Archive for category The Bible
The English word ‘Church’ has come to mean a lot of things to a lot of people. The most common is a building, a place of worship, of bricks and mortar, history, structures and things. The original English word however is derived from the Greek adjective Kyriakos meaning ‘the Lord’s House’.
Church in the New Testament however is from the Greek Ekklesia, meaning Congregation. Tyndale’s 1526 and 1534 Translations immediately spring to mind here. For Tyndale, the Christian Church was never a building or a hierarchy of bishops, popes and prelates, but a collective of equal souls, united in faith and bound together through the Bible. This concept is entirely Biblical, and even though the early New Testament Church did not have the entire Canon of Scripture, they had the Apostles teaching.
For them, the Ekklesia, was not merely a gentile thing, but was known and lived among the Jews.
While there certainly were many ‘Churches’ scattered throughout the cities of the New Testament, most, if not all of them were house Churches. I have visited many ancient sites throughout the Biblical lands and a majority of early ‘Church’ buildings were constructed centuries later. Despite this, the New Testament recognises there is only one Church. The modern ideas of pulling out of one Church and setting up your own is alien to the New Testament. Likewise, the idea of popery and one man leadership is unknown. What we see is a plurality of elders and deacons and a collective of equal souls.
In the New Testament, whether a Church be in Jerusalem, Antioch, Corinth, Philippi, Ephesus or Rome, it saw itself as one body. It was a heavenly reality, being built in this world and on this earth, where Jesus Christ is exalted at the right hand of the Father and in the midst of the Church (Hebrews 2: 12) and is head over her (Ephesians 1: 20-23)
Today however, because of false teachers and false doctrine, divisions are as common as muck. Because of circumstances, historic divisions, tribalism, the idea of one Church (in a context) simply does not work. I say this because no person who actually believes the Bible and knows that truth, can abide with a fake unity that excludes truth. As though right doctrine can be set aside, and categorised as unimportant in the cause of unifying people. It really doesn’t work!
But in Acts 21: 20, when they heard they glorified the Lord and many thousands of people believed. Other Churches grew and when Peter wrote his epistles, Churches had scattered to the south coast of Black Sea, Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia (1 Peter 1: 1) and this is in the context of persecution.
Thankfully, in England, we do not have any set persecution. Individuals may seek to undermine the faith and push down conservative values, but that will get them nowhere in the long run. A democratic society must be founded on freedom of conscience, belief and speech, otherwise we are not a democracy. So long as Christians do not attempt to force their beliefs on others, we are free to maintain them. If anyone seeks to force their beliefs and ethics upon us, they are guilty of doing what they condemn others of. Simply let them do their worst and their own extremist mindsets will expose their deeds.
This is actually quite a picture of the Church in the New Testament. Believers lived their lives, had families, met together, and the world did what the world always does. The New Testament Church never persecuted anyone, but visa versa. When read in this context, Romans 13: 1-7 makes perfect sense. The Church influences society, and works with the governments, but does not not rule them.
This is where todays independent Churches have got it right. However, I have come to understand that the idea of independent churches is unknown to the New Testament. Christ did not say I will build my churches but “I will build My Church…” (Matthew 16: 18). New Testament Churches may well have been established in various cities, but they were still part of one Church.
Thus, to answer my question, are independent Churches in the New Testament? My answer is no. But again, that is just my opinion.
One of the two Scripture readings from the Book of Common Prayer for today (Easter Day) is John 20: 1-10. In this passage John gave his account of the first day of the week where Mary Magdalene saw how the stone had been rolled away from the tomb of Christ and she ran to Simon Peter and the disciple Jesus loved to tell them “They have taken away the Lord from out of the sepulchre“.
In the passage from the BCP it is not difficult to hear Tyndale’s unmistakeable 16th century translation work. And if we look back centuries earlier, we can read Wycliffe’s 14th century translation, yet with a difference.
In verse 7 of the same passage, the 1388 Wycliffe translation makes reference to an English translation of a Latin word. This six letter word is “sudary” from the Latin Vulgate’s “Sudarium”.
The Sudarium is believed to be a bloodstained piece of cloth that was wrapped around the head of Christ after His death. Many learned people who believe the Shroud of Turin is the actual burial cloth of Christ also believe the Sudarium is a match.
