A preacher must always be prepared with his or her sword. However, which Bible should you use? The question breaks down into two components. The first question is which Bible should you use in preparation? The second question is which Bible should you use in presentation?
Which Bible – Preparation
If you are seeking to preach the Bible accurately and with power, the preacher must understand the scripture being presented. That is why you must at the very least use a Bible you understand. Some people attempt to use a particular version because they think they are supposed to use it. In preparation, your first goal is to understand the text. Therefore, I would say use the scripture version that you most understand.
I wish to also emphasize that the preacher should use a wide variety of translations in preparation. As you may know, there is always more than one way to translate a text into a language. Each translation has to make interpretive choices. If you use a wide variety of translations you are more likely to see the subtle differences between these choices. In my preparation, I read the text in at least the KJV, NIV, NASB, NRSV, and a paraphrase. This helps me to get a good idea of the meaning of the text. In addition, if you know the languages, read it in that as well.
What Bible – Presentation
OK, let us assume that you have created your sermon. Now you want to know which version to use in the presentation of the sermon. I have a few guidelines that might help you. First, use one primary translation. There is nothing more difficult to follow than a preacher who uses a text from this translation and a text from that one and then another one from a final one. You can give the impression that you are simply looking for a translation that agrees with the point you are making. I am not saying to never quote from more than one translation, but I am saying that you should have one primary translation in each presentation.
Keep in mind where you are preaching. Personally, I think that one can preach powerfully from all of these translations, but if you are called to preach in a place that only uses the NIV, then why not use the NIV. Some churches have pew Bibles in a particular translation. What is that translation? Find out which translation the Pastor normally uses. You don’t want people to get hung up on the particular translation you use (unless of course that is the point of your message).
Mainline protestants would be more likely to use the NRSV. Conservative academic types NASB. The popular conservative evangelical choice of version today is the NIV. Among some groups and churches you will have great problems if you don’t use the KJV. I normally use the KJV because I love the language and it is generally accepted in most churches, but if my discussions with the church informed me that the NRSV or NIV was the Bible to use, I would use that.
The choice of Bible version breaks down into two questions. Which Bible version should you use in preparation? I think that the preacher should use as many versions as possible. The next question is which version to use in presentation? I have answered, use primarily one version. In addition, use the version that will best help you present the Gospel to that people at that time. If you are going to adequately prepare, you must answer the question of Bible version for yourself.