were that he lost the power of his testimony with the Israelites; he was not permitted to enter the Promised Land; and he had struck the rock, or Christ, twice, foreshadowing how the Jews would scourge and crucify their promised Messiah.

Even though God provided abundantly for His people, they rejected Him as the fountain of living waters (Jeremiah 17:13). Instead they placed their trust in false gods that were as useless as broken cisterns that held no water and as polluted as the Egyptian waters of Sihor (the Nile) and the river waters of Assyria (Jeremiah 2:13-18).  But thankfully, God extended His gracious offer of salvation to all people, the Samaritan woman being an early example of a Gentile who could be grafted into God’s family tree by trusting in Christ (Romans 11:17-24).

The Song of Solomon speaks of the Bridegroom and His beloved as a metaphor foreshadowing the relationship between Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:23-32), meaning all those, whether Jew or Gentile, who are born again (John 3:3-8). He is a fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon, and she is an enclosed garden, a spring shut up, and a fountain sealed, referring to her spiritual purity in Him. His living water allows her to be fruitful, producing pleasant fruits, spices, and healing plants (Song of Solomon 4:12-15).

As soon as the Samaritan woman realized that Jesus was the Christ, sent of the Father to be worshipped in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23-26), she left behind the cares of this world, symbolized by her water pot; ran back to the city without fear of facing those who had rejected and scorned her; and spread the Good News that she had found Christ (v. 28-29).

Once we are born again by placing our trust in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), should we not do the same, and tell everyone how He has  changed us? Thanks to the Samaritan woman’s testimony, her salvation led to the salvation of those who believed her witness, and to the salvation of those who were just curious at first but who came to see Him for themselves (John 4:39-42). Praise God that whosoever believes in His Son can now have the Spirit of living water within him!

Not only is God the Living Water and the Fountain of every blessing, but His blood is the cleansing flow that washes away all our sins (1 John 1:7). The covenant God had with Israel was that He would wash her with water, thoroughly wash away the blood of her sins, and anoint her with oil (Ezekiel 16:8).

Old Testament sacrifices requiring animal blood and ritual cleansing with water and herbs only covered sins and had to be repeated often (Leviticus 14: 4, 51-52). Trespass offerings of oil and blood of the slain animal had to be placed on the right ear, right thumb, and right great toe of the person to be cleansed (Leviticus 14:14,17,25,28)

Yet Christ’s shed blood that flowed freely for us has once and for all removed us from our sins (1 John 1:7), past, present and future. He is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth, Who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and made us kings and priests unto God and His Father (Revelation 1:5-6).

Before Jesus even reached the cross, His blood flowed mingled with sweat (Luke 22:44) in His passionate prayer at Gethsemane; from the crown of thorns piercing His head (Matthew 27:29; Mark 15:17); and from the agonizing whipping He bore on His back (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24). On the cross, blood flowed from His nail-pierced hands and feet (Luke 24:39-40) and gushed from His side, where the soldier stabbed Him, releasing not only blood but water (John 19:34).

Even in the Great Tribulation, those who trust Christ and deny the antichrist will be washed clean in the blood of the Lamb, will never thirst again, and will be led to living fountains of waters (Revelation 7:13-17).

Praise God that Christ will come again, bringing peace to Israel like a river and glory to the Gentiles like a flowing stream, nourishing all with His life-giving sustenance! (Isaiah 66:12). In that day, when living waters shall flow from Jerusalem; the Lord shall be king over all the earth, there shall be one Lord, and His Name shall be One (Zechariah 14:8-9).

Revelation 21:6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

© 2014 Laurie Collett
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