Pastoral Ministry

Which Bible Do You Trust?

Dr. Mike Lester

In theology and ministry, there are a few questions that each generation faces – ones that do not go away with time. For example, Christians have been discussing the merits of Calvinism and Arminianism for centuries. For nearly as long, believers have discussed the trustworthiness of, as well as the need for a standard in, Bible translations.

For both examples, the issues reach further than just English-speaking churches. Missionaries want to protect their flocks from those things which “minister questions, rather than godly edifying…” (1 Timothy 1.4). Further, regardless of the language in which we minister, we want to preach and teach from a Bible we can trust – and we want to instill that confidence in those we disciple.
It’s doubtful that anyone reading this has read the entire Old Testament in Hebrew / Aramaic and the New Testament in Greek! We need translations, and we need translations that we deem trustworthy. In this short article, five tests are provided that should help bolster our faith in God’s Word. Not all tests are equal in value, but cumulatively they help to produce a confidence in the Scriptures in each language.

The Test of the TEXT
Simplistically speaking, two distinct texts are used today when it comes to Bible translations: the Byzantine (or, Received, Traditional) Text and the Alexandrian (or, Critical, Nestles-Aland, UBS) Text. Regardless of the name you use, it’s bound to offend someone. Each name is loaded with pre-conceived nuances. For sake of distinction, we’ll group them by their primary locations, Byzantine and Alexandrian.
In Bible translation history, the Byzantine family has been the standard until recently. It formed the basis for the French Olivetan (1535), the Spanish Reina (1602), the Italian Diodati (1603), the English Tyndale (1526), Geneva (1550), and King James Bible (1611).
It was not until 1881, with the introduction of the British Revised Version, that the world received a New Testament from a distinctively new text. This version was printed in America as the American Standard Version (1901). For the last 100+ years, at least 100 English translations have been published, and the overwhelming majority of these translations have been from the Alexandrian / Critical text family.
When I am considering a translation – in any language – my first question is always, “What text is this translation from?” A translation cannot be any better than the textual foundation upon which it is built.

The Test of THEOLOGY
Here, we use the term theology in its more general sense. We want to know which translations are theologically sound. For example, I know of no Baptist preacher who uses the Watchtower’s Bible to preach about the deity of Christ! This particular Bible is not only from a different text, it is also translated with a theological agenda. It’s not theologically sound.
This test of theology actually fleshes out the test of the text as well. The competing texts say different things – which produce differences in English. Consider just a few of the differences:
1. The Genealogy of Jesus. Look at Matthew 1.7-9 and textual differences come through. Should it be Asa or Asaph; Amon or Amos? Alexandrian-based texts introduce errors into the genealogy of Jesus. Neither Asaph nor Amos belong in these lists. Byzantine-based Bibles preserve inerrancy and accuracy here.
2. The Words of Jesus. In John 7.8, translations differ here at one word: yet. Does Jesus say, “I’m not going yet”? Or, does He say, “I’m not going”? In the Byzantine-based manuscripts, Jesus isn’t going yet, but He does go later. In the Alexandrian-based manuscripts, He says that He isn’t going, but goes anyway. The Byzantine family protects the integrity of Jesus better here.
3. The Missing Angel. In Revelation, two verses are often read over quickly: Revelation 8.13 and 14.6. Both texts agree concerning Revelation 14.6 – both point to “another angel.” The problem is, the Alexandrian family has no reference point. The key verse, 8.13, refers to either an angel (Byzantine) or an eagle (Alexandrian) flying through the midst of Heaven. In 14.6, when John sees “another angel,” it’s because he has already seen the first one in that spot (8.13). In the Alexandrian manuscript, 14.6 is the first mention of angels flying in the midst of heaven. Granted, our salvation doesn’t rest on this! But, it does point out that one text protects inerrancy and accuracy, preserves the integrity of Jesus, and produces internal consistency within itself.

Two different styles of translation exist on the extremes: a formal approach or a dynamic approach. No Bible is entirely formal or dynamic – translation work that is not flexible produces a work that is not readable or understandable in the new language. However, all translations lean toward one of these extremes and are thus characterized by one of these approaches.
When it comes to the dynamic approach, the New International Version is popular and The Message serves as an extreme. On the formal approach, both the King James (Byzantine) and the New American Standard (Alexandrian) are recognized as being faithful to their respective texts.
The difference in approach can be characterized as providing the meaning of the original language thought-by-thought (dynamic) or word-by-word (formal). This is an oversimplification, to be sure. Each approach has strengths and weaknesses. For the dynamic approach, a strength is readability, but it comes with a weakness of providing more interpretation than translation. The formal approach has a strength in providing a translation that is true to what was originally given, but at the expense of sometimes not being easily understood.
We believe the formal approach is best because inspiration is at the word level, not the thought level. We do not want just the “Word of God,” but also the words of God. Further, we want these words translated, not interpreted for us. Man’s interpretation is not infallible. When the work of translation sometimes provides a passage difficult to understand, we recognize that it was difficult in the original language as well. Our responsibility here is the same as the original hearers: we must study and seek out a matter.

