Category Archives: Book endorsement

What Makes A Bible Translation Good?

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD
The Bible is the Word of God, and we should be grateful that is has been translated from its original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) into many languages of the world, including English. There are many translations of the Bible into English. Some of them are better than others, and that is the subject of this article.
There are several features that make a Bible translation good. These include the translators'(plural) view of the Bible. If they consider it to be what it is, the Word of God, that will make it a better translation than if they consider the Bible to be merely a good book, but not God’s Good Book. Furthermore, if translators accept the teachings of the Bible as God-given, that, too, will help them make a better translation of it than if they consider its teachings as man-given. Another feature that make some translations better than others are the original-language texts upon which translations are based. There is some variation in the reliability of these texts. The more reliable they are, the better they will be from which to make translations. Yet another one of the features that makes some English translations better than others is the philosophy or principle of translation followed by its translators. The best guide to follow in the translation process is known as “the essentially literal” or “the word-for-word” philosophy or principle. Simply put, when this guide is followed, it means the translators do their best to put the original languages into another language, such as English, so that the translation accurately represents what is found in the original languages. To follow this guide means the translators keep explanation and commentary to a minimum in the translation itself. If explanation and commentary are used, they will be put in footnotes or marginal notes, not in the translation.
Bible scholar Leland Ryken addresses this important subject in his excellent book, “The Word Of God In English (Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation).” This book is a “must read” for those who want to look into this subject in-depth. In the chapter, “Fidelity to the Words of the Original,” Ryken made many important points that relate to the subject we are considering. Take, for example, his statement, “Translating the words of the original minimizes blurring the line between translation and interpretation, whereas dynamic equivalent translations continually mingle translation and interpretation, often depriving readers of the freedom to reach their own conclusions about the correct interpretation of a passage.” (Ryken’s book is published by Crossway. Copyright, 2002 by Leland Ryken.)
What are some of the Bible translations that follow the very important “essentially literal”/”word-for-word” principle or philosophy of translation? Ryken rightly puts the following examples into that category: The King James Version, New King James Version, American Standard Version, New American Standard Version, English Standard Version, Revised Standard Version, and the Modern English Version. (Ryken has two different opinions about the New Revised Standard Version. In his book mentioned above he says it is a dynamic equivalent translation, but in a chart at the end of his booklet called “Choosing A Bible,” he says it is an essentially literal translation. Perhaps he means it is more an essentially literal translation than a dynamic equivalent translation.)
In contrast to “essentially literal”/”word-for-word” translations are paraphrases of the Bible. These are known for their being more interpretive restatements of the Bible’s original languages, or of previous translations. What are some of the paraphrases of the Bible? Ryken rightly puts the following examples into that category: The Living Bible(TLB), by Ken Taylor; The Message(TM), by Eugene Peterson; The New Testament In Modern English(NTME), by J. B. Phillips. Paraphrases should always be sparingly used because they are not translations.
Different from “essentially literal”/”word for word” translations and Bible paraphrases are what are called “dynamic equivalent” translations. These translations are known for their attempt to put into English the meaning or thought of the original languages. What are some of the translations that do not as closely follow “the essentially literal”/”word-for-word” principle or philosophy of translation as the ones named above, but can be considered to be dynamic equivalent translations? Ryken rightly puts the following into that category: The New Living Translation(NLT), Contemporary English Version(CEV), Good News Bible(GNB), New International Version(NIV), Today’s New International Version(TNIV), and Today’s English Version(TEV).
Let us now consider the very popular, previously-mentioned New International Version as an example of what is known as a “dynamic equivalent translation.” This distinguishes it from the translations that more closely follow “the essentially literal”/”word-for-word” principle or philosophy of translation as do the King James Version, New King James Version, American Standard Version, New American Standard Version, English Standard Version, Revised Standard Version, and the Modern English Version.
That the NIV is, at least to some degree, a dynamic equivalent translation is proven by certain statements in the Preface to the 1984 edition, as found in “The NIV Worship Bible”, which is published by Zondervan and copyrighted 1988. On page x of the Preface we read the following statements: “The first concern of the translators has been the accuracy of the translation and its fidelity to the thought of the Biblical writers. They have weighed the significance of the lexical and grammatical details of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts. At the same time they have striven for more than a word-for-word translation. Because thought patterns and syntax differ from language to language, faithful communication of the meaning of the writers of the Bible demands frequent modifications in sentence structure and constant regard for the contextual meaning of words.” And on page xi of the Preface we find further evidence of the influence of dynamic equivalence on the NIV. It says, “Because for most readers today the phrases ‘the LORD of hosts’ and ‘God of hosts’ have little meaning, this version renders them ‘the LORD Almighty’ and ‘God Almighty.’ These renderings convey the sense of the Hebrew, namely, ‘he who is sovereign over all the “hosts” (powers) in heaven and on earth, especially over the “hosts” (armies) of Israel.” The concern for “fidelity to the thought of the Biblical writers,” instead of their words is a guiding principle of dynamic equivalent translations. The same thing is true of the reference to conveying “the sense of the Hebrew.”
