God’s Providence or Inspiration?
“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun” –Ecc. 1:9
For over 400 years the “King James only” controversy has been a source of consternation among Christians. It should not be. Since Satan first said to eve, “Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”, (Gen. 3:1) Satan has been untiring in his effort to create doubt in the minds of God’s people as to the reliability of His Word. Why should we be the exception?
The label “King James Only” was given to those Christians who believe the KJV to be the Word of God in the English language by the “any ole book’ll do” crowd. It’s not new. The KJV has been under attack throughout its 400 year history, in spite of the fact that it has been blessed by God more than any other version. Neither of these labels accurately reflect the views of those to whom they are applied.
The “any Bible” group believes that the true Word of God has been lost over the centuries, but that it can be recovered through the “science” of textual criticism. In the meanwhile, they are content to use whatever Bible version best suits their personal spiritual and intellectual preferences.
The “King James Only” group believes that the KJV is the Word of God in the English Language and reject other versions as unnecessary and counter productive to our faith, in that they imply the KJV cannot be trusted, is in error and needs to be corrected.
Users of the King James Bible are often asked, “Do you believe the King James Version is inspired by God?” An accurate answer to that question requires an understanding of the difference between the “providence of God” and “the Inspiration of God.”
Most of us believe that the original manuscrips from which the KJV was translated were inspired by God and are preserved by God’s providence. We believe further that the translation of those manuscripts into the English language was superintended by the Holy Spirit protecting it from error.
Inspiration is a one time communication between God and the inspired author who recorded God’s words. In inspiration, God deals with individuals directly so that each book of the Bible has a single author.
With Providence, God works “behind the scenes:” so to speak, using multitudes of people and events, often seemingly unrelated, to bring about His will. Providence can only be seen through the lens of hindsight. It is only through observing the workings of God in the events of history that we can clearly see His providence. Both providence and inspiration are unmistakably taught in the Bible.
According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Providence “Literally means foresight, but is generally used to denote God’s preserving and governing all things by means of second causes.” Although the word “providence” only appears once in the Bible (Acts 24:2), and that in a flattering remark by the orator Tortullus, at the arraignment of Paul before Governor Felix; the evidence of God’s providence is found on almost every page of the historical books of the Bible.
The one that most readily comes to mind is the story of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, the most frequently referenced story in the Old Testament. The story begins in Genesis chapter 15, and continues through Exodus Chapter 14. If you haven’t read it lately, I suggest you do, noticing the “coincidences” that, had they not happened, God’s promises and prophecies to Abraham concerning his posterity could not have been fulfilled.
In Gen. 15:5 when Abraham was ninety-nine years old and yet childless, God made him a promise:
“And [God] brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.” (Gen:15:5)…..
A few verses later God gives Abraham a prophesy concerning the fulfillment of that promise.
…“And [God] said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” (Gen. 15:13-16) (emphasis added)
Four generations later, God, through His providential processes, sets events into motion that would result in the literal fulfillment of this prophesy. God, who sees “the end” from the “beginning,” often speaks of prophesies as though they were already accomplished, as He does here. Although more than four hundred years would elapse in “our time” from when God begins to fulfill the prophesy until it is finished, God sees those years as one event.
The two main characters in the story of God’s deliverance of Israel are Joseph, the great-grandson of Abraham, and later, Moses. I am sure that Jacob, the grandson of Abraham and father of Joseph, had no idea of the chain of events he was setting in motion when he, in an act of fatherly concern, sent his young son Joseph to check on his older brothers who were in the fields tending the family’s sheep. One cannot read the story without marveling at the times the providence of God (we might call them coincidences) appear. For example, Jacob’s sending Joseph to the fields, his brother’s attempt to kill him, and the caravan of Ishmaelite merchants, who had perhaps been traveling for days or even months, and “just happened” to be passing by at exactly the right time for Joseph to be sold to them as a slave, thus preserving his life.
Arriving in Egypt, Joseph just happened to be sold to Potiphar, a Captain of the guard. Later when Joseph just happened to be alone in the house with Potiphar’s wife she tried to seduce him. As a result of Joseph’s refusal to yield to the temptation, he just happened to wind up in prison along with Pharaoh’s baker and butler, where God gave him the opportunity to interpreting two dream for them. Coincidently, both men had different dreams on the same night… and on the story goes. Space does not permit listing all of the “providentially-coincidental events” in Joseph’s life or in the life of Moses which followed some four hundred years later, but, I’m sure you get the picture.
Similar stories are found throughout the Old Testament, continuing in the New Testament and the life of Christ and the establishment of His church. The Old Testament canon ends with the book of Malachi. All the prophesies concerning the coming of the promised messiah had been written and God closes the curtain for four-hundred “silent” years. However, behind the curtain God was busily preparing the world for the coming of the Messiah and the building of His church.
Between 336 and 323 B.C. Alexander the Great conquered most of the Mediterranean world from Greece to India, spreading the Greek language and Culture throughout the civilized world of that time. Following Alexander, the Romans began expanding their empire, and by the time of Christ the Roman government ruled Europe and the Middle East. When God again raised the curtain of silence with the book of Matthew, the cultural “homogenization” brought about by the colonizing practices of both Greece and Rome; the adoption of the Greek language as a common language; and the political stability provided by the Roman government had created an ideal environment for the ministry of Christ and the Spread of His church during the first century A.D.
The same providence of God that preserved and guided the lives of Joseph and Moses created the linguistic and political environment that greeted the birth of Christ, making it possible to fulfill the promises to Abraham and the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning Jesus. There is also ample evidence, both biblical and historical, that God also preserved His Word through the centuries following the close of the New Testament canon which ends with the Book of Revelations.
Indeed, it would be an unjust God who would judge mankind according to His Word, if that Word did not exist or was not always available for those who would seek it. Millions of people during the past four centuries have believed that the King James Bible is the infallible, complete, living Word of God, preserved and handed down from the apostles and prophets, and translated into our language under the providence of God.
In our next few articles we will endeavor, if God wills, to show how God has preserved his Word down through the Ages, so that each of us can have and hold in our hands, a book that we can confidently say, “This is the Word of God, obey it.”
To be continued…