‘Just teaching the Bible to a few children doesn’t seem like great progress’. This might be our reaction to the pictures of Iraqi Sunday school children on page 15. But if you are tempted to think like that, you would surely be wrong.
In this and next month’s ETwe recall the famous adventure of young Mary Jones — who trekked over the Welsh hills to obtain a copy of God’s Word. Today, with a multiplicity of Scripture versions to choose from, the story may seem quaint and remote. But we must not miss its underlying challenges.
Both Mary Jones and Thomas Charles (the Calvinistic Methodist minister who supplied the precious Book) realised what a Welsh Bible could do for Mary and others — and, conversely, what a disaster biblical illiteracy would be for her and them.
To understand and obey the teaching of Scripture, as it witnesses to Jesus Christ the only Saviour, is to find salvation. To be deprived of this opportunity is to perish eternally (Proverbs 29:18; Romans 10:14).
How different the world would be if its teeming millions had the Bible to read for themselves. ‘The entrance of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple’ (Psalm 119:130). What evils might be removed, what sufferings ameliorated! What love would replace hatred — what joy and peace would dismiss ignorance and fear!
Would young suicide bombers have attacked London if they had been nourished on the truths of Jesus Christ rather than the hatred of fanatics? Would Serbian ‘Christians’ have massacred 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica if they had imbibed God’s Word rather than mere church traditions? We think not!
While exposure to truth does not of itself produce a righteous life, it remains a vital precursor for salvation, leading to godly conduct: ‘How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to your word’ (Psalm 119:9).
Some people remain incorrigible however much gospel light they receive. But many are preserved by that light from sin’s worst excesses. It keeps the lid on violence and immorality (1 Timothy 1:8-11) and society is less hellish than it might otherwise be. This is not an insignificant gain, even to the lost.
But let’s face it — if modern Mary Jones were to knock indiscriminately on the doors of ‘Christian’ ministers and ask for a Bible, she could be in for a nasty shock. The one answering the door would very probably dissent from Mary’s convictions — metaphorically at least, most ministers threw their Bibles away years ago!
Many such preachers might pay lip service to Mary’s piety, but they would not emulate or recommend it. They might gently sit Mary down and explain that she needs a far more up-to-date ‘revelation’ than just a Bible can provide.
Some clergy might supply her with the Book, but would also insist kindly that she take the Koran or Upanishads (or some such writing) as well. In fact, Mary would be well advised to make careful advance enquiries before she chose a minister to visit. (To be fair, it was probably similar in her day!)
But here and there, thank God, she would still find preachers who believe that the Bible is a ‘light that shines in a dark place’; that the scriptures are gloriously sufficient to lead people directly to Jesus Christ the Son of God; and thence to heaven.
Let us strive to get the Bible and its teaching into the hands
and mindsof the billions of children and adults inhabiting our whole wide world. They desperately need it. And we can do something about it. Here is a service UK churches can render — both at home and on the mission field