That the NIV is, at least to some degree, a dynamic equivalent translation is also proved by the fact that one of its advocates, Lawrence O. Richards, says so. The following quote is taken from the Preface to his book, “The Zondervan Expository Dictionary Of Bible Words,” which was published by Zondervan in 1985, and which has a copyright of 1985, 1991 by The Zondervan Corporation. The book is very valuable, even for those who are not used to more technical aspects of Bible study. In the quote, Richards refers to the NIV(New International Version), NASB(New American Standard Bible), ASV(American Standard Version), and the RSV(Revised Standard Version). Here is part of what Lawrence O. Richards wrote: “Because there are so many different versions of the Bible in English, it is necessary to narrow our focus; we will consider the two versions that are used most frequently in Bible study. These are the NIV and the NASB.
“The NIV is especially acceptable to evangelicals. This translation was undertaken by over a hundred scholars from many countries and various denominations. All of them were conservative in their commitment to the full authority and trustworthiness of Scripture as God’s Word. The result of their years of work is an attractive, readable, and clear expression in contemporary English of the thought of the original Hebrew and Greek writings.
“Translators face a number of problems. Many of these occur because single words in any language have more than single meanings. It is the task of Bible translators, therefore, to study the way a Hebrew or Greek term is used in particular sentences and to determine the shade of meaning intended in each context. Thus different English words or phrases are used to translate a single original term. Conversely, the same English word may be use to translate several different Hebrew or Greek terms.
“None of the English versions provide a word-for-word translation, with the same English word always being used to translate the same Hebrew or Greek word. Instead, in varying degrees translators adopted a principle called dynamic equivalence. That is, they have attempted to ascertain the meaning (or connotation) of the word or phrase in the source language and to express that meaning in the receptor language. The more the translators of a given version relied on the use of dynamic equivalence, the more difficulty we can expect in tracing concepts from English back to specific Hebrew or Greek words.
“How have the translators of different versions approached their task? The translators of the ASV attempted to translate word for word as much as possible. Ken Taylor’s Living Bible, on the other hand, is a very loose paraphrase, shaped often by the translator’s own interpretations. The NASB tends toward the approach of the ASV. The RSV and NIV fall between these extremes, though the translators of the NIV were more ready to seek dynamic equivalents than were the RSV translators.”
Consider some key statements that Richards made about the NIV that should make us have some reservations about it:
1.) “The result of their years of work is an attractive, readable, and clear expression in contemporary English of the thought of the original Hebrew and Greek writings.”
2.) “The more the translators of a given version relied on the use of dynamic equivalence, the more difficulty we can expect in tracing concepts from English back to specific Hebrew or Greek words.”
3.)”How have the translators of different versions approached their task? The translators of the ASV attempted to translate word for word as much as possible. Ken Taylor’s Living Bible, on the other hand, is a very loose paraphrase, shaped often by the translator’s own interpretations. The NASB tends toward the approach of the ASV. The RSV and NIV fall between these extremes, though the translators of the NIV were more ready to seek dynamic equivalents than were the RSV translators.”
Here are my replies to these statements:
1.) We don’t want a translation to give us “the thought of the original Hebrew and Greek writings”, but the translated words of those writings. A translator’s thoughts can easily become commentary and explanation, when what we need is translation. Let the Bible’s readers figure out for themselves what the Bible means. This often requires the use of reference works, such as commentaries and Bible dictionaries. But we should not expect translations to also function as commentaries and dictionaries.
2.) Dynamic equivalent translations are a problem because, as Richards said, “the more difficulty we can expect in tracing concepts from English back to specific Hebrew or Greek words.” To make Bible study more difficult is not a good thing.
3.) Lawrence O. Richards pointed out, “the translators of the NIV were more ready to seek dynamic equivalents than were the RSV translators.” This proves the fact that the NIV was influenced by the principle of dynamic equivalence. This is not a good thing, for a dynamic equivalent translation is always less reliable than an “essentially literal/word-for-word” translation.
Here is something interesting that is related to our subject: for many years I have profitably used the 12-volume commentary set called “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary.” It is based on the NIV. But its frequent corrections of the NIV have weakened my confidence in that translation.
So, what should be done with this information? First, the logical thing to do is to use “essentially literal/word-for-word” translations as our primary translations for daily reading and Bible study. Of course, preachers, pastors, and Bible teachers should use this kind of translations in their ministries. Dynamic equivalent translations should only be read and studied as secondary translations, that is, as helps in Bible reading and study. I recommend these “essentially literal/word-for-word” translations: the New King James Version, the Modern English Version, the King James Version, the New American Standard Version(updated edition), and the English Standard Version. (The King James Version, the New King James Version, and the Modern English Version are all related to one another, the last two being revisions of the King James Version.) The Holman Christian Standard Bible, according to the Introduction, uses a translation principle it calls “optimal equivalence,” which seems to be a moderate blend of the “essentially literal/word-for-word” and “dynamic equivalence” translation principles. Thus, it is more reliable than those translations that depend more heavily on dynamic equivalence, as does the NIV.
Second, do not make the use of “essentially literal/word-for-word” translations a test of Christian orthodoxy and fellowship. True and dedicated Christians often use translations influenced by dynamic equivalence, such as the NIV. That should not cause a division between them and those of us who do not approve of a translation that is heavily influenced by the principle of dynamic equivalence, unless, of course, the presence of dynamic equivalence is found to be so strong that the translation is generally unworthy of use. If that is the case, it is most likely not a dynamic equivalent translation but a paraphrase of the Bible. And, as said above, paraphrases should always be sparingly used because they are not translations of the Bible.



By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

Bible reading is important for many reasons, all of which are found in the Bible itself. Below is the entire third chapter of the apostle Paul’s second letter to his preacher-friend, Timothy. It is quoted from The Modern English Version, which is based on the same original language texts as the King James Version. The MEV is also a literal translation of the original languages, in contrast to some modern English translations. As you read the following chapter, look for the reasons Bible reading is so important.

2 Timothy 3 Modern English Version (MEV)
The Last Days
3 Know this: In the last days perilous times will come. 2 Men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 without natural affection, trucebreakers, slanderers, unrestrained, fierce, despisers of those who are good, 4 traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness, but denying its power. Turn away from such people.
6 Those of this nature creep into houses and captivate silly women who are burdened with sins and led away with various desires, 7 always learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so these also resist the truth, men of corrupt minds and worthless concerning the faith. 9 But they shall proceed no further, for their folly will be revealed to everyone, as theirs also was.
Last Charge to Timothy
10 But you have observed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, tolerance, love, patience, 11 persecutions, and afflictions, which came to me at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra—what persecutions I endured! But the Lord delivered me out of them all. 12 Yes, and all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and seducers will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But continue in the things that you have learned and have been assured of, knowing those from whom you have learned them, 15 and that since childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through the faith that is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Modern English Version (MEV) The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.

Here are some reasons Bible reading is so important: 1) The Bible tells us what to expect in the last days, and we are seeing these things now. 2) It tells us to continue in its truths. 3) It tells us the importance of learning the Bible when we are young, for by it we learn how to be saved. (But it’s better to learn it late than never.) 4) It tells us it is inspired, which, simply defined, means it is from God, it is the Word of God.. 5) It tells us it is a profitable book in several practical ways. Therefore, be an avid Bible reader.

The MEV quote was taken from this website:

“The One Condidtion Of Salvation,” by Lewis Sperry Chafer

Below is chapter 5 of an excellent book by Lewis Sperry Chafer. This book, and others by the same author, are referred to below. It is hoped that you will read it with an open mind, for it clarifies what one must do to be saved by Jesus Christ. The whole book can be read online by clicking on this link to it:

SALVATION by Lewis Sperry Chafer, Bible Teacher and Author of “Satan,” “True Evangelism,” “The Kingdom in History and Prophecy,” “He that is Spiritual,” etc,
Copyright © 1917
NOTWITHSTANDING all that has been divinely accomplished for the unsaved, they are not saved by it alone. Salvation is an immediate display of the power of God within the lifetime and experience of the individual, and is easily distinguished from those potential accomplishments finished nearly two thousand years ago in the cross.
As has been stated, salvation is a work of God for man, rather than a work of man for God. No aspect of salvation, according to the Bible, is made to depend, even in the slightest degree, on human merit or works. Great stress is laid on the value of good works which grow out of a saved life, but they do not precede salvation or form any part of a basis for it. It, therefore, is revealed that the first issue between God and an unsaved person in this age is that of receiving Christ, rather than that of improving the manner of life, however urgent such improvement may be.
This insistence seems to mere human reason to be an indirect, if not aimless, means of obtaining the moral improvement of men. The need of moral improvement is most evident, and simply to try to help men to be better would seem to be the direct and logical thing to do. However, the divine program strikes deeper and purposes a new creation out from which good works can flow and apart from which there can be no acceptable works in the sight of God. Unsaved men are thus shut up to the one condition upon which God can righteously make them to be new creatures in Christ Jesus.
With regard to the necessity of a new creation the unregenerate are blind in their minds (II Corinthians 4:3, 4) . So also about this need a multitude of professing Christians are poorly taught, resulting in a well nigh universal misconception of the demands of the gospel. When dealing with the unsaved, false issues are often raised and these unscriptural demands appear in many forms. Satan’s ministers are said to be the ministers of righteousness (II Corinthians 11:14, 15). They waive aside the Bible emphasis on a new birth, which is by the power of God through faith and which is the only source from which works acceptable to God can be produced, and devote their energy to the improvement, morally and righteously, of the individual’s character. Such workers, in spite of their sincerity and humanitarian motives, are by the Spirit of God said to be “the ministers of Satan.”
The fact that the unregenerate are blinded by Satan in regard to the true gospel of grace is the explanation of the age-long plea of the moralist: “If I do the best I can God must be satisfied with that, else He is unreasonable.” Granting that anyone has ever done his best, it would still be most

imperfect as compared with the infinite holiness of God. God cannot, under any conditions, call that perfect which is imperfect, and He is far from unreasonable in demanding a perfect righteousness, impossible to man, while He stands ready to provide as a gift all that His holiness requires. This is exactly the offer of the Gospel. The Scriptures do not call on men of this age to present their own righteousness to God; but invite unrighteous men to receive the very righteousness of God which may be theirs through a vital union with Christ. The appeal is not self-improvement in the important matters of daily life, but that “the gift of God which is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” might be received. When this eternal issue is met the more temporal matters of conduct are urged; but only on the grounds of the fact that divine salvation has been wrought for sinful man wholly apart from his own works.
The question confronting each individual, therefore, is that of the basis upon which this new creation can be gained. In such an undertaking man is powerless. All his ability must be forever set aside. It must be accomplished for him, and God alone can do it. He alone can form a new creation; He alone can deal with sin; He alone can bestow a perfect righteousness; He alone can translate from the powers of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son.
If it were only a question of power to transform men the creative power of God has always been sufficient; but there was a greater difficulty caused by the fact of sin. Sin must first be judged, and no favor or grace can be divinely exercised until every offense of righteousness has been fully met. God cannot look on sin with the least degree of allowance, and so He can grant His favor only by and through the cross wherein, and only wherein, the consequences of sin have been forever met in His sight. Thus salvation can be accomplished, even by the infinite God, only through Jesus Christ. Hence it is that a simple trust in the Saviour opens the way into the infinite power and grace of God. It is “unto every one that believeth,” “For there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.”
This one word “believe” represents all a sinner can do and all a sinner must do to be saved. It is believing the record God has given of His Son.
In this record it is stated that He has entered into all the needs of our lost condition and is alive from the dead to be a living Saviour to all who put their trust in Him. It is quite possible for any intelligent person to know whether he has placed such confidence in the Saviour. Saving faith is a matter of personal consciousness. “I know whom I have believed.” To have deposited one’s eternal welfare in the hands of another is a decision of the mind so definite that it can hardly be confused with anything else.
On this deposit of oneself into His saving grace depends one’s eternal destiny. To add, or subtract, anything from this sole condition of salvation is most perilous. The Gospel is thus often misstated in various and subtle ways. The more common of these should be mentioned specifically:
First, The unsaved are sometimes urged to pray and hope for an attitude of leniency on the part of God toward their sins: whereas they should be urged to believe that every aspect of favor and expression of love has already been wrought out by God Himself.