The Wycliffe translation puts it this way;
“And in one day of the week, Mary Magdalele came early to the grave when it was yet dark. And she saw the stone moved away from the grave. Therefore she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to another disciple whom Jesus loved, and says to them, They have taken the Lord from the grave, and we wit not where they have laid Him! Therefore Peter went out and the ilk other disciple, and they came to the grave. And they twain ran together, and the ilk other disciple ran before Peter and came first to the grave. And when he stooped, he saw the sheets lying. Netheless, he entered not. Therefore Simon Peter came suing him, and he entered into the grave and he saw the sheets laid, and the sudary that was on His head, not laid with the sheets, but by itself lapped into a place. Therefore then, the ilk disciple that came first to the grave, entered and saw, and believed. For they knew not yet the Scripture that it behoved Him to rise again from death. Therefore the disciples went eftsoon to themselves.”
The Wycliffe New Testament 1388. The Gospel of John, Chapter XX
Today a Sudarium is in Oviedo, Spain. Opinion differs as to the authenticity, but it is the responsibility of each individual to weigh the evidences and make a decision. But whatever a person decides, the resurrection of Jesus Christ cannot be ignored.
my mother Joyce Sutherland went home to be with the Lord on February 17. I have dedicated this precious hymn to her. Joyce was a wonderful mother to me and all her children. I will never forget her and I will honour her memory and legacy for as long as I live.
Joyce Sutherland was not only my mother, but was a singer who worked with me from my earliest days and until the final moments. In the 1960’s Joyce and my father met Johnny Cash in Manchester. In 1991, Joyce met Johnny Cash once again, only this time, with me. She was loved by everyone she knew. Joyce had seven children and after the death of my father, spent her remaining years serving her family, friends and everyone she met with kindness, love and friendship.
Joyce became a Christian in 1972 after an experience with Christ that she told repeatedly throughout her life. I was the first born after she became a Christian. Joyce sang with me on most of my recordings and appeared in my live concerts, the last few being the UK’s only Bob Dylan Festival.
Joyce Sutherland’s story will be told.
This wonderful Anglican hymn was written by John Ellerton in 1888 while walking home from his Church in Cheshire. The lyrics are set to the tune of St Clement. The hymn is a national favourite and has become a theme song for me and I have used it in every documentary I have made. When I was in Paphos, filming my first documentary, I asked the Lord what music He wanted me to use for my documentary and immediately the brass band behind me broke into that tune. When I arrived back in England I hummed the tune, as I do in the recording, and asked my mother what the hymn was, and she said she knew it and sang it to me. I have used this hymn ever since and I will use it again. I have dedicated this version to Joyce and I hope it is a blessing to you.
Joyce Sutherland passed away peacefully in her sleep.
“Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust. From dust we came and to dust we shall return.”
Today we often hear claims that the Church of England was formed in 1534 by Henry V111. Often these claims are followed by repeated references to the lifestyle and apparently tyrannical ways of this king of England. By all accounts, the popular claim presents Henry V111 as the boogeyman.
The problem is, it is not true. It is only a fraction of the story.
The historic truth is that the Church of England was not formed in 1534 by Henry V111 because he wanted a new wife, it was actually formed in 597 AD by Augustine of Canterbury. The history shows that while visiting the Forum of Rome, Gregory saw some slaves and was fascinated by their hair and after inquiring of them, learned that they were in fact Angles (people who settled in Great Britain). Being burdened, Gregory met Augustine (of Canterbury) in a monastery in Rome and Augustine mentioned his desire to be a missionary in Britain. Gregory granted permission for Augustine to go to Britain, and in 597 he established a Church in Canterbury where he baptised a quantity of persons. This mission is known as the Gregorian mission and this is the date and event that marks the formal history of the Church of England. Today, Canterbury Cathedral stands in the location associated with that event.
So in answer to my rhetorical title “Was the Church of England formed in 1534?” the answer is no! What happened in 1534 was the Act of Supremacy, being brought about as a response to years and years of doctrinal division and the false usurping of unbiblical teaching and unholy living of Pope’s and clergy, past and present. If you will, it can be likened to a 16th century ecclesiastical Brexit. Just as England and Britain have existed long before the EU, so the Church of England existed long before the creation of Roman Catholicism at the East-West Schism (Great Schism) of 1054.
The reality is the 1534 Act of Supremacy was an engineered event. 16th century reformers William Tyndale, Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer knew full well what they were doing, and they used and engineered Henry’s desire for a new wife as a Nosus Decipio to get this 16th century Ecclesiastical Brexit Done.
Did everybody agree? No. There was and always will be remainers and Brexiteers. But thank God for William Tyndale and for Thomas Cranmer.
The original 1549 Book of Common Prayer by Thomas Cranmer is a wonderful and historically significant Christian book. In Rylands Library I have had the honour of reviewing and researching ancient original copies of this work, in the original prints and wording.
The original Book of Common Prayer supports the claim to universal redemption as a consistent Christian truth. The text of reads as follows;
“First, I Leanne to believe in God the father, who hathe made me and the worlde.
Secondly, in God the sonne, who hath redeemed me and all mankind.
Thirdly, I God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me, and all the electe people of God” (The Book of Common Prayer. 1549. A Cathechisme.)
The proposed questions which I set forth are these;
Q. does this article consider the possibility that the world does not mean ‘the entire world’? That is the entire human race?
A. No it does not. The text clearly states in clear basic terms for simple Christians in England during the 16th century, not to view the world as meaning only the elect or the people from within the world, but all the world. If God made all the world and this means ‘all’, then it follows that when the passage speaks of redeeming “all mankind”, that it means ‘all’ and not only some.
Q. Does this imply universalism? Or does this imply universal offering of redemption?
A. I think the word “redemption” states that the passage refers to universal redemption, that is in the sense of Christ regaining possession of mankind, in the context of a payment. It does not imply universalism. I think there is not even a hint of limited atonement within this article.
Q. But does not the text say “sanctifieth me, and all the elect”? Yes, it does. That those whom have the Holy Spirit are elect and are sanctified by Him and when the Holy Spirit is given, His work is effectual for those who believe. But that belief must be present, active and continuous. A person need not be understood as ‘elect’ because he or she has been determined by God to be elect in order to believe, but that he or she is elect because they believe.
Once again we see further proofs in favor of my claim that the Calvinistic doctrine of ‘Limited Atonement’ need not be understood as pure reformed teaching.
We must consider that if Christ has died for all, He must have made a way for all to receive Him, as communicated throughout the New Testament. But Calvinism cruelly offers salvation to people when in reality it knows all too well that unless a person is determined to believe, he or she cannot receive the grace of God unless that soul has been predestined and elected to salvation by the deterministic power of ‘God’. It offers a man bread only to give him a stone.
It is a very cruel doctrine that is somewhat deceptively diluted by many modern Calvinist preachers and presented as reformed. Yet the 39 Articles of Religion (1562) do not teach it. On the contrary, Article XXX1 (31) states the following;
“The Offering of Christ once made it that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone.”
In 2019 I visited Westminster Abbey for the very first time. This was of course in our pre ‘Covid-19’ world which can at times seem a little difficult to conceive. It can almost appear a lifetime ago when people wandered around with hardly anybody wearing face masks, or socially distancing themselves.
To go back even further, I remember visiting Big Ben with my parents back in the 1980’s. However, since Lancashire is well north of London, many of my later visits had centralised themselves around the music scene. History had not yet taken it’s prominence with me.
Today, London has changed quite a lot. It is still however, one of those great places where all people can still find something to do. Whether you are a Christian or a history fanatic like me, a saint or a sinner, or someone who just likes to enjoy the moment, few can deny that visiting Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament rarely makes anyone feel out of place. Or at least it shouldn’t do.
Then comes matters of faith, where the soul of a Christian can often feel out of place in this ever changing world, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come.” (Hebrews 13: 14) Then comes the material Ecclesiastical buildings known as Churches. They can without doubt help the tent of the soul to feel at home. I certainly did, especially when I reached Westminster Abbey.
Westminster Abbey is a beautiful place that was founded in 960 AD and although the present building dates to the 13th century, it is believed to be dedicated to St Peter.
Standing outside Westminster Abbey can leave a person in awe. While contemplating the many souls and pilgrims who have, for many centuries, been visiting and worshipping here, it is not difficult to reflect upon your own mortality.
It was here where, at the Abbey, where folklore claims the expression “robbing Peter to pay Paul” either originated or at least, took on a new meaning. The story goes that when Westminster was dissolved in 1550, some of the assets were sold to fund the repairs for the old St Pauls.
Curiously enough, St Pauls Cathedral sits 2 miles away from Westminster Abbey who’s architecture differs dramatically. The former has external similarities to St Peter’s Basilica (Vatican), whereas Westminster Abbey is distinctly gothic.
At times the Abbey can have the feeling of looking like a ghost or a spirit from the past. It is alive but not alive, like a soul who has long gone but who’s spirit lives on. I speak course of the building, and not of any humans. The Christian Church however is not a building, but a people. A congregation of human souls who are united in and through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Today however, Christians are not always united. Doctrine divides. One person follows this teacher, another follows that. Yet all claiming to read the same Bible. Strange isn’t it that too many congregations have separated themselves and are all too quick to condemn others for holding opinions that differ to their own. Yet each one reading from the same Bible.
However, it was here, at Westminster Abbey, on Saturday 23rd February 2019 that I decided for certain that I am joining the Church of England and here I will stay. The Anglican communion is far from perfect, but at least here people can agree to disagree.
Since that time I have been drawn to prayer more than ever and the Book of Common Prayer has helped me enormously through the difficult seasons of lockdown.
Today, in September 2020, a person does not need to look very far to see that this world is a mess. England is no better. Such is always the case when nations abandon the principles of their Maker. But I have a hope within me that England and the Church will be great again, even if the Lord judges her before that time. Light After Darkness (Post Tenebras Lux) is written in creation. Of this I am sure.
I am also sure that although great buildings may not actually be the Church, they can certainly help believers congregate together, and hopefully, if right doctrine permits, dwell together in unity and in truth.
During the Coronavirus Pandemic, a lot of people, Christians and none believers, have been asking a lot of questions. Many Christian spokesmen, leaders and organisations have been expressing their views concerning Covid-19 and its relation to the Christian worldview.
As is common, some views I have agreed with others not. However, it appears that eschatology has become quite topical and many take the viewpoint that we are in the ‘end times’. And in some sense, I would agree.
However, the New Testament is clear that this world has been in the “Last days” (ages, aeons) since the time of Christ. This is stated very clearly in Hebrews 1: 1-2.
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, who He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.
The Epistle of Hebrews was written prior to the events of AD 70 and the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by Titus. This means that the original author of Hebrews, understood the “last days” as an age that had already begun in his day. However, this right understanding is not always mentioned by dispensationalist thinkers. On the contrary, many Christians understand the “last days” as though it either specifically relates to now or our future, but rarely as a period that began 2000 years ago and could span thousands of years.
When I was a young Christian, the majority eschatological opinion, more often than not, conditioned that term ‘last days’ as expressively related to a time in the distant future when the antichrist would sign a peace treaty and a seven year tribulation would follow. This interpretation is taken from Daniel 9: 27.
But not everybody has subscribed to that interpretation.
When I was a young Christian and newly baptised, I was often presented with a then recent publication called ‘Approaching Hoofbeats’ by Billy Graham. The book was popular back then and the dramatic title intrigued me and although I never read it, I often left the Book of Revelation alone through some form of unease.
Well meaning Christians would say ‘We are in the last days’ and read passages to me relating to ‘antichrist’ and a ‘rapture’. “One will be taken, one will be left” (Matthew 24: 40-41) Yet no one ever referenced any other viewpoint, or mentioned the many contrasting interpretations of those passages.
Eager to read the Bible for myself, I grew up, and after reading the Bible from start to finish, I eventually reached an opposite view. I read the Gospel of Matthew in its original context and could not see any reason why our Lord Jesus Christ would warn, or inform, 1st century believers about events that would happen in Jerusalem thousands of years later when they would be no longer on earth.
This is also true of the Book of Revelation. I still see no reason why John would write to Seven Churches in Asia Minor about events that would happen thousands of years later after those original readers were all dead.
