Saturday, March 6, 2010

William Tyndale and the Marks of a True Christian

The Protestant martyr and Reformer William Tyndale is best known as the first person to translate the Bible into English from the original languages (Wycliffe's translation was earlier, but came from the Latin Vulgate). At that time, to do so was a capital crime in England, and he was indeed hunted down in his refuge in Antwerp (modern Belgium), strangled, and then burned at the stake.

Tyndale wrote other works, as well. I am just starting his Exposition of Matthew, Chapters 5-7, in which he seeks to rescue the proper understanding of the Law from Antinomianism on one side and Legalism (or Neonomianism) on the other. I am in the prologue, which is heavy enough! I heartily commend it.

One teaching that has particularly struck me so far is his simple, three-point distinction between the true Christian and the false, hypocritical professor (a revolutionary principle in those days of pre-Reformation England).

What he suggests is that the true believer believes in Christ's blood for the remission of sin and purchasing of all the promises, loves the law, and longs for the life to come. He says, "These three points are the profession and religion of a christian man, and the inward baptism of the heart, signified by the outward washing of the body. And they be that spiritual character, badge, or sign, wherewith God, through his Spirit, marketh all [that are] his immediately as soon as they be joined to Christ and made members of his church by true faith."

These principles he presumably derived from the First Epistle of John, the subject of another of his Expositions. I Jn 1:7 tells us that "the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin," the first of Tyndale's principles. Then I Jn. 2:3 continues, "by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments." There's point number 2. And finally I Jn. 2:17 warns us that "the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." And thus we complete Tyndale's triad. However, it is crucial that a searching believer pay attention to the image above of Tyndale's execution: ideas have consequences. Are you prepared for them?

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