They are not believing God when they beseech Him to be reconciled to them, when He is revealed as having already accomplished a reconciliation. The Gospel does not inspire a hope that God will be gracious: it discloses the good news that He has been gracious and challenges every man but to believe it. A criminal pleading for mercy before a judge is not in the same position as a criminal believing and rejoicing in the assurance that a full pardon is granted and that he can never be brought again into judgment.
Second, It is a most serious error to intrude any form of human works into a situation wherein God alone can work.
People are sometimes led to believe that there is saving value in some public confession of Christ, or profession of a decision. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” This is salvation. “With the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” This is the voice of the new-born child speaking to and of its Father. The only condition on which one may be saved is to believe.
Third, It is equally as great an error to give the unsaved the impression that there is saving virtue in promising to try to “lead a Christian life.”
No unregenerate mind is prepared to deal with the problems of true Christian living. These problems anticipate the new dynamic of the imparted divine nature, and could produce nothing but hopeless discouragement when really contemplated by an unregenerate person. There is danger, as well, that by forcing the issues of future conduct into the question the main issue of receiving Christ as Saviour may be submerged in some difficulty related to the proposed standards of living. There is an advantage in a general morality, “Sabbath observance,” temperance and attendance on public and private worship; but there is no saving value in any, or all, of them. It is true that a person who enters into these things might be more apt to hear the saving Gospel of grace than otherwise; but on the other hand, the sad fact is that these very things are often depended upon by the religiously inclined to commend themselves to God. A clear distinction is found in the Bible between conversion and salvation. The former is there found to indicate no more than the humanly possible act of turning about, while the latter refers to that display of the power of God which is manifested in the whole transformation of saving grace.
Fourth, a person is not saved because he prays.
Multitudes of people pray who are not saved. Praying is not believing on the Lord Jesus Christ; though the new attitude of belief may be expressed in prayer. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” In no Scripture is salvation conditioned on asking or praying. It is faith in the Saviour Who gave His precious blood a ransom for all. The publican, living and praying before the cross, pleads that God would be propitiated to him a sinner. The issue now can only be one of believing that God has been so propitiated.
Fifth, No person is now required to “seek the Lord.”
In Isaiah 55:6 it is said to Israel, “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found,” but in the New

Testament relationship we are told to believe that the “Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Sixth, It is an error to require repentance as a preliminary act preceding and separate from believing.
Such insistence is too often based on Scripture which is addressed to the covenant people, Israel. They, like Christians, being covenant people, are privileged to return to God on the grounds of their covenant by repentance. There is much Scripture both in the Old Testament and in the New that calls that one nation to its long-predicted repentance, and it is usually placed before them as a separate unrelated act that is required. The preaching of John the Baptist, of Jesus and the early message of the disciples was, “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”; but it was addressed only to Israel (Matthew 10:5, 6). This appeal was continued to that nation even after the day of Pentecost or so long as the Gospel was preached to Israel alone (Acts 2:38; 3:19. See also 5:31). Paul mentions also a separate act of repentance in the experience of Christians (II Corinthians 7:8-11. See also Revelation 2:5).
The conditions are very different, however, in the case of an unsaved Gentile, who is a “stranger to the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world,” and equally different for any individual Jew in this age. In presenting the Gospel to these classes there are one hundred and fifteen passages at least wherein the word “believe” is used alone and apart from every other condition as the only way of salvation. In addition to this there are upwards of thirty-five passages wherein its synonym “faith” is used. There are but six passages addressed to unsaved Gentiles wherein repentance appears either alone or in combination with other issues.
These are:
– God “now commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30); – “Repent and turn to God” (Acts 26:20); – “Repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18); – “Repentance and faith” (Acts 20:21); – “The goodness of God that leadeth to repentance” (Romans 2:4); – “All should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9).
That repentance is not saving is evidenced in the case of Judas, who repented and yet went to perdition.
It is worthy of note that there are twenty-five passages wherein “believe,” or “faith,” is given as the only condition of Gentile salvation to one passage wherein repentance appears for any reason whatsoever. It would seem evident from this fact that repentance, like all other issues, is almost universally omitted from the great salvation passages, that such repentance as is possible to an unsaved person in this dispensation is included in the one act of believing. The statement in I Thessalonians 1:9, 10 may serve as an illustration. Here it is said: “Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven.” This represents one all-inclusive act. Such is the accuracy of the Bible. Had the record been that they turned from idols to God, the act of turning from idols would have stood alone as a preliminary undertaking