It was then that I realised that this common ‘end times’ theology radically took the original 1st century readers out of the equation.
To cut a long story short, I can now comfortable state that I reject Premillennial and Dispensational eschatology. I view this theological system as incredibly inconsistent with the original meaning of many Bible passages and what Scripture reveals Christ achieved during His Life, Death, Burial, Resurrection and Ascension.
Now days being in the Conservative Evangelical wing of the Church of England, I need not listen to ‘Premillennialism’ since the majority view, (if it is ever discussed) is ‘Amillennial’.
I have now reached a point in life where I am ready to engage in the eschatological debate and challenge this idea of ‘Premillennialism’ with Scriptural and historical facts.
Having said that, I accept that eschatology is in no way a salvation issue and I do not look down upon other Christians as half Christians for believing something different than I. But I have no doubts that many other Christians will not offer me the same in return.
On May 6, over 450 years ago, William Salesbury published The Book of Common Prayer and Psalms, newly translated, into Welsh.
This 16th century prayer book had been previously written for use within the Church of England by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. The Book of Common Prayer would become an important spiritual ingredient in the daily diet of Christians throughout England, and beyond, and continues to be used by Anglicans, even to this day.
The Book of Common Prayer and Psalms has been deeply revered within Christianity, and a majority of English Bibles were printed and bound with it from the 16th century up to the 19th century. It was that important.
Early 19th century editions published by the British and Foreign Bible Society are among some of the earliest Bibles to exclude the BCP. But earlier printed Bibles such as the Geneva Bible and King James Bibles, all contained Cranmer’s Prayer book.
In the year 1567, William Salesbury had translated his version into Welsh under the title; Lliver Gweddi Gyffredin. Back in those days Parliament was Biblically minded and Westminster had given Salesbury the deadline of 1 March 1567 (St David’s Day) to publish his translation. Sadly that deadline was missed. The Book of Common Prayer and Psalms into Welsh did not appear until May 6. But it was not without its opponents.
Anger had outburst by opponents of the Welsh tongue, and people had aggressively demanded that the translation be utterly abandoned. But such opposition was unfruitful. Salesbury did not give in.
Lliver Gweddi Gyffredin was published on 6 May 1567. But Salesbury was the translator, not the author.
Cranmer’s original Book of Common Prayer had been a work of absolute genius and Christian devotion. Rather than divide the Church, Cranmer sought to unify her through Scripture and Prayer.
Cranmer’s prayer book is a very special gift and people would always do well to read it. The Book of Common Prayer and Psalms is a monumental work that has echoed on through the centuries and has fed the Church of God with Scripture, through with Prayer.
It is not a book of ‘prayers’, it is a book of prayer. We need more of that today, perhaps more now than ever.
2020 marks the 400th anniversary of the Welsh Bible and the 500th anniversary of the traditional birthdate of Welsh New Testament translator William Salesbury.
According to tradition, William Salesbury was born in 1520 and died sometime around 1580 or 1584. He was from a small town in North Wales and became one of the greatest scholars and Christian hero’s Wales has ever known.
He became an Oxford scholar and withdrew into seclusion during the reign of Mary Tudor between 1553-1558. In 1567 he published a Welsh translation of the New Testament which became the foundation for the 1588 Welsh Bible by Bishop William Morgan.
2020 also marks the 400th anniversary of 1620 Revision of the Welsh Bible by Bishop Richard Parry and Dr John Davies and events around Wales will be held to commemorate this event.
My documentary “William Salesbury, The Man from Lllansannan” marks the dawn of my journey into the history of the Church in Wales and Welsh Christian history. This documentary is my contribution to the life and legacy of this most excellent and dedicated Christian man. Of whom Wales owes so much.
Throughout the Bible, people read, spoke and heard people speak in their own languages. Jesus read the Scriptures in Hebrew, one of His own languages (Luke 4: 16). At Pentecost, the people were confounded because they heard people speak in their own languages (Acts 2: 6). The Apostles and New Testament authors wrote in languages people could understand and the early Church translated them into the common tongue.
Let us remember those who were once in great need of reading the Scriptures in their own languages and remember those who gave their lives and dedication to seeing the most important Book in the world translated into the common tongue.