The Bible and Faith
Quasimodogeniti Sunday| Rolf D. Preus| April 12, 2015| St. John 20:30-31
And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
Today’s Gospel Lesson reveals who Jesus is, what he accomplished for us, and what he gives to us. He is who Thomas confessed him to be when he said, “My Lord and my God.” He who was nailed to the cross, suffered, and died, is our God. He is risen from the dead, lives, and reigns to all eternity.
What he accomplished for us he announced to the apostles who were gathered together in fear. “Peace be with you.” He spoke peace and peace is what he had just accomplished. As St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:19,
God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.
He wrote in Colossians 1:19-20,
For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
By bearing our sin and removing it from us as far as the east is from the west, Jesus reconciled us to God. He made peace.
What he accomplished in his body on Calvary once and for all, he gives through his Spirit to the end of time. He personally spoke words that bestowed peace to the apostles on that first Easter evening and he continues to speak these words of peace through his apostolic ministry. Jesus gave to his apostles, and through them he gave to his whole church, the authority to forgive and retain sins. He said:
Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.
God joined the human race make peace with the human race. God became our brother to do and to suffer what was required of us. Jesus spoke peace to his apostles, showed them the wounds in his hands and his side, and spoke peace to them again. The wounds he displayed establish peace.
The peace Jesus established by his obedience unto death is the peace he gives through the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments. You see and hear a minister who is as sinful as you, but the words he speaks that tell you you are forgiven of all your sins are the very words of Jesus. Jesus said so. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.” That’s what he said. He sent his apostles out to speak on his behalf. “If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Those who think they may refuse to repent and live lives of open disobedience to God must have their sins bound by Christ’s ministers. Jesus forgives and retains sins today. Christ is with his church today with the same peace to give, the same forgiveness, the same Holy Spirit as he gave in person to the apostles on that first Easter evening.
Jesus established the pastoral office in his church when he sent out the apostles as the church’s first pastors. Jesus wants us to gather together in his name and to hear the gospel preached to us. God has always spoken to his people through the mouths of men. We should listen to the preaching of the gospel. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” We call the preached word the oral word because it comes out of the mouth and we listen to it. But Christ has given us more than the oral word. He has given us the written word. We call it the Bible.
The word Bible means book. There are many so called holy books, but there is only one book that is truly holy, that is literally the word of God. God did not speak through Muhammad or Joseph Smith or Ellen White or any number of self-appointed so-called prophets who have risen over the years. The prophets that God sent spoke the truth about Christ, as Jesus explained to his disciples after he rose from the dead, as recorded in St. Luke 24:26-27,
“Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
The entire Bible was written to teach us of Christ so that through him we might have eternal life. Jesus said, as recorded in St. John 5:39 & 46,
You search the Scriptures, because in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. . . For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.
The apostles preached the same thing. Peter preached to the household of Cornelius about Jesus, saying:
To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins. Acts 10:43
St. Paul wrote to Timothy:
From childhood [literally, infancy] you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 3:15
The topic of the Bible is Jesus. This is where the Bible gets its power to save us. The Author of the Bible is God. This is where the Bible gets its authority to teach us.
The Author of the Bible is God. The same Jesus who breathed his Spirit upon his disciples on that first Easter evening saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” had promised them only a few days earlier that this Spirit, whom Jesus called the Spirit of truth, would guide them into all truth. That’s what Jesus promised the apostles. Jesus keeps his promises. The apostolic Scriptures are the truth that comes from God.
“These are written that you may believe,” John said. Note the connection. We believe what is written. It is written so that we may believe. Faith in Jesus is faith in the truthfulness of the Bible. To argue that we may dismiss what is written while still holding onto Jesus in faith is to argue against St. John, an apostle of Christ that the Spirit of truth led into all truth. Jesus is the incarnate Word, the Word made flesh. The Bible is the written word. We believe the Bible because we believe Jesus. We know what Jesus says by reading the Bible.
It was Jesus who said that man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. We who have peace with God, who have received eternal life in Jesus’ name, whose sins are forgiven through faith in his suffering and death, live on every word in the Holy Scriptures. The Bible is God-breathed, according to St. Paul. I could be wrong, and you could be wrong, and your husband or wife or best friend could be wrong, but the Bible cannot be wrong because God wrote it. As St. John says, “These are written that you may believe.”
We live at a time when much of nominal Christianity no longer teaches that the Bible is really God’s word. What erring and sinful human beings think trumps what the Bible clearly says. It becomes stylish to adopt the theory that we evolved from the animals so they dismiss what the Bible says about Adam and Eve as a myth. It becomes stylish to insist that there is no difference between men and women so they deny what the Bible says about men and women, marriage, the family, homosexuality, and so forth. They sink deeper and deeper into the mire of a godless Bible-doubting culture as the world – not God – becomes the source of truth for erring churches that, while claiming loyalty to Jesus Christ, promote doubt in the veracity of the words of the Bible.
“These are written that you may believe.” That means that what is written by the prophets and apostles in the Holy Scriptures is true. If stylish opinion disagrees, it is wrong and the Bible is right. We Christians must become countercultural and take our stand on the Bible. For if we lose the Bible we lose Jesus.
What is written is written that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and believing we may have life in his name. The Bible was not written so that we may learn how to make more money, how to enjoy better physical health, how to improve the civil government, or how correct every social injustice. Folks like to bring their own agendas to the Bible and twist the Bible to serve their own purposes. The purpose of the Bible is the purpose that God had in writing it and preserving it for us to read: that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we may have life in his name.
Some years ago I met a fellow from Utah who grew up as a Jack Mormon. He didn’t know much about religion, but he certainly knew that the way to eternal life was by your own good deeds. He figured that everybody knew that. That’s why he was deeply offended one Sunday morning, when travelling across the country, he happened to attend a Missouri Synod congregation and the pastor preached that sinners are forgiven of their sins freely by God’s grace for Christ’s sake and that our good works do not help us get to heaven. He was offended and argued with the pastor after church. The pastor told him to read St. Paul’s Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians.
A few days later, the man was staying at a hotel. He found a Bible in a desk drawer and read St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. He told me what happened when he did. He became a Christian. He was born again. He went from being an unbeliever who trusted in himself into a believer who trusted in the blood and righteousness of Jesus. This happened to him by him reading the Bible. Later this man became a pastor in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.
These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and believing you may have life in his name.
That’s why the Bible was written. That’s why we should read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest it. Come to church. Listen to the words of Jesus that give you peace, the Holy Spirit, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life in heaven. Do not deprive your soul of the gospel Christ preaches to you.
But God has more for you. He has written a book for you to read. Every word is true. It cannot err, mislead, or deceive you. God wrote this book so that you would learn not to rely on your own wisdom, strength, or good deeds, but on the obedience and suffering of the God-man Jesus Christ who sets you at peace with God, fills you with the Holy Spirit, and by forgiving you of all your sins gives you a life to live that is truly worth living.