and would suggest a separate work of repentance.
In Acts 11:21 it is stated that many “believed and turned to God.” This is not difficult to understand. The born-again person might thus turn to God after believing; but there is no revelation that God is expecting works meet for anything from that which He has termed to be dead in trespasses and sins.
To believe on Christ is to see and believe the all-sufficiency of His saving grace. This most naturally includes abandoning all other grounds of hope, and the experiencing of such sorrow for sin as would lead one to claim such a Saviour. It is doubtful if the sinner of “this present evil age” can produce greater sorrow than this, and of what avail would greater sorrow be? No estimate is possible of the wrong that has been done in demanding the unsaved of this age to experience some particular degree of sorrow for sin, over which they could have no control, before they could be assured that the way was open for them to God. Multitudes have been driven into unrealities or into hopeless doubt as they have thus groped in darkness. The good news of the Gospel does not invite men to any sorrow whatsoever, or to works of repentance alone: it invites them to find immediate “joy and peace in believing.” Repentance, according to the Bible, is a complete change of mind and, as such, is a vital element in saving faith; but it should not now be required, as a separate act, apart from saving faith.
The Biblical emphasis upon Gentile repentance or any repentance in this age will be more evident when the full meaning of the word “believe” is understood.
Seventh, Moreover, no Scripture requires confession of sin as a condition of salvation in this age. A regenerate person who has wandered from fellowship may return to his place of blessing by a faithful confession of his sin. I John 1:9 is addressed only to believers. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The unsaved person must come to God by faith. “For by grace are ye saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8).
Believing is related in the Bible to two other actions:
– “Hear and believe” (Acts 15:7; Romans 10:14); – “Believe and be baptized” (Acts 8:13; Mark 16:16.
In the latter passage it may be noted that baptism is not mentioned when the statement is repeated in the negative form. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; and he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.” The unsaved person is condemned for not believing rather than for not being baptized. Thus believing here, as everywhere, is the only condition of salvation.
The far-reaching importance of believing may also be seen in the fact that men are said to be lost in this age because they do not believe. “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). “He that believeth not shall be damned [condemned]” (Mark 16:16).

Likewise when the Spirit is said to approach the unsaved to convince them of sin, He is not said to make them conscious or ashamed of their personal transgressions. One sin only is mentioned:
– “Of sin, because they believe not on me” (John 16:9). – “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).
The sin sacrifice of the cross is forever satisfying to God. What God does is based on His own estimate of the finished work of Christ. The facts and conditions of salvation are based on that divine estimate rather than upon the estimate of men. That men are not now condemned primarily because of the sins which Christ has borne is finally stated in II Corinthians 5:14, 19:
– “We thus judge, that if one died for all, therefore all died”; – “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses.”
The greatest problem for the infinite God was to provide the reconciliation of the cross: the greatest problem for man is simply to believe the record in its fulness. To reject the Saviour is not only to refuse the gracious love of God, but is to elect, so far as one can do, to remain under the full guilt of every sin as though no Saviour had been provided, or no sacrifice had been made.
No more terrible sin can be conceived of than the sin of rejecting Christ. It gathers into itself the infinite crime of despising the divine mercy and grace, and, in intent, assumes the curse of every transgression before God. Thus men are electing to stand in their own sins before God. It will be seen that this personal choice becomes a part of the final judgment of those who believe not. Jesus said: “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).
At the judgment of the wicked dead before the Great White Throne, those standing there are said to be judged “according to their works.” There is additional evidence recorded against them at that judgment seat: their names are not written in the Lamb’s book of life. This might be taken as evidence that – they have rejected the “Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” It should be added that it was the divine program in this age that the Gospel should be preached to every creature. And thus every person should have heard and either accepted or rejected the message of Grace. God alone can righteously judge those who have never heard because of the failure of His messengers.
The Apostle John in his Gospel uses the word “believe” in its various forms about eighty-six times and never related to repentance or human works and merit. This Gospel, which so clearly states the present way of life, is said to be written for a definite purpose: “But these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
~ end of chapter 5 ~

A Crisis Point In A New Christian’s Life

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

Even though I was raised by Christian parents and went to Sunday school and church in my youth, I did not become a true Christian until I was sixteen years old. Previous to my becoming a believer in Jesus Christ, my Christianity was in my head and not in my heart. And it showed itself in my lifestyle. In other words, I did not act or think like a Christian. But that changed in the spring of 1970, when I admitted to myself and to God that I needed forgiveness and salvation. At that point, I believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior, and began a new life as a Christian.

