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God’s Sure Word

December 13, 2020 Speaker: Kit Johnson Series: 2 Peter

Topic: Expository Passage: 2 Peter 1:19-21

Introduction

(read vv. 16–21) I’d like to begin today with a question. What is the fundamental belief that distinguishes biblical Christianity from every other religion? You might say the nature of God—that he is Triune or that he possesses all the divine attributes. Or maybe you would say the nature of Christ—that he is 100% God and 100% man. I imagine many would say our core tenet is the gospel—our belief in salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  

Those are all good answers, but church history demonstrates that nothing distinguishes biblical Christianity more fundamentally than our view of Scripture. We believe that the Bible is God’s inspired and inerrant Word and that it is our sole authority for faith and practice. We don’t need a church or a prophet or anything else to interpret the Bible or tells us what to believe. It’s all in the Word by the Spirit’s illumination.

The recovery of these beliefs and the distribution of Scripture to the common man fueled the Reformation and that produced our commitment to the gospel, our view of God and Christ and everything else that we believe. So, nothing is more foundational to the DNA of Life Point than our submission to this book.

And today, we come to one of the most important passages in the Bible on the doctrine of Scripture. It teaches that the Bible is true and authoritative, and it gives a unique window into the process of inspiration. So, this is a very important and practical passage, that sets the rudder for everything else we believe and do.

As always, we will only rightly understand this passage if we see it in context. Remember from last week that Peter is confronting a controversy among his readers over the 2nd coming of Christ. False teachers claimed that Jesus will not return to judge the world and establish his kingdom; therefore, we are free to pursue vile ungodliness.

We saw in vv. 16–18 that Peter first responded by describing his experience on the Mt. of Transfiguration and by arguing that the Transfiguration proves that Jesus is coming again. And now in vv. 19–21 Peter turns to the ultimate reason we know that Jesus is coming again—because God told us he will in the Bible. In the process, Peter not only offers assurance that Jesus is coming again, but he also affirms some important truths about Scripture and urges us to trust God’s Word wholeheartedly.

So, today, I want to challenge you to entrust your life and your soul to God’s Word. That’s a big ask, so I also want to show you why you can confidently do so. My outline is built on 2 challenges that are embedded in the text. The first challenge comes from v. 19…

I.  Pay attention to Scripture (v. 19).

Notice that this challenge is rooted in an important biblical truth.

The Principle: Scripture has proven to be trustworthy. Verse 19 begins by asserting, “And so…” There are two fairly different ways that people understand this statement, and it does affect what Peter is saying.

First, many people interpret v. 19 as saying, “And we have a more sure (i.e., reliable) prophetic word.” And they understand Peter to be saying that the Bible provides an even more reliable confirmation of the 2nd coming than Peter’s experience on the Mt. of Transfiguration. Or, Peter’s experience affirms the Transfiguration, but the OT is even more reliable.

But the problem with this view is that it creates an unnecessary conflict between Peter’s eyewitness testimony on the Mt. of Transfiguration and the OT over which is more reliable. It seems absurd that Peter would give any indication that the apostolic witness, which is the foundation of the NT, is anything other than 100% reliable.

Therefore, I believe the NKJV nails it when it says “We have the prophetic word confirmed.” In other words, Peter is saying that the Mt. of Transfiguration confirms or adds even greater certainty to the testimony of the “prophetic word” or OT Scriptures.

So, the OT prophets spoke over and over and with incredible detail about the fact that Messiah will one day establish a righteous kingdom on earth. And Peter is saying that the Transfiguration, as well as all the OT prophecies that Jesus fulfilled in his 1st coming, confirm that these prophecies are true and in particular that they will be fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth.

So, Peter is not pitting the apostles witness against the OT; rather, he is saying that together they provide strong assurance that Jesus really is coming again to establish God’s promised kingdom.

And this testimony provides a good opportunity for us to reflect on the trustworthiness of Scripture. Many people in our day who dismiss the Bible as fanciful mythology that is only loosely connected to history. Or they claim that the Bible has been seriously corrupted since it was first written.

In our Sunday evening services this fall, we dealt with the charge of corruption, and we saw that it is simply ridiculous. No other ancient document comes remotely close to how the Scriptures have been preserved.

However, many would argue that it is still just a human work filled with errors and that it lacks divine prophetic authority. But Peter would say, “Just take a look at how many OT prophecies were fulfilled in the life of Jesus.” The Gospels mention prophecy after prophecy, and they reference witness after witness to their fulfillment.

And then think about the fact that Peter is affirming the truthfulness of these events while he stares death in the face for standing by them. This book is true, and it has been confirmed to be true time after time.

