2 Peter 1:16-21 (The Transfiguration of Our Lord—Series A)
“It Can Be Trusted”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
March 2, 2014
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Epistle Lesson recorded in 2 Peter 1:
For 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. 17 For 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,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, 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, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
One day, a boy named Zac and his father were out in the country, climbing around in some cliffs. The father heard a voice from above him yell, “Hey Dad! Catch me!” He turned around to see Zac who had already joyfully jumped off a rock coming straight at him. (Zac had jumped and then yelled, “Hey Dad!”) The father became an instant circus act, catching him. They both fell to the ground. For a moment after he caught his son he could hardly talk. When the father found his voice again he gasped in exasperation: ‘Zac! Can you give me one good reason why you did that?’ He responded with remarkable calmness: ‘Sure…because you’re my Dad.’ His whole assurance was based in the fact that his father was trustworthy.
The question presented to us in our Epistle lesson from 2 Peter is, “Is the Bible trustworthy?” Can we base our whole assurance of forgiveness and eternal life on the fact that the Bible is really God’s Word? Is it true? Is it reliable?
There are those who say, “No.” There are those who say that the Bible can’t be trusted, that it really isn’t God’s Word. They claim that it is not true nor is it reliable. We find those people from the very beginning of Christianity. One of the reasons Peter wrote this letter was to combat those who were telling the new Christians that the Bible was untrustworthy and encouraging them to live however they wanted. Scoffers insisted that the fires of God’s judgment were out and that Christ was not going to return as the apostles had preached. They based their arguments on the sketchy evidence that nothing seems to have changed since creation. They figured that nothing, then, would ever change in the future. God’s Word in what we know as the Old Testament was viewed as untrustworthy and unreliable. Additionally, the apostles had made-up the New Testament message about Jesus and His cross, resurrection, ascension, and coming again. They said, “See, God isn’t doing anything. Nothing is happening. Don’t believe the Scriptures. They can’t be right. Don’t believe the teachings of the apostles. They made it all up.”
In calling God’s Word into question, in disputing the reliability, truth, and trustworthiness of God’s Word and the message He had given through the apostles, these scoffers offered a specific liberty and freedom from the Word of God. Since the Scriptures and the message of the apostles about Jesus’ return for judgment isn’t to be trusted, they offered instead an unbridled immorality as an acceptable expression of Christianity. From 2 Peter 2, “They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime . . . . They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed.” (2 Peter 2:13-14) These teachers approached the most vulnerable new Christians with the titillating message that appeals to base sexual desires: “For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.” (2 Peter 2:18)
Without standards, anything goes. If the Bible is not true, then we don’t need to worry about keeping the Ten Commandments, for there will be no consequence for disobedience. If the Bible really isn’t God’s Word, then we are free to believe, live, and do whatever feels right to us because there is no standard and no consequence.
Can we, in the 21st Century, trust the Bible? Is it really God’s Word, true, and reliable? Again, many today say, “No.” I found these responses on “Yahoo! Answers” regarding the question, “Why Don’t People Believe the Bible?”
–The Bible is filled with obvious patent nonsense. No further reason is required for failure to believe in it.
— I don’t really believe in the bible cuz it was written by a bunch of men. Not word of God himself. And there are some inconsistencies.
— Are you a troll? Or is this for real? It has to do with the illogical stories and the contradictions within the Bible. . . . I spent 11 years in a Christian school. That is 11 years studying the bible. I have yet to read anything in it that gives me reason to believe it’s true.
–Stories that include talking donkeys and snakes are clearly not to be believed. You don’t take Shrek seriously do you?
—Who says the Bible is true? The people who wrote it that you have never known? The only proof you have is what it says in that book and anyone could have written anything! Do you not see how this is ridiculous? If not, then that is why your country is falling! You Christians are completely delusional.
Well, are we Christians completely delusional? Are we putting our trust in a book that isn’t to be trusted? Are we placing our earthly lives and eternal salvation into the hands of words that are not really from God and which are not at all reliable? No, we are not! The words written by Peter in our text today are as true as the day he penned them because they are God’s Words! But how can we be certain? Because Peter was an eyewitness who gives first-hand, eyewitness information!
