The Second Sunday in Advent
The Bible Gives us Patience, Endurance, and Hope
December 9, 2018
For whatever things were written before were written to teach us, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Now may the God of patience and comfort give you the same mind toward each other, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:4-6
When we read the Bible, God talks to us. He teaches us. What God teaches us in the Bible gives us patience and comfort. The Bible encourages us. It gives us hope. God’s teaching in the Bible has almighty power to give us hope when we are facing despair. That’s because the Holy Spirit is the author of the Bible and Jesus Christ is the topic of the Bible. The Holy Spirit is the Lord and giver of life. He gives us life by giving us Jesus. He does this through the teaching of the Bible. This is how the Bible unites us Christians together as one. It’s not just a book. It’s God’s word. It is God’s word written down. As God’s written word, it teaches us about the eternal Word by whom all things were made, who became flesh to redeem us poor sinners and bring us back to God.
The Bible is God’s word. It does not become God’s word when it is read, believed, and powerfully provides us with patience, comfort, and hope. The Bible is God’s word because God wrote it. The Holy Spirit directed the writers of the Bible to write what he wanted them to write. Every single word of the Bible is the word of God. St. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16 that all Scripture or every Scripture is God-breathed. The Bible is powerful to give us patience, comfort, and hope. But the Bible doesn’t become God’s word when it gives us patience, comfort, and hope. The Bible gives us patience, comfort, and hope because it is God’s word.
There are other so called holy books that God did not write. They are not God’s word. Muslims claim that the Koran is God’s word, but it is not. It was written by a false prophet and it teaches a false religion. Mormons claim that the Book of Mormon is God’s word, but it is not. It, too, was written by a false prophet and it teaches a false religion. The Bible is the only book that was actually authored by God.
God gave us the Bible through the prophets and apostles who were living here on earth. God didn’t write the Bible up in heaven and send it down by an angel. Islam teaches that Gabriel dictated the Koran to Muhammad. Mormons teach that an angel named Moroni told Joseph Smith where the Book of Mormon was buried. Manmade religions, like Islam and Mormonism, claim that their so called holy books were given them by angels. St. Paul says, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8) The Christian religion is the only true religion. The Triune God is the only true God. He is the God of the Bible. The Old Testament was written here on earth over a period of over a thousand years. God spoke through many prophets over many years. The New Testament was written in a period of about fifty years. It was written by apostles that Jesus sent, and by men closely associated with the apostles.
The Bible was not written in heaven and sent down to earth by angels. It was not engraved in gold and buried somewhere in upstate New York. It was written here on earth where we live. It was written by men. God spoke through the men who wrote the Bible. The Epistle to the Hebrews begins with these words:
He has spoken. He has no more to say than what the prophets and apostles wrote down. He has spoken. There will be no more revelations of divine truth. Jesus is the final revelation of truth. No one can add to Jesus, supplant Jesus, amend Jesus, or improve on Jesus. Jesus is God’s final word. This is how we know that Muhammad, Joseph Smith, and others who have claimed new revelations from God, are false prophets. God said he had said all he was going to say and they come along and say, “No, God has something more to say.” No, he doesn’t. All he has to say he says in the Bible. This is why we must be willing to be taught from the Bible. That’s why God wrote it. It was to teach us. We must hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Holy Scriptures. We must shut our ears and our minds to any teaching from anybody that claims to be the truth about God and is not taught in the Bible.
Read the Bible. Study it. Take it to heart. When you are anxious about your future, God will teach you patience. When you’re burdened by your failures, God will comfort you with the forgiveness of your sins. When you doubt your Christian faith and identity, God will replace your doubts with the sure and certain hope of heaven itself. God will do this for you. He will do it through the Holy Scriptures. To say that God teaches us patience, comforts us, and gives us hope and to say that the Bible teaches us patience, comforts us, and gives us hope is to say the same thing. The Bible is his book. It is God talking.
When God talks to us in his book he unites us with one another. The unity we Christians enjoy is a spiritual unity. We have many differences: political, social, economic, ethnic, and family differences. We differ in many ways, yet St. Paul writes:
God teaches us all from the Bible. This is how he makes us of one mind. When God, through the Bible, gives us patience and comfort, he also joins us together in one mind. The Bible is the book that binds us together in the same mind, the same faith, the same confession, the same saving truth. Being of the same mind, we can then with one mouth glorify God together.
The unity we have as Christians is God’s gift. It isn’t a human achievement. With political unity factions within the same party get together to negotiate a position that will achieve their common goals and secure their victory on Election Day. It’s the art of compromise. Give a little here so you can get a little there.
The spiritual unity we enjoy is different. We don’t negotiate anything. We simply believe what God teaches us. He speaks words to teach us. We repeat back to him in confession the words he taught us. He teaches. We believe what he teaches and confess it.
When I was a student in college I learned how to get an A. It’s not enough to learn the material. You must learn the teacher. I noticed that Dr. Bartling had a very high opinion of Eleanor Roosevelt, so when I studied for one of his tests, I made it a point to pay close attention to the material on Eleanor Roosevelt. It paid off. That’s what he wanted us to know.
When God teaches you, he wants you to know especially about his Son, Jesus Christ, the Savior. He wants you to know your need for a Savior. For that knowledge you need to be taught God’s law and you need to learn to acknowledge your sin to God. If you’re not a sinner, you don’t need a Savior. There is no faith without repentance. There is no Christmas without Advent. There is no gospel – no good news – without God teaching us, from the Bible, his law that exposes our selfishness, pride, malice, lust, and every other evil thought, word, and deed.
The Bible doesn’t leave us under the law’s judgment. Jesus said that if we continue in his word we will know the truth that will make us free. That freedom comes from Christ. He teaches us about his body and blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of sins. He teaches us that he bears our burden for us and forgives us on account of his obedience and suffering. He teaches us that the Spirit of truth who speaks to us in the Bible will unite us in the truth.
We are one with one another because God teaches us the same doctrine and we confess it together. We are one with one another because we have received the same grace. We receive the same forgiveness from the same Lord Jesus. Everything God teaches us in the Bible he teaches us so that we might know Christ as our Redeemer and Savior from sin and death. This knowledge joins us together in one mind that we may with one voice praise God together.
You can read the Bible when you are home alone. You can hear the Bible preached here in this church. You can attend Bible class where we read and discuss what the Bible says. We call this kind of talk theology, literally, God-talk. When God’s people engage in God-talk God is there with them. We’ve never seen God, but we hear him speak whenever his word is taught to us. To go to where God’s word is taught is to go to God himself, for God is the real teacher.
Is Bible class really that important? Surely, the church service is all we need. But consider. Years ago, preachers would preach for an hour. There was an hourglass next to the pulpit. When the sand had gone through, the sermon was over. The people would listen. Nowadays, a sermon is considered too long if it lasts longer than twenty minutes. People tell unfunny jokes about long sermons, as if we don’t need that much preaching. Smug self-satisfaction results in doctrinal ignorance, spiritual apathy, confusion, division, and the decline of the church.
We need more teaching, not less. We need Bible teaching throughout our lives. The devil, the world, and our sinful flesh don’t stop teaching us to deny God’s promises, defy his law, and ignore his gospel. As long as we are living in these bodies in this world we will need to be taught by God from the Bible. The Bible was written to teach us. This teaching is our light in a dark and dying world.
The central message of the Bible is that God graciously forgives us undeserving sinners, not because of our good works, but through faith alone in Christ Jesus our Redeemer. This precious teaching unites us in one mind, strengthens and invigorates the church, and enables us to praise God together with one mind and one voice.
Let us pray:
Rolf D. Preus