Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
The Bible Is the Word of God - March 2, 2014 - Transfiguration Sunday - Text: 2 Peter 1:16-21
As the saying goes, “Easter is late this year.” Easter is late because of the way in which the celebration of Easter has been defined, but we will not go into that at this time. Anyway, because Easter is late this year that means we seven Sundays in Epiphany, the maximum number of Sundays in Epiphany is eight, and so today we move forward to the Last Sunday after the Epiphany which is celebrated as Transfiguration Sunday. Today we celebrate the event described in our Gospel reading, the transfiguration, that is the metamorphasis, of Jesus, His changing into His heavenly glory and the appearing of Moses and Elijah with Jesus before His disciples, Peter, James and John. This Transfiguration Event happened just before Jesus was to go into Jerusalem for the last time. We might say that this event happened as a preparation for the last events of Jesus’ earthly life, the Passion as we call it.
Our text is the Epistle lesson which was written by Peter, as he was moved by the Holy Spirit. Thus, it is important that we note, as was stated in the Gospel lesson, that Peter was there on the mountain of Transfiguration, with James and John and Jesus and Moses and Elijah. Peter was an eye witness of these events about which he is writing and it was because of Jesus’ command that they not tell anyone until after the Son of Man had been raised from the dead (Matt. 17:9) that Peter did not talk about or not write about these things until this time.
What did Peter witness? He witnessed the Majesty of Jesus. He witnessed Jesus in His heavenly glory. Peter says, “16For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (v. 16). Peter saw Jesus change, that is, and the word is that Jesus metamorphed, right before his eyes. Interestingly enough Peter does not mention the fact that he did not know what to say so he suggested the building of three booths, but he does relate this incident, this event as it is, something to which he was an eye witness.
Peter saw Jesus transformed and he witnessed the voice of God the Father attest to Jesus. Again, Peter says, “17For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain” (v. 17-18). Peter heard the voice of God the Father. We have already heard the voice of God the Father, and that happened at Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan River. Certainly this event, this seeing with his own eyes and this hearing with his own ears had a profound effect on Peter.
Peter saw and he heard. Peter now witnesses the power of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He writes, “19And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (v. 19-21). Although these are the words of Peter, which he writes with his own hand, he acknowledges that these are the Word of God, given to him, to write to us. Peter witnessed God in flesh, Jesus Christ, in His heavenly glory, attested to by the voice of God the Father and now he is compelled to write of these events by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Peter knows the truth of what many have a difficulty with today.
Today we live in a world in which the very Word of God, the Bible is questioned. We live in a world in which the questions of the Garden of Eden persist, questions which tempt us to ask, “Did God really say...?” Questions which tempt us to doubt the Bible and whether it is the Word of God. For many the Bible is not the word of God, rather the Bible merely contains the Word of God. What does it mean if the Bible merely contains the Word of God? If the Bible merely contains the Word of God then we need to be as a detective and figure out what is and what is not His Word. We need to be a detective and determine which of the Bible is bound by time and culture and which part is not. We need to be smarter than the average bear in order to determine what God is actually trying to say, in other words, we are not to simply believe the Word as it is written.
Unfortunately, and I say unfortunately, while others would say fortunately as we will attest to in a moment, unfortunately if the Bible merely contains the Word of God then not all of it is applicable. Actually, that would be an understatement. If the Bible merely contains the Word of God, then we have to find out which is that Word, and that which is not then is not applicable to us.
Again, if some of the Bible is God’s Word and some of the Bible is not God’s Word then we have to decipher which is and which is not. And in our deciphering, you might suggest that one part is the Word of God and I might decide a different part is the Word of God, so that ultimately, we will have to throw out the whole of the Bible, because if some is not the Word of God, then truly all is not His Word.