But one of the things I faced as a new Christian was the potential to go back to the way I had lived for some years before becoming a Christian. Starting when I was 13 years old, I had been drawn into a life of drinking alcoholic beverages, smoking marijuana and hash, using LSD and other drugs. All my close friends did the same things. And here is when my crisis point as a new Christian was reached: I went to hang out with my longtime friends at someone’s house. There were several of us, and we sat in a large circle on the living room floor. Someone in the group did as usual: they light a join of marijuana, inhaled some of it, and passed it to the next person, who inhaled some of it, and passed it to the next person. (We called inhaling it “taking a toke,” and “taking a hit.”) I was maybe six persons away from the joint being passed to me. I had to make a quick decision to either fall back into an old habit, or continue to go forward with my new life as a Christian. With the Lord’s help, I got up and excused myself from the situation, and left the house. With the Lord’s help, I never returned to that lifestyle. But it required that I do two things: 1) make new friends who would support my new life as a Christian, and, 2) be very careful about my relationship with my old friends. We now were on different paths, and the Lord requires that Christians stay on his straight and narrow path. The Lord did not want me to completely cut myself off from my old friends. But if I wanted to live for him, and if I wanted to be a good example to them, I could not put myself in situations that could easily result in going back to my old life. Therefore, one of the most helpful things to me as a new Christian was frequent attendance at and involvement in a local church that preached and taught the Bible as the Word of God, and that challenged Christians to separate themselves from influences that would interfere with living a dedicated Christian life. Of course, Christians have a lifelong need for this kind of positive influence from a local church which has these characteristics.

What follows are some quotes from God’s infallible Word, the Bible that apply to the subject  being considered. (The quotes are from the Modern English Version, and were taken from this website: Here is a link to the Modern English Version online: Now to the quotes from the Bible:  First, consider what the Lord Jesus Christ himself said about Christian discipleship: “ Enter at the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who are going through it,  because small is the gate and narrow is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13, 14.)  Second, consider what the apostle Paul said to the Corinthian Christians concerning the importance of being careful about the kind of persons with whom we are friends: “ Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’ ”  ( 1 Corinthians 15:33.)  Third, consider what the apostle Paul said in his second letter to those same Christians about being careful about our associations.  2 Corinthians 6: 14 – 18 says:

“14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? What communion has light with darkness? 15 What agreement has Christ with Belial? Or what part has he who believes with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

‘I will live in them
    and walk in them.
I will be their God,
    and they shall be My people.’

17 Therefore,

‘Come out from among them
    and be separate,
        says the Lord.
Do not touch what is unclean,
    and I will receive you.’

18 ‘I will be a Father to you,
    and you shall be My sons and daughters,
        says the Lord Almighty.’

Modern English Version (MEV)The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.

The Day Dad Made Me Mad

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

In a recent post, I told about the time when I was a teenager in Minneapolis, MN and my dad found my marijuana. That was in the late 1960’s. This post is about another day, the day when Dad made me mad. It took place in the same time period, and in the same location on Lyndale Ave. South.

To understand what happened, you have to keep in mind that at that time I was a frequent drug user, and I lived the lifestyle that went with it. This means I loved rock music. Some of my favorite rock musicians and groups were Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and Cream.

So how did Dad make me mad? Well, one day I went home from somewhere, maybe from hanging out with friends, and was not expecting Dad to be home. I went in the front door, and there he was in the living room listening to music. He was hard of hearing, so the record player was turned up LOUD. But Dad was not listening to my favorite rock music. He was listening to a woman sing the hymn called “How Great Thou Art.” It was so contrary to the music I liked, and to the way I was living that it immediately made me mad. So mad, in fact, that I quickly walked to another room, slammed the door shut and yelled out, “Can’t you listen to some happy music?!”

Here’s a point I want to make from this event: Christian music has the power to confront a sinful lifestyle. It has the power to shine the light of Biblical truth into hearts and minds darkened by sin. It has the power to help people see their need of God’s forgiveness, which he gives to those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. The Bible is God’s Word, and it says, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10) The Bible says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) The Bible says, “In him (Jesus Christ)  we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” (Ephesians 1:7) The Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.” (Acts 16:31) All of these Biblical truths, and many others, can be, and have been, expressed through Christian music.

But what if the musical style that is used to accompany the Bible’s truths is the same as the style used by rock musicians? The result is the joining together of music and words that contradict one another. Do rock musicians use sacred music to express their words? Of course not! The fact is, Christian words and rock music do not belong together. And when they are joined together, the message in the words gets diluted by the music. We cannot join words about sacred subjects to music that is secular and anti-sacred by its very nature.  But, unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened in recent decades. Well-meaning Christians musicians have been the driving force behind this blending of the sacred and the secular and anti-sacred. Their goal has been to reach more people with the Gospel. But the results have not justified this blending of opposites, for by it Christians have become more like the world than different from it. Therefore, we need a reminder that this is not how it should be. Such a reminder is found in the Bible, in the first two verses of the twelfth chapter of the apostle Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians. The whole chapter is given below, and is taken from the Modern English Version (MEV). The Modern English Version was published in 2014, and is a new translation of the same Old Testament text and the same  New Testament text from which the King James Version was translated. The MEV of Romans 12 was taken from this website: This website has important information about the Modern English Version.

