The Transfiguration of our Lord
February 2, 2020
“The Word of God”
2 Peter 1:16-21
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 His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. We also have the more sure prophetic word, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:16-21
The Transfiguration of our Lord is the last Sunday in the season of Epiphany. Jesus reveals in his human nature his glory as true God. Nowhere did he reveal it more clearly than on the Mount of Transfiguration. His face shone like the sun. His clothes became as white as light. The Father spoke from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!”
The Epistle and Gospel lessons for today fit together beautifully. In the Gospel Lesson we see Jesus glorified in the presence of three New Testament apostles, Peter, James, and John, as well as two Old Testament prophets, Moses, and Elijah. The church of the Old Testament and the church of the New Testament together look upon their God and brother, glorified before them, directing our Christian hope to heaven where we will be glorified with him. “Listen to Jesus,” the Father says. How are we to do that?
Read your Bible! If you want to know Jesus, read your Bible. If you want your faith in him to be strengthened, read your Bible. If you want God’s light to shine on your path when it is pitch dark outside, if you want confidence in the gospel of the forgiveness of sins when your conscience accuses you, if you want truth about the most important matters of life and death while living in a world blinded by lies, read your Bible!
“Listen to him,” the Father says. How are we to do that? Read the Bible! The Bible is the book about Jesus, the Son of God. The Son reveals the Father. The Holy Spirit reveals the Son. The Bible is the book the Holy Spirit wrote for us so that we would know Jesus and through him know the Father. The Bible is written so that we may know Jesus Christ and believe in him as our Savior from sin, death, and hell. The central truth of the Bible is the truth that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Peter saw Jesus glorified on the mountain. What a wonderful experience! You’ve never had such an experience. But listen to what Peter says. After saying he was an eyewitness of Jesus’ glory and that he heard the Father’s voice speak from heaven, he immediately went on to say:
You can read your Bible and know that this is God talking to you. You have to know how to read. You need to know a few things about language: nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, grammar, sentences and such. The Bible isn’t a magical book with magical powers. It’s not as if you put your Bible on the table, bow before it, and ask it questions. You must read it. You must, as we used to pray, “Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest it.” As you do so God is speaking to you. He speaks clearly. St. Peter calls the Bible a light that shines in a dark place. The psalmist writes,
The Bible is a clear book. We don’t need to rely on a pope, a clerical magisterium, or a team of scholars to tell us what the Bible means. The Bible interprets itself. Church tradition often helps us to understand the Bible. We experience in our own lives the love and power of God that is taught in the Bible. We exercise our reasoning ability to understand what the Bible says and how it applies to us. But tradition, experience, and reason must be placed under the authority of the Bible. We may not appeal to tradition, experience, or reason to go against the plain meaning of the biblical text. The Bible alone is the source and standard of what we teach. It is the only book that God wrote.
Many nominal Christians today deny that God wrote it. They claim that the written words of the Bible came about as the result of an evolving oral tradition. People passed down by word of mouth what they believed and finally a writer put the oral tradition into writing and claimed God said it. But in fact it was what the people said about God. This explanation of where the Bible came from is what you will be taught in most colleges, universities, and seminaries in America. Instead of the Bible being God’s word to his church it is the church’s word about God. This is the scholarly consensus today.
St. Peter disagrees. He writes:
The Bible was not written by the impulse of men. The real Author of every word of the Bible is the Holy Spirit. As Peter says, “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” The writers of the Holy Scriptures wrote what God gave them to write. They didn’t decide what to write. God did. Peter writes, “Prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
St. Peter joins together what was written and what was spoken by the prophets. They spoke and they wrote. The word of God is spoken. What is spoken is written. If what is spoken does not agree with what is written it is not the word of God.
Does God speak today? Yes, he does! He speaks through the written word. He speaks through the preached word when the preached word is drawn from the written word. He speaks through baptism, the absolution, and the Lord’s Supper. We listen to the voice of Jesus. But in every generation there are religious know-it-alls who claim to have a direct hotline to heaven. They claim that God said thus and so, even though they cannot show us in the Bible where he said it. They are known as enthusiasts. In the Smalcald Articles, one of our Lutheran Confessions, Luther confronts their error. He writes:
This is what we confess. It is what St. Peter teaches us in our text:
Don’t seek another light than the light of the Holy Scriptures. Don’t look for guidance apart from the word of God that is written down by the prophets and apostles. The Bible is the light that shines in the darkness until Christ is revealed directly to us and in us on the last day. The day will dawn. Christ will rise in our hearts. We will experience, we will feel, we will be filled with the glory that is ours in Jesus Christ. That’s what will be. For that day we wait. Meanwhile, we walk through a dark world, guided by the light of the written word of God.
The Bible is true. It contains no myths or fables. St. Peter writes,
Other religions make false claims about their so called holy books. The false prophet Muhammad claimed that Gabriel dictated the Koran to him. To which St. Paul wrote a few hundred years earlier,
The false prophet Joseph Smith claimed to have found the Book of Mormon buried some place in New York State. But the Bible, the only written word of God, was not buried or dictated by an angel. It was written here on earth over a period of fifteen hundred years. From Genesis through Revelation the Bible teaches the same doctrine, reveals the same Christ, and makes us wise for salvation.
To benefit from reading the Bible we should know what its benefits are. St. Peter says it is a light shining in a dark place. St. Paul writes to Timothy,
As long as we live in these dying bodies, we will be assaulted by the trinity of evil: the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. We don’t just get ourselves saved and then sail on up into glory. We live under the cross. Jesus left the Mount of Transfiguration and went to Mount Calvary where he suffered and died for the sin of the world. This is where the Bible brings us. The Bible brings us to our Savior. We need him in whom the Father was well-pleased. Clothed in his righteousness by our baptism, the Father is well pleased with us. The Bible teaches us this. It teaches us so many precious things. All of its teaching is centered on Jesus our Savior.
Let us pray:
Blessed Lord, who hast caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of Thy holy Word we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which Thou has given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God world without end. Amen
Rolf D. Preus