William Tyndale: A man who laid down his life to see the Bible translated

Have you ever appreciated having the Bible in a language you can understand? If you don’t, you need to! Do you know there was time in history when it was a crime having an English translation of the Bible? Those in possession of whole or any part of the English translation were condemned to death.Bible trNSLTN

I didn’t love autobiographies, my ignorance to history has in the past robbed me an opportunity to learn and appreciate things as we see them today. Thanks to iServe Africa where I have been nurtured in reading about the lives of early church fathers who risked their lives for the gospel.

John Piper in his book, Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ connected me to William Tyndale, an English scholar who became a leading figure in Protestant reform in the years leading up to his execution. Tyndale risked his life to translate the Scriptures into English, giving us a reason to appreciate God that we can read the Bible in our own vernacular languages.

Passion for Bible Translation

william_tyndaleWilliam Tyndale at the age of 28 had a great passion to translate the New Testament to ordinary English that all his compatriots would read and understand the scriptures. He sought permission and funds from the bishop of London, and instead the church opposed his idea of translating the Bible. He even had to ran away to exile for 7 years, in fear of his life.

King of England then, King Henry VIII, desired that Tyndale would come back to England out of hiding, but Tyndale would insist that he would go back to England if only the King would authorize him and give his official endorsement to a vernacular Bible for his subjects to read. John Piper notes that ‘Vernacular Bible for English subjects’ was the note that Tyndale always sung.

Tyndale efforts bring reformation

In 1525, while in exile, Tyndale managed to produce the first English translation of New Testament from Greek and smuggled it into England in bales of clothes. The translation was the beginning of a transformation, people were able to read and understand the scriptures in their language! They no longer depended on their priests to read the Bible for them. This was against the early church tradition where it was believed that only the priests were given the divine grace to understand the scriptures.

Tyndale efforts were able to give many a chance to understand scriptures. For many years, the only translation of the Greek and Hebrew Bible was Latin Vulgate, and a few people could understand it, even if they had access to it. At 42 years, Tyndale was tied to the stake and then strangled by the executioner; afterwards the fire consumed him. He died with a prayer, that the Lord would open the eyes of the King of England. And yes God did answer his prayer and King James I ordered translation of the Bible that had nine tenths of Tyndale’s work giving rise to the famous King James Version.

Suffering for the Gospel

William Tyndale shows what it means to suffer for Christ. He who laid down his life for us; therefore we ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren. “In times of suffering, we ought to have faith and pray to the Father in the Name of Jesus, and he will ease our pain, or shorten it,” Tyndale advises us.

BIBLESSSSAll Glory to God in that the Bible has been translated into many languages from the biblical languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. As of last year, the full Bible was translated into 531 languages, and 2,883 languages have at least some portion of the Bible.


Article by Kenneth Irungu
iServe Africa Apprentice 
Serving at DOVE Christian Fellowship, Kawangware. 



PHILEMON: Substitution Simply Applied

A story of one man, Saint Maximilian Kolbe is an interesting story, first raised to my attention by John Stott in his book, The cross of Christ, in his explanation of ‘substitution’. he died2During Second World War, Kolbe was arrested for hiding Jews and sent to Auschwitz detention camp.

One morning, one of his fellow detainees escaped and the authorities decided to starve 10 of the detainees to death. As they walked out, one of the culprits sobbed, ‘My poor wife! My poor children! What will they do?‘ When he uttered this cry of dismay, Kolbe stepped forward silently, stood before the commandant and said, ‘Let me take his place. I am old. He has a wife and children.‘ What a man, Kolbe, volunteering to die in place of a stranger.

In my reading about Kolbe, I was moved by the statement of the man whom Kolbe died in his place.

“I could only thank him with my eyes. I was stunned and could hardly grasp what was going on. The immensity of it: I, the condemned, am to live and someone else willingly and voluntarily offers his life for me – a stranger. Is this some dream? I was put back into my place without having had time to say anything to Maximilian Kolbe. I was saved. And I owe to him the fact that I could tell you all this. For a long time I felt remorse when I thought of Maximilian. By allowing myself to be saved, I had signed his death warrant. But now, on reflection, I understood that a man like him could not have done otherwise.”

As a Christian, I can relate to this. Someone was substituted and died on my behalf. The notion of substitution is that one person takes the place of another. This is what Paul does in his letter to Philemon, as he tries to reconcile him with his runway servant, Onesimus. In verse 18-19, he tells Philemon:

If Onesimus has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me…I will pay it back to you… (Philemon 1:18-19)

Every time I read these verses, I am moved! What does Paul say here, that he is ready to pay everything Onesimus had stolen from his master? This is a great sign of commitment in reconciling these two brothers in the Lord.

Paul here drives home an important point for all Christians- Substitution!  We all need to appreciate and should be forever grateful to God for substituting our wrath with Jesus, making one who had no sin to become a sin for us, the righteous dying for the unrighteous. He paid our debt; he laid his life as a ransom for us.charge that

Paul shows Philemon what it means to lay down one’s life for another. “Charge everything he owes you to me,” he says confidently reminding Philemon that he preached gospel to him too.

There is no other better and simpler way to say it than that Jesus died on our place, he took the wrath we deserved and imputed on us his righteousness. We, just as Onesimus can stand before Philemon, owe our righteous standing before God entirely to the cross of Christ, through whom our sins are forgiven.

At the cross of Christ, we have our pride broken, our guilt removed, our love kindled, our hope restored and our character transformed. We join Isaac Watts in saying,Us and Cross

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!

Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

(This is the third article on a series on Philemon, click the link to find the others: Philemon: A letter worth a thought and Philemon: A Rich Prison Epistle)

By Kenneth Irungu
iServe Africa apprentice placed at DOVE Christian Fellowship, Kawangware.