These final two tests are more subjective (and thus weaker) than the first three. While their value may be less, it doesn’t mean that these tests have no value at all. In our 21st century world, anyone can be a potential translator. We go to Google translate, put in our phrase, and it spits out a translation! However, if you’ve tried this, you know that its productions aren’t always perfect!
So, when it comes to Bible translations, what are the credentials of the people involved? Are they spiritually qualified? Are they academically qualified? I don’t worship the translators appointed at the 1604 Hampton Court Conference, but I’m always encouraged when I read their biographies. These men weren’t distracted by entertainment and amusement. They were fervent in preaching against heresy and Catholicism. Their stories can be read in books such as Translators Revived (Alexander McClure), and the legacy of the King James Bible can be read in God’s Secretaries (Adam Nicholson) as well as In the Beginning (Alister McGrath).

The Test of TIME
The era of new Bible translations has not ceased. Personally, I’m not one to try an “unproven sword” when it comes to preaching God’s Word authoritatively. In English, I have a Bible I can trust that has impacted our language for over 400 years. This is subjective – I know it! – but, I do not discount the providence of God in allowing the King James Bible to outlast so many other translations, across all linguistic boundaries.

When it comes to choosing a Bible translation you can trust, the source is important. What text is being translated? Is it a text recognized as authoritative throughout church history, or a relatively new-comer to the scene?
Is the translation under consideration theologically sound? Does it protect inerrancy and accuracy? Does it preserve the integrity of Jesus? Does it produce internal consistency? These are important considerations.
What technique is used? Are the translators interpreting or translating for me? Are they giving me their understanding of the thoughts, or the translations of the words? A Bible translation is not a commentary. I need to know I have God’s words in my language, rather than someone’s biased interpretation.
What do I know about the translators? Were they orthodox? Did they demonstrate a genuine walk with God? Were they academically qualified to take on this mammoth task? What were the checks and balances they used to filter out theological blind spots to insure accuracy?
Finally, how long has this translation been in existence? With translations coming out on a regular basis, how many times am I willing to change translations in a 40-50 year ministry? If I am always looking for the next “best” translation, how does that affect Bible memory and responsive reading during worship services?
Because I’m looking for a Bible that’s from the Byzantine family, that is theologically consistent, translated with a formal equivalence, from spiritually and academically qualified scholars that has stood the test of time, my confidence in the King James Bible remains solid.

Ten Commandments of Passionate Preaching

Gabriel Ruhl

Teachers with genuine passion can make the impossible happen—revitalize a dying Sunday school class, reach a hopeless soul, create a corporate desire to serve Christ—and the list can go on! Nothing great is ever accomplished without passion.

Your passion must come from what fuels you from the inside—your love for Christ. It’s more than having a plan; it’s about serving Christ with the same intensity He had when He went to the Cross. Allow me to shed some light on what you should be passionate about as a Bible teacher.

It’s normal—even expected—to get weary in the battle of service, but we shouldn’t get weary of the battle. When weariness creeps in, we need to go to the resting place in our souls, and that place needs to be the call of God—the certainty that He has placed us where we are. Paul said in Romans 11:13, “…I magnify mine office…” He had confidence in the work Christ had for him. Additionally, if we serve the Lord for any other reason than our love for Him, the quality and longevity of our service will suffer. Our service must be an outflow from our love.

The lives we live and the message we teach should not contradict but compliment each other. Our lives (lifestyle) should passionately revolve around all things God! Our culture tells us that we can do anything the world is doing as long as we love God. The meaning and purity of holiness begs to differ. Our lives should be distinct—peculiar. We should want to minister in the world but not be of it. A teacher with God’s values in mind will hold in high esteem his lifestyle and example outside of the classroom.

Our prayer should be, “God, you can strip from me any personal liberty you want, I just want more influence for your name’s sake.”

No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs
of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be
a soldier.—2 Timothy 2:4

If you are not excited about teaching your Sunday school class, then do not be surprised if your students are not excited about being in your class. Blessed is the class whose teacher thinks this Sunday’s lesson is the best one he will ever teach!

