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Sermon for October 16, 2016

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5 (Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 24—Series C)

“The Bible Is God’s Word”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

October 16, 2016

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text is today’s Epistle Lesson recorded in 2 Timothy 3 and 4:

14But you, continue in the things which you learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be fully competent, standing equipped for every good work. 1I charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is about to judge the living and the dead, and His appearing and His kingdom: 2preach the word. Be ready in season and out of season. Expose wrongdoing, rebuke, and exhort with all patience and teaching. 3For there will be a time when they will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate teachers according to their own passions. 4And they will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths. 5But you be sober in all things, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

 

          The Bible is made up of sixty-six books, 1,189 chapters. It covers a time period of thousands of years. And to borrow a line from Han Solo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, “It’s true; all of it.” The Bible, the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the inspired Word of God. “All Scripture is God-breathed.” And all of it is true.

          We live in a culture that is rapidly moving away from this orthodox confession of Scripture. Based on the data I could find that was somewhat up-to-date, 25% of Americans do not believe that the Bible is God’s Word. And the trend is that the number is growing. Ever since the days of The Enlightenment in the 18th Century, the idea of a divinely inspired Word of God has been challenged by thinkers of a more “rational” nature. Great damage has been done to the Christian faith of many people who have fallen prey to the thinking that the Bible is a collection of spiritual stories and fables designed to make a point about right living rather than being the very Word of the one, true God put in human language.

          Evolutionary theory, taught today as fact, claims that the creation story in Genesis is simply that—a story. If an all-powerful God did make the world and everything in it, then He obviously used the process of “natural evolution,” because an all-powerful God couldn’t possibly create everything in 6, 24-hour days as the Bible claims. A world-wide flood isn’t rationally possible either. So it’s a made up story to teach a moral point, much like similar flood stories found in other ancient societies. Rational explanations for the ten plagues against Egypt have been suggested—it was red algae that turned the Nile to “blood” and not actual blood. No way Jonah could have been swallowed by a great fish or even a whale and survived to tell the tale, even though the Bible says that he did, covered in seaweed and fish vomit. The miracles of Jesus could have never really happened. He wasn’t really God, but claimed to be God, and got a bunch of followers to be duped by Him. The resurrection is good fiction, too. Of course, Paul made up a bunch of stuff to keep the Christ-movement going so that most of the New Testament is word of the man Paul and certainly not Word of God.

          That’s the society in which we live. That’s the confession of our culture—the Bible is not the inspired, inerrant Word of God. Perhaps the Bible contains the Word of God in some part, but the whole thing isn’t the true Word of God. It has been well-documented throughout history that the parts of the Bible people find challenging or don’t understand, they ignore or deny the truth of it. If there’s a part of the Bible that goes against what they feel is true, they disregard it. And it’s usually the parts of Scripture that speak God’s Law and shows sin. Of course, if I’m doing something that the Bible calls “sin,” and I don’t want my action to be “sin,” I will claim that that isn’t the Word of God. So then it doesn’t apply. For example, the world in which we live does this very thing with homosexuality, which is condemned as a sinful lifestyle in both Testaments.

          But does it really matter all that much if we say that the Bible “contains” the Word of God versus the Bible “is” the Word of God? It sure does matter! If the Bible merely contains sections that are the real Word of God, how would anyone ever know which parts those are? Who would decide, “This is Word of God here, but this is not Word of God here, so you can disregard it.”? It becomes completely subjective. How could you trust what the Bible says about anything with this sort of “cut-and-paste” mentality? If the story of Jonah and the big fish isn’t 100% factual, then maybe Jesus dying on the cross to save us from our sins isn’t 100% true either. If Noah never really existed or built an ark, and if the flood never happened, maybe the resurrection story is a nice fable too so that people have some sort of hope, something to look forward to in the face of death.

If the Bible merely contains parts that are God’s Word, we have nothing to believe in. There’s no way we could rely on anything that the Bible says. It would become simply a nice piece of ancient literature or just another spiritual self-help book. And many people regard the Bible that way.