The reason people don’t believe the Bible is not because they are committed to science or logic. No, it’s because they don’t want it to be true. They don’t want to be accountable to God. We shouldn’t be intimidated by them; instead, we should have absolute confidence in the trustworthiness of Scripture. And this leads Peter to give his first challenge…

The Challenge: Pay attention to Scripture. In light of the fact that the prophets are absolutely trustworthy in what they say about the 2nd coming, Peter follows by admonishing us, “You do well to heed…” The idea behind “heed” is to pay attention or listen carefully to what the Scriptures say. The 2nd coming is not a cute fairy tale or a wishful hope. No, it will happen, and it must dramatically shape my perspective on life today.

I love how Peter describes the perspective these prophecies give. They are like “a light that shines in a dark place.” The “dark place” is this world and the depravity of men. Sin and the tug of our flesh function like a heavy fog that blinds us to spiritual realities. But Peter says the biblical prophecies and promises of Christ’s return function as a bright light in the midst of the fog. They give vital perspective for how we look at this world.

This picture really struck me this week, because I’ve been reading Jeremiah in my devotions. Sometimes the OT prophets can be hard to read, and they seem irrelevant. But Peter says they provide necessary light in a dark place.

And how long should we pay attention? Peter answers, “Until the day…” This is a beautiful picture of the 2nd We live in a dark, dismal world, but someday the day will dawn. Jesus will return to establish his kingdom.

Isaiah 9:2 states, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” Isaiah then expands on this statement with the famous prophecy about Messiah that we read last week (quote). When Jesus comes again, he will bring light to a very dark world.

Then Peter adds, “Until the morning star rises in your hearts.” The morning star is typically a reference to Venus, which often appears just before dawn and actually reflects the sun’s light before we can directly see it. It’s a sign that the dark night is almost over. And Peter is saying that the coming of Christ will also bring light and hope in the darkest night.

Specifically, he says that Christ’s coming will make a profound impact “in your hearts.” He is not saying that the 2nd coming will only be a subjective experience in the heart; rather, he is saying that when he objectively comes in history, it will profoundly impact people’s hearts.

Christ’s coming will dispel every doubt and uncertainty regarding the promises of Scripture. Faith will be turned into sight, and God’s people will never again struggle to believe or fight discouragement.

It’s going to be a wonderful day, but until then Peter is honest about the fact that it’s going to be a struggle. We live in a dark world, and there is plenty of darkness in our hearts. Sometimes, it’s very difficult to see the return of Christ in the midst of all the fog.

Therefore, he urges us to constantly keep our focus on the prophetic Word. Pay attention to the promises and prophecies of Scripture, because they are absolutely true. God has fulfilled prophecy after prophecy in the past, and the Transfiguration is one more sure proof that God’s future prophecies will also be fulfilled. Jesus is coming again.

So, “take heed.” Live in the Word. Read its promises over and over and over. When your heart is discouraged, don’t go into a hole of anxiety and frustration. No, go to the Word, and anchor your soul in its truth.

For myself, when life is crazy and stressful, my mind likes to bounce from fear to fear and from doubt to doubt. It’s such a blessing to open a psalm or a gospel promise and to just remember that God is sovereign, my sins are forgiven, and Jesus is coming again. Christian, pay attention to this book until “the day dawns…” The second major challenge Peter gives is…

II.  Interpret Scripture reverently (vv. 20–21).

I’d like to begin in v. 21 which articulates the principle that…

The Principle: Scripture came from God. This is a very important verse regarding the nature of Scripture and how God inspired his Word. However, the false teachers probably denied Peter’s basic claim and argued that the Bible is solely a human book. Sure, it makes some good points and offers some valuable wisdom, but at the end of the day it’s no more divine than any other work.

Plenty of people today would say the same thing. They respect the Bible as a valuable religious resource that is filled with great wisdom. However, they reject inspiration, and they claim that much of what it says is outdated.

While that may make the Bible more palatable to the modern man, it is not what the Bible teaches, and it destroys the Bible’s credibility. Peter must respond.

He begins with the negative, “Prophecy never came (you could say ‘primarily’) by the will of man.” So, Peter flat out rejects any notion that the Bible is merely a human book sprinkled with human value. Quite the opposite, “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

I must note that there is a fairly significant textual variant in this statement concerning the prepositional phrase “of God.” The footnote to the NKJV says the alternate reading is “men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” So, the difference is whether Peter is describing the nature of the prophets (“holy men of God”) or the origin of their words (“they spoke from God”). I’m going to go with the footnote at least for this morning.

So, Peter explicitly states that biblical prophecy, and by extension everything in Scripture came “from God.” The book you hold in your hands is divine. It is inspired, infallible, and inerrant, and as we saw this fall on Sunday nights, it has been accurately preserved. Therefore, you can entrust your life and your soul to God’s Word with confidence. It is a precious gift.

But Peter also adds that God also designed the Scripture with a fascinating human element. He says that the biblical authors, “were moved by the Holy Spirit.” This is the 4th time Peter has used the verb phero, which is here translated as moved. Earlier in the verse “came” comes from the same verb. As well, v. 17 says “a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory.” And v. 18 uses it again, when it says, “This voice…came from heaven.”