So, why all this questioning? As I said, for too many in our world today, they believe it is fortunate to believe that the Bible merely contains the word of God because that leaves the door open to justify any deviant behavior one might wish to practice. As we asked several Sundays ago, why is it that Christian denominations that have the same Bible cannot agree on some doctrines and teachings of that same Bible? Well, think about our nature. We are conceived and born in sin. We daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness. We sin freely, we sin boldly, we do not even need practice to sin it comes so easily to us. And we do not like to think about the fact that we sin, so we need to justify our deviant sinful behavior. How can we justify something that the Bible says is wrong? We can justify our deviant behavior by questioning whether or not the Bible is the Word of God, whether or not it is applicable to us today, whether or not God was really talking about certain sins when He spoke His Word. If the Bible merely contains the word of God then that leaves the door wide open for all kinds of deviant sinful behavior which may well be justified by any means of argument, and that is exactly what is happening in much of our world and even in many of our Christian denominations. That is why what has for so long been known to be wrong and sinful is making its way into these Christian denominations even to the point of condemning those Christian churches, like our own, who are not tolerant, open-minded and diverse enough to respect their opinions.
We do not believe and we do not teach that the Bible contains the Word of God. We believe and teach that the Bible is the Word of God. If the Bible is the Word of God, then it is all His Word and so it must all be believed. We must believe all His Word even if and especially when it contradicts the words and beliefs of our own society and culture. We must believe all His Word even if and especially when it contradicts the seeming facts of science, physics, arithmetic, archeology, anthropology and so on. Interestingly enough, the seeming facts, of which most are theories, of science, physics, arithmetic, archeology, anthropology and so on are subject to change without notice, yet the Word of God never changes. Thus, when the word of man differs from the Word of God, it is the word of man that needs to change, not the Word of God. And please, do not accuse me of intellectual suicide. I am not advocating that we stop thinking or having intellectual discussions on matters of science, physics, arithmetic, archeology, anthropology and the like, what I am saying is that these disciplines must be subject to the Word of God, not the Word God be subject to them.
If we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, then we cannot pick and choose which parts we want to believe and which parts we do not want to believe. We cannot question whether God spoke or did not speak about certain sins. We must take it as it is given, each word in each sentence with the words meaning what they say.
We know and we believe, even as Peter tells us in our text that the Bible is the Word of God, given to us by inspiration. As we have been reading through the Old Testament (and now in particular we are reading through Second Samuel in our Adult class and you are invited to join us) someone noted that these words must be true and must be God’s words because why would anyone write about such sinful and terrible people, showing all the warts and flaws, unless this is God’s Word.
We know and we believe as Peter tells us that the Bible is the Word of God as the Holy Spirit moved holy men to write. Certainly God used the personalities of the inspired writers, but the words are God’s Word and we believe them, all of them, whether we like them or not, we believe them because they are the very Words of God Himself.
What Does this Mean? This means that we can trust and believe, all of the Bible. We can believe that God indeed did create the world in six twenty-four hour days, out of nothing. We can believe that the reason we have so many problems in our world is because of the fall into sin by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We can believe that God cleansed the world with a world wide flood. We can believe that God dispersed the people throughout the world, giving us the various languages and even culture groups at the tower of Babel. We can believe that the Ten Commandments are from God. We can believe that God promised to send a Savior and that the promise included the fact that the Savior of the world, for all people did come through the line of the Children of Israel. We can believe that Jesus was born of a virgin woman. We can believe that Jesus is who He says He is, the Son of God.
We can know for certain that Jesus lived for us, for you and for me. All that we can not do, keep the commandments perfectly, live perfectly, He did for us, in our place. Just as the historical narratives of the Old Testament are true, they are not made up fictitious stories meant to tell us something about ourselves, but just as they are true, so we can believe that the New Testaments historical narratives are true. We can believe that Jesus did what He did and that He did what He did, lived, suffered and died, for us and for our sins.
And we can know for certain that we have eternal life. I may shock you by saying this, and I have to admit, this is not something I came up with on my own, but something I heard someone say, but I thought was quite profound in itself, but one of the most profound songs we sing is not “A Mighty Fortress,” but is, “Jesus Loves Me.” It does not get any more profound the fact that “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” The Bible, the Word of God, tells me that Jesus loves me and so I have eternal life. If the Bible is not the Word of God then think of the consequences. Because the Bible is the Word of God we can be assured of the reward!
This morning marks the end of our Epiphany season. Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and for forty days we will spend time on Wednesday evenings contemplating the fact that it was our sins that put Jesus on the cross and it was His love, God’s love for us His creation that moved Him to take care of our sins, to pay the penalty, the eternal, spiritual death penalty for us in our place that we might have forgiveness, life and salvation, as the Bible tells us so. To God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.