Now saying that the Bible “is” God’s Word is a whole other matter. That confession means that one believes that everything, from Genesis to Revelation is the God-breathed Word of the only true God. All of it is true—no myths, no made up stories to make a point. If the Bible is the Word of God, then it can be trusted. There is no doubt what God is revealing to you because all of Scripture is His Word that points you to your salvation from sin and eternal death through faith in Jesus Christ.

There is no way to prove this scientifically. But we have Scriptures own testimony about itself. Our text this morning is a good place to start. “All Scripture is God-breathed.” Not some of it, all of it. The whole thing is inspired by God. How? We are told in 2 Peter 1:21, “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.” Yes, God used human writers to put His divine, holy Word into human language. God the Holy Spirit inspired the holy writers to write down the words they used and they thoughts that they expressed. Everything was penned just as God wanted, using each writer’s unique style. The full and complete text, all 1,189 verses are Word of God. They are all accurate, truthful, and free of error.

It is this inspired, inerrant Word that is all about Jesus. “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob point us to Jesus! Noah, Samuel, and David point us to Jesus! The tabernacle and the temple point us to Jesus! All the sacrifices, all the wars, all the poems, and even all the genealogies point us to Jesus! Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, and all the other human authors of the Holy Scriptures point us to Jesus!”[1] It is the “sacred Scriptures” that make us “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Without the inspired, inerrant Word of God, you and I would not know our sinfulness and the punishment of death and hell that await all who sin against God’s Word in thought, desire, word, and action. We couldn’t be taught what sin is and how it separates us from God eternally. We could not be reproved or rebuked, and corrected, so that we might realize our sins and our dire condition and look to the Lord for grace and mercy. And without God’s inspired, inerrant Word, there would be no knowledge of God’s grace and mercy for sinners. We wouldn’t know how much God loved His fallen creation so that He gave His One-of-a-Kind Son to become flesh among us, to live a perfect life for us, and to suffer and die on a cross winning forgiveness of sins and eternal life for all who believe in Him through the Spirit’s gift of saving faith. It is this Gospel Word which is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). We wouldn’t have this Gospel Word that saves if not for the Holy Scriptures, the inspired Word of God. For it is this Word that makes us “fully competent, standing equipped for every good work.”

The inspired Word of God by the working of the Holy Spirit delivers to us the gift of saving faith in Jesus Christ, who died and rose for us. The Word bestows upon us what it says, giving to us the forgiveness of sins won for us by Christ. This is a Word that we can completely trust because it is God’s Word, real and true. It’s not a fable. It’s not a nice story to make us feel good. Christ died for our sins on the cross. Christ rose again from the dead on the third day. Forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation are ours as a gift of God by means of His holy Word.

          When folks are received into membership in the Lutheran Church, through Confirmation or Profession of Faith, they are asked, “Do you hold all the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God?” to which they reply “I do.” When pastors are ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry or are installed in a new congregation they are asked, “Do you believe and confess the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments to be the inspired Word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and practice?” to which we respond, “Yes, I believe and confess the canonical Scriptures     to be the inspired Word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” It is this Word of God given to us as Pastor and People that we are to preach in season and out of season. It is this Word of God that we use in all our teaching and in all our doing both within and without the congregation. For by faith we believe that the Bible is the inspired God-breathed Word. And not only do we believe this, we confess this truth with our lips so that others will hear the Word of salvation that is the Word of Christ who is the Savior of all.

          Sixty-six books, 1,189 chapters, and all of it is true. The Bible, the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the inspired Word of God. By the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, be ready in and out of season to ever more boldly confess that the Bible is God’s Word that gives salvation in Christ, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life to all who receive this God-breathed Word through faith. Amen.

 

[1] Edward A. Engelbrecht, ed. Concordia’s Complete Bible Handbook for Students (St. Louis: Concordia, 2011), xvi.


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