This coming Sunday at Tri-State Fellowship will include a time of communion and remembrance of the Lord’s death for us. As an orienting thought at the end of the sermon, I am going to use a Civil War illustration – one that I’ve thought of using in the past, but had never previously researched the details.
Stimulating my thought on this was an occasion last week where I was at a political gathering with former gubernatorial candidate and Ambassador Ellen Sauerbrey. It was at Antietam, and she was telling me that she had an ancestor was buried there, though not really, that the name was on the grave but that he had not actually died in the War … that was the family story.
I knew there was a story like this about a grave in the National Cemetery and went to research it. Actually, the man’s name was Henry Struble, or was it Strubble?
In any event, this fellow had lent his canteen to a wounded soldier during the conflict and had not retrieved it. Some accounts said South Mountain (September 14th), some Antietam (September 17th).
In any event, the wounded fellow did not survive, and he was buried under the name inscribed upon the canteen in his possession – Henry Struble. Some accounts said the deceased man was a fellow Union soldier as Struble (who was from Pennsylvania), while others said he was Confederate – odd, because Rebels were not buried in the Antietam Cemetery.
In any event, Struble survived the War and learned later that his gravestone was at Antietam. Some accounts said he discovered this when he came to the cemetery when it was dedicated soon after the War was over, others said that an acquaintance saw it and told him about it.
In any event, it is true that he visited the grave every year to put flowers on it. Some said on the anniversary of the battle, others that he did it on Memorial Day.
In any event, that story is only 152 years old. The Bible takes us back 2,000 years to Jesus Christ, and to 1,500 years of biblical writings collected before that time. How can we believe in the accuracy of such an old book? Would not the stories have similar twists and turns as the Henry Struble account?
Remember the child’s game in elementary school called “Whisper Down the Line?” The teacher would write a sentence on a paper and whisper it to the first person in a circle. All around the circle the sentence would be repeated to the next person and so on, until the last person would write on the board what they heard. Finally, the teacher would read her beginning words; and the two sentences were never, ever even remotely similar.
That is what a lot of people naturally feel is what happened with the Bible … that the written version today is not at all like what really happened, and thus cannot be seen as reliable.
In our passage for today, Peter has encouraged his readers to remain true to the truths they had been taught. He knew his time was short, and his desire was for the truth to be firmly entrenched in the hearts and minds of Christ’s followers.
12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.
But why should they believe and put their lives on the line for this teaching? Peter gives two answers – speaking of the incarnate Word of Christ and the written Word of God.
Verses 16-18 speak about the Mount of Transfiguration, which was an incredible experience for the three disciples who got to see and HEAR just a bit behind the curtain of Glory itself. In Matthew 17 is the scene …
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
That would be impressive! And Peter, while reflecting on that, wrote about why he should be believed …
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
But it was even more than just an experience. All of the experiences the disciples were witnesses of were events that squared with Scripture and the writings of prophets from years before.
19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
These final two verses are of greatest interest for our theme in this Framework series. None of the writers of the Bible made up anything on their own. They were rather inspired by the Holy Spirit and “carried along” to pen what they wrote. The Greek words here are from the nautical world of sailing, and they speak of a wind that fills the sails and moves the boat across the water. The Holy Spirit (the word for which is pneumatos in Greek – like ‘pneumatic’) was the wind in the sails … through the pens … of the human authors to write with divine accuracy the very words that God desired for mankind to possess, even within the unique writing style of each author.
The end result is that we have a good and complete record of God’s truth, through human authors, to depend upon as God’s revelation to us as to how we may know Him and serve and live for Him effectively even in a dark and sinful world.