Why would anyone need to use another translation of the Bible besides the King James Bible?

Since the KJV Bible has stood the test of time for 400 years, someone might reasonably ask the question: Why would anyone need to use or read another translation of the Bible? The answer to that question is found in the type of Greek in which the New Testament was written in. God almighty chose to give us, through the Holy Spirit, the New Testament in Koine Greek. Merriam-Webster defines Koine as: “the Greek language commonly spoken and written in eastern Mediterranean countries in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.” The key word in that entire definition is ‘common.’ Common refers to the language that the common person speaks. For us this is everyday ordinary English. The fact is the KJV Bible is no longer ‘common’ English—it was when it was written, but the last revision was made in 1769, which is over 240 years ago.  Some would argue that 1769 was not a significant revision, and if that is the case, takes the significant revision back nearly 400 years to the 1620s. The English language has changed tremendously since 1611. We simply do not talk in the way the KJV Bible is written. To say such a thing is not a criticism of the Bible. Instead, it is an acknowledgement of the truth. The English in the KJV is beautiful, especially in the wisdom and poetry books, like Psalm 23. But that same beauty doesn’t always move so easily over to the law and prophets and to the gospels and epistles.  Here is just one example from Luke 6:38.

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

The first verse you read was from the KJV, and the second verse was from the ESV. Now, be as objective as you can. Suppose you were reading that text for the very first time:  Which rendering, the KJV or ESV, provides you with the greater understanding or comprehension of the message from Christ with a single reading?  Here is another example:

For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: (1 Peter 4:19)

For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.

I think if you are willing to be objective, you will agree that the ESV rendering provides the reader the clearest understanding of the text. In the first example, the words ‘bosom, mete, withal’ create an awkwardness in the reading. This is not to say that they are incorrect words, but they are awkward, and awkward gets in the way of understanding the text.  In the second example, the modern English provides the reader a clearer understanding of the sins that Peter is describing. Since the avoidance of these sins is the point of the verse, I believe we want our students and new converts reading a translation that will give them the greatest understanding of the message of the text. While the KJV is a great translation, the words used in the verse are not used today, but the words in the ESV would be readily understood by a 17 year old or a 23 year old—which is the goal. Comprehension of the text is the goal.

To those who have been reading the KJV all of your lives, I fully understand that you can’t relate to the KJV English being hard to understand. Your individual familiarity with the KJV interferes with your ability to put yourself in the shoes of someone who is reading the Bible for the very first time.  Since understanding the message of the Bible is of utmost importance, we must recognize that being willing to allow others to read from another good literal ‘word for word’ translation in modern English could be the most important factor in growing as a disciple of Christ. Christ spoke in the language that the common man understood. Formal equivalencies like the NKJV, ESV, and the NASB put His words in modern English with the least amount of interpretative interjections into the text making them ideal choices for students and new Christians.

Finally, can you remember the last course you took in college or high school? Were the text books in modern English? Do you remember your history books? Were your history books written in Elizabethan English or modern English? They were written in modern English and the reason is the goal of the text book was to teach you history, not Elizabethan English.  The author wrote in the language of his intended reader, so he or she would have the greatest comprehension of the information in the textbook. The same is true for Paul. He wrote in Koine Greek, so his reader would have the greatest comprehension of his message. Paul is dead and he wrote in Greek. Today, we translate his words and others into English, and more specifically into modern English, so readers in the year 2014 can understand the words of Moses, David, Isaiah, Jesus, Matthew, Mark, Luke, Paul and others written thousands of years ago. Increasing comprehension is why we use other translations. Our loyalty should never be to a particular translation, but to the discipleship of as many souls God would give us. Discipleship always begins with personal application of the truth of the Word of God. And so I close by asking: How can a new disciple in Christ apply something from the Bible if they don’t understand what they are reading?

Freedom to Use More than One Translation

At BBA’s senior high ‘school’ retreat at Camp Anchorage, Pastors Bill, Joey, David, myself, and Mr. Farmer preached from the book of Colossians. Our preaching was focused on helping each student understand what Paul’s message was to the church at Colossae and its application to and for us today. Passages of Scripture were read and analyzed, and our ultimate goal was for the students to be able to comprehend the truths of God’s Word for themselves. We asked questions directly from the Bible text, and we wanted each individual student to be able to grasp the message of the text. This was certainly not an easy task, but we feel that the students are rapidly approaching adulthood, and they need to learn to read and understand the Bible for themselves. We know in Paul’s day these students would have been part of the house churches and small group assemblies where Paul’s letter was read aloud to the body of Christ. So, we did the same thing. We read the letter to the students, but our letter was different; it was a translation, but not just any translation; our translation was 400 years old.  It was translated in such a way that the people of the 17th and 18th century would have been able to understand the English well, but we are now in the 21st century, and our beloved English language has changed significantly. We don’t talk that way anymore; our vocabulary is decidedly different. We were preachers preaching with our hands tied behind our backs. There are newer, accurate translations we could have used, but the church constitution does not give us the freedom to utilize something different. And I have to ask: when it comes to our student ministries, how much longer will we continue to be handicapped in our ability to use an equally accurate and trustworthy translation without archaic renderings, obscure words, and difficult sentence structure? 

It is not necessary that everyone immediately stop using the KJV in favor of the ESV (English Standard Version). Last Sunday night, I showed a long list of very archaic words in the KJV from just the letter C; and unfortunately, the difficulty does not stop there. Numerous archaic words are employed throughout the KJV, and the only way one could insist that the KJV should be used exclusively is if there was acceptance of the theory that God led the KJV translators in a very specific way that was different than all other translation committees throughout history. Were they inspired of God to always pick the correct English words? In order to believe such a thing we would need to have Bible texts that prophesy of the coming of such an exclusive English translation. 

For 400 years, the KJV has undoubtedly stood the test of time. It is a very accurate translation, but as is the case with all translations, it is not perfect. All translations must be compared to the original manuscripts in the original languages, as well as against other translations, for the greatest clarity in understanding the meaning and intent of the text. Can we add a good word-for-word translation to the choices available for our teaching and preaching ministry? Can we have the freedom to use more than one translation?

Shopping for a New Church

Pastor Sean, What are the top ten things you would look for in a church, if you were shopping for a new church?

First ‘shopping’ for a church is a terrible word to use to describe the difficult process of finding a new local NT assembly of believers to unite with in covenant membership. But it aptly describes the process of visiting churches and praying for the will of the Lord to be revealed. So having said that, the first thing I would do is establish the biblical criteria I am looking for in a church and then use the Internet to compare and examine churches without having to visit them.  More research means fewer churches I have to visit. The goal would be to narrow down the choices and then visit several different services to get a better sense of the true nature of the church. With that brief introduction, the following ten points attempt to describe the criteria I would use in looking for a church.

1. The preaching would have to be primarily and thoroughly expositional  in nature with a strong emphasis in teaching  the Word of God in a text-driven manner verse by verse.  I would have to see that the words on the pages of the Bible is what is driving the direction of the sermon  and the preacher is committed to proclaiming the whole counsel of the Word of God , including the exclusivity of marriage being necessary for cohabitation and limited to one male and one female.  A failure to carry a physical  Bible to a pulpit (stand) would be a huge red flag for me; I am not looking for a life coach and witty conversation each Sunday.  

2. The pastors, elders, and deacons would have to be males only, and furthermore, men that I could respect.  The pastors would have to preach in person. I could not attend a church where the pastor preaches to me via video projection on a screen from another site or via a DVD.

3. The church as a whole would have to be solid on what the gospel  is and how one is converted or born again.  If the church practiced a ‘sinner’s prayer’ invitation or taught that people are saved by asking God to save them in a prayer,  I would cross that church off the list. I would want to see that the pastors understand that the gospel permeates all aspects of the Christian life.  Repentance toward God and faith in Christ  alone would have to be established as the hallmarks of what a man must do to be saved. I would have to sense that the preacher’s understanding is that it is God Who saves,  and salvation cannot be manipulated through man-made techniques.

4. The church would have to practice baptism by immersion for professing believers only.  While I respect my Presbyterian brothers in Christ, I believe they are way off on baptism, and I think it is a holdover from the Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions.

5. The doctrine of the church would have to fully affirm the essential fundamentals  of the Christian faith to include the verbal plenary inerrant inspiration of the original manuscripts of both the Old and New Testaments  and use a translation I respect for its accuracy.   I could not attend a church that believed God used an evolutionary process to create man.  The pastor would have to affirm the existence of Adam as the first man and Eve as the first woman  for me to be a member in that church.

6. I would have to see that the church was focused on global missions,  church planting, and evangelistic growth, as well as discipleship.   Supporting more missionaries at fewer dollars would be a red flag that the church doesn’t fully understand the relationship between sending churches and partners on the field.  How serious the church is about teaching children the Bible would be an excellent litmus test to measure how serious the church takes its mission to disciple converts.

7. The church would have to practice church discipline  and maintain a legitimate roll or membership. If members could join the church without so much as even an interview with a pastor or elder, that would be a red flag to me that they do not take church membership seriously.  I would not attend a church that did not practice a congregational  form of government.  Having elders would be a plus but only if the congregation elected the elders.

8. I would have to be confident that my tithes and offerings were being managed wisely and the leaders were good stewards of the money given to the church.  If the church has property, it is imperative that the buildings (nurseries) and grounds are being maintained to the glory of God. If the church looked like a dump,  it would be a serious red flag pointing to a lack of leadership and direction in the church.

9. The church could not have a greater emphasis on the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit than the gospel and the LORD of the gospel.   This might manifest itself in a culture of emphasizing the worship ‘experience’ versus the primacy preaching of the Word. If the church believed in a second baptism of the Holy Spirit as necessary for assurance of salvation or the requirement to speak in tongues to affirm salvation, it would be off the list.

10. I would have to sense that there wasn’t an air of arrogance or a culture of exclusivity in the congregation because of a sense of doctrinal superiority (sometimes present in Reformed Churches) or because of a sense of ‘rightness’ on the KJV Bible or the presence of personal holiness conduct such as ‘our women don’t wear pants’ (sometimes found in IFB churches). On the same note, if the congregation was exclusively white (or black), that would be of great concern to me.

While this list might not be as exclusive as it could be, it should provide a sufficient framework to begin to construct your own list of criteria as you diligently seek the Lord’s will concerning church membership.

A copy of this article is available with footnotes for scriptural support @ http://media.sermonaudio.com/articles/be-72314225348-1.PDF

A Mixed Multitude Church--Creating Ethnically Diverse Churches

The book of Exodus fittingly describes the exodus of Israelites out of Egypt to the land first promised to Abraham after 430 years in that pagan kingdom. You will recall the Israelites moved there because of a famine in the land where Jacob and his family lived. Unbeknownst to them, Joseph, the second to youngest son of Jacob and firstborn of Rachel, was already there. He was appointed Prime Minister of the land by Pharaoh and was led of the LORD to stockpile food in preparation for a 7 year famine.  The book of Genesis closes with Israel in good stead with the current Pharaoh, but the book of Exodus opens with a new Pharaoh who does not care for the Israelites. It is under this king that the Israelites are put into bondage and eventually begin to call out to the LORD to honor His covenant with Abraham.

God’s answer to the cry of His people is to manifest His great power in the deliverance of His people out of bondage through the leadership of one man, Moses. Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt and to the Promised Land via the parted Red Sea, where God’s power is on display for all to see, as walls of water are miraculously held in place so sons and daughters of Abraham can be free again. However, did you know that the group that crossed the Red Sea that day was not limited to sons and daughters of Abraham?  Verse 38 of chapter 12 of Exodus describes others who were with the Israelites as a ‘mixed multitude.’  The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates the words ‘mixed multitude’ as an ‘ethnically diverse crowd.’ The phrase ‘mixed multitude’ is instructive; it shows us that even while God had chosen Abraham and his descendants as His people, God was already concerned with people from all nations. As early as Exodus 12, God was saving people of all ethnicities, and the people who were saved out of Egypt were without question an ‘ethnically diverse’ group.

Today’s local church is anything but a mixed multitude in the majority of cases.