Like so many today, those people in the first century were questioning the apostles’ Word about Christ and His Second Coming, as well as raising doubts about the source of the Old Testament. They charged, like we heard from these contemporary quotations, that the message was untrue since it must have arisen from “cleverly devised myths.” Peter says, “Not so!” “We did not follow craftily devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” Peter evidences this from the events of Jesus’ transfiguration. “We were there—James, John, and I. We were there when Jesus received honor and glory from God the Father. We saw Him transfigured, His clothes white as light. We saw Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah. We heard the voice of God the Father speak, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’”
Peter tells us Christians that there were witnesses—apostolic witnesses—of Jesus’ transfiguration. They heard the divine words spoken. Peter lays this down as evidence that the apostles’ message about Jesus Christ and His powerful coming again are based on a divine source, not a made up myth or story. And what about the credibility of the Old Testament? The opponents seem to claim that the Old Testament was a story developed from the prophets’ own imaginations. With vehemence Peter again says, “Not so!” The Old Testament also originates from God. The Old Testament, like the words of the apostles’, are utterly reliable. It shines like a lamp in a dark place as it illumines Christ, His person and His saving work, until He comes again with a brighter light on the Last Day.
The Old Testament is a sure prophetic word, pointing us to Christ, the fulfillment of God’s promise to save all people lost eternally in sin and death. Jesus Himself repeatedly quotes from the books of the Old Testament as authoritative, as God’s Word. In Luke 24, Jesus shows the two men on the road to Emmaus how He, the Christ, is the heart and center of the Old Testament Word of God, “And [Jesus] said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27)
Jesus, true Man and true God, not only quotes the Old Testament as reliable and true, He completes and fulfills what the prophets have spoken. Jesus suffered and died on the cross winning the forgiveness of sins for all people. As the Old Testament said, “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) We are healed from our sins through the blood-bought forgiveness of Jesus. This is what the Bible teaches, and we are certain that it is true and reliable because of the authoritative eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection!
Peter was an eyewitness, not only to the Transfiguration, but also of Jesus’ resurrection. Just as the prophets had said in the sacred, Holy Spirit-inspired pages of the Old Testament and just as Jesus Himself had predicted, our Lord suffered, was crucified, and on the third day rose again. Peter and the other apostles who penned the pages of the New Testament as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit were witnesses of these things. These events were not made up or fabricated. They were done by Jesus, the Son of God, and seen by His apostles and witnessed to in the pages of what we call the New Testament. In the Bible we have a clear testimony to the person and work of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. In the Holy Scriptures we have the assurance that Jesus did and said all these things. We have the certainty that He suffered under Pontius Pilate, that He was nailed to the cross and shed His blood. Jesus suffered death and hell in our place on the cross. We have the surety that He rose from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity, and that He will come again, just as He said, to judge the living and the dead.
In addition, we also have God’s Word’s own testimony about itself, as Paul was carried by the Holy Spirit to write in his second letter to Timothy, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:14-17)
All Scripture, Old and New Testaments, can be trusted, used, and relied on in every time and in every aspect of our lives. We have the Word’s assurance itself. We have the eyewitness testimony of Peter and the other apostles as well as the witness of the prophets. We have the guarantee of Jesus, God Himself, that His own Word is reliable and trustworthy because He brought it all to fulfillment. He is the Savior promised in the pages of the Old Testament. He is the Christ who suffered, died, and rose again winning for us and all people the forgiveness of sins. He is the Lord who continues to speak to us through His Word His message of forgiveness, life, comfort, and salvation. Christ is our King, who is coming again to take us to be with Him in the joy and blessedness of a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
By the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God, remain steadfast in your faith and trust in Holy Scripture. Do not follow cleverly devised myths that seek to pull you away from the Lord, your Savior, and your faith. By the power of the Holy Spirit working through Word and Sacrament, cling ever more firmly to the sure prophetic and apostolic Word of God in the pages of the Bible as the world tempts you to not trust and believe, as people lie to you about the Bible’s truth and trustworthiness. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” (Heb. 10:23) “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1Thess. 5:20) Amen.