On the other side, remember that you cannot impart what you do not possess. Therefore, preparation is key to providing a thought-provoking, Bible-based, helpful lesson.

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth
forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil
treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of
the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.—Luke 6:45

Teachers who rely on past illustrations and stories have dull, deadening lessons; teachers who are alive in God’s Word, and consistently gleaning from it can’t help but have passion to convey the truths they are currently convinced of working!

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge
of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To
him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
—2 Peter 3:18

God created everything in life with the intention to grow. Not only should you be passionate about personal growth, but you should also want growth in your class. You don’t have to be naturally gifted at teaching for this to happen (Praise the Lord!). Your lesson is a small part of the big picture when it comes to leading and growing a class. Statistically, those who visit your class determine within the first seven minutes whether or not they will be returning. This generally happens before the teaching starts. It’s not about natural giftedness; it’s about a passionate desire to grow those we are teaching. Passionate teachers utilize every minute of their classroom time to provide a friendly, encouraging, and equipping experience.

D. L. Moody said, “I’d rather be able to pray than to be a great preacher. Jesus never taught His disciples how to preach, but only how to pray!” Pray for yourself to be the teacher God wants you to be, and pray for those in your class by name.

The more you invest in your class as individuals, the more your heart will be passionate about your ministry. You can invest by caring about what they care about. Share with them in the joy of a newborn baby and mourn with them through the death of a loved one. When my kids’ Sunday school teachers send them a birthday card, I can tell you from a parent’s perspective that it goes a long way!

Choose to prioritize caring for your class. We have a system in our ministry called the weekly snapshot—it’s a quick overview of who has attended and who has missed each class.

Every visitor receives a visit from a teacher or class leader within six days. When people miss three weeks in a row, we visit them. Usually when people miss this much, their minds start to shift and think that no one at church really cares, and we want to prove them wrong.

Make a big deal of absentees. Make a personal connection, and don’t allow people to fall through the cracks due to lack of caring.

Soulwinning is not a spiritual gift. Soulwinning is a spiritual discipline. It is something we inwardly choose to be obedient to, because of the cause of Christ. Soulwinning is stepping into the image of Christ. Luke 19:10 says it best, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

“The only alternative to soulwinning is
disobedience to God.”—Curtis Hutson

Is “good enough” good enough for you? In high school, I worked for a fencing company. Eventually, I became a site leader. Occasionally, I would get a certain guy on my team who taught me a very valuable lesson. This guy’s mentality was, “Well, you can’t see it from my house…so it’s good enough.” In other words, the job wasn’t going the way we planned, but the customer won’t notice, so it’s good enough. Lesson learned. I wouldn’t want this guy (his mentality) working on my house!

Sometimes in the work of the Lord, we have the same “you can’t see it from my house” mentality—it wouldn’t be good enough for us, but we’re doing this in our spare time for the Lord, so it’s good enough. However, something great for God will never be done with spare work or spare change.

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.—Ecclesiastes 9:10

Embrace and engage in all the opportunities you have today. Satan never takes a day off, and he is always working overtime. Don’t save up all your passion for the weekends; choose to be passionate today about your class, and allow that passion to play out practically.

For yourselves know perfectly that the
day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the
night.—1 Thessalonians 5:2

What kind of legacy are you leaving to the next generation? Are you showing them how to lead with love and passion? Live as if you want the dash on your tombstone to mean something.

And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put
his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for
the kingdom of God.— Luke 9:62

Three Ways to Reach Others

Anthony King

Two weeks after graduation, our family set out on a year of deputation to raise money to start a church here in Honolulu. All we had was a vision in our hearts of a church that would love people and introduce them to Jesus. We couldn’t have imagined all God had in store for our family and our city.

As we’re coming up on the third anniversary of Huikala Baptist Church, it’s been amazing to look back and see God’s hand at work every step along the way. As of the end of June, we’ve seen twentynine people saved, eighteen baptized, six complete discipleship and dozens more making real, tangible decisions to take their walk with Jesus to the next level.

As we began preparations to plant Huikala, I read dozens of books on church planting, subscribed to blogs and podcasts, and became a student of other successful and unsuccessful church plants. I poured over the words of Jesus, looked for principles of church planting from the book of Acts and carefully dissected Paul’s guidance to these infant churches and his direction to these young pastors. While we’re still a young church (and as Pastor Chappell says, “I’m still a young pastor”), God has shown us what He uses to build His church.