This isn’t God’s plan. One of the hallmarks of a true church is a culture where people of all races are welcomed into the congregation of believers with open arms. Lines of racial division are non-existent because of the gospel. All are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, and that blood is thicker than even biological ties. Jesus said as much to His disciples in Matthew 12:49-50, as His disbelieving family thought Him mad: ‘Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.’ Recognizing that God desires to save people of every kindred, tongue, people and nation (Rev. 5:9) must compel us to create a racially diverse church to properly reflect the intent of God.

Are you committed to that which God is committed? Are you sharing the gospel with people of all colors?

The great commission given to us by God demands that we reach the nations with the gospel. What does it say about a church that supports missionaries all over the world but does not reach out to people of color in its own community?

God’s saved a ‘mixed multitude’ out of Egypt, and Christ’s church must contain a ‘mixed multitude’ to reflect the heart of God.  Are you willing to cross lines and reach across the aisle to people of all colors?

Daisy Duke Shorts Is the Name I Know Them By

As styles change, as fabrics go in and out of style, the length of shorts also changes—going up or down the leg. Presently, the ‘daisy duke’ shorts from Dukes of Hazzard are the rage. We have seen them on campus for VBS. Teenage girls are wearing them to youth group. These are short shorts. These shorts basically have no inseam (the seam on the inside of the leg of a pair of shorts or pants [Webster]); or an inseam of 1 or 2 inches—which is then folded up virtually eliminating the inseam.  These shorts intentionally draw attention to a lady’s legs and the angle that is formed where the legs separate. These shorts are immodest. There is no debate or argument concerning the immodesty of these shorts. Christian women are NOT to wear these shorts (1 Timothy 2:9). A lady then adds a form fitting tank top to a pair of “daisy duke” shorts and you have one immodest woman or teenage girl. She comes to youth group or VBS where movement and lots of different activities occur, and she (perhaps unintentionally) presents herself as an object of lust because of the amount of flesh (human skin) she reveals.  This is especially true if she bends over to pick up a ball, a child in the nursery hallway or a piece of trash.

So here is my question: How many inches of fabric must be added to the length of the inseam of a pair of ‘Daisy Duke’ shorts to make them modest?  Dads or husbands: are you ok with adding 2 inches of length and calling them modest? Let me challenge you to take a pair of your daughter’s shorts, lay them on the ironing board and measure the inseam. Is a 3 inch inseam enough? Take your index finger and thumb and estimate 3 inches and ask yourself: “Is that enough? Will that provide sufficient covering so that the angle where the legs separate is not accentuated and enough fabric remains to cover the bottom when my daughter bends over?”  Husbands and dads of daughters: are you ignoring the issue because ‘happy wife (or daughter) means happy life’?  Ask yourself: what is the minimum acceptable inseam for a pair of shorts to be modest? Find a pair of shorts that you know are modest and measure the inseam on those shorts—that is your personal minimum acceptable inseam. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but clearly we can establish some guidelines. What is an acceptable inseam that makes a pair of shorts modest?

Church Discipline in the Church

Here is an example of a letter I had to write as a pastor about church discipline.

Dear Berean Family,

It is with regret that I am forced to tell you about two cases of church discipline we can’t ignore.  One involves a wife who is insisting upon divorcing her husband and will not provide any evidence that her desire for divorce is on biblical grounds. She simply doesn’t want to be married to her husband anymore. In the other case, a young adult has moved out of her parents’ house so she can cohabitate with her lover. She has ignored the will of her earthly and heavenly father and is ignoring the will of the church in this matter. Her desire to pursue this lifestyle is stronger than her desire to walk in the truth.

Paul instructs us in 1 Timothy 5:20 with these words: “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” We all sin. Paul sinned. Timothy sinned. I sin, and so do you. Obviously the church doesn’t rebuke every sin anytime anyone sins before all. Instead, I believe Paul is referring to those who sin and refuse to repent or change their current course of action. Paul instructs us that the potential censure from the church is supposed to act as an agent of deterrence in the life of the church member. Fear of censure from the church acts as restraining force in the life of the believer. I know I would lose my job and position in the church if I were to pursue an extramarital affair. Therefore, the potential of losing my job acts as a regulator to my conduct. There isn’t anything in the Word of God that suggests this idea is only for the pastors and deacons.

