The Transfiguration of our Lord
February 5, 2006
The Inerrant Word
2 Peter 1:16-21
I grew up
on the campus of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. My best friends were children of seminary professors.
During the sixties a controversy was brewing at the seminary.
The topic was the Holy Scriptures.
Did the Bible contain errors?
Or was it inerrant? My
father taught that the Bible was entirely free from all error of any
kind because it was Godís word and God cannot err.
Other professors at the seminary taught that the Bible had errors
of fact in it, but that it didnít really matter so long as it was true
in spiritual matters. They said that there were errors in the Bible on matters of
history and science, but so what? This
didnít affect our salvation. One
professor said that his faith didnít depend on the accuracy of ancient
confirmed in April of 1967 and immediately joined the Walther League,
which was what they called the youth group for the Missouri Synod in
those days. At Walther
League meetings we would alternate between having a Bible study of some
kind and having a social event. We
were taught at Walther League meetings that it wasnít important
whether or not Adam and Eve really existed.
The youth leader told us that the Genesis account of creation was
a myth. It was the way the
ancient people tried to explain the beginning of this world.
Do you really believe that God made Adam out of the dust of the
ground and Eve out of his rib? And when we argued with him Ė and many of us did Ė he
patiently explained that the truth of the Bible was much deeper than
historical details. It was
spiritual truth that mattered, not scientific or historical truth.
At the age
of fourteen I couldnít tell the difference.
At the age of fifty-two I still canít tell the difference. Truth
is truth. St. Peter agrees. He
For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you
the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of
is Godís word, but it didnít drop down from heaven already written.
It was written here on earth.
Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible.
God publicly showed Moses to be a true prophet by doing great
miracles through him. The plagues, the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, the many
miracles in the wilderness during forty years of wandering all
demonstrated that Moses was Godís prophet.
He spoke Godís word and he wrote them down.
Similarly, God did great miracles through Elijah, showing the
religion of the Baal worshippers to be false.
Remember Mount Carmel when the prophets of Baal cried out to
their idol and received nothing, while Elijah prayed to the true and
living God who sent fire from heaven.
The prophets didnít weave fables together.
God confirmed their word with miraculous signs.
Elijah stood with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Jesus face shone like the sun.
Peter, James, and John were there.
They saw it. They
heard the voice of God the Father speaking from heaven: ďThis is My
beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!Ē
They were terrified. Peter
was there. He wrote down
what he saw and heard.
always confirmed His word with signs.
Jesus Himself said to the Jews, ďDestroy this temple and in
three days I will raise it up.Ē He
predicted his resurrection. He
claimed the power to raise Himself from the dead.
When He did so, His words were confirmed.
Christians are turned this way and that, wandering around in doubt
because they have lost their confidence in the Bible.
They are taught the myth of evolution as fact and are thereby led
to regard the account of creation in Godís word as myth. Just as I was taught nearly forty years ago in Walther
League, young folks today are being taught to question the accuracy of
the Bible. How can you
believe in the accuracy of ancient men who were ignorant of what modern
science has taught us? Those
ignorant ancients couldnít have known any better, but we do.
We are so much more knowledgeable than they.
believe it! The Holy
Scriptures are a light shining in a dark place.
This is so because they are true.
Light is truth. Error
is darkness. Light is clear. Error
is obscure and complicated. Light
enlightens. Error blinds.
The greatest folly comes from rejecting the clear Scriptures,
inspired by God.
the Bible is true is because God is the Author of the Bible. We donít confess that the Bible is Godís word because of
what the Bible says. We
confess that the Bible is Godís word because of who said it.
As St. Peter explains:
you read the Bible you may not impose on the Bible your own notions.
People will often go to the written word of God with their own
agenda. They have their own
opinions and they impose them on the biblical text.
They say, ďThis is what it means to me.Ē
But it doesnít mean one thing to you and another thing to you
and another thing to the other guy.
It means what it says.
one needs to know how to read a text.