For all of the cool, new methods for reaching people, for all of the Facebook online Bible studies, for all of the Twitter campaigns and social media marketing, we’ve found three things that REALLY work.

LOVE PEOPLE. It’s the defining mark of followers of Jesus. As a new church plant, we wanted so badly to get people in the door, that we sometimes forgot to love people well. Getting people in the door is short-sighted, but loving people is the long game. While I want to get the guy from my gym to church this Sunday, maybe I should take more time loving him, developing a relationship with him and showing him what a real follower of Jesus does. Loving people takes time, investment, and consistency.

SHARE JESUS. Honolulu is a mostly unchurched city and home to one of the largest Buddhist populations in the United States, so we come across people every day that don’t know Jesus. People have said that soulwinning can’t work in a city like ours. It’s too culturally diverse. It’s too difficult. People aren’t responsive. Our streets have no commercial/residential distinction, soulwinning maps aren’t as cut and dried as other cities with neighborhoods. However, I’ve found that the gospel works if we work the gospel. It was a relief to come to terms with the fact that I’m not responsible for the results, just for being obedient. We have tens of thousands of doors in our city that have never been knocked one single time. By the grace of God, we’re going to change that, one door at a time.

PREACH THE WORD. Our city has churches on just about every block. Finding a meeting location was tough, as every community center, school cafeteria and even some restaurants has one or more churches meeting in them on Sundays. We’re in Hawaii, so we thought we’d just set up chairs in the park near the beach, but found that every park had churches in them on Sundays! However, two things set us apart from just about every other church in our city— doctrine and expository Bible preaching. People in our city (and I suspect yours too) are starved for the Bible. The Word encourages, challenges, rebukes, corrects and points people to Jesus. If I’m faithful to preach the Word, the Word does all of the work for me.

Managing the Tension between Collaboration and Separation

Pastor Paul Chappell

SEPARATION. And with good reason. Many of my mentors were men who had come out of
denominations that denied the inerrancy of the Scriptures, miracles of the Bible, and even
the virgin birth of Christ. I was privileged to personally know men who had taken a costly
stand for truth—in many cases losing their churches, friendships, and being misunderstood for
their convictions.

These were men who then watched the rise of what
Fuller Seminary and Harold Ockenga termed “NeoEvangelicalism”—an effort to bring together liberals
and fundamentalists. Bible-believing pastors who had
already taken a strong stand for truth recognized the
danger of such collaboration and called for separation.
Their concerns were further confirmed when Billy
Graham began collaborating with leaders of all faiths,
including inviting Catholics and Modernists (who
denied the basic doctrines of the faith) to share the
platform in his crusades. (A member of our church
walked out of a planning meeting for the Los Angeles
crusade when the Catholic priests were introduced.)

To those of us who received first-hand accounts of what
it meant to stand for the faith against ecumenicalism
and doctrinally-drifting denominationalism, we
appreciate the courage of these who separated and
taught us the importance of this Bible truth. We
recognized that the birth of the autonomous Baptist,
or independent Baptist, movement was made through
courageous decisions, based on deeply-held convictions
concerning the doctrine of separation.

In Amos 3:3, God poses the question to Israel, “Can
two walk together, except they be agreed?” And in
2 Corinthians 6, Paul asks a series of questions with the
same obvious answer:
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for
what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?
and what communion hath light with darkness? And what
concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that
believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the
temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living
God…Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye
separate, saith the Lord…—2 Corinthians 6:14–17
So we know that ecclesiastical and personal separation
from false religion and worldly living are an essential
call to the Christian who desires to walk with God.

Now, we’ve come a generation or two from those
who took these kinds of stands when it was so costly,
and we have pastors in their 30s who have always been
independent Baptists. These men have not had to
pay the same price over decisions to separate. These
younger leaders still hold to the fundamentals of our
faith. They are our co-laborers…and there is much that
my generation can learn from them.

If, however, the watchword of my generation
was separation, the buzzword of younger leaders
is collaboration.

Their heart for collaboration isn’t unbiblical. In fact,
it is very much like the Apostle Paul who was more
concerned that Christ be preached than that others
recognize his leadership.

Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and
some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention,
not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But
the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence
of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way,
whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I
therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
—Philippians 1:15–18

Paul, who was willing to separate when need be, was
also desirous to work with others who would “stand fast
in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the
faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).
Younger men (and I find myself applying that term to
an increasingly older age) have less of the World War II,
single-leader-forge-the-way picture of leadership and a
greater desire to work together with other leaders.

The bright side of this is that these men are usually
less concerned with who gets the credit than they
are with the desire to be a part of something larger
than themselves.

