"As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace." —1 Peter 4:10
In the Bible, Paul tells us that grace is not only a quality in the nature of God, but also a power or an acting of God that works in us to change our capacities for work and suffering and obedience. Although Paul asked God three times to remove the thorn in his flesh, the Lord’s response was simply: My grace is sufficient for you.
In difficult situations, we can come to the Lord and find grace in His eyes, and He will come to us, stand with us, and face our situations with us. Through the 200 years of the Bible Mission in Singapore, the Bible Society has weathered storms but His grace allows us to remain steadfast in spreading the Word of God and bringing glory to Him. It is the grace of God that can cause us to bear the pain inflicted by the thorn, so that even in our suffering and weaknesses, His power shines through us.
God’s Grace Through the Years
This 2023, we give thanks for the grace of God over the Bible Mission through the years, transforming lives with God’s Word. This year is a momentous milestone for the Bible Society as we commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Bible
Mission in Singapore, having started in 1823.
Rev Dr Robert Morrison pioneered the completion of the New Testament in Chinese in 1813 and published it the year after. By 1819, the full Bible in Chinese translation was concluded and later published in 1823. With the help of Sir Stamford Raffles, Morrison sent 1,000 Chinese New Testaments to Singapore for distribution among Chinese settlers in 1823, marking the real beginnings of the Bible Mission on the island.
Singapore served as a strategic hub and a Bible depository was started here. In its early days, the Bible depository was held in the Singapore Institution, now named Raffles Institution. The early depository site is today’s Raffles City.
In Singapore, the Bible Society’s history is intertwined with that of Singapore’s development. Upon the founding of Singapore, Raffles conceived the establishment of a library within the Singapore Institution. It has since been renamed the National Library, with its history closely tied to that of the Singapore Institution and the National Museum. Singapore Institution also served to educate Singaporeans and provided suitable facilities for translating and distributing Bibles, aiding the Bible Movement.
As we honour 200 years of the Bible Mission in Singapore this year, Raffles Institution also celebrates its 200th year since its founding. Both Morrison and Raffles pioneered the Bible cause and education in Singapore, therefore intertwining the histories of the Bible Mission and Raffles Institution. The Bible Society’s President, Dr Lee Soo Ann, was also educated at Raffles Institution.
Evolving Through the Times
Although our mission remains unchanging—to be God’s instrument to fill all nations with the knowledge of His glory, the Bible Mission’s tasks have evolved. As such, the Bible Society has undergone numerous changes since its official registration in 1837, in order to meet the evolving needs of the Bible Mission and the world we serve.
At inception, the initial global mission was to make the Word of God available to all nations through Bible translation and publishing, then subsequently distribution across the globe. But when the need to educate people arose, literacy programmes were introduced. Then to help the Christian community grow deeper in God’s Word and make Scripture relevant in the context of today, engagement and advocacy programmes were initiated. A Holistic Ministry was also established to support the underprivileged and marginalised communities in Singapore and beyond with holistic care
and the hope from God’s Word.
The Bible Society moved to be at the forefront of digital technology in a digital world, especially with the challenges the pandemic posed. The various ministries of the Bible Society have similarly evolved to include digital initiatives, so as to continue allowing more to encounter Christ through the Word of God.
Celebrating 200 Years of the Bible Mission
The Bible Society has always strived to be an effective missions agency. This year, we play an active role in GoForth National Missions Movement 2023 as part of commemorating 200 years of the Bible Mission in Singapore. Commenced in February, the event is a year-long campaign with a series of inspiring programmes from eight different tracks with a missional emphasis.
GoForth aims to reach out to both the Christian community and non-believers through a missional approach. This is similar to what we believe at the Bible Society, with a Bible Mission to make God’s Word known to all people. Its programmes target the 8 Ms:
- Missions to Unreached People Groups by making the Word of God accessible to all
- Migrants by caring for the foreigners in our nation
- Marginalised by empowering the vulnerable through collective efforts
- Marketplace by advocating for Biblical values in public spheres
- Multi-generational Mentoring by discipling and equipping every generation
- Mandarin-speaking Communities by engaging language groups with God’s Word
- Media by integrating missions across communication platforms
- Metaverse by using emerging digital media for God's purposes
On 7 July, the Bible Society commemorates the bicentennial of the Bible Mission in Singapore at its Bible Mission Banquet. The Bible Mission Banquet is a yearly fundraising initiative by the Bible Society, with the purpose of raising funds for countries in need of Scripture and humanitarian aid. In the light of this goal, this year’s theme is Shine Forth Thy Word. It is here that we also remember and praise God for His faithfulness and grace over the Bible Mission through the years. With the last banquet held in 2019, it is truly by God’s grace that we can hold this reception this
year, after a four-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
The official launch of the World Chinese Christianity Alliance (WCCA) will also be held in conjunction with the Bible Mission Banquet. In 1823, Raffles and Morrison distributed 1,000 Chinese New Testaments, kickstarting the Bible Mission in Singapore. 200 years later, the Bible Society is privileged to be one of the founding members of this global missional platform under the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) to reach out to all Chinese communities across the globe.
Our work cannot be done without the support of the Body of Christ, therefore this remarkable milestone of the Word of God flourishing for 200 years is not just a celebration for the Bible Society, but rather ours to share. This achievement, being entwined with Singapore’s founding and history, has also been made possible with the nation’s support.
Looking back, it is clear that it is God’s grace that carried through the Bible Mission, making His Word known despite challenges and through His provision of divine guidance. We rest on His unchanging grace as we endeavour to continue being a vessel of blessing to the nations. We would like to invite you to partner with us so that we can continue extending God’s grace as we reach out to the nations. Let us band together as we usher in the next Decade of Missions from 2023 to 2033 and allow the power of God’s Word to impact more lives!