In the church at Corinth 2,000 years ago, a similar situation was going on with a man who was sleeping with his father’s wife. The church knew about it and was ignoring the sin (1 Cor. 5:1). Paul wrote a grilling letter to the Corinthian church telling them to stop ignoring the sin and cast the man out of the body of Christ if he refused to repent. And while there is a prevailing idea in the church that we are not to judge others about these matters of personal conduct and lifestyle choices (even the Pope has been interpreted as saying such a thing!), Paul says just the opposite. His words are found in 1 Cor. 5:3 where he says, “For I verily [truly], as absent in body, but present in spirit, [I] have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed.” Paul goes on to instruct the church to assemble in the name of the Lord and cast the man out of the assembly of believers until he repents. Paul rendered a judgment and directed the church to take action. They were not to ignore the sin. I challenge you to read 1 Corinthians 5 and let the word of God inform your opinion.

We also must not ignore unrestrained, unrepentant sin in the church.  On June XX we will have a special members meeting after the Sunday evening service to render a judgment and follow the Apostle Paul’s guidance to the church at Corinth and the words of our Lord Jesus in Matthew 18:17. Jesus said, “And if he [or she in these cases] shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.” Heathen men [women] are not allowed to be members of the church. Members of the church walk in the truth, and when they don’t, they repent and make course corrections.

Because everyone will not be in the Sunday night members meeting, I am using this forum of communication to ensure the maximum number of people in Berean understand that you can’t live in unrepentant sin and continue to be part of the body of Christ that meets at 517 Glensford Dr. If being part of the church means something to you (and it should), then I implore you by the grace of God to repent and walk in the light as our Father is light and in Him is no darkness at all.  Pray that both of these church members would repent between now and the members meeting. You don’t’ need to know their names to pray for them. You don’t need to know their names to know Berean Baptist Church isn’t ignoring unrepentant sin.

Finally, while some may struggle at what the church is doing in these two cases. I suspect all would want something done if the church member was molesting children or had murdered their parents. The only difference is the perceived seriousness of the sin, but the Word of God doesn’t permit cohabitation any more than murder. Both are violations of the commandments of the Lord. I implore you to let the Word of God inform your opinion and regulate your conduct through the power of the grace of God.

Proclaiming Christ,
Pastor Sean Harris

No One Wants to Talk About the Anger of God

No one wants to talk about God’s anger. 

Psalm 74 opens with this question: “Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?” (ESV). What a question! Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture? Notice who it smokes against. It is the sheep of his pasture. Not the heathen. Not the pagans. Not the unbelievers. These are the sheep of his pasture. The author of this psalm was not in the New Covenant. He was looking forward to a future redeemer who would take away his sins and bear his iniquities but he wasn't in the New Covenant. He had never heard the glorious words “there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christi Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Today we celebrate the reality that the atoning sacrifice of God’s own Son Jesus the Christ was deemed perfect and entirely acceptable for the sins of the whole world through the resurrection of Christ on that blessed third day. The wrath of God was fully and completely appeased for all who are in Christ Jesus and we know this to be a fact because God did not leave His Son in the tomb. It is empty! He is risen. He is risen indeed. The disciples saw the empty tomb and we believe their message was NOT a cunningly, devised fable created to lure people into following a dead man. Instead this weekend billions of people collectively pause and remember the reality that Christ rose from the grave as the first fruits of all who will eventually experience this same glorious resurrection. Will you?

The number of false converts, illegitimate sons and daughters, and professing but not possessing Christians is utterly staggering. Christ said, “Many in that day shall say unto me ‘LORD, LORD’” and he will say unto those who said, “LORD, LORD” “Depart from me I never knew you” (Matt. 7:21-23).

Is he truly your LORD?

If He is NOT your LORD then the anger of the LORD smokes against you because you are not in the New Covenant with God (John 3:36). How can you get in the New Covenant with God as your Father and Christ as your mediator (1 Tim. 2:5)? Turn to God with your whole heart and put every ounce of faith and trust in Christ’s death for your sins and believe with your heart that Christ rose from the grave on the third day and is presently seated on the right hand of God the Father on high interceding for all who believe He is the LORD of LORDS and King of Kings (Rom. 8:34; 10:9).

You don’t believe…cry out to God with a broken and contrite heart for the faith to believe the gospel.