The downside is that those of us who are more
familiar with the top-down leadership style too easily
feel uncomfortable with collaboration and can be
suspicious of compromise, fearing a lack of separation.

So who’s right? Both.

Who’s wrong? Both can be.

There’s a ditch on both sides of the road.

It is entirely possible to be so hyper-separated that
you alienate fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who
share your doctrinal convictions. The separatist who
has no heart to collaborate is wrong, because the Bible
commands us in 1 Corinthians 3:9 to be “labourers
together with God.” The leader who sets himself as
superior to others and instructs people to follow
him is fostering the carnality Paul warned against in
this passage.

But just as it is possible to hyper-separate, it is
entirely possible to so over-collaborate that you reach
across lines of doctrine or holiness where there should
be separation. The fact is that Bible-believing men
can and should collaborate, but I fear there are some
men today whose collaboration will lead them into
alignments that belittle the preservation of Scripture,
the “whosoever will” call of the gospel, and biblical
worship in the church.

So what is the answer?

Both. And both in balance.

Collaboration is biblical and vital. But unchecked
collaboration leads back to the compromise my mentors
taught me to stay away from. Separation is vital, but
separation just for the purpose of separating becomes
isolation and pharisaicalism.

This is why we must manage the tension between
separation and collaboration. And I would say that a
big part of that is to learn from one another.
Those of us who have the spirit of a separatist and
have taken a stand and avoided preaching in certain
places or endorsing certain personalities, need to
learn from and be reminded that there is a need for
greater fellowship, prayer, and striving together
with others.

The younger leader who desires greater
collaboration needs to remember that there is great
importance in the biblical commands regarding
separation. In fact, decisions of collaboration must
be made while keeping in mind the reality of the
impact they will have on others. For instance, a
pastor not only makes decisions for himself, but
also for the influence he gives to those in the church
he shepherds.

Even as separation just for the sake of separating
is harmful, so collaboration just for the sake of
collaborating ignores the strong Pauline admonition
not to be a stumbling block. Romans 14, a chapter
often used to argue the liberty we have in Christ,
emphasizes that with liberty comes a responsibility
to avoid causing a weaker brother to stumble.
Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but
judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock
or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way…It is good
neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any
thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or
is made weak.—Romans 14:13, 21
If you are a leader who enjoys greater collaboration,
could I encourage you to guard against dismissing
the importance of separation?

I am not exaggerating to say that the collaborative
man whose emphasis is on simply getting rid of the
old, tired, burdensome machinery of legalism and
basking in the freedom of grace and innovation may
unintentionally (or intentionally) begin to espouse,
endorse, and platform ideologies that ten years ago
he would have said were wrong—including differing
Bible versions, Calvinism, charismatic doctrine,
unholy worship, and more.

I recently was speaking with a young leader from
our own state of California about this subject, and he
expressed his concern over it as well. His words were
that he fears that the current spirit of collaboration
with some of the younger leaders could become the
seeds for the next generation of new evangelicalism.
(Remember, that’s not my statement,
but a statement from a thirty-something-year-old highly
successful pastor who is glad to collaborate and is
respectful of his father’s generation.)

My challenge to you is to hold to the truth and
fellowship with those who do. Truth is never
worth compromise. Hold it fast. Study, preach,
and live sound doctrine.

Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been
taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both
to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.—Titus 1:9

Remember that we are exhorted to “earnestly
contend for the faith which was once delivered
unto the saints” (Jude 3). Don’t over collaborate so
you end up of a different doctrinal persuasion or
dismissing the biblical ministry philosophy you’ve
been taught.

Don’t dismiss biblical separation. It is still a
vital part of the Christian life, and we need to
practice it now as much now as we ever did.

If you are a leader who defaults toward
separation, could I encourage you to guard against
dismissing those who need your encouragement?

Don’t write others off. God often uses both Pauls
and Apolloses to give the increase (1 Corinthians
3:6). Be willing to work to understand those
younger than you and to rejoice in the ways they
evidence another side of spiritual leadership that
sometimes we are less drawn toward. My desire
is to hold to a right position with a right spirit.
Not every young man who is doing some things
differently is a rebel.

It is possible to have collaboration without
compromise. And it is possible to practice
separation without pride.

May we be people who guard against the
extremes of both—who collaborate with one
another to contend for the faith and to lift
up Jesus!

This is part one of a three-part contemporary
theology series. Part 2 will include common questions
and answers for pastors, and Part 3 will examine the
DNA of a biblically-sound church.