This is sometimes challenging when the text was written two or
three thousand years ago. But
itís not as challenging as you might think.
You can read the Bible and know what God is saying.
When you come to a difficult passage that doesnít make sense to
you, donít worry about it. Just
keep on reading. What does
make sense will help to clarify what doesnít immediately make sense.
The Bible interprets the Bible.
reason we may not impose our own opinions or traditions or prejudices on
the biblical text is because this text is holy.
It is sacred ground. Holy
men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
When the Holy Spirit speaks, we should listen.
We may not presume to correct Him, even if His words defy the
opinion of the majority. When
you consider how fickle public opinion is, you see how foolish we are to
base our beliefs on it. The
Holy Spirit cannot mislead us. He
is called the Spirit of truth. This
is why we can rely on the Scriptures as we rely on God Himself.
God wrote the Bible.
know the Bible is true is because God wrote it.
He chose fallible men to speak infallibly.
He chose men who were capable of error to write what was
inerrant. But the fact that
the Bible is true is not enough. Much
that is true is of little benefit.
Some things that are true are downright frightening or even
harmful. What makes the
Bible such a precious book is not just that it is God true word, but
that it is Godís saving word.
we speak of the means of grace we usually mean to speak of the gospel
that is preached and the sacraments that are administered.
We go to church. We
listen. We eat and we
drink. God comes to us
through the words that we hear. Thatís
the way it should be. As
God the Father said to Peter, James, and John: ďThis is My beloved
Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!Ē
the Bible is also a means of grace.
That is, when we read the Bible we find Jesus in it.
There is nothing the preacher has to say that isnít already in
the Bible. When Jesus had died, risen from the dead, and was about to
ascend into heaven He appeared to His disciples and, in St. Lukeís
account, showed them why it was that He had to suffer, die, and rise
from the dead. Hereís how
St. Luke relates it:
And he said unto them, ďThese are the words which I spoke to
you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which
were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in
the psalms, concerning me.Ē Then he opened their understanding, that
they might understand the scriptures, and said to them, ďThus it is
written, and thus it was necessary for Christ to suffer and to rise from
the dead the third day: And
that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name
among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:44-47)
Jesus had to suffer and die is because the Bible said so. The reason He had to rise from the dead is because the Bible
said so. The Bible is not
just a record of events that is entirely accurate.
The Bible is God binding Himself to promises that He simply must
what this means. As Jesus
was dying on the cross and taking upon Himself your sins He was quoting
the Bible. He cried out in
the words of Psalm 22, ďMy God, my God, why have you forsaken me?Ē
This was what he was talking about with Moses and Elijah on the
Mount of Transfiguration. He
was talking to them about fulfilling the Scriptures.
biblical text is always more than a text, that is, more than words on a
page. I know that the Bible
may appear to modern sophisticates to be outdated.
Itís so called errors are simply assumed by most people who
regard themselves as educated. But
appearances are often deceiving. The
man crying out in agony on the cross in fulfillment of the psalm was
thought to be a pathetic failure crying out to a dead prophet for help.
Instead, he was crying out for you and for me and for all sinners
ever born. He was crying
out all our errors and failing that, no matter deeply we may regret
them, we cannot remove them. He
was fulfilling every promise of forgiveness and grace that God has ever
made. He was taking away
the sin of the world as the Bible recorded he would do.
he did so flawlessly, without any error along the way.
His perfection now covers our imperfections.
Wherever we go and whatever we do we are covered by the faultless
righteousness of Jesus who never erred in thought, word, or deed.
And the words written down in the Bible are as faultless as the
One about whom the Scriptures are written.
Whether describing the creation of the Adam and Eve or recounting
a miracle or describing the history of Jesus life, the Bible is entirely
free from error. When we
read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest it we find ourselves solidly
grounded on Christ. Within
the sacred page lies the blood and righteousness of Jesus.
This is why we treasure this book, hold on to what is says in
childlike faith, and confess its truth.
In so doing we are confessing that Godís promises to us are
sure and certain and cannot fail.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus