William Tyndale’s Federal Vision

William Tyndale was the first man to translate the Bible into English from the Greek and Hebrew texts, instead of the Latin, which is itself a translation.  His introduction to his outstanding New Testament is intended to give the reader a way into the scriptures.

The right way, yea and the only way to understand the scripture unto our salvation, is, that we earnestly and above all thing, search for the profession of our baptism or covenants made between God and us.

Unpacking this just a little, is is clear that our baptism enters us into a covenant with God. Tyndale wishes his reader to grasp the fact that our baptismal covenant involves action both by God and man.  On God’s part he freely and graciously forgives us all our sins and promises us every blessing and gift for the sake of Christ, and on the basis of the cross alone; and for our part we are obliged to forsake evil and turn towards God, to keep his laws and fight against our corrupt nature perpetually, that we may do the will of God every day better and better.

The first part of the covenant, namely, God’s free gifts, are acknowledged by all who identify themselves as Reformed or orthodox Lutheran.

The difficulty for many lies in the second aspect of the covenant – our obedience.

Now if any man that submitteth himslef not to keep the commandments, do think that he hath any faith in God: the same man’s faith is vain, worldly, damnnable, devilish and plain presumption.

Those who apply the law/gospel distinction as extremely and as foolishly as the folks at Green Baggins and their friends will have a little difficulty with Tyndale here, because he goes on to assert that God offers a man mercy on condition that he will mend his living.  Those who have received mercy and grace but refuse to come under the covenant will lose the same mercy and grace.

Where he strikes to the heart of the present controversy is to assert that our continuance in grace is tied directly to our faithfulness to God’s laws:

And let us arm ourselves with this remembrance, that as Christ’s works justify from sin and set us in the favour of God, so our own deeds through working of the Spirit of God , help us to continue in the favour and the grace, into which Christ has brought us; and that we can no longer continue in favour and grace than our our hearts are to keep the law.

So then, our continuing justification is linked to our continuing obedience!  When this simple law is grasped the letter to the Hebrews and James’s epistle become intelligible.




2 thoughts on “William Tyndale’s Federal Vision

  1. Yes, I know, and that is one of the reasons that I hold him in such high regard. He was an outstanding exegete and theologian.

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