Romans 12 Modern English Version (MEV)

The New Life in Christ

12 I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service of worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sound judgment, according to the measure of faith God has distributed to every man. For just as we have many parts in one body, and not all parts have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and all are parts of one another. We have diverse gifts according to the grace that is given to us: if prophecy, according to the proportion of faith; if service, in serving; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with generosity; he who rules, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Rules of the Christian Life

Let love be without hypocrisy. Hate what is evil. Cleave to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another with brotherly love; prefer one another in honor, 11 do not be lazy in diligence, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord, 12 rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer, 13 contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless, and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Do not pretend to be wiser than you are.

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Commend what is honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to God’s wrath, for it is written: “Vengeance is Mine. I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him a drink;
for in doing so you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Modern English Version (MEV)The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.

Should We Listen To Contemporary Christian Music (CCM)?

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

Why I Don't Listen to Contemporary Christian Music - book

One of the most controversial subjects among Christians in more-recent years is what is known as Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). It is controversial because, in contrast to traditional Christian music, CCM puts Christian words to music styles that most Christians had previously considered to be objectionable due to the fact that they were used by musicians and singers whose lives did not express Bible-based Christian morals and beliefs, and often contradicted those morals and beliefs. For example, rock and roll and country western musicians often were known/are know for profanity, drunkenness, sexual immorality, and rejection of moral absolutes. Therefore, to put Christian words to their kinds of  music seemed to be a joining of things that are contradictory to one another. It might be comparable to having a man well-known for wickedness read the Bible during a church service. Even Gene Simmons, a  member of the rock group called “KISS” told a Christian contestant on “American Idol” that he should not go into rock music because it and the Christian faith don’t go together. I saw this on the internet, and you can do so yourselves. Here’s a link to it:

But now,  rock and other kinds of CCM are commonly accepted by Christians. But should we accept them? That is the question considered in the book by Shelly Hamilton, who is herself an accomplished musician. I have carefully read the book, and highly recommend that it be read open-mindedly by those who see nothing wrong with CCM because, though the style of the music is radically different than previously was used to express the Christian faith, the Christian words justify the change. Not only should those who accept CCM read the book, so should those who don’t accept it, or who have questions about why it should not be accepted. Sadly, many who accept CCM are not willing to consider why Shelly Hamilton and many others object to CCM. The book is available from Majesty Music, and is only 103 pages long. Here are the chapter titles:


  1. My Musical Background.
  2. What Exactly Is Contemporary Christian Music?
  3. CCM Is Born
  4. Is Music Neutral?
  5. The Rock Beat
  6. The Pop Singing Style
  7. Intent And Motive
  8. Biblical Teaching About Music
  9. Rock By Its Fruit And Association
  10. A Musical Line
  11. The Power Of Music In The Church
  12. What Are A Christian’s Musical Options?



Statements From Bible Scholar Dean John Burgon About The King James Version And The Received Text

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

I have been perusing an online edition of Dean John Burgon’s book called, “Revision Revised.” Maybe you’ve read it. What a complex book! And to think he wrote it long before there were computers with which to do research. It’s amazing, really. As you might know, many KJV-onlyists are also Received Text-onlyists. And as you might know, some of them like to have us think  Burgon was on their side. But, as you also might know, that is only partly true.
I have read quotes of him that prove he was not what these folks claim. But, I have wanted to read his statements for myself. Hence, my perusal of his book. Consider this statement from “Revision Revised” : “To be brief,—As a companion in the study and for private edification: as a book of reference for critical purposes, especially in respect of difficult and controverted passages:—we hold that a revised edition of the Authorized Version of our English Bible, (if executed with consummate ability and learning,) would at any time be a work of inestimable value. The method of such a performance, whether by marginal Notes or in some other way, we forbear to determine. But certainly only as a handmaid is it to be desired. As something intended to supersede our present English Bible, we are thoroughly convinced that the project of a rival Translation is not to be entertained for a moment. For ourselves, we deprecate it entirely.

     Burgon also said,  “But pray, who in his senses,—what sane man in Great Britain,—ever
dreamed of regarding the “Received,”—aye, or any other known “Text,”—as “a standard from which there shall be no appeal? Have I ever done so? Have I ever implied as much? If I have, show me where.”
The so-called “Dean Burgon Society,’ headed up by D. A. Waite, needs to own up to these statements by Burgon.