It’s very interesting that Peter uses the same verb to describe God’s voice at the Mt. of Transfiguration and the inspiration of Scripture. He’s saying that it all comes from the same place. The Bible is just as much the Word of God as God’s voice on the mountain.

But in v. 21, this verb also gives us a window into the process of inspiration. The same verb is used in Acts 27 for a ship being carried along by the wind. That’s a good picture of what the Holy Spirit did when he inspired the biblical authors.

He “carried along” the human authors. He didn’t dictate Scripture to them. That’s pretty obvious when you read the Bible. The various biblical authors all add their own flavor to Scripture. They all have their own style, and they all bring their own personality and experiences into the text. As a result, the Psalms have a very different feel from Ezekiel. And Romans feels very different from 1 John.

So, there is a clear human element to Scripture, but underneath it all, Peter says they were carried by the Holy Spirit so that everything they said was at the same time their own words but also the very words of God just as much as the voice of God on the Mt. of Transfiguration.

It’s an incredible miracle to ponder, and it was a genius way for God to convey his Word to us. Aren’t you thankful that the Bible doesn’t read like a medical journal or a systematic theology? The human element brings Scripture to life and brings it near as struggle with sin and sorrow and as we seek to express joy and thanksgiving. The Bible is an incredible book! Psalm 19:10 states, It is “more to be desired…than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” As a result, we must heed Peter’s 2nd challenge, which is to…

The Challenge: Interpret Scripture reverently. Again, there are 2 fairly different ways that people understand this verse, based on how they understand the main verb. On the one hand, the ESV translates v. 20 as, “No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation.” According to this reading, Peter is looking back on the prophets’ experience.

It’s argued that the false teachers claimed that the prophets may have had some mystical divine experiences, but they didn’t necessarily interpret them accurately. Therefore, even if they heard from God, the Scriptures can’t necessarily be trusted to accurately convey what God said.

A lot of good people hold to this view, but I prefer the view represented in the NKJV, which says, “No prophecy…” In this view, the focus is on our interpretation of Scripture, and Peter is saying that we are not free to interpret the Bible according to our own whims.

I prefer this view because the word for “interpretation” more naturally fits a context of interpreting the Bible. As well, 3:16 tells us that the false teachers were guilty of wrong interpretations (read). Peter says that they were twisting the Scriptures rather than sticking to the clear authorial intent.

That’s a big problem; therefore, v. 20 states that we are not free to impose our views and our presuppositions on the Bible. We aren’t free to have “private interpretations.” Why is that? It’s because v. 21 states, “Prophecy never came…”

Simply put, the Bible is a divine book that communicates God’s divine message. As a result, we must interpret Scripture reverently. We must seek to hear what God said and what God intended, not twist it for our selfish agenda. We call this authorial intent.

That may seem very obvious, but it’s not something we should take for granted. The issue of authorial intent was just a big point of debate a couple of months ago during the hearings for Amy Coney Barrett. She argued for interpreting the Constitution based on authorial intent, but liberals don’t like that. They want to say that the Constitution is a living document and that we can make it mean whatever we want.

Sadly, many people do the same thing to the Bible. There are some really creative preachers and teachers out there that will come up with all sorts of things that you “never saw before.” You know why? They aren’t there. The preacher sucked it out of his thumb.

These verses are also why we hold so firmly to complementarianism and a biblical view of sexuality. Yes, these are not fundamental doctrines, but if someone is willing to twist the Scriptures to the point of affirming homosexuality or female pastors, it seriously calls into question their submission to Scripture.

Folks, Peter is clear in v. 21 that the Bible is a divine book. God has revealed himself and his will to us in a timeless and clear message. So, I am not free to make private interpretations of Scripture. No, my job is to read Scripture in context for the purpose of finding the objective authorial intent.

That’s why God commands pastors to “preach the Word.” We are to declare what God said, not sit in a circle and find out what this means to you or to me. And you have the same job in your private study. Your goal is to see what God said and then apply what God said to your life.

I could go on for a long time, but I hope you get the point. This is a divine book; therefore, we must revere it and submit to it. That all begins with pursuing God’s intent whether we like it and it is convenient or not.

Conclusion

With that in mind, let’s not forget Peter’s primary intent in this text. He has told us that the Bible is absolutely trustworthy, because it came from God. And in particular, it is trustworthy when it tells us that Jesus is coming again to judge the world and establish his kingdom. We know Jesus is coming; therefore, we must “take heed” to this prophetic word until Jesus comes back. We must look to it “as a light that shines in a dark place.”

Therefore, my T-H-T is this, “Entrust your life and your soul to God’s Word.” Make sure that you know Christ as revealed in his Word and that you are ready for the coming judgment. And if you are saved, stand on the truth of this book every day with absolute confidence that God will keep his promise and receive you into glory and reward every sacrifice.

More in 2 Peter

March 21, 2021

Eschatological Perspective for Life Today

March 14, 2021

What’s Taking So Long?

March 7, 2021